Guest judge Jack Cooper received your entries with thanks, and attacks the tough job of judging - read here...
18th September 2018
Deciding on a theme for Hour of Writes is a tricky business. It must be precise enough to inspire writers to create pieces with clear connections to the theme, but broad enough that each entry will be unique. Of all things Attack And Receive could have been inspired by, it came from a playing card in the franchise that dominated my childhood: Yu-Gi-Oh. With such an aggressive phrase, I was hoping for war, embittered couples, and intrigue. I was delighted to find all this, alongside some whimsy.
I was immediately drawn to Entry 3155, which explores a situation too many of us will be familiar with. It reminds us that those who suffer from violence often turn to violence, that this cycle is not easily broken. Entry 3155 also shows that there can be a lot of power in simple language.
Entry 3160, Red Poppy Boy (gets what’s coming to him), has a lovely rhythm that drives the reader through a story of addiction and consequence. This can be seen especially in the second stanza, with: ‘an A1 stealer / all state receiver / a total syringe believer’. Successfully employing rhythm always makes a poem more compelling.
With Entry 3163, we see a regular structure and rhythm used to great effect. The images were very vivid, essential for communicating a story with such a degree of movement and as many changes in scene. I particularly enjoyed the shift in scale in:
‘Zipping through the midges and the dragonflies / We crest the spikes and fall into a murderous scrum’,
making the poem more dynamic and cinematic.
For me, Entry 3159 was the obvious winner. Gentle and concise, the piece takes us ‘inch by inch’ through a race. The poem is dense with imagery, and it is a credit to the author that they evoked such a strength of feeling in me with so few lines. I keep returning to:
‘The last water gone / Like legs / with nothing left / except blisters, cramp, / tiredness beyond enduring’,
drawn by its subtlety of rhythm and simplicity of language.
Thank you to everyone who entered. Judging this competition was a wonderful excuse to sit down, have a cup of tea, and immerse myself in varied poetry and prose. You each responded to the prompt differently, making this process an absolute pleasure. I hope you all continue to write great work for Hour of Writes, and for yourselves.
About The Judge
Jack Cooper works at the University of Oxford, in a laboratory that uses the sexual courtship of fruitflies as a model to understand core features of development and behaviour. His poetry has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, and shortlisted for The New Poets Prize and Segora Poetry Competition amongst others. Stephen King, Final Fantasy, and K-Pop are the great loves of his life.
Victorian Parlour Games
We are four in the parlour
Mabel, Marian, Elsie and I.
It is March 7, 1876, evening time.
and the gaslights communicate
their realities in mobile shadowed tones.
We are as tableaux vivants as I sign;
One word, three syllables.
All fingers and thumbs.
They give me;
As I charade my life's distraction
like a dog and bone.
- Hour of Writes: Finnbar - it was both! :) Nice to see you
- Finnbar: Really hoping that "testing the site" was a real prompt and not a developer note about launch-testing an update :)
- Tsukuyomi: What inspiration is there left to draw from a declining world? A world where we are disconnected from the forces which guide our own celestial motion, through the dance that is life. What horror frames our days? What beauty can be found within these four walls? Are we no more than stunted shades, purchancing goods in order to fuel the void growing within all of our hearts? We must connect with nature, for nature to exist at all.
- writerBFHEKQSXJJ: Delighted to have won the last contest but confused re.not receving any other entries to mark and whether there is a prize as I haven't been contacted by HOW staff at all. Anyone else enter and not receive marking/emails re.marking?
- swatie: -1/3- outside the window are days full of my mother my father’s gardens he calls prints of Punjab like the pages of a yellow book, my mother's nameless youth was caged between book ends— mother, father, daughter, mother her mother’s phulkari hand spun subterfuges to release, a family heirloom -2/3- like a painting to complete, it took many strokes to cover our days, a languorous summer, fall, winter, summer sometimes in between, like estranged cousins, impish winds would come to play a lover’s story sweet sweet warbles, singers made to order Pigeon fliers even in two tight plaits I felt free -3/3- a sickly gaze from the bedside sometimes upholds the promises of an opulent life up and down and between the shadows taming a temperate sun’s impish play what can a sickly gaze spare after all? irreverent skies, or cheap ticket stubs to window romances? —as if pastiches of romeos and juliets and romeos even with my romantic hair I am caged chipped pieces of bargain scattered all over the window sill.
by Mr Golightly
“Try pinging it again.”
“Same response. It’s quick, but it’s only sending back one packet.”
Lucas sank his head into his hands in resignation. It had been 32 hours since he had been able to grab a power nap and still they were getting nowhere. He forced a swig of his cold brew.
“Did anyone know it was even possible to hack a ping response? Has anybody ever seen that before?”
