With Christmas approaching (sorry, can’t deny it any longer), I thought that now would be a good time to mention these beautiful pamphlets from Candlestick Press which would definitely make a wonderful present for many people I know, even though their tag line suggests modestly that you might give them “instead of a card.” (which is certainly a brilliant idea).
I’m very fortunate to belong to Town Hall Poets, the Poetry Society Stanza group in Trowbridge which is also one of the inaugural Candlestick Collectives – groups of people who give feedback in return for some free pamphlets. How lucky for us!
Candlestick Pamphlets are beautiful objects to hold and to read. Each comes with its own envelope and a bookmark “left blank for your own message.”
The three latest titles from the press are The Twelve Poems of Christmas: Selected and Introduced by Carol Ann Duffy (Volume Eight – as you’d expect, there are other volumes in this particular series of pamphlets); Ten Poems about Friendship: Selected and Introduced by Lorraine Mariner; and The Woods in Winter (Prose by John Lewis Stempel with poems by Jackie Kay and Nancy Campbell).
Ten Poems about Friendship
The no-nonsense, accessible introduction by Lorraine Mariner explains her criteria for choosing poems and I liked knowing about her selection process: “Poems called ‘friendship’ which were about wanting to be more than friends were out.” I can envisage people of all ages enjoying these poems – I’m thinking of several pre-teens and teenage relatives who are becoming more interested in reading and writing poetry who would like this pamphlet. I think it would be a lovely gift for someone who’d like to read more poetry but isn’t sure where to start – a sampler of ten poems around the same theme is a delicious taster without overwhelming anyone.
I’m really glad that a range of poets are featured: there’s a four-line poem by Stevie Smith (1902 – 1971) and a poem by Edwin Brock (1927 – 1997) as well as poems by contemporary writers, including Mariner herself whose poem about Facebook ‘friends’ made our group laugh out loud although we also found the poem intensely moving. The complicated rules of school ‘best friends’ are addressed in one poem as are friendships experienced in old age and during illness. Poems about loneliness and friends who have died are also included.
Ginny Saunders, another Trowbridge Town Hall poet who has reviewed these pamphlets at her blog calls Ten Poems about Friendship:
a roller-coaster of poignant, funny and sad in a very good way and examines what friendship is to different people or at different stages in life.
Candlestick Press is making a donation to Friends of the Elderly with sales of this title because, as the press explains on its website: “we think that their befriending services for older people are pretty wonderful.” I couldn’t agree more.
Twelve Poems about Christmas
Again, there’s a good mix of old and new and even a brand new poem by the Poet Laureate herself. The words to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas are included as one poem which at first I thought was a mysterious choice – we all know the words already, don’t we? – but then I remembered that, no, actually, we don’t even thought it is a song which is blasted out of shopping centres all December. And seeing words to songs written on a page is a different experience to hearing them sung.
‘Bright Star!’ by Keats sits alongside a poem about ‘Black Friday’ (when goods are discounted in shops) and I love the addition of Sinéad Morrissey’s poem about a winter bazaar run by the Communist Party in Northern Ireland. A poem by Dennis O’Driscoll plays with the notion of The New Year Party as a political party. It’s terrific to showcase so many voices in such a slim volume.
A donation to UNICEF is made from the sales of Candlestick’s Christmas pamphlets.
The Woods in Winter
As I’ve mentioned this is a prose pamphlet book-ended by two seasonal poems. John Lewis-Stempel takes us deep inside a sparse and beautiful wood in winter where we come face to face with nature and seasonal traditions. This would be a good gift choice for anyone who relishes a crisp winter walk. It’s exquisitely illustrated by Angela Harding.
Candlestick Press is making a donation to The Woodland Trust from sales of this pamphlet.
I’ll post more feedback from our group soon. It’s safe to say that, so far, we are all fans of this small publishing company and I know that I’d be extremely happy to receive any of these pamphlets as a gift.