10th December 2020
It has been widely noted that people seemed to put up their Christmas trees earlier than usual this year. 2020 has been, well, 2020. A year so bad that it’s already entered common slang as an adjective with negative connotations. Any opportunity to bring some festive spirit into our lives has been eagerly taken.
So here at Poetry By Heart we set about creating a festive poetry advent calendar. It cheered us up no end as we scoured anthologies and talked with our project partners at The Poetry Society, the Poetry Archive and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education to create a fresh collection of Christmas poems. Some of the poems are upbeat and cheery good fun, some invite reflection and hope for the future. Some of the poems are well-known and some of them are lost, neglected or forgotten gems. Some of them are classics, some are contemporary.
The poems are all accompanied by an interactive classroom activity and many with performance videos submitted by schools across England and one or two from further beyond.
The poetry advent calendar is yours to enjoy and share with your students and colleagues in school but also with friends and family. Open the door each day, read the poems and imagine how good they’d sound out loud with a solo voice or a chorus of voices and hopefully some smiles!
All of our advent calendar poems are eligible for the 2021 Poetry By Heart competitions, Classic and Celebration, and what better time to learn a poem by heart than these Christmas holidays when so many other activities will be limited…
We love every one of the 24 poems but we confess that there are some clear team favourites – and we’d love to know which ones you especially enjoy. First up for us is ‘Lady Icicle‘ by E. Pauline Johnson, which you’ll find behind the 9th December door. See if you can read this and not visualise icy landscapes, crystalline snowflakes and a sense of dreaminess and warmth.
Little Lady Icicle is dreaming in the north-land
And gleaming in the north-land, her pillow all a-glow;
For the frost has come and found her
With an ermine robe around her
Where little Lady Icicle lies dreaming in the snow…
We also absolutely LOVE the video that goes with it – four young ladies all dressed in white, reciting the poem in parts with a lovely and lively sense of the poem’s musicality. This is the kind of performance we’d love to see in the small group category of the Celebration competition.
Our second team favourite is by the wonderful African-American poet Langston Hughes’ ‘The Carol of The Brown King‘….
Unto His humble
Manger they came
And bowed their heads
In Jesus’ name.
Three wise men,
One dark like me –
Part of His
The video performance we have for this behind the 2nd December door is a reflection of the poem itself; simple and strong. The representation of people of colour has drawn a huge amount of coverage and far-ranging demonstrations of support in the past year. Hughes’ poem is moving and powerful, reaching across the century and speaking to us about the importance of seeing ourselves in the culture that surrounds us.
Last but not least, we are really enjoying Edwin Morgan’s ‘The Computer’s First Christmas Card‘, the poem behind the 7th December door…
It’s completely off-the-wall, an unusual poem that has proved an unexpected favourite. We weren’t even sure it could be recited but the brilliant thing about working with children and young people is just how often they turn your assumptions upside down and prove you entirely wrong! We totally recommend watching the breathless belter of a video recitation that we were sent that is on the poem page. It is nothing short of awesome, in the full awe-inspiring sense of the word!
Thank you to all the students, teachers and schools who produced all the wonderful video performances.
Here’s wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas, and much rest and relaxation after the longest term ever in the history of education.