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Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice

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    BBC radio station’s promo films will feature jazz-rapper Soweto Kinch, poet Alice Oswald and a deconstructed Beethoven quartet

    Rap and the discordant collapse of a Beethoven quartet are to feature in a provocative trio of television advertisements aimed at shaking up perceptions of BBC Radio 3.

    The deliberately shocking short films, to be broadcast from Friday, feature new work specially created for the radio station and include unconventional jazz sounds created by rapper and saxophonist Soweto Kinch, modern poetry from Alice Oswald and the deconstruction of a Beethoven late quartet into abstract electronic notes, courtesy of composer Matthew Herbert– also known as Doctor Rockit.

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    Further to Paul Brown’s Weatherwatch (19 September) and Austen Lynch’s letter (20 September), I believe that Keats’s To Autumn can be read as a weather poem. The late summer / early autumn of 1819 had been glorious after three years – including the year “without a summer” – of very dismal weather and lost harvests.

    Related: Of mists, mellow fruitfulness, mortality and conkers

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    Taking two turns at bringing the Italian poet’s Hic et Nunc into English, Leighton steers a fascinating course between strict and free renderings

    Hic et Nunc (1)

    I am a mutilated statue
    at the bottom of clear waters.

    Related: Poem of the Week: Theocritus: A Villanelle by Oscar Wilde

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    With the announcement that the homes of Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Britten and Anne Lister are to be relisted by Historic England (Report, 23 September), one hopes that the house where the French symbolist poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud lodged in Royal College Street, Camden Town, north London, for some months in 1873 will not be forgotten.

    It was here that Rimbaud wrote his most iconoclastic verse and where the tempestuous relationship between these two men who rented a room from a Mrs Smith famously ended with a slap across the face with a fish bought in Camden market, a dash across the Channel and a gunshot in Brussels.

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  • 09/27/16--05:36: Bernard Bergonzi obituary
  • Poet, literary critic and professor of English at Warwick University known for his work on TS Eliot, HG Wells and Gerard Manley Hopkins

    The poet and critic Bernard Bergonzi, who has died aged 87, was long associated with the teaching of 20th-century English literature at Warwick University. His books shed new light on the English writing of the first world war and the 1930s, and on developments in criticism since the 60s, which he largely disliked. Monographs on HG Wells, TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Arnold and Graham Greene showed Bergonzi at his sensible and lucid best.

    Though principally known as a critic, it was as a poet that Bergonzi began to find a place in the English literary scene in the early 50s. Within a year of beginning research on the early writings of Wells in 1958, he was appointed assistant lecturer at Manchester University. A full lectureship soon followed. He published two books while at Manchester: The Early HG Wells (1961) and a study of the literature of the first world war, Heroes’ Twilight (1965), in which he gave innovative attention to David Jones and the nearly forgotten Henry Williamson. In the following year he was appointed senior lecturer at Warwick, where he remained until he formally retired in 1992. He became professor of English in 1971 and served as pro-vice-chancellor from 1979 until 1982. His career was closely tied to the ascending fortunes of the Warwick English department.

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    Between 2011 and 2014, musician PJ Harvey and documentary photographer Seamus Murphy documented their travels – in her poetry, and his photos – through Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC. Ahead of Harvey’s Australian tour, the Guardian has been offered an exclusive extract of the resultant 2015 book, The Hollow of the Hand

    • PJ Harvey’s Australian tour begins in Perth on 17 January; the Hollow of the Hand is out through Bloomsbury

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    A Private Eye column has taken issue with the award going to a writer of colour again – as if it’s inconceivable that talent alone could have got them there

    Yesterday an article appeared on the internet. I hoped it was a joke; I even double-checked the name to see if it was a clever anagram (it wasn’t). I wanted to find the hidden irony, enjoy a belly laugh at a piece of clever parody. But sadly, this was not the case.

    The Forward prize is one of the highlights on the poets’ calendar and this year, the award was judged by a panel chaired by poet Malika Booker. The winners of the three prizes were all women, Vahni Capildeo, Tiphanie Yanique and Sasha Dugdale. In the aforementioned unironic column, Private Eye made a link between the gender and race of Booker, Capildeo and Yanique.

    Related: Why Vahni Capildeo deserved to win the Forward prize

    Private Eye apparently gobsmacked that prize winners can be women...

