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

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    The half-English, half-First Nation Canadian translated the Romantic tradition into a beguilingly low key in this reflection on a coastal scene

    Low Tide at St Andrews
    (New Brunswick)

    The long red flats stretch open to the sky,
    Breathing their moisture on the August air.
    The seaweeds cling with flesh-like fingers where
    The rocks give shelter that the sands deny;
    And wrapped in all her summer harmonies
    St Andrews sleeps beside her sleeping seas.

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    Acclaimed South Korean poet Yoo An-Jin reflects on loneliness and aging

    By Yoo An-Jin, Brother Anthony of Taizé and Yu Chang-Gong for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    It’s not often that poets become household names, but acclaimed Korean poet Yoo An-Jin had help from her contribution to the immensely popular essay collection, Dreaming of a Beautiful Friendship, as well as from her first novel, Anemones do not Wither, adapted into a hit television series. In these poems, sensitively translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Yu Chang-Gong, we see the other side of that popularity: the sudden loneliness amid a crowd; the naked dread of age.

    —Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-Chief, Asymptote

    Related: Translation Tuesday: One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun – excerpt

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    YouTube star’s collection Nobody Told Me, a verse memoir from ‘the frontline of motherhood’, secures prestigious £5,000 honour

    A “funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising” poetry collection that reports from the “frontline of motherhood” has scooped the prestigious Ted Hughes poetry award for new work in poetry.

    YouTuber Hollie McNish beat six other shortlisted poets to the £5,000 prize with her third collection, Nobody Told Me. The collection combines poems and diary entries in a revealing memoir that follows her from when she discovered she was pregnant seven years ago, to when her daughter turned three years old. The prize, which is administered by the Poetry Society, was presented by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy at a ceremony in London on Wednesday.

    Related: Hollie Poetry: woman versus world – one poem at a time

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    British Library releases ‘Baines note’ in which playwright Christopher Marlowe scandalously suggests Christian communion should be smoked in a pipe

    A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowe reportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time.

    The so-called “Baines note”, a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.

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    I long for the days when Jack Nicholson could deliver a speech without flashing his ivory like a leopard set to charge

    Some tenured academic blockhead in America has written a book proving that poetry is over. One glance at his prose is enough to prove that, for him, poetry never started. But poetry can only gain from not being treated as a matter of vital cultural importance. It’s much more important than that. It happens that I regard my own forthcoming poetry book, to be published in May under the title of Injury Time, as being nifty in all respects, but I wouldn’t want to stake my life on the critics agreeing with me. One of them might be that dork in America.

    I’ve only just now got back from a clinic where the chief medico iced the back of my skull preparatory to cutting out a seborrhoeic keratosis, a name that reminds me of a central European ice-hockey player with a collection of Thelonious Monk records. From such musings, I derived the only entertainment I needed during the whole 20 minutes, a period of time experienced in the benumbed interior of my head as a California redwood being chopped down nearby with a blunt axe. But if the ghost of TS Eliot had arrived to recite The Waste Land, I would have been no better off. There is a time and place for intense art, but you have to be ready.

    Related: Clive James: ‘Coogan and Brydon are the funniest couple since Laurel and Hardy’

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    Salacious rumours surrounding Dickinson’s life have come thick and fast, but does that mean A Quiet Passion writer-director Terence Davies is free to speculate?

    In 1882 Emily Dickinson was living as a recluse in the family home in Amherst, Massachusetts, guarded by her sister, Vinnie, when her brother, Austin, began an adulterous affair with Mabel Todd. Mabel was an Amherst College faculty wife, half his age. Austin was the college treasurer. They needed a safe place to conduct their secret liaison. They chose Emily’s house. What did she think of this? We know a great deal about Austin and Mabel’s affair, because both left diaries and letters, which are now kept in Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. We know nothing of Emily’s view of the affair. We know that she and Mabel never met. We know that Mabel became fascinated by Emily’s poems. And we know that it was Mabel who championed the poems after Emily’s death in 1886 and nagged the publishers Roberts Brothers of Boston to print a small edition in 1890. That edition, reprinted 11 times in the first year, made Dickinson famous.

    Since then her fame has grown to legendary proportions. Even in her lifetime she was known in Amherst as “the Myth”. She lived a nun-like existence, wearing only white, seeing no one but her sister, writing poems that almost no one saw, poems of astonishing prickly power. What was going on? It’s all too tempting to speculate, and the speculations have come thick and fast ever since. Did she suffer from acute social anxiety, or epilepsy, or bipolar disorder? Was she lesbian, a proto-feminist, a religious radical, a sexual pioneer? The poems support almost every theory and feed almost every taste. She is the poet of nature – “Inebriate of air am I / And debauchee of dew … ” The poet of loneliness – “The soul selects her own society / Then shuts the door … ” The poet of adventure – “Exultation is the going / Of an inland soul to sea … ” The poet of passion – “Wild nights! Wild nights! / Were I with thee / Wild nights should be / Our luxury!” And famously the poet of death – “Because I could not stop for death / He kindly stopped for me … ” We who love her poems find in them a voice that seems to speak our own secret thoughts. Each of us creates and takes ownership of our own Dickinson, half believing that she went into seclusion in order to make herself our very own secret friend. The result is a steady flow of works about the poet, some biographical, some fictional, that tell startlingly different stories. She was once revered as a priestess of renunciation, while one recent incarnation has given us Dickinson as a sexual predator, having passionate sex with her handyman. After all, didn’t she write “My life had stood – a loaded gun”?

