As I’ve mentioned before, Town Hall Poets have been sent copies of three new pamphlets from Candlestick Press in return for some honest feedback. Josephine Corcoran has written about the three new titles The Twelve Poems of Christmas, Ten Poems about Friendship and The Wood in Winter at her blog, and you can read Ginny Saunders’ reviews here.

Below, Town Hall poet John Powell shares some of the thoughts going through his head as he read The Twelve Poems of Christmas (Volume Eight – Selected and Introduced by Carol Ann Duffy):

Great introduction making it clear this is not going to be a sugar-coated Xmas bore but real poetry for a real world!! So I am going to read it after all.

And I really enjoyed most of it. Good to have Keats, Smith and Graves – I loved the latter taking on the “fantasy” of “Christmas trees”, “coloured candles” and “grandchildren” directly with “the murderous robin”. Also Roberts’ play on all newborns being gods (well at least firstborns in my experience as a grandparent) and new parents’ worries about being able to manage. And I thought a good mix of old and new with The Party Bazaar reminding me of the Chapel bazaars I was corralled into helping with in draughty Sunday School rooms (unfortunately not followed by the pub) in the sixties and the ultra-modern Black Friday madness. And more doubts about what the future might hold in Icefield and Music From Home. I thought it very fitting to have The Twelve Days of Christmas in the middle.

The one poem I thought misplaced was New Year Party. I assume this is to be read as a rollicking lyric looking forward to a bright new year, but in our current circumstances, given the outcome of at least two significant plebiscites this year, “vote”, “renege on its mandate”, “manifesto”, “recession will give way to steady growth” (if only) , “inauguration” (aaaaagh) etc, etc just filled me with terror. The collection does need a second up-tempo piece to go with the How I’ll Decorate My Tree[ (and that is good fun), but not one using political imagery that is so, so fraught currently. I was unsure about the funny spelling in Apostle – for me it interfered with what I found otherwise to be a beautifully fluent poem.

I don’t know about readership. Usually I wouldn’t touch anything specifically Xmas with a barge pole, but the Introduction did it!

We’ll need as much as possible on themes of “Commonweal”, inclusiveness and looking after each other if poetry is to play a vital role in re-imagining and then re-presenting our society as essentially co-operative in order to contest the current orthodoxy that we should all be in competition with each other and that the poor and other “outsiders” are to blame for all the woes imposed on us by various governments at the behest of the plutocracy.


More reactions from other Town Hall Poets coming soon!