Back space

19 October 2019

9:00 AM

19 October 2019

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3120 you were invited to submit a poem reflecting on the Apollo 11 moon landing written in the style of the poet of your choice.
Cath Nichols’s enjoyable entry looked back on the lot of the Apollo wives through Wendy Cope’s acerbic eye. Nick MacKinnon was also an accomplished Cope impersonator:

Bloody men are like bloody rockets,
you wait nearly five billion years
and as soon as one feels up your craters
another Apollo appears…

Rufus Rutherford, channelling Basho, submitted a charming haiku. And Robert Schechter, as Ogden Nash, also kept it brief:
To the marvellous event that happened fifty years ago I dedicate this ode.
The first man on the moon, you say? That was pretty good, but what I had in mind was Abbey Road.
The brightest stars this week are printed below and win £25 each.

God’s fiat let there be two kinds of light,
One bringing day, the other soft’ning night.
The gods of myth then made these roles their own,
The sun as male, the moon as female shown.
Celestially remote, they reigned divine,
Their pow’rs bewitching, awesome or benign.
But lo! this landing brought them both to ground,
Their majesty dispelled, their heads uncrowned.
Ex deo machina, Apollo came
To yield his fiery chariot — and his name;
Selene, ever seen demurely fair,
Had all her desert dust and rock laid bare.
The heavens’ mysteries all stand revealed
When human probing leaves no secret sealed.
Such ventures are of negligible worth:
Man’s proper sphere of study is the Earth.
W.J. Webster/Alexander Pope
’Twas lift-off and the lunic team
Did whirl and whizzle into space
To vitalise their squambic scheme
And gumble in the moonish race.
To buzz and kneel by lunar seas
There came a bold and plambic plan
To prove the moon’s not made of cheese,
Then take a strantic step for man.
Now fifty flumbish years have passed,
With countless ramblous re-enactions
Of star-ish stripes tied to a mast,
With daring deeds and vortive actions.
And oh, my beamish boy, this rhyme
With joy outgrabes that great endeavour:
Though astronauts will fade in time
The show goes on and on forever.
Sylvia Fairley/Lewis Carroll
Ring out the mighty bells of Bow
And all the streets with flags festoon
For, half a century ago,
Apollo landed on the moon.
I often dream that we were there
One giant leap from all mankind,
With earth-glow lighting up your hair
And bombed-out Slough left far behind.
I’d see you looking quite divine,
My burnished, strong-limbed, fearless love,
You, in your space suit, I in mine
Beneath the twinkling stars above;
Let politicians rant and rail
For mad and sad they’ll always be
While we in gay abandon sail
The calm Sea of Tranquillity.
Alan Millard/ John Betjeman

The press called it the Space Race, like it was a sportin’ test,
A runnin’ competition with the East against the West.
The lunar teams were all prepared, the tactics well re’earsed,
And people watched in wonderment to see ’oo’d get there first.
It was all mixed up with politics, and that’s a dirty game,
But pioneering moonshots call for ’eroes all the same,
The kind that leaves the earth be’ind and flies in outer space
To beat the opposition and to save a nation’s face.
The bit o’ rock they landed on was called Tranquillity,
A berth that’s not an ’aven in a sea that’s not a sea.
There was no rules for doin’ what was never done before,
But Faith and Science shook ’ands to return a winning score.
All that is ’alf a century back, but what about today?
Tranquillity just ain’t the word to name the state o’ play.
Two men became immortal with their two hours on the moon,
But the way the world is going we shan’t see such ’eroes soon.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Rudyard Kipling
As man walked out that morning,
Walking upon the Moon,
The crowds glued to their tellies
Were watchers in a swoon.
As mankind placed his footstep
Where never man had trod
Some lovers sighed their pledges
While thinkers pondered God.D.A. Prince/W.H. Auden


No. 3123: station to station

You are invited to submit a poem that begins ‘By Waterloo station I sat down and …’. Email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 30 October.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

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