Articles on this Page
- 12/20/16--07:00: _Translation Tuesday...
- 12/23/16--07:00: _Ruth Padel and Luci...
- 12/23/16--22:00: _Lemn Sissay: ‘Every...
- 12/24/16--00:00: _The King of Christmas
- 12/26/16--03:00: _Poem of the week: J...
- 12/27/16--02:56: _John Montague obituary
- 12/29/16--23:00: _A new year that cha...
- 12/31/16--01:00: _Readers’ books of t...
- 01/01/17--09:00: _Odes to hope (and t...
- 01/01/17--10:08: _Richard Baker obituary
- 01/01/17--10:37: _Watership Down was ...
- 01/02/17--07:35: _Poem of the week: I...
- 01/02/17--13:37: _John Berger obituary
- 01/03/17--21:30: _Toadstools in a Shr...
- 01/06/17--10:26: _The Last Poets – bo...
- 01/07/17--05:00: _John Fuller: ‘I fee...
- 01/08/17--11:28: _Poetic injustice an...
- 01/09/17--03:20: _Poem of the week: D...
- 01/10/17--08:00: _Translation Tuesday...
- 01/11/17--01:00: _Found in translatio...
- 12/23/16--07:00: Ruth Padel and Lucinda Hawksley – books podcast
- 12/24/16--00:00: The King of Christmas
- 12/26/16--03:00: Poem of the week: Jolly Jankin by Anonymous
- 12/27/16--02:56: John Montague obituary
- 12/31/16--01:00: Readers’ books of the year 2016
- 01/01/17--09:00: Odes to hope (and techno): poems to get you going again
- 01/01/17--10:08: Richard Baker obituary
- 01/01/17--10:37: Watership Down was no utopia for the does | Brief letters
- 01/02/17--07:35: Poem of the week: Italy to Lord by Jane Draycott
- 01/02/17--13:37: John Berger obituary
- 01/03/17--21:30: Toadstools in a Shrewsbury graveyard
- 01/06/17--10:26: The Last Poets – books podcast
- 01/08/17--11:28: Poetic injustice and literary look aheads | Letters
- 01/09/17--03:20: Poem of the week: Daughters of the Dust by Rhiannon Hooson
- 01/10/17--08:00: Translation Tuesday: The War is Coming by Jazra Khaleed
Chilean writer Wolleter presents a selection of poems on observing the movements and grace of US basketballer Michael Jordan while in play
Awarded first place in the CNCA’s Roberto Bolaño Prize for Young Literary Creation in the Poetry category, 27-year-old Francisco Ide Wolleter stands out from the latest generation of Chilean littérateurs. His Poems for Michael Jordan are miracles of observation, imbuing quotidian life with existential drama. You won’t ever watch basketball the same way again after this.
—The editors at AsymptoteContinue reading...
Poetry and poison combine as we look at a lavishly illustrated history of arsenic in the home and a book-length Christmas poem
Christmas is a time for beautiful books and we have two on this podcast.
Bitten By Witch Fever tells the fascinating story of arsenic in the 19th-century home, and is illustrated with more than 270 facsimiles of “arsenical” wallpaper designs drawn from the UK’s National Archives at Kew, in west London. Its author, the biographer and art historian Lucinda Hawksley, joins us to trace the toxic history of a substance has been used through the centuries for medicines, cosmetics, interior design, even food colourings, despite its deadly effects.Continue reading...
The poet grew up in children’s homes and never knew a real Christmas. Now, he makes sure hundreds of care leavers feast in style each year. How – and why – does he do it?
Christmas, says the poet Lemn Sissay, divides the world into two sorts of people. One group gathers around the domestic hearth: all jocularity and teasing, memories and traditions. The other group is, as in the Victorian cliche, outside the window looking in. They have never felt the warmth of the homely festive glow.
Most of us have families who, even if it’s with some reservation, we join for Christmas. We roll our eyes and sigh, we anticipate the annoyances; we steel ourselves for the nuances that only we could ever understand.Continue reading...
A new Christmas poem by Carol Ann Duffy
Illustrations by Lara Hawthorne
Bored, the Baron mooched in his Manor
on the brink of belligerence. Life lacked glamour
and Christmas was coming. The Baroness,
past her best, oozed ennui, stitched away
at a tapestry. The old Retainer polished brass.
The Baron felt like kicking his arse.
Outside the leaded window – snow,
snow on snow; the ground an inkless folio.
What to do to enliven life? To put some fizz
on the viz of the wife? Even the hounds,
in a stupor, snored. The son and heir,
party-pooper, piously prone in prayer, as per.
Blending the language of high mass with ribald vernacular, this mischievous carol is melodious even without the music that would once have accompanied it
‘Kyrie’, so ‘kyrie’,
Jankin syngeth merie
Prolific poet, writer and translator inspired by his Irish homeland
Anyone who heard Montague himself performing, however, is quite likely to recollect what the poet Derek Mahon called his “mythical stammer”. This struggle to express himself, to find words for the ineffable or the unspeakable (as in the poem about an attempted rape, The Wild Dog Rose) is crucial to his often autobiographical work. If the bogs were an adequate symbol of the Troubles for Seamus Heaney, 10 years his junior, Montague dipped his hands in a more “fluid sensual dream”, deeper into Yeatsian archetypes.Continue reading...
