Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year & Merry (Orthodox) Christmas

Did you sing "Auld Lang Syne" this year? If you did, you owe something to Robert Burns. Find out just what debt that is, by reading "Poems for the New Year" on the Academy of American Poets website (www.poets.org).

Orthodox Christians will soon be celebrating Christmas, so it's not yet too late to enjoy the season's poetic offerings. The Poetry Foundation based in Chicago offers Christmas poems from the archives (www.poetryfoundation.org). Better yet, read new Christmas Carols, poems commissioned by Carol Ann Duffy, published in the Guardian (December 18, 2010) by Duffy, Fleur Adcock, John Agard, Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Maura Dooley, Antony Dunn, Jane Draycott, Ian Duhig, Ruth Fainlight, Ann Gray, James Harpur, Frieda Hughes, Jackie Kay, Michael Longley, Lachlan MacKinnon, Paula Meehan, Grace Nichols, Sean O'Brien, Alice Oswald, Brian Patten, Robin Robertson, Jean Sprackland, Michael Symmons Roberts, Jeffrey Wainwright, Susan Wicks, and Kit Wright. Here are a few samplings. Like T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," Gillian Clarke's "Carol of the Birds" blends hope and sorrow:
Winter sun is cold and low,
mew the kite and crake the crow,
bird of flame, bird of shadow,
ballad of blood on snow.
Ruth Fainlight's poem is in tune with our economic times:
Oh what can ail thee, Santa Claus?
You have a job, though times are hard,
in this well-heated shopping mall.
Thank your lucky stars.
For Grace Nichols, the atmosphere is hot:
O guess who's coming ever gallant through the snow?
Yes, Robin Redbreast my Christmas card hero.
Brian Patten offers natural beauty, to the rhythm of "Jingle Bells":
Why is the old fox smiling,
Trotting through the snow?
What is the rabbit dreaming
In the warren deep below?
Jeffrey Wainwright's Christmas angel is "bored with heaven" and longs to share the human holiday instead:
I'll fold my wings on the tired child
The tearful child
The lonely child
I'll fold my wings on the tired child
So they'll sleep through till morning.
Kit Wright's carol fittingly closes the set on a rhyming couplet:
But when the world about them
Filled with such whopping lies
They could not fail to doubt them,
They found, to their surprise,
The tale of their Redresser,
They viewed with different eyes.
Compared to all the other stuff,
The tale was more than true enough.

"Eastern Orthodox Church" BBC website (June 11, 2008).