Monday, 21 November 2011

A Common Dilemma - Joan Lennon

Once upon a time, there were two poets. For the sake of anonymity, we will call one Emily and the other Sylvia. They were both extremely good writers - modern yet accessible, challenging yet mellifluous, edgy yet musical. They each kept a wary professional eye on the other’s successes and failures. Because they were decent human beings, they tried to rejoice at the former and not to rejoice at the latter. Sometimes they managed this better than other times, but still, they tried.

For many years their areas of special interest did not overlap, so they did not tend to be up for the same awards or invited to the same festivals. Emily focussed largely on urban subjects; Sylvia’s work was strictly metaphysical. But then – an example of convergent evolution – both Sylvia and Emily became interested in birds. Perhaps they both received literature from the RSPB during the same mailing campaign. Perhaps they both were given bird feeders as Christmas presents by totally unrelated relatives. Whatever the reason, both writers began to produce reams of poems about our feathered friends …

… until the inevitable happened. They were both short-listed for the RSPB Bird Poet of the Year Award.

On learning that one has been short-listed for anything, a writer’s invariable first thought is, What shall I wear? This is because they are not normally dressy people. Pyjamas, baggy track tops, elderly jeans – these make up the usual uniform of work-from-home writers. The two poets hadn’t a thing in their wardrobes appropriate for such an occasion.

So, after thinking, What shall I wear? Emily went out in search of an outfit that would be as beautiful as the subjects of her poems. Something feathery, colourful, suggestive of wings and flight.

After thinking, What shall I wear? Sylvia also went out in search of an outfit that would be as beautiful as the subjects of her poems. Something suggestive of flight and wings, colourful, feathery ...

On the fateful evening, they arrived at the award ceremony, both a little late, just in time to go onto the stage and be introduced to the audience.

They were dressed identically.

Sylvia turned to Emily. “Nice dress,” she said.

“Thank you,” Emily replied. “So’s yours.”

“Symbolic?” asked Sylvia.

“Absolutely,” said Emily with a cautious smile. “The old form and content thing.”

“Where would we be without metaphor, eh?”

“Damn straight.”

There was a short pause. Then Emily crooked her arm, inviting Sylvia to link up with her.

“The grand entrance?” she murmured. “As if we’d planned it?”

Sylvia grinned. “For the cause!”

And so the two poets, in their identical dresses, walked on stage. And in the RSPB magazine the next month, over the article describing the event, this headline was proudly displayed:


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Sue Purkiss said...

Brilliant! I love it - and the headline is no less than a triumph!

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for making the day seem brighter!

Katherine Langrish said...

I really love it. (And let sisterhood always prevail!)

madwippitt said...

Brilliant! Is it true?

adele said...

Very much hope this is true! Very funny!

DavidKThorpe said...


Joan Lennon said...

Sadly not true, except in spirit. It's one of a collection of mangled proverbs/sayings I've been writing, and as this one relates to one of writers' perennial problems, I thought it was ABBA-appropriate. (If anyone remembers the radio programme My Word, the genre will be familiar!)

Abi Burlingham said...

Joan, this is my favourite ABBA post yet (I think they're all great, I hasten to add.) Your sense of fun always comes across in your posts. This tale is pure genius. Even if it isn't true, you've made it seem so - I love it!

Joan Lennon said...

Thank you all for kind comments, here and on Facebook!

Savita Kalhan said...

Brilliant and funny! Thanks, Joan.