Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar Day 4: Trees in Winter

Art by Erika Pochybova-Johnson

"And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots down there are riotous." 

~ Rumi

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar Day 3: Starlings

Image result for starlings murmuration

' I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings...'

In this season of waiting and winter, there are many beautiful things... 

Starlings in Winter - Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing, 

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar: Day 2 The Wonder

Image result for white christmas flower

Whatever way you look at it, the Christmas season is a season of wonder. 

The wonder of Christ being born, the wonder of one year ending and another beginning, the wonder of childhood, of generosity, of genuine heartwarming goodwill.

What this poem touches on so well I think is our longing at this time of year to return to that innocent and wondrous state of childhood, all that 'spirit-shocking wonder,' which allows us to see again 'the newness that was in every stale thing'. And to do this, we must leave overindulgence behind and focus on the simplicity of things, the 'heartbreaking strangeness...wherever life pours ordinary plenty'. 

Advent - Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar: Day 1

Image result for literary advent calendar

Well I searched everywhere for such a thing as a 'Literary Advent Calendar' - but no, seems there is no such physical thing. So I'm following the lead of the fabulous Book Riot website and making my own digital one, here. 

Join me for a daily dose of seasonally inspired poetry, literature, music or musing over the next month.

Suggestions warmly welcomed!


Day 1: 
Who better to kick off the seasonal pageant of poetry than Carol Ann Duffy, who as well as being Poet Laureate of Britain is also a sort of Poet Laureate of Christmas, with her many Christmas poem projects. Here she is with her sombre but beautiful take on Advent:

Advent - Carol Ann Duffy

One last silvered leaf fails to fall
from its tree.  A hard year’s winter
has frozen your voice.

                           You would still rejoice
if you could sing, in your listening church -
where candles thrill to their endings,
light’s brave lovers - gold carols
this dark Advent;
                     the hurt heart hearkening:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending.
But there is the descant moon
over our scarred world, its cold, pure breve,
and you will sing to your child
                                   on Christmas Eve.