Philip Jordan sets a competition that has become familiar over the years (although perhaps not recently, and also more satirical in intent when set). It is to set a competition. This allows Jordan to do some mildly amusing and genially inane waffling, although too much of it is simply saying who he discounted and not what ideas he has discounted. So it’s all very well knowing that William Bliss and Issachar and Oisin and H.C.Riddell and James Henderson and so on have entered, but it’s no good omitting what their losing entries were! (Only two losers are offered – a Times and Express leader on ‘any event in history”; and what would have been written on the Tablets of Stone, if D.H. Lawrence had written them.
The best ever competition like this, modesty apart, was in 1979 (about no. 2560, I think), in which a winner never heard of before or since, R.C. Condon, won with ‘I have long thought the letters of the alphabet were arranged in the wrong order. Re-arrange them please in the best order’. My own entry was a complex spoof on Anthony Hecht and John Hollander, the second of whom, alas, died last year (2013), who wrote double-dactyls with very precise rules for each line. The judge nabbed my entry and set it for the following deadline (‘a gnomic nonet’). But we were not being quite so serious. The winners may strike you as a bit of a let-down:
Jordan says he would have liked to have entered these. Hmmm!