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

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    The inclusion of less familiar poets and songs from the trenches and music halls makes this such a valuable collection

    I confess to a certain glazing-over of the eyes when encountering the words "first world war poetry". Yes, the war was very bad and the poets who volunteered lost their enthusiasm for it soon enough; some of the poetry is memorable; some is best passed over. Which is why this is such a good and necessary anthology. We need to be defamiliarised to appreciate the poetry once again.

    The names we learned at school are all here, of course: Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke (rather scantily represented) and Siegfried Sassoon, with his majors "fierce and bald and short of breath", his generals and their murderous plans of attack. There is also Edward Thomas, whose lines "No one cares less than I,/ Nobody knows but God,/ Whether I am destined to lie/ Under a foreign clod" could be said to be the antithesis of Brooke's corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

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    The Irish poet, who died on Monday, adventured across many literary cultures, and he brought back some rare discoveries

    There is a scene in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, the fourth night episode, in which a group of intellectuals sit around reading poetry and looking suitably serious. One of them is an Irish poet, a part played by an actual Irish poet, Desmond O'Grady, who died on Monday.

    O'Grady, who was born in Limerick in 1935, started writing poetry in his teens. This early work was strongly influenced by TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, whose poems he encountered at weekly meetings of the Limerick Poetry Circle. He attended boarding school in Tipperary, where his fellow students included Thomas Kilroy and Tom McIntyre and where he developed a passion for rugby.

    I saw my life and I walked out to it
    as a seaman walks out alone at night from
    his house down to the port with his bundled
    belongings, and sails into the dark.

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    Playhouse, Edinburgh
    Spanish guitar virtuoso Peña leads a band of musicians and dancers in a dazzling show honouring the murdered writer

    Clap hands for Paco Peña's flamenco dancers in pictures

    Federico García Lorca, beloved poet, musician, dramatist and inspiration to a galaxy of artists Ginsberg, Shostakovich, the Pogues, Leonard Cohen and Carlos Saura among them is honoured in this latest piece by the London/Córdoba-based Spanish guitar virtuoso Paco Peña and his close band of nine musicians and dancers.

    The main man is sitting easy, guitar held high, in the short taster recital that opens the evening: silvery solos with flamenco flashing by the master's side. Though performed with grace by all three, it has an unexpected warmup feel a personal tribute to Lorca, perhaps, but disconnected from the main work, Patrias (Homelands), to come.

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  • 08/28/14--07:34: Winifred Dawson obituary
  • Winifred Dawson, who has died unexpectedly aged 85, after a stroke, was much loved and will always be remembered for one early relationship. As a young woman in Belfast in the 1950s, Winifred inspired five of Philip Larkin's poems more than did any of the other women in his life. The "sweet girl-graduate" (in Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album) was also the subject of Latest Face and of Maiden Name (with "its five light sounds"), of He Hears That His Beloved Has Become Engaged and, written on the day of her wedding, Long Roots Moor Summer to Our Side of Earth.

    "How beautiful you were," Larkin wrote, "and near, and young." His new biographer, James Booth, describes a "romantic friendship". Larkin would have liked it to be more, and reluctantly put away his "inconvenient emotions" and "dozens of happy memories which, like pressed flowers, I can spend all winter arranging". There are 26 letters to Win in the Selected Letters of Philip Larkin.

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  • 08/28/14--09:39: Simin Behbahani obituary
  • Iran's most famous female poet and defender of human rights

    Simin Behbahani, who has died aged 87, was Iran's most famous female poet, credited with reinventing the ghazal, the lyrical sonnet associated with the classical Persian poets. She was known as the Lioness of Iran for defending human rights and women's rights under both the Shah and the Islamic Republic. Despite the dangers she faced from the authorities, whom she constantly challenged over rights abuses, she remained in Iran until her death.

    In 2011 the US president, Barack Obama, recited from one of her poems in a new year message to Iranians: "Old I may be but, given the chance, I will learn. I will begin a second youth alongside my progeny. I will recite the Hadith of love of country with such fervour as to make each word bear life."

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    The one-man team behind the first world war app on bringing Owens words to life and the decision to use female narrators

    The concept for an app based on the war poetry of Wilfred Owen came as the result of reading a very early e-book containing a collection of his work. While I appreciated the portability of an e-book, I felt that such powerful and moving words could be so much better delivered if more use was made of the interactivity offered by devices such as iPads.