After the new year announcement to friends, I panicked and suffered writer’s block. It was broken by an absurd dream about rare cheese
Sixteen years ago, long before there was any prospect of my work being published, I dreamed that I found a small book lying in the gutter directly outside my front door. The cover was the deep colour of blackcurrants and the words were in lemon yellow. I picked it up and read the title: Rare London Cheeses. To my amazement I saw that it was a collection of poems written by me.
At that point I’d woken up and stretched out my hand to the bedside table where I expected to find it. My disappointment, though intense, was tinged with promise, even a sort of serenity. It was as if my poems had already been written.Continue reading...
Of the many books that have engaged me this year, three stand out: James shows in a brutally honest memoir how someone can be saved, and The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador) depicts a life that many of us choose to ignore. More recently I have been transported to Cumbria by Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border (Faber), which has all the ingredients to keep you reading and wondering if it might actually come true.
Sarah Akhtar, Stoke-on-Trent
Need a shot of a something powerful to launch you into 2017? Poet Carol Rumens introduces 10 irresistible poems about everything from collapsing beds to birds singing in storms
Patience Agbabi makes language swing as she imagines an encounter with the 1920s singer, dancer and political activist Josephine Baker in Brixton, London. It’s a double monologue shaped like a palindrome, or mirror-poem, in which the second stanza uses the same lines as the first, but in reverse. As the two garçonnes (sexually liberated women) enjoy a pick-up that’s also a mutual pick-me-up, you might not notice the formal virtuosity, but you’ll definitely feel the joy.Continue reading...
My husband Richard Baker, who has died aged 66 of cancer, was a sailor, museum attendant, writer and gardener and, for more than 30 years, lead builder of the Skinningrove bonfire, east Cleveland.
Thousands flocked annually to his beautiful, enormous sculptures of dinosaurs, goblins, ships, castles and more, built from scrap wood at this spectacular community event. Richard invited contributions from everyone, whatever their abilities, encouraging people to value their addition, as he did. When darkness falls on Skinningrove each 5 November, this huge fire is a magical sight. In 2015, it featured as the Guardian’s Picture of the Day.Continue reading...
Guardian letter-writers | Moral values in Watership Down | Grimsby church | Cheesy poetry
Trevor Masters (Reasons to be cheerful about the world in 2016, Letters, 31 December) thanks the Guardian for being here to help us retain our sanity in the coming year, and cites examples of content to back up the claim. I would like to add the Letters page, for the breadth of expertise, acumen, humanity, culture, wisdom and laugh-out-loud wit that reflects your readership. Thank us all in the fight ahead.
• The rabbits of Watership Down do indeed send a warning (Loose canon, 30 December), namely that when the bucks seek sex, they abduct some nearby does and rape them. Once more it seems that the male utopia is the female’s dystopia. I suggest Giles Fraser read Nadia Khomami’s report “British woman’s tale of captivity ‘shows reality of UK slavery’” in the same issue.
Professor Hilary Rose
This gentle, subtle reflection on a child’s-eye view of an encyclopedia’s exotic secrets is also a vision of a lost world
Italy to Lord
It’s dark in here and forest green: Britannica,
sixteen oak trees in a London living room,
the little girl, my mother, in the bookcase glass.
Italy, Ithaca, Izmail, Japan, each page a mainsail,
turning, HMS Discovery – none of the rivers
of southern Italy is of any great importance.
The jewel is lost in the mud,
and all are seeking for it;
Some look for it in the east,
and some in the west;
some in the water and some amongst stones.
But the servant Kabîr has appraised it at its true value,
and has wrapped it with care
in the end of the mantle of his heart.
Critic whose TV series Ways of Seeing posed questions about art and society, and a writer whose fiction reflected his life in rural France
The art critic, essayist and novelist John Berger threw down his challenge early in his television series Ways of Seeing. This came in 1972, the year when Berger, who has died aged 90, broke through to real fame from his niche celebrity on the arts pages of the New Statesman. Ways of Seeing, made on the cheap for the BBC as four half-hour programmes, was the first series of its kind since Civilisation (1969), 13 one-hour episodes for which Kenneth Clark, its writer and presenter, and a BBC production team had travelled 80,000 miles through 13 countries exploring 2,000 years of the visual culture of the western world. Berger travelled as far as the hut in Ealing where his programmes were filmed, and no farther. What he said in his characteristic tone of sweet reasonableness was:
“In his book on the nude, Kenneth Clark says that being naked is simply being without clothes. The nude, according to him, is a form of art. I would put it differently: to be naked is to be oneself; to be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself. A nude has to be seen as an object in order to be a nude.”Continue reading...
Shrewsbury We walked to the grave of Mary Webb and found the fungi growing around her neighbours’ headstones
The toadstools opened from the graveyard like fleshy satellite dishes – ears of the necropolis listening to the living. We were in Shrewsbury cemetery to pay our respects at the turning year to those we knew there. The newer part had serried ranks of black or white marble headstones between drives, their funerary decorations modest symbols of grief and remembrance in a utilitarian order to keep the public face of death tidy.
