We had some wonderful entries for our Set Texts Free challenge, we have chosen to share five poet’s work, each of them taking different approaches to the task of responding to poems they’d encountered at school. You can read the winning poems by Ruby Mason, Ankita Saxena, Devawn Wilkinson, Molly Taylor, Matt Wild below.
Ruby Mason turns her reading Seamus Heaney’s “The Skylight” into a proper poem in its own right.
I doubt I could reference Mark, Chapter 2
in a poem about a window
but you did, so effortlessly
that I think I will read it again
aloud this time
so that the words slide from my seasoned, extravagant tongue
in the way that you intended…
What a perfect idea: to prise away the roof
so that you can be outside as well as in –
a reminder of the world (which we both like to tangle into poetry).
So I think I’ll share the light
from your squared muse
for a while.
Then I’ll take up this pen again, will find my own skylight.
– Ruby Mason
Ankita Saxena’s “Yours” closely mimics the form of Sylvia Plath’s “Mine” but taking the perspective of the baby looking at its mother.
Bearlike, I’m happiest in your hands.
Voice of the stars, you light the moon.
High like a bird, your incense stick
Fades too soon; flick of a whale’s tail,
And you drown yourself like a dwarf
In a dark wood- as Snow White should.
Shrill like a peacock and stunned like
A squirrel in a lake road of swans.
O day-riser, my worn out sun.
Clear as a cloud in the stratosphere.
Eyelids bigger than the sea.
Then gone like a jet; stuck like a pawn.
Torch tailed you rush, but here,
With your bud, you’re the queen.
Words like a light shower of leaves,
Arms warm as cotton ball nests.
Mine, like a well-sucked thumb.
You clapped your slate; now I’m done.
– Ankita Saxina
Devawn Wilkinson sent us a beautiful and sensuous contemporary love poem with echoes of John Donne’s “The Good Morrow“,
and I wonder, by your snow-drift shoulder, by
the sun – that bored kid waiting impatient
has leant its hot forehead against our window –
what is it we did? What is it, we, what
is it? How the earth turns, how slow –
though not imperceptibly- how it turns you
and you turn, slowly, away from me.
Sleep-slung elsewhere, a sudden kick
at the sheet as the swimmer kicks,
urging towards deeper waters. oh,
I do not even think that you
look beautiful in the morning, only
that the morning looks beautiful
on you. Gold garment. Coat of sugar.
before we met, I was a thought-guess,
you were a held tongue, now a palm-press
puts a mirror here from eyelid to ankle.
I saw you
see me. Us
and our bodies of proof, unglamorous,
salted by the sleeping. This room
which was a closed mouth
saving its breath, our breath,
since last evening. To speak a word.
What is the word. Might it be this one,
your one, sweet one, we are important.
Make sure we live forever,
let maps trace other continents –
not this one, this one’s without the
the trembling tic or severe
split of usual tectonics. This one,
our one. What is it. Say it.
– Devawn Wilkinson
“Fledglings” by Molly Taylor is a touching portrait of a class studying Achebe’s “Vultures” during GCSE, and, Molly says, ”the ways in which we all recognised his dilemma albeit in an incredibly naive way”.
It was not without a faltering nod
That we spoke of the elusiveness of ‘good’.
When, one eye shut, we discerned Achebe’s dilemma
As a jagged shape
On the horizon of childish gaze.
Our bashed-in heads were full; brimming with evils
But those needling high school horrors;
Snatches of laughter over your shoulder;
The crimson crime of speaking out of turn.
We knew about the caverns of humanity
When they appeared only as new-born worms
Squirming among the eagerness
Of a silvering youth.
– Molly Taylor
Finally Matt Wild’s response to “Kid” by Simon Armitage.
Response to Simon Armitage’s KID
Simon, poet, when you wrote the poem
about growing up, with Robin rebounding
from his life of crime-busting … well, I didn’t turn the corner.
I’m no Robin and you’re no Batman;
we’ve never so much as shaken hands
and I won’t have my writing, this thing I do,
labelled, parcelled and sent by Royal Mail to you
because it’s not yours. It’s mine,
and you don’t need to be dressed in tights
to know it’s a crime to claim the right
to somebody else’s property.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’d do that
but there are people out there who’d suggest
that you’re the one who flashed the lamp to get me going,
showed me how to flow my words,
You can’t claim ownership of light,
and if it was your Batsignal I saw that night
then that’s just great, but it doesn’t change the fact
that I’m the one that was looking in the sky
for something better than what I had.
I’m just the same, but now I write.
Simon, it makes a wonderful picture to see
me outstripping you in some poetry race
and take the lead but that’s just some pipe dream.
It would be much better to find your hand,
shake it, then leave. I’m a poet,
now, and nobody’s taking that from me.
– Matt Wild
Thanks to all who entered. The five winners will each receive a £20 Amazon voucher and will included in our ifsobook of nearlypoems, a literature happening for schools to be launched this autumn.