Young poet

13th April 2001 at 01:00
Georgina Bruce, 15, Blessed George Napier RC school, Banbury, Oxon

Memories of War

My granddad lived in black and white

And I in technicolor screens

Receive a wave of info light

Which somehow seems to miss and leave

Me less aware than he conveyed

The night he darkly spoke of war.

A thousand scenes have played before

My eyes have seen, but can not feel

Or smell or hear the battle roar

And stench revolt as spinning reel of

Flesh and blood replace the pre-commercial show.

Discreetly clothed the genteel warned

If close to naked fear revealed

The shapeless smoking surely burned

Young corpse of campus friend concealed

In mist of odourless appeal

Is hidden, pungent, raw and real.

Both generations look across

At time and tears and hope and loss.

Georgina's poem is a difficult piece in many ways, unpunctuated and syntactically fractured. Yet this technique embodies the poem's purpose: to explore the uncertainty of memory and communication. That ambivalence is notable for being expressed through an elegance of diction and a tightly controlled rhyme scheme.

A poem is not a place where we necessarily ind meaning, but where we experience it so that it becomes internalised as part of our own experience. The "big theme" of this poem - war - is encapsulated in a human relationship, which offers the reader a way in to its complex interior.

The poet and her grandfather live in different but conjoined worlds, symbolised by the idea of monochrome and Technicolor film. Georgina skilfully weaves her material together, taking risks as she goes, but leaving us with a moment of opportunity despite the underlying sense of threat and dislocation. It's an ambitious poem and I admire it for its refusal to yield to sententiousness.


Georgina Bruce receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Zoe Farndon. 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, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, 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:

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