Competition

Poems about picnics

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3155 you were invited to supply a poem entitled ‘The Picnic’.

This challenge was prompted by a tweet from picnic-hater @edcumming inviting people to nominate their single worst picnic item. Suggestions included stale warm dry carrot batons, hummus with a skin, supermarket Scotch eggs and gin in a tin that’s been slowly boiled by the sun. So as we face a summer of outdoor socialising, should we all just face the fact that picnics are much nicer in the imagining?


There are clearly fans out there, judging by the entry, which was large and tremendous. The winners, especially tricky to choose this week, take £25 each.

Oh look! Another glossy supplement
babbling away about how meals al fresco
are easy — only half an hour well spent
and there’s your picnic! Oh, hey-bloody-presto!
 
What Austen slyly dubbed ‘the apparatus
of happiness’ (such irony!) is there:
plates, napkins and, to magnify your status,
a ziggurat of matching Tupperware.
 
This quivering quiche; what frantic kitchen working —
indoors and hot and frazzled — shaped your beauty?
Who sourced the freekeh and each cherished gherkin
and every picnic’s must-have, a clafoutis?
 
I wish you well; green grass, the perfect view —
no nettles, thistles, cowpats, ants, to blight
all this repast deserves. Meanwhile I’ll chew
my bread and cheese and apple out of sight.
D.A. Prince

We spread our blankets on a lawn
Beside an autumn wood,
And underneath a happy sun
Unpacked our picnic food.
John looked around contentedly
And praising fruitful trees
Enthused on autumn’s luxury,
Composing lines with ease.
We toasted with a cooling wine
And ate in open air
While John pronounced the fruit divine
In words beyond compare.
His lovely hymn, that picnic grace,
His praise for autumn’s spree
Would surely take an honoured place
In a golden treasury.
Frank McDonald

Do you remember the day, Alana?
Do you remember the day?
And the sun, and the fun when we picnicked as one
United, excited and oh, so delighted,
Under the boughs of the oak; and the smoke
From the barbecue’s smouldering coke; and the calls
Of the children all dashing and thrashing and splashing
As though they were bathing in sunny Havana,
Do you remember the day, Alana?
Do you remember the day?
And the cooling breeze in the shade of the trees,
And the hours we lazed, amazed as we gazed
Into each others eyes, Alana,
Do you remember the day?
And the bliss of the kiss we’ll never forget or regret
That bound us together then and binds us yet!
Alan Millard

Birthday picnic, fête champêtre!
Sceptically I scan this bunch,
Less Manet’s ‘Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe’,
More William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
 
Lolling on the verdant heathland
Undownlocked now, free at last;
Hamper, chill box, Styro cups but
Where’s the bloody corkscrew? Blast!
 
Jill bollocks Bill, Di disses Dai,
Vivien slags off Vivian;
Smug-bug Reggie, TT, veggie,
Smirks his sweet oblivion…
 
Pack the Renault, load the Volvo,
Take the line of least resistance;
Homeward bound in seething silence
Safe, our antisocial distance.
Mike Morrison

We had the most glorious day for the spectacle
Up on the Sapouné Heights,
With our rugs and our parasols, every receptacle
Brimming with local delights;
‘No battle today,’ said the Duke with a smile,
But our gentlemen cheered and hallooed all the while
As the miniature soldiers formed column and file
And presented themselves for the fight
 
The Highlanders held and the Heavies defended
Our lines against terrible odds,
But then some instruction was misapprehended:
The Lights were all thrown to the gods;
There were certainly less of them there than before,
But by then I’d grown weary of watching the war,
And the clouds had rolled in, which was rather a bore,
And the picnic was more or less ended.
Nick Syrett

We spread the blanket and arranged the goodies,
Mouths watering, and soon to be delighted
By salmon, lobster, creamy little puddies…
A family arrived, quite uninvited:
The parents, three young girls, a pair of babies
That rapidly grew smellier and damper,
A mangy dog that made us think of rabies,
Who, having peed against our picnic hamper,
Made off with half a leg of roasted chicken,
Then bounded back for more, obscenely drooling.
Their youngest daughter managed to be sick in
The bucket where our Bollinger was cooling.
Grabbing her twins, their mother set them teating;
The others started chewing something rancid.
‘Bon appetit!’ they said, but we weren’t eating;
We’d lost our appetite for what we’d fancied.
Sylvia O. Smith

No. 3158: watching the detective

You are invited to supply an extract describing a well-known fictional detective who finds themselves catapulted into an unfamiliar milieu. Please email up to 150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 15 July./>

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