Young poet

18th May 2001 at 01:00
* I knew a girl once, who believed in rainbows Their colours rippled within her, She carried them with ease, She was never afraid to reach too high, To catch a passing dream.

* Reds and yellows she exuded, purples and blues she thought.

She watched the sun pale little by little, Looked on as the clouds crept in, She found the cracks in the gaudy paint, That's where the pain seeped in.

* Now the purples and blues draw the lines on her life, She knows how to find her way.

But sometimes I catch her In an empty sky, Waiting for rainbows again.

Holly Cox, 18, Queen Elizabeth sixth form college, Darlington

What makes poetry more rewarding than prose? Poetry lovers could make a top 10 list of reasons. Mine would include the way in which a single poem can be read in different ways. Waiting For Rainbows is a lovely example. On the surface, it seems to be a poem about a girl who once appreciated rainbows. When we read deeper, we can see that it is a poem about a girl who is divided, split. The "she" becomes "I". This is a subtle and complex poem, a poem about the shattering of belief. The skill lies in the distancing of personal exerience by using the third person, and then switching to the first - a dramatic moment.

Rainbows are a metaphor in this poem for childhood innocence. But they, too, are transformed by mental illness: the colours run, the paint cracks. Poems are like mirrors held up to ourselves. Holly Cox's poem shows us that there are indeed seven colours in a rainbow.


Holly Cox receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Alison Binney. Jackie Kay is TES guest poetry critic for the summer term. Her most recent collection of poetry for children, The Frog who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer, won the Signal Award. A new collection of short stories, Trout Friday, will be published next year by Picador. 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: The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99) , a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered on 01454 617370. A set of posters costs pound;3.99

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