The older part of the cemetery belonged to a much more Gothic sensibility: the graves mostly Victorian to the 1930s, their mossy stones listing on undulating ground and scattered randomly under trees, separated by meadow grasses.
Famed for militant spoken-word poetry about black America from the height of the civil rights struggle, the Last Poets join us to perform and talk about their own battles
Celebrated for their eloquent and charged spoken-word depictions of life in black America, the Last Poets began in the aftermath of the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. After performing on street corners in Harlem, their self-titled debut and follow-up This Is Madness were hugely successful. There followed a long period of personal turmoil for several members of the group, but the poets inspired a generation of hip-hop artists, musicians and poets.
With the publication of a fictionalised book about their lives, members Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole and percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde visited the Guardian in London with the author Christine Otten to discuss the truth behind the book, The Last Poets.Continue reading...
As the poet and novelist turns 80, he muses on mortality, the Beats and open mic evenings
John Fuller’s house is deceptive. It sits at the end of a quiet street in north Oxford, whose broad, leafy vistas have long been the province of dons and daydreamers, although those denizens have now been joined by the super-wealthy, with their iceberg basements and climate-controlled wine cellars. Fuller, who celebrated his 80th birthday on New Year’s Day, settled here in the 1960s, and spent his academic career teaching English at Magdalen College where he eventually became vice-president. One of his duties was conducting an inventory of the college silver; the whole business was, he says amusedly, “almost like being a butler, or the social secretary”.
He also raised his family here, repeatedly extending the smallish house rather than moving, and so the experience of wandering through it is quite peculiar, with doors opening on to parquet-floored new rooms, all filled with books, pictures, chess sets, pianos. I use the word Tardis about three times, and then the photographer arrives and does the same; we’re both a bit embarrassed by the poverty of our imagination, or at least our cultural references.
I don’t think anybody would write a poem unless somebody had previously written one
I was craftily ensconced in this rather cushy job where you were being paid to think about literature
We all thought the Beats were apolitical – we were suspicious of thatContinue reading...
Thank you for telling us once again which books we need to read over the next 12 months (Book ahead, Review, 7 January). But how do you know? Presumably no one at the Guardian has read all these books, since they have not yet been published. Nor, it is fair to assume, have you read all the other unpublished books that are not on your list. Do “the best books of 2017” really include only eight books of poetry? And is it statistically likely that five of these are going to be published by just one publisher? There will be hundreds of poetry books published in the UK, many of the most interesting by independent presses whose books are never reviewed in the mainstream media.
Smokestack Books is publishing 18 books of poetry this year, including new collections by Michael Rosen and Steve Ely, an anthology of poetry from the Algerian war of independence and a new translation of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s epic poem Lenin. There is more to “everything you need to know about the literary year” than London publishers’ catalogues dressed up as literary criticism.
Smokestack Books, Ripon, North Yorkshire
Moving beyond ordinary travel writing, this conjuring of the Mongolian steppe brings the reader a sharp sense of intimacy with what might seem very ‘other’
Daughters of the Dust
There can be no mermaids of the steppe
though its bare hills roll and boom like the sea. Only
some strange creature, lithe in the gelid dust
and furred like a fox: silent, accusing in the eyes,
a deep wind parting fur down to bone coloured skin.
Horizons pile thin as paper one atop the next
and they spin their story into the pinched air: a woman,
and a wish, and a corsac fox. Nights
Chechnya-born Greek poet Jazra Khaleed’s sobering poem laments the death and chaos of the Syrian war, documenting his experience in the country where there is ‘one grave for every thousand corpses, one shadow for every thousand survivors’
In this sobering poem, poet Jazra Khaleed vividly depicts a war “so trite and pedestrian, filled with similes and ornate adjectives, its history is written in the font Comic Sans.” For most of us in the settled world unable to imagine what it is that Syrian refugees go through, these words encompass a different but now less unknowable spectrum of the human experience.
—Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief, AsymptoteContinue reading...
Authors Donna Leon, Laura Kasischke and Simon Beckett ponder the happy mysteries of scoring hits with foreign-language readers
For the American writer Laura Kasischke, the first inkling of her second life in France came when a former student wrote to say her portrait was on the cover of Le Monde. Kasischke was teaching creative writing at a community college in Michigan, with two collections of poetry and a couple of novels already under her belt. But when her first novel appeared in France as À Suspicious River in 1999, it launched a spectacular literary career in translation that took her completely by surprise and is still going strong nearly two decades on.
Today, Kasischke is better known in the US as a poet, winning prizes including the National Book Critics Circle award for her 2011 collection Space, in Chains – though she jokes that in the US no one is really well-known for their poetry.
Europeans read serious fiction in great numbers, and it is common to hear people speak seriously about literature
I was boarding a plane when someone ran after me shouting my name. I thought there must be a problem with my ticket
I think reading a translation is an act of faithContinue reading...