    Related: TS Eliot prize row: is winner too young, beautiful - and Chinese?

    Related: The Good Immigrant review – an unflinching dialogue about race and racism in the UK

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    The poet talks about how his foster parents put him into care at the age of 12 and left him there, and finding his birth mother

    I have a very happy childhood memory of being in Scotland on holiday when I was about four. I remember the smell of wet heather, bracken and fern. My grandad had a cottage in Lochinver we would visit in the summer holidays and at Easter. My grandad and foster parents and I used to go down to the bay to get salmon, trout and mussels. I’ve loved mussels ever since.

    My foster father was a teacher and my foster mother was a nurse. They were an aspirational middle-class family from Lancashire. They wanted their children to be educated and go to university. They were good people who did bad things.

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    Which US classic appeared in Swedish as A Man Without Scruples? Who described translation as ‘the art of failure’? Interpret these questions to mark International Translation Day

    One multilingual writer’s very disparaging opinion of the art of translation declared it: 'A parrot’s screech, a monkey’s chatter,/And profanation of the dead'. Who?

    Anthony Burgess

    Julian Barnes

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    Vladimir Nabokov

    What the the original title of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Swedish?

    Men Who Hate Women

    Men Who Love Women

    Women Who Hate Men

    Women Who Love Men

    Printed fiction in translation amounted to what percentage of UK book sales in 2015?





    Which writer said: 'Translation is the art of failure'?

    Umberto Eco

    George Eliot

    TS Eliot

    Günter Grass

    In Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa is transformed into an ungeheures Ungeziefer. What insect has it NOT been translated as?

    A monstrous vermin

    A septic stagbeetle

    A giant cockroach

    A verminous bug

    Which of these translations is the ONLY one by a writer who began the project as an expert in the source's original language?

    Ezra Pound's collection of classical Chinese poetry, Cathay

    José Saramago's version of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

    Charles Baudelaire's collection of Edgar Allen Poe's short stories, Histoires extraordinaires

    Seamus Heaney's Beowulf

    Which classic American novel was translated into Swedish as A Man Without Scruples (En man utan skrupler)?

    The Talented Mr Ripley


    The Great Gatsby

    American Psycho

    Author Han Kang won the 2016 International Man Booker prize for her novel The Vegetarian. What language was it originally written in?





    In one poem, an English poet recalls reading a classic translation: 'Then felt I like some watcher of the skies/When a new planet swims into his ken'. Which poem is this from?

    On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats

    Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes

    Imitations by Robert Lowell

    Orpheus by Don Paterson

    William Beckford's Vathek was composed in French, but first published in Samuel Henley's English translation. But what did Jorge Luis Borges make of Henley's translation?

    "Henley's translation surpasses the original in both texture and mood."

    "The flinty clarity of English fails to capture the 'indefinable horrors' of the original."

    "The original is unfaithful to the translation."

    "A cracking read, surely a strong contender for this year's Booker."

    Despite having practised the art, this writer is still baffled by the mystery of translation: 'How is it possible that a text that has been stripped of the language in which it was conceived could still be the same text? ... You think you are reading Dickens in Spanish or Cervantes in English and not one word of what you are reading was written or chosen by the author.' Who said this?

    Michael Frayn

    Javier Marías

    Lydia Davis

    Marie Darrieussecq

    According to which literary lion is a translation 'a different book', 'a book by the person who translated it' and having 'nothing to do with the original at all'?

    Thomas Hardy

    Thomas Bernhard

    Thomas Clancy

    Thomas Pynchon

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    Part comic novel, part criticism, part autobiography … and wholly brilliant evocation of a mysterious university campus, its students and visiting lecturers

    Poetry is a pitiless mistress. How else could Sylvia Plath write “The blood jet is poetry / There is no stopping it”, or the freakishly gifted youth Arthur Rimbaud, having refashioned the art for the next century and beyond, give it all up because no one except Paul Verlaine gave a damn? Acknowledging the haters, Marianne Moore announced, in a poem entitled “Poetry”: “I, too, dislike it”. This paradox of irritation and compulsion hovers behind Glyn Maxwell’s brilliantly unclassifiable new book.

