CLiPPA Shortlisted Sue Hardy-Dawson

The CLPE Children’s Poetry Award (CLiPPA) 2018 shortlist was announced in April. This year’s shortlist celebrates and highlights the diversity of voices in the UK poetry scene, from debut collections, such as Sue Hardy-Dawson’s Where Do Zebra’s Go to legendary John Agard’s The Rainmaker Danced. Here, Sue Hardy-Dawson shares her delight on being shortlisted. 

It was on the way back from a family outing that I heard Otter-Barry Books were going to take my poetry collection. I was ridiculously excited, but also surprisingly anxious. What if I could not make the book that I had long imagined? What if no one liked it? And of course I desperately wanted to be its illustrator, yet knew it was by no means certain I would be allowed.

As a writer you learn that once your work goes to the publisher you have little control of how it appears on the page. This is a difficult thing for me to accept, because poems are intensely personal. Long after their writing I may not be able to recall the date or much else about that day, yet remember vividly the thoughts that triggered them, just where I was when I wrote them, and how they evolved.

Luckily, though, Janetta was very supportive, and she and her team felt that having the author’s illustrations would actually add something ‘special’ to the book. This was really important to me, having lived with these poems for some time and visualised how they might appear on the page. I very much wanted the illustrations to reflect the individual mood of each poem, to give each its unique platform.

I have a large collection of children’s books. Some even that I grew up with, and remember spending many hours with. I especially loved those with lithographs, engravings or lino cuts. These books were my happy place. I would escape into these picture-worlds every bit as much as into the words. So I also wanted to pay homage to the rich heritage of realism. 

However, I think it is also important to recognise when the words are enough. Whereas a picture book relies on the illustrator to expand what is often a very simple narrative, a poem is different – it requires an image that enhances but does not seek to explain or (worse) fight with the words. Also many poems seek to evoke the readers’ own experiences and stimulate their imaginations. It is important not to interfere with that process. And of course, even when a poem begs to be illustrated, the image should not give away all of its secrets.

For instance, ‘The Kiss’, below, explores the dual imagery of the child’s own perceptions and those inferred. Yet what is central to the poem is the mother and child. I liked the idea of using silhouettes because they lend the more serious poems a quiet dignity. As I often work with shading and colour, experimenting with grey tones in painting seemed a very natural thing for me to do.

As I have said, I began this process worrying that my book would not be all that I had hoped, yet Janetta’s team were really supportive of my vision, and helped me to refine what was in essence a quite complicated book and fully realise it. I know that in this I have been really very lucky.

Sue Hardy-Dawson is a Yorkshire born poet, artist, and illustrator, and has been widely published in children’s poetry anthologies. Before becoming a poet she worked with children for over twenty years. In 2014 she was highly commended for the Manchester Writing for Children Prize. She has a degree in Creative Writing, Literature and Supporting Teaching and Learning. Sue has been commissioned to provide workshops for the Prince of Wales Foundation for Children and the Arts. She is dyslexic and takes a special interest in encouraging reluctant readers and writers.

Where Zebras Go, published by Otter-Barry Books, is her debut solo collection and shortlisted for the CLiPPA 2018. Find her on Twitter: @SueHardyDawson and follow @clpe1 and #CLiPPA2018 for all the CLiPPA 2018 news.

You can watch Sue reading THE KISS at

The full shortlist is:

  • John Agard: The Rainmaker Danced, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, Hodder – witty and satirical poems that
    focus on social observations, play with myths and traditional tales and reflect on the nature of humanity.
  • Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme, Amina Jama: Rising Stars, Otter-Barry Books,
    illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners – a showcase for five fresh and exciting emerging
  • Joseph Coelho: Overheard in a Tower Block, illustrated by Kate Milner, Otter-Barry Books – a powerful
    collection, offering glimpses into the challenges of a boy’s life, ingeniously threaded through with fantasy, story,
    myth and magic.
  • Sarah Crossan: Moonrise, Bloomsbury – a moving verse novel for young adults, seen from the viewpoint of a
    young man whose brother is on death row.
  • Sue Hardy-Dawson: Where Zebras Go, Otter-Barry Books – a first solo collection uniting a variety of voices with
    a wide range of poetic forms.
  • Karl Nova: Rhythm and Poetry, illustrated by Joseph Witchall, Caboodle Books – the first published collection
    from a Hip Hop poet, demonstrating the currency and significance of rap as a form, especially for young people.

The winner will be announced on 22nd June in London. For more information and resources, check out This was a guest blog by Sue Hardy-Dawson and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the FCBG. 


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