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

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  • 09/19/17--08:01: Marjorie Boulton obituary
  • My friend Marjorie Boulton, who has died aged 93, was an Esperanto poet who was a candidate for the Nobel prize in literature in 2008. She was also an ambassador for the Esperanto community. A prolific author, she wrote plays, poems and prose in Esperanto that displayed all the poignancy and pathos of the best national-language offerings. Marjorie wrote what still stands today as the best biography in English of Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto. It was, though, her warmth and generosity that afforded her celebrity status within the Esperanto world.

    She was born in Teddington, south-west London, to Evelyn (nee Cartlidge) and Harry Boulton. Her father was headteacher at Barton-on-Humber grammar school in Lincolnshire, where Marjorie was educated. She received a first-class degree in English from Oxford in 1944. In 1949 she learned Esperanto for reasons that were typical of the day: she believed in the original idea that a neutral common language would foster peace among mankind.

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    Ian Patterson’s The Plenty of Nothing, begun in the days leading up to her death, shares honours with best collection win for Sinéad Morrissey’s On Balance

    Ian Patterson’s elegy for his late wife, the writer Jenny Diski, which he began writing in the days leading up to her death, has won the Forward prize for best single poem.

    Related: Jenny Diski obituary

    Related: Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong review – violence, delicacy and timeless imagery

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    And if two glasses are good, only imagine the benefits that accrue to me from five

    By my reckoning, I must be the healthiest person in the country. Brisk 10-minute walk a day? Tick. Two glasses of red wine every evening? Tick. (And if two glasses are good, only imagine the benefits that accrue to me from five.) Four cups of coffee a day? Tick. No smoking? Tick. No recreational drugs? Tick. Sunscreening? Tick. Statins? Tick. More than five hours’ sleep? Tick. More than six hours’ sleep? Tick. Emotional agility: as, for example, overcoming negative emotions by welcoming them with self-compassion? Tick. Porridge? Tick. Porridge and berries? Tick, tick. Cheese (I was once off it to avoid fat, now I’m on it again for protein, calcium and vitamins A and B12)? Tick. Not wearing Lycra? Tick. (I’m not sure whether I shouldn’t be wearing Lycra for health or for fashion reasons, so I’m not wearing it for both. In which case, make that another double tick.)

    So why aren’t I feeling well? Could it be that some people are simply not fashioned to feel well no matter how many boxes they tick? There’s a presumption in the health industry that all any of us wants is to get ourselves into shape and live for ever. We are shepherded into blooming longevity, and before we are able to ask ourselves if we wouldn’t rather burn with Walter Pater’s “hard, gem-like flame” and then go out early, we find ourselves 110, unable to remember our name.

    Related: Howard Jacobson: ‘My personal trainer has me doing tai chi’

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    She has a lot to say… about sexuality, relationships and mental health. But how did Lancashire’s Yrsa Daley-Ward become the toast of Los Angeles? Eve Barlow meets the poet, feminist, model and LGBTQ activist spelling out some hard truths

    If you’re afraid to write it, that’s a good sign. I suppose you know you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified.” These words in black type on a white background make up one of poet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s Instagram posts. This monochrome snapshot of her innermost thoughts has more than 5,200 “likes”. That’s more than double the number she gets for any pictures. Daley-Ward spent her late teens and early 20s as a model struggling to pay her rent in London, working for brands such as Apple, Topshop, Estée Lauder and Nike. She still models today. Ironically, however, it was the image-obsessed medium of Instagram that enabled her to pursue the written word.

    “I always was a writer,” she explains today in a thick Lancashire accent, sitting in a downtown Los Angeles restaurant close to where she lives. “But I was depressed [in London] and that made me choke. Modelling is an interesting profession because it teaches you so much about here…” She points a finger at her face. “But not here…” she sighs and points at her heart. “You become introverted, you disappear into yourself.”

    ‘I didn’t fit in. I wanted to be white, have different hair, know my father, not be religious…’

    ‘Sex work is common among models. It’s not standing on street corners – you have boyfriends who are very rich’

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    A unfairly neglected poet’s lament, this is an autumnal poem on a grand scale, responding to the effects of time and evolving knowledge

    The Silent Heavens

    Here I wander about, and here I mournfully ponder:
    Weary to me is the sun, weary the coming of night:
    Here is captivity still, there would be captivity yonder:
    Like to myself are the rest, smitten is all with a blight.

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    We talk to William Sieghart and Viv Groskop about the restorative properties of literature and poetry - can reading make you happier?

    Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud and Acast. Join the discussion on Facebook, Twitter and email

    This week we look at the restorative properties of literature - can poetry make you happier? Can the famously gloomy novels, plays and poetry of Russia help you to live a better life?

