The latest competition asked for poems with titles which riff on that of Keats’s sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’.
Although it was a varied and inventive entry there was a fair amount of doubling-up: while G.M. Davis and Tracy Davidson decided to speculate on what the first perusal of an Ann Summers shop window might be like, impressive entries from both Jayne Osborn and Alanna Blake revealed the contents of a teenage daughter’s diaries.
There was a lot of skill on show elsewhere too: commendations to Paul Evans, A.R. Duncan-Jones, Tony Goldman, Tim Raikes John Whitworth and John Priestland. The winners take £25 each. Max Ross nabs £30.
On First Looking into a Telescope
‘How beautiful the moon’, I heard folk say,
‘When captured in a telescopic view,’
But I, alas, was not among the few
Who scanned the wonders of the Milky Way
Until a tutor summoned me, one day,
To share the lunar secrets that he knew
And in a moment rumours all came true.
Selene smiled, in garments ghostly grey.
Then felt I like John Keats when he first read
Homeric tales in Chapman’s crisp translation,
And everything astronomers had said
Stood undisguised, above all expectation.
And just as Keats was by his Muses led
To pen his words, I too found inspiration.
On First Looking into the Chilcot Report
‘Please know that I’ll be with you, come
And though our love’s a secret, do not fear:
if there are obstacles, I will endeavour
to find a way to make them disappear.
‘Your body language rocks, and I’m distracted
by manly fantasies in which we wrestle
and roll upon the floor and then [REDACTED]
Relationships like ours are truly special.
‘The things I’ll do with you should be illegal
Some might even say they are a sin.
But I would risk the world for you, my eagle.
To hell with consequences, let’s dive in.
‘One day the world shall know of our affair,
then none will doubt my love for you.
— T. Blair.’
On First Looking into Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome
Much have I travailed in the realms of guff
And many reams of legalese have read,
But now I want to cry out: ‘Hold, enough!’
Since I’ve seen what Article Fifty said.
Administration-speak is tricky stuff,
The letter always kills the spirit dead,
And sorting it all out will be quite tough
For whomsoever we may then be led.
I quote: ‘Agreements are made in accord
With Article Two-One-Eight-brackets-Three,
(The Treaty on the Functions of EU).’
It’s not too clear who even says which word
To tell some ‘qualified majority’
What’s what. Silence? And then just: ‘Toodle-oo?’
Douglas G. Brown
On First Looking into Will Espy’s ‘Words to Rhyme With’
Much had I floundered as a hapless schmuck
’Midst Mount Parnassus’ bitter windswept clime;
Until I had the providential luck
To crack Will Espy’s epic book on rhyme.
His ‘Words to Rhyme With’ hit me like a bolt
Of lightning from the upper troposphere,
And changed me from a dilatory dolt
To one for ever cured of rhyming fear.
With Espy, I spin webs of clever verses
On Nimrods who pursue the sly Melursus
And other beasts, of which I seldom think;
Such as the carpophagous oxyrhynch.
I sing how engineers, in English tongue,
Expound on car suspensions, underslung;
And then I strike my harp and join the chorus
Of men who mourn the vanished Stegosaurus.
On First Looking into My New Neighbour’s Recycling Bin
In Prince’s Square we strive to nurse
our social status and define
our exclusivity with wine
beyond the average drinker’s purse.
But Number Nine’s new owner seems
a man devoid of vinous dreams.
His bin reveals that all he’s bought
are lager cans marked Strongest Export,
the get-that-quickly-down-your-neck sort,
the makes-a-man-a-legless-wreck sort.
So Prince’s Square has made a pledge
to ostracise and to ignore
this upstart who has moved next door,
our thin end of a social wedge
of folk too crass or, worse, too poor
for magnums of Château Latour.
On First Looking into Cryptic Crosswords
Much have I struggled with those abstruse clues
in which more practised solvers take delight.
Across? — impenetrable. Down? — no sight
or sense that won’t bewilder and bemuse.
I know of cruciverbalists who choose
to suffer these contortions day and night,
untangling threads and relishing the fight.
The fools, to hold such masochistic views!
But then an anagram unfolds, and fits
neatly within the grid — a small success
but just enough to spur me on to blitz
a corner, then proceed by hunch and guess,
to wrestle with the setter’s fiendish wits,
and make this puzzle one almighty Yes!
Your next challenge is to submit a poem on the theme of summer in which the last two words of each line rhyme. Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 3 August.