A Christmas card for 2016, from Ann Pilling.
'The Glory'. An 18th century altar piece in St Michael's Church, Framlingham, Suffolk.
In the centre is the ancient monogram for Jesus, using Greek capital letters.
Lovely boy, again it is your first coming,
and I make notes, guests, lists, the tree,
while you in that calm womb of hers
wait patiently to be set free.
You know already that your time is short
for all your works of love, gnarled limbs made straight
blind eyes unsealed and the nine leapers leaping
on, on along the road and out of sight.
I want to be the tenth who gave you thanks
who clasped your feet, looked in your fabulous face,
thanking you now for all that is to come
your works of love, the cross, your work of grace.
Ann Pilling 2016
I am a poet but also a writer of fiction, mainly for children. You may know of me through a story I wrote 35 books ago called Henry’s Leg. This won the 1986 Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction because, they told me, ‘it says serious things cheerfully.’ Through the TV adaptation I was able to buy a tiny house in the Yorkshire Dales which has become (as D H Lawrence said of his bit of Nottinghamshire) ‘the country of my heart’.
In recent years I moved from Oxford to a permanent home in my heart country, reconnecting with my Northern roots. Life is a poem I have written about this move.
I have written poetry all my life but on my 60th birthday did I decide to set children’s writing aside and focus on poetry. Writing all those books for children has been a good training ground. I have chewed over many millions of words before committing a few select ones to paper (children like directness, pithyness, strong colour and they deserve the best). Emily Dickinson advised few words in a poem then added 'but they must be the chiefest words'. In weaving stories for the young, and not so young, I have sat for many years on my poetic instinct. The poet Kate Clanchy said that my poems have ‘the passion of long-stored speech’ so perhaps waiting for so long to ‘focus’ has had its benefits.
Like me, Thomas Hardy did not turn to poetry until he was 60. Watch this space!