Wednesday, April 08, 2009

March Prize Poem

Last month’s posted poems were the strongest selection I’ve read since I started this blog. When we write about something that really matters to us, something we feel a strong connection with, then that authenticity travels with our words into the reader’s mind and imagination. Many thanks to everyone for the stories and incidents and reflections – I feel my life is richer for having read them all.

So, there was a lot of competition for the prize-poem slot but in the end I chose Fran Hill’s poem ‘Tree’ for its wonderful recreation of a scene and a time that, I’m sure, so many people will be able to relate to.

I love how the names anchor this poem to a real world, and the way in which the kids, probably young teenagers, interact with each other is completely convincing. There’s still an innocence here – ‘picking at grass’, ‘Opal Fruits’, making ‘faces from the broad leaves’ – yet the adult world and its responsibilities are not that far away: ‘the carpet factory’ and the women working there that they can see through the windows.

The poem ends abruptly, perhaps too abruptly for some, yet, for me, that reinforces the world of these carefree teenagers who all wave and yell at Carol’s mother but then instantly forget about her and return to the far more interesting present of Opal Fruits and snog stories.

If a poem can transport you to another world it has worked his magic. It took me to the summer of 1973, Rimmel eye-gloss, Dial-a Disc in the red phonebox on the corner, and a boy who kissed me in the bedroom of a ruined house, the old wallpaper still on the wall - pale pink roses trailing from baskets.

Congratulations, Fran. If you email me your postal address - - I’ll put your prize in the post.


We could fit four on that branch
if we kind of leaned against each other,
then everyone else sat underneath
picking at the grass
while we learned new words off Tony.
We could see across to the carpet factory
where women in blue overalls
walked past the windows.

Carol Price always had a snog story
and Bernard pulled Opal Fruits out of his pockets.
I’d make faces from the broad leaves
punching out eyes and mouth and spiky hair
with my long fingernails. No-one else could do it.
And holding them to my face like a mask.

We argued about how to tell the age of a tree.
Bernard said ask it
so we did and Ben fell off the branch laughing.
He landed on Simone. We all said ooooooooh,
so he snapped off a long piece of bark
and stabbed at all our hanging legs
like a madman.

We practised all Tony’s new words on him.
Then Carol spotted her mum
in the carpet factory window
and we all waved and yelled hello
but she didn’t see.

Bernard gave out more Opal Fruits.

Fran Hill


Fran Hill said...

Yay! Thank you! I have emailed you my address. And it's years since I heard the words 'Dial-a-Disc'. I had forgotten all about that. We used to do that from the corner phone box too (and yell at grown-ups knocking on the misty windows, trying to get in to make a proper phone call ...)

annie clarkson said...

I love this poem, it's so rich with lovely details.

anne.kenny said...

Congratulations - I too love all the details and the teenage voice in the poem.

Count Sneaky said...

Congratulations to Fran.
This is a vivid poem that gives one a brief return to childhood and the chance to see what can be done with a few well-chosen words.
A gem. One can read it over and over without exhausting its charm.
My best. Count Sneaky