Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek have been announced as winners of the CLiPPA 2023 for their collection of poems inspired by nature, Marshmallow Clouds (Walker Books), illustrated by Richard Jones. This was announced at a buzzing live ceremony onstage at the Lyttleton Theatre, at the National Theatre. The shortlisted poets read their poems onstage to a full house, Connie Wankek joining online, and the CLiPPA Poetry Show also featured live poetry performances by primary school children.
In a year of outstanding poetry publishing for children, Nicola Davies is Highly Commended for her moving sequence of poems about the refugee experience, Choose Love (Graffeg) illustrated by Petr Horáček.
‘Marshmallow Clouds impressed all the judges with the sheer quality of the poetry’ says Chris Riddell, chair of the judges, ‘The illustrations are in sympathy with the poems and the quality of the design and production is outstanding. It is a thing of beauty.’
Of Choose Love he says, ‘Choose Love is an immensely moving and passionate response to the refugee crisis that shows how relevant poetry for young people can be in addressing contemporary issues. The judges’ decision on both books was unanimous and we are immensely proud to highlight both these collections.’
Ted Kooser was the US Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems Delights & Shadows. His picture books include House Held Up by Trees, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, illustrated by Jon Klassen; and Mr. Posey’s New Glasses, an International Literacy Association Children’s Choice, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.
Connie Wanek is the author of four books of poetry, including Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems, the second book in the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series.
The award was accepted on their behalf by illustrator Richard Jones.
Nicola Davies is the author of more than 80 books including picture books, non-fiction, fiction and poetry for children and adults. She has written widely on many subjects including environmental science, children’s rights, disability, grief and refugees.
Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the CLiPPA is the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children and past winners include Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard, Jackie Kay and Michael Rosen. Valerie Bloom won in 2022 with her collection Stars with Flaming Tails.
An extremely strong shortlist also featured current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho with Blow a Kiss Catch a Kiss, illustrated by Nicola Killen, Andersen Press; these are the words by Nikita Gill, Macmillan Children’s Books; and Let’s Chase Stars Together, by Matt Goodfellow, Bloomsbury Education.
Charlotte Hacking, Learning Programme Director at CLPE and member of the CLiPPA judging panel says, ‘The strength of this year’s shortlist made this a really difficult decision. Every one of these books is exceptional. Marshmallow Clouds is an outstanding poetry book with beautifully crafted poems full of evocative imagery and wonderfully resonant illustrations. It’s an exceptional example of poetry published for children, speaking to children of all ages about the world around them and their place within it.’
Children in schools across the UK explored all five collections on the shortlist through the CLiPPA Shadowing Scheme, which each year prompts poetry performances in hundreds of classrooms. Record numbers of schools took part in the Shadowing this year and the young creators of the best poem performances took part in the ceremony, performing poems from each of the shortlisted collections live onstage alongside the poets. Six-year-old Darci from Swaffield Primary School, Wandsworth performed the poem ‘Uplifting’ from Joseph Coelho’s collection; eight-year-old Reem from St Matthews CofE Primary School, Birmingham performed ‘Marshmallows’ from the winning collection; and a group of twelve young people from St Margaret Mary’s RC Primary School in Manchester performed ‘I hope it rains today’ from Matt Goodfellow’s collection Let’s Chase Stars Together; Oluwajomiloju, who is in year six at Carterhatch Primary School in Enfield performed ‘Remember III’ from Nikita Gill’s these are the words; and nine year old Fatima from Hillbrook Primary School, Tooting performed ‘Unbroken’ from Choose Love.
Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive at CLPE says, ‘Poetry is a wonderful medium for engaging children in reading and writing, but it is often overlooked. The CLiPPA has been shining a spotlight on children’s poetry for twenty years and the excitement generated amongst children grows ever bigger. On the 20th anniversary of the CLiPPA, we are delighted to have such a strong shortlist and to celebrate it with so much joy and excitement. Our young audience today lifted the roof off the National Theatre and regard Ted, Connie, Joseph, Nicola, Nikita and Matt as superstars. We hope everyone will follow their lead and read these wonderful poetry books.’
The awards were presented by judge Chris Riddell OBE, last year’s CLiPPA winner poet Valerie Bloom and Mark Bispham of sponsor ALCS at the National Theatre’s Lyttleton Theatre.
Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek receive a trophy and share a cheque for £1000. As part of the prize they will also be recorded for the prestigious National Poetry Archive as will Nicola Davies.
Blow a Kiss Catch a Kiss by Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Nicola Killen, Andersen Press
Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček, Graffeg
These are the Words by Nikita Gill, Macmillan Children’s Books.
Let’s Chase Stars Together, by Matt Goodfellow, Bloomsbury Education.
Marshmallow Clouds by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, illustrated by Richard Jones, Walker Books.
234 schools entered the Shadowing Competition with entries from schools in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Essex, Surrey, Lincolnshire, Wiltshire and more.
This year’s judging panel, led by illustrator, poetry anthologist and former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, is 2022 CLiPPA winner poet Valerie Bloom, writer Indigo Williams, and Jay Bhadricha, Head of Programmes at the Forward Arts Foundation along with Charlotte Hacking, Learning and Programme Director at CLPE.
The CLiPPA is delivered in partnership with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and supported by Arts Council England.