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Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: the pleasures of bad poetry

Spectator competition winners: the pleasures of bad poetry
Canty Bay, immortalised by William McGonagall in his poem ‘Beautiful North Berwick and its surroundings’ [Design Pics Inc/Shutterstock]
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In Competition No. 3167 you were invited to submit a rhymed poem that is leadenly prosaic in tone and content.

When it comes to the joys of bad poetry, McGonagall tends to steal the show. But I also have a soft spot for Amanda McKittrick Ros, whose novels — and verse — provide passages of inadvertent hilarity to rival the worst of Bulwer Lytton (eyes are described as ‘globes of glare’; alcohol is the ‘powerful monster of mangled might’).

An honourable mention goes to George Simmers for his Wordsworthian makeover — ‘I don’t think anywhere could be more pleasant!/ Frankly, you’d have to be boring to pass by…’ — and to Richard Spencer and Janey Wilks. The winners earn £30 each.

The fields behind my cottage stretch

Like rectangles of green

Where grow such plants as chard and vetch

To make a vivid scene.


I muse upon it hour by hour,

Such healthy food for thought.

Not by the classroom but the power

Of Nature we are taught.


Thus reasoning, I understand

That life’s not just for mirth.

We must be moral agents and

Respect all life on Earth.


We sit so often silently

Though feeling far from flat,

Two souls in perfect peace, just me

And Leopold, my cat.

Basil Ransome-Davies
I telephoned the surgery to ask for an appointment

Though not to get more prostate pills or haemorrhoidal ointment

But being keen to guard against the seasonal infection

I thought it best to book up for my annual flu injection.


The queue was very long, so long that some stood in the street

And wondered if the drizzly rain might soon turn into sleet,

But while they stood two feet apart in dull and chilly weather

They made the best of things and said, ‘We’re all in this together.’


Inside the posters on the wall were interesting to view,

They showed you things that some might catch and, if so, what to do.

The treatment when I reached the nurse was really slick and quick,

No more than just a little scratch or tiny, painless prick.


It’s always good to go each year and, after it’s been done

On looking back, I’d have to say I think it’s rather fun,

It makes a change from sitting in and brings a little cheer

To brighten up October days, that flu jab, once a year.

Alan Millard
I should have taken that turn at South Bend.

The wipers wave, I drive a few more feet;

fume, fume about the roadworks without end.

We crawl and wait, and watch the wait extend,

because we have no choice, glued to each seat,

I should have taken that turn at South Bend.

The radio’s a mumbling, static blend,

we’re prisoners locked in lanes of tired defeat,

fume, fume about the roadworks without end.

Abandon hope of merging here, my friend,

we’ve hardly moved for hours; turn up the heat.

I should have taken that turn at South Bend.

We sit, the grim-lipped drivers who pretend

we’ll find an exit to a sunlit street,

Fume, fume about the roadworks without end.

I should have taken that turn at South Bend

Janine Beacham
I - M - H - O, as I believe they say today

(Though they don’t all agree on what the H stands for —

In my considered view it’s ‘humble’); anyway,

As I began to say a little while before,

I personally think (though others disagree —

Apparently they take a somewhat different view —

In which case it is clear, or so it seems to me,

(Not wishing to be rude) they haven’t got a clue;

I just don’t think that they have really proved their case,

While, on the other hand, the views that I profess

Are obviously right; I’ll now cut to the chase

And come right to the point: it’s anybody’s guess

If theirs are genuine; I think, for what it’s worth

(Another well-known phrase that some abbreviate)

That I just cannot see how anyone on earth

Could share these views of theirs; let me reiterate…

Nicholas Hodgson
I bought a pair of boots today,

they’re made in Italy;

size nine in Britain, ten US,

in Europe forty-three.


They’re patent leather, shiny black,

lace up about the shin;

at first I’ll walk short distances

until I’ve worn them in.


They cost a lot, they were not cheap,

a hundred sterling pounds;

I’ll wear them strolling England’s hills

and stately manor grounds.


But if they rub, or chafe, or cause

some blisters on my feet,

I’ll get my money back upon

presenting my receipt.

Paul Freeman

No. 3170: letter of the law

‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,’ according to Shelley, so let’s have a well-known poet writing their own law in verse. Please email up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 7 October.