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

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    Auction of Shaws much-loved spade will include SF legends unpublished tribute to the playwright and his garden implement

    A spade once owned by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, which was hymned in verse by a subsequent owner, Ray Bradbury, will be auctioned in Los Angeles later this week.

    Bradbury, a lifelong fan of Shaws, was given the spade as a Christmas present. Shaw had used the tool to plant a mulberry tree on his 80th birthday, in 1936. In the lengthy, unpublished poem, titled GBS and the Spade, Bradbury wrote of how, holding it, he could feel the Nobel laureates influence:

    I hold the dear spade in my hands,
    Its vibrant lightnings strike and move along my arms,
    The ghost of Shaw climbs up through me
    I feel a fiery brambling of chin
    I feel my spine
    Stand straight as if a lightning bolt had struck
    His old voice whispers in my ear, dear boy
    Find Troy, go on, dig deep, find Troy, find Troy!

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    Britains poet laureate wrote this poem for the Guardian on the morning after the Scottish independence referendum

    September 2014

    Tha gaol agam ort.

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    A Cambridge University survey, set to launch on National Poetry Day on 2 October, aims to find out what poetry is stored in our nations collective memory and why

    What poem do you know by heart? Share a video of yourself reciting it

    According to Molesworth, there is only one piece of peotry in the english language. Its Tennysons The Brook, and Geoffrey Willans schoolboy recites, delightfully: i come from haunts of coot and hern / i make a sudden sally / and-er-hem-er-hem-the fern / to bicker down a valley. Even advanced english masters set The Brook they sa it is quaint dated gejeune etc but really they are all in leag with parents who can all recite it. And do if given half a chance, Molesworth tells us.

    I love the thought of scads of parents declaiming men may come and men may go, / But I go on for ever. Because, and Ive said it before, poetry by heart isnt something Im great at. Since I made that admission four years ago, Ive committed a few more to memory, starting small, with some William Carlos Williams, red wheelbarrows and plums, having a baby and drinking down Plaths Youre, trying to expand my Gerard Manley Hopkins repertoire beyond Spring and Fall. Small, horribly small, but definite, steps.

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    In a move condemned by free speech advocates, the islands government moves to curb literature and poetrys adverse effects on society

    Poetry and literature will have to be approved by the Maldivian government before they are published in the country, according to new regulations which have been described as a disaster for freedom of expression by free speech campaigners.

    Published earlier this month, the regulations are intended to standardise all literature publicised and published in the Maldives in accordance with laws and regulations of the Maldives and its societal etiquette, and to reduce adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature, according to an unofficial translation by lawyer Mushfique Mohamed shown to the Guardian.

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    Adam Mansbachs new picture book offers a lighthearted adults-only take on that other crisis point in a parents day: dinner time

    Like its predecessor, Adam Mansbachs new picture book comes with the warning that it probably shouldnt be read to children. You Have to Fucking Eat, the followup to his surprise bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, sees the novelist tackle another part of the unending battle of wills that is parenthood: food.

    The unlikely combination of a picture books sweet, animal-heavy illustrations and neat rhymes with words that most parents would prefer their children to avoid sent Go the Fuck to Sleep soaring to the top of bestseller lists in 2011, winning it fans from Samuel L Jackson to Werner Herzog. Jackson recorded an official audiobook, in which the actor gave voice to lines including: The cubs and the lions are snoring, / Wrapped in a big snuggly heap. / How come you can do all this other great shit / But you cant lie the fuck down and sleep? and The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest / And the creatures who crawl, run and creep. / I know youre not thirsty. Thats bullshit. Stop lying. / Lie the fuck down, my darling, and sleep.

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    The Mancunian punk poet beloved of Alex Turner and Plan B is joining us for a live Q&A from 4-5pm on Tuesday 30 September so what do you want to ask him?

    With his dark sunglasses, shock of black hair and gold teeth, punk poet John Cooper Clarke is instantly recognisable but its his voice that hits you first. A drily amused Salford drawl, he applies it in rhythmic streams of poetic consciousness. His topics: poverty, love, and all the petty little things that both irritate and make life worth living. I wanna be your setting lotion / Hold your hair in deep devotion.

    He started out in cabaret before ending up in punk clubs, delivering bile in between bands it had, by his own admission, a massive impact on British culture... Everybody that read one of my poems went off and wrote poetry. The 80s saw him release albums, do madcap Sugar Puffs adverts, and become addicted to heroin, the latter inducing a long spell of no writing at all. But he got clean, and found a new generation of converts. The Arctic Monkeys reworked his poem I Wanna Be Yours, while Plan B put Clarke in his film Ill Manors, and his tones could even be heard singing the praises of McCain chips.

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    Weve been getting such great contributions from our readers that we want to share them on our blog. Here are some of this weeks highlights

    If theres an assignment that were not running that you think we should please do let us know by sharing your ideas with us.

    On 21 September Peoples Climate March took place in cities such as New York and London. We received plenty of great images from the marches, with mikipaloma123 providing us with this one from Mallorca. You can also see more photos in our gallery.

