Magazine article The Spectator

Competition: Selfie

Magazine article The Spectator

Competition: Selfie

Article excerpt

In Competition No. 2965, an enormously popular one, you were invited to write a poem about a verse form, written in that form.

It was Edna St Vincent Millay's sonnet-about-the-sonnet 'I will put Chaos into fourteen lines' that inspired this challenge but there are other similar examples -- Robert Burns's fine 'A Sonnet upon Sonnets', for one: 'Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings;/ What magic myst'ries in that number lie!...'

There were plenty of poems about the sonnet in all its guises, but I was also drowning in limericks, clerihews, double dactyls, haikus, cinquains, pantoums, ottava rima, terza rima... Accomplished entries from D.A. Smith, Jane Blanchard, Frank McDonald, Hugh King, Noah Heyl, Max Gutmann, Susan McLean and Katie Mallett narrowly missed the cut. The first six printed below take £25 each; the final two earn their authors £15 apiece.

A rondel is made like a roundelay,

With a rhyme, call it A, and a rhyme, call it B,

Which repeats, it repeats, (do you see, do you see?)

Until back comes your A like he's ready to play,

Like he's ready to play in a holiday way,

Until B with a buzz, with a buzz like a bee,

Yes it's B like a bee coming back to the fray,

Like a bee or a flea, yes as fit as a flea,

Is your B. And your A with his hey-hey-hey,

As brisk as your B with his two times three,

Tweedledum, tweedledee, with their two times three,

Like a cool cabaret or a mad matinee.

A rondel is made like a roundelay.

John Whitworth

O where are you going -- you ponderous tale

Whose ending unfolds with the speed of a snail?

And why must you parrot again and again

A repetitive, tedious, tiresome refrain?

O who gives a fig why Lord Randall so ails

Or doomed Barbara Allen her downfall bewails

Or, fighting at Flodden, King Jamie is slain?

Romantic or tragic, your form is a pain.

The Sonnet's delightful, the Rondeau as well,

And so is the cunningly rhymed Villanelle,

The Haiku's compact and the Elegy's deep,

But you, like a sedative, guarantee sleep.

From medieval roots, like a weed, you survived

And, nourished by troubadours, flourished and


Till, conquering Christendom, bland as green salad,

Established at last, you're baptised as the Ballad.

Alan Millard

Petrarchan sonnets first eight lines rhyme thus:

a b b a; again, a b b a.

Tough (for the poet) but the sestet's way

is looser, and the scheme more generous. …

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