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A Reader Poetry Advent Calendar

Written by Rachael Norris, 24th December 2019

In the run-up to Christmas we have been sharing our favourite seasonal poems to get you into the festive spirit.

It’s our first Christmas in the refurbished Mansion House at Calderstones, visitors who have dropped by in December might have seen our Poetry Advent Caldendar in the entrance and even picked up a poem to pass on to a family member, friend or loved one.

In case you haven't been able to make it to the Mansion House, here are our 24 poems from this December. Reader Leaders can also download the selections to read and share with their groups from The Reader Community Hub.

December 1st: ‘Boy at the Window’, Richard Wilbur

Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.

December 2nd: ‘Leaf-Huts and Snow Houses’, Olav H Hauge (translated by Robin Fulton)

I remember leaf-huts
we built
when we were small:
to creep in and sit
listening to the rain,
feel alone in the wilderness,

December 3rd: ‘Those Winter Sundays’, Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

December 4th: ‘The Snow Man’, Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

December 5th: ‘December Stillness’, Siegfried Sassoon

December stillness, teach me through your trees
That loom along the west, one with the land,
The veiled evangel of your mysteries.

December 6th: ‘A Christmas Carol Poem’, G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

December 7th: ‘O Thou Whose Face Hath Felt The Winter’s Wind’, John Keats

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.

December 8th: ‘A Christmas Carol’, George Wither

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
A bag-pipe and a tabor.

December 9th: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, Clement C Moore

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

December 10th: Mistletoe, Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,

December 11th: ‘Party Night’, UA Fanthorpe

Busiest night of the year
Six-course corporate dinner,
Everything’s gotta be OK-
Coffee, mints, walnuts, wine-
Wassail, as you might say.

December 12th: ‘The Oxen’, Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

December 13th: ‘Christmas Life’, Wendy Cope

Bring in a tree, a young Norwegian spruce,
Bring hyacinths that rooted in the cold.
Bring winter jasmine as its buds unfold –
Bring the Christmas life into this house.

December 14th: ‘Fragment for the Dark’, Elizabeth Jennings

Let it not come near me, let it not
Fold round or over me. One weak hand
Clutches a foot of air, asks the brisk buds
To suffer grey winds, spear through
Fog I feel in me.

December 15th: ‘Christmas’, Diana Hendry

Christmas happens in an unimaginable
place – in a city store with canned music –
in the street with a stranger

December 16th: ‘A Backward Spring’, Thomas Hardy

Yet the snowdrop’s face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it’s worth the fight
This year with frost and rime
To venture one more time

December 17th: ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

December 18th: ‘Christmas Light’, May Sarton

And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love’s presence near.

December 19th: ‘Voices in the Mist’, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The time draws near the birth of Christ:
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

December 20th: ‘A Song for a Christmas Tree’, Louisa May Alcott

Come and gather as they fall,
Shining gifts for great and small;
Santa Claus remembers all
When he comes with goodies piled.

December 21st: ‘London Snow’, Robert Seymour Bridges

All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:

December 22nd: 'Birds' Nests', Edward Thomas

The Summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,
Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,
Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,
Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.

December 23rd: 'December', John Clare

While snow the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o'er the pitcher's rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;

December 24th: 'A Visit from St. Nicholas', Clement C Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

Let us know which poem spoke to you most in the comments below. Merry Christmas from all at The Reader!

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