Young poet

16th June 2000 at 01:00
1. The flowery cushions fiendishly hide under them the remote for the T.V.

2. The never-ending sofa sale - 957.653% off 3. They say he had a heart of leather.

4. The sofas came in two by two Hurrah, Hurrah...

5. The sofas are closing in from all sides each one carrying a 10mm automatic shotgun on each arm.

They have merciless looks about them.

6. The sofa cannot be trusted.

It is left alone in the lounge with the T.V.

the stereo the 17th century grand-father clock and the 3 by 4ft Picasso.

The sofa curses to itself that it is too big to fit through the window.

James Chalmers, 12, the Maharishi school, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Michael Laskey, TES Friday's guest poetry critic, writes: "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" is probably Wallace Stevens's best known poem. Cliff Yates, who sent in James Chalmers's variation, included a version of his own - "14 Ways of Listening to the Archers" - in his collection Henry's Clock, published by SmithDoorstop last year.

What'simmediately appealing about James's "6 Ways" is its humour. He begins with the missing remote that we all recognise. The second stanza, prompted perhaps by an ad on the TV now he's found the remote, is a zestful observation of the bargain offers we're daily bombarded with.

In the third he's playing with cliche - aren't we expecting "a heart of gold"? I love the fourth stanza, the sofas entering the ark. By stanza five they've turned into armed thugs. In the final stanza the threat is different. The sofa may want to escape. "It" in the penultimate line is nicely ambiguous, referring to itself and the Picasso. It's come a long way from line one's flowery cushions.

James Chalmers receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger McGough (Faber). His poem was submitted by Cliff Yates. Please send poems, maximum 20 lines, to TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or e-mail:

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today