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2000 and counting

Famous poets have been asked to write verses celebrating the year of maths. TES Primary presents a selection.

42 BY JOHN AGARD

I threw a tantrum when I turned two.

Refused to wear sensible shoes.

My parents could only conclude

that I was going through

the terrible twos.

What would they do

if I threw

a tantrum at forty-two.

First and fore most

FIRST AND FOREMOST BY JACKIE KAY

* My good points

I am fresh, novel,

the genuine article.

I am unprecedented.

From the word go,

- a healthy ego;

I'm incomparable,

bold and original.

Never backwards

in coming forwards.

Never put

off to tomorrow

what I can do

today. I rise at dawn

with the cockerel.

I reap the first fruits.

I put my good foot first.

I also first foot.

I am phenomenal.

First among equals.

I took the first step.

I made the first move.

I always stand up

to be counted.

I don't run away

from the truth.

I get things first hand; I come straight

to the point.

Hold on, hold on,

I say, first things first.

To sum up:

I'm quite exceptional.

* My bad points

I am first

to fly off the handle.

I am selfish, callous,

cruel, ruthless.

I look after number one.

I put myself first.

My friends call me

Numero Uno.

It pains me, but doesn't stop

me pushing

to be first in the queue. Oh!

I say snootily,

First come first served.

I don't care for

other numbers.

Useless losers.

I travel first class.

I throw the first stone.

I am tall, lanky,

wear my beret

the French way.

I am Premier.

I am the first in my field.

I show off at first nights

I believe in yours truly;

the first stroke

is half the battle.

Let's face things

frankly - I am the one

and only.

99 BY MICHAEL ROSEN

* You're the nearly numbr

hanging about waiting to be a hundred

* cricketers wanting to make a century

speed freaks wanting to do a ton

a test result not quite full score

* 99, the nearly-guy

* but I look at you and remember teachers

telling us that all speech ended in 99.

The thing that ended talking was a 99

(It started with a 66, they said)

Write:

The man said, 66Hello99.

The speech marks to end all speech marks:

99

* 99 - not nearly, but an end.

But also:

an ice cream with a chocolate flake stuck in it - a delicious Excalibur

(Hard luck, King Arthur, you missed out on that one)

99, the last of the elevensey rhythms:

Nine elevens are ninety-nine.

Ninety-nine

Comin' down the line Ninety-nine

Black-shoe-shine

Ninety-nine

Just on time

Ninety nine

Doin just fine.

64 BY CAROL ANN DUFFY

* Eight 8-year olds

sat in a tree

swinging their legs.

* How high have we climbed? asked one.

What if we fall!

another one said.

* Look at the sky!

shrieked a third.

Said the fourth, Why is it red?

* We're so small

sobbed a fifth.

And young wept a sixth.

* Said the seventh,

We're motherless birds

in a nest.

* But how many years,

how many years are we all?

sang the one in the yellow dress.

33 BY GRACE NICOLS

She's in a bus queue,

She's beginning to freeze,

'Somebody tell me please - Why does the number 33 bus always come in

bunches of threes?'

Not even See-Far Woman's spell Can solve that mystery.

Poems on the Net Maths Year 2000 has commissioned a team of online laureates to write poems about every integer to 100, as well as other significant numbers, such as 9, 0, and 2000. The poets are: Michael Rosen, Grace Nichols, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy and John Agard.

The poems are to be posted on the Internet next month. For more information, visitwww.mathsyear2000.org

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