The Caterpillar Poetry Prize, run by the junior art and literature magazine The Caterpillar and awarded annually to a single unpublished poem written by an adult for children, was judged this year by the British poet Chrissie Gittins.
“It was a constant pleasure and surprise to discover the range of subject matter and approaches in the submissions to the prize,” said Gittins. “The difficulty was in choosing between vastly different types of poem of comparable quality.”
But Gittins had to choose just one poem to award €1,000, and she chose Mustafa’s Jumper by Coral Rumble. “This arresting, dramatic poem had my attention from the start,” said Gittins. “Its transparent, direct language propelled me straight into the narrative. A resonant, circular poem summoned deftly through the image of a frayed jumper. It uses pinpoint details and easy rhyme. Not a word is wasted.”
Rumble said: “The Caterpillar is such a unique and inspired magazine. Winning The Caterpillar Poetry Prize is all shades of wonderful! So honoured, and a little dazed.”
The winning poet, who has, according to Michael Rosen, “a dash and delight about her work”, has published three collections of poetry for children – Creatures, Teachers and Family Features, Breaking the Rules and My Teacher’s as Wild as a Bison. Her last two collections were featured in the Best Books supplement of Junior Education Magazine and were selected as “choices” by The Children’s Poetry Bookshelf, and she recently featured in Favourite Poets (published by Hodder Children’s Books).
She has contributed many poems to the Cbeebies TV programmes Poetry Pie and The Rhyme Rocket and is the writer of the Pinkasaurus stories that have been broadcast on Cbeebies Radio.
Rumble works regularly on education projects, at home and abroad, with the Poetry Society and the British Council. She enjoys helping children of all ages and abilities to write poems they can be proud of, and she has given workshops in some unusual places, including Buckingham Palace.
She is poetry editor for the Writers’ Advice Centre in London and works on the Able Writers scheme. More recently, she teamed up with her illustrator daughter, Charlotte Cooke, to produce The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, which was longlisted for the Oscar’s First Book Prize.
Gittins, who judged the prize anonymously, also commended poems by Carole Bromley, Marie Carmichael, Nikki Cookson, Sam Cummings, Matt Goodfellow, Nicolette Gunn, Mary Green, Louise Greig, Jonathan Humble, Jenny Lamothe and Kate O’Neil.
The Caterpillar Story Prize is now open to anyone (over 16) willing to have a go at writing a story of no more than 1,500 words for children aged 7-11. Details are available at www.thecaterpillarmagazine.com
By Coral Rumble
Mustafa's jumper is alone in the hall,
It hangs from the bars fitted onto the wall.
The sleeve ends are frayed from Mustafa's nibbling,
When he thought very hard, was excitedly scribbling.
His stories were short, but each plot was real,
He told of long journeys, how sad people feel,
But over the weeks, his stories got longer,
The endings were happier, his smile got much stronger.
And Mustafa learnt the language we speak,
And all about book bags and days of the week.
Mustafa was moved to sit next to me,
And sometimes he came to my house for some tea.
Then, one day, Mustafa's mum knocked on the door,
She spoke to Miss Bennett, who stared at the floor.
Mustafa was leaving, the departure was soon,
And an icy anxiety flooded the room.
But it's Mustafa's jumper, it's Mustafa's chair,
It's Mustafa's workbook, and everyone cares
That Mustafa's gone to the airport today,
And right now, this minute, he's flying away.
So, I'll straighten his chair, and picture his face,
Pretend that he's scribbling his stories, with pace,
Then I'll rescue his jumper, and patch up the twine,
And hang it, with love, on the peg next to mine.