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

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    Who cares about the Nobel prize? Dylan made it cool to be Jewish, hot to be American and transformed literature. His masterpiece is himself

    B efore Bob Dylan came along, there were famous poets – people bought collections of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton; they looked to their confessional stanzas of slit-wrist recollections to feel the pain and balm. Yes, Robert Lowell was a celebrity. Bob Dylan put poetry out of business. He invented the singer-songwriter. He created the more efficient delivery system.

    When I started writing, I knew I had to compete with what Bob Dylan did with language, because he preempted emotion on the page. I had to tell the truth. I had to be utter. I had to go to extremes. I am up against the sonic museum of Bob Dylan.

    Related: Fascinating, infuriating, enduring: Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel prize

    Related: Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door

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    Three Russian poets shine words into the blackness of 1942 when a million people died under siege by the Nazis, in this extract from a new anthology Written in the Dark

    By Gennady Gor, Vladimir Sterligov and Pavel Zaltsman for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    Fresh from launching our Fall 2016 issue yesterday, featuring exclusive writing from 31 countries, by such authors as Stefan Zweig, László Krasznahorkai and Anita Raja, we present a selection from “Written in the Dark,” a new, groundbreaking anthology out from Ugly Duckling Presse. The poems gathered therein were written in 1942, during the most severe winter of the Nazi Siege of Leningrad, in which one million perished. Charles Bernstein compares these poems to “the sparks from two sticks of wood, creating a fire that warms even in an apocalypse.”

    With plaintive, ardent reverie, / We drink these soundless words

    Related: Sign up to our Bookmarks newsletter

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    Christie’s to sell weapon fired in 1873 in what would be the culmination of a torrid affair between the French poets

    The most famous gun in French literature, the revolver with which the poet Paul Verlaine tried to kill his lover, Arthur Rimbaud, is going under the hammer, Christie’s has said.

    Verlaine bought the 7mm six-shooter in Brussels on the morning of 10 July 1873, determined to put an end to a torrid two-year affair with his teenage lover.

    Related: How 555 nights in jail helped to make Paul Verlaine a ‘prince of poets’

    Related: Rimbaud and Verlaine’s London home should have its blue plaque now | Letters

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    The Trinidadian writer joins Alice Oswald, Ian Duhig and Denise Riley among the final 10 vying for the UK’s richest poetry prize

    After landing the £15,000 Forward prize for best collection in September, the Trinidadian poet Vahni Capildeo is in the running for the UK’s richest award for poetry, the £20,000 TS Eliot award.

    Measures of Expatriation, which explores identity and the alienation of the expatriate, is one of 10 collections in the running for the prize. It is up against collections from Alice Oswald, Ian Duhig and Denise Riley, all of which also appeared on the Forward shortlist. Oswald’s Falling Awake examines mutability; Duhig’s The Blind Road draws from both Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and the life of the 18th-century polymath Blind Jack Metcalf; and Riley’s Say Something Back revolves around her late son and includes her long poem about grieving and loss, A Part Song.

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    Alvy Carragher posts YouTube video that uses words of her abuser to highlight persistent trolling of female writers

    An Irish poet has debuted a poem on YouTube that hits back at people who abused her online after she wrote about her experience of being raped.

    Alvy Carragher, who represented Ireland at an international poetry event in New York this summer, said she was speaking out to highlight the continued trolling of female Irish writers.

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    The independent publisher Oneworld has won two Man Bookers in a row … and there are small presses in the running for the Baillie Gifford and TS Eliot prizes

    Paul Beatty’s Man Booker prize success this week marked the second win in a row for the small independent publisher Oneworld, after Marlon James last year. It’s an impressive performance from a press which, while founded in 1986, began to publish fiction only five years ago. But Oneworld – now rushing through a major reprint of Beatty’s winning title, The Sellout – is not the only small publisher making waves.

