Young poet

29th June 2001 at 01:00
Enemy Luke Luke has annoying, spiky, green hair,

He has two nose rings in his face,

He picks his nose all the time.

Luke lives in almost a shack of a house,

He can see a dump from his window,

He hears screams from children,

He eats cabbage all day long,

Luke looks at his half-built tree house.

He likes playing ball in halls,

He dislikes swimming in pools,

Luke wears old jogger bottoms and a grey t-shirt,

He dreams of manors and lovely food.

Poetry, being swift, can conjure up vivid characters. "Enemy Luke" creates a portrait of a childhood enemy in minute detail.

In the first stanza, enemy Luke's difference is clear: his hair is green and spiky; he has not one but two nose rings. And he picks his nose. By the middle stanza our sympathy begins to grow for Luke. His living situation is depressing and even his tree house is only half-built. Luke doesn't seem to have much control over his life. Our sympathy is complete in the last line:

"He dreams of manors and lovely food". The enemy needs to escape his life.

Perhaps in writing the poem the writer has changed, has discovered he has more empathy with his enemy than he thinks. This is a wonderful poem with a strange fairy-tale quality to it. "Enemy Luke" captures a character and makes him peculiar and familiar. Poetry can transform even enemies like a spell.

Jonathan Southgate, 10, St Edmunds primary school, Hoxne, Suffolk.

Jackie Kay

Jonathan Southgate receives The Oldest Girl in the World by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber). His poem was submitted by Val Maidstone. 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: friday@tes.co.uk The TES Book 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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