In Competition No. 3030 you were invited to provide a poem entitled ‘January’.
I mentioned William Carlos Williams, R.S. Thomas and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the brief for this challenge, all of whom wrote poems with ‘January’ as their title. But that most maligned of months also lands a starring role in the opening stanza of George Barker’s charming poem ‘January Jumps About’: ‘January jumps about/ in the frying pan/ trying to heat/ his frozen feet/ like a Canadian…’
Freezing temperatures were very much on your minds, too, and for hot-flush-ridden Jayne Osborn they are a cause for celebration. The winners printed below are rewarded with £25. Chris O’Carroll is overall champ and earns £30.
One face surveys the long, cold month behind,
One contemplates the deep, short freeze ahead.
Too much of nature on your watch, you find,
Is more than metaphorically dead.
Yours is the standstill at the end and start:
The pied, bright spring will flourish from this ice;
Refreshed from every flower’s fragrant heart,
The air will soften as it wells with spice;
From silver frost a golden sun will climb,
Gilding green pastures, warming every beach;
The crops and herds will fatten in their time,
Full of those lessons plenty has to teach;
But once brief bounty has been stored away,
The harsher lessons learned from scarcity
Will loom; the cold truth of the shortest day
Will dim the world your backward gaze can see.
Of January wary be!
The fairy on the Christmas tree
Can wave no more her magic wand,
She’s in the loft, she won’t respond.
A cold east wind from Europe blows
But what it augurs no one knows,
It bites the ears and seems to moan
‘We’ll freeze you out. You’re on your own.’
Then, turning to the west, we hear
The Mighty Trump sound loud and clear:
A wild, discordant blast that hails
More vehement storms and violent gales;
This month bodes ill but all’s not lost,
The spring might yet unfreeze the frost,
And kinder months are on their way,
There’s always hope, there’s always May!
Cooler month, you find us huddled
In the ashes, ex-Noelled;
Overhung, contrite and muddled
Needing Christmas fog dispelled.