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  • 04/01/17--03:00: The Saturday poem: Probably
  • by Hollie McNish, winner of the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award for new work

    I probably won’t die in childbirth
    I probably won’t be alone
    I probably won’t have a ruptured aorta
    I probably won’t break a bone.

    I probably won’t be left bleeding
    Or my stomach swell jumped on and bruised
    I probably won’t have my baby kidnapped
    Or rusty knives rupture my womb.

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    Poet and dissident who denounced Stalin died ‘surrounded by relatives and close friends’ in Oklahoma, where he taught at the University of Tulsa

    The acclaimed Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, whose work focused on war atrocities and denounced antisemitism and tyrannical dictators, has died. He was 84.

    Related: The sleep of reason

    Related: Yevgeny Yevtushenko: That's what they get!

    Related: Yevgeny Yevtushenko: School in Beslan

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    It was 1974 and tension was high between the Soviets and Americans. The dissident poet Joseph Brodsky and the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov met in New York and had a lot to talk about

    I first met the poet Joseph Brodsky at a dinner in New York in early autumn 1974. I had just escaped from the Soviet Union, and he had been thrown out of the country two years before. After the dinner we went to a café in Greenwich Village. I remember drinking so many espressos – something I wasn’t used to – that I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards because of the heartbeat.

    Actually the heartbeat was not only due to the coffee. “I think we have a lot to talk about,” said Joseph. We did. We both came from Leningrad and had many friends, acquaintances and experiences in common. We talked about where I had lived during my 10 years in Leningrad, and Joseph knew every spot. He was fascinated by architecture – specifically the canals, arches, bridges and Italianate palaces of Leningrad refracted into abstraction by the ripples of the Neva River. I remember his eyebrows going up when I said my last apartment had been near the Hermitage, just across the Moika River from the house where Pushkin lived and died. He said, with an ironic grin: “And we left all that beauty…”

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  • 04/02/17--10:26: Yevgeny Yevtushenko obituary
  • Rebellious Russian poet and author of Babi Yar, who became a celebrity in the west

    In the middle of a novel published in the Soviet Union in 1981, two young people are exchanging opinions about Russian poetry. After several names have come up, one asks the other, “And how about Yevtushenko?”, to which he gets the reply: “That’s another stage that’s already past.” An unremarkable exchange, of course, save that the novel (Wild Berries) was by the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko himself.

    It indicates several things about Yevtushenko, who has died aged 84: his unquenchable self-regard, his ability to laugh at himself, his appreciation of the vagaries of fame. It also reminds us that there was a brief stage when the development of Russian literature seemed almost synonymous with his name.

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    Two heralds of spring in Jamaica provide melodious inspiration for mature reflection on the meaning of home

    Tweet Tweet

    There’s a blackbird
    in my mango tree
    and I think of Marley
    and singing songs of freedom

    Related: Poem of the week: You, Lizard-like by Lynne Hjelmgaard

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    Wenlock Edge Violets have a built-in nostalgia, a belonging to something that is always fleeting and longed for

    A century and a half ago, when springs were different, the poet John Clare wrote: “All bleaching in the thin March air / the scattered violets lie.” (March Violet). He may have meant violets growing under withered and bleached nettle stems, but for me, today, there are shining white violets “bleaching” on the hedge bank in one of the last cold, grey, “thin” mornings in March.

    Even though there are beautifully subtle violet violets scattered in the mossy shadows under trees and through the emerging leaves beneath hedges, the eye is drawn to the white ones. I wonder if bees prefer white violets to violet-coloured violets? The more common forms have ultraviolet markings on their petals called bee guides, which look like veins filled with iodine and must be as vivid as rope lights to insects.

    Related: Senses stirred by blackthorn’s snow

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    Away from his Roald Dahl illustrations, Quentin Blake has brought to life everything from James Blake’s music to Michael Rosen’s poetry

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  • 04/06/17--05:36: Roy Fisher obituary
  • English modernist poet whose work was rooted in his home town, Birmingham

    The poet Roy Fisher, who has died aged 86, did everything wrong – from a literary-careerist perspective. He rejected the political posturing that has been known to secure a writer public attention and prestige. He was indifferent to fame, and temperamentally provincial rather than metropolitan. Writing in both avant-garde and traditional modes, he was mainly published by small presses; and his early work, in the 1950s and 60s, gave way to silence for several years.

