Publication Date: March, 2019
Location: The Oldie Magazine. Unfortunately, their website does not publish winning poems 🙁
Genesis: I honestly couldn’t tell you where this one came from! The Oldie Magazine (a British institution started by Richard Ingrams some 25 years ago) runs a monthly poetry competition. My lovely, sparkling 97-year-old neighbour is a subscriber, and I snaffle her copy as soon as it arrives to get the latest title and closing date. ‘The Exhibition’ really didn’t inspire any poetic thoughts at first. Then, one day, I sat down with a couple of the vaguest ideas, and this poem just flowed out of me. From memory, it took less than an hour, start to finish. You can imagine my delight, a month or so later, when I received through the post a copy of the latest Oldie with my winning poem printed inside! And a cheque for £25.
The Grand Exhibition of 1848 Had the world all a-quiver and agog. The venue walls shimmered with polished silver plate, Rising up from an uninspired bog. Inside there were paintings of Air and of Earth; A live dandy, dressed in silk, in a cage. In a curtained-off oasis, humpbacks giving birth While a shaman chanted songs and smouldered sage. They’d shipped in a rainforest, complete with the rain, And a glacier on the backs of five geese. A mother-of-pearl chamber held sparks of pure pain; Guests cried, “Will these wonders never cease?” But the Fountain of Mercury has long since dried up, And the sand eels ate away the silver plate. The dandy escaped, and stole the calf-skull cup, Leaving the humpbacks, and the shaman, to their fate.