Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bill Murray

Something quite extraordinary has happened. I know I blogged yesterday, but this is too amazing to just leave for a week or so, so here it is - the full story, hot off the press.

Earlier today I was here, in my room, enjoying a nice cup of tea and browsing Twitter when my Dad shouted that the postman had just been and there was something for me. That's usually a phrase that sends a chill down my spine, to be honest. If it's not the latest catalogue from The Book People, or the latest issue of United We Stand, it's probably bad news. Who do I owe money to this time? As I walked down the stairs, here's the conversation I had with my father:

"Have you entered a poetry competition?"

"What? No, of course not."

And that was the truth. I hate poetry. It's rubbish, and I hate it even more when it doesn't rhyme. There was no chance of me ever entering a poetry competition, but here was Dad handing me an envelope with "World Poetry Movement" plastered on the front of it, a message of "POSTMASTER: PLEASE RUSH! CONTEST RESULTS ENCLOSED." just above the slot where you can see the address.

I laughed. Clearly spam, although I admired the way they had got my name and address and had sent something all the way from Utah to the UK. Back in my room, I went to throw the letter in the bin, but I found I couldn't. I was curious - OK, it was spam, but let's at least have a look at it. So I opened it.


I jest. Nothing blew up, but I was surprised to see several pieces of paper and one smaller envelope in my hand once I had ripped open the packet and wrenched out everything from inside it. (If you ever want a laugh, watch me open an envelope. I'm not one for subtlety.) Putting the other stuff down for a moment, I unfurled (great word) the letter that came with it. I'm not going to recite it all to you, but the bits in bold you're about to see are the highlights:

Dear Patrick,

After carefully reading and discussing your poem,

I've not written a poem.

our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist in our International Open Poetry Contest. Your poem has been automatically entered into the final competition.

Very kind of you, but there's clearly a mistake here. I don't write poetry. I don't like it. Except maybe the poetry of Ogden Nash.

As a semi-finalist, you now have an excellent chance of winning one of the 116 cash or gift prizes - including the $1,000.00 Grand Prize. 

Well why didn't you say?! You now have my complete attention.

And that's not all....

It isn't?!



Imagine your poem featured on a page by itself in a beautiful coffee-table edition!


In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly regarded collections of poetry we have ever published....

STARS IN OUR HEARTS (Library of Congress ISBN 978-1-60880-123-7)

Published......Library of Congress.....unique talent........

Before going any further, Patrick, let me make one thing clear...


your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision.

So not only "unique talent" but "artistic vision"! This is GREAT but, alas, it is spam. I haven't done a poem.

However, regarding the publication of your poetry, you must proofread your poem, which appears on the enclosed Artist's Release. Please carefully review your poem for typographical errors and make any necessary changes.

Alright, I'm binning this thing now, load of bollo...what?

your poem, which appears on the enclosed Artist's Release.

Hey hey hey what is going ON here?!

So I threw the letter down and scrabbled around amongst the other nonsense attached to find the "Artist's Release" form. Once I found it, I sat down on my bed and laughed. A lot.

Because many, many months ago - think it was last September - a Facebook friend had posted something on her wall which had a picture of Bill Murray attached. Now Bill Murray is, in my opinion, a genius, so it caught my eye. It was a link to a competition:

"Write a Bill Murray poem and you could win $1,000! Enter the Bill Murray Contest to win. 116 prizes to be awarded in this poetry contest."

I'm not a poet - as you might have guessed by now - but I do enjoy writing stupid little verses in the style of E.J.Thribb, the resident poet and obituarist over at 'Private Eye' magazine, so as I had nothing better to do I scribbled down a few lines of nonsense and then took a "screen grab" to show my friend. I didn't think, for one second, that I had filled in my name and address and clicked "submit", but I must have done. So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen I present to you my 5 minute nonsensical poem on Mr William Murray:

O Tempora! O Murray!

William James Murray!
A name never to be said in a hurry
I'd definitely buy him a curry
William James Murray.

What a man, an icon, a star!
A genius revered wide and far
He can go round in level par
And drive a sexy sports car

Lest we forget, Groundhog Day
When he always woke up, in dismay
Not once did he get stung by a ray
Lest we forget, Groundhog Day.

Now I don't want to do myself down, but if that's ever going to qualify for the final of a poetry contest then I can only assume it was the only entrant. Or...something is rotten in Denmark.

