Christmas Lights

They’re putting up the lights strung out on poles
along the harbour wall, the dark young lads
in oily overalls; and there’s a tree
built out of creels out at The Point, as though
a pagan pendant on a flimsy string
of beads, defiant, and alluring as
the Sirens’ phantom lighthouse.
                                           And upstairs
in dim bedrooms the girls undress and dress;
the boys smirk at the mirror mouthing chat-
up lines from movies.
                                   Now the village is
en fête: dressed for a party in the dark,
across the fields, along uneven paths, 
a low-roofed barn with steamed-up windows and 
a fiddler and her band. And Christmas lights. 

by Stephen Keeler

News from the Centre: this evening we are excited to host the prizewinning and shortlisted poets from this year’s International Poetry Competition, judged by Kayo Chingonyi. You can find the winning poems and the shortlist here. Everyone is very welcome to attend; just visit this page for more details.

On Thursday 29 November at Waterstones in Oxford we will be helping to launch a new poetry anthology called Wretched Strangers. Featuring work by an exciting range of contributors, the anthology – edited by JT Welsch and Ágnes Lehóczky – marks the vital contribution of non-UK-born writers to this country’s poetry culture. You can find more information and register to attend the event here, and find out more about the book  here.

Feeling festive? This week’s poem comes from the brand new pamphlet Christmas Lights: Ten Poems for Dark Winter Nights published by Candlestick Press. Candlestick has also just published another Christmas pamphlet, Ten Poems about Robins. 

Notes from Candlestick Press: 

‘Christmas Lights’ is copyright © Stephen Keeler, 2018. It is reprinted from Christmas Lights: Ten Poems for Dark Winter Nights , published by permission of Candlestick Press.

Stephen Keeler worked in educational publishing and international education for 35 years before moving from London to ‘the edge of the map’, to write, in 2010. He won the first Highland Literary Salon Poetry Prize in 2012 and a Scottish Book Trust New Writing Award in 2015. His poems have appeared in Northwords NowSouth Bank Poetry, the Glasgow Review of BooksGutterand The Poets’ Republic. He was shortlisted for the 2018 Winchester Poetry Prize. His pamphlet While You Were Away(2018) is published by Maquette Press. A full-length collection will be published by Red Squirrel early in 2020. You can follow his work on Twitter.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press based in Nottingham and has been publishing its sumptuous ‘instead of a card’ poetry pamphlets since 2008. Subjects range from Birds and Rivers to Tea, Kindness, Home and Puddings. Candlestick Press titles are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, as well as by galleries, museums and garden centres. They can also be ordered online where you can find out more about the full range of titles. Follow Candlestick on Twitter or find it on Facebook. In 2017 Candlestick sold over 70,000 pamphlets.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.