I wandered lonely with a spot...

20th August 2004 at 01:00
Waking up with a large spot on your forehead and realising that your bum looks big in a mini-skirt are not traditional inspiration for poetic muse.

Though they may lack conventional lyricism, these are the topics that occupy teenage writers and photographers in East Durham.

For six months this year, 20 Year 8 pupils from five schools across East Durham collaborated with professional writers to create ED1, an 84-page magazine of their own work.

Their offerings include poetry, prose, pieces of journalism and photo-montages.

Rather than attempting to tackle obscure themes of high art, the teenage poetry focuses on subject-matter close to the poets' hearts.

Ian Dowson, the local writer who co-ordinated the project, said: "They needed to get away from the idea that poetry is written in flowery language by white males.

"Everybody can write about their own experiences, about places they've been and people they know, in their own voice."

So there are lines on going to the dentist: "The dentist is fat, grotesque,With man boobs and no hair", along with a tribute to a fanciable boy: "Corbin is lush His blue eyes like the sea".

Prose similarly tackles common teenage afflictions. "A day in the life of a teenager" deals with the horror of waking up with a spot "that looks like Mount Everest", and finding the appropriate mini-skirt for a school disco.

More serious pieces examine teenage pregnancy, self-harm and bulimia.

Chris Crick, the literacy co-ordinator who oversaw the project, said:

"There's a misconception that teenagers aren't interested in serious things. But they're interested in the world at large. They want to talk and write about important issues."

He said the project had been vital in providing pupils with the confidence to discuss these issues and to value their own opinions.

"Feeling that they could be writers, and produce work of high quality, has taught them that they are able to do whatever they set their minds to. It's not just something other people do," he said.

Mr Dowson said: "Pupils become used to not doing well or receiving praise.

They think their place is at the back of the class or in a special group.

But there's an abstract pride to seeing their name in print."

Rebecca Ford, 13, from Seaham school of technology, said: "I know now that tiny things, like crossing the road, can be turned into a poetic experience."

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