Pinging a server to test the response time should be as straightforward as it gets, as simple as shouting in a cave and waiting for the echo.
“I’m seriously asking, has anybody ever seen that before because...”
Finishing the sentence required more effort than Lucas had left in him.
Across the room, a nervous looking intern raised his hand. Once the scale of the crisis had become apparent, the situation had changed to all hands on deck. Every qualified member of staff, regardless of experience, was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and pitch in. These were desperate times. Lucas gestured weakly for him to speak.
“It looks like the packet it’s sending back is larger than the ping sir.”
Lucas rubbed his eyes and squinted at his monitor. He could barely make it out:
pinging yangtze.shop with 32 bytes of data:
reply from 188.8.131.529: bytes=38 time<1ms TTL=127
ping statistics for 184.108.40.2069:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 1, Lost = 3 (75% loss)
The echo was longer than the shout.
This revelation prompted Lucas’s body to finally surrender its last shot of adrenaline.
“Fresh eyes eh? That’s a really good spot kid. Way too small to be malware, any chance we can take a look at the contents of that packet?”
Without a word, the room buzzed to life with the sound of keystrokes. Each coder and engineer driven by their curiosity, striving to restore some pride by completing this simple task first. Lucas pondered what they would find. 38 bytes was just enough for a line of text. It could be a signature, maybe a ransomware demand. It could also be nonsense. Lucas needed it to be a clue. They had inspected countless lines of code looking for an explanation, scoured the architecture of the entire site and found nothing. It defied all logic.
“It’s a URL sir. For a YouTube video.”
Lucas was impressed to note that the same intern had beaten his senior staff to the punch. He was about to respond when he was interrupted by a quiet, familiar voice.
“Cheer up Brian! You know what they say…”
He had heard this before, he was sure of it. His brain went into overdrive searching for the reference. He got there just before the video did. He couldn’t help but laugh as Eric Idol sang.
“Always look on the bright side of life.”
Some of the staff whistled along.
Macallum - 18 year old Triple cask whisky
Three times I’ve placed this order and three times you’ve sent a kid’s bike. I returned it once (at great inconvenience), refused to accept delivery on the second attempt, and on the third time of asking it was left behind my shed. I’m not sure how you mistake a bottle of whisky for a bike once, never mind three times! The incompetence is genuinely staggering. I will not be returning this again and I want a full refund. At least my son is happy.
Teagan & Co. - Milk Chocolate Brazil Nuts
Ordered these as a present for my GF. Sent a box of truffles instead. Turns out she is allergic to brazil nuts and the truffles were nice so thanks lol
A4 Lined Notebook, Wirebound
Thank You! (Whoever You Are)
I don’t know who was responsible for adding the textbook to my order but I owe you big time. It’s never in the library and I could never afford it. I don’t know how you did this but you’ve taken a huge weight off of my shoulders, thank you so much.
2011 Chateau Del Mar Bordeaux
I bought this (rather expensive) bottle of wine as a wedding gift for my daughter to make up for Covid. Sent the wrong bottle (1982!) but too late to do anything about it. Daughter says it’s the nicest bottle of wine she’s ever had. Really appreciate the free corkscrew (she couldn’t find hers!)
LM38624 LaserJet Toner Cartridge
I ordered this for my home office and it was delivered right on time. I thought the box was very heavy for toner so I opened it on my kitchen counter. Imagine my surprise when I found that I’d been sent a fire extinguisher instead.
I headed back to the office to type a sternly worded email, only to discover that my computer was on fire, and not a small one either! I ran back to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher and managed to put out the blaze.
My daughter’s room is above that office, I dread to think what might have happened. I’m not a religious person, but I’m not sure how else to explain that.
I know you probably won’t believe me but I swear to you it’s true.
Derby - Double Edge Razor Blades x 10
Dont want them now anyway
Last Week's Winner!
Winning entry by Castalia
Out there on their own
Isolated on the English savannah
Fresh back from Africa
Feathers shiver in the wind
Haughty beaks and fierce eyes
The ospreys suffer their proud
alliance to feed their young.
Majestic we watch them on camera
Male and female aligned in mission.
Do they love? What do they love?
If someone brought them fish each day
What would they do?
The robots are coming!
Turn off the radio
Turn it off
Go on, now
But we need to hear...
Turn it off.
You are not really there. You are talking, shouting, talking on and on – but I can just turn you off thus, closing the laptop lid, and running away to the hills. You are still talking but I am halfway to the hills, driving through quiet valleys, next to lakes, parking the car and walking, walking, running, skipping, gazing, breathing breathing, panting red endorphins rising from the heart to the brain infectious magic and I can take on the world because I can always do this. I always have a choice. I always have power.