December Musings by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
I hope all readers are well ahead with plans for their Christmas festivities and manage to steer through the holidays without too much overindulgence or family arguments! This time is very much about family but of course there are many different kinds of family, each with their own traditions. Sometimes it is difficult to mesh all of that together. I have always organised a very British Christmas, tree, turkey and all (as far as possible, if I was working abroad) but my Sudanese family have always joined in, entering into the spirit of things!
It is also a time to remember those who may be homeless or far from home. With so much turbulence in the world many people will not be in the comfort of home this year. I am very pleased to be running two poetry workshops for Suffolk Archives in early 2024, linked to their excellent new exhibition ‘Arrivals’ about migration to Suffolk since the end of the Second World War. There was migration from Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Poland, Romania and the Caribbean to name just a few of the places from which people travelled. The theme of the workshops will be ‘home’, what it means and how the memory of home accompanies those on the move. The workshops very much link to the collaboration between artist Sula Rubens and myself which resulted in our poetry and art book ‘Sleeping Under Clouds’ (Clayhanger Press).
To lighten the mood, here is a Christmas poem I wrote which Ink, Sweat and Tears published in 2018 as part of their special feature of slant poems Twelve days of Christmas which starts 21st December each year, so do check their website on that date this year.
Every bit of holly
every red berry
a sharp reminder
as Christmas moves in
of good will
mince pie indulgence
before this guest
bows out to New Year.
Charles Causley wrote twelve poems for children about Christmas which feature in the book Bring in the Holly (published by Frances Lincoln Childrens’ Books), which I have just ordered and should arrive in time for Christmas. I am looking forward to reading that with a seven-year-old I will have staying over the holiday. Also, his poem ‘At Candlemas’ features in another book I have, The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems, published by Oxford University Press which has been reissued several times since 1983. It is widely available to order on the internet. It is a great book to dip into or to read from if you are at a poetry gathering which wants a Christmas poem. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘Christmas Bells’ has resonance today with its sentiments about wishing for peace in a world where ‘hate is strong’. This is the first stanza of the poem which was written in 1864:
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of ‘Peace on Earth, good will to men’
I wish all readers a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
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Sue Wallace-Shaddad was born and brought up in Suffolk and now lives there. Sue has an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University with the Poetry School London. She is Secretary of the Suffolk Poetry Society, organizes poetry events and reads her poetry regularly in venues around Suffolk. Sue is the digital writer in residence for Causley Trust’s ‘The Maker’ blog.