In praise of slow

In Competition No. 2489 you were invited to submit a poem with the title ‘In Praise of Slow’. In Praise of Slow is a book by Carl Honoré, a chronicler of the Slow Movement, whose philosophy is that the important things in life should not be rushed.The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 apiece. Honoré would

Hard sell

In competition No. 2488 you were invited to write a publisher’s press release for one of the following: Weeds in a Changing World; Bombproof your Horse; How Green were the Nazis?. The assignment was inspired by the contest for the Oddest Book Title of the Year, run since 1978 by the Bookseller. Bombproof your Horse

Ancient and modern | 31 March 2007

In Competition No. 2487 you were invited to submit a theatrical critic’s response to a production of a modern play in ancient costume. There were easy laughs to be had at the expense of ropy chitons and inadequate loincloths and in general you took a harsh line. Most of you set your jaundiced sights on

The Ides of March

In Competition No. 2486 you were invited to submit a retrospective verse comment from the other world on the assassination by Caesar or by one of the conspirators. Most of you chose to put yourself in Caesar’s bloodied sandals, consigning the conspirators to the sidelines, which they would have hated. Adam Campbell was pithy and

Short story

In Competition No. 2485 you were invited to submit a short story entitled ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ The standard of the entry was mixed, but none was worthy of the mockery heaped on Anthony Trollope’s novel of the same name by Punch, which, infuriated by the indecisiveness of the heroine Alice Vavasor, referred to it

Our vegetable loves

In Competition No. 2484 you were invited to provide the first 16 lines of an ‘Ode to Vegetables’. Thank you for the kind words that have been reaching me at the Charing Cross Hospital. Mike Morrison’s entry was particularly bracing: I’ve never known a patient quite like you,Jaspistos: no, you can’t have Irish stew …‘May

Sorry, mate

To say ‘I’m sorry’ once can be emollient, but as everybody knows, to say it three times with arms flapping like a penguin is downright inflammatory. Most of your apologies were for sexual misbehaviour. Since there are so many other domestic sins just as exasperating as infidelity I found this surprising. The prizewinners, printed below,

The mod acrostic

In Competition No. 2482 you were invited to supply an acrostic poem, involving questions and answers in which the first letters of the lines read SOCRATIC METHOD. Smartypants will have spotted that the title of this competition is an anagram of the required phrase. In hospital one undergoes much questioning as well as treatment. The


In Competition No. 2481 you were invited to supply a poem or a piece of prose ending with Gore Vidal’s nasty gnome, ‘It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’ I’m not an especially nice person, but I’ve never experienced the pleasant frisson of schadenfreude; in fact, Rochefoucauld’s remark to the effect that there is

Poor relation

In Competition No 2480 you were invited to supply a song beginning, ‘Oh, what have you done to your …?, the blank to be filled by a relative of your choice. When you’re young, relatives — barring the family, of course — are automatically ridiculous. ‘Oh, Aunt Jemima, look at your Uncle Jim./ He’s in

Woman of the guard

The Beefeatress in question is not, as you might imagine, a middle-aged matron in the mould of Margaret Dumont but a 38-year-old lassie from Lochgilphead, Argyll, named Moira Cameron. (Those who got her forename wrong or thought she came from Fife are pardoned.) Special commendations to Jim Davies, Michael Brereton, W.J. Webster and David Schofield.

Bouts rimés | 27 January 2007

The rhyme scheme is from Auden’s ‘The Composer’. As eagle-eyed Basil Ransome-Davies, who spotted this, remarked, ‘It’s hardly the best of Auden, so compers have a chance of writing a superior poem.’ We shall see. Some objected to the word ‘adaption’, claiming their spellcheck didn’t acknowledge its existence. Auden was no slouch: the word is

Tata Ltd

In Competition No 2477 you were informed of a German firm that offers to say goodbye on your behalf to an unwanted friend or lover by telephone, letter or personal visit, and invited to describe one such operation from the viewpoint of either the victim or the messenger. If you look up Tata Ltd in

Three for luck

In Competition No. 2476 (in error numbered 2477) you were invited to supply three haikus (rhyme optional) which form a single poem greeting the New Year.The traditional Japanese haiku has 17 syllables arranged in three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables. Western poets have widened their scope to cover almost any mood. I

No place to hide

In Competition No. 2475 you were invited to provide entries from the diary of someone trying to escape from the Christmas season — and failing. Maybe you were all suffering from pre-Christmas exhaustion, maybe it was an unsuitable comp, or maybe I was in an atrabilious mood, but the entries were so substandard that, to

Nursery rhyme time

In Competition No. 2474 you were invited to expand a nursery rhyme mockingly in the style of a well-known poet. G.K. Chesterton did ‘Old King Cole’ as written by Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Whitman and Swinburne, and Anthony Deane expanded ‘Jack and Jill’ to the tune of more than 50 hilariously Kiplingesque lines. These can be


In Competition No. 2474 you were invited to supply, following the format and formula of Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Mad Gardener’s Song’, three stanzas which could aptly be titled ‘The Deluded Politician’.This is my favourite Carroll poem. People often miss it because it comes not from the Alice books but from Sylvie and Bruno, much less

Your Ps and Qs

In Competition No. 2472 you were given ten words or phrases and invited to incorporate them, in any order, in a plausible piece of prose. Why, when I asked for a piece of prose, did four of you submit verse? Why did Mary Holtby, usually a skilled competitor, substitute ‘plague’ for ‘plaque’? Did D. Gibson


In Competition No. 2471 you were given two opening lines and invited to supply an appropriate song or lyric. No room for chitchat this week. Commendations go to W.J. Webster, Keith Norman and G.M. Davis. The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and the bonus fiver lands in the lap of Brian Murdoch. Once I

Pagan prayer

In Competition No. 2470 you were invited to offer a votive poem to a pre-Christian deity.Venus, take my votive glass:Since I am not what I was,What from this day I shall be,Venus, let me never see. Matthew Prior’s 18th-century prayer by a fading beauty is hard to beat, but Ezra Pound comes close with his