Lucy Vickery

The big reveal | 21 March 2019

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In Competition No. 3090 you were invited to submit a recently discovered lost poem by a well-known poet that makes us see him or her in a new light. Step forward, Philip Larkin, flower arranger, Slough fan John Betjeman and knickers-on-fire Emily Dickinson. Congratulations all round are in order this week, but I especially admired Alanna Blake’s palinodic villanelle from Dylan Thomas:

Calm down, relax, accept the dying light,

It will be unaffected by your rage,

For all our sakes, give up this futile fight…

And G.M. Davis’s Tennyson revealing what he really thought of her maj:

What a prissy old Queen is Victoria!

She looks like a case of dysphoria

In the straitest of lace

With that vinegar face,

Though they say that in private she’s whorier.

High fives to runners-up Stanley Pearce, David Silverman, Tom Braithwaite and Paul Freeman. The winners snaffle £25.

My head aches; too much blushful Hippocrene

Hath dulled my wits and set my senses reeling.

My eyes are red, my face a sickly green

From all that wine. And as I vomit, kneeling,

In hope that easeful Death may intervene,

I am tormented by a dreadful squealing:

That loathsome Nightingale, although unseen,

Is not unheard; the creature hath no feeling!

It screams the livelong day, and half the night,

Mocking me with its pestilential clamour,

A brutal din that gives me no respite

As though my head were pounded by a hammer.

Were it a horse, I’d send it to the knackers’.

Begone, foul bird! Sick, loitering and pale,

Henceforth, I shall foreswear the fruits of Bacchus,

And stick to wholesome draughts of ginger ale.

Derek Robinson/Keats

everything is in lower case since

i dropped the typewriter and the shift key

jammed it looked to me like false humility

but it was art they said so i stuck with it

also the commas and stops unreliable

and i wish it wouldn’t put things

in brackets (in brackets) like this

when i accidentally hit whichever

key it is i wish i knew and the carriage

return is on a hair trigger see for yoursel

f but amazingly people say they understand

my stuff bless them i am truly grateful

but i mean what are they taking

and where can i get some

Hugh King/ee cummings

When I consider how my sight has lost

Its power to perceive your loveliness,

I offer you instead this fond caress.

What eye cannot find, hand may yet accost.

Not all five senses have art to exhaust

The bounty your whole shape and grace express.

When one fifth fails, the rest join to address

The loss. Spare my warm touch your touch of frost.

Your hair’s deep scent, your honeyed mouth,  your voice —

All newly vivid where this blindness reigns,

They are my evidence of what is real,

Like these lush swells in which I now rejoice,

Clasping you aft as joy ignites our veins.

They also gaze who only cop a feel.

Chris O’Carroll/Milton

The leek lay on the worktop, straight.

Much crunchier, they said, than a scallion.

Its leaves tight, crisp white sheaths.

Its blunt stalk safely shaved.

Softly charred, or crushed in a quiche,

Or it could be au gratin.

All it needed was a dollop of cream.

It wanted ginger, roast pea croutons.

I chopped it with my Sabatier,

A diagonal slash through the green

Releasing a mild, oniony scent,

Raw and ready for the steam.

It was time to get a skift on.

No vegan likes a faff. This leek

Called out for freekeh, for butter,

A gurgle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Bill Greenwell/Ted Hughes


Once ginger gold, its nap

The down of a leveret’s pelt;

Round eyes, anthracite, proud;

Mouth stitched shut, caught

On the edge of a smile.

Worn now by devotion,

So long held ward against

A dark turning world:

Between thing and creature,

A conjured being.

W.J. Webster/Ted Hughes

What was my wretched poem on about?

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…’

It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

‘Warm days will never cease’ — I have to shout

With bitter laughter, mingled with distress.

What was my wretched poem on about?

‘Maturing sun’? Forgive me if I doubt

That I have ever seen it shining less.+

It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

Torrential rain, no chance of going out;.

My garden is a soggy, sodden mess.

What was my wretched poem on about?

And what the hell just bit me on the snout?

A small but vicious gnat would be my guess.

What was my wretched poem on about?

It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

Sylvia O. Smith/Keats

No. 3093: write of passage

You are invited to submit an extract from a novel that chronicles the adult life of a well-known fictional hero from children’s stories (please specify). Please email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 3 April.