I never wrote bad teenage poetry, mainly because as a teenager I always despised those who did (I was a horrible little piece of work, and it's just a good job I wasn't exposed to Ayn Rand when it could have done some serious damage)...

But in the 6th Form (note for Americans - High School) I decided, along with the Maths, Further Maths, Physics (I had a wide, broad and healthy range of interests, as you can see) and General Studies A-Levels I was taking, to do English Literature.

I was the only science type on the course and was thus universally despised for daring to bring logic and evidence to bear on subjects that were supposed to be just 'felt' (or it may have been because of my horrible brattiness...). I was also one of only three males out of 20 people doing the course. And pretty much every one of the girls doing the course considered themselves 'great poets' - they'd all been 'published' (in some photocopied thing read by three people) and were therefore 'artists'.

One of the authors we were studying was the poet U A Fanthorpe, who was later shortlisted for the job of Poet Laureate. As an assignment over the Easter holidays, our teacher told us to write a poem in her style on the subject of Tantalus.

Now Fanthorpe has one stylistic tic that she uses over and over and that is that if something is 'high culture' and 'ancient' she refers to it in modern, slangy terms, while if something is 'low culture' and 'modern' she refers to it in overcomplicated classical metaphor. Thus onions become 'Persephone's globes' while Greek gods will talk about digital watches.

Knowing this it was then ridiculously easy to turn out a pastiche of her style. I went away and in the break between lessons wrote the first poem I'd written since the age of 11. I can't remember it word for word, but it was something like:

I am the environmental secretary of Hades

Since I have been put in charge
Tree growth has increased 25%
And fluid absorption rates have trebled.

I am the environment secretary of the underworld
Pluto's third and rising
Condemned to middle management

(See the node on Tantalus, assuming one exists, for the subject matter).

Now, this poem is quite clearly dreadful - absolutely dire - but it's dire in the same way as some of Fanthorpe's less-good poetry, so when I handed it to the teacher ten minutes after the assignment was given to the class he was amazed, and decided to send a copy to Fanthorpe herself for her opinion. Then after he'd done that he rushed to talk to me worried out of his mind that it was actually an actual Fanthorpe poem he hadn't heard of before that I'd dug up.

Three weeks later when class started again, half the 'published poets' and 'great artists' hadn't been able to complete the assignment - they 'hadn't been inspired' or they just found it too hard even to write any poem on the subject, let alone one in someone else's style. Then they found out that the college had received a letter from Fanthorpe praising the poetry of the unartistic science kid as some of the best poetry by a young writer she'd seen in all the years she'd been writing, and how much promise I showed.

Of course I found that out from someone else as by that point I'd given up turning up to the class, deciding it was a waste of time, and I never bothered to write another poem again.

Note - this isn't meant to be self-aggrandising, the poem in question is obviously dreadful. It's just shines an interesting light on teenage 'poets', I think...