Young poet

16th October 1998 at 01:00
The great thing about this poem is that it knows where to leave off - "Tail like the ribbons on your last birthday" for instance. We know what it means, though it's not spelt out. The lines about the ribbon ease the poem up and refer to something beyond and separate to the creature. Till the last two lines, and despite the movement in those participles "fluttering" and "quivering", the poem seems to describe an exhibit, as its Latin name suggests, one that is "ivory carved", an artefact. It's partly due to the minor sentences, which keep the gaze fixed on the subject, and the lineation, which is taut. I particularly like the last four lines, for this reason - they get a little more freedom, in contrast with what's gone before.

The great thing about knowing where to leave off is that the poem can suppose the reader will guess what it describes, like a riddle. And afterwards look it up, as I had to - a poem teasingly laid out almost in the shape of a seahorse.

Thomas Yates, aged 17, receives 'The New Poetry,' edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley (Bloodaxe). Submitted by Fran Pridham of Winstanley College, Billinge, Wigan, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send poems to 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Ann Sansom is writing tutor at Doncaster Women's Centre and is a part-time lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Her collections include 'Romance' (Bloodaxe)

This poem was one of the 13 winners of the Simon Elvin Prize for the National Young Poets of the Year

HIPPOCAMPUS ERECTUS

Immersed in a giant

blue teardrop, a pygmy

statue, ivory-carved.

rocking.

Delicate ridged back

translucent fins,

fluttering fans of

glazed glass

quivering.

Tail like the ribbons

on your last birthday

latched firmly around

a strand of kelp

flickering saucer eyes

in the tapering head.

THOMAS YATES

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