    Owens words didnt read like the poetry to which Id previously been exposed. To me they provided vivid eye-witness reports from the frontline and described the horrors faced by the ordinary British soldier. As I read them, I heard them being spoken by a woman, a maternal figure, and this triggered a creative string of events.

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    Drawn to Horace by a mutual love of wine and poetry, Eyres celebrates the importance of poetry in an age that, like Horace's own, values money above all else

    As a schoolboy at Eton, Harry Eyres didn't warm to the Roman poet Horace. He was "too suave, too close to power". But as an adult and as a poet himself, Eyres now rejects the image of Horace as "one of the smuggest writers who ever lived" and instead hails him as "one of the clearest poetic intelligences and one of the west's lost prophets".

    Perhaps surprisingly it was his love of wine that first drew Eyres to Horace. Indeed he translates Horace's most famous injunction, "Carpe diem", as "taste the day!" For Horace, wine was a great consoler: it restored "to a desperate mind the balm of hope". And it inspired humanity: "Full of you I will speak grand things." Eyres's modern translations are accompanied by wonderfully insightful readings of Horace's poetry. But his book is much more than this: looking back across his own life as a writer, Eyres celebrates the enduring importance of poetry in an age that, like Horace's own, often seems to value money above all else. Horace's way, he concludes, "is the way of worshipping small things and small gods".

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    Alice Oswald on compiling a bestiary of Ted Hughes's animal poems

    Ted Hughes wrote, in Poetry in the Making, that he thought of his poems as animals, meaning that he wanted them to have "a vivid life of their own". So there is something very distilled and self-defining about his animal poems, almost as if they were prayers to language itself; which is why, out of the mass of his Collected Poems, it seemed a good idea to gather a bestiary.

    A bestiary was originally a Christian idea a book of animals sketchily recorded and then reduced to emblems  which sounds inimical to Hughes, whose animals are so radiantly themselves. The purpose of a bestiary (and this purpose was more and more neurotically observed through the middle ages) was to find distinctions between man and the animals, but Hughes worked in the opposite direction, aiming to show us what they have in common. He was wary of any project that was too narrowly Christian.

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    Scotland's first minister pays tribute to the national bard

    Robert Burns is a cultural and literary icon, whose poetry transcends culture, creed and era. Whether in traditional publications or online, his work continues to thrive. This year, I delivered the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns address at the Dunblane Youth Burns Club and it was fantastic to see younger generations fully appreciate the global contribution of Scotland's national bard.

    Thousands of Burns celebrations take place across the world, from Boston to Beijing, every year. Bob Dylan named Burns as his greatest inspiration and there are more Burns monuments than any other figure of modern times in the US, there are more statues of him than of any American writer.

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    by Colette Bryce

    Mammy dozes in her chair.
    Cushions packed in soft layers
    are glowing with her heat.
    Eighty years have lent her skin

    a bruised look in composure,
    a touch of purples
    to the hollows, so Mammy dozing
    resembles a boxer in defeat.

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    Except when dealing with the poetry itself, James Booth's biography of Philip Larkin reaches some muddled conclusions

    As treasurer of the Oxford English Club, the young Philip Larkin met several famous writers, among them Lord Berners, George Orwell and, most anticipated of all, Dylan Thomas. The poet visited the university in the winter of 1941 and went down a storm, his audience rolling on the floor as he parodied Stephen Spender. Larkin, though, couldn't quite get with the programme. Thomas's reading was "wonderful", his voice slow and artfully lingering. But how quickly the memory faded. In the days afterwards, he came to a far sadder verdict, writing to his pal Jim Sutton: "On the whole, he was rather a pathetic figure. It was difficult to connect the man and his poetry."

    Seven decades on, and while Thomas is the stuff of stirring movie biopics, it's Larkin who's the pathetic figure: a racist, misogynist, death-fixated porn addict whose refusal to commit to any of the women he was blithely three-timing stole from them the best years of their lives. Just as the undergraduate Larkin could not connect Thomas with his poetry, so many 21st-century readers have had trouble coping with the fact that he, Larkin, wrote such exquisite masterpieces as At Grass, Love Songs in Age and An Arundel Tomb. It's true that the poems, luminous and wise, have sailed irresistibly on since the publication of Andrew Motion's biography of Larkin in 1993; my sense is they're more loved than ever. But Larkin himself is an ongoing problem, like a smell that won't go away.

