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

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    Following news of the legendary singer-songwriter’s death at the age of 82, we look back on his life and career, which spanned five decades and included such classics as Songs of Love and Hate, The Future and I’m Your Man

    Leonard Cohen: follow our liveblog as tributes pour in

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    The great musician was a man who used songwriting as a way of making sense of a bewildering world

    Leonard Cohen was always the grownup in the room. He was young once, of course, but the world never saw much of the modestly successful poet and novelist from Montreal. He was already 33 — ancient by 60s standards — when he gazed out from the sepia-tinted, photo-booth snapshot on the cover of 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen with his shirt, tie and smart side-parting. The face suggested that he’d been around the block a few times; the voice and words confirmed it. The man knew things about life and if, you listened closely, you might learn something.

    The truth was that Cohen felt as lost as anybody. What gave his work its uncommon gravitas wasn’t that he knew the answers but that he never stopped looking. He searched for clues in bedrooms and warzones, in Jewish temples and Buddhist retreats, in Europe, Africa, Israel and Cuba. He tried to flush them out with booze and drugs and seduce them with melodies. And whenever he managed to painfully extract some nugget of wisdom, he would cut and polish it like a precious stone before resuming the search. Funny about himself but profoundly serious about his art, he liked to describe his songs as “investigations” into the hidden mechanics of love, sex, war, religion and death – the beautiful and terrifying truths of existence. A Leonard Cohen song is an anchor flung into a churning sea. It has the kind of weight that could save your life.

    Related: Leonard Cohen's life and career – in pictures

    'I never had any musical standard to tyrannise me,' he said. 'If you told the story, that’s what the song was about.'

    Related: Leonard Cohen: 10 of the best

    Related: Laura Barton on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

    For Cohen, defeat was the truth of things; the reason to make art; the crack where the light gets in

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    Legendary singer, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen has died aged 82 at his home in Los Angeles. Born in Québec, Canada, Cohen – who won several literary awards, received the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – released an album only last month, called You Want It Darker.

    Continue reading...

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    Leonard Cohen has died aged 82. Here we round up tributes and reaction as they flood in for Canada’s cultural icon

    Thank you for your company. To conclude, a lyric. But not one of those ones that are all deep about existence. Instead, let’s place Leonard Cohen with his peers among the great songwriters of the English language. He’s 100 floors up now, with Hank.

    I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
    But I hear him coughing all night long
    A hundred floors above me
    In the Tower of Song.”

    So why didn’t we just do a Cohen playlist? Because if you love Leonard Cohen, you’re likely to be listening to those albums already. Because we wanted to show how much he meant to so many people of so many different musical outlooks. Because we wanted to celebrate not just the man, but his songs. So here are some of the songs you nominated – if it’s missing, it’s because I couldn’t find it on Spotify.

    And to round his list off, Alexis Petridis has picked the title track of You Want It Darker.

    The triumphant, rapturously-received live shows Cohen undertook between 2008 and 2013 might have been forced upon him by prosaic financial pressures, but the final trio of albums Cohen made were clearly the work of a man who’d realised he still had something to say: about life, about religion, about ageing and the experience of facing death. In his final public appearance to promote this year’s You Want It Darker, he seemed at pains to dismiss suggestions that it some kind of musical last will and testament: ‘I intend to live forever.’ But there’s a lovely sense of closure about its title track, on which, as his friend and biographer Sylvie Simmons put it, ‘he sang himself back home’, supported by the choir from the Montreal synagogue where he worshipped as a child and that his ancestors had built, offering up a characteristic mix of wracked despair and wry humour: ‘I wrestled with some demons,’ he shrugged at one point. ‘They were middle-class and tame.’ But the song’s most potent and affecting lines came in the chorus. ‘Hineni, hineni,’ Cohen sang, a Hebrew word meaning: ‘Here I am’, ‘I am ready, Lord.’”

    Nick Cave has issued a statement on Facebook

    For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all. Utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried. He will be deeply missed by so many. - Nick Cave”

    More tributes

    Daryl from The Walking Dead is coping with his incarceration by evil Negan by consoling himself with Cohen.

    #NowPlaying Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen https://t.co/WrtmqtHz2K used to dedicate this so… https://t.co/EzctOAneCF

    #LeonardCohen - When the barbarians broke down the gates, you snuck out the back door. Good timing. RIP. I will miss your honest voice.

    RIP Leonard Cohen :(

    Time for some more of your Cohen cover suggestions …

    • This one is much nominated: Anohni (then still Antony Hegarty) singing If It Will Be Your Will
    • Also very popular with you is Jennifer Warnes’s Famous Blue Raincoat
    • Have a listen to to Trisha Yearwood’s Coming Back to You
    • And back to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for Avalanche

    Remembrance Day, and the day we learned of Leonard Cohen’s death. Something fitting then: Cohen reciting John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.

    As chosen by Alexis Petridis. This time it’s The Future.

    Never a model of over-productive industry to start off with, Cohen’s musical output slowed considerably in the 90s and noughties: he released three albums in 20 years, one of them, Dear Heather, essentially a collection of outtakes from previous work. The title track of his 1992 album might be the pick of his material during this period. Audibly the work of a deeply troubled man – he later claimed to have been drinking three bottles of wine a night during the subsequent tour – it’s as dark and terrifying and potent as anything in his catalogue, an apocalyptic vision of a world in which ‘things are going to slide in all directions, won’t be nothing you can measure anymore’. Without wishing to overegg the pudding, a quarter of a century on, with talk of a ‘post-truth’ era abroad, there’s a definite hint of the grimly prophetic about it: a world without privacy, increasingly numb to horror, where what Cohen described as ‘mass culture’ has stamped out individual identity.”

    Earlier this year, the Guardian ran extracts from the book My Old Man, in which people talked about their relationships with their fathers. One of the pieces came from Adam Cohen, talking about Leonard …

    I’ve had a very normal relationship with my father, with the exception that he’s terribly well known and, so it’s said, one of the most important writers in his domain.