    The publishers describe it as “part comic novel, part dream-memoir, part criticism and part autobiography”. Though both stand alone, the book forms a pair with 2012’s On Poetry, a whimsically profound how-to manual which included sections involving a group of fictional creative writing students. Mimi, Ollie, Wayne and Isabella turn up again here, among several new faces, to take Professor Maxwell’s 12-week poetry “elective”: “It says elective. I’m going to the pub,” he tells Kerri from Student Services. “Elective for them, not you,” she retorts.

    Related: On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell – review

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    Channel goes back to its roots with poetic train journey

    Well, will it keep the Bake Off audience tuned in after Jo Brand’s spin-off cake show? Or even win over a few X Factor fans from ITV? Probably not, but BBC2 took its much-heralded first step to reclaim its cultural territory with a themed poetry night to mark National Poetry Day on Saturday.

    Part of a plan for the channel to represent the arts at a higher-brow – but more audible – pitch, the evening officially began at 9pm with a salute to WH Auden’s 80-year-old film Night Mail, a celebrated poetic paean to the train service that took the post up north through the dark. This time, a succession of contemporary poets were invited to board a Virgin Pendolino (a name crying out for versification) and write fresh lines in response to the passengers making a morning journey with them from Euston to Glasgow.

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  • 10/02/16--00:00: At home in Heaney country
  • Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a new centre designed with the help of the poet’s family, is full of his words and spirit

    My strong guess is that not even the proudest local would describe the somewhat awkwardly named Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a gleaming new arts centre in the village of Bellaghy, County Derry, as beautiful, even if it is far, far lovelier than what came before (on this site there used to stand a heavily fortified RUC barracks). Its bland, vaguely Scandinavian structure, encircled by inky asphalt, looks for all the world like a new branch of Waitrose, while its interiors, wipe-clean spaces that seem to me to allow far too little of the outside in, are nothing if not functional.

    But then, it’s possible that beauty is not the point in this case. The existence of such a place at all, in a world in which arts budgets everywhere are being so ruthlessly cut, is nothing short of a miracle, Mid Ulster district council having funded almost the entirety of its £4.25m building costs (it also plans to meet the £500,000 it will take to run the place each year). “What are they on, there?” I kept thinking as I looked around. I’ve been known to make some pretty grandiose claims for poetry myself down the years, but even I’m surprised it can induce parsimonious local government officers to spend like this.

    You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by the sight of the young Seamus’s leather satchel

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    A benign metaphor for inspiration and recollection, this is a rare creature in poetry, and an unusual image of creation

    The dog itself

    Memory rounds this up, breathless,
    like the dog herding sheep
    below the bedroom window:

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    The 26-year-old says he wants to use his role to ‘normalise poetry’ for disenfranchised young people and ‘show them how their voices can be heard’

    Poet and English teacher Caleb Femi, who has just been named the first young people’s laureate for London, is hoping to re-engage disenfranchised young people through poetry.

    The 26-year-old from Peckham was chosen for the role by a panel including the Poetry Society and the Forward Arts Foundation. He will hold the position for a year, during which time he will set out to give Londoners aged between 13 and 25 a “platform to voice their concerns and experiences through poetry”, said Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, announcing its choice of laureate.

    Related: Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet quoted by Beyoncé in Lemonade

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    Ray Webber, a former unionist and postman, has just published his debut collection of poetry – at the age of 93

    Ray Webber has a boxful of books to sign, a launch to attend and a nurse to make sure he is in full working order. When I arrive at his flat in the Bristol suburbs, the nurse has hoisted his shirt over his head and is applying a stethoscope to his bare back. Webber says he has trouble breathing and has to walk with a frame. But then, as he points out, he did turn 93 in March.

    Physically, Webber has seen better days, but his poems are limber and fresh, full of a loose, playful energy that has earned him a small but ardent following on the city’s arts scene. His debut collection, High on Rust, amounts to an autobiographical flurry. It bounds from his birth in the slums (bedbugs, drunken midwife) to the death of an infant sister to his first kiss on the cobblestones outside the cigarette factory. Towards the end, Webber brings us bang up to date, describing himself as “a sickening hunk of old flesh”, a man with one foot already through the exit door.

    Best get a move on – it could be curtains for me any time!

