Young poet

15th June 2001 at 01:00
Martine Iwasko, 17, Stoke-on-Trent sixth-form college

In My Grandfather's Garden

Tall vegetables grow like proud young soldiers.

Two brown bodies, my granddad and dad,

My granddad smaller with less hair.

A coal bunker's black blood oozes out

Bubbling. I pick up a fat tomato

With both hands. It completely fills my palms.

So smooth and red like a ball.

I roll it in my fingers. I drop it. It bounces.

The hot sun makes the vegetables beat.

I sit on the steaming footpath.

My thighs turn petal pink.

I smell my granddad and dad working

A mixture of hard sun and hard sweat.

Push my hands into crumbly soil

Lift it to the sky and let it fall.

Poets visit childhood as though it was an allotment bursting with rich produce. Martine Iwasko's visit to her grandfather's garden is alive with sensation, with that near hallucinatory way of seeing peculiar to childhood. Vegetables are "proud young soldiers". "Black blood oozes" from the coal bunker. A dropped tomato "bounces" and vegetables "beat" in the hot sun.

This confident poem has he intensity of a Rousseau painting; a dangerous sense of mortality and change as the soil crumbles in the poet's hand. The garden is a place where her imagination thrives, a place where she also changes, "My thighs turn petal pink". Not a single image in this poem is wasted; Martine Iwasko knows how to make her language sing.


Martine Iwasko receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Liz Kirby. Jackie Kay is the TES guest poetry critic for the current 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, is due to be published next year by Picador. Please send poems, preferably 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 TESBook of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column with teaching suggestions, can be ordered on 0145 617370. A set of posters costs pound;3.99

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