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Poem: Decorating the Tree, written for London's Trafalgar Square Christmas tree


Read Decorating the Tree, a poem written by children, poets and Kevin Crossley-Holland to celebrate the lighting of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree in London

Every year since 1947 Norway's capital city Oslo has sent London a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square, as a mark of thanks for Britain's support during the second world war. This year's 20 metre high tree has arrived in Trafalgar Square and children and poets worked together to create a poem for the official lighting-up ceremony last night.

The poem, Decorating the Tree, was read out during the ceremony by three pupils from St Peter's Eaton Square primary school and the words will be displayed on banners around the tree until 6 January next year.

The poets and children from schools around London were brought together by the Poetry Society and the Royal Norwegian Embassy on the Look North More Often project. Poets Lindsay MacRae, Cheryl Moskowitz and Coral Rumble led workshops for the children, inspiring them to see how objects, when given as presents, can represent more than their worth.

Kondwani Kadzeya, 10, said "I liked writing the poem as it was nice to be part of a bigger thing with other schools... I love literacy and it was nice to express myself."

Kevin Crossley-Holland, author of the Arthur trilogy, has been involved in the project since its inception and he took the material produced by the workshops, entwining the words and images to create the Christmas poem. The "wonderful" project "develops literacy, environmental awareness and – crucially – a sense of community," he said. Alice Evans, 10, thought that "[t]he poem was really clever as Kevin used lots of ideas from our school but made them make sense."

The tree itself is between 50 and 60 years old and is known as the Queen of the Forest. According to Cheryl Moskowitz, the tree is a celebration of much more than Britain and Norway's wartime alliance - it's a symbol of "friendship, pride, tolerance and sharing peace."

Decorating the Tree by Kevin Crossley-Holland

A new poem grown from the ideas, images and lines of London primary schoolchildren. Commissioned by the Poetry Society 2013

I am your tree. I grew in the north,
Year by year in the seasoned earth.
Sift, white shift, snowflakes, stars:
I was storm-shelter for carolling birds.
Dear creatures, what gifts have you brought?

The fresh mint of light. The dancing moon.
The hooves of reindeer, prancing on air.
The boom of a waterfall.
Wreaths of mist, twisting, rising.
We bring you time, come and gone.

I am ancient and always young
And I speak with countless tongues.
Your Tree of Life, your Guardian Tree,
I'll watch over you by night and day.
Dear creatures, what gifts have you brought?

Oh, so many! A friend for always.
Laughter. Upside down frowns.
Skateboarding from roof to roof.
The best parts of our own best memories.
We bring you hopes. We bring our dreams.

But darker than bats' wings – we're afraid
Of the dark. This dread, this ache
Before we wake. So far from home.
That man with a gun. Being alone.
We bring our fears. We bring sorrows.

I'm your World Tree, scarred long ago,
Oozing, sharp as hoar-frost on a bough.
I creak and groan but I rise above gloom
And wherever you are, I'll be your home.
Dear creatures...

I am a gift. So are you,
and I'll feed you blossom and sweet fruit.
I laugh, I weep, I wait in patience,
I sing for the healing of all nations.
Dear creatures...

This is all a waking dream
and I'll remember it for ever,
Our trembling tree where we are one.
If I could, I'd give you my name.
I'll give you my heart. I'll give you love.

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