Laureate pens a new 12 days of Christmas

By Andrew Johnson
Sunday 06 December 2009 01:00

If you're looking for a cosy Christmas poem about maids a-milking, then turn the page now. Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, has instead come up with a brand new poem, based on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" but packed with trenchant reminders that there is still plenty to be concerned about even if it is the season of goodwill.

The poem has been commissioned for the Christmas edition of the Radio Times, published today. An exclusive extract is printed here – a verse about loss and separation because of Afghanistan.

The "wonderful, funny and trenchant poem" – according to Radio Times editor Ben Preston – looks at, among other things, Afghanistan, climate change, greedy bankers, politicians' expenses and floods.

Mr Preston said: "Our Christmas edition sells 2.4 million copies, and we thought it would be a great platform for the Poet Laureate."

Duffy, inset, the first female laureate, was appointed to the post in May. "If we think about what's up ahead, with climate change and wars over water, it's very frightening," she said earlier this year.


On the first day of Christmas,

a buzzard on a branch.

In Afghanistan,

no partridge, pear tree;

but my true love sent to me

a card from home.

I sat alone,

crouched in yellow dust,

and traced the grins of my kids

with my thumb.

Somewhere down the line,

for another father, husband,

brother, son, a bullet

with his name on.

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