    The Independent Publishers’ Guild (IPG) points out that 19 of the 36 Booker-shortlisted books of the last six years have been published by its members; along with Beatty, this year’s six-strong shortlist featured two other titles from independent presses – Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, from Granta, and Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, from Saraband.

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    Works by the poet Giacomo Leopardi will be moved to Bologna from Visso over fears for their safety after recent earthquakes

    The 19th-century manuscripts of one of Italy’s greatest poets and intellects, Giacomo Leopardi, will be transferred to Bologna after two big earthquakes wreaked havoc on the small central Italian town that houses the works, raising fears that they could be damaged.

    The mayor of Bologna, Virginio Merola, announced that his city would take charge of the precious documents, including manuscripts of Leopardi’s poem L’Infinito, or The Infinite, as well as five sonnets and more than a dozen letters. The manuscripts have been kept in a museum in the Palazzo dei Governatori in Visso, a town that sustained substantial damage in the earthquakes on Wednesday.

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  • 10/29/16--03:00: The Saturday Poem: Turning
  • by Rebecca Watts

    Now it’s autumn
    and another year in which I could leave you
    is a slowly sinking ship.

    The air has developed edges
    and I am preparing to let myself lie
    in a curtained apartment,

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    The poet and classics professor talks about her new collection, Float, her love of volcanoes and the power of brevity

    Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband, published in 2001, made her name; she became a poetic guru, revered as an original. Her writing is a hybrid – a wayward mix of ancient and modern. She is an essayist, translator and dramatist. Born in Ontario in 1950, she has worked most of her life as a classics professor. She appears in the newly launched Penguin Modern Poets Series and has just published a new collection, Float.

    Your new collection is arrestinglyunconventional – can you say something about its form?
    Float is a transparent slipcase containing 22 chapbooks to be read on “shuffle”. They were mostly originally performance pieces – composed and performed individually and often with other people – so the collection is just that, a collection, not an organic whole, not intended to be read in any particular order, not designed to flow from beginning to end visually and conceptually (as previous books were). I like some part of all of the pieces and all of some of them.

    I feel perfectly at home underwater

    Related: Anne Carson on translating Antigone for Ivo van Hove's Brooklyn Academy of Music production – audio

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    Babies and lost books feature in a poem that provocatively elides thought and sensation


    And there I found myself, more truly and more strange.
    Wallace Stevens

    Related: Poem of the week: Pantoum in Which Wallace Stevens Gives Me Vertigo by Oli Hazzard

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    Complex and haunting, here are two poems by French poet Philippe Beck, who won the French Academy’s Grand Prix de Poésie in 2015

    By Philippe Beck and Nicola Marae Allain for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    Complex, haunting, and profoundly literary, Didactic Poetries is French poet Phillipe Beck’s response to Schiller’s statement: “We are still waiting for a didactic poem where thought itself would be and would remain poetic.” In recognition of his entire oeuvre, Beck was awarded the French Academy’s Grand Prix de Poésie (Grand Poetry Prize) in 2015. Today, we present two poems from his debut publication in English, released by Univocal Publishing today.

    — The editors at Asymptote

    Related: Translation Tuesday: Men by Marie Darrieussecq – extract

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    The Nigerian Nobel-winning author, now living in the US, tells Oxford students that it is up to young people to stand against ‘ultranationalism’ – in a speech that also took aim at Brexit and Bob Dylan

    The Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka has told students that if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States next week, he will leave the country.

    “If in the unlikely event he does win, the first thing he’ll do is to say [that] all green-card holders must reapply to come back into the US. Well, I’m not waiting for that,” said Soyinka, who is scholar-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs this autumn. “The moment they announce his victory, I will cut my green card myself and start packing up.”

    It’s a constant fight to try to get a nation to recognise its own noble persuasions … the loftiness of human possibility

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    Anne Carson’s new poems make extensive use of broken snatches of writing, a modernist technique that presents readers with difficult – but liberating – challenges

    “Reading can be freefall,” runs the blurb on the back of Anne Carson’s new poetry collection, one of several recently published books to offer readers a more interactive way to engage with the printed word. Historically, fragmentation has been used as a troubling effect, or to indicate a subject under stress. These books, however, attempt to unleash the fragment’s liberating force. The effect can be exhilarating.

