The Ocean Gallery

a winning poem in the 2019 Seaweek Poetry Competition. ( First published in Write On Issue 52)

by Anna, Year 8.

The Ocean Gallery

We are art critics in a gallery following a trail of items polished by the sea

smoothed by the sand

handmade by nature.

Each one an original. The air is tinged with salt.

Laughter hangs lazily.

Mum picks up another masterpiece. Have we not taken enough? But this shell is a swirl of abstracted colours. It is ours already. I examine its smooth interior.

Nature has outdone itself.

Some may call it clutter on a shelf

reduce it to a word

but I know that

this is true art.

What we noticed about Anna's Poem

# The poet used an extended metaphor to explore the ways in which the beach is like an art gallery. This metaphor is maintained throughout by specialised language choices — original, handmade, masterpiece, abstracted, art — that remind us of the main idea.

# The poet tells a personal story of collecting shells on a beach with her mother and conveys a sense of wonder and excitement to the reader.

# The poet made great use of unexpected sensory details- The air is tinged with salt. - Laughter hangs lazily - a swirl of abstracted colours - to draw the reader into the time and place.

# In the centre of the poem is a key moment of change. We are drawn into considering the special shell in a really intriguing way.

Mum picks up another masterpiece. Have we not taken enough? But this shell is a swirl of abstracted colours.

It is ours already.

# In the final section of the poem the poet concludes with a powerful personal statement- a sort of epiphany about the significance of the event.

# The poet chose to set the poem out in short lines which reflects the action of wandering along a beach.


Start by thinking of different places and events and make some connections. Here are few ideas to get started but you will think of more:

In what ways is the rockpool like a library ?

How is the beach like a supermarket?

What happens in an airport that is similar in a coral reef?

How are a sports tournament and the estuary similar?

Select one main idea and build a list to extend on it. ( It's great to work with someone else to bounce off ideas.)

You'll only need a few items on your list to get you started — as you write you will think of more. Select a starting point for the poem that shows the reader how these two things are alike. Use some sensory language that shows rather than tells. Words such as lovely, beautiful, nice mean you are telling the reader what to think. Instead use sensory descriptions so that they can say 'that is beautiful" or scary or disgusting for themselves! Use more than one sense.

As your poem progresses bring in a new idea or perspective. You might like to add a personal reflective comment at the end.

Once you have a first draft, spend some time on making specific language choices. Check out other available verbs by using a thesaurus, or research specific names for the creatures you are writing about. Using specific nouns and verbs will make your writing zing!

holds could become clings or grasps

walks could become scuttles or saunters

shell could be pipi shell or paua

shark could be hammerhead or mako

octopus could be giant gelatinous octopus ( love that alliteration!)

Check you have maintained the original metaphor. Can you enhance that with specialised language choices?

Finish up the poem by making cuts. This doesn't come naturally but as Mark Twain said “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Gardeners know that you have to pull out the weeds and do a bit of pruning to let the garden flourish. It's the same with writing.

If the work makes sense without a "filler" word then chop it. You can get rid of ands and thens by putting ideas on new lines.

If there is an ordinary or repetitive idea- either make it extraordinary or cut it. that way your best lines will have room to show and grow.

As always, read your work out loud to hear how it flows. You may need to tweak a few things before you say 'my poem is finished'.

Well done!

If you are based in Canterbury please enter your poem in the Seaweek Canterbury Poetry Competition.

If you are outside of Canterbury please send it to us at Write On- we will still consider it for publication in Write On Magazine or on our blog.

email: Subject: Seaweek Poetry Submission

(c) Write On School for Young Writers 2021