Competitions nos. 105A and 105B: results

A new judge, Edward Shanks, sets a Wellsian competition – entrants are to imagine a World State, one hundred and fifty years in the future, looking back after its first fifty years at the earlier years. Shanks had in fact written a post-apocalyptic novel in 1920, so Wells would have interested him. He’s imagined a scholarly piece that covers history from the French Revolution to the foundation of the World State (so that’s 1789-2032), but specifically wants comments on Wells’s influence. The phrasing of the instruction does your head in a little,

As it did the entrants then: Shanks admits that he wanted one or both of a) irony and b) a serious assessment of Wells. ‘I have been disappointed,’ he says’ in both directions.’ He’s been handed a lot of doom and gloom – that things will get worse before they get better. He also gets rather tetchy over some of the opinions of Wells (‘a clerk turned revolutionary’; ‘a friend of international bankers’).

His choice of winners is odd. He tells us (no surprise!) that there is money going begging from the B competition, so there is half-a-guinea to add, and he awards this third prize to an entrant called E. Miller, whom he judges to be young and who deserves to be encouraged. But he suggests not printing Miller’s piece! That seems a text-book way of discouraging a young writer.

The winners are the old lag, Non Omnia, and, wait for it, wait for it, T.E. Casson, who has thus secured his second half-guinea, and is commended for having had fun with the piece. (Oddly enough, both Shanks and Casson had had a poem set to music by Ivor Gurney.)

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The B competition asks for a ‘Sicilian octave’ (eight lines, rhyming alternately) on a living actor or actress. Oh dear. Entrants send in two quatrains, and alter the rhyme-scheme. This whittles the field down to one winner, J.H., who has picked the most popular subject, Charlie Chaplin (the second most popular was Edith Evans).

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For what it’s worth, I don’t think that’s a Sicilian octave, as it ought to rhyme abababab.  So I think even Shanks is in a state of confusion. Still …Chaplin Sunset

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