Lucy Vickery

The art of loving

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In Competition No. 2987 you were invited to supply a lesson in the art of seduction in the style of an author of your choice.

In a large and stellar field, Ralph Rochester, Noah Heyl, Jennifer Moore, J. Seery, Barry Baldwin, Alan Millard, Sylvia Fairley and John Maddicott shone, but they were pipped to the post by the winners, printed below, who earn £25 each. The bonus fiver belongs to Brian Allgar.

‘Had we but world enough, and time…’

It never fails, my am’rous rhyme.

I lead them to a private place,

And strip them of their flimsy lace.

’Tis true that in my younger days,

My poems caused their eyes to glaze;

They fell asleep, a sorry fact,

Virginity still quite intact,

And vainly, I would try to shake

My vegetable love awake.

This lesson learned, ’tis my belief

You’ll benefit from being brief,

Eschewing all poetic lumber —

‘Ganges’, ‘wingèd chariots’, ‘Humber’.

Maidens spurn long-winded bores;

Six lines at most, and she’ll be yours.

Brian Allgar/Andrew Marvell

Bursley was not over-furnished with verdant spaces but Brougham Park was as leafy and tranquil a spot as could be found anywhere in the Five Towns. Here it was, on a bench facing the fitful Victoria fountain, that Albert Grint and Sarah Claypool now seated themselves. Neither knew it was the destination the other had been thinking of for a week. Sarah touched her new cream bonnet. ‘Fetching’, the draper’s assistant had called it. Sarah savoured the word. Albert thought little of bonnets but much of his royal blue tie and golden pin. He raised his chin to reveal the effect, maintaining the manly profile he had practised with two mirrors. Meanwhile, unaware and unobserved, Sarah cast downward her slyly enticing glance.

‘Happen us might,’ proffered Albert.

‘Happen,’ countered Sarah.

It was the moment, each thought, of triumph and submission. A glimpse into the paradisal mystery of consummation.

W.J. Webster/Arnold Bennett

Go, spruce in your father’s greatcoat, to that place of assignation, dimmest of dim. Thereat await, interminably, finitely, another. At length and at last, said other arrives, alabaster skin, eyes duck-egg blue, brim-full of apologies not entirely unmeant. Pass time ordering drinks, alcohol bypassing distance. Exchange words full of empty. One tells, for instance, a comical anecdote about a stone, the other a tall tale about a tree. Thus is silence abated, temporarily. Glances exchanged, furtive, first, then less so: some meaning here, arguably. Sap rises. Alcohol lessens habitual gulf. Abridged autobiographies swapped for requisite commiserations. Place of assignation suddenly stifles. And so out. Out through indifferent dark. Eventually to room — yours else that of other, differences being now negligible — dimmest of dim. Perfunctory beverage offered, accepted, neglected. Then commences usual mammalian squalor; touch substituting for connection, nakedness aping honesty. To bed, Gasped endearments. Gurgles of outflow. Enough.

Adrian Fry/Samuel Beckett

When Norman was a growing lad

He had a craving to be bad,

A Byron sinfully inclined

With fornication on his mind.

His parents disapproved, but he,

Libidinous to a degree,

Would pester women, macho-style,

Devoid of subtlety or guile,

Bombarding them with boastful lies

About his organ’s mammoth size.

He kept it up until he met

Germaine, a sturdy suffragette,

Who gave him a derisive stare

Then kicked him in the you-know-where.

The moral is: don’t treat ’em rough.

Respect outplays the caveman stuff.

G.M. Davis/Hilaire Belloc

How do you trap him? Let him, for a start

Believe that he is your superior:

Feign female faintness and a tender heart

Beneath a self-possessed exterior

Admire his talents, but not overmuch,

Express yourself, but let him have his say,

Maintain your distance — just the briefest touch

Suggesting promise for another day.

Shared interests will be useful but beware

If he’s another poet, mind your feet

When venturing on lyric ground, for there

It may perhaps be meeter if you tweet.

Ignore parental pressure, friends’ advice,

Be your own woman and consolidate;

But note: those first impressions which entice

Don’t always indicate a perfect mate.

Alanna Blake/Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The world’s a lover’s stage, and words of love

A player’s best prologue to love’s great act.

With tongue or pen her heart he must engage

Ere ingress to love’s treasure house she grant.

The sun uncoaxed doth light and warmth bestow,

The which a man thereafter may extol,

But know thy mistress is another star

Whose glow, whose heat, whose light thy praise must spark.

Words are faint phantoms moving in the mind,

Lacking the active substance of the flesh,

Yet wraithlike language, insubstantial verse

Will stir the flesh to play love’s comedy.

The nothingness of words is everything

To every lover with a will to win.

So long as men may woo, let this be heard:

Ever in love’s beginning is the word.

Chris O’Carroll/Shakespeare

No. 2990: A to P

You are invited to submit a poem of 16 lines in which the lines begin with the letters of the alphabet from A to P. Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 15 March.