Young poet

29th September 2000 at 01:00
* My mum told me the world was my oyster.

I said, "The world, my oyster, mine?"

I thought, a little squishy thing, the world was that!

I said to my mum,"It does not look like

a squishy thing."

I thought, at least it's mine.

* The world is half shell, I thought.

Half shell, half squishy thing.

I always thought the grass in our back yard tasted nice.

Dominic Tillyard, age 10, the Cathedral School, Llandaff, Cardiff

This is a playful poem challenging the absurdity of cliche. Cliches are great starting points for poems - and indeed for conversations with children not afraid to ask questions. This is precisely the kind of conversation I can imagine a child having out loud, but what makes it stronger is that the internal thought processes are here too.

I like Dominic's leap of faith in the last line of the first verse and the poignancy of those words. After undermining the cliche with that slapstick literalism only children have, there is a regrouping - "I thought, at least it's mine".

It is obvious Dominic takes great pleasure in the sound of the word "squishy", repeating it for effect. This shows an ear for how language sounds as well as looks, an openness to the language of speech. Words like squshy are lively, contemporary and make a good starting point for children to create their own.

The poem then moves on again, introducing the shell as a contrast to the softness of "squishy". But there is perhaps too great a movement from the first two lines to the last two. Presumably what Dominic intends here is for the reader now to consider the oyster as food - just one line in between would do this.

Overall, great fun - and that's what we want children to have with poetry.

Jackie Wills

Dominic Tillyard receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger McGough (Puffin). His poem was submitted by Mrs Jane Lovell. Jackie Wills is poet-in-residence at Lever Brothers in Kingston upon Thames. Her second collection, Party, is published in October (Leviathan). Her first, Powder Tower, was shortlisted for the 1995 T S Eliot Prize. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name, age and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or email: The 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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