The poetry of youth: what it tells us about our kids, and ourselves (part 1)

Recently I bumped into a group of young British poets from Milton Keynes near where I live, roughly the same age as my own son (19 years old.) These are not snotty kids attending fancy private schools; they are ordinary guys going to ordinary schools and colleges. They had put together a collection of their poems and asked me what I thought of them. I looked through them. There were a few spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, homophones.

However what shone very brightly through all that, was the raw emotion; through the lines of these poems we can see not only what makes these kids tick, but also how much we can learn from their expressions and ideas. I found that hugely enlightening, so I asked two of their number a few questions and I think you’ll be intrigued by their responses…

Why do you write poetry?

Zacharias: To improve my use of language and vocabulary in a personal and informative way. Expressing feelings and views that can be amplified by rhymes, word play and imagery. The same reason an artist creates a canvas; our canvas has symbols on it that talk to you … painting pictures with words.

Benjamin: I write for my own release, usually if I feel angry about something it makes me feel better. Or simply if life seems to have got stale the last couple of days it feels good to write, to change things up a bit.

What are the issues/feelings/events that inspire you most to write about?

Zach: Everyday experiences past, present, positive and negative history and the future.

Ben: Mostly political, social, philosophical. I hardly ever write about love, which most people think is the main topic of poetry but it’s really not the case. Generally it’s a build-up of frustration at everything, mainly just the way humans are toward each other and how we’re held back.

What messages do you most want to share with your readers?

Zach: I would hope that the reader would take their own messages from my poems, be it a hot point for discussion or time for reflection being able to relate to what I had to say. Poetry is personal to both the writer and reader; the message is to evoke a reaction whether positive or negative.

Ben: Enjoy the sunlight! Because it’s free. Happiness does not have to be related to money or anything we’re tricked into caring about. You regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do. Although I would hope my poems will also bring a revolution against our outdated parliament, and for people to realise how manipulated we are in society. But mainly just to be grateful for what we have.

How much influence do you think you can have with your poems, by publishing them?

Zach: I would hope that my poetry could influence people into writing themselves, or relating to how I feel about a situation, or a subject I’ve written about.

Ben: Not much, not at the moment anyway. I’m still quite young but even if you influence one person then that is enough for me. Not expecting much more than that at the moment. As long as it’s positive influence.

How do you feel poetry as a writing “genre” fits into your lives, in your age group, in this “electronic” generation?

Zach: People share information faster thanks to email and social networking sites, and so sharing with other poets has become easy. Poetry in this generation is of diverse interest; it’s a niche in popular culture. But picking out the people our age who are writing poems, lyrics and want to share them – that ability is pretty much at our fingertips because of the Internet.

Ben: I think it will evolve in some peculiar ways. I think the boundaries between music and poetry will blur even more. In hip-hop for example if an MC does an acapella song then essentially it’s a spoken word poem. Our poems are poems because we proclaim them as such. It will be interesting how the language we use evolves because of text type – your vocabulary diminishes but obviously you need a good vocabulary to write poetry. So I’m not sure how that’s going to pan out, hopefully it will create a happy hybrid or modern and original English. However people do still love honesty, and if a poem is true to whoever wrote it and you can feel the emotion drip off every word it doesn’t matter what age you are or what genre you like it will get through to you.

What advice would you give other people your age about writing poetry?

Zach: Just be honest to yourself and in your writing, Don’t think too much about stanzas and couplets; the best part of poetry is not really caring about how to and how not to write; it’s nothing like essay writing or a letter.

Ben: Just write. Don’t mess about talking about doing something or finding excuses why you can’t do it. You don’t have to show it to anyone … not until something good comes out and that might not be for a while. But it has made me a happier person.

Next week I’ll post some examples of Zach’s and Ben’s work. Be prepared to be inspired…

Some help to make you  write poetically:

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours




  1. […] I found that hugely enlightening, so last week I asked two of their number a few questions which I reported on here. Here now are some excerpts from their work which I find particularly inspiring. I’ve chosen two […]