A Google search for "World Poetry Movement" was my first port of call, and it broke my heart to find that when entering those three words into the search engine, the auto-suggestion that flashes up simply says "World Poetry Movement scam". Thanks to Google, I was given a nudge in the right direction as to what all this madness is:

"A good litmus test is to just start typing World Poetry Movement into a google search page and they're already auto-suggesting you add the search term "scam" to your search. 

Seems the "scam" is that about half of all entrants get published, and the only people who really buy the book are those who entered the 'contest', so you don't actually win money and end out a few bucks for buying a book of crummy poetry."

And it is crummy. The three verse poem I wrote in 5 minutes and as a joke ain't winning any awards any time soon. When I investigated the rest of the literature, I realised that chap was correct - so much of it is about buying the book. As someone else notes:

"Unfortunately, it does look like you sent your poem to scammers. You say you don't have to pay to be included in their book, but I'll bet they offer to sell you copies of that "finest" poetry collection at what they claim is a special author's rate, but it's really a ridiculously high price for a worthless book. And if they squeeze some money out of you for the book, they'll probably be back for more. Maybe they'll offer to sell you your own poem engraved on a plaque or printed on a mouse pad. Maybe they'll invite you to pay a huge registration fee and attend a poetry convention. They won't come right out and say so (because that would be illegal), but they'll try to give you the impression that throwing all that money at them will increase your chances of winning some big prize. Don't fall for it."

Not wrong. Just look at the prices of these shitty things!

So, I'm done. I've never dreamed of being a published poet, but I feel slightly crushed by this, quite frankly., it's silly, but....well, let me put it this way. I have three options:

A) I throw all this nonsense in the bin and forget about it
B) I throw most of it in the bin but keep the poem and the letter for future lols
C) I tick the box telling them it's my own work and send that back to them in the provided envelope.

Because option C) isn't going to hurt, right? I'm not giving them any money, and the immature part of me really, really, REALLY likes the idea of someone buying a book full of shit poetry just to see their name in print, only to turn the page and see a verse about buying Bill Murray a curry. If one person in the world saw my poem in that book and laughed...that would make it worth it. However, sending back the form leaves me open to them sending me more nonsense in the future etc.

That's all I can say for now, really. What would YOU do? Any suggestions, drop me a comment on here or tweet me, @Bruno_Di_Gradi. Until next time, poetry fans!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Bacon, Letters, Tomato

It's been an age since I've done one of these, so let's have another whirl for old time's sake. FAO the nutters who write letters into The Shropshire Star - let's be having you.

PS. The first letter featured here is the best letter I've seen for a long, long time.


I watched David Cameron on TV asking the people to make him PM.

One sentence in and I'm already confused. David Cameron? "Make him PM"? What the bloody hell has he been doing for the last few years then? Or did this letter get lost in the post?

The alarm bells in my head rang a warning.

You're telling me.

I told people if they made him PM they would be crying. This country is in debt so how can he give India £280,000m annually for four years? 

One thing I've noticed having read these letter pages for an excruciatingly long period of time is just how worked up people get over the whole foreign aid thing. Honestly, it doesn't bother me that much. Yes, tough economic times etc, and I accept that, but I wonder whether people actually stop and think about why governments do these things. Do people really believe they chuck money at other countries just for a laugh? Aside from foreign aid though, the #1 thing that Shropshire Star letter writers get upset by is of course...

Then there is the EU.


It takes our money which we can put to better use.

By handing it to India!

I don't see other countries queuing to give us money. They say a leader should look after his/her people not take their money and give it away.

Standard letter writing fare, this, but I have good news for you - it's about to get nice and nutty.

Heaven is not a nice place for the rich.

Odd statement. How would you know, for a start? Is there a test at The Pearly Gates? Will I have to empty my pockets?

It is nothing like we are told (sic) or dream it is.

I've no fucking idea what you're going on about, but the question still stands - how would you know?

I know,


I died and went there


 - and what I saw?


Poor people are well looked after.


D Edmund-Fitzgerald


This letter isn't as nuts as the ones I usually pick out - particularly in comparison to that one above - but the way it hops around from person to person before talking about a criminal investigation just made me laugh so here goes.

Harry the people's choice as new England boss?

He's the media's choice, because he can't resist winding his car window down and having a natter with the waiting ensemble.

