In Competition No. 3159 you were invited to supply a poem that does not contain the letter ‘e’. This fiendish challenge was a nod to Georges Perec’s ‘e’-less tour de force La Disparition (protagonist: A. Vowl), which was subsequently translated, also without the letter ‘e’, by the heroic Gilbert Adair. Perec, who once composed a 5,000-letter-long palindrome — beat that — later took all his unused ‘e’s’ and deployed them in Les Revenentes, in which it is the only vowel.
The comp elicited moans and groans but proved wildly popular none the less. Perec’s friend and fellow Oulipian Harry Mathews said in an interview in the Paris Review: ‘What distinguishes Oulipo from other language games is that its methods have to be capable of producing valid literary results.’ Well, they did so on this occasion. Honourable mentions go to Hugh King, George Simmers, Katie Mallett and D.A. Prince, but congratulations all round. The six terrifically witty and well-made winners appear below and earn their authors £25.
“If Jill, a bold and bonny girl,Saw Jack, a strapping boy,A loving kiss was all it tookTo fill two souls with joy.But Casanova passing byAnd catching sight of JillThought: ‘How amusing. What good funTo do a fair maid ill.’Poor Jack was dull with him aroundThis man was bright and gay,A high-class sort and sharp of witSo ’twas with him Jill lay.Now Jack will stay away for goodAnd Jill cannot stop crying.So, virgins all, if bad boys callLook out for artful lying.Philip Roe
“This Lipogram bans itWhich may sound absurd,But find it you’ll not,It occurs in no word.As a grain lost in sandOr a pin hid in hay,Spy it you won’tThough you labour all day;Look as long as you willBut this you’ll not spotIn hiding it stays,On display it is not.So study this stanzaAnd try as you might,Your hunt cannot showWhat is not within sight.Alan Millard
“My soul sings out if I catch sightOf rainbow arcs on highFor in my far-off infancyA rainbow brought a sigh.Throughout my happy childhoodA rainbow’s stunning sightWas magical and mystic;It put my angst to flight.Now I affirm my boyhoodStill plays its part today,As though a boy was authorOf all I think and say.I trust that it will stay so,That always I’ll maintainFond faith in what my childhood gotFrom colours wrought in rain.Frank McDonald
“Shall I portray you as an autumn day?For, truth to say, I do not wish withalTo woo you, praising darling buds of May;Your charm doth grow as blossoms start to fall.Its first flush past, a bloom that’s had its dayHolds fascination that can stir my passion,I touch its rich, luxuriant display,Its classic form surpassing youthful fashion.As days grow short and autumn turns to gold,Anticipation mounts, my longing nowTo find forthwith a gift that doth unfoldAbundantly, and pluck it from its bough.Lush fruits maturing slowly, by and byBring lasting joy, for youth may swiftly fly.Sylvia Fairley
“This glyph, in British talk, occurs most oft —most common, too, it’s writ within our books.Twixt ‘a’ and ‘z’ ’tis fifth, but stands aloftalthough it’s unassuming in its looks.An ‘o’ ajar, in small form, with a rodslid inwards at a slightly rakish slant;this symbol is industrial printing’s god,dug in that no brash upstart can supplant.In caps, a straight and standing pillar holdsa trio of blunt prongs all pointing right;within our words this famous icon mouldsits myth of broad ubiquity and might.Oh tyrant glyph, undo your crafty smirk,I banish and dismiss you from this work.Paul Freeman
“Aaron Bronsky bought an aardvark, sat it in an aviary,Put a cockatoo in with it. (Pong was not too savoury.)Molly Mary bought a moggy, truly was a fractious puss,It would rub its fur against a window jamb to start a fuss.Aaron and his Molly Mary thought that both might go awayOn a train to Torquay station, for a working holiday,Taking aardvark, Bronsky’s birdy, Molly Mary’s moggy too.What was Aaron’s inspiration? Not warm sands, but Paignton Zoo!G.M. Southgate
No. 3162: double time
You are invited to supply double dactyls on stars of popular or classical music (a maximum of three entries each). Please email entries to email@example.com by midday on 12 August. NB. We are unable to accept postal entries for the time being.