    Like all sons, I have found the relationship has added layers to itself over time. These days, my relationship with him is just looking in a mirror and consulting with him. Hearing the timbre of his voice in my own. Body posture, mannerisms, ethics, morals, linguistics. All the deep imprintings that are there either from socio-genetics or, if you were to be cruel, parroting. Whatever the reason, I throw my arms around the lifestyle I was given.

    If there’s one voice you wanted to hear on the subject of Leonard Cohen, it would almost certainly be that of Louise Mensch. So what did she have to say via the medium of Twitter?

    Louise Mensch, apparently failing to recognise that Cohen was Canadian. pic.twitter.com/M57nvLQCym

    A nice Facebook post from Beth Orton about Cohen …

    Leonard Cohen dying this week is a grief I can process. His leaving makes perfect sense when so little else does. One last poetic statement. A full stop. He is our spiritual leader and one I can follow. In his death, he feels closer than ever. He embodies love and kindness, peace and power. His voice has always been the salve for my broken spirit. His final act of kindness was to be present by his passing this week when we need a voice of reason in the face of mounting insanity and confusion. To remind us of the beauty that exists alongside the imperfection in this world. I am eternally grateful for his existence and his music. He has always resonated on the astral and the earthly planes. Now more so than ever. Beautiful man … you will be deeply and endlessly missed and you will always be with us.”

    This time, Alexis Petridis has chosen Hallelujah.

    The afterlife of Hallelujah is one of the more startling episodes in Leonard Cohen’s career. As he was given to wryly pointing out after it attained something approaching omnipresence – ‘at the end of every single drama, every single Idol’ as he put it – his American record label thought so little of the song, and indeed the rest of the material on 1984’s Various Positions, that they refused to release it; it wasn’t until a younger generation of artists, notably Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, began covering it that it started to outstrip the rest of Cohen’s 80s oeuvre. It wasn’t until its deeply improbable appearance, sung by John Cale, at the end of the animated film Shrek that it started to become ubiquitous. You could argue all night about whether it’s actually a better song than the other masterpieces with which Various Positions and I’m Your Man were liberally studded – Dance Me to the End of Love or First We Take Manhattan or Tower of Song – but Hallelujah certainly seemed symbolic of a kind of creative rebirth for its author, after his disastrous collaboration with Phil Spector on Death of a Ladies’ Man, and 1979’s undervalued Recent Songs. Perhaps its longevity has something to do with the song’s malleability, its openness to interpretation. He laboured so intensively over the lyric that, at one juncture, he literally ended up banging his head against the floor, but ended up with something that can be viewed as euphoric or despairing, solemnly religious or carnal, ambiguous or sincere. It’s even survived an unprovoked assault by ghastly operatic man-band Il Divo, the mauling compounded by that fact that, brilliantly, someone in their Simon Cowell-helmed operation took it upon themselves to change the lyrics.”

    You may well have read Dorian Lysnkey’s beautiful tribute, which we published earlier. He also encountered Cohen four years ago, and wrote about it at the time.

    ‘When I speak of depression,’ he says carefully, ‘I speak of a clinical depression that is the background of your entire life, a background of anguish and anxiety, a sense that nothing goes well, that pleasure is unavailable and all your strategies collapse. I’m happy to report that, by imperceptible degrees and by the grace of good teachers and good luck, that depression slowly dissolved and has never returned with the same ferocity that prevailed for most of my life.’ He thinks it might just be down to old age. ‘I read somewhere that as you grow older certain brain cells die that are associated with anxiety so it doesn’t really matter how much you apply yourself to the disciplines. You’re going to start feeling a lot better or a lot worse depending on the condition of your neurons.’”

    If you haven’t yet looked at our gallery of Cohen’s life and career, please do so. If only for the conclusive proof that there was at least one man in the world who could look good in a safari suit.

    Related: Leonard Cohen's life and career – in pictures

    Leonard Cohen was someone who appreciated the power of music, even the music one doesn’t necessarily like. He was interviewed for the Guardian by Mat Snow in 1988. In the conversation, Mat quoted Martin Amis’s description of Simon & Garfunkel’s music being not so much art as therapy, prompting this response from Cohen:

    I think that’s a rather mean-spirited approach to a man’s work. Everything can be diminished from this point of view. If you don’t like something and think it’s cheap, unless you really have a great sense of responsibility for your culture, I think it’s best to keep it to yourself. That might be the song that gets someone through a dark hour. He wouldn’t say that about Bach. There’s something elitist and snotty about that kind of remark.”

    Time for some more tributes to the great man.

    #RIPLeonardCohen

    A spirit and soul beyond compare.

    leonard cohen

    RIP Leonard Cohen #hero

    R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

    Here’s the second of Alexis Petridis’s key Cohen songs: Famous Blue Raincoat.

    Understandably, given that he was a poet long before he picked up the guitar – and that his words are so rich and rewarding – attention tends to focus on Leonard Cohen’s lyrics, which occasionally means that his skill as a writer of music tends to get overlooked. But he was a brilliant melodicist: all those talent show contestants belting out Hallelujah aren’t doing so because they’re enraptured by its references to the Book of Judges. Famous Blue Raincoat, form his stark, intense third album, 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate, is a perfect example: the dark, epistolary evocation of a love triangle is perfectly augmented by a tune rooted not in rock or pop or folk music, but in the French chanson tradition. The moment where the melody rises up on the line ‘Jane came by with a lock of your hair’ is one of the loveliest in Cohen’s catalogue. He clearly knew the song’s power. It was still unreleased when he chose it to end his set at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, perhaps the most famous and celebrated live performance of his career, during which he singlehandedly mesmerised a restless audience of half a million.”

    It’s Hallelujah, as performed by Susanna and the Magical Orchestra
    Bill “Smog” Callahan takes on So Long, Marianne
    Billy Joel’s cover of Light As the Breeze
    Teddy Thompson playing Tonight Will Be Fine

    And from another generation, my colleague Alexandra Topping recalls another appearance at a festival …

    I remember the first time I heard Leonard Cohen. My dad was doing his tax return late at night when I got in, crouched over his desk, almost in the dark. I was just transfixed. What’s this, I asked? He looked at me like I was an imbecile: ‘This, megirl, is Leonard Cohen.’ He mocked, but lent me the CD Songs of Leonard Cohen. I played it on repeat for about two weeks solid.

