Young poets

7th April 2000 at 01:00
Marianne Shaw's Year 5 set, Stowmarket middle school, Stowmarket, Suffolk

The Tigress She looks unhappy, awareness in her eyes.

Powerful and angry - about to roar.

Bored, lonely, she paces up and down.

Her face is upset, her ears are alert.

Her slanted sad tired eyes are staring around.

She is growling a booming growl, purring and panting.

Her heartbeat is like a booming drum.

Her claws clicking, her feet padding plodding stealthily up and down.

She lets loose an angry roar.

Leaves rustle on the floor like snakes slithering.

The tigress scratches on the bars of the cage.

She can smell the damp and dirty floor, smell the crisps and people's food.

Around her hangs the hot furry smell of big cat.

Suddenly the cage bars rattle and With a swift sudden turn the tigress Slashes with claws like knives.

Peter Sansom, TES Friday's guest poetry critic, writes: Where writing poems is concerned, we wouldn't expect 28 heads to be better than one. This poem proves an exception. The covering note says that "The Tigress" began with the whole class looking at photos and other poems, before setting off on shared writing. It must have been a great lesson. The final stage, apparetly, was a discussion about punctuation. I think the process is always more important than the product, though the product is certainly a success in this instance. It's the clarity and firmness of the images and the attention to detail. The "claws clicking", for instance, and the heartbeat: these make us strain our ears to listen, so that the roar when it comes is deafening. Then, straight after, what do we get? Those leaves scooting across the cage floor. It's a tremendous image of powerlessness - and deliberately misleading, as the ending makes clear because this tiger is bored and saddened by captivity, not tamed by it anymore than is the visionary in his cell or the child in school.

Year 5 receive This Poem Doesn't Rhyme, edited by Gerard Benson (Puffin). Peter Sansom has published the handbook, Writing Poems, with Bloodaxe. His third Carcanet collection, partly about his Poetry Society Marks and Spencer residency, is published this year. Please send poems, not more than 20 lines, to Young Poet, TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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