Comps nos 13A and 13B: results

To round off the first quarter, Martin Armstrong, the first judge to set two competitions, is so pleased by what he gets back about comparing kitchen gadgets with cuckoos that he prints four complete poems that are only commended (N.B., Issachar, Cyduba, and Seacape of course). The winners are M.C. Trench and Pibwob, whose poems are said to have a ‘snap’.

“Them cuckoos, Mrs. Green,” says I,
“They know a thing or two
“Them other birds ‘ave never learned
” – No more have me or you. –
“A house and kids – lor’ what a life!
Cook, clean, and mend up clo’es –
Our labour-savin’s dirt beside
What every cuckoo knows!”


Ere incubators were evolved
    By some inventive man,
Thy natural genius had solved
    That labour-saving plan.

“Saving”? The labour’s but transferred
    By methods hardly nice.
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee bird
    Or billeting device?


The translations from the French for 13B present competitors, says Armstrong, with the problem of avoiding ‘Wardour Street Poetry’ (for a definition, see here). Some familiar names (including one called Majolica who has not yet won) are commended, but the prizes go to two new names, Elizabeth Mott and Pobs.

Sea-levels bared in their immutability
Cleave with a long gold bar the sky’s profundity.
Far up, with languour trailing like a gracile eft,
Loiters a wisp of cloud belated, rosy and lone,
Above the silent ridges notched with peak and cleft,
… Charged with a subtle stir, slow airs coe floating, blown
Across the plain and all about the tufted slopes
Where great kine mightily horned, with eyes bloodshot and deep,
Hump-shouldered and with satin skins and thews like ropes
Crop salty turf and all low-growing herbs that creep.
– Two Madagascan negroes, lean of loin and bent,
Squat there and smoke black pipes, with elbows on their knees,
And jowls propt in their palms; absorbed, indifferent,
Brooding in stupor of thoughtless timeless reveries.
… And now the master-bull, th’old seasoned chief, who knows
That homing-time is soon, that nearer comes the night,
His open mouth a-drip with slaver silver-white,
Stretches a blunt upturned muzzle and seaward lows.

                                                           ELIZABETH MOTT

Receding waves have smoothed the dunes, that now redeem
the sea and evening sky with one long golden gleam.
Alone, a wisp of cloud, still snake-like in the skies,
in idle convolutions writhes until it dies,
torn into pieces on the silhouetted hills.
A breeze, unflurried presence, not quite seen distils
a mindless charm about green slopes and greener mead,
where graze the bulls, each rock-like thrusting his great head;
alive the red-veined eyes, alive the teeth that tussle
with roots, and lustrous skins, alive the muscle.
Not far away two blacks squat idle on lean thighs,
with knees upthrust to arms, fists stuck below their eyes,
fixed in a reverie beyond harsh words and stripes,
not moving,and not living, save in their black pipes.
Until the herd’s accustomed leader, he withal
aware of night’s approach and mindful of the stall,
a skein of silver dribbling blown against his chest,
sticks out his muzzle smooth, and bugles to the rest.


It’s interesting that the definition of Wardour Street poetry given in the link above actually cites ‘withal’ as an example.


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