    Yet Fisher came to enjoy a unique reputation among his contemporaries as a humorous and versatile writer, an English modernist open to American influences, such as the Black Mountain Poets, yet distinctively English and local in his concerns. Critics such as August Kleinzahler, Marjorie Perloff and Donald Davie praised him. Oxford University Press published his Poems 1955-1980 (1980) and his much-acclaimed large-scale work A Furnace (1986). He was eventually to receive recognition in guises such as the Cholmondeley award for poetry (1981) and a fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature (2005). And in 2010 his selected poems, The Long and the Short of It (2005), were chosen on Desert Island Discs by Ian McMillan, who described him as “Britain’s greatest living poet”.

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    As a new film about Pablo Neruda gets a UK release, we visit two of the Pacific-facing homes where the poet found inspiration: Isla Negra and the ‘crazy port’ of Valparaíso

    ‘If we walk up and down all the stairs of Valparaíso we’ll have walked all round the world.” Poet Pablo Neruda was alluding to the cosmopolitan vitality of Chile’s second city, chief port and most romantic – and likeable – metropolis. He might also have been referring to the workout you get hiking around “Valpo” – as locals dub it. Spread over 42 hills, its mansions, houses, shanties and steep, cobbled roads are a sea-facing sprawl. When you get lost and hot, it’s a relief to stumble on one of the four ascensores– funicular lifts – which cut out some of the climbing.

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    Poets such as Ian Hamilton Finlay and Augusto de Campos have shaken words out of standard verse structure and rearranged them in striking, enigmatic new forms. Here are some of the teasing, amusing and vivid results

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    Memories mingle with the pace of modern Dublin in a wry, sophisticated study of change

    Portobello Sonnets opens with a quotation from Patrick Kavanagh: “In the third age, we are content to be ourselves, however small.” This seems disputable; less so would be the proposal that if “we” manage to reach the third age (and Kavanagh scarcely did) we must make what we can of it. Now in his mid-60s, the poet Harry Clifton focuses on Portobello, a district of Dublin bounded by the Grand Canal, by whose waters Kavanagh’s statue sits in contemplation of a city that is small in comparison with Shanghai or São Paulo but hugely capacious as literature. You would think the canal bounded a continent. It is enough to be going on with.

    Clifton, having returned to Ireland from an itinerant career as poet and teacher, devotes his sonnets to observation and memory. The effect is to populate the place as much with ghosts as with the living. He begins by asking: “Are you not scared, young man, of your daddy’s ghost / And his before him, waiting here to greet you, / Latest of blow-ins, ready to try again?”

    His work is ridden by time and the sense that there is nothing new except the capacity for seeing the world afresh

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    This amusing and buoyant poem from the writer and broadcaster serves as a parodic religious guide on the sacred art of making the best Yorkshire pud

    Yorkshire Pudding Rules

    The tin must not gleam. Must never be new.
    If there is dried sweat somewhere in its metal
    It must be your mother’s. The flour must be strong
    And white as the face of Uncle Jack
    When he came back from the desert. The eggs
    Must come from an allotment. The allotment
    Must belong to your father-in-law.
    The eggs have to be broken
    With one swift movement over the bowl.
    If there is dried sweat somewhere in its Pyrex
    It must be your mother’s. The milk
    Must have been delivered by Colin Leech
    At 0430. The fork has to be an old one. The wrist
    Must, simply must, ache after the mixing.
    The flour must introduce itself to the yolk of the egg.
    The egg has to be allowed to talk to the flour.
    The milk must dance with them both: foxtrot, then quickstep.
    The pepper must be scattered, black on off-white.
    The oven has to be hotter than ever.
    The lard has to come in a tight white pack.
    The lard must almost catch fire in the oven.
    The oven door must open and you must shout
    JESUS CHRIST as the heat smacks you in the chops.

    Related: Poem of the week: Easter by Katharine Tynan

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  • 04/10/17--04:20: Jeff Johnson obituary
  • My friend Jeff Johnson, who has died aged 75, was described by his fellow artist Anthony Green as “the greatest miniaturist that Britain produced in the 20th century”.

    Jeff was born into a working-class family in South Shields, son of Harold, a marine engineer at the docks, and his wife, Annie (nee Wilson). Jeff attended South Shields grammar technical school, and Sunderland College of Art, where he met Serena Carr. They married in 1962 - she was his lifelong muse and appears in countless paintings and drawings, often featuring several times in a single work.

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    by Helen Dunmore

    Untroubled, the anaesthetist
    Potters with his cannula
    As the waterfall in the ante-room
    Grows steadily louder,

    All of them are cool with it
    And just keep on working
    No wonder they wear Wellingtons –
    I want to ask them

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