May 22, 2017 - Comments Off on Poetry Perfection: the 2017 Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award
We at Scoop are huge fans of poetry for children, and so the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) is very close to our hearts.
Launched in 2003, this is the only award for published poetry for children and, as such, plays a vital role in ensuring that poetry for children is recognised and celebrated. With this year’s shortlist recently announced, we’re delighted to share this fascinating account of the judging process from Rachel Rooney, the Chair of Judges, along with more information about the five brilliant books. Over to Rachel...
Acting as Chair of Judges for this year’s CLiPPA has been an honour and a real pleasure – particularly because in my earlier writing days, I’d looked through previous CLiPPA shortlists (and those of its predecessor, the Signal Award) in my search for quality poetry for young people. My fellow judges were Sarah Crossan, Caleb Femi, Charlotte Hacking and Imogen Russell Williams.
There was a certain responsibility to favour those books that were accessible and that might engage young readers. But there was also a debt to poetry itself; to highlight its power and possibility. I was looking for poems that were crafted and honed with the same rigour expected from published ‘adult poetry’. I use quotation marks here because the distinction between adult and children’s poetry is not always clear-cut. A number of adult poems can be accessed and appreciated by children on some significant level. Likewise, adults can be charmed, amused or stimulated by quality poetry that is ostensibly for children.
So when reading through the long-listed books, I sought to satisfy the eyes, ears and heart of my inner-child as well as her more critical outer-adult. What was I hoping for? The child in me wanted surprise and intrigue, comfort and familiarity, musicality and playfulness. I didn’t want to knowingly be told how I should feel – though I was open to skilled persuasion. (Yes, I was that stubborn child.) My outer-adult noted the originality and inventiveness of ideas and form, technical skill, authenticity of voice and a breadth of vision. There were hundreds of poems to be considered. Some made me double take. Some offered up more secrets on a further reading. Then there were those that intrinsically hit the emotional age spot and demanded to be re-read. These were amongst the most memorable ones.
Judging was made a challenge by the spread of books that were submitted. The CLiPPA is open to published poetry books for a diverse and changing readership, from the pre-schooler to the early teen. How does one compare a poetic prose novel with early verse? A single-poet collection with an anthology? Like a poem, each book ultimately has to be measured against itself. Did it achieve its specific aim? Was there a satisfying match between subject matter, tone, form and flow? Did it work for the intended readership? Was it polished and did it gleam?
Poetry is subjective by nature and so I was thankful to work alongside four other judges, all of whom brought their own expertise and interests to the table. There were some inevitable differences of opinion but this was generally accepted to be a matter of personal taste. We tried to focus on the quality of the writing and consider what it might offer a certain reader at a certain age. Was it pitched well and did it leave room for growth?
Writing poetry for children can appear easy but writing powerful poetry that is accessible and appealing to children is considerably more difficult to achieve. In their own particular way, the following books all did this:
Zim Zam Zoom by James Carter, illustrated by Nicola Colton (Otter-Barry Books)
This book is perfectly pitched for the young listener or early reader. Rhythmically pleasing to the ear, the poems ask to be read aloud and provide plenty of opportunities for joining-in. The poems are patterned yet playful, familiar yet surprising. James Carter achieves a lot in a small space. 3+
Jelly Boots Smelly Boots by Michael Rosen, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Bloomsbury)
Quirky, clever poems ranging from those that involve humorous misunderstandings to thoughtful and more intimate musings. Michael Rosen’s slick word play skills and sharp observations are evident throughout. 6+
Wonderland, Alice in Poetry, edited by Michaela Morgan, illustrated by John Tenniel (Macmillan)
In this anthology, Michaela Morgan curates the poetry of Lewis Carroll and his sources, inviting new and established contemporary poets to pen their responses. Some poems are tangential, some mirror and some subvert - but all of them celebrate the spirit of Wonderland with their own refreshing spin. 8+
Moon Juice by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa (The Emma Press)
A debut collection of poetry that presents magical, strange and unlikely events in a confident and persuasive way. These poems are lively and unexpected and Kate Wakeling shows a consistent sensitivity to the rhythm and power of language. 8+
Booked by Kwame Alexander (Andersen Press)
In this free verse novel, written in the voice of 12-year-old soccer-loving boy, Kwame Alexander weaves an emotive narrative through poetry and word play. We are drawn into the hopes and disappointments of the main character and like him, we discover the power of poetry and delight in words along the way. 10+
Once the shortlisted books were agreed upon, we sat back and viewed the selection. There was a surprising but satisfying span of ages catered for and a variety of poetry formats and writing styles. The number of books submitted this year had increased and there was a healthy spread of publishers across the shortlist. This bodes very well for the future of published children’s poetry.
Visit Rachel’s website www.rachelrooneypoet.com
View films of Rachel performing on www.clpe.org.uk/poetryline
Sign up for the free Schools Shadowing Scheme for CLiPPA www.clpe.org.uk/clippa2017