Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Poetic licence

I never expect anything in the way of thrills or titillation when I scan through my local newspaper, but this week there wasn't even much in the way of interest: a naughty vicar, "Gales damage a school roof", "Doris is 104" and "Builder head-butted off-duty policeman", and that was about it.

Until, with a shock, I encountered an item which left me open-mouthed and which, if TV news and the national papers are on their toes, must surely soon become a hot topic throughout the country. I leave out the names, but here is the piece (honest, no kidding):

Wordsmiths are being invited to compete in a prophylactic poetry competition to win £50 in vouchers. [Our local] Primary Care Trust's chlamydia screening programme and [-]'s Pharmacy have joined forces to run the contest which covers two age groups. Young people aged between 16 and 25 are being asked to pen a poem using the word chlamydia, while over 25s are called upon to write a piece containing the word contraception, or a form of contraception.

There are several things to be said about this. For one thing, the rules are somewhat vague: Do they really mean any sort of poem, or do they want some verses which rhyme and/or scan? Must chlamydia be used in its proper context and refer to the infection or can it be treated as just a word? It would make things much easier if could be used as a proper name, so that you could submit a sentimental ode titled To Chlamydia, with a line similar to the one Ernest Dowson very nearly wrote: I have been true to thee, Chlamydia, in my fashion.

If it must be used as a medical term, on the other hand, then the poems would have to outline the bacteriological background, symptoms and treatment (what else is there to write about on this subject?), and references to C. trachomatis, purulent exudate and Azithromycin would have to be featured; these are very tricky things to work into even the loosest rhyming scheme or metre.

For the older competitors, contraception as a subject offers lots of possibilities, since no particular approach is specified. The poem could be lyrical, romantic, theologically controversial or merely practical. In the latter case, the various methods alone provide plenty to say; references to them in popular song go back to 1930, with Ira Gershwin's lyrics to I Got Rhythm.

This competition seems to me to be much more difficult than one I set before Christmas, and that attracted only five entries. Somehow the sponsors will have to ensure that there are at least two entries in their Prophylactic Poetry Contest, even if they have to write them themselves, for the winning poems are to be displayed at the town's main shopping centre on February 9th to mark National Contraceptive Awareness Week. Anyway, I shall not fail to be there to see how the young poets of the town have risen to the challenge.


Doris said...

I think the organisers had better get their pens out because I don't imagine a stampede to submit entries.

It is the sort of thing I'd chuckle about - but good luck to them for trying.

Tony said...

Well, exactly, Doris.
If there are any entries I'll get hold of copies and post them. Watch this space.

Outeast said...

Since you have failed to supply the requisite contact information here:

i. Words Of Advice Offered To A Young Man

The pill’s the thing, they cry
But I
For what is the intent?

Hormonal intervention
May well seem a great invention
When it comes to staying barren
In your trysts with Anne or Sharon,
But it will not help against disease -
Those ever-waiting STDs! –
And while sexual abstention
May well seem a fine intention,
If her interest is persistent
Will you really stay resistant?

No wisdom Confucian,
No circumlocution:
Avoiding infection
Requires contraception.

To love, a condom
Need present no barrier -
Although protecting others
From the carrier.

Ode To A Bacterium Proving Stubbornly Unresponsive To Tetracycline*

Oh when, Chlamydia,
Will I be ridia?

*See Growth and Development of Tetracycline-Resistant Chlamydia suis, J. Lenart et al, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, August 2001, p. 2198-2203, Vol. 45, No. 8

Tony said...

Brilliant, Outeast, whoever and wherever you are.

Closing date is Feb 4th.

Send to:
Poem Competition
Ore Clinic
407 Old London Road
East Sussex TN35 5BH

They ask for name, address, phone number and age, so I guess your anonymity rules you out.

But only one, as you cannot be both above and below 25. If you like, I'll send one in for you, but of course I'll keep the £50.

outeast said...

My word, I used to live just round the corner!

outeast said...

PS Feel free to pilfer (and if you win, keep the 50 or give it to a worthy cause; the FILO, maybe). I'd enter if they were on email, but it's too much hassle to do dead tree stuff internationally.

And I dare you to enter as an under 25... and show up for the prize-giving.

Tony said...

Right. The chlamydia one isn't as good as mine so I'll send in your other one. You are quite right in guessing that I'm over 25.

First In, Last Out? (There is a pub near me called this)
The Madrid restaurant chain?
The Fédération Internationale de Lutte Orientale?
Something to do with pastry?

I would not wish to give money to any of these. Is it some local organisation in Warrumba Springs, your home town ?

Incidentally, when I first read the piece in the local paper and saw that the name of the sponsoring pharmacy was Laycock I thought the whole thing must be a hoax but apparently it is not.