This week's poem is John Mole's last choice, but please keep sending in poems for next term's selection. The new TES guest poet will be Jo Shapcott (pictured left), the first person to have won the National Poetry Competition twice, the second time in 1991 for the acclaimed poem, "Phrase Book".
Her first collection, Electroplating the Baby (Bloodaxe 1988), won a Commonwealth Prize. Her second, Phrase Book (OUP 1992), was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She is co-editor with Matthew Sweeney of Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, an anthology of contemporary poetry (Faber 1996). Her poems for children, The Creatures Indoors, were set for orchestra by composer Stephen Montague and premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, London, in January. She is the 1997 Penguin Writers Fellow at the British Library and the Poetry Society's Resident Poet on the Internet.
I'm impressed by Avril Fox's confident use of regular rhythm and simple rhyme, and by the striking contrast bet-ween her poem's light touch and the grim future she invites us to imagine. There's a real sense of betrayal in the fourth verse - "that's not fair" - and something almost apocalyptic about the vision of a world on which the sun never rises. So many poems on similar themes tend to be overwritten and melodramatically gloomy. This one seems to me to be haunting precisely because of its elegant simplicity. Avril Fox, aged 9, receives Back by Midnight by John Mole (Puffin). Submitted by David Oldham of Newall Green Junior School, Firbank Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 2YH, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teachers' notes. For Poetry Society events, ring 0171 240 2133.
Imagine no birds in the sky
Not one sound or sigh
Imagine no fish in the stream
No trout or silver bream
Imagine no call from the fox
Or a scuffle from behind the rocks
Imagine no breeze in the air
No trees - that's not fair
Imagine no sunrise in the morning
When people get up and start yawning
Imagine no flowers on the grass
All we have now is litter and glass
Poem by AVRIL FOX