Liquid inspiration fuels prize-winning poetry

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The Independent Online
BERT STEVENS was crowned Britain's first Poet Inebriate yesterday after a champagne ceremony in country pub.

The 80-year-old grandfather, who once worked as a waiter at the Ritz Hotel, won a literary contest billed as the drinker's Booker Prize, which involved writing a poem after drinking at least three pints of beer or six glasses of wine or spirits.

More than 1,000 entries came from all over the world, and a panel of judges delivered their verdict after consuming a similar amount of alcohol.

Mr Stevens proved none the verse for wear when writing 'A Racing Certainty' after drinking three pints of John Bull bitter at his local, the Half Moon, in Crawley, Sussex.

'It sounds terrible but it's a rare occurrence for me to write without a drink,' said the retired precision grinder. 'When I come home from the pub feeling happy and euphoric I sit down in my armchair and the ideas start to flow.

'The beer provides my inspiration - especially if I happen to have won at darts.'

A red carpet was laid out at the door of Trotter Hall, a pub near Droitwich, Hereford and Worcester, when Mr Stevens and his wife Pat, 75, arrived in a chauffeur-driven Volvo to collect the pounds 1,000 prize and a barrel of ale.

The contest was organised by the West Midlands based Little Pub Company, which hoped to uncover a would-be Dylan Thomas 'whose light may otherwise be hidden under a Bushmills'.

They also sought to prove that alcohol freed the creative spirit. All the poems had to have a drink-related theme.

Peter Bailey, from Birmingham, came out with a poem called 'Intoxication' which began thus:

The night is full of people,

And day is full of stars;

The sow is full of piglets,

And jam is full of jars.

Praise for the high standard of the poems came from one of the judges, Paul Lester, an author, who said: 'There was less rubbish than we expected. Some attached notes apologising for drinking far more than the quota.

'But I was surprised just how much rhythm and rhyme there was - I expected more free-verse ramblings. Perhaps when you are swaying on your feet the booze inspires the rhythm of the muse.'

The winning poem is about a time traveller who arrives in Murphy's saloon to give regulars the name of the winner of next Saturday's race. The following gives a flavour:

Now when Murphy explained

how we'd all make a killing

The stranger proved willing

to join in the game;

As he said, it's expensive to

travel through ages,

And he needed no pressing

to give us the name.