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Ten Poems for Fathers for Fathers’ Day

Candlestick Press Anthologies make wonderful little gifts. Very collectable, with titles from Bees to Bicycles, each beautifully-made pamphlet has ten or a dozen poems on a single theme, but taken from a wide range of sources – ancient, modern, translated, or totally new. The booklets cost £6.95, and come with an envelope and a bookmark you can use as a greeting’s card in your gift, all post-able for a regular stamp.

The ten poems about fathers make a very thoughtful Father’s Day offering, with better-found words than you’ll get inside any standard card. Roger McGough’s cold breath of a walk home from the Pantomime to the car holding tight to his daughter as her magic wand slips unseen into the snow, sits alongside the magic realism of Shazea Quraishi’s story of her father as a bear – ‘You May Have Heard Of Me’. Lewis Carroll’s ‘Father William’ turned out to be far wilder and more zany than I remembered – perhaps now I am old I appreciate betterFather William’s antics.

Only missing for me is Theodore Roethke’s ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ – one of my all-time favourites on any subject, and worth pasting in its entirety, formally perfect in waltz time, musical in its rhymes, memorable in its imagery, and cutting no corners where complex emotions are concerned:

My Papa’s Waltz

The whiskey on your breath

Could make a small boy dizzy;

But I hung on like death:

Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans

Slid from the kitchen shelf;

My mother’s countenance

Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist

Was battered on one knuckle;

At every step you missed

My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head

With a palm caked hard by dirt,

Then waltzed me off to bed

Still clinging to your shirt.


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