    Eight years after my dad died, me and my mum were lucky enough to go to Glastonbury at the same time. Leonard Cohen had been ripped off by his former manager and so had to tour again. We were lucky enough to wait in front of the Pyramid stage from the morning, taking it in turns to go for drinks and keeping our spot. When he came on stage, my mum turned into a young girl again. And as those songs of poetry and passion came forth, we clung on to each other, singing every word along with him, like the thousands of others around us. We cherished every word, every bow, every tip of the hat. We were so elated.

    Here’s a lovely memory from the Observer reporter Ed Vulliamy of seeing Cohen at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970.

    We’ll all have our memories and associations. I remember seeing him play at the Isle of Wight, August 1970. Shortly before dawn with 600,000 other people: a scene of vast, exhausted elation along ‘Devastation Hill’ (we’d had Miles Davis, the Who, Doors, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, Joan Baez, etc) … Leonard Cohen recalled a time his father took him to the circus as a boy, where a clown had asked everyone in the audience to light a match – and he bade Devastation Hill to do just that: so that a sea of little flames illuminated the night, along the escarpment, far as the eye could see from among the grime, soiled sleeping bags and euphoria. Then he played: The Partisan, Suzanne, the lot.”

    John Cale was the man who took Hallelujah, altered its arrangement, and turned it into the song that took over the world. Here’s his reaction.

    very upsetting news 2 learn of Leonard's passing. the world has 1 less gentle soul tnight. we thank u 4 the multitude of gifts u left us. jc

    We’re going to roll them out gradually. His first is Suzanne …

    There’s a sense in which the contents of 1967’s The Songs Of Leonard Cohen attested to the fact that its author was already 33 years old when it was released. For all Cohen’s apparent inexperienced discomfort in the studio (and subsequent dismissal of its ‘overproduced’ arrangements, possibly influenced by the fact that, incredibly, it received a lukewarm critical response on release), it sounded more like a mature record than a neophyte’s debut; it came packed with tracks that would go on to become standards, covered by everyone from Beck to Nina Simone: Sisters of Mercy; Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye; So Long Marianne;, Suzanne. For decades, it seemed like the latter would always be Cohen’s most famous and definitive song. What’s striking about it now is how little over-familiarity has dulled its impact: its subtly infectious mood of small hours introspection, its understated depiction of the broiling emotions lurking beneath a platonic but charged relationship with someone else’s partner have never lost their potency.”

    The story of Leonard Cohen and his muse, Marianne Ihlen, has been well told. Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to her, as she was dying. The reply is beautiful and moving.

    And here is the beautiful reply sent to Leonard Cohen. pic.twitter.com/2AwRGwZQLe

    The tributes to Leonard Cohen keep coming in …

    "Like a bird on the wire
    Like a drunk in a midnight choir
    I have tried, in my way, to be free."
    -Leonard Cohen

    Bye, Leonard and thanks!x https://t.co/hjB5KUoGHR

    Leonard Cohen. A tough one to take this morning. Wise, beautiful, kind...I've clung on to his words in darkness. Always will. Endless love x

    A while back, Laura Barton wrote about Hallelujah, the much covered song that has come to define Cohen through the countless cover versions.

    It was always the John Cale version that did it for me; his voice seemed to bring a more ecclesiastical quality to those lines. For a long while I clung to that and resisted the prettiness of Jeff Buckley’s version, but Buckley’s is undoubtedly the most sensual interpretation, breathing life into the song with a short exhalation even before he plays, bringing out the texture of Cohen’s lyrics, the feel of lips and hair and coldness. He takes its holiness and renders it physical, earthly. “Whoever listens closely to Hallelujah will discover that it is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth,” Buckley once explained. “The hallelujah is not a homage to a worshipped person, idol or god, but the hallelujah of the orgasm. It’s an ode to life and love.” After all, what is a minor fall if not a petite mort?”

    You can share your own memories of and tributes to the great man here …

    Related: Share your memories and tributes to Leonard Cohen

    According to the well-informed folks of the Leonard Cohen forum, he passed away on Monday, and has been buried in a private ceremony in Montreal.

    More Cohen covers:

    Very much liking Madeleine Peyroux tackling Dance Me to the End of Love
    Here’s Pixies doing I Can’t Forget and the Jesus and Mary Chain doing Tower of Song
    And another Tower of Song from Martha Wainwright
    Ane Brun’s Ain’t No Cure for Love is pretty lovely, too.

    The truth was that Cohen felt as lost as anybody. What gave his work its uncommon gravitas wasn’t that he knew the answers but that he never stopped looking. He searched for clues in bedrooms and warzones, in Jewish temples and Buddhist retreats, in Europe, Africa, Israel and Cuba. He tried to flush them out with booze and drugs and seduce them with melodies. And whenever he managed to painfully extract some nugget of wisdom, he would cut and polish it like a precious stone before resuming the search. Funny about himself but profoundly serious about his art, he liked to describe his songs as “investigations” into the hidden mechanics of love, sex, war, religion and death – the beautiful and terrifying truths of existence. A Leonard Cohen song is an anchor flung into a churning sea. It has the kind of weight that could save your life.

    Related: Leonard Cohen – he knew things about life, and if you listened you could learn

    My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.”

    In this dark moment after the US election let’s remember Leonard Cohen ”There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” #RIP

    We have lost a great artist, poet and poignant force of energy. R.I.P Leonard Cohen.

    Looks like freedom but it feels like death
    It's something in between, I guess
    It's closing time . RIP Leonard Cohen. pic.twitter.com/C61FNULS4p

    "First we take Manhattan."-Leonard Cohen #Cry#Fight#Hallelujah#Onwardpic.twitter.com/VvUxmI8hs9

    Some nice nominations coming through for the Cohen covers playlist …

    James’s version of So Long Marianne
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds turning Tower of Song into feral swamp rock
    Feist taking on Closing Time
    Martin Gore doing Coming Back to You
    The Broken Family Band offering a UK country take on Diamonds in the Mine (that one was nominated by the former singer of the Broken Family Band)

    The legendary record mogul Clive Davis has paid tribute, in Billboard:

    Leonard Cohen was truly a master songwriter. No one sounded like him either vocally or lyrically. He penetrated your soul with his haunting voice and his piercing words. Leonard was absolutely one-of-a-kind, a poet and an artist who put you under his spell time and time again. Suzanne, So Long, Marianne, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, Hallelujah, Bird on a Wire. Each is unforgettable and each will live on forever as will Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet laureate.”

