Poem explaining war in Ukraine to grandchild wins Caterpillar Poetry Prize

Shihab Nye chose Carole Bromley’s poem Pry’vit as winner

“I actually cried with joy when I got the email,” says Carole Bromley, the winner of this year’s Caterpillar Poetry Prize with Pry’vit, a poem she wrote to explain the war in Ukraine to her eight-year-old grandchild.

The American Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, Naomi Shihab Nye, judged this year’s prize. The annual prize, run by the children’s art and literature magazine The Caterpillar, is for a poem written by an adult for children and is judged blind.

Two new pupils started at our school,
Ivan and Nadiya. The Head explained
that they had just arrived here from Ukraine.
They looked so nervous; how could they tell
what he was saying? There was applause
when they walked in and I'm not really sure
why it made me cry. Mum hides the paper,
these days Daddy switches off the news,

and yet the footage haunts me anyway;
women and children, nowhere left to go,
a father puts his hand against the window
of a train. I can't think what to say;
I offer Nadiya my pen, I don't yet know
that pry'vit is Ukrainian for hello.


"In these tragic times of invasion and horror for the people of Ukraine and peace-loving people worldwide," said Shihab Nye, "a calm and seemingly simple poem which expresses (with no fanfare) an act of humanity, meeting, acknowledgement. I have thought about it every day since I first read it. Hello. There you are. You need a pencil too. We may not speak the same language or know one another's history exactly, but I recognize you. As a caterpillar in a garden recognizes a leaf – as a child recognizes the moon – hello. This is what we do together."

Carole Bromley is a York-based poet who writes for both adults and children. For many years she taught English at All Saints RC School in York and at York College. She also taught creative writing at York University. She now runs poetry surgeries for the Poetry Society. Winner of a number of adult prizes, Carole’s children’s poems have been published in The Caterpillar, Tyger, Tyger, and The Dirigible Balloon, in anthologies from Macmillan, The Emma Press and Nosy Crow and in her first children’s collection, Blast Off! (Smith/Doorstop, 2017). Bromley will soon be looking for a publisher for her second children’s collection.

“I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to have won The Caterpillar Poetry Prize,” said Bromley. “How amazing to have my poem chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye whose work I admire so much. I love The Caterpillar and am always honoured to have a poem published in its pages so this is the icing on the cake. I have won a number of international poetry competitions with my poems for adults, but I can honestly say this tops them all.

“Thank you, Rebecca and Will, for all that you do for children’s poetry and thanks too to Rachel Piercey as my winning sonnet was written on one of her wonderful courses. It came out of a conversation with my eight-year-old granddaughter who was struggling to understand about the war in Ukraine.”

Shihab Nye also commended poems by RW Kelly, Ciara O’Connor, Robert Schechter and Sarah Ziman.

The winning poem and the four commended poems are published in the summer issue of The Caterpillar, available to purchase at thecaterpillarmagazine.com.