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First things first:
I here because I saw another review of this piece, and wanted to put forth an opposing viewpoint.
1. This is neither “garbage” nor a “miserable failure.”
2. Of course this “resembles free verse”! Free verse is defined as FREE, and you can do what you like. Even in my limited knowledge of published poems, I can confirm that repetition and stanzas are just as common in free verse as in form poetry.
The flow of words is quite beautiful. Although you don’t adhere to any set meter, it’s clear you’ve paid close attention to the sound of each word. This, in my opinion, is exactly what free verse ought to be.
I think the lines that best illustrate this are “From the chestnut on the open fire/To the star atop the tree” Here, you use the balance of stressed and unstressed syllables that gives metered poetry its sense of power and resonance, but without needing to rely on pre-determined pattern.
One area for improvement might be to further explore how sound can give greater finality to ending lines, even to the point that full stops become unnecessary. As it is, the lines “All wonder in the eyes of a child.” left me hanging just a little more than the full stop suggests you’d like to convey. I thought “Hand a gift under the tree to a child.” was less up in the air, because it was longer than the other lines, which set it apart. However, I didn’t like the sound of this one on its own as much. Maybe a short line to end or something? I dunno, I’m not an expert. Good luck
Imagery and stuff:
You set up a warm, homey atmosphere to speak about the magic of Christmas. I especially liked it when you described the room, because I could see the scene. Other lines, like “The holidays seem filled with magic” offered support/set up for the images, and although they were less interesting, they served their purpose.
One line to work on might be “There is fairy dust everywhere.” I couldn’t SEE it as much as the other lines, and it didn’t contribute as much to the picture in my head.
When I first read this, I found the ending (last two lines) a little unsatisfactory. I think because you set up this sense of magic but then switched straight to the mundane, it felt unresolved. Like, “what about the magic? Where was that going?”
It took me some thought to establish that maybe the contrast WAS the point, and that these two seemingly incongruent ideas are actually the same—the simple things of Christmas make the magic, or even are the magic. I liked the poem much more when I considered that angle.
To make it more obvious you might consider putting lines 6 and 7 with the previous stanza, and having the last two out on their own.
Good luck in this contest Chris. From your reviews and a few other pieces I’ve read, I get the idea that you prefer form poetry, so well done for giving free verse a go. Don’t let one curt review scare you off!