Imagine my pride when my 10 year-old daughter had her story published in last Friday's G2 Kids section of the Guardian and her main character, Goby the Alien, was actually featured on the front of the newspaper! I've never even made the letters' page and only once had a mention in dispatches by Owen Sheers saying how much he liked my work.

   My wife was gobsmacked and shouted 'Bloody hell!' in the foyer of our holiday hotel, so uncharacteristic my daughter was more interested initially
in her expletive - 'You said a naughty word!' she kept repeating.

   Maybe there'll be another writer in the family, who knows? My son was always destined to become a cellist, but ended up as a TV journalist and my elder daughter loved drama but became disillusioned when she was picked for bit parts like a chicken in the stage version of 'Animal Farm' and is now a politician. So who can tell?

   Nobody in my family was particularly interested in writing, though my father did once acquire a pseudonym and try to publish various things. He even changed his real name to that nomme de plume at one stage, so it must have been serious for a while. But I also recall him being into painting, photography, gliding, judo, sailing, horse-riding......... My mother was the poetry fan in the family, first Dylan Thomas and then Gerard Manley Hopkins and she did encourage my interest, giving me a paperback of 'New Poetry' which included Lowell and Berryman.

   My young daughter enjoys reading and writing funny poetry especially and had a recent Limerick phase, which she found was ideal for insults and crudity.

   It's hard to predict which way she'll develop and certainly there's no point pushing her, but she could well be inspired by seeing her story in print. For me, the moment of truth came when I won a school poetry competition and was later published regularly in the school magazine. It was recognition for a solitary pursuit. I'd hide my poems away in drawers till, in the 6th form, I remember showing some to my sister, who was at uni.

   She was suitably baffled by their obscurity and I relished it when she responded - ' I can't believe it, my little brother writing poetry which I can't understand!' A follower of James Joyce, I took this as a compliment.

   My young daughter reads as avidly as my wife. I only wish I could devour books with their appetite ; I tend to nibble at them like a mouse on a diet. It stands her in good stead when writing no doubt, yet she's the antithesis of a studious person, preferring instead to be playing with her mates on the streets.

   Up until the 6th form (when I became immersed with T.S. Eliot, Joyce, Ted Hughes and Thom Gunn and the music of Soft Machine) I was exactly the same. Homework was my last priority, sport and friends my first. I was a gregarious roamer, enjoying the kind of independence it's hard to envisage for kids today.

   This is a poem about that first flash of fame : - 

                                   ONE SECOND OF FAME

A poetry competition run by Flash Harry, our English teacher
(nicknamed 'Flash' because of 'E-Type' reading
not looking up as we chatted at the back,
saying 'Jenkins out!' without a full-stop).

The theme was 'First man on the moon' :
it was topical, it was Neil Armstrong,
it was my chance to take one giant step
in the airless craters of free verse.

I popped my entry into the box in Flash's room
one breaktime, making sure no-one was following
and it was take-off till results time,
my mind zooming with possibilities.

Then I recalled Flash's love of animals
and the story I'd written when I'd 'kicked the cat';
it was fiction but Flash didn't see it like that,
wrote an appalled comment at the end.

To be fair to Flash, he'd played us a tape
called 'Modern Poetry', read us Owen and Sassoon:
with my mother's tattered Penguins
it showed us whole new species of verse.

Amazed, I triumphed, landing on Planet Poem
with my cynical warning - 'And trees still stood...'
published in the school mag.,my mate Lart
complimenting so profusely I thought it was mockery.

Learnt afterwards there were only two entries
and the other one was by 'Anonymous'
with the title 'Flash Harry Loves Sheep'.
I was a poet: one second of fame, years of disappointment.

10/03/2013 21:23

Interesting read.


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