The CLiPPA 2020 – with a special piece from A.F. Harrold

Well the shortlist for this year’s CLiPPA (CLOE Children’s Poetry Award) has been announced and we can all start making some new additions to our poetry diets.

As well as sharing that shortlist with you now, I also have a piece from one of the nominees, A.F. Harrold about just how he whittled down the 1000s of food-inspired poems he’d discovered to just the 65 or so he would need to put together his collection: ‘Midnight Feasts: Tasty Poems.’

Midnight Feasts. Tasty Poems chosen by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Katy Riddell, (Bloomsbury.) The judges said: a delicious and quirky collection of poems old and new, skilfully curated and perfectly paced.

Poems the Wind Blew In, Karmelo C. Iribarren, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, (The Emma Press.) The judges said: a book to carry around with you, proof that poetry is ideas, thoughts and emotions captured in words.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones, (Walker Books.) The judges said: a wonderfully varied collection of poems that will speak directly to young children, full of beautiful examples of the craft of poetry.

Wain. LGBT Reimaginings of Scottish Folklore, Rachel Plummer, illustrated by Helene Boppert, (The Emma Press.) The judges said: a fresh voice and take on something that could have felt archaic but is made to feel new.

Cherry Moon, Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song, (ZaZaKids Books/ Troika Books.) The judges said: meditative and nicely paced; Weil presents beautiful snapshots of the natural world and has thought carefully about the form for each.

Midnight Feasts – A.F. Harrold

It was a sparkle and a surprise to hear that Midnight Feasts had found its way onto the CLiPPA shortlist this year.Thank you!

​Having been part of the judging panel for last year’s prize I remember well the friendly but fierce, the smiling but intense, the collegiate but uncompromising conversations we held when whittling our selections down. I know none of our decisions were taken lightly and all were much talked about, and I can’t imagine this year’s discussion were undertook with any less seriousness and joy.

​I decided to make a book of food-related poems because I thought, as a theme, food was unbeatable. We all have a relationship with food, for good or bad, whatever class, creed or culture we come from.

​Every poet, it seemed to me, would have something to say on this subject, would have somewhere to go from this starting point, in a way that, say, a book of poems dedicated cats or cars or clockwork wouldn’t.

​And it was true. I put a call out to the poets I knew and they passed it on to poets I didn’t know and before long I had 1200 poems sitting in my in-box (and all the time I was trawling the books on my shelves and the poems in my foggy memory for likely candidates too)… from which I had to make a book… of about 65 poems.

​In winnowing those 1200 poems down, it felt both bad and good to have to throw out a great many amazing poems. (Bad, because who wants to throw away brilliant things; good, because far better to do that than to have to stuff the cracks with chaff!)

​It wasn’t just a case of finding the best, but the best that fitted together. Compiling an anthology is building a jigsaw, and building the picture on the face of the jigsaw at the same time. What poems belong together, next to one another, opposite one another… what is the movement from one group of poems to the next… how to start, how to end… how does the tone shift, where do you need to speed up, or slow down, where does a joke need to come… relief and contrast and story.

​All that thought, even though you know most people, most of the time, will only ever open it at random and dip, because that too is what anthologies are for, how they’re meant to be read. (There is no one right way, in the same way there’s no one thing a poem should do.)

​I’m so glad the fruit I picked has been liked, I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I hope someone finds a piece in there that, like Brian Patten’s stolen orange or like Choman Hardi’s apple, they can carry with them, to be a glowing gem in the dark, a companion in the back of their mind, because that’s what poems are for.

I’m lucky enough to have a copy and can vouch for the fact that there are some delicious gems in there to be enjoyed.

Good luck to all the nominees – I can’t wait to see who’s won!

Library Girl.

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