In the dangerous world of judging poetry written by children, I find myself clinging to two big, fuzzy words: "authentic" and "original". In other words, as I read I look for a feeling that the writer is saying something that truly belongs to him or her while at the same time offering a fresh or surprising way of saying things. How teachers - or poets in schools, for that matter - can encourage this to happen is a complicated and mysterious matter.
I know from my own experience of working in schools that the most interesting poems by children that I've read are not usually ones that came from copying the form or theme of an adult poem, but came from children's thought and talk set against the background buzz of regular poetry reading.
THE TWO AZIZAS
Aziza watches Power Rangers Every day on the tele.
At night the other Aziza goes Flying through the sky.
Aziza likes swimming but She's not very good.
At night the other Aziza Goes swimming in the ocean With the big fish.
Aziza never goes on holiday But the other Aziza Goes to Somalia every weekend.
By Aziza Hussein, aged 9, who receives Michael Rosen's Quick Let's Get Out of Here (Puffin). Submitted by Sarah Stephens of Barlby Primary School, London, W10, who receives the Poetry Society teachers' newsletter. Poetry Society: 0171 240 4810.
Aziza Hussein's poem has a pattern that has grown from an idea: two Azizas, two pairs of lines. The Aziza who lives here is immobile, but the dreaming Aziza can fly, swim and travel. I love the way we have to wait till the very last phrase to learn that the poem isn't only a fantasy about being more capable, it's also about a yearning for a special place. It sends me back to the beginning to read through again, thinking "Somalia", thinking London W10, thinking Aziza aged 9.