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    An uplifting collection told in the voice of the author’s German Jewish grandmother. Read it aloud for best effect

    This book is uplifting, funny, heart-breaking – a one-off. I have been wondering how Sophie Herxheimer, whom I knew of as a talented painter, came to write these dramatic monologues in the voice of her German Jewish grandmother. For this enterprise, a mix of memory and imagination, is more than ventriloquy, it is a detailed evocation of character – like inspired eavesdropping – a pitch-perfect labour of love. Many poems will bring a lump to your throat, although, if you are taking heed of what Grent Muzzer Liesel believed, you will know to keep your emotions under wraps. There is a particularly moving poem, about the end of Liesel’s life, in which she is visited in hospital by her granddaughter (Herxheimer describes herself through her grandmother’s eyes). The granddaughter breaks an unspoken rule, telling her grandmother she loves her: “…but Luff’s a Sink we neffer/ menschen. Ve bose know zis Rule, chest/ es ve bose know ze rottett Stomek off Dizpair/ Zis is vot makes us… indeeztruktibel.”

    An “author’s note” explains the poems are written “in a Lenkvitch that my ear remembers as the way my paternal grandmother spoke”. She adds, simply, that her “first 17 years were my grandmother’s last”. Liesel lived in a quiet north London suburb and, visiting her, Herxheimer often wondered how Leisel and her husband had transported “such enormous heavy wooden furniture with them whilst fleeing for their lives”. The book is full of Herxheimer’s wonderful black-and-white papercuts of this remembered furniture – a shelf on which a coffee cup steams, a curvaceous sideboard, a table set with a lacy cloth (one poem is entitled My Demesk Tapell-Kloss). There is also a papercut of a ghostly pair of gloves – crossed, perhaps clapping.

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  • 09/26/17--09:30: Letter: David Gill obituary
  • Arriving in 1967 at Nyakasura school, Uganda, as a young English teacher, I had the honour of being accommodated in what the school compound knew as “David Gill’s house”. David had a reputation for being unfailingly generous to students – paying their school fees in several instances – and the title of his first published collection of poems, Men Without Evenings, summed up the sense of cultural distance many of us expatriates felt from our near neighbours.

    Them and Us catches the detail:

    Our neighbours weave the slow grass mats
    of their dark-green unfathomable lives,
    whilst we in our dry, well-furnished houses
    (the Protectorate served its servants well)
    with house-boys polishing the spacious acres,
    stare out across the smooth manorial lawns ...’

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  • 09/27/17--05:19: Bernard Pomerance obituary
  • My friend Bernard Pomerance, who has died aged 76, was a playwright and poet whose most famous work was the play The Elephant Man. It had its first run in Britain in 1977, then went over to New York and returned to the UK to be put on at the National Theatre.

    I got to know Bernard when he moved from his native US to London in the late 1960s and, together with the director Roland Rees, we formed, in 1971, the Foco Novo theatre company. It produced, among other works, The Elephant Man, which told the true story of an Englishman, Joseph Merrick (referred to in the play as John Merrick), who was born with gross deformities and spent his early life in freak shows before becoming a darling of Victorian society.

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    Marking the UK’s National Poetry Day, an international call for readers to submit poems that could be lost to future generations has gone out


    From Assyrian to Irish Gaelic, the National Poetry Library is launching a major new project to collect the poetry of thousands of languages in danger of dying out, and preserve them for future generations.

    According to Unesco, of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world more than half are endangered, with one dying every two weeks. For the library, Chris McCabe said: “By the end of the century, Unesco estimates that half of our languages will be lost, and when languages go, their poetry goes too.”

    Related: Share your poems on National Poetry Day 2017

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    To mark the UK’s annual celebration of poetry, we’d like you to share your writing with us

    As National Poetry Day celebrates its 23rd year, we’d like you to share your poems with us.

    National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. This year poetry campaigners are celebrating the theme of ‘freedom’ with events, workshops, and readings across the UK.

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    The UK cover of a new collection of letters is only the latest to show the acclaimed poet as blond, beaming and in a skimpy outfit. But presenting female writers as mere sex symbols diminishes their literary achievements

    On the US cover of Sylvia Plath’s Collected Letters, a volume out this week that contains mostly unpublished letters by the poet between the ages of eight and 24, is a picture of her taken in December 1955. She’s walking outside somewhere in Cambridge, bundled up in a coat, and has a thoughtful smile. The UK edition went for a very different depiction of Plath, however: a full-colour photo of her on a beach in a bikini, blond and beaming – a visual antithesis to the ambitious, intellectual poet.

    Related: Sylvia Plath, a voice that can’t be silenced | Sarah Churchwell

    Related: Plath's letters probably won't harm Hughes's reputation | Rafia Zakaria

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    BBC Scotland’s poet in residence, Stuart A Paterson, promotes Scots as a living language, a useful antithesis to modern bureaucratic English

    It won’t be long now before BBC Scotland is assailed by the sentinels of right thinking over the content of Thursday’s morning radio news show. What on earth was the national broadcaster thinking of? To mark National Poetry Day the station asked its new poet-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, to read a poem he had written for the occasion.

