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Young poet

* The poppies spill over the battlefield.

But these are no ordinary poppies,

They are the spirit poppies,

The poppies of war.

The poppies of the dead soldiers,

They are the only graves,

The graves of the soldiers who are the warriors of freedom.

* The poppy is their only standard,

Their only comrade.

The comrade that follows them to the grave.

These poppies have laid in rest so the soldiers' spirit can fly.

That is the way of the spirit poppy.

Ben Jones, 10, Forden C in W primary school, Welshpool, Powys

Only the other day I was saying to an interviewer that my favourite poem is Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic". I can still remember standing in the gloomy chapel of my prep school thrilling to the fateful lightning being loosed and the grapes of wrath being trampled.

Others are "City of Gold" ("In vain the surge's angry shock, In vain the drifting sandsI"); "Frankie and Johnny" ("She toted a 44 gun. He was her man but he done her wrongI"); "The Lincolnshire Poacher" ("O 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the yearI"); Adele Florence Cory's "Kashmiri Song" ("Pale hands I loved beside the ShalimarI"); John Masefield's "Sea Fever". These are poems where the meaning doesn't really matter; it is the spirit and the music that thrills.

Ben Jones in "Spirit Poppies" goes for the same effect. The danger of sounding like a laborious voiceover is redeemed by a dignified lightness of touch; the repetition of a few simple words and a cool avoidance of adjectives and adverbs, of fancy metaphor and intrusive rhythm. Thank you, Ben.

PS. Last week's word, ghoti, is a fish - "f" as in enough, "o" as in women, "ti" as in nation. I think you will be able to guess easily what's special about the next sentence, but it is so exotic-sounding I can't resist sharing it: Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz. Lovely!

Selima Hill Ben Jones receives The Oldest Girl in the World by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber). His poem was submitted by Christine Robinson. Selima Hill, TESguest poet for the current term, won this year's Whitbread poetry prize for Bunny. She is a tutor for the Poetry School and the South Bank Centre, and is currently working on her eighth collection, Portrait of my Lover as a Horse. 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:

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