In Competition No. 2946 you were invited to supply a verse obituary of a well-known person who has died in the past year.
There’s certainly no shortage of candidates. Whether more famous people than usual are dying or whether it just seems that way I don’t know, but hardly a day goes by without one of the stars of light entertainment who provided the cultural backdrop to my formative years — Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Paul Daniels, Anne Kirkbride, Terry Wogan, Cilla Black, Keith Harris — checking into the horizontal Hilton.
Alanna Blake and Max Ross were clever and touching on Ronnie Corbett; Chris O’Carroll, Martin Parker, D.A. Prince and Brian Murdoch also deserve honourable mentions. The entries printed below net their authors £25 apiece and Max Gutmann pockets the bonus fiver.
Ms Harper Lee, a scribe of note,
as her first published novel wrote
To Kill a Mocking Bird — a pip.
Her follow-up was nearly zip.
A public life was troublesome.
Ms Lee stayed hale. Ms Lee stayed mum.
She gave us nothing from her pen
for more than fifty years! But then
she, casting reticence aside,
released a book— and quickly died.
If we’d be well and live, perhaps
we all should learn to shut our traps.
Topped The Beatles, toppled Kylie,
About as trendy as a Pooh-stick:
Always he was highly smiley,
Picking at the old acoustic —
Once he’d been a fruit-crate maker,
Banging in the one-inch nails;
More than twenty-one years later,
Proof persistence never fails —
From Waterford and crystal-cool,
With Irish brogue and roguish goat,
In his Aran as a rule,
He never rocked the Sixties boat:
He never rocked the teeny screamers
Until they too wore slumberwear —
Rocking all the pension-dreamers
In his sturdy rocking-chair.
One finds in all the better soaps
A cemetery of early hopes.
As disillusion eats the soul,
And drink and madness take their toll,
And marriages and flings redouble
A woman’s lot is toil and trouble.
Praise, then, the sterling fortitude
Of those shamed by a crooked brood
Who have a plonker for a mate
Yet dignify a trying fate.
Anne played for more than forty years
A stoic in a vale of tears,
A lighthouse in a stormy ocean
Of burning, volatile emotion.
Desired and tricked by many men,
Deirdre’s at last beyond our Ken.
Self-uprooted from his native isle
He took from there his talent to beguile:
A soft-edged voice and easy rhythmic flow,
Were gifts an Irish accent may bestow.
They made him radiogenic so to speak
Which drew more listeners to him week on week.
Translated to the television screen,
His skills and charm worked equally when seen.
A man not witty but of nimble wit,
His tone and audience proved a perfect fit:
Show business went entirely with his grain
To find amusement and to entertain.
It gave him wealth that from success accrues
For which he paid full charitable dues.
Good-hearted, then, if lucky, truth to tell,
He made his blessings count and lived life well.
Vale Howard Marks, or ‘Donald Nice’
(one of your several aliases). Twice
Married, each time ending in divorce —
It seems you just let Nature take its course…
Physics at Oxford: Balliol, alma mater,
Offered stability but you thought smarter.
Sooner than sink to academe’s abyss
You found your métier in cannabis:
‘For I have seen the future,’ you intoned,
‘It’s hedonistic, hippy-trippy, stoned.’
During the seven-year spell in Terre Haute slammer
You endeared yourself to inmates — taught them grammar!
Your ‘nick’name, Narco Polo, added flair
And kudos; a beguiling nom de guerre.
Glamorgan’s Nogood Boyo? Not entirely —
You knew the score and lived the life of Riley.
Superb as Trollope’s Obadiah Slope;
Endearing in a Richard Curtis romp;
A Die Hard villain offering no hope;
These roles he made his own when in his pomp.
A humble start had made him work much harder
Than those on whom Fate luxury confers,
When late, at twenty-six, he entered Rada,
Then starred on stage — Liaisons Dangereuses.
We booed and jeered his Wicked Sheriff role,
As cruelly he took Robin and his band on,
And cheered when so surprisingly he stole
Kate Winslet’s heart as Austen’s Colonel Brandon.
Who could forget his Hogwarts Potions Master
Of hidden depths…. there’s more, but let’s just say:
A Life of far more Triumph than Disaster;
Ave then, Alan Rickman, et vale.
No. 2949: Drinking partner
You are invited to submit a poem about sharing a drink with a famous writer (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to email@example.com by 18 May.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
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