Picture Book Challenge 2011 PoC Reading Challenge 2011 Poetry-Filled Yuletide Cheer Reading Themes

Christmas Poems – from the GatheringBooks Ladies (A 3-in-1 Collaborative Blogpost)

Our theme for the month. Poster courtesy of the ever-talented Iphigene.

Merry Christmas to one and all! Must have been a late evening for most of you, what with the opening of presents and the noche buena for those who are in the Philippines. For this Holiday season, Fats, Iphigene and myself thought that rather than feast on assorted cheeses, ham, and turkey – we would do a collaborative blogpost once again and we shall be sharing soul food in the form of Christmas poems that moved us.

Myra’s Poem: Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace

The poem that I selected is Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem which she read at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC, during the 1st of December 2005. Only a poet can condense such startling truths in verse. I was also able to find a picture book version of the poem – I have decided to share some of the amazing illustrations from the book illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher in this post.

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
implore you to stay awhile with us
so we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ

Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of
Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace.

We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace.

We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul

Iphigene’s Poem: Mark Strand’s Lines for Winter

(Iphigene): This poem isn’t necessarily a Christmas poem, but Winter and Christmas are close enough associations. I love that this poem is reassuring of the self, it was written by the poet for Ros Krauss who was then suffering depression. I guess, if anything, Christmas is the season of hope and reassurance. I hope you enjoy this as much as  I did.

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and grey falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself–
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in the final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Fats’ Poem: The Shivering Beggar by Robert Graves

Near Clapham village, where fields began, 
Saint Edward met a beggar man. 
It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled, 
The old man trembled for the fierce cold. 
 
Saint Edward cried, “It is monstrous sin
A beggar to lie in rags so thin! 
An old gray-beard and the frost so keen: 
I shall give him my fur-lined gaberdine.” 
 
He stripped off his gaberdine of scarlet 
And wrapped it round the aged varlet, 
Who clutched at the folds with a muttered curse, 
Quaking and chattering seven times worse. 
 
Said Edward, “Sir, it would seem you freeze 
Most bitter at your extremities. 
Here are gloves and shoes and stockings also,
That warm upon your way you may go.” 
 
The man took stocking and shoe and glove, 
Blaspheming Christ our Saviour’s love, 
Yet seemed to find but little relief, 
Shaking and shivering like a leaf. 
 
Said the saint again, “I have no great riches, 
Yet take this tunic, take these breeches, 
My shirt and my vest, take everything, 
And give due thanks to Jesus the King.” 
 
The saint stood naked upon the snow 
Long miles from where he was lodged at Bowe, 
Praying, “O God! my faith, it grows faint! 
This would try the temper of any saint. 
 
“Make clean my heart, Almighty, I pray, 
And drive these sinful thoughts away.   
Make clean my heart if it be Thy will, 
This damned old rascal’s shivering still!” 
 
He stooped, he touched the beggar man’s shoulder; 
He asked him did the frost nip colder? 
“Frost!” said the beggar, “no, stupid lad!
’Tis the palsy makes me shiver so bad.”
 

PictureBook Challenge Update: 133 (120)

PoC Challenge Update: 59 (25)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

3 comments on “Christmas Poems – from the GatheringBooks Ladies (A 3-in-1 Collaborative Blogpost)

  1. All the Blessings for Christmas and the Year ahead, dear Gathering Books Ladies.

    And Thank You for the wonderful collection of Yuletide poems.

    Maria

    Like

  2. Pingback: List of Novels in Verse and Poetry Books for Children and Round-up for January 2012 «

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