    In an interview last month, Cohen said he was “ready to die”.

    He told the New Yorker:

    I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.

    The big change is the proximity to death. I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, that’s OK.

    But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.

    Related: Leonard Cohen: 'I am ready to die'

    Good morning, everyone. Michael Hann here, in London, taking over from Claire Phipps in Australia, on another sobering and sad morning in music – there have been rather too many sober days in the last 12 months, what with Lemmy, Bowie, Prince and now Leonard Cohen. Alongside the mourning, I’d like to celebrate Leonard Cohen’s life and music. So would you help me with compiling a playlist of the best covers of Cohen songs? I’ll kick us off with REM. Tweet me your nominations: @MichaelAHann

    You Want It Darker, the album released only weeks ago, won rave reviews, including from the Observer, which gave it five stars. Reviewer Kitty Empire said it was:

    an album of killer couplets, even the bleakest delivered with a half-smile. Finality is a theme.

    Throughout, he sounds wise and honest, and – despite the occasional lyrical protestations of weariness – full of life. Last week in LA, Cohen talked about making two more albums, about following the musical path sketched out on the album’s finale, String Reprise/Treaty.

    It’s hard not to hope it works out that way – the man behind You Want It Darker does not seem like someone running short on inspiration – but if circumstances dictate otherwise, there are worse ways to bow out than this.

    Marianne Ihlen, Cohen’s most famous muse, died in July this year.

    Jan Christian Mollestad, a documentary maker and friend of Ihlen, shared a letter Cohen had written to her shortly before she died:

    Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.

    Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

    Related: So long, Marianne: Leonard Cohen writes to muse just before her death

    Fans have been gathering outside Cohen’s home in Montreal – it’s past 2am there now – to place messages and candles for the singer.

    One reader sends this photo from the city:

    @Claire_Phipps Earlier this evening. Some sang while others wept. I said a short prayer. pic.twitter.com/iOP28KocgU

    Sylvie Simmons, Cohen’s biographer, has posted her goodbye to him on Facebook:

    I was just on NPR radio, giving the most moronic answers to questions I’ve ever given anyone about Leonard Cohen, because I didn’t want to talk. It’s still sinking in. My brain is numb. In this year of losses, so many losses, in this black week for the world, this tops them all.

    I’m writing this with constant interruptions, calls and texts from radio and newspapers wanting to know this and that. Everyone wants details, how and where and why he died. Well, he went out in a blaze of glory. Died with his boots on – or his suit on – having delivered a masterpiece before he left. You Want It Darker is one of his richest, deepest and most beautiful albums in a lifetime of rich, deep and beautiful work.

    My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.

    His ability to conjure the vast array of human emotion made him one of the most influential and enduring musicians ever.

    I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.

    Related: Leonard Cohen obituary

    As well as musicians, tributes have come from writers and poets:

    "There is a crack in everything,
    That's how the light gets in."

    RIP Leonard Cohen.

    A Poet has passed. His golden voice, his deep words shall live after his death. Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

    Agence France-Presse posts these 10 key moments from Leonard Cohen’s life:

    His first book of poetry, 1955. RIP #LeonardCohenpic.twitter.com/b3Sw2oy4CO

    Related: Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker review – still changing, still full of life

    Another giant of music has gone and his fans are in mourning.

    There were hints that Leonard Cohen would not live much longer, but in a year that has already taken away Prince, David Bowie and George Martin, his death – announced via a Facebook post on Thursday – still came as a shock.

    Related: Musicians, writers and politicians unite to remember Leonard Cohen

    A handful more of the comments readers have shared with me on Twitter:

    @Claire_Phipps
    Bowie told me that I wasn't alone.
    Cohen told me the intimate details of myself I hadn't yet shared with anyone.

    @Claire_Phipps in August he wrote dying "Marianne" saying, hope you have a good journey, I think I'll follow you soon. And he did. Great man

    @Claire_Phipps There's poetry in the passing of #LeonardCohen Just when we most need him - a face of love to overshadow one of hate

    @Claire_Phipps A magical night in a Roman amphitheatre Pula, Croatia 2013 with Mr. Cohen pic.twitter.com/jbxaUJcvW0

    Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has published a longer statement on Cohen’s death. The singer was a longtime friend of Trudeau’s father, Pierre, also a former Canadian PM:

    It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of the legendary Leonard Cohen.

    A most remarkable Montrealer, Leonard Cohen managed to reach the highest of artistic achievement, both as an acclaimed poet and a world-renowned singer-songwriter. He will be fondly remembered for his gruff vocals, his self-deprecating humour and the haunting lyrics that made his songs the perennial favourite of so many generations.

    Leonard Cohen was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003 and received many artistic honours during his lifetime, including being inducted into the Canadian Music hall of fame, the Canadian Songwriters hall of fame, and the American Rock and Roll hall of fame.

    He received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2010 and was awarded the Glenn Gould prize for lifetime achievement in the arts in 2011. In 2013, with a career already spanning more than fifty years, he won Junos as Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year for his 2012 album Old Ideas. His music had withstood the test of time.

    Cohen’s son Adam has told Rolling Stone that his father died peacefully at home:

    My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records.

    He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.

    Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candour, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed.

    I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come.

    With thanks again to readers who are sharing memories and tributes on our news story:

    Leonard, my dear old friend of 40 years or more, you've finally taken the plunge into The Great Unknown.

    What sadness and joy this brings me, your sweet melancholy has helped me through the low points in my life, and your human understanding has shown me a way to understand how we as humanity fit together in this life's journey.

    Leonard found words for every thought and emotion possible: I can find none to express my deep sadness at the passing of a minstrel poet who surpassed all others. WE are only four years apart in age and he has been my life's solace and inspiration all down the years. There is a gap now that will not be filled.

