Lumb Bank by Ruth Yates

30th June 2000 at 01:00
Ruth Yates, 14, the Maharishi school, Ormskirk, Lancashire Lumb Bank

The windows dense with breath

and cobwebs, to one side

I can see the purply mountain,

a hump of clayish earth, pumping,

spiked with a purple soft mass

of trees, and I feel like that mound

of pulse, quiet on the sun-sharped

day, throbbing like the cat on the lawn,

black and white tufted smooth-spiralled

curling of himself, moving backwards.

Michael Laskey, Friday magazine's guest poetry critic, writes: Ruth Yates has been lucky enough to spend some time working with professional writers at Lumb Bank, the Arvon Foundation's centre above Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, which runs a wide range of writing courses for adults and closed courses for primary and secondary school groups. Worth a look, if you were considering a week away with a group of pupils. For my money, it has the edge on Euro-Disney.

It's a beautiful place, as you can tell from Ruth's poem, a landscape that's full of quiet power. We join her at the window, noticing the cobwebs and aware of the other people who, like us, have looked attentively out across the valley to the hill opposite. The language is natural, but arresting: "clayish" adds real solidity to the hill, and "pumping", isolated between commas and rhyming with "hump", is surprising but entirely convincing.

I'm not sure what time it is - the purple trees suggestevening maybe, though "sun-sharpedday" feels more like the morning. And is there heather on this hillside or is it "purply" with distance? I don't mind, because what matters is the way Ruth identifies with the mountain: the human "pulse", slowed down by the line-ending, persuading us of the truth of the metaphor. It's one of those rare but sustaining moments we've all experienced when we're perfectly in tune with our surroundings. She's the hill opposite and she's also the hump of the cat in the foreground "throbbing ... on the lawn" which, as she watches, stirs and moves sinuously backwards. A touch of Keats' "negative capability" there.

Ruth Yates receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Cliff Yates. Michael Laskey founded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 1989 and was its director for 10 years. His most recent collection, The Tightrope Wedding (SmithDoorstop), was shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, and include the poet's name and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or e-mail: TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered on:01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99For information about Arvon courses, tel: 01409 231338

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