Ely is a busy place – people are always thinking, learning, scheming about something. This doesn’t necessarily slow down during the holiday season. There’s a lot of collaboration, idea sharing, and inspiration in the air. One such example is the Call of Wild Poetry Evenings hosted by the Northern Lakes Arts Association are held at the Ely Folk School. At our weekly Makers Morning, there is often discussion of individual writing practices and how we practice creativity in our daily lives. 

Today, the first Thursday of December, we talked about the Call of the Wild poetry evening coming up later today. The theme set by NLAA for the month was: The Naughty List: Coal, Creation, and the Coniferous. John Kopp, a regular EFS volunteer, instructor, and student, was particularly inspired by the theme and shared with us his trilogy of poems written in response. 

It is a thoughtful reflection of how we celebrate the holidays and our children and neighbors. We hope you read and enjoy. 


Poems written by John Kopp

Children of the Coal
In the beginning there was no list.
Then out of the dark and through the mist
A proclamation arrived about Childrens’ new role.
Little thought given to freedom of the soul.

The decree was ‘all children must work in factories of old’
Twelve hours a day, this is what we are told.
Yes, out of that edict came the very first list
“All the children named here in are property of the capitalist.”

But don’t believe me—for yourself look it up.
You may even see to fill the family’s cup
With food and drink and warm clothes for the cold
It was off to the factory, their freedom was sold.

With long hours the children put in
Accumulation of riches would surely begin
To arrive and replace what this first list stole.
Instead, all they received was a stocking of coal.

Next Mission New Conifer

Even as industry kept scratching and clawing
Common sense returned from conscience gnawing.
Children were released from the materialist jaws
Through a social reform with new labor laws.

Once more they were smiling, returned to their homes
To dream of adventures with fairies, the elves and the gnomes.
For awhile they were allowed to be in this state
Until mother culture yelled “Now hold it. Now wait.”

“We cannot have the children think they are all good.”
“Management of free will must stand as it stood.”
“Domestication and order of this we insist”
“So let’s make up a story about Santa’s list.”

Santa’s list was soon equated with naughty and nice
Through the glory of Christmas it became a controlling device.
For a couple of centuries, tall it would stand
Until a new species of confer moved into the land.

Creation from the Conifer

The naughty nice list had good intentions
But it also had drawbacks like other inventions.
It caused worry and fear for those it intended
Which followed to adulthood taking therapy to get mended.

But no one really thought there could be another way
So no one spoke up even if they had something to say.
On and on that old tradition kept going
Until one winter day when it was heavily snowing.

From a land way up north near where Santa might live
A tall sturdy pine tree had a message to give.
Not one from voice, but from something quite bright
So naturally it happened in the darkness of night.

Plowing through snow drifts which were piled quite high
A conifer tree arrived to replace the list and the lie.
And blasted its light from the star it had dawned
With this message of truth to fix what list had spawned.

“Children are brought in to this world whole
So to nurture the best vision of a healthy soul
Give love with no conditions, this star’s here to show
Create truth out of Christmas when Winter Winds blow.

John’s next classes at the Ely Folk School are a series of Family Game Nights in January. These Family Fun: Board Game and Story Making Nights are for parents and children. It’s straightforward, fun, and results in making group stories from playing handmade board games. Each group will have opportunities to make stories from the prompts directing players to the terrain and characters on the game board. Making and sharing stories is done in a way that fosters cooperation and imagination. The night is about working together and having fun. Our only mission on this night is To Have Fun! Learn more here