    There is something intensely good,holy about L Cohen which he would gently dismiss which pervades all that he says,writes,sings and does. Essentially a great self knowledge and humility tempered with a warm intelligent humour . Sang to me when I was young and carefree, when I was devastated by a child's accident,when I was at my happiest and at my most sad. A great human being. Go Leonard. Millions mourn your passing.

    As of the week could get any worse. Thank you Leonard Cohen, for all the things. Rest In Peace

    Kids. Take a moment to listen to Leonard Cohen's song Going Home when you can. RIP L Cohen and thank you.

    Thank you Leonard Cohen
    Swift rebirth my friend.

    One of the best concerts of my life. Could hear a pin drop. The poetry & the reverence. Waiting for every precious word. RIP Leonard Cohen.

    You can read the Guardian’s full obituary of Cohen here.

    Here’s a snippet:

    Early in his career, his novel Beautiful Losers (1966) caused the Boston Globe to declare that “James Joyce is not dead. He is living in Montreal under the name of Cohen.” Yet Cohen was determined to establish himself as a songwriter, having been smitten as profoundly as any of his contemporaries by the emergence of rock’n’roll music.

    “I always loved rock,” he said. “I remember the first time I heard Presley, how relieved and grateful I was that all this stuff he and all of us had been feeling for so long had finally found a particular kind of expression.”

    Related: Leonard Cohen obituary

    Last month’s interview by David Remnick in the New Yorker– worth a read even before today’s news broke – dealt, among other things, with the relationship between Cohen and Bob Dylan, the artist with whom he is most often compared:

    Even before three hundred other performers made Hallelujah famous with their cover versions … Dylan recognized the beauty of its marriage of the sacred and the profane. He asked Cohen how long it took him to write.

    “Two years,” Cohen lied.

    When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines – they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music …

    I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening.

    As promised, some of the comments readers have shared with me on Twitter:

    @Claire_Phipps I used to walk by his house at Marie Anne and St Laurent in Montreal. You might see him there in the small park.

    @Claire_Phipps@guardian Hi, I'm one of Cohen's two official Slovenian translators, deeply saddened today. Matej Krajnc

    @Claire_Phipps Many, but right now the refrain from Take This Longing comes to mind. One of his great life/love songs.

    At the Chelsea Hotel in New York – scene for some of Cohen’s more notorious lyrics– fans are leaving notes and memorials:

    A makeshift #LeonardCohen memorial has begun at the Chelsea Hotel. Red wine, candles, handwritten notes, flowers, and album sleeves. pic.twitter.com/JdQeP3NOdN

    #LeonardCohenpic.twitter.com/Kbg2oWWn7W

    Some readers have been contacting me via Twitter– for which thank you – to add their own tributes. I’ll add more to the live blog shortly, but first wanted to showcase these images sent by the Ensemble Scholastica in Montreal:

    His first book of poetry, 1955. RIP #LeonardCohenpic.twitter.com/b3Sw2oy4CO

    Elegy. From his first book of poems, Montréal, 1955. RIP #LeonardCohenpic.twitter.com/ztTBdTy8xu

    Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy – home of the Grammys, which gave Cohen a lifetime achievement award back in 2010 – has issued a statement on the “cherished artist”:

    We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Grammy award winner and 2010 Recording Academy lifetime achievement award recipient Leonard Cohen.

    During an influential career that spanned more than five decades, Leonard became one of the most revered pop poets and a musical touchstone for many songwriters.

    Cohen will, of course, be remembered primarily for his music. But his writing extended far beyond that.

    In this Guardian article in 2008, Alex Larman argued that Cohen the poet deserved as much appreciation as Cohen the songwriter:

    We shouldn’t forget that Cohen is as strong a poet as he is a musician. Since the publication of his first collection in 1956, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in the prestigious McGill Poetry series, Cohen has established himself as a writer with a distinctive voice in the canon of Canadian and American poetry.

    Cohen would still be highly thought of if he’d never written a song in his life but had stuck to writing his wry, ironic, tender verse. His poetry often talks of love, but it is never straightforwardly romantic …

    Related: Leonard Cohen - poet

    leonard cohen

    Such sad news...The great Leonard Cohen has passed away. Thank's for what your music has done for humanity... Kindness, love, beauty, poetry

    I've experienced the loss of many legends but never have I seen so many of their works quoted in their passing. #LeonardCohen

    Flags in Montreal, Canada, where Cohen was brought up, are flying at half-mast.

    The Montreal mayor, Denis Coderre, said the city had “lost one of our greatest ambassadors and icons”.

    Leonard Cohen define so well our cultural diversity and duality representing The true definition of living together in Montreal So long pic.twitter.com/J02Hrca5N6

    Through 14 albums, from the 1960s to 2016: Cohen’s life in pictures.

    Related: Leonard Cohen's life and career – in pictures

    Some tributes from readers (you can add your own here on our main news story):

    This is a heavy blow to Canadians. Leonard Cohen quickly became an international star after he began performing his own songs, but he was a well-known poet and novelist before that. He was part of a generation of mostly Jewish writers who came out of Montreal in the 50s, including Irving Layton and Mordechai Richler. He published four volumes of poetry (plus a collection of his poems) and two novels before recording his first album in 1966. In 1968, he won the Governor-General's Award for poetry and drama (which he refused for some reason).

    He lived mostly in the US in later years, but retained his strong connections to Montreal and Canada.

    As I'm Lagatta de Montréal, you can imagine how I feel. I listened to Suzanne by Cohen, and in French by the passionaria Pauline Julien, and after effing Trump, I'm overcome by sadness.

    In the spirit of resistance, I'm listening to his rendering of The Partisan...

    Closing Time for a haunting, luminous and often wryly funny poet and singer. I first became a fan in high school about 40+ years ago. My fondest memory was of him phoning my school after I had written a poem featuring him and my teacher had sent it to his publisher. Somehow they read it to him over the phone and he contacted me for a chat. A kind, human gesture.

