Young poet

7th January 2000 at 00:00
Peter Sansom looks ahead to his term as The TES's guest poet

The first pleasure of doing this job is the covering letters, where teachers have been moved or excited by a student's work. I love that. I love the fact this column exists for teachers to be enthusiastic in a practical way. More power to you, and please keep it up.

The first poem for next week's column will be from a school anthology, which is a delight; the poet Gillian Clarke has had an input, and it shows. Anthologies and visiting writers cost time and money, but they repay in innumerable ways, especially with pupils failed or disenchanted by the system. Writing poems is about accessing part of your mind you don't normally use in school; you needn't be academically able to succeed in it, or have a long attention span, and it's often rebellious in spirit. It's a commonplace that some children are changed by the confidence writing poems can give them.

As for what I'm looking for, I won't know till you send it. It is easier to say what I don't want, which is anything conventional in the sense that anybody could have written it, and which suggests received attitudes and a staple "poetic" diction. Two poems I loved from earlier issues are by Tania Colley - a feisty piece with such striking lines as "I am a flake of snow, make me the snow queen" - and Luke Yates, about being thirsty in double English: "We loll on our desks Trying to drink Bottles of Quink."

There are any number of different sorts of comedy, but, faced with teaching it, some people reach for "I say I say I say" or the custard pies. Fortunately, Jeremy Beadle notwithstanding, nobody is naturally unfunny, and all we have to do is help children make us laugh.

Finally, it's a pleasure to take over this column from Luke's dad, Cliff Yates, a poet I admire and a teacher so many young writers have learned from. Cliff's new book about writing in the classroom, Jumpstart (Poetry Society), is full of different approaches, together with poems that are hard to resist and easy to use as models.

Please do send pieces in, especially if you've never tried before, especially if they're poems that don't announce in every line that they're poems. I follow Bob Monkhouse in this: "You all laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. You're not laughing now."

Peter Sansom is TES guest poet for the spring term 2000. His handbook, Writing Poems, is published by Bloodaxe. His third Carcanet collection, partly about his Poetry Society Marks and Spencer residency, will be published this year. Please send poems, preferably not longer than 20 lines, to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, including the poet's name and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or e-mail: friday@tes.co.uk


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