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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Christmas Day

Paul Durcan

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To purchase Christmas Day

Title: Christmas Day
Author: Paul Durcan
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1996
Length: 86 pages
Availability: Christmas Day - US
Christmas Day - UK
Christmas Day - Canada
  • Includes Christmas Day and A Goose in the Frost, a tribute to Seamus Heaney after he won the Nobel Prize

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice, effective longer poems

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       This volume contains only two poems, the long title piece and a shorter tribute to Seamus Heaney (in response to his winning the Nobel Prize).
       In Christmas Day Paul Durcan narrates in the first person a Christmas spent with another friend who is on his own, Frank. The poem is divided into fourteen cantos, and flows along easily and gently through the pre-Christmas and Christmas events.
       In part it is a poem about being alone:

Christmas Day
I spend alone
In my cave
Rotating my globe
Musing what it would be like
To spend Christmas Day
With another human being
       Durcan is not bitter or despairingly lonely, though there is some longing for human contact. There is a fair amount of musing about religion as well, as he debates going to mass, or missing it for the first time on Christmas.
       There is conversation between Paul and Frank, reminiscences, seasonal and eternal questions pondered. Durcan ranges far and wide with his straightforward lyrics, from the details of the simple Christmas meal to old loves (a West African nun among them), poetry, Brazil, and a wide range of other topics. Durcan describes himself and Paul as:
       Two Turkeys
Sitting down to Christmas Dinner
In excitement, yet grief,
Mindful of our case histories
       A nice change from the usual Christmas fare -- all the predictable or worn tales, poems, and songs -- Durcan's poem is a successful evocation of this odd day, and his own life.

       A Goose in the Frost is not as leisurely in its approach, the verses somewhat denser, the allusions more elusive. A tribute to Seamus Heaney, it is, like Christmas Day, a personal piece -- with personality itself less at the fore.
       "The end of poetry is innocence", Durcan writes. He invokes a "goose girl" reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins' Margaret in "Spring and Fall":
Waving to the conscience-chasmed priest
Upon the waters of Goldengrove,
A neck in a punt.
       A tribute to the power and potential of poetry, as well as specifically Heaney and his art, A Goose in the Frost is also a very effective piece.

       The collection can certainly be recommended -- and not just for Christmas reading.

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Paul Durcan: Other books by Paul Durcan under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       Irish poet Paul Durcan was born in 1944. He has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award (1974) and the Whitbread Poetry Prize (1990).

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