    In recent years, I was lucky to see him on his long 2008-2013 tour several times. What set him apart from so many others of his generation was that he actually got better over 60 with such brilliant songs as The Future and Almost Like the Blues; he didn't just churn out his back catalogue. Thank you and bless you, Leonard.

    Cohen spoke about his health just weeks prior to his death during a promotional interview for his 14th album, You Want it Darker:

    Just letting a little light in:

    89% of Canadian albums streams will be Leonard Cohen for the rest of the year

    For many people – not least because of the many, many cover versions – Hallelujah will be the song they most associate with Cohen.

    In 2008, a backlash to a cover of the song by that year’s UK X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, sparked a campaign to get Jeff Buckley’s famed version to the top of the charts. It was a one-two – though Burke triumphed.

    I was happy that the song was being used, of course. There were certain ironic and amusing sidebars, because the record that it came from which was called Various Positions – [a] record Sony wouldn’t put out. They didn’t think it was good enough. It had songs like Dance Me to the End of Love, Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will. So there was a mild sense of revenge that arose in my heart.

    But I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said ‘Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?’

    R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen RIP

    RIP Leonard Cohen. Ugh. It feels pointed, this death. It's making us remember songs like Come Healing which is a good one for these days

    Cohen, who was born in Quebec in Canada, came to prominence in the 1960s as a poet, novelist and singer-songwriter. Originally focusing on literary pursuits, he shifted his attention to music in the late 60s when he moved to New York. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released in 1967 and became a cult hit.

    Cohen’s influence on the music industry has been likened to that of his contemporaries Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

    Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has commented on the loss of one of the country’s greatest cultural icons:

    No other artist's music felt or sounded like Leonard Cohen's. Yet his work resonated across generations. Canada and the world will miss him.

    There's a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah#RIPLeonard

    Last year, Guardian music colleagues compiled a list of Cohen’s 10 best songs.

    At number one? Suzanne.

    Related: Leonard Cohen: 10 of the best

    A brilliant Canadian artist passed today. Leonard Cohen, rest in peace. Hallelujah.

    “Everything has a crack in it, that's how the light gets in.” - Leonard Cohen

    Dear Leonard Cohen, thanks for the quiet nights, the reflection, the perspective, the wry smiles and the truth #towerofsong

    As well as musing on mortality, Cohen recently weighed in on Bob Dylan’s surprise Nobel prize win, the art of songwriting and the constant presence of religious themes in his work.

    Speaking at a Q&A and playback session for his latest and now final album in Los Angeles, Cohen said that giving the award to Dylan “is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain”:

    I think that Bob Dylan knows this more than all of us: you don’t write the songs anyhow.

    So if you’re lucky, you can keep the vehicle healthy and responsive over the years. If you’re lucky, your own intentions have very little to do with this. You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible, but whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.

    I’ve never thought of myself as a religious person. I don’t have any spiritual strategy. I kind of limp along like so many of us do in these realms. Occasionally I’ve felt the grace of another presence in my life. But I can’t develop any kind of spiritual structure on that.

    This biblical landscape is very familiar to me, and it’s natural that I use those landmarks as references. Once they were universal references, and everybody understood and knew them. That’s no longer the case today, but it is still my landscape.

    You Want It Darker was co-produced by Leonard Cohen’s son, Adam. Speaking recently with CBC radio host Tom Power, Adam talked about working with his father on the album many believed would be his last.

    This old man, who was truly in pain and discomfort, would at some intervals get out of his medical chair and dance in front of his speakers.

    And sometimes, we would put on a song and listen to it on repeat just like teenagers with the help of medical marijuana.

    Unlike so many from that golden era, from which he comes, he’s not a nostalgia act.

    This guy is speaking from his particular vantage point, he’s speaking about things that are meaningful to him at his particular rung in life — he will be leaving a giant void when he leaves us.

    Leonard Cohen is dead. There's a crack in everything. No light yet. https://t.co/PrjhbIjZQd

    RIP Leonard Cohen. He got out just in time.

    Of course 2016 would take #LeonardCohen. Of course. 2016, please go away. You have made your awful point. RIP to yet another great.

    Cohen’s comments after the death of his most famous muse Marianne Ihlen, who died in August, now strike a particularly prophetic tone.

    Jan Christian Mollestad, a documentary maker, read a letter Cohen wrote to her before she died:

    Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.

    Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

    Related: So long, Marianne: Leonard Cohen writes to muse just before her death

    Leonard Cohen has died. Another magical voice stilled.

    & when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said all men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them
    -Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen gone? I didn't think this week could get any worse.

    Very sad news Leonard Cohen is gone . He was a true visionary and a great inspiration, how to grow old as an artist.

    You Want It Darker, the album released only weeks ago, won rave reviews, including from the Observer, which gave it five stars. Reviewer Kitty Empire said it was:

    an album of killer couplets, even the bleakest delivered with a half-smile. Finality is a theme.

    Throughout, he sounds wise and honest, and – despite the occasional lyrical protestations of weariness – full of life. Last week in LA, Cohen talked about making two more albums, about following the musical path sketched out on the album’s finale, String Reprise/Treaty.

    It’s hard not to hope it works out that way – the man behind You Want It Darker does not seem like someone running short on inspiration – but if circumstances dictate otherwise, there are worse ways to bow out than this.

    In an interview last month, Cohen said he was “ready to die”.

    He told the New Yorker:

    I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.

    The big change is the proximity to death. I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, that’s OK.

    But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.

    Related: Leonard Cohen: 'I am ready to die'

    Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82.

    A post to his official Facebook page today announced the musician’s passing.

    It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.

    A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.

    Related: Leonard Cohen dies aged 82

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  • 11/11/16--07:00: Poster poems: glass
  • Both fragile and strong, a mirror and a container – glass shares many properties with good poetry. Share your cracking verse here

    Like so many everyday items we take for granted, glass originated in the Middle East. The earliest known manufactured glass objects are from Mesopotamia, and were made about 5,000 years ago. For most of the intervening period, glass was a luxury item, used for jewellery and expensive tableware. It must have seemed somewhat miraculous: a transparent, malleable, yet rigid substance, something between rock, water and air. Of course, these very properties have made glass a rich source of imagery for poets.

