Young Poet

20th November 1998 at 00:00
This poem embodies the meaning of respect:" to treat with esteem", "to look back at". The title is a mark of the writer's confi-dence and good sense - being both factual and the occasion of the son's viewpoint. The opening is very sure, the double meaning of the gesture with the hands not becoming apparent until later in the poem; the hands allow the poet to give a lot of information briefly, including something of how the father and son feel about themselves. I admire the mature perception, and the warmth of the poem, and also its restraint. "Sunday" is never in danger of becoming sentimental, but it doesn't flinch from making the poet's position clear. The boldness of the ending is striking and moving. By bringing the hands back, the poem resolves itself aesthetically without offering any easy solution, and instead sets up that final comment, which is a question, one that the son needs to answer as much as the father.


My father's hands row to make a point on politics, today's youth, education, dark from the open air and mud he works with.

Fingernails chewed from past tensions.

Scars breaking the skin from hard graft.

From the city's best school, he deserves better than a two-bedroom flat with his wife no longer my mother.

We visit on Sundays - a ritual to update each other on our different lives.

We are happy, but it's not family conversation.

It's different somehow.

We are awkward from his hopes.

"Use your brain better than I have."

Our attention switches to his hands.

These things get you nowhere.

But surely they could.

Michael blackley.

TES FRIDAY november 20 1998 Michael Blackley, aged 16 receives 'The New Poetry' edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley (Bloodaxe). Submitted by Richard Grant of St Columba's High School, Perth, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send poems to 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Ann Sansom is writing tutor at Doncaster Women's Centre and is a part-time lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Her collections include 'Romance' (Bloodaxe)

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