The introduction to this December Newsletter is largely in praise of a poem turned into a beautiful Christmas carol that millions will sing this Christmastide. Why not some more poetry for the season?
In addition to Christina Rossetti I would recommend the poetry of U.A. Fanthorpe (1929-2009) and especially her delightful little book
(Paperback, 2002). Ursala Fanthorpe began writing poetry as a young girl but only published her first book of poetry in middle-age at 49. She was born in south-east London and was the daughter of a judge, or as she put it, of “middle-class but honest parents”. She taught English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College for 16 years but abandoned teaching for jobs as a secretary, receptionist and hospital clerk. In her poems she remembered many of her patients for whose records she was responsible. I like this poem from her Christmas book:
BC - AD
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Un-invented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
Another poet on my radar this Advent and Christmas is Malcolm Guite (b. 1957) who is also an academic and priest. Ian Markham, the Dean of the Virginia Seminary, chose a Christmas poem by Guite to grace the inside cover of his Christmas card to Virginia alumni this year.
Christmas On The Edge
Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.