But hopefully Harry Redknapp is too sharp to take the job that any sensible Premier League manager would run a mile from.

This sentence is really good stuff, in terms of all-round nonsense, but particularly for the phrase "hopefully Harry Redknapp is too sharp" which is something I thought I'd never read. Anywhere.

Daniel Levy has supported Harry all the way through his recent trial and it is not only the chairman of Tottenham who has supported him.


Other Premier League managers and, of course, the Spurs fans who have seen Harry raise their football club from near the bottom of the table to where they are now - third in the Premier League - have also been supporters.

The league table thing is a bit of a red herring. When Harry was appointed Spurs were performing dreadfully - true. But nobody expected them to be near the bottom of the table at the end of the season once Ramos was fucked off and Harry came in. Point I'm trying to make - Harry has done well there, certainly, but it hasn't been a messianic rise from the abyss.

Quick note on Harry - he's a good manager. Not a great one, but a good one. He's the perfect man to bring in when the previous manager has ballsed up and fallen out with the players, as Harry knows he can put an arm around them and get them playing for him. Tactically he's not very good, frankly, and as such he's really limited in how far he can take clubs. And of course he does like spending money on players. England manager material? Not for me.

Would he have had that support as England boss or would it have been a case of goodbye Harry?

Funny one that, really. The press love to destroy an England manager, but they also love Harry.

ANYWAY. Get crazy, quick.

The way Fabio Capello was got rid of leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

It wasn't handled very well, but hey, that's the FA for you.

Why the FA could not be honest and say he was rubbish as England manager as results have not been good enough?

Because that clearly would not be the case. I refuse to believe anyone can justifiably say re. Capello and England that "results have not been good enough". Yes, the defeat to Germany at the World Cup wasn't very good, I'll be the first to tell you that. But this smacks of the horrible "Wahhh he's not English" attitude which morons like to peddle out at every possible opportunity.

The problem with football today is that it is too political. John Terry is perceived as being racist without a thing being proved and what if Mr Terry is innocent? The witch-hunters at the top of the English football will search for someone else to burn at the stake.

In my opinion the FA got that one right, and Capello was wrong, but I'm tired of you now so let's move on.

Mark Norwood

Yes, yes, whatever. Wish these people would stop bigging themselves up, Christ. Just once can we have a few fake names sprinkled onto the letters page? Would an "Ivor Biggun" from Shrewsbury really be so awful?


I congratulate the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury for his fierce defence of our traditional values.

I think we all know where this one is going.

The Right Reverend Mark Davies has said the Government's plans to legalise same-sex marriage would represent 'nothing less than a seismic shift in the foundations of our society.'

A) Really?

B) Is that a bad thing? This idiot takes this statement as such, but now that I twiddle my thumbs and 1950s USA the Deep South was staggeringly racist. Separate facilities for whites and blacks, racist lynchings, public transport issues etc etc. Sixty years on, some people in those areas are still racist, I know, but through the hard work of the Civil Rights movement et al the situation has got better, right? Crude example - down in New Orleans, Louisiana, a black man such as Pierre Thomas plays in their NFL team alongside a white man, Drew Brees, and the vast majority of people don't give a shit. Why would they?

Has there not been a "seismic shift in the foundations of (their) society" then? And has that not actually been a thoroughly positive thing?

The politically-correct bullies and political charlatans such as David Cameron have had their way for far too long.

Place your bets now - pompous idiot, or out-and-out wind up merchant?

Now is the time for the silent majority to stand up for their rights too.

I'll happily bet you £10 that the "silent majority" don't give a shit.

N Pritchard

You're going on the list.


One final one because I'm tired and want to go and watch the cricket.

What a shame it will be if Mr Salmond succeeds in his ambition to separate the English and Scottish nations.

There's lots of interesting arguments on this one - from both sides of the table. Let's see what John here thinks.

We will no longer be able to go into a pub, or on to a bus or tram without the amusement of being able to listen to a Scottish voice whinging and complaining about anything from the cost of toilet paper, the price of beer to council services. 

Vintage stereotyping!

One thing is certain though, they will no happier with their own government than with that in Westminster.

John Thornicroft
Market Drayton

Without wanting to sound like the cabbie in 'Private Eye' - I met a Scottish person once. Very nice man.

Until next time kids!