Get your membership for Christmas: last recommended UK posting day 18 December


Ian McMillan
The Game: Christmas Day, 1914

It is so cold.
The lines of this poem are sinking
Into the unforgiving mud. No clean sheet.

Dawn on a perishing day. The weapons freeze
In the hands of a flat back four.
The moon hangs in the air like a ball
Skied by a shivering keeper.
All these boys want to do today
Is shoot, and defend, and attack.

Light on a half-raised wave. The trench-faces
Lifted till you see their breath.
A ball flies in the air like a moon
Kicked through the morning mist.
All these boys want to have today
Is a generous amount of extra time.

No strict formations here, this morning;
No 4-4-2 or 3-5-1
No rules, really. Just a kickabout
With nothing to be won
Except respect. We all showed pictures,
I learned his baby’s name.

Now clear the lines of this poem
And let’s get on with the game.

No white penalty spot, this morning,
The players are all unknown.
You can see them in the graveyards
In teams of forgotten stone;
The nets are made of tangled wire,
No Man’s Land is the pitch,
A flare floodlights the moments
Between the dugouts and the ditch.

A hundred winters ago sky opened
To the sunshine of the sun
Shining on these teams of players
And the sounds of this innocent game.
All these boys want to hear today
Is the final whistle. Let them walk away.

It has been so cold. The lines
Of these poems will be found, written
In the unforgotten mud like a team sheet.
Remember them. Read them again.



This new poem was inspired by ideas, images and lines written by young British footballers from Premier League under-12 teams during visits to the Ypres battlefields in November 2014. It has been commissioned by the Poetry Society and Barclays Premier League to mark the centenary of the Christmas Truce and been translated into Flemish, French and German. Find out more about the project, and our other First World War Centenary work.


Poetry Society Events

Poetry @ 3 (open mic), Poetry Cafe
Stanza Bonanza: Walthamstow v Enfield
The Poetry Review winter launch - London
Poetry @ 3 (open mic), Poetry Cafe
1-1 Poetry Surgery, Edinburgh

Events Calendar>

First World War Centenary

The Poetry Society's programme of events, resources and collaborations marking the centenary of the First World War. Plus a small selection of First World War poetry.

Café current show

Dylan and Caitlin's World. The Photographs of Nora Summers, I Dec -17 Jan 2015.

Canal Laureate News

Visit the Waterlines website

Four canal-themed filmpoems by poets Jo Bell, Liz Berry, Ian Duhig and Ian McMillan, produced by Alastair Cook and in partnership with The Canal & River Trust


... latest poetry news ...

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Inua Ellams wins £1000 Live Canon poetry competition

Dylan Thomas' notebook sold for £104k

War poet Isaac Rosenberg recognised in archive footage from the trenches

Poet and long-standing Poetry Society member Susan Grindley has died

PS Member Mara Bergman wins Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet competiton. PS Members Barbara Cumbers, Kathrine Sowerby commended, with Marjorie Lotfi Gill

Claudia Emerson, Pulitzer-winning poet, dies at 57

Rob Auton, Jemima Foxtrot, Sabrina Mahfouz, Hollie McNish & Ross Sutherland shortlisted for Arts Foundation Fellowship award for spoken word

Dan O’Brien wins Troubadour International Poetry Prize

Bloodaxe anthology to be added to mass giveaway on 2015 World Book Night

Mark Strand, former US poet laureate & Pulitzer Prize winner, dies at 80

Poetry Society Member Kathleen Bainbridge 2nd in Flambard Poetry Prize. Alice Allen wins 1st prize.