    If the title of Carson’s collection, Float, suggests a lack of direction, so does its format: a transparent slipcase housing 22 chapbooks that we are invited to read in any order. Does that mean the collection doesn’t, then, possess an overall unity? Or is it possible for we readers to supply meaning ourselves?

    There are many ways to tell a story. A guy told me what happened to him at the border. I put some points on file cards. Every time I tried to fill in what happens between the file cards, I lost the story. I didn’t really know him. It was like a winter sky, high, thin, restless, unfulfilled. That’s when I started to think about the word flotage.

    I don’t know why trains. Often when reading Gertrude Stein, I have the sense I’m getting the gist and I ride along a while in good faith, then all at once she switches tracks and there I’m left standing, as it were, at the station.

    However the reader orders the material is provisional, it will almost certainly differ the next time she engage

    Related: Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra review – choose your own Chilean misadventure

    Through the fragmentary ... we can somehow arrive at a more profound understanding of the world

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    Written in the friendship book of Jacqueline van Maarsen, Frank’s work is an exhortation to virtuous living written shortly before Anne and her family went into hiding

    A short poem by Anne Frank written in Amsterdam in 1942 and autographed by the teenager is expected to fetch up to €50,000 (£44,000) at auction.

    The handwritten eight-line poem was written in the “poezie album”, or friendship book, of the older sister of Frank’s classmate and best friend Jacqueline van Maarsen, according to Dutch auction house Bubb Kuyper. The first four lines of the poem can be found in a 1938 periodical, but the next four are not traceable, said Bubb Kuyper, which has put a guide price of €30,000 to €50,000 on the poem.

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    Dylan’s Nobel prize win sparked a debate about lyrics as literature. Here, Andrew Motion, Carol Ann Duffy, Johnny Marr, Naomi Alderman and others nominate songwriters whose verse has the power of poetry

    Dylan’s Nobel laureateship has proved controversial – which was presumably a part of the reason for awarding it to him in the first place. To shake things up a bit. But as a counterweight to those who think he shouldn’t have got the prize under any circumstances, and those who think the lyrics to the songs depend on their melody and delivery, which disqualify them from such an award, there are plenty of admirers, and plenty of ways to argue, that his words alone are certain good. The great protestations (“Blowin’ in the Wind”), the great love-murmurs (“Love Minus Zero”) and love-twists (“Tangled Up in Blue”), the great surrealist masterpieces of the Blonde on Blonde era (“Visions of Johanna”): all these contain the qualities we look for in poetry that matters. Concentration of language, formal expertise of one kind or another, and a clever balancing of articulacy and mystery. The same goes for his great ballads, which I love as much as any of these songs just named, and none more than his Baltimorean tragedy, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”. Here Dylan gives his account of the murder committed by William Zanzinger, of the criminally light sentence he received, and of “high office relations in the politics of Maryland”, in four headlong and largely unpunctuated verses. Everything about them is alert to the literary tradition in which they work, but everything stretches and extends that tradition, walking a fine line between lyric and narrative to catch the essence of both, and tumbling through rage into sorrow at its conclusion, without diminishing either: “Oh but you who philosophise disgrace and criticise all fears / Bury the rag deep in your face / For now’s the time for your tears.”

    I’m envious of and thrilled by just one line from Little Richard – A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom

    Lou Reed turned slang into poetry, using modern language to tell his stories of the city

    O'Hara builds songs out of spare phrases that light each other as the parts of a poem should

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    by Lemn Sissay

    Third planet from the sun, this spinning earth.
    Thousands of football cups but only one is first.
    Here comes the light to break the pitch: the new day.
    Crowds wake! Clouds break! The adventure is under way.

    I will not waiver. I will not fail. I will not cower.
    When under great pressure the great overpower.
    We are equal in dreams – underdogs and over achievers.
    We are nothing without adventures and believers.

