Last Christmas, I read the majority of Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poems, all of which I very much enjoyed. To get us in the mood for the current festive season, I thought that I would amalgamate my short reviews of them all into one post.
Another Night Before Christmas (2010)
This extended poem, about a young girl’s longing to find out whether Santa is real, is just as lovely as ever. The artwork here is gorgeous; minimalist and lovely. A delightful volume.
The Christmas Truce (2011)
This was the first of Duffy’s Christmas poems which I read after finding a lovely little copy for fifty pence in a Notting Hill bookshop, and it evokes one of my favourite historic Christmas stories, that of the 1914 truce between German and English soldiers in the trenches, when they played the famous football match and sang carols. There is such humanity and sensitivity packed into these pages, and it is a true delight to settle down with each winter.
A beautifully illustrated and rather sumptuous poem; perfect for making one think of Christmas past, and the true message of the season – good will to all men.
Alice Stevenson’s art is lovely and fitting, particularly with regard to scenery and still lives, and Duffy is on form with the originality of her wordplay throughout. I particularly enjoyed the use of sibilants, and think that this would be a great volume to read aloud: ‘The moon rose; the shepherd’s sprawled, / shawled, / a rough ring on sparse grass, passing / a leather flask’, for instance. On the whole, it is a really sweet poem which promotes a nice message, but I think it would have been better had it been extended slightly. Still, it is a lovely contemplative Christmas read.
Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday (2014)
I put off reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday when it was first released as Carol Ann Duffy’s annual Christmas poem, but couldn’t resist ordering a secondhand copy to read over Christmas 2016. It’s not that festive, but it is a lovely little volume. The art style is gorgeous, and I loved the use of just a few colours, an effective and evocative choice on the part of the illustrator. The poem itself was sweet; not my favourite Duffy, but a simple and vivid story nonetheless. It is not as playful as a lot of her other work; the vocabulary used is not unusual, and was even a little simplistic in places. Still, I feel that I will probably indefinitely reread this once a year as the festive season rolls around.
The King of Christmas (2016)
I love the fact that The King of Christmas is based upon tradition from the Middle Ages, in which a Lord of Misrule could be appointed to take charge if the original ruler was in need of a break, or some light relief. The art here is very appealing, and Duffy’s rhyme scheme and wordplay worked perfectly. Thoughtful and mischievous, The King of Christmas evokes winters past in rather a magical way. It is a perfect addition to the set.