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Christmas Poems

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Day Ten - Frost Fair: I didn't like this one at all. A morbid last poem I think. I was looking forward to this as I am fascinated by the old fairs on the frozen Thames, but it was all tinged with darkness. Not super festive. UK Poet Laureat Carol Ann Duffy wrote this poem in remembrance of the soldiers in the German and British trenches in World War 1, who declared a momentary unilateral truce in the slaughter at Christmas 1914, in recognition of what united them as human beings, rather than the war that divided them as killing machines. Duffy’s themes include language and the representation of reality; the construction of the self; gender issues; contemporary culture; and many different forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality. She writes in everyday, conversational language, making her poems appear deceptively simple. With this demotic style she creates contemporary versions of traditional poetic forms - she makes frequent use of the dramatic monologue in her exploration of different voices and different identities, and she also uses the sonnet form. Duffy is both serious and humorous, often writing in a mischievous, playful style - in particular, she plays with words as she explores the way in which meaning and reality are constructed through language. In this, her work has been linked to postmodernism and poststructuralism, but this is a thematic influence rather than a stylistic one: consequently, there is an interesting contrast between the postmodern content and the conservative forms. Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture (2005), winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. Duffy’s poetry has always been strong and feminist. This position is especially well captured in herfirst collection, Standing Female Nude,in which the title poem consists of an interior monologue comprising a female model’s response to the male artist who is painting her image in a Cubist style. Although at first the conversation seems to indicate the model’s acceptance of conventional attitudes about beauty in art—and, by extension, what an ideal woman should be—as the poem progresses Duffy deconstructs these traditional beliefs. Ultimately, the poet expresses that “the model cannot be contained by the visual art that would regulate her,” explained DiMarco. “And here the way the poem ends with the model’s final comment on the painting ‘It does not look like me’—is especially instructive. On the one hand, her response suggests that she is naive and does not understand the nature of Cubist art. On the other hand, however, the comment suggests her own variableness, and challenges traditionalist notions that the naked model can, indeed, be transmogrified into the male artist’s representation of her in the nude form. To the model, the painting does not represent either what she understands herself to be or her lifestyle.”

Poet, playwright and freelance writer Carol Ann Duffy was born on 23 December 1955 in Glasgow and read philosophy at Liverpool University. Day One - Mrs Scrooge: a sweet read about the effect one person can have on the world. All the global warming content was a bit sad for a Christmas poem, but it did make me feel all warm and cosy.

King John's Christmas

Duffy’s recent collections include her Collected Poems (2015), The Bees (2011), winner of the Costa Poetry Award and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize; and Rapture (2005) , winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize. Duffy has also written verses for children. Her several collections of children’s poetry include The Gift (2010), New and Collected Poems for Children (2009), and The Hat (2007). Day Five - Bethlehem: the illustrations of this one are absolutely stunning. I enjoyed the focus on the culture of the city rather than the retelling of the story! I feel it's quite often white washed, so this was a refreshing change.

Times Educational Supplement, January 22, 1999, review of The Pamphlet, p. 13; April 23, 1999, review of Five Finger-Piglets, p. 27; December 17, 1999, review of The World's Wife, p. 22; January 19, 2001, John Mole, review of The Oldest Girl in the World, p. F20. Carol Ann Duffy is an award-winning Scottish poet who, according to Danette DiMarco in Mosaic,is the poet of “post-post war England: Thatcher’s England.” Duffy is best known for writing love poems that often take the form of monologues. Her verses, as an Economistreviewer described them, are typically “spoken in the voices of the urban disaffected, people on the margins of society who harbour resentments and grudges against the world.” Although she knew she was a lesbian since her days at St. Joseph’s convent school, her early love poems give no indication of her homosexuality; the object of love in her verses is someone whose gender is not specified. With her 1993 collection, Mean Time,and 1994’s Selected Poems, she would begin to also write about queer love. For anyone who was a teenager in the nineties or later, though, she was already well-known. Her poems are a constant on British school exam syllabuses, although one, ‘Education for Leisure’, was infamously removed by an exam board in 2008. (Duffy responded in verse, penning ‘Mrs Schofield's GCSE', named after an external examiner who complained about the poem, on the importance of poetry.) Nonetheless, Feminine Gospels (2002), as the title suggests, is a concentration on the female point of view. It is a celebration of female experience, and it has a strong sense of magic and fairytale discourse. However, as in traditional fairytales, there is sometimes a sense of darkness as well as joy. Birth, death and the cycles and stages of life feature strongly, including menstruation, motherhood and aging. Duffy’s beloved daughter Ella was born in 1995, and her experience of motherhood has deeply influenced her poetry (as well as inspiring her to write other works for children). Poems such as 'The Cord' and 'The Light Gatherer' rejoice in new life, while ‘Death and the Moon’ mourns those who have passed on: ‘[…] I cannot say where you are. Unreachable / by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable / in the air, even if souls are stars […]’. Little Women, Big Boys (one-act), first produced in London, England, at Almeida Theatre, August 8, 1986.Born in Glasgow and raised in Stafford, Duffy's flat vowels suit her deadpan wit, but even when chatting about iPods and car pools, she will single out words to relish. It's this physical love of language that underpins her poetry for both adults and children. Mosaic (Winnipeg, Canada), September, 1998, Danette DiMarco, "Exposing Nude Art: Carol Ann Duffy's Response to Robert Browning," pp. 25-39. A beautiful collection of Carol Ann Duffy's Christmas poems from the 10 years she was Poet Laurette, exclusively for independent book stores. I read this like an advent calendar over the past 10 days, and here are my thoughts. Never! Christmas is taken very seriously in this household. I believe in Father Christmas and there's no way I'd do anything to undermine that belief.' This beautifully illustrated collection brings together, for the first time, Carol Ann Duffy’s much-celebrated festive poems.

A beautiful book bringing together the works of Carol Ann Duffy from her time as Poet Laureate, for the first time ever. A decade, ten years of much-loved poems alongside beautiful illustrations – this is a book that will be brought out again and again over the Winter period.Day Seven - The Wren-Boys: about the Christmas season in a small town with the wren connecting the stories. I loved this! Felt like people watching. When she was a girl, her mother would invent fairy tales for her. As an adult, she finds the form's archetypes endlessly appealing, along with the danger and darkness and, most of all, the happy endings.

Raised Catholic, Duffy dispensed with religion aged 15, when her convent school became an old people's home. She's escaped the guilt of the lapsed, but remains gripped by a heightened sense of the ritual of language. 'Poetry and prayer are very similar,' she explains. 'I write quite a lot of sonnets and I think of them almost as prayers: short and memorable, something you can recite.' When you have a child, your previous life seems like someone else's,' Duffy tells me over instant coffee. 'It's like living in a house and then suddenly finding a room that you didn't know was there, full of treasure and light. Every day is a gift with a child, no matter what problems you have.' Observer (London, England), August 15, 1999, review of The World's Wife (audio version), p. 14; October 24, 1999, Kate Kellaway, review of Meeting Midnight, p. 13.

An extract from 'Another Night Before Christmas'

As is the case with a lot of poetry, there will be favourites amongst this collection and ones that don’t speak to you as much. This was a mixed book for me with lots of beautiful writing but the occasional piece that I didn’t enjoy quite as much.

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