Archive for December, 2010

Song of the innocents

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

As I understand it, the Catholic Church has today, 28th December, as Holy Innocents’ Day – the one on which King Herod ordered the killing of all the male children in Bethlehem who were two years old, or younger. I think the Greek Orthodox Church marks this slaughter tomorrow. Giotto’s fresco is above; it’s in the Capella degli Scrovegni, outside Padua.

One of Charles Causley’s best known poems is also about Herod. It’s called, in my edition of his collected poems, ‘Innocent’s Song’, although for the life of me I can’t think why the innocent is singular. I don’t suppose it’s a typo, though; I expect Causley had a good reason. Anyway, singular or plural, it’s a wonderful poem: here it is.

INNOCENT’S SONG, by Charles Causley

Who’s that knocking on the window,

Who’s that standing at the door,

What are all those presents

Lying on the kitchen floor?


Who is the smiling stranger

With hair as white as gin,

What is he doing with the children

And who could have let him in?


Why has he rubies on his fingers,

A cold, cold crown on his head,

Why, when he caws his carol,

Does the salty snow run red?


Why does he ferry my fireside

As a spider on a thread,

His fingers made of fuses

And his tongue of gingerbread?


Why does the world before him

Melt in a million suns,

Why do his yellow, yearning eyes

Burn like saffron buns?


Watch where he comes walking

Out of the Christmas flame,

Dancing, double-talking:


Herod is his name.

(My thanks to David Higham Associates for permission to use this poem.)

Flash mob Hallelujah chorus

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

I’m a sucker for flash mobs – I saw a wonderful clog-dancing one on TV a week or two ago. But this one – in a food court in some shopping mall in the States – beats the lot.

Go on, click on the link! Enjoy!

Tuesday poem, Secret Santa edition: ‘Christmas Baubles from Northland’

Monday, December 20th, 2010

In one of those enchanting, life-affirming synchronicities, I’ve been paired with Elizabeth Welsh in the Secret Santa edition of the Tuesday Poem. It’s a lovely way to come back after a five week absence, I can tell you!

Elizabeth Welsh is an editor, writer and Katherine Mansfield academic based in Auckland, New Zealand. In her role of editor, she holds a number of positions, as the New Zealand literature expert for Routledge Academic’s online resource ABES, the academic copy editor for the Journal of Asia-Pacific studies, educational copy editor for the animal rights organisation SAFE, and editor of The Typewriter, a poetry initiative in its third year, dedicated to publishing quality emerging New Zealand poets.

Creatively she writes poetry and short stories and has been published in a variety of online and print publications. Her creative inspiration comes (predominantly) from the New Zealand landscape that she loves to explore.

This particular poem is part of a collection that she would love to have published, which focuses on simple experiences in the landscapes that she grew up in. ‘Christmas baubles in Northland’, quite simply, expresses her returned visits to Northland and to the small but thriving arts communities based there. It is a reflection on how our Christmas ornaments and festoonery make their way to our pine trees and mantelpieces. Watching glass baubles being made in sweltering temperatures beside a tiny harbour reminds her of summer and Christmas time.

And here it is – a beautiful poem, set in my favourite part of the world.

Christmas Baubles from Northland

by Elizabeth Welsh

And then we came home. You bought me liquid

amber bubbles on the quayside banks of

the Hatea river that year.

We had been there before, stood in those rooms

with furnaces at over a thousand, while viscous orbs

became elastic skins full of almond,

rose, indigo, coral and sea-green air.

Paddles beat at the soft glass,

while water-soaked fruit wood curved each molten daub.

And then we came home. You took me

along the harbour, past the glassblowers and the clock museum

and reminded me of Hatea baubles.


Please visit The Tuesday Poem for more Secret Santa treats.

Back on board

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I’ve spent most of the last five weeks or so as sick as a dog. A whole lot sicker, in fact, in comparison with the dogs I know who are all as right as ninepence (why ninepence? I have wondered on my sickbed: must google that). Some horrible virus, since you ask. Yuck. But I’m much better now, and I’ll be posting for the Tuesday Poem Secret Santa later today.

Have to say – it’s good to be back, staying upright for long periods of time, walking and talking when required and sometimes both at the same time.