Poetry Competition ‘Colours of Time’

Martin Sturge, Organiser, Dr Leo Aylen, Chairman of Judges

26 May 2004

Our third Poetry Competition brought in exactly 200 entries, of which 44 Juniors, 90 Seniors (13-18 years) and 60 Veterans. Three Bath schools participated with enthusiasm.

Following our first two competitions, ‘A Dream of Bath’ in 2002, and ‘Through a Window’ in 2003, which both brought some quite visionary contributions, this year’s competition focused on the theme of Time, one man’s great connundra, able to infuriate with urgency, numb with boredom, and much else besides. ‘Time and Rhyme’ produced some rich contributions, not unspiced by pith and ribaldry, as the same theme once was in the ‘Bouts Rhymés’ poetry games played at Lady Miller’s Batheaston receptions in the 18th century, which luckily are preserved in the Institution’s Archives.

With our competitors’ imaginations must also be mentioned the commitment of our judges, without whose energies our Competition could not exist. They were Virginia Ashcroft, Richard Carder, Christine Crossley, Janet Cunliffe-Jones, Patricia Healey, Marie-Louise Luxemburg, Rosemary Marshall, Janie Thomas and Guy Whitmarsh. Their chairman, as in 2003, was Dr Leo Aylen, who with great thoroughness, re-read all the submissions and at our Poetry Evening gave comment and encouragement to 13 commended competitors in addition to the 22 invited to read their works and helped also with a stalwart rendering of Horace’s Latin Ode, submitted in translation.

Our translation section, having started in 2003 with texts by Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé proposed for translation was continued this year and enriched by three submissions, two from Latin, and one from Greek. All three were thought worthy of recitation and all are reproduced below, as are the poems awarded first and second prize in each of the three age groups.

The evening of recitations was as usual held in bistro format with light refreshments provided with the help of David Giles, Michael Mollett…. and certificates to prize-winners were presented by Dr Aylen. General organisation was by Martin Sturge.

Martin Sturge

Poetry Competition Prize-winners


J000 (Equal First Prize)

A Funny Thing

Xenatasha Colgne-Brookes

Time: a funny thing. It seems.

It throws down buildings, ruins dreams.

Marauding elephants, plodding on,

E’er none can halt time’s silent song.

Time destroys, and then creates.

It’s winding rivers, broken slates.

Mild as a lamb, it’s skipping by,

E’er none stops its silent lullaby.

There stands a grave that’s chiselled ‘Ken’,

In eighteen nineteen to nineteen ten.

Most of all you should use your time,

Each tune alters the world’s great rhyme.


J022 (Equal First Prize)


Hasina Meghji

I always remember the time

We watched the dolphins in the bay,

We sat on the edge of the sand

It was the end to a great day.

I went surfing in France with Anne

We swam in the big deep blue sea,

We dried off in the scorching sun

And she bought an ice cream for me.

We looked around the area

And we shopped at French market stalls,

We visited the monasteries

Where Jesus was drawn on the walls.

We then went back to the villa

Where we all sat down and had tea,

Anne’s mum made a nice barbecue

But then she got stung by a bee.

Her finger had started to swell

You could tell she wanted to scream,

So we got out the First Aid Kit

And smothered her finger in cream.

Although it was all quite hectic

The holiday was really fun,

We spent our last evening in Nice

Watching waves and the setting sun.



S077 (First Prize)

Daddy’s Girl

Bailey Kurgar

He died before his time. Still my eyes

reflect nine proud candle flames, dancing

on waves of tuneless Happy Birthday.

Nine of his kisses, cleanly shaven.

Time was when we would take dreams outside

and run in the woods, out of breath,

then collapse in maple syrup sky-

drown in ravishing toothless giggles

before the walk home, hand in his hand.

"High time for a bath, missy" he would

chirp, then bicker, then enforce before

those pre-bedtime blues. But then mornings

were idyllic since Breakfast in Bed

smelt so good, and she would never weep.

He always had time for her and me.

But when that machine sang its awful

bleep, in his eyes chased no flames – only

hardened wax with a more holy song.

His last weak kiss is one, always, I’m

feeling on my cheek – dressed with stubble.

Then, he died. Before his time. My time.


S081 (Second Prize)


Alex McCabe




Tiny crystalline slivers hang in the air, reflecting the light in a

multitude of colours, for all the world like a swarm of fireflies.

Glowing points of orange fleck the scene, outshining the stars

in the clear, dark sky.

Metal ribbons and sprays of black plastic curl eloquently around

each other, vagrant twists spiralling off at every angle.

Globes of brilliant scarlet float lazily in the air, even in this frozen

time seeming to bob in the air like a flock of children’s balloons.

And, beneath it all, a budding, sunlike golden glow underlights

the whole scene, orbited by the other pieces of the tableau.

Time returns.

A white flash illuminates the motorway, and the howls of ambulances

in the background are muted by the noise.

They are too late.


V059 (First Prize)

A Brief History of…

Jolyon Laycock

Oh bird with but a little way to fly,

Shall speckled vanity fall sick and die?

What was it that the walrus said, of kings

And cabbages; of shoes and other things;

Of frail and mystic ships upon some reef

All wrecked? Oh winged chariot, subtle thief

Of youth, you ought to serve, for such a crime,

A stretch inside before the knell shall chime!

The Great Physician’s falling tide, and slime

Of sea-wrack, waits for no man. Down we climb

through geologic beds, Jurassic grime

to clear away in search of primal rhyme

And reasons; vast big-bang, or quiet tock

And tick to start the supernatural clock.

God said "Let Hawking be!" and all was black.

To fetch again the age of gold, run back

And find a temple half as old as dreams,

Where Dali’s floppy watch runs slow. Extremes

Of super-massive neutron gravitation

Lead to awkward temporal dilation.

Read the book. But just forget the last

Recorded syllable. You won’t get past

Page twenty nine; these mysteries sublime

Of quantum leaps and Einstein’s paradigm

Explained in this "Brief History" of life

The universe and everything. All strife

And universal suffering some day

Must end. But is it turtles all the way

From top to bottom, Hoyle’s cosmology

Of "Steady State" for all eternity,

Or else one final cataclysmic crunch

As if old Cronus swallowed us for lunch?

V060 (Second Prize)

A Slight Problem with Time

Robert W Palmer

Did you hear the story about the physicist who,

unable to sleep for the thunder of parallel universes,

tried to surf a probability wave over the event horizon,

tripped over a light cone into a giant co-incidence

and ended with his atoms distributed over a year

in the fifth dimension?

He returned to work as usual but it was difficult to hear him

and his colleagues could see through his arguments,

Admin. at first refused to pay him on the grounds that he was

not all there, but his co-workers took his side in the dispute,

saying that if he had not known in advance how the experiment

ended, they would not have known where to begin.

A compromise was found. He was paid cash, one day at a time.

Eating was the worst problem because only 1/365th of him

could visit the canteen on any one day, but biochemistry

developed a powder which he could sniff containing the

essential nutrients.

At the end of a triumphant year he took early retirement.

The usual clock was felt to be in bad taste and when they tried

to pin a medal to his chest it fell straight into his shoe

and nearly killed him. He had become very wealthy by betting

his daily wage packets on horse races whose results he could read

in the next day’s newspaper and made the most of his diminished

presence by having his house completely tiled with mirrors.

The wife of a colleague sued for divorce on the grounds that

her husband was too heavy-handed with her and very happily

became his partner for life. Everyone realised he must have

known this would happen, and had possibly engineered it,

but did not wish to think ill of the dead when, not long after,

a force nine gale blew him away entirely.