Young poet

12th May 2000 at 01:00
Emily Servantes, 9, St Augustine's Catholic primary school, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

The seaside The yellow golden sandy shore.

The yellow sun with spots of gold.

The silent blue waves washing my feet.

The blue salty tears as I leave.

Michael Laskey, Friday magazine's guest poetry critic, writes: Despite the tears in the last line, this is a cheering poem, a reminder of a break somewhere hot, perhaps the Mediterranean. It doesn't sound like an English seaside - too sunny, and the sea so calm that the waves are silent, although "waves" and "washing" do make a faint, reassuring swish.

Emily wrote it for herself at home and took it in to school to show her teacher. It's an unforced piece of writing with nothing artful about it. Strikingly, there are the three heartening colours, each repeated. The repetition of "yellow" and "gold" is reinforced by the identical rhythm of lines one and two. The beach and the sunshine go perfectly together in two verbless sentences. There's a narrative too, the journey of the eye: it takes in the shore and the sunshine, then in line three looks out to sea and in again to focus on the writer's feet. Not active, simply feeling the movement of the water. In the final line, when she has to leave, the tears she sheds actually become the sea itself, blue andsalty. And at the same time, the line enacts how her tears blind her to everything but the blue blur of sky and sea and how she tastes them as they trickle down her cheeks. The last word, "leave", is the only active verb used, immediate and painfully present.

What I liked best about the poem when I first read it was the second line, that observation of those flecks of gold you go on seeing after staring for a second or two straight at the sun. I found myself nodding with the pleasure of recognition. So thank you, Emily, for that.

Emily Servantes receives The Puffin Book of 20th Century Children's Verse, edited by Brian Patten. Her poem was submitted by Emily Jacks. Michael Laskey founded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 1989 and was its director for 10 years. His most recent collection, The Tightrope Wedding (SmithDoorstop), was a Poetry BookSociety recommendation and shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, and include the poet's name and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or e-mail: friday 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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