Young poet

6th April 2001 at 01:00

An angry moped, Its piercing, irritating buzz Slips through the stillness like butter As it hovers in its space armour Like an ancient Avatar.

The tail hints of hidden danger, Like an air scorpion.

I run, fearing for my drink As he hangs there Buoyed up by some unseen force, Two centimetres long.

Harry Lancaster, 13, Junior King's school, Canterbury, Kent

Harry's poem performs some interesting acrobatics in only 11 lines, and the title creates a short cut directly into the experience. The narrator is troubled by a wasp that reminds him of a distant moped, mechanically buzzing. The next image plays with the familiar phrase of a knife slipping through butter, but it is neatly displaced and retains a certain ambiguity. Is the wasp the knife with its "piercing" buzz and the stillness butter? Or is the wasp as slippery as butter? The phrase carries both implications without disturbing the flow.

The next view of the wasp kicks the poem into a higher gear. Now it seems like a visitor from a different dimension: a space traveller, a Hindu god, an airborne scorpion. Here the flow of images is rapid, each one loaded with power and menace. The narrator entrs the poem again, reminding the reader of the domestic context, yet having imbued the wasp with all the destructive potential of matter and anti-matter about to collide.

The final line is deliberately underplayed, reducing the wasp to a mere two centimetres, yet this very physical insignificance points up its extra-terrestrial potency. Any urge to swat the wasp is undermined by the deployment of the personal pronoun "he", which reminds us of ourselves, that incarnate god, the transmigration of souls and the transcendental connection between microcosm and macrocosm.

Graham Mort

Harry Lancaster receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger McGough (Puffin). His poem was submitted by Brenda Marshall. Graham Mort, a freelance writer and tutor, is TES guest poet for this term. His latest collection, Circular Breathing, (Dangaroo Press), is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Please send poems, not more than 20 lines, to Young Poet, Friday magazine, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX.

The TESBook of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by calling 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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