    Glassblowing is an ancient art, as reflected in this Greek poem found on athird century Egyptian scroll that reflects the quasi-divine nature of the material. For a more recent glassblowing poet, Peter Goldsworthy, the glassblower’s deft, precarious and delicate operations form a mirror of the poet’s craft in Glass. Goldsworthy’s poem comes to rest on a pun on the word “still”; the blower forms a vessel of that name, but the timeless stillness of the best glassware is also present. Exploring similar territory, Thomas W Shapcott’s The Glass Vase stands outside time and place, and its great value is that it is breakable, that it stands for the fragility of “the thing made”, which is life itself.

    Related: Poster poems: ice

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    Playful poems on everything from the dead to the washing up reveal an elegant imagination at work

    In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus offers a famous description of the workings of the poetic imagination, which “bodies forth / The forms of things unknown” while “the poet’s pen / Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing / A local habitation and a name”. Mark Waldron’s witty and sometimes terrifying Meanwhile, Trees, his third collection, exhibits this tendency in an unusually pure form, whereby idle speculation generates a temporary but swarmingly detailed reality whose consequences may confound and alarm. The poems go too far ever to come back.

    Theseus adds: “How easy is a bush supposed a bear.” For Waldron it may not be a matter of supposing. In the farcical “So I was at home doing the washing up”, an account of differing and strongly held opinions on how much washing up liquid to use becomes a defence of personal freedom and of identity itself, a failure of proportion recalling Heinrich von Kleist’s nightmarish novella Michael Kohlhaas, where a man robbed of his horses and seeking redress ends by plunging Germany into civil war. In Waldron’s case, he doesn’t even have to leave the kitchen: “no one could stop me if I sold / the damn house and everything in it / and spent all the money I got from / the sale on washing up liquid. I could / have it delivered in tankers if I could get / the parking permits.” The speaker recants, but Donald Trump is already out of the solipsist’s bottle.

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    Poetry is an endless conversation and argument with the dead – the most important talk we’ll ever have

    Leonard Cohen once called himself “a ninth-rate practitioner in a great tradition” but he’ll be remembered as more than that. His best lines will remain, subtle and tough like a poacher’s snares to pull tight the knot of pleasure and apprehension around readers who stumble into them long after his obituaries are forgotten. That is something of what it means to be part of a tradition: to strike up new conversations even when you’re dead. Memory and poetry are closely entwined. Poems live in memory or not at all and, while they do, they help to shape the people who remember them.

    This has been a year, indeed a week, that will be grimly remembered for decades, but it is also a year in which we remember many horrors of the past. The slaughter at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris was exactly a year ago. A concert by Sting will commemorate this and at the same time try to change its meaning and show that music can’t be permanently silenced with gunfire.

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    Dodgy science becomes delightful art as allegedly curative plants speak as patients in this TS Eliot prize-shortlisted collection

    Rock Rose

    a remedy for terror

    a remedy for hatred and jealousy

    a remedy for those who are too selfless

    a remedy for impatience

    Related: Forward prize winner Vahni Capildeo shortlisted for TS Eliot poetry award

    Related: The Remedies by Katharine Towers review – a fanciful talking cure

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    Several identities are scrutinised in this four-part poem by Malayan-born poet and critic Wong Yoon Wah

    By Wong Yoon Wah and Theophilus Kwek for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    The stories told with Southeast Asia’s shadow puppets, better known in the region as ‘Wayang Kulit’, range from adaptations of ancient epics to familiar, domestic sagas. This poem was written in 1977, when the Malayan-born Wong Yoon Wah (by then an outspoken scholar, critic, and award-winning writer) was appointed Director of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang University – just as higher education in Singapore was experiencing a period of upheaval. Here, Wong holds his own several identities up to the light, and a candid sense of his inner self shines through.

    —The editors at Asymptote

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  • 11/16/16--05:27: David Attwooll obituary
  • My father, David Attwooll, who has died aged 67, was a pioneering publisher, fine drummer and critically acclaimed poet. He was passionate about people and social justice, and he had a visionary belief in the power of information. He was the perfect English gentleman with a wild blues soul.

    Son of Derek Attwooll, a civil engineer, and his wife, Dorothy (nee Hunt), David was born in Twickenham, south-west London, and grew up in Thames Ditton at the beginning of the optimistic postwar period. At the age of 13, David went to Lancing college in West Sussex, where he formed his first band, The Blues Roar, and started his amateur cricket career. In 1967 David was the first of his family to go to university, earning a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge. It was there that his love of literature and music flourished; he published poems in student magazines and became the founding drummer of the avant-rock band Henry Cow, supporting Pink Floyd at the college ball.

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    Die Geträumten consists of readings from the letters of Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan – daughter of a Nazi and son of Jews

    She was the daughter of a Nazi party member, he the only son of parents who died in the Holocaust. The love affair between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan was as unlikely as it was brief, spanning two months in Vienna and a shorter rekindling 10 years later.

    But the meeting of minds between two of the most influential writers in the German language – and the more than 200 poems, letters, postcards, telegrams and unsent drafts it spawned – has outlasted not just their love affair, but also their authors’ premature deaths.

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    Insight and vendettas in a guide to the right and wrong ways to read a poem

    “I believe,” says Craig Raine, midway through My Grandmother’s Glass Eye, “that the first and most important question you can ask a poem is, ‘what does it mean?’ The poet … relies on his reader to try to make sense of the poem … We will get nowhere with poetry if we stall at the start and decide it cannot be understood.”

    On the surface, Raine’s proposition appears to be a modest, even innocuous, one. The centrality of meaning to poetry – the absolute necessity of getting at it, and getting it right – is at the heart of his argument, and he makes it in terms that are hard to gainsay. “Poetry”, he declares, “isn’t diminished by clarity” – and after all, what is? Anyone familiar with the field of poetry criticism will, of course, have spotted that there’s a degree of disingenuity at play here; the notion of “meaning” within poetry has long been contentious, and Raine himself acknowledges this, taking the time to walk us through the range of historical perspectives. But nevertheless he is keen, in the here and now, to emphasise the common sense of his chosen approach; the way in which it simplifies what others have sought to complicate, and thus permits us a closer, truer, more robust relationship with verse.

