Spectator Competition: Swifties 

In Competition 3358 you were invited to submit a passage in which Gulliver travels to a Taylor Swift concert and recounts his impressions. By and large it was felt that he would succumb to fandom, though a few were more sceptical – George Simmers found him observing: ‘Of all the Laputan scientists none received more

Spectator Competition: Midsummer

In Competition 3357 you were invited to submit a passage or poem including the phrase ‘The sukebind is late this year’, or similar. In Stella Gibbons’s comic novel Cold Comfort Farm the sukebind is a mysterious vine that flowers in midsummer, driving people into a frenzy which often leads to mollocking. Hence the heightened tone of

Spectator Competition: Hearing things

In Competition 3356 you were invited to imagine a conversation between some objects that don’t normally talk. This was inspired by the funny/spooky ‘Green Candles’ by Humbert Wolfe (a popular poet in the 1920s and 30s), which ends with these sinister lines: ‘I know her little foot,’ grey carpet said: ‘Who but I should know

Spectator Competition: Blissfully ignoring

In Competition 3355 you were invited to write a romantic poem that did its best to gloss over something unlovely. I think I imagined odes to beautiful sewage-filled rivers and so on, but should have phrased the challenge more clearly, since many understandably decided a love poem was in order. Either way there was much

Spectator Competition: Outta Palo Alto

In Competition 3354 you were invited to put yourselves in the shoes (or head) of a tech billionaire. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Elon Musk provided the most inspiration. Paul Freeman had him intent on world domination: That bozo Bezos and schmuck Zuck will serveas jesters to my court. They’ll daily tastemy food in case some traitor has

Spectator competition: Running on full

Comp. 3353 invited poems about ‘dining and dashing’ – thanks to Paul Freeman for the suggestion. There was a very large postbag/inbox full of delicious offerings and I am especially sorry not to have had room for W.J. Webster condemning the crime for its name alone: ‘it isn’t just pedantic/ To say its source is

Spectator competition: About turn

In Competition 3352 you were invited to submit a passage about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, or vice versa. Hitler, the Hindenburg, tiddlywinks and chess all featured, as did Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, and it was sad not to have room for D.A. Prince’s cat having victory literally snatched from its jaws.

Competition: Vote for us

In Competition 3351 you were asked to send in an election manifesto in verse (lucky timing). The entries threw up plenty of bold ideas for strategists to pick over, though a degree of cynicism was in evidence – the general mood captured by Basil Ransome–Davies’s ‘Opportunist party’: ‘If you favour easy answers,/ Vote for us, the

Spectator Competition: Beg to differ

In Comp. 3350 you were invited to write a refutation of a well-known line from literature. Ian Jack once imagined quibbling with Jane Austen over ‘a truth universally acknowledged…’: ‘“Universally”, Miss Austen, even among pederasts with good fortunes, or among the heathen races?’ Poetry dominated, which is reflected in the winning entries (£25 to each).

Spectator competition: Marking time

Competition 3349 invited you to write a poem riffing on the line ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’, from ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, but substituting something else for the spoons. You came up with rubbish collections, brands of jeans, obsolete technology, library fines, biros, toothpaste tubes, meds, lovers, visits to Wetherspoons,

Spectator Competition: A tale of one city

In Comp. 3348 you were invited to submit an extract in which Charles Dickens writes about today’s London. It was perhaps a slightly smaller haul than usual but full of nuggets. In Dorothy Pope’s rendition, the great author is gratified to discover that ‘my Oliver is playing in one of the many theatres’; while Paul

Spectator Competition: Nursery crimes

Comp. 3347 invited you to write a hard-boiled nursery rhyme. This inevitably led many to think of Humpty Dumpty, hence his multiple appearances (the consensus is he didn’t fall, he was pushed). Philip Marlowe was smouldered at by various femmes fatales including Little Bo Peep and Miss Muffet. A special mention goes to David Silverman’s

Spectator Competition: Memorials for monsters

Competition 3346 invited you to write an ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’. There were fewer Putins than expected but both T Rex and Caligula cropped up more than once. It was a strong field and hard to whittle down but £25 goes to each of the following. Beast, twelve feet tall and forty long,Fast, clever and

Spectator competition winners: Chaucer goes to Wimbledon

In Competition No. 3345, you were invited to submit a report on a popular sporting event as it might have been written by someone who is not first and foremost a sportswriter. In a high-class field, David Silverman, the Revd Dr Peter Mullen and Ben Hale were unlucky to lose out on the £25 which

Spectator competition winners: in praise of the sonnet

In Competition No. 3344 you were invited to submit a poem expressing feelings – positive or negative – about a poetic form. The standard was impressively high, with near-misses for Max Ross, Sylvia Fairley and David Silverman, whose entry ended by rendering Paradise Lost in a single haiku (‘Angel turns nasty/ Temptation in the garden/

Spectator Competition winners: John Donne on Tik Tok

In Competition No. 3343 you were invited to submit a sermon on a subject of contemporary relevance in the style of a well-known writer. This challenge drew a medium-sized entry, mostly of great merit, pronouncing on subjects that ranged from the evils of mobile phones to deep fakes and potholes. Frank McDonald’s Alexander Pope –

Spectator competition winners: poems about great works of art

In Competition No. 3341 you were invited to submit a poem about a great work of art –  a challenge prompted by George Steiner’s observation that ‘the best readings of art are art’. The writer Geoff Dyer has cited W.H. Auden’s 1938 ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ –  about Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘Landscape with the Fall

Spectator competition winners: why baked beans should be banned

In Competition No. 3340 you were asked to submit a poem calling for a particular food to be banned. It was Julie Bindel’s impassioned anti-balsamic vinegar piece that prompted me to invite you to share your culinary bêtes-noires (three of mine – Battenberg, tripe and Liquorice Allsorts – cropped up in the entry). Adrian Fry