Lucy Vickery

What’s in a name? | 28 November 2019

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In Competition No. 3126 you were invited to rearrange the letters of the names of poets (e.g. Basho: ‘has B.O.’) and submit a poem of that title in the style of the poet concerned.

The inspiration for this challenge was the puzzle writer and editor Francis Heaney’s wonderful Holy Tango of Literature, which includes such delights as William Shakespeare’s ‘Is a sperm like a whale?’, Dorothy Parker’s ‘Dreary Hot Pork’ and William Carlos Williams’s ‘I will alarm Islamic owls’.

The anagrammatic titles that caught my eye in a large and stellar entry -included ‘Naughty Nude Wash’ by Wystan Hugh Auden (David Shields) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ode to a Large Slimy Ulcer’ (Max Gutmann). Hats off, too, to Robert Schechter’s one-line ‘Toilets’ by T.S. Eliot: ‘Let us go then, you and I’.

The prizewinners, in what was a hotly contested week, are printed below and snaffle £25 each.

A fool might clothe his muddied cows in silk

And claim they therefore yielded finer milk,

Or give the grunting sow a laundered frock

That he through her might breed a purer stock,

Or throw upon his ox a velvet cloak

To hide the heavy burden of the yoke.

Apparel may proclaim the man not least

When he would use it to disguise his beast.

Such fools as he contrive to win our votes

By dressing brutish aims in lustrous coats.

They politick and scheme, adorning lies

With frills and tassels to distract our eyes.

Yet greater fools are they should they believe

Their trickery will common sense deceive.

‘Oxen Appareled’ by Alexander Pope/Hugh King

I’ll not go sober to the hall tonight.

Dram-dosed and bardic is the role I play.

They love my readings when I show up tight.

The boozy adulation I excite

Thrives on a ruby sloe gin lurch and sway.

Ovations swell when I’m not sober quite.

Roll up, roll up to hear a lush recite

Lush dingle-singing lyrics to convey

A barley-heightened measure of delight.

With eyes raw red where sober eyes show white,

A twinkle both cherubic and risqué,

I am no flesh-denying anchorite.

Whisky’s warm glow fuels readings that ignite

Green hill-high thrills and puritan dismay.

A toast to tipsy verse-roused appetite!

‘A Sly Hot Damn’ by Dylan Thomas/Chris O’Carroll

O what can ail thee, that thou look’st so wan,

So haggard and so palely loitering?

Forlorn art thou and sorely woe-begone

In love with easeful death, no song to sing?

Much have I travelled in the realms of goals

And many goodly matches have I seen,

But now alas — most cursed am I of souls

And most in need of blushful Hippocrene.

For drowsy numbness now doth plague my sense;

Of goalless draws my heart has had its fill,

Of every week a ten-men packed defence

And every week we’re lucky to score nil.

And that is why I sojourn here all day

A curséd wretch: for this I thank José.

‘Thank Jose’ by John Keats/David Silverman

I think that I shall own a pair

Of men’s athletic underwear.

A pair whose cotton cup is prest

Against my… well, you may have guessed.

A pair to keep my privates safe.

A pair that will not itch or chafe.

A pair with which I may pretend

My testicles do not descend.

It seems to me I could look hot in

This gift of God, supportive cotton.

‘I’m Leery, Jock’ by Joyce Kilmer/Robert Schechter

A voice arose among the melting

crystals on the boughs —

an aged feline that was belting

out great sad meows.

He had good cause for moaning so,

for he could not climb down

to the mucky slush and yellow snow

that overspread the town.

What was he doing on that tree,

not being crow or thrush?

He carolled in a sour key.

I wanted him to hush.

Leaning upon the coppice gate

in the weakening eye of day,

I aimed my shotgun at him straight

and let the pellets spray.

‘Do Hasty Harm’ by Thomas Hardy/Martin Elster

Come bombs and fall on Methane Job!

The Mayor is a disgusting slob

who sends our taxes to the mob

and keeps a whore.

But spare our boys, dear Lord, and grant

your blessing on the methane plant

and let its smokestacks still enchant

the Jersey Shore.

Destroy the evil men who pack

the chickens fried in Chicken Shack

and make the river Hackensack

a chlorine dump.

And cull the gentrifying ranks

of traders in investment banks

who daily offer up their thanks

to Donald Trump.

‘Methane Job, NJ’ by John Betjeman/Nick MacKinnon

No. 3129: The night before

You are invited to submit a poem entitled ‘Twas the Night before Brexit’. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 9 December.

Please note the early deadline — this is because of seasonal production schedules.