Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Competition poem

This would have been my entry in the Haddon Library's 2009 poetry competition, had I not been ineligible to enter because I was the organiser.

I'd asked entrants to write around one or more of the numbers 800, 1209, and 2009, interpreted freely -- so 1209 could mean £12.09, or 12 September, or some area code. The present poem to my own brief was written shortly before the closing date of this competition and entered in the competition run by Manchester Cathedral. It was one of the runners-up! And published in the competition booklet for 2009.

The reference to "Crediton, Landscore, Cain, Read, and Judge" concerns an incident -- an email indiscretion on the part of a school receptionist -- that made news that year.


(written around Cambridge University's putative 800th anniversary, 2009)


Church is over by 12:09, these days;
the sermon's shorter, the service tighter, brisker.
Pretty well everyone prefers it so.
By 12:09 we'd now be having coffee,
or even biking home on Coldham's Lane,
the country highway bit, the airport rise.

That's where we live. Meanwhile, in Devon --


After the incident, the email round the church;
and after the email, the concerned reader;
and after the concern, the boss;
and after the boss, the Institute;
and after the Institute, the journalists;
and after the journalists, the bloggers;
and after the bloggers, the hate-mailers;
and after the hate-mailers, the poets.

Poems about the news don't often find
much that the journalists have left behind.
Shirking reporters' legwork, poets tell
what others thought and may have said quite well.
To news that broke on Darwin Day 09
I can add little that will make it mine
in insight, wit, or fit words. If the shame's
that no one's yet made something of those names,
and you succeed in that, I won't begrudge
you Crediton, Landscore, Cain, Read, and Judge.


2009 was when Richard Holloway,
nine years an ex-bishop, labelled himself
"after-religionist". That's fair enough.

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