Pascale Petit, Wendy Cope and Lachlan Mackinnon appointed as Gladstone's Library writers in residence

Michael Marks Award winners: Laura Scott for best poetry pamphlet and Rack Press win publisher award 

We are sad to learn of the death of Jon Stallworthy, one of the country's most admired poets

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Clean sweep for PS Members in Torbay Poetry Competition. Carole Bromley wins, Char March 2nd, Ann Pilling and Paul Stephenson joint 3rd. PS Members Andrew Geary, Josh Ekroy, Denise McSheehy and Katherine Gallagher highly commended

Lost Dylan Thomas notebook may cast light on most impenetrable poems

Alexander Hutchison wins Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year, Niall Campbell wins First Book of the Year award

Helen Mort wins the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize

PS Member Jonathan Edwards wins Ledbury Poetry Prize. Jacqueline Saphra 2nd, Laura Seymour 3rd. Foyle Young Poet Isla Anderson wins Young Person Prize

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Ian Galbraith wins Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation 

Galway Kinnell, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, dies aged 87

Fran Lock wins Ambit Competition. PS Members Geraldine Clarkson & Catherine Ayres 2nd and 3rd

Poetry Society member Mona Arshi is joint winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize with Michael Hudson

Bridport Poetry Prize won by Poetry Society member Natalya Anderson. Tori Sharpe and Jo Bell 2nd & 3rd. PS Members Alan Buckley, Florence Cox, Jane Dunn, Val Ormrod among highly commended

TS Eliot shortlist: Fiona Benson, John Burnside, Louise Glück, David Harsent, Michael Longley, Ruth Padel, Pascale Petit, Kevin Powers, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Hugo Williams

PS member Rachel Davies wins Wells Festival of Literature Poetry Prize & PS member Carole Bromley 2nd

PS Member Pru Kitching is joint winner of Carers UK Poetry Comp, with Beth McDonough. PS Members Valerie Fry and Marilyn Hammick among the runners-up 

John Moat, co-founder of Arvon, dies

Aisling Fahey appointed as new Young Poet Laureate for London

Kei Miller wins Forward Prize for best collection, Liz Berry wins best first collection prize, Steven Santus wins best single poem prize

Dannie Abse, Welsh poet and author, dies aged 91

PS Member Polly Atkin wins Wigtown Poetry Prize

US National Book Award longlist announced

NEXT GENERATION of poets announced by Poetry Book Society: Tara Bergin, Emily Berry, Sean Borodale, Adam Foulds, Annie Freud, Alan Gillis, Rebecca Goss, Jen Hadfield, Emma Jones, Luke Kennard, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Hannah Lowe, Kei Miller, Helen Mort, Daljit Nagra, Heather Phillipson, Kate Tempest, Mark Waldron, Sam Willetts, Jane Yeh

Young Poet Laureate for London shortlist includes PS Members Clare Mulley and Ella Frears, SLAMbassador Aisling Fahey, plus Laurie Bolger, Rachel Long, and Deborah Stevenson

PS Members Anne Stewart & Dorothy Yamamoto 1st and 2nd in Poetry on the Lake open category. Virginia Astley wins sonnet category

Winifred Dawson obituary - Librarian who inspired five of Larkin's poems

Desmond O'Grady, 'a great citizen of world poetry', dies

Robert Hass wins $100k lifetime achievement award

Wasafiri poetry shortlist includes PS members, Ann Kaiser, Mark Fiddes, and Pnina Shinebourne

William Bedford wins The London Magazine's Poetry Competition

William Bedford wins Roundel Poetry Competition. PS member Geraldine Paine 2nd, John Arnold 3rd

New Seamus Heaney anthology includes unseen poem In Time, written for his granddaughter

Simin Behbahani, 'Iran's most famous poet', has died at the age of 87

Niall Campbell wins £20k Edwin Morgan prize

It's 1.2.3 for PS members Maria Jastrzᶒbska, Gill Learner & Elsa Fischer in Grey Hen Poetry Prize

Second Light Poetry Comp: Kate Foley (1st, long poem), Margaret Beston (1st, short poem), Pippa Little (2nd) & Ann Alexander (3rd)

Poet Roddy Lumsden and crime-writer Val McDermid win the Round Britain Quiz