Christmas Countdown: Five Poems to Read over Christmas if . . .

…you like classical rhyme try ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ by Clement Clarke Moore

 You’ll recognise this poem from its first line ‘‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house’. If you don’t, then you have even more reason to read it. Clement Clarke Moore manages to sustain his playful use of rhyme that makes this poem a classic to read to your younger cousins.

Relatively lengthy, A Visit from St Nicholas, builds a detailed narrative and characterises St Nicholas in a wholesome manner that fills everybody with joy. If you are wanting a bit of feel good improv to liven up your house Christmas Dinner, why not go for a re-enactment of the poem and spread your Christmas cheer.

Favourite line: “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! / On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”

a visit from st nicolas.jpg


…you want something contemporary try ‘Aubade with Burning City’ by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is American contemporary poetry’s best kept secret and is definitely one to check out if you want to appreciate some challenging and complex work. Aubade with Burning City evokes the moment that Armed Forces Radio played White Christmas as a code for troops to evacuate from Vietnam.

Vuong intersperses the lyrics with powerful imagery such as ‘a nun, on fire / runs silently towards her god’ and ‘milkflower petals on the street’ to create an intimacy that turns eerie. The form gives constant energy and an inevitability that is refreshing in the world of Christmas related poetry.

Favourite line: “The city so white it is ready for ink.”

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…you like art and typography try ‘A Christmas Truce’ by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by David Roberts

Duffy has a Christmas Tradition to write and publish, in beautifully illustrated editions, a Christmas themed poem. Some of the more recent of these include The King of Christmas, Another Night Before Christmas and Bethlehem: A Christmas Poem. Making this list however, is A Christmas Truce.

Written for Armistice Day in 2011, Duffy captures both sides of the trenches with occasional lines in German. Typical Christmas imagery is subverted with the reminder of loss of life, and Duffy balances this beautifully throughout.

Favourite line: “Silver frost on barbed wire strange tinsel, / sparkled and winked.”

 the christmas truce.jpg


…you want one you haven’t heard before try ‘Christmas in India’ by Rudyard Kipling

 In this poem Rudyard Kipling is celebrating Christmas in a different climate and far from home in Christmas in India. It is poignant and for those who might be abroad and want to remember ‘making merry’.

As a child, Kipling often spent his Christmas’ away from his parents and in the company of his aunt and uncle. Writing this poem, he is likely to be remembering the magic of Christmas at that young age and yearning for the excitement and adventure that his early years bought him.

 Favourite line: “As the sun is sinking slowly over Home”



…you want to bring back childhood memories try ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss

A classic film, but also a classic poem, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is fun, memorable, and is perfect for those friends and family scrooges who get tired of celebrating throughout the whole month of December.

If you want to learn a thing or two about rhythm, Dr Seuss is well known for creating poems that read themselves. It’s very hard not to read this poem in one sitting, despite its length, and once you have finished you might want to read it again. Just to build the Christmas spirit once more!

Favourite line: “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. / Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”



                                                                                                                       – Bebe Ashley

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