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Violet Nesdoly PhotoGive Poetry for Christmas
Copyright©2008 by Violet Nesdoly

This is our fourth column in Violet's "Poet's Classroom" series.

“A great gift is one that surprises and delights … and a book of poems can be a great gift—though, of course, it can also be one of those gifts that the recipient examines in pained silence, with a forced smile, as if it were a box of deceased clams. But one should be willing to take a chance on something as brilliant and gorgeous as poetry.” So begins Garrison Keillor’s short piece, “The Poetry Gift List.”

With Christmas just around the corner and many names on my list, Mr. Keillor's advice to give books of poems has me thinking of other ways to give poetry this Christmas. Here are six suggestions.

1. Gift Subscriptions

Buy someone a gift subscription to a poetry magazine. I suggest Time of Singing. This non-glossy chap-book-style publication comes out four times a year. Three issues consist of 44 pages chock full of poems and line drawings. A fourth half-issue contains reviews of poetry books and some poems. It's a treasure well worth the cost of a year’s subscription. Visit the web site to see the style of poetry Time of Singing publishes and get information on how to subscribe.

Another possibility, The Penwood Review, is published twice yearly. Visit the web site to see Penwood’s poetry style and obtain subscription information.

2. Framed Poem

Pick a favorite poem, then print, mat and frame it. If you've taken Dick Hayes' advice and written a poem for a special occasion (wedding, anniversary or funeral), Christmas might be the time to present it in this lasting form.

A friend framed one of my poems in this way, using a mat decorated with flowers she had dried. The result was a beautiful keepsake.

At the right is a beautifullly example of a poem by Ev Heffernan, decorated with dried flowers and framed.

You can make such a gift unique in several ways. Use handmade or specialty papers and mats. Print the poem in an interesting font. Decorate the piece with objects such as shells, pebbles, raffia, or buttons. Finally, set it in a frame that enhances the subject.

3. Blank Journal

Poetry journals
Click for larger image
  Utmost Poet Laureate Jan Wood designs and crafts handsome leather-covered, 100-page journals for the gardener ("Garden Lore: Herbs and Words"), the musician ("Music Fusion: Arias to Zydecos") and the everyday journalist ("Bone and Quill – A Scrivener's Impressions").


There are bits of original poetry on nearly every page of these hand-bound books with plenty of room for personal entries. The music journal has many pages with blank music staffs (for those who doodle in notes and rests) and both the music and garden journals have several complete poems.

These unique journals sell for $30 Cdn. ($25 each plus $5 per journal for shipping within Canada).

To order contact Jan Wood soon for pre-Christmas delivery.

4. Calendar

Design, print and give calendars to family and friends. Most word processing or desktop publishing software contains templates for making calendars. Use photos and poems to personalize these creations. With a new page and poem for every month, your gift will keep giving all year long.

If you don't have suitable poems of your own for every month or season, no problem. The Poetry Foundation has a handy poem finder. You can search for poems in a variety of ways including by category, occasion, title and first line. With 3000+ poems by over 250 poets on file, chances are you'll find something usable. However, there are terms of use associated with this web site. For example, you will want to make sure that any poem you publish in this way is in the Public Domain and that your use of it doesn't violate copyright law.

5. Christmas Cards

This Christmas instead of sending mass-produced cards with the sentiments of some writer at Hallmark or Dayspring, send cards with your own Christmas poem. Buy ready-made blank Christmas cards, or design your own using card stock. Print your poem on a separate sheet of bond, parchment or vellum. Trim the poem sheet to a size slightly smaller than the opened blank card. Fold it in the center and align that fold with the center fold of the opened card. Lightly glue the right or bottom half of the poem sheet onto half of the card to keep it from shifting position. You can find some neat ideas here.

6. Chapbook

Perhaps you have written enough poems to publish a personal poetry chapbook and give it as a gift. With a home computer and printer you may choose to print, collate, staple, and fold a small run. Or design the book, print one copy, and take it to a photocopy or print shop to make the number of books you need. (Some print shops prefer the manuscript in pdf format, delivered on a CD instead of hard copy. Check with your printer.). Instructions on how to make a basic saddle-stitched chapbook are available online. You can add visual interest to these books by using special fasteners, ribbon, raffia or twine.

7. Poetry Books

Of course there's Mr. Keillor's advice that sparked this article in the first place—to give poetry books by recognized and published poets. He suggests books by Maxine Kumin, Raymond Carver, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins and Elizabeth Bishop. I'd like to add a few of my personal favorites.

Earth Against Your Cheek by Linda Siebenga

This would be a good choice for the champion of social justice or the nature lover on your list.

Siebenga Poetry book

I Am the Poem by Alvin Ens
The 2006 Word Guild Award winner, "I Am the Poem," might be appropriate for someone who enjoys word play and appreciates life's ironies.

Ens Poetry Book

The Ordering of Love—the New and Collected Poems of Madeline L'Engle is a fat volume of almost 200 poems including twenty-seven previously unpublished. This book is a feast for those who appreciate poems about Bible characters, grand themes of the faith, love and everyday life.

L'Engle Poetry Book

Poiema by D. S. Martin
A new collection of 64 poems published in October, 2008. These skillfully crafted poems about family and faith include six selections from Martin's book, So the Moon Would Not Be Swallowed, (an Award of Merit winner in The Word Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards—Special Books category).

Martin Poetry Book

Family Reunion by Violet Nesdoly
Editor's Note: Although Violet neglected to include her own book in this column, "Family Reunion," deserves to be on anyone's list of great poetry books to give for Christmas!

Nesdoly Poetry Book

For other poetry books suggestions, visit the Poetry Book Sales page on the Utmost site.

Did you find this article helpful? Please let us know.

Copyright ©2008 by Violet Nesdoly