Young Poet;The Girl in the Mirror by Catherine Han;Poem

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Looking in the mirror and addressing one's own reflection can be a disastrous starting point for poetry. The narrator almost inevitably starts to confuse the reflection and themselves, mixing "he" or "she" with "I" and losing the essential "reflective" distance and observation required.

Catherine Han's poem keeps its eyes firmly on what can be seen in the mirror, and never strays off into fantasy. There are several very striking images; I particularly admire the maturity and boldness of the list of characters reflected - movie star, mother, lunatic and cannibal - and the idea of the emotional"flatness" and coolness of the glass creature, whose spiritual life is "just photocopies".


The Girl in the Mirror

The Girl in the Mirror The girl in the mirror, smiles a lot, and then practises her pout, unless crystal tears are cascading down her visage.

She sticks our her tongue, then strikes a pose, movie star, her mother, lunatic, cannibal are all there.

She puts on lipstick and blusher, with pink eye shadow that hangs on her lashes, no matter how many times she tries to blow it off.

She wipes off the gunk, so no one can see her.

I try to beat her with lightning movements, a wave of a hand, my winking eye, but I can't, because she's so fast, faster than a racing car, faster than myself.

Some people say she is me! And me is her, but she is not, she has no soul, not even a reflection of one, and her emotions ... are nonexistent, just photocopies of mine, and when I touch her face it is cold and flat, like glass.

I want to shout "Hey you, stop copying.

Don't you have a mind of your own?" But she only says it with me in perfect sync, and never obeys me.

My own private dictator for life!


Catherine Han

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY

* Catherine Han, aged 11, receives The "Red-All-Over Riddle Book' by George Szirtes (Faber). Submitted by Catherine Kelsey of International School of Tanganyika Ltd, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

Sian Hughes was a winner in the TLSPoems on the Underground competition in 1996, since when her poems have appeared in "The North", "Writing Women" and "London Magazine". A short collection, "Saltpetre", is published by SmithDoorstop books this month.

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