Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: provide snippets of misleading advice for British tourists travelling abroad (plus Margaret Thatcher’s secret love poetry)

The recent challenge to unmask a secret poet among well-known figures from 20th-century history produced a postbag full of politician-bards, which included poignant lines from the pens of Edward Heath and Michael Foot. The real life poetic efforts of politicians such as Jimmy Carter have not gone down well with the critics. Harold Bloom branded him ‘in my judgment literally the worst poet in the United States’. I’m not sure that Bloom would have been any kinder to the winning entries below — or to Adrian Fry’s John Prescott. Here he is, just getting into his stride: ‘Don’t call me unsophisticated, I’ve been to Villanelle,/ I know me assonance from elbow, I’ve a cracking tale to tell…’ Honourable mentions go to Sylvia Fairley and W.J. Webster. The winners earn £25 each and George Simmers takes this week’s bonus fiver.

George Simmers/Margaret Thatcher No, I must never let this menace My relationship with Denis (Such a help-mate, though at times alas a bore), Yet sometimes I am able Underneath the Cabinet table To play footsie with a man who’s much much        more. Norman Tebbit! Norman Tebbit! My emotion will not ebb — it Floods my being and it rages like a storm. Darling polecat, my heart’s yearning, And I might just be for turning, Oh my lovely Chingford Superman, my Norm!

Brian Murdoch/T.S. Eliot It’s always been my wish to be a poet. OK, I published stuff like ‘The Waste Land’, But that’s pretentious twaddle, and I know it! I want to write things folks can understand.

They say I’m up there in the avant-garde, but You can’t fool all the people all the time. To write in metre I’d be pretty hard-put, Besides, I’ve never really got the hang of rhyme.

An evening’s like a patient on a table? Come on! And all that guff in Prufrock’s Song! I know my images are pitiable; You can make that stuff up as you go along.

I wish I could do daffodils, or seasons! What kind of poem needs annotations to it? I wish I could do things with rhymes and        reasons.

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