    It is called Here’s the Weather, an appropriate topic at this time of the year, as the seasons prepare to turn one last time and Scotland looks at its best in copper and gold.

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    A year after learning to speak English, Amineh Abou Kerech has won this year’s Betjeman prize. She tells us how she found her voice

    “I take words from anywhere,” says Amineh Abou Kerech, moments after winning the 2017 Betjeman poetry prize for 10- to 13-year-olds last week. “I take them from songs and films, from what I see on the computer or the television. And I put them all together.”

    She makes it sound so simple. It’s anything but, according to her older sister Ftoun, who is smiling at Amineh across a pub table in London’s St Pancras station. “She sits in her bedroom all the time and practises, practises.”

    When I remember my Syria I feel so sad and I cry and start writing about her

    Related: The Very Quiet Foreign Girls poetry group | Kate Clanchy

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    The publisher and philanthropist on turning to a Philip Larkin poem in a crisis, and the biggest decision you will ever make

    Publisher and philanthropist William Sieghart has many strings to his bow: he is the force behind the Forward poetry prize, a philanthropist who has set up charities to help the homeless and mediate in the Middle East. He is chairman of the Somerset House Trust, was commissioned by the government to review libraries and is a pusher – in the best sense – of poetry. After the publication of his anthology, Winning Words: Inspiring Poems for Everyday Life (2012), he has come up with The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul, a “self-help book for life, using poetry”. For every affliction – loneliness, love, low self-esteem, lethargy – he prescribes a poem. The Poetry Pharmacy can, he hopes, be consulted as the Victorians might a herbalist and be kept for use in emergencies.

    Related: Can books and poetry make you happier? - books podcast

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    A witty meditation on uncertain understanding, this work rests its mutable questions on a solid structure

    I Keep My Eyes on the Ground

    Your penumbra shimmers with small print
    in Papyrus font, clarifications mostly, live-
    feed emotional updates, corrections in your
    shadow’s margins. Your shadow is a thought

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    A book combining meticulous wordcraft with exquisite illustrations deftly restores language describing the natural world to the children’s lexicon

    In 2007, the new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary introduced new words such as “broadband” while others, describing the natural world, disappeared. The dictionary’s guidelines require that it reflect “the current frequency of words in daily language of children”. However, the philosopher AJ Ayer introduced a generation to the notion that unless we have a word for something, we are unable to conceive of it, and that there is a direct relationship between our imagination, our ability to have ideas about things, and our vocabulary. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a groundswell of opposition to the word cull began to grow and, in 2015, the debate reached a tipping point when an open letter to the OJD, coordinated by the naturalist Laurence Rose, was signed by artists and writers including Margaret Atwood, Sara Maitland, Michael Morpurgo and Andrew Motion along with the brilliant illustrator Jackie Morris and the hugely acclaimed wordsmith, word collector, and defender of the natural world, Robert Macfarlane. “There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children’s wellbeing,” the letter said. A heated debate in the national press ensued, both for and against the lost words, and the collaboration between Morris and Macfarlane was born.

    Related: Oxford Junior Dictionary’s replacement of ‘natural’ words with 21st-century terms sparks outcry

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    The Guardian photographer Tom Jenkins visits the new poetry festival in Hull, where poems are being sold from vans, hung from washing lines and brought to life by burlesque dancers

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    His grandfather was a US soldier who fell in love with a Vietnamese farm girl. But then Saigon fell and the family was blown apart. Ocean Vuong poured it all into Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winning him a Forward prize – and comparisons with Emily Dickinson

    There’s a photograph on the jacket of Ocean Vuong’s debut poetry collection of a small boy sitting on a wooden bench. Encircled by the arms of two women in summery cottons, he gazes steadily at the camera.

    The elegance is deceptive: it was taken when the family were living in poverty in a refugee camp in the Philippines, en route for the US, after being expelled from Vietnam. Vuong, the only child in the three-generation exodus, was two years old. A fellow refugee was bartering photographs for food. “That picture cost my family three tins of rice, according to my mother,” he says. “Each of us gave up our ration just to be seen.”

    He took a degree in international marketing but quit after eight weeks. ‘I was so tired of learning how to lie’

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    The black lesbian feminist writer and poet, who died 25 years ago, is better known than ever, her words often quoted in books and on social media

    This is the first edition of Audre Lorde’s writing to be issued by a UK publisher, which isn’t to say it will be the first time British readers will have encountered her work. Even those who haven’t yet engaged with her incandescent prose and poetry might have come across individual lines, quoted in other writers’ books and essays, and on social media, such as the titular exhortation: “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” Other lines include: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”; “Black feminism is not white feminism in blackface”; and “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of colour remains chained.”

    Lorde seems prophetic in the US of 2017 in which a misogynist president has white supremacist followers

    Related: We should have seen Trump coming | Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Lorde kept speaking up by writing about the ongoing struggle to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish

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