I had a lovely afternoon yesterday attending the CLiPPA event, aka the Children’s Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Awards, which was held at the National Theatre. It’s the only national award for poetry aimed at children in the country, and I get to go along by virtue of having an in with the chief executive of CLPE, the outfit that organises it (reader, she married me).
This year, there were five?shortlisted poetry books, and I’m going to list them here so you can buy them all:
??Mandy Coe?(editor):?Let in the Stars, illustrated by The Manchester School of Art, The Manchester Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University.
??Joseph Coelho:?Werewolf Club Rules, illustrated by John O?Leary, Frances Lincoln
??Georgie Horrell, Aisha Spencer and Morag Styles?(editors):?Give the Ball to the Poet. A New Anthology of Caribbean Poetry, illustrated by Jane Ray, Commonwealth Education Trust
??Hilda Offen:?Blue Balloons and Rabbit Ears, Troika Books
??Rachel Rooney:?My Life as a Goldfish and other poems, illustrated by Ellie Jenkins, Frances Lincoln
There were readings from all five books by the poets, but here’s the thing: there were?also readings by primary school children of their favourite poems from the collections. CLPE did rather a marvellous thing. They encouraged primary schools to shadow the awards and get their kids to perform their favourite poems. These performances went up on Vimeo, and five were selected to perform live, onstage, at the National, alongside the poets.
You can see some of?the school entries here. I urge you to watch them all, and I wish I could describe the delight on the kids’ faces when they got up on the stage and?performed the poems from memory. Something struck me which hadn’t struck me at all before – primary school age kids?get poetry more quickly than any other form of literature, because it is so close to the music which they’re all immersed in every day. Poetry can be learned, can be performed, can be lived in. Novels (sad to say) just can’t compete.
So why is there not a?lot more poetry online? It?lends itself so well to sharing online, at least as well as movie trailers or songs, because it’s immediate and it’s only hungry for our attention for a few minutes. Where is the equivalent of?This Is My Jam for poetry? And if it exists, why don’t I already know about it? Why isn’t it absolutely massive? Why aren’t poets the most famous artists of the Web age?
Anyway. The winner of the prize was Joseph Coelho, who provided the loveliest moment of the day, indirectly. The kids who had performed sat on the stage while he came up to accept his award and to read another poem. He flicked through his collection, and chose one of the poems. ‘I’m going to read If All The World Were Paper’, he said – and five of the kids on stage fist-pumped the air and silently mouthed ‘YES!’ There’s your national literacy strategy, right there. Here’s Joseph reading that particular poem:
After the awards he was swished off to the BBC to speak to Front Row, where he read another poem from the collection, Mrs Flotsam. Listen here (it’s the last item on the show).
All the poets at the show gave great readings (and, again, I do urge you to go and listen to the kids here – I’d put the videos directly on here but I’m stupidly careful about posting videos of schools or kids, as should we all be). But my favourite of the entire day was from Valerie Bloom, whose poem Keeping Wicket is in?Give the Ball to the Poet. Prepare to weep.