Young poet

27th October 2000 at 01:00
* Stop acting normal! That's not how it should be.

Last night you were a goddess to mankind, By morning, though, that was becomes a would-be And nectar dries up to a candied rind.

* I shave away my Herculean stubble And watch this coffee morning shape itself: The Parthenon becomes malformed, white rubble And Cupid turns back to a cheating elf.

* I drink the sweet, brown liquid - no elixir, But still, it's warm, preparing me for later.

You destroy every vision I kept in here By drying knickers on my radiator.

* True life sets in, you view me from afar now: He drives not chariots, but Fords and Rovers.

The bags accept us both for what we are now; Orpheus and Temptress with hangovers.

Swithun Cooper, Year 13, Reading School, Reading, Berkshire

Swithun is in good company with his classical references. Most poets, particularly in recent years, enjoy the challenge of updating myths. The reason they are so appealing is that the characters and stories are archetypal - most of them appear in cultures worldwide in different guises and the stories continue to have resonance because they relate to our emotional lives.

In this poem, the reference to Orpheus at the end would suggest, of course, that the character referred to is a musician. What is interesting, too, is that Swithn is playing with how alcohol changes our perceptions. I particularly like the transformation of nectar to "candied rind".

This movement between the world of the night before and morning after maintains our interest until we reach the last line, the scenario we had suspected.I like the way he's constructed an elaborate joke around this all too familiar subject and brought in not just the"Fords and Rovers", but the knickers drying on a radiator, too. This humour allows a gentleness to the morning-after feeling and despite his attempts to destroy the illusion the myth remains, if slightly wobbly!

Jackie Wills

Swithun Cooper receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber).Swithun is one of the 15 winners of the Simon Elvin Young Poet of the Year Awards. His poem was submitted by teacher Angela Lim. Jackie Wills is poet-in-residence at Lever Brothers in Kingston upon Thames. Her second collection, Party, is published this month (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 e-mail: friday@tes.co.uk


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