    Reading Raine, you have the feeling of being in a front row seat at a boxing match

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    Cohen, like Donne, had that rare ability to render the concerns of the mind, body and spirit with equal fidelity in his work

    The first time I thought consciously about Leonard Cohen’s death was in 2002. I was listening to his 2001 album Ten New Songs while crawling my way through the writing of a novel in which each chapter took its title from one of the poems in The Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. I remember hearing the following lines, among the hundreds of Cohen’s that I’ve come to revere: “So come, my friends, be not afraid/ We are so lightly here/ It is in love that we are made/ In love we disappear.”

    In that moment, a network of biographical and thematic connections between Donne and Cohen suddenly rose up in my mind. No man is an island. Death be not proud. The bearable and the unbearable lightness of our being. The way that love makes us and remakes us. The secular sacrament of our lovemaking itself. The lover as saint. The high seriousness of love and death so entwined. The abiding generosity towards their listeners. Can there be two poets who credit their audience with more intelligence than Donne and Cohen? I wrote a few notes about the idea, the last line of which I underlined: Leonard Cohen is John Donne to Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare.

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    The acclaimed US writer talks about why he finds poetry the most irresistible – if embarrassing - medium

    You recently wrote a monograph, The Hatred of Poetry. To what extent do you, as a poet, hate poetry?
    My first teacher and dear friend, the person to whom No Art is dedicated, CD Wright, was a great poet who died recently. When I was an undergraduate, she was a hero to me. I remember telling her once – I was a kid – that I was frustrated with writing, and she said: “I hate poetry half the time.” She was kind of joking, kind of not. Any art, maybe poetry in particular, is caught up in a repetitive experience of disappointment – the distance between what you want to do and can do.

    Poetry is this space where every single particle of language is charged with the most meaning

    Related: Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner – review

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    The Last Poets’ fierce performance poetry inspired generations of musicians, even as they destroyed themselves. Now they’re back – and as relevant as ever

    “The Last Poets are the microcosm of black America,” said Umar Bin Hassan, one of the founding members of the group, when I first met him in Harlem, New York, a decade ago. And he’s right: the turbulent and sometimes violent history of this legendary group of African American men who became famous worldwide in the late 1960s and early 70s with self-critical, militant poems (“Niggers are scared of revolution. Niggers love anything but themselves”) not only influenced generations of hip-hop and soul artists – such as Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Ice-T, 2Pac, Common, Mos Def and Erykah Badu– but also the likes of David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Their fluent and funky conga-rhythms transformed poetry into rap (a novelty at the time, though perhaps not today).

    Umar Bin Hassan, now 68, is in a position to reflect on their remarkable collective strength, resilience and hope. The Poets always bounced back, no matter how much they struggled – and boy, did they struggle. Umar, in particular, lived on the streets as a crack addict for years and found success very hard to handle. Growing up in a ghetto, where he was told “You ain’t shit” from a very young age, Umar worked as a shoeshine boy in a red-light district to escape his father’s abuse. Racism, poverty and social exclusion left their destructive marks on him; as Bin Hassan put it in one of his autobiographical poems: “Self-hatred wrapped up in a twisted, demented but well-controlled smile.”

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    Written in a time of ever greater division, this beguiling love poem celebrates two lovers’ almost mystical union

    Meeting Point

    Time was away and somewhere else,
    There were two glasses and two chairs
    And two people with the one pulse
    (Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
    Time was away and somewhere else,

    Without heroics, without belief,
    I send you, as I am not rich,
    Nothing but odds and ends a thief
    Bundled up in the last ditch.

    Related: Poem of the week: Elegy by Sidney Keyes

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    From Zadie Smith’s Swing Time to horror in the Highlands and a brief history of tomorrow ... writers choose their best reads of 2016

    Birth of a Dream Weaver; The Face; The Return; Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

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    The actor-writer and the poet-novelist talk writing, TV and speaking for a generation

    Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Kate Tempest have met before, as you might expect of two London-based artists both born in 1985 – though Waller-Bridge was drunk and Tempest can’t remember. Several years on, both have written plays, with Waller-Bridge’s bleak and hilarious Fleabag on BBC2 (it returns for a run at the Soho theatre next month) earning her rave reviews and a commission to write a thriller, Killer Eve, for BBC America. Meanwhile, Tempest’s poetry, her recent novel, The Bricks That Built The Houses, and albums including her latest, Let Them Eat Chaos, have earned her plaudits, including the 2013 Ted Hughes award (for Brand New Ancients) and a 2014 Mercury prize nomination (for Everybody Down). Last week she was shortlisted for the Costa 2016 poetry award.

    Not that it’s gone to either of their heads. When they meet at the Guardian’s offices, each writer-performer is engaged and fascinated by the other’s way of working. There’s a jokey intimacy to their conversation from the off; here are two women who get each other, even if their voices are completely different. Whether they end up collaborating remains to be seen, but if they do, the work would no doubt be as sharp and dark and funny as the generation-defining projects they have written so far.

    The difference between a writer and someone who dreams of being a writer is that the writer has finished

    That idea that you’re not being indulgent, being an artist, is such a massive step

    Do you ever write something and go, 'Smashed it, that’s brilliant'?

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    Fusing writing, music, art and technology, a new generation is taking poetry beyond the bookstore

    If you’re not an Instagrammer you may never have heard of Rupi Kaur. In fact, if you’re not a young female Instagrammer, then your chances are probably even slimmer.

    And yet, with almost 750,000 Instagram followers and more than half a million copies of her debut poetry collection, Milk and Honey, sold worldwide, Kaur is one of the biggest names on the literary scene right now.

    Related: Rupi Kaur: 'There was no market for poetry about trauma, abuse and healing’

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

    Related: Hera Lindsay Bird: I prefer poetry that allows room for ugliness and error

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    Paula Hawkins reflects on guilt, Jackie Kay seeks hope post-Brexit, and David Nicholls is lured into the lonely city … writers pick their best books of 2016

    Behold the Dreamers; The Good Immigrant

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