Young poet

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Daisy Wright, 11, Kilham CE primary school, Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire

Blue Whale

My name is Hugeswimmer, I was born under the water that mothered my ancestors.

I am as old as the angry white horses that roam the mighty waves.

My skin is mottled by time, My eyes weary from the witness of so many deaths.

I enjoy diving to the heartbeat of the earth, and slapping my tail on my threshold.

My greatest wish is for peace between land and sea, For no shadow to strike fear in my heart.

It's difficult to write poems about endangered species without being sentimental or expressing ideas that, however sincere, fall into cliche. Daisy Wright's poem, in the voice of the Blue Whale, shows it can be done. She has not only found a convincing voice for her whale, but has made the imaginative leap required to inhabit the body of the creature, and even its soul.

"Hugeswimmer". Everything flows out of that tremendous name: the soft rhymes that follow - "water", "mothered", "ancestors" - and the dactylic rhythm (which is one strong stress followed by two light ones) in the phrase "under the water that mothered my ancestors". Daisy uses large abstract nouns - "time", "deaths", "threshold" - which we are often discouraged from using in poems, but she ties them to the physicality of the animal - its mottled skin, the ancient weariness of its eye, the fluke of its tail - so that we are in its actual presence, monumental and mythic.

The last line reverses the image of the great whale-shadow that strikes fear in the human heart into that of the great human fish-shadow, which could be the whaling ship pursuing the whale. In the silence at the end of the poem, I seem to see Hugeswimmer turning and swimming away.

Mimi Khalvati

Daisy Wright receives The Oldest Girl in the World by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Marian Gennever. Mimi Khalvati is TES guest poet for the autumn term. She has published five collections of poetry, including her Selected Poems, published by Carcanet in 2001. A new book, The Chine, is due in January next year. She is the founder-director of The Poetry School in London 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: friday@tes.co.uk

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