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Clucking good poem for kids wins Caterpillar Poetry Prize

‘You can sense the twinkle in the author’s eye,’ says editor of Janet Turner’s winner

“There are very few outlets for people writing for children, whether it’s poetry or short fiction”
Janet Turner: receives €1,000 prize money

The winner of this year’s Caterpillar Poetry Prize, run by the Caterpillar – an art and literature magazine for children established by the same couple that runs the Moth magazine – is Auntie Aggie by Janet Turner. It is a “ticklish poem”, according to the editor Rebecca O’Connor, that “raises a smile, and that’s so much of what the Caterpillar is about. You can sense the twinkle in the author’s eye as she wrote it.”

Janet Turner: receives €1,000 prize money

Turner lives with her husband, Clive, in Brockenhurst in the New Forest in England. She was a secretary in the aircraft industry, then taught shorthand and typing, and spinning and weaving. She is now retired and has more time to devote to her twin passions: poetry and painting. The profits from her poetry collection Out of My Buttefly Mind were donated to the children’s hospices Naomi House and Jacksplace.

Tough decision

John Hegley, who has published many collections of poems for adults and children, including My Dog Is a Carrot, found it tough making the final decision. “There were many happinesses in the poetry I read,” he said, but Auntie Aggie won out in the end. “The opening is very strong and in-drawing. The story flies straight and trusted and there are many incidents of delight – and ‘bum’ and ‘pants’ seemed necessary, not merely decorative,” said Hegley.

“It still remains the case that there are very few outlets for people writing for children, whether it’s poetry or short fiction,” says Will Govan, publisher of the Caterpillar. “It delights us beyond words to be able to bring some of the wonderful poems being written into the light. The calibre of the poems entered into this year’s competition was terrific. So much so that John commended some 12 poems. It’s interesting to see some familiar names among them, but it’s also incredibly exciting to meet new writers we haven’t come across before.”

Hegley commended poems by Conrad Burdekin, Richard Evans, Matt Goodfellow, Louise Greig, Lyn Halliday, Mercedes Hessleroth, Eileen Keane, Jemima Laing, John Morris, Heather F Reid, Shauna Darling Robertson and Gabe Rothschild.

Turner receives €1,000 prize money, and her poem is published in the summer issue of the Caterpillar (available to purchase at thecaterpillarmagazine.com).

The Caterpillar Story for Children Prize is now open for entries. It offers the winner €500 plus a two-week stay at the Moth Retreat in rural Ireland, with runner-up prizes also. Chris Preece, the winner of last year’s prize, is currently residing there.

See thecaterpillarmagazine.com for further details.

AUNTIE AGGIE

by Janet Turner

Auntie Aggie liked an eggie
for her breakfast every day.
Auntie Aggie bought ten chickens,
fed them well so they would lay.

Soon these happy, healthy hens
were laying eggs by nines and tens
and Auntie Aggie began to munch
even more eggs for her lunch.

Although she wasn’t getting thinner
she started eating eggs for dinner.
Then, and this surely wasn’t right,
she drank an eggnog every night.

Auntie Aggie’s nose grew beaky
and her feet grew clawed and freaky.
Both her legs grew short and thin
and feathers grew upon her chin.

Auntie Aggie gave a wail
when she found she’d grown a tail.
Feathers then grew on her tum
and spread behind her to her bum.

Soon, avoiding bathroom showers,
enjoying dust baths among the flowers,
she scratched and clucked, ate worms and ants
and never, ever, wore her pants.