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January’s Stories and Poems – literature to lift the spirits

Written by Rachael Norris, 13th January 2021

A new year and a new month also brings a new selection of Stories and Poems to enjoy. We know that things feel hard and uncertain at the moment, and hope that January’s selections of literature can bring some light, comfort and inspiration, whether you read them online, over the telephone or just for yourself.

Relationships of all kinds come through in this month’s stories and prose extracts; some unexpected, some troubled and some remembered in reflection. The ordinary and mundane detail of life coincides with bigger emotions, and in some cases emotions spill over while in others they feel repressed, perhaps to the detriment of family life.

January’s prose titles are:

‘The Door’ by Helen Simpson

‘A New Year’s Gift’ by Guy de Maupassant (translated by Chris Beasley)

‘The Uses of English’ by Akinwumi Isola

‘Old Letters’, extract from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

‘The Third Bank of the River’ by João Guimarães Rosa (translated by William L Grossman)

This month’s poetry choices offer a chance to reflect on where we find ourselves and how we navigate the world, which feels all the more important when we think about staying in one place for a prolonged amount of time. This time of year is one which often gives rise to new ideas and ambitions, but perhaps there is much to be found in coming back to a place as there is in discovering new ground.

‘Habitation’ by Margaret Atwood

‘The Hyphen as Surf-board’ by Rogan Wolf

‘New Year Resolve’ by May Sarton

‘Returning to the Fields’ by Tao Yuanming (translated by Arthur Waley)

‘A Writer’s Life’ by Derek Mahon

A special thanks to Diane for recommending the Derek Mahon poem, which sounds like it went down very well in her group.

If you're a Reader Volunteer, all of November’s Stories and Poems can be downloaded from the Online Community Hub here in The Reader Library.

If you’re after further suggestions of great reads, take a look at our Daily Readings calendar for January, which has the theme ‘Recalled To Life’ – download the calendar here.

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