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    One of a set of justly celebrated and influential translations from the Bible, this works with vigour, invention and and anger as an original poem in its own right

    Psalm 52

    Tyrant, why swell’st thou thus,
     Of mischief vaunting?
    Since help from God to us
     Is never wanting.

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    This out-of-the-ordinary anthology curated by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke is playful, enigmatic and heart-rending

    Every now and then, a book comes along that insists on shouldering individual collections temporarily aside. The Map and the Clock is an anthology of chronologically organised British poetry, an out-of-the-ordinary compilation – big as a brick – that will keep me reading for as long as it lives on my shelves. In her introduction, Carol Ann Duffy describes the search for poems, with Gillian Clarke, and the discovery that Shakespeare’s line still holds: “The isle is full of noises.” Their resolve was not only to include great poems, but to go under the radar, to avoid waving union jacks, to surprise us and themselves.

    The book opens with Caedmon’s Hymn (600AD), translated by Paul Muldoon, the oldest known written poem – and a steadying piece. Reading it is like leaning against a cathedral door, preparing to step inside. But there is as much tavern as cathedral in this anthology and it is not long before the profane nudges the sacred with a four-line medieval poem, translated by Maurice Riordan: “There is a lady in these parts/whose name I’m slow to divulge/but she’s known to let off farts/like stones from a catapult.” 1300-1500 brings us Chaucer, Sir Gawain, Pearl, birdsong, dalliance and Anon’s beer: “Bring us in no butter, for therein are many heres/Nor bring us in no pigges flesch, for that will make us bores/But bring us in good ale!”

    Related: Carol Ann Duffy: my pick of British and Irish poetry

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    Spanish poet Benito del Pliego places puns beside paradoxes, vivid imagery and insights in these five, brief poems from his latest collection

    By Benito del Pliego and Sam Carter for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    Openly encouraging an oracular approach in which readers pose questions to a series of poems and identify either themselves or others through the answers they obtain, Fable showcases Benito del Pliego’s familiarly deft touch as he places puns alongside paradoxes and striking images next to penetrating insights in moving explorations of isolation and recollection. Continuing a career-long commitment to fostering meaningful interactions between a text and its interlocutors—whether readers, accompanying illustrations, or other poems in the collection — this Spanish poet highlights the unfamiliar in the familiar and makes poetry about the everyday seem anything but ordinary. These poems are taken from the collection Fable / Fábula, recently launched at McNally Jackson Books in New York.

    —The editors at Asymptote

    Related: Translation Tuesday: Colonel Lágrimas by Carlos Fonseca – extract

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    What poets can help us get through a Trump administration? Here are five that serve as signals that good exists, and that someone is awake and listening

    Audre Lorde once wrote that “poetry is not a luxury”, and right now it is a necessity. What kind of poetry can get us through a Donald Trump presidency? We’ll need satire and spitting vitriol. We’ll need rallying cries. We’ll need reminders of human dignity.

    Each poet here has struggled with the relationship between poetry and action, with the question of poetry’s relevance in a time of crisis. Adrienne Rich said: “A poem can’t free us from the struggle for existence, but it can uncover desires and appetites buried under the accumulating emergencies of life.” These are words carefully chosen not for solace but for strength, poems that dip into the reservoirs of literature to find fuel for the day ahead. They are, to borrow from WH Auden’s famous poem September 1, 1939, “ironic points of light” that “flash out wherever the Just / exchange their messages”. Poems that serve as signals through the ages that good exists, and that someone is awake and listening.

    Related: Aside from family, this community is all I've got. And yet, they voted for Trump

    is merry glory

    Is saltatory.

    Related: In need of a comfort read right now? Take a stab at true crime

    There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

    and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

    some words build houses in your throat. and

    they live there. content and on fire.

    no longer interest me

    or pig-men, or those who can fly

    I lived in the first century of world wars.

    Most mornings I would be more or less insane,

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