    I haven’t had so many angina attacks. Toni, my nurse, ​thinks it’s down to the book

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    Organisers of the annual celebration have commissioned works giving voice to local landmarks in ‘a lyrical mapping of the English landscape’

    From the “worst road in Britain”, the “Essex/Suffolk artery” of the A12, to Leicester’s Golden Mile via a Lincolnshire sausage, a host of poets have adopted the voices of local landmarks in order to mark Thursday’s National Poetry Day.

    Channelling WH Auden, who wrote that a poet’s hope is “to be, like some valley cheese, local, but prized elsewhere”, the 40 poets were commissioned by BBC local radio to dream up poems in the voices of local landmarks. Luke Wright takes on Suffolk, plumping for the A12, “England’s crude appendix scar … salt-baked, pot-holed, choked with cars”, which will “take you from the fug and sprawl / to Suffolk’s icy brine and foam”.

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    Despite women and people of colour dominating poetry slams, it’s still white men who get most of the paying gigs and festivals

    When it comes to the diverse range of people championing poetry in the UK, we seemingly have a lot to celebrate this National Poetry Day. Although the well-known poets of old are typically white men of the middle or upper classes, the most famous poets in the UK today are often women, people of colour, or both. Carol Ann Duffy is poet laureate; mixed-race Glaswegian Jackie Kay is the current makar for Scotland. I work in schools, getting young people to write poems themselves, and the number one poet whom children of all backgrounds tell me they have read or listened to is Benjamin Zephaniah– a writer whose work explicitly deals with issues of race, class and heritage.

    Related: Poetic justice: the rise of brilliant women writing in dark times | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

    Related: Finding minority writers isn't 'racial nepotism'. It's the cure for bigotry | Anjali Enjeti

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    The excitement and frustrations of city life have inspired poets from 18th-century Grub Street to the 50s Beats and modern-day rappers. But can poetry actually help us make cities better?

    I see the F train’s twin headlights blooming into the station.
    When I close my eyes, its warm wind sweeps hair from my face,
    the way my grandmother did with her hands, to see my eyes.”

    The feeling created by these words, from American poet Erika Meitner’s 2010 poetry collection Ideal Cities, will ring familiar to nearly all who live the urban experience. But the relief of seeing a pair of headlights peek through the tunnel, or the sensation of the hot air of a passing train, are so mundane they can often go uncelebrated save for a fleeting moment.

    Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
    The blue Mediterranean, where he lay
    Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams”

    There is this energy and aggression and speed in a city that lends itself to poetry

    You know the wild bushes at the back of the flat, the ones that scrape the kitchen window the ones that struggle for soil or water, and fail where the train tracks scar the ground?

    The form of a city changes faster, alas, than the human heart

    Related: Female rappers take a stand in Mexico's capital of violence against women

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    Performance poetry might still be a niche concern, but Kate Tempest now gets to do hers on primetime TV – and deservedly so

    Related: The Bricks That Built the Houses by Kate Tempest review – daring and vivid

    She has been garlanded by everyone from the compilers of the Mercury shortlist to the judges of the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes prize, but on paper at least, Kate Tempest’s new album still seems like a tough sell. It’s a 48-minute long hip-hop-influenced performance poem about the alienated lives of the residents of one south London street, set to a variety of post-dubstep bass music. It opens with an invocation of Mother Earth and ends with a plea for humanity to, as Primal Scream once had it, come together as one. In between, it variously takes aim at capitalism, gentrification, celebrity culture, political corruption and global warming (“the water is rising, the elephants and polar bears are dying”). There is a joke about David Cameron having it off with a pig’s head. It’s somehow redolent of the kind of well-meaning event you see advertised at a local arts centre and make a mental note to avoid at all costs – partly because it seems so painfully earnest, and partly because at least half the audience seems likely to consist of recalcitrant 14-year-olds dragged there by an English teacher who insists pupils call him by his first name and says things like “Siegfried Sassoon was the Lil’ Wayne of his day”.

    Related: Kate Tempest slams conventional poets' disdain for performance

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    The poet has revealed plans for ‘an odyssey’ that will take in overlooked parts of Scotland and form the basis of a long poem about the country

    As the UK lurches towards xenophobia, it is a writer’s responsibility to “tell the time”, says Scotland’s national poet Jackie Kay.

    Kay, whose complex relationship with her Scottish identity provides inspiration for much of her work, warned that poets should not shy away from addressing current and acute political divisions.

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