Young poet

3rd March 2000 at 00:00
* As we go under the air disappears

I rest my eyes as the space heats up.

The tiger sharks swim by.

Then come back for a second look.

* We are suspended in time.

No way down or up.

The wasp buzzes round.

I can't let it out or we'll drown.

* But then I see the floor.

It is going away.

No! Let me see some more.

There is more time yet!

* Up we go just as I sat back.

The air is back.

The wasp is going mad.

Let it out, let the air take it back.

* Up in the air I am again.

Elizabeth Duguid, 14, Quinton House school, Upton, Northampton

This is a remarkable poem, quite out of the ordinary. There's just enough detail to persuade us it describes a trip in a submarine; the tiger sharks principally, but even these have a figurative purpose. There's enough of a real voice: for instance the way the wasp is mentioned in the writing rather than brought into it (a lesser poet would say, "There's a wasp here. It buzzes round"); similarly, it's "the floor" not "he sea floor". Such sophistication makes the situation "real" for the reader. Other sophistications make the figurative and symbolic active. Most importantly the last line, which reads at first like an inversion, following as it does the repetition of "back" in the penultimate stanza. But the line doesn't mean "I'm back up in the air" but "When I'm back in the air I exist again" or more exactly "know who (or what) I am again''.

Peter Sansom

Elizabeth Duguid receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger McGough (Puffin). Her poem was submitted by Steve Harrison. Peter Sansom has published the handbook, Writing Poems, with Bloodaxe. His third Carcanet collection, partly about his Poetry Society Marks and Spencer residency, is published this year. Please send poems, not more than 20 lines, to Young Poet, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BXThe TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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