Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!
My sincerest best wishes to all of you during this season of light, love, and peace!

for an excellent article on Christmas poems.
Also on this site are Christmas poems 
that you can access by clicking on the titles in the left sidebar.

And here's T. S. Eliot's brilliant but little-known poem 
"The Cultivation of Christmas Trees."

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

By T. S. Eliot

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish -- which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to the children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By 'eightieth' meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

The next prompt will be posted on January 1, 2011.
In the meantime, I wish you joy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poetry Prompt #36 – A Letter to Santa

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the famous "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" letter written in 1897 in reply to eight year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's query about whether or not Santa Claus is real (Yes, Virginia - Letter and Reply). I recently read the letter again and thought it might be fun to write letters to Santa this week.

For this prompt, traditional letter format is fine (prose poem style), but you may wish to refine into stanzas once your ideas and images are in place. There are many possibilities: your slant may be serious, humorous, or even satirical (just be wary of seasonal clichés and sentimentalizations). 

Here are a few ideas:

1. Start with a simple "Dear Santa" and write your letter.

2. Typically, a letter to Santa is filled with requests for tangibles, but you may want to ask for things like love, peace, friendship, or forgiveness. You may want to write about a single gift you'd like ("All I Want for Christmas Is __________").

3. Write a letter to Santa from a perspective other than your own (a celebrity, a political figure, a sports person, the earth, something from nature, someone no longer living, an animal).

4. Another option is to write a letter from Santa. Just as the Virginia O'Hanlon story involves a letter and a reply, you might want to write a letter to Santa and his reply to you.

5. How have you been "naughty or nice?" Write a letter poem about your own "behavior," a letter to someone who has treated you badly, or a letter to someone who has treated you well. 

6. If writing a letter doesn't appeal to you, you  might consider writing a poem about this section of the reply to Virginia's 1897 letter. How does this passage speak to you?: “Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poetry Prompt #35 – Parody: The Night Before Christmas

Parody is the imitation of another work, writer, or genre. In poetry, parody is often about burlesquing serious verse for comic or satirical effect. This week, we're going to write parodies of Clement C. Moore's famous poem "The Night Before Christmas" (originally titled "A Visit from Saint Nicholas"). 

To begin, read Moore's "The Night Before Christmas."

Now sample some parodies of the poem. Note how the parodies imitate the style and form of the original but use different language and meaning to alter the text.

Next, think of the content you'd like your poem to contain. Theme? Idea? Think about the examples you read and consider other possibilities. Here are just a few:

The Night Before Christmas (from a Pet's Point of View)
A Mother's/Father's Night Before Christmas
A Poetry Reading the Night Before Christmas
A (Profession Here, Teacher's, Lawyer's, Poet's, Policeman's) Night Before Christmas
A (Person's Name Here) Night before Christmas (This Version is about a Particular Person)
The Night Before _________________(Not Christmas, Anything You Wish)

When you've got an idea in mind, begin writing. You should, of course, model your work after the the original while addressing a completely different subject matter. If the Moore poem is longer than you'd like your parody to be, simply write something shorter. Be sure to follow the rhythm and rhyme schemes of the original poem – that is, maintain the sense of music that Moore created. Allusions to Moore's poem are great to include.

Something that I've done over the years is to write "Night Before Christmas" poems for friends and family members. I print and frame them and give them as gifts – they're fun to write (especially humorous versions), a great way to make friends and family members smile, and an amusing way to share poetry.

Have fun with this! As always, you're invited to post your poems as comments (finished or in draft form) for other blog readers to enjoy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 is a great online anthology edited by Mark Thalman that features dozens of poets' most popular or favorite poems. By invitation only, the poems are presented with short bios, photos, and links to books. Each poet's page concludes with a writer's tip or a comment from the poet. Visually beautiful, the site includes Linda Pastan, Marge Piercy, Tess Gallagher, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Alicia Ostriker, Diane Lockward,  Edwin Romond, and many others. I'm honored to be among them.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Poetry Prompt #34 – Gifts

During this season of giving, many of us are thinking about gifts of one kind or another. Have you ever thought about what gifts mean, why we give them, how giving and receiving gifts makes us feel? This week, let's write about gifts.

Here are some suggestions:

1. What is the most special gift you've ever received? Was the gift something tangible, or was it a spiritual gift? Write a poem about it.

2. What is the most special gift you've ever given? Write a poem about it.

3. Write a "gift" poem addressed to someone special. (Think about gifting your poem to the person who inspired it.)

4. Write a poem about a simple gift with a large meaning.

5. Write a poem about the spiritual gifts of Chanukah or Christmas.

6. Memories can be metaphorical gifts. Read "At Christmas Time," a poem about "Christmases past." Does the poem "speak" to you? If so, try using it as a model for a poem of your own.

7. If you could give a gift to the world, what would it be? Write a poem about this gift. (Alternatively, what gift would you give to someone in your life, someone in need, a special friend?)

8. Read Sara Teasdale's "The Gift." Have you ever given a similar gift that you might write about?