Young poet

7th July 2000 at 01:00
Fun in the Sun I was in the sun but now I am in the sea.

I made a sandcastle and I put some water round it but now it is broken.

So I made another one.

I had an ice-cream but now it is melted.

I was in the sea but now I am in the sun.

The sun has gone to bed and so has Isabelle.

Isabelle Squire, 5,Woodhill preparatory school, Botley, Hampshire

Michael Laskey, Friday magazine's guest poetry critic, writes: Last week I mentioned the list poem invented by American poet Kenneth Koch, in which each line begins "I used to..." and continues "but now..." Isabelle's delightful poem might have been based on that, although I suspect she's discovered the form for herself. She's used it anyway for her own purposes, to tell the story of her day at the seaside.

It's an unexceptional day - she swims, builds sandcastles, enjoys the sun, and has an ice-cream - but the effect of the form is extraordinary. She avoids the risk of boring us with the repetition by introducing variation - the extra length of the second sentence to include the moat she made; and then the frustration of our expectations in the next line: "So I made another one."

This determination to keep digging is emphasised by the disruption of the form, and the weight of it carries over to th next sentence, so we can't help feeling that any disappointment caused by the ice-cream melting is equally temporary. The constant alternations of tense - from past to present - and the repetition of the line-ending "but now" convey a sense of real excitement and pleasure. The reversal of the opening sentence in the penultimate one brings the poem round full circle and leads us finally to the perfect tense of the last two lines, in which with a nice flourish the first person narrator signs off and turns into a tired little girl. Time for the grown-ups to open the wine.

Isabelle Squire receives The Puffin Book of 20th-Century Verse. Her poem was submitted by visiting poet Moira Clark. 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 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: TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered on:01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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