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    Combining the grace of a bird in flight with sparing use of West Midlands dialect, Liz Berry's poems show warmth and maturity

    Black Country is an extraordinary debut and rooted in place. When you close the book, you can still see the Black Country in your mind's eye, as if all the poems in it were coming together to form a continuous landscape, a single yet varied view. We are in the West Midlands, a world of closed pits and the memory of coal dust and there is a sootiness that contrasts with a fresher and more rural scene of trees, moss, mushrooms. There is a particularly memorable poem about mushrooming, Woodkeeper, which manages to be comic (there is a certain amount of rolling about on the forest floor) and erotic at the same time. Less predictably, dancing across this landscape, are two poems about shoes moving in metaphorical quickstep a silver pair and a scarlet. The scarlet, in particular, stands out against the established darkness of this collection. These poems need to be studied slowly yet there is, as one reads on, a sense of gathering speed, a flightiness, a readiness to soar, and, most of all, an awareness of Berry's inclination to be, in some way, allied with birds. She writes, in the best sense, on a wing and a prayer.

    What marks out this writing is its sparing but assured use of Midlands dialect. Some of the newly encountered words are wonderful several I plan to borrow. What could be more satisfactory than tranklement as an alternative to ornament? I love the mocking nudge that is in there somewhere.

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    I had already decided to be a poet, but this was a revolutionary understanding of what that meant at the most visceral level

    Du mußt dein Leben ändern. You must change your life, says Rainer Maria Rilkes Archaic Torso of Apollo (translation by Stephen Mitchell). Not modify your life. Not change your lifestyle. Not take more exercise. Your life. Change it. All good books change your life in some respect, if only by extending your knowledge and possibly changing your perceptions. Some lead you to a comprehensive change in direction. I know one man who lost his Catholic faith by reading Samuel Beckett. Another decided to go to university after reading Jude the Obscure. There are formative books of course, which is not the same. A good many books formed me, but the book that undid something in me and undoes it each time I look at it is the old Penguin, Rimbaud Selected Verse, with an introduction and prose translations by Oliver Bernard. It is, effectively, the archaic torso by other means.

    I had already made the decision to be a poet, so that was not the change it wrought: it was more a revolutionary understanding of what being a poet meant, not in the sense that one might adopt a mannerism or two and strive to look as much like a boy genius as possible, but at the deepest, most visceral level. It was, and remains, the call at the bottom of the sea.

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    Best known for her fiction, the novelist was also an occasionally glorious poet, as this reflection on a fiery sky shows

    There's a faint Keatsian flavour to this week's poem, An Autumn Sunset, by the multi-talented American novelist Edith Wharton. "Some ancient land forlorn" echoes the Ode to a Nightingale's "faery lands forlorn", and the rich colouration and sturdy construction might seem Keatsian, too. But Wharton's vision, technique and range of vocabulary are clearly her own. Overall, the structure is more classically Ode-like than Keats's studies in the form, and the effect suggests a "back to basics" invigoration. It was first published in 1894, in Scribner's Magazine, and perhaps some spirit of the fin de siècle looms over it, too.

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    From politics to matters of the heart via a deserted dining room, here are the best of your works inspired by favourite poems. Versifying stuff

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    This handsome biopic of the celebrated Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi may not be the most radical film on show at Venice, but still has much to recommend it

    Ahead of the Venice screening of Il Giovane Favoloso, the heavens opened and the rain came down. A spectacular thunderstorm ripped in off the ocean, flaring the clouds, flooding the gutters and abruptly pitching the city towards autumn. The poet Giacomo Leopardi could not have arranged a more appropriate overture.

    Hailed as the finest Italian writer since Dante, Leopardi viewed nature as all-conquering, all-consuming and geared towards disaster - at least for the human beings that it holds in its grasp. Mario Martones handsome period biopic paints the poet as an intense and sickly youth, given to prostrating himself on riverbanks and peering so closely at books that you fear he might lick them. Leopardi is pulled by agony in one direction and ecstasy in the other. Sooner or later he is sure to break down.

