The poem appears in an anthology written by pupils at Selwyn primary school during a series of workshops with the poet Matthew Sweeney. 'Poor Man' demonstrates how the monologue can allow young writers to write about emotions and experiences way beyond their years; Mohammed Patel was only 10 when he wrote this. I'm impressed by the confident lightness of touch, and by the combination of tenderness, seriousness and humour. What makes the poem convincing is the conversational style, the use of detail and, paradoxically, the inventive names; 'Jack Russell Mongo' is wonderful. That matter-of-fact, monosyllabic last line, (after the unconventional line break which helps dictate its pace and emphasis), is particularly satisfying.
Hi my name's Jack Russell Mongo
I'm a poor poor man
I had a cottage that is now ruined
I had a beautiful wife called Jahana
Who died in the Second World War.
I've got a mirror that belongs to her
and a hat that she bought for me
I also have a bow that I wore on
our first anniversary
and a crow that talks to me
As I said, I'm poor so I
might have to sell them for food
Mohammed Patel, age 11, receives 'Strictly Private', an anthology edited by Roger McGough (Puffin Teenage). His poem was sent in by Hilary Koppel of Selwyn primary school, Cecil Road, Plaistow, London E13 0LX. Cliff Yates is deputy head of Maharishi School, Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Poetry Society poet-in-residence for Secondary Education. He has published 'Jumpstart:Poetry in the Secondary School' (Poetry Society) and a collection of his own poems, 'Henry's Clock' (SmithDoorstop). Please send poems, preferably not more that 20 lines long, to The Times Educational Supplement, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX , including the poet's name and age, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. The 'TES Book of Young Poets' (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column with an introduction by Sian Hughes, can be ordered by phoning 01454617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99.