It’s coming, whether you like it or not.
But to while away the time leading up to it, I’ve been trying to think of literary memories, from a personal point of view, to better engage with this extravagant festival.
One of the things I do remember is from when I was living in London in the ’80s. I had just left a well-paid job in a library to study on a post-graduate printing and publishing course. I also owned an Adana Press and was trying to print a small booklet of my poems on it.
In case you don’t know (and why should you?), the Adana was a tiny printing press ideal for letterpress printing, using proper metal type all squidged by hand into a metal frame.
Once the frame was locked in the press you inked a metal disc (again by hand – everything on the Adana was done by hand), and with one pull of a handle the ink would be taken off the disc, transferred to two thin rollers, thence onto the surface of the type and impressed, all in the same action, onto a single sheet of paper or card..
Madness! But ideal for printing very small runs of business cards, letterheads etc. Which was what I was mostly using it for. The booklet was a step too far, but at the time I was very much into the craft aspect of print.
Laid paper, hand stitching, letterpress – fashioning a unique object, invested with the energy and attention of one person. William Morris eat your heart out.
Totally useless way to make money.
Perhaps that’s why I liked it.
The booklet never got properly bound, but I did print and circulate some rough copies. I did it more for the experience I suppose, but I also used the Adana for another purpose: to print poem cards. And distribute them at Christmas (can you tell I was a bit skint at the time?).
The one that sticks in my mind featured a poem by Thomas Hardy – The Oxen.
I didn’t really like Hardy then, preferring Ted Hughes, Yeats and others, but it was one of the few Christmas poems that resonated with me. It’s reproduced below. I won’t interpret it for you, as poetry is a subjective thing, but it was well received by my relatives and friends. I even printed a lino-cut on the other side.
Sadly none of them remain (the cards not the relatives), nor do any of the booklets. Although I do have some copies of an erstwhile fiction magazine I edited, printed (I had a bigger A3 press by then) and published, called Inverse. Maybe, one day, a collector’s item…
Anyway, enough of me, what about you? What literary pieces do you personally associate with Christmas?
It would be nice to know, and while I don’t particularly enjoy the festival or its sentiments, it’s a good excuse for a break at least.
Not that I really NEED one of those.
So feel free to email me or the rest of the Write Now! list with your own memories and/or reflections. I’d like to include them in the next Newsletter, which will save you all from hearing more about me.
Here’s the poem. I love it.
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there< To doubt they were kneeling then. So fair a fancy few would weave In these years! Yet, I feel, If someone said on Christmas Eve, "Come; see the oxen kneel "In the lonely barton by yonder coomb Our childhood used to know," I should go with him in the gloom, Hoping it might be so. Thomas Hardy