Two Years' Time by Alex Britton;TES Young Poet of the Week

5th June 1998 at 01:00
Two Years' Time

In less than two years' time, my life

Will not be able to be ordered by timetables.

The work I'll have to do will not be written

In boxes, in a homework diary, to be crossed off when completed.

There will not be bells, to tell me when

To get up


Go to another room

And sit down and begin again.

My life will not be put into subjects.

Clearly separated and subdivided.

And the things that I learn will not be written in exercise books.

The rules will change - There will not be regulations.

To order my conduct, to tell me what clothes I am to wear.

People will not be forced together, allocated to a table to remain there.

They will be able to get up, smile apologetically and walk out of my life.

People who, although they are people

Who are not my friends,

Who I do not know,

Do not love,

They are people who I have grown used to being with. I will miss them.

They are people who,

After the bell has rung,

The last pen put down.

The last paper has been completed,

I shall never see again.


* This is an extract from a much longer poem, and I chose it partly because of the way it manages to sustain the same level of intensity through three sides of A4. Even this small section, however, shows how a skilled writer can take a simple idea and make it come alive for the reader.

Someone once told me they liked Dickens for the way he bothered to describe the everyday things of his time which were not lost to us; this poem brings a whole section of my life back to me in the same way by describing things that are familiar to the writer in a way that makes me feel they also belong to me.

Without wanting to spoil the "magic" of the way they work, I'd also say that the confident way the writer switches from long to short lines makes every kind of sense when read aloud, varying the pace and mapping the reader's physical journey through the school day.

Sian Hughes

* Alex Britton, aged 15, receives the Poetry Society Young Poetry Pack. Submitted by Jeff Davies of Churchfields School, Swindon, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.Sian Hughes was a winner in the TLSPoems on the Underground competition in 1996, since when her poems have appeared in "The North", "Writing Women" and "London Magazine". A short collection, "Saltpetre", was published by SmithDoorstop Books last month

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