The Caterpillar, an Irish-based international arts & literature magazine for children, has just announced Louise Greig as the winner of its inaugural €1,000 poetry prize for a single poem written for children.
Greig, who lives in Aberdeen and works as a director of a dog re-homing organisation, won with her poem Don’t Think of an Elephant, “a poem full of wonder and mystery, a poem that feels like it has been around for a long time, and will endure,” said Rebecca O’Connor, editor of The Caterpillar and one of this year’s judges. She and her co-publisher and judge Will Govan said that they were amazed to have received more than 700 entries.
“There’s not enough out there for children’s writers, in terms of publishing opportunities and prizes,” O’Connor said. “It’s one thing to try to publish a book, another to try to find a home for a single poem ... And there’s certainly a need to introduce children to the very best of contemporary poetry, which is why we publish The Caterpillar and why we thought this prize might highlight that.”
Greig said: “I am quite stunned and absolutely thrilled that my poem has won the inaugural Caterpillar Poetry Prize. I am a huge fan of The Caterpillar and was delighted and inspired by the competition.”
Although a relative newcomer to writing, Greig was joint winner of the Manchester Writing for Children Prize and runner-up in the Chicken House Publishing Big Idea competition in 2014. Her winning poem is published in the summer issue of The Caterpillar.
The judges also commended poems by Stephanie Brennan, Mary Gilonne, Matt Goodfellow, Louise Greig, Mike Lukas and Myles McLeod.
The Caterpillar is published by the same duo who publish The Moth, an international arts and literature magazine for adults, which runs the €10,000 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize. www.thecaterpillarmagazine.com
Don’t Think of an Elephant
Don’t think of an elephant,
Jacob’s mother said.
So, Jacob thought of other things instead.
He thought of the sea.
And the sea is a big thought.
It took up a great deal of room in his head.
But he learned a lot.
He learned that the octopus
has a memory, and that whales
feel emotions, but when
he put this to his mother
she bent her head.
Don't think of an elephant, she said.
But mother, this is the ocean. I am speaking
to you of great things,
of creatures who feel love,
who have memories.
You speak of an elephant, she sighed.
Jacob tried again. But her eyes were
glistening with tears.
So Jacob thought of the skies. And trees.
And weather – everything that holds a world together.
But each wondrous thing of which he spoke
broke his mother’s heart.
Then I will begin again! he cried.
And this time he thought of only one thing –
slow and grey and looming.
It walked out of the shade and beat
in his heart like the whale
and the ocean and he felt an emotion,
enormous and frail.
His mother grew pale.
My life will be this now
and nothing else. I will give
to the elephants all of my self,
all of my heart, all that I have.
I will breathe for the elephants.
Mother, said Jacob, I have found my way.
And his mother smiled
and knelt to pray.