CLPE = Centre for Literacy in Primary Education
Hoorah for the just-out CLPE poetry award shortlist! What treasures! In fact it’s the only award for a book of children’s poetry in this country. Lucky for writers of children’s fiction there are at least 10 opportunities for them to submit to prizes which are solely for fiction. But, is poetry eligible for the Carnegie Medal, the Costa Book Awards, and the National Book Awards? Yes it is! Have you ever seen poetry shortlisted for these awards?
The last time a poetry collection was shortlisted in the children’s section of Costa prize was in 1999 when it was still called the Whitbread Book Awards. This year, out of 91 nominations for the Carnegie prize, only one was for a poetry collection, and that book didn’t make the longlist. (Any professional librarian can nominate a book and it is added to the nominations.)
Certainly children’s poetry doesn’t win these prizes, even on the very rare occasion it is shortlisted. Why is that?
If you read newspaper summer and Christmas book round-ups, or lists of top 10/50/100 book recommendations, they hardly ever include poetry. If you go into bookshops and libraries, do you see signs for children’s poetry? Not many? Is it perhaps because in many bookshops poetry is likely to be found under signs which say “Fairy Tales and Gifts”, “Jokes”, “Rhymes and Giggles” and “Hobbies”? Do you see much stock of children’s poetry? No? Why is that?
Booksellers say to me that there aren’t many poetry books being published; book consultants and journalists tell me that they aren’t told about new children’s poetry books when they are published. It seems that the chain between children’s poetry and its audience has many broken links. Some of the broken links are caused by fear.