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    A review of the monumental five-volume Poets of the English Language, edited by WH Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson

    An anthology should be regarded as a public treasure. And on the whole that is what Messrs W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson have made of their monumental Poets of the English Language, edited by Auden and Pearson (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 5 vols - I, Langland to Spenser, xlvi. 619; II, Marlowe to Marvell, xlvi. 556; III, Milton to Goldsmith, xliv. 622; IV, Blake to Poe, xxxviii. 535; V. Tennyson to Yeats, xlviii. 624; 15s per vol). It is the first systematic anthology from the mid-twentieth century viewpoint - which owes much to Eliot but more still to modern philosophic anxieties.

    The stress is on the contemplative poem, and since contemplation is apt to be a long process what we have given we have tried to give substantially. The whole of Antony and Cleopatra, of Samson Agonistes, and Everyman, and great chunks of Chaucer and Pope in particular are included. Newly discovered poets like Edward Taylor are fully introduced (perhaps too fully) and others like Smart or Swift by implication revalued. As for the introduction, it is fresh as the authors hoped and stimulating in the familiar Auden manner but disappointing. There are good generalisations, especially on the craft of verse, but much of the social comment is crudely oversimplified or merely inverts old prejudices.

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    Paul Muldoons 1987 collection was a profound influence on me as a writer, not least in how it shows how fixed ideas are subject to slippage

    In 1986, fresh from Africa, I arrived at university with a sheaf of poems. Nothing unusual there, except in that year Paul Muldoon was the Judith E Wilson fellow at Cambridge, and by good fortune he was in residence at my own college, Fitzwilliam. There, once a week, at about six in the evening, he convened a writing group. It wasnt a creative writing workshop, but something more fluid. People would read out poems or short pieces of prose. Once, I remember, Lee Hall, later the writer of Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters, brought along his guitar and sang a song. The group was a mixture of students and Cambridge residents, of varying ages. We all smoked, of course, and there was a fair bit of covert flirting.

    Muldoons responses to the work were elliptical, like his own writing, which we were beginning to discover in collections such as Quoof (1983) and a slim Selected Poems (1986). Once he described one of my poems I think it was about cycling as very regular. It took me some time to realise he probably wasnt just talking about the metre.

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    Get past Alan Partridge and the Normal for Norfolk jokes and you will see that this East Anglian city has creativity in its veins

    What makes a city a literary giant? According to Unesco, it takes a rare and rarified combination of editorial initiatives and educational programmes, lashings of libraries, bookstores and cultural centres, plus a vibrant literary event scene. In short, its the extent to which literature plays an integral role in the urban environment and the only city in England to have earned the status so far is Norwich.

    Norfolks county town may not be the first city that springs to mind when considering Englands foremost cultural offerings. Dig your way past the Alan Partridge and Normal for Norfolk jokes, however, and youll see why Norwich well deserves its City of Literature title, awarded in May 2012 (the other six recipients to date are Reykjavik, Krakow, Iowa City, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Dublin).

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    What is it with celebrities and verse? Weve had lines from Charlie Sheen and Pamela Anderson, but now they must bow before the singers perfect stanzas (except Bey of Light was written for her)

    As it goes about its glamorous daily business, people often stop Lost in Showbiz and ask it important and pressing questions. Usually those questions are: Have you paid for that item, sir? and Would you come back into the store with me, please? But occasionally they deal with matters of great philosophical significance. Lost in Showbiz, they say, you must have developed a vast store of wisdom and knowledge during the many hours you have spent sitting on your awful bloated arse reading OK! and Closer. What one piece of advice would you give the worlds celebrities?

    At this, Lost in Showbiz pauses, presses its fingertips together and takes a deep breath: perhaps a moments reflection will bring forth a new response. But no: the answer is always the same. My advice to the worlds celebrities is: write more poetry. Its not just that Lost in Showbiz loves celebrities writing poetry, its that Lost in Showbiz believes wholeheartedly that the greatest poetry ever written is by celebrities. Where others talk up Auden or Eliot, it raises aloft Musings From the Bed of Pamela, the poem written by Pamela Anderson to accompany her 13th nude spread in Playboy: The adults Living and dead that fought for our rights the artists sweet artists Hold on Crazy, the world goes on.

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