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Rachel Rooney wins CLPE Poetry award – read her poem


A collection of poems for children by a poet who 'relishes and shares the craft of poetry' wins the CLPE award

Read Rachel Rooney's top poetry writing tips

A debut poetry collection for children, filled with humour, wordplay and riddles, has won the CLPE Poetry award. Rachel Rooney, a teacher from Brighton, won the prize with The Language of Cat, a collection of poems marked by what the judges called a "subtle distinctive speaking voice".

Rooney, who works with children with autistic spectrum condition and teaches poetry workshops in West Sussex, has had over 60 of her poems published in anthologies but this is her first collection. Previous winners of the award include established poets such as Jackie Kay, John Agard and Roger McGough.

"Winning the CLPE award is incredibly exciting for me - and slightly overwhelming too," said Rooney. "Three years ago, even the thought of having a solo collection with a publisher was just a vague dream. The CLPE is the only award for a children's poetry collection and this makes it an extra special one for me. I hope that my win might encourage other emerging poets to carry on with their writing. Miracles do happen sometimes!"

Carol Ann Duffy, poet laureate and former winner of the prize, commented that Rooney's collection "is a well-crafted, stimulating and un-patronising box of delights, always accessible and constantly inventive."

The CLPE poetry award for a book of poetry for children was launched by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in 2003 to highlight an important branch of children's literature

Read The Language of Cat from Rachel Rooney's award-winning collection

The Language of Cat

Teach me the Language of Cat;
the slow-motion blink, that crystal stare,
a tight-lipped purr and a wide-mouthed hiss.
Let me walk with a saunter, nose in the air.

Teach my ears the way to ignore
names that I'm called. May they only twitch
to the distant shake of a boxful of biscuits,
the clink of a fork on a china dish.

Teach me that vanishing trick
where dents in cushions appear, and I'm missed.
Show me the high-wire trip along fences
to hideaway places, that no-one but me knows exist.

Don't teach me Dog,
all eager to please; that slobbers, yaps and begs for a pat,
that sits when told by its own, that's led on a lead.
No, not that. Teach me the language of Cat.

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