Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: looking for a tree in a line of poetry

Spectator competition winners: looking for a tree in a line of poetry
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The latest competition called for a sonnet that has the name of a tree hidden in every line. This fiendish challenge, which was suggested by a reader, drew a large entry — and the following envoi from Alanna Blake: ‘Gor blimey, not the easiest of romps!/ But, Lucy, press on with these teasing comps.’

We had room for seven winners this week. High fives to unlucky losers John Priestland, Nicholas Hodgson and Matt Quinn; 20 quid each to those below; Frank McDonald takes the bonus fiver.

Frank McDonald

The Roman gods were wittier than ours;

They could appear in shapes that fooled our


Bamboozling hapless maidens with their powers

And giving those that pined some recompense.

Our little planet offered loads of fun,

And gods would often plump for competition,

Confirming they were masters of their art,

Clashing with fools who showed too much


They were the richest, nuttiest divines,

Who did not tax us with demands for love.

They fathered budding heroes and gave signs

That lust can figure in great minds above.

If only we could sup as gods once did

Or trace real truths that from our eyes lie hid.

Sylvia Fairley

Bid me to live, nor yet in passion die,

Your treasures shine, ne’er keep them locked away;

Your voice, in sweetness, charmed larks from the


When you appeared and sang a roundelay.

And as the bee charts routes through nectar’d


To sip each honey’d cup in dappled shade,

I’ll choose the plumpest buds that nature yields,

To pin e’en next your breast, where ne’er they’ll


Your prisoner; I’ll find a certain peace,

Come — love or chide me, let the sentence start,

For you will own the terms of my release,

My bonds, when cloaked in lust, confine my heart.

But when I hear your husband turn the key

I’m overwhelmed with longing to be free.

Siriol Troup

The cold grey logs of my once roaring fires

Herald a wrinkled brow and liver spots,

A crown far balder than a plank, spare tyres

Pleated like pelmets, corns, arthritis, clots,

Dull ears and rheumy eyes, a crumbling spine,

Peg-teeth condemned to Bircher muesli, soup

And mushy peas. Boy-racer in decline,

Must I, resigned to spattered slime and gloop,

Despair of looking spruce? Whoever said

Our elders were our betters didn’t dream

These golden years meant nappy rash ahead

And sores that weep like willows by a stream.

My box lies waiting for the final chop.

But life’s a beech — I’ll climb until I drop.

Frank Upton

Through chancel arch I saw the shrine arrayed

With bread, fruit tinned and fresh, and sheaves

of wheat.

The priest and all his elders bowed and prayed

Until the thankful service was complete.

I left my box-pew for the ‘coffee’ rite

But paused to throw another glance to where

She stood against the lime-washed wall, in sight,

Yet far away, as pensive as a prayer.

O! Live with me!’ I thought; I would that she

Renounced archangels for an earthly love.

She lit a candle, nutant; saw not me

But left me to repine, and gazed above.

These thoughts, I keep them locked and in


A Book of Hours whose shining ink goes faint.

Basil Ransome-Davies

An Elmore Leonard thriller hits the spot,

Its soaks and junkies riding for a fall

As greed for sex and cash divides them all.

They rage and row and fight and lose the plot.

There may be echoes of a code, but not

A firm morality, since there’s no call

For ethics: in this blind entropic brawl

Appearing virtuous can get you shot.

So what’s the merit of this trail of slime,

These lives lived in a dope haze, louche, malign,

Mapless, astray, random as dominoes?

It’s Leonard’s humorous command of prose

To picture those who sin and don’t repine

A palmist tracing dirty lines of crime.

W.J. Webster

As hawthorn lights the way towards full Spring

And drapes the hedgerows with an ermine cloak,

So May for townsfolk has a certain ring,

With pictures that the mind’s eye will invoke.

This fancy, pressed too far perhaps, then sees

The ancient wood where planners placed a road

An old map lets us know there once were trees

Where Hyssop Lane is now a traffic node.

Not wholly parted from the natural world

(In town we don’t escape a rain-drenched day),

We may not see the first leaf buds unfurled

But Spring still overwhelms us in its way.

The countryside will own the rite of Spring:

May it be echoed long where no birds sing!

Robert Schechter

I cedar world inside a grain of sand

And pine for what my life has left behind.

As I grow alder, help me understand

How fir I am from what I thought I’d find.

I’ve been a seeker. Now I sycamore.

It’s all so hazy, but the hazel lift

And life won’t be a beech as heretofore.

Olive each day as if it were a gift.

Though memories maple me to the ground

I’ll do what any dogwood do: I’ll bark.

Wherever mangoes, that’s where I’ll be found.

But wattle help me navigate the dark?

I haw and hemlock Hamlet in his play

But almond darkness at the close of day.

It’s festival season — in case you hadn’t noticed. Your next challenge is to provide extracts from the unappealing-sounding programme of a festival that is making a misguided attempt to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace. Please email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 6 July.