    A small, but dedicated group of people who want to help save the planet! Youngest member, Paloma (3 years), oldest, Hella (94 years)!

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    "Sierra Leone totally looks like a war zone. Conditions in the north of the country are critical. And critical are the conseguences of Ebola epidemic. Noone in the streets, its hard to find food, prices are much higher. The three-day lockdown has made things even worse for the population, which has been struggling to get food and water. To face the emergency, the staff of the Italian ngo which I work for, AVSI Foundation, distributed to most vulnerable families some essential commodities: rice, oil, onions, tomato sauce and soaps. In addition, the Ministry of Social Welfare has asked us to assist about 250 street children in some neighborhoods of the capital, who were living on alms, and if left alone would not have survived. It was an emergency in the emergency". Ernest Sesay, President of Family Home Movement (AVSI Foundation network). http://www.avsi.org/

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    This church stands next to the much better known Library of Innerpeffray, a repository of books dating back to the 1400s. Amongst other attractions, it has a carved 18th century gravestone and a "leper squint", through which lepers excluded from church services could watch the mass - poor things, out in the cold! This view of the interior was taken from the small gallery.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    The Owl and the Pussycat is surely one of the most romantic poems in the English language. For its sparkling celebration of courtship, love's fulfilment, mixed marriage and, of course, dancing, it is impossible not to cherish.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    I went to have a look at the Olympics park in Athens, now mainly semi-ruined. The last event held there was a pro-legalising-marijuana rally.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    I hope my son will grow up in a country and a world where poverty, inequality, damaging environmental practices, conflict, hatred and division are a thing of the past. The Greens are the only main stream British political party that I believe have the philosophy and policies to achieve this.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    The crowd like to get close to the action

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    After beating Newcastle United 4-0 in an early kickoff at Roots Hall on new years day 1992 Southend United were fleetingly top of Division 2 (Now the championship).

    The only evidence is a photo of the teletext league table which someone took with a Polaroid of and posted to the Internet a decade or so later.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    Finding peace and tranquility away from the evening events

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    Lego official sets, built with plans. There's never enough space.

    Sent via GuardianWitness

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  • 09/26/14--10:55: Alastair Reid obituary
  • Essayist who graced the columns of the New Yorker for 40 years, poet, and translator of many Hispanic authors

    Alastair Reid, who has died aged 88, was a Scottish writer whose imagination dwelt in the Hispanic world. He was at least as well known for his translations of Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and other Spanish-speaking writers as for his own poetry. Reid was also a superb writer of prose, the larger part of which appeared in the New Yorker, where he was a staff writer for 40 years during the magazine's heyday. Memoirs of his stormy friendship with the writer Robert Graves, chronicles of his life in a village in Spain, and latterly excursions into contemporary Scottish life, among other essays, appeared first in the New Yorker before being collected in books, including Passwords (1964) and Whereabouts (1987).

    Reid was born in Whithorn, in Galloway, south-west Scotland. He called it his "personal Eden". His father was a Church of Scotland minister, his mother a doctor. A taste for the itinerant life, to which he would eventually dedicate himself, was acquired from the "tinkers" who came from Ireland to Galloway for seasonal labour. "They always came by our house next to the church. I used to ask my father, 'Where are they going?' And he would say, 'They don't know.'" Seventy-five years later, Reid could still relish his response: "How exciting."

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    Carol Ann Duffy talks to Nicholas Wroe about turning the spotlight on poetry, writing verse for the Queen and why she won't be appearing on I'm a Celebrity

    When Carol Ann Duffy was appointed poet laureate in 2009, the first woman to hold the post in its nearly 350-year history, she set herself several goals that included setting up new prizes, giving support to new festivals and helping to generate commissions for poets. But she had only one goal for herself as a practising poet. "I wanted to continue to write as I always had, and I have tried very hard not to write a poem I previously wouldn't have written. There always had been a public element to my work, particularly during the Thatcher years, and I think all poets, to a greater or lesser degree, need to have a finger on the national pulse. Poetry provides an important alternative voice to journalists or pundits or academics as a way of dealing with things that matter to us all. But, for me, it was about finding the moment when my interests and my voice ran parallel to something that could be seen as public."

    One example of those moments came last week when, as a writer born in Scotland and then brought up in England, Duffy's poem written in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, "September 2014", was published on the front page of this newspaper. Other examples are found in her latest collection, Ritual Lighting, which is published to mark the halfway point of her laureateship and contains 16 poems written over the last few years on subjects as diverse as the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the Icelandic volcanic ash-cloud of 2010 and the Hillsborough disaster:

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  • 09/27/14--00:56: Pathway by Carol Ann Duffy
  • Britain's poet laureate wrote this poem on the death of her father in 2011

    I saw my father walking in my garden
    and where he walked,
    the garden lengthened

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    As Franco launches yet another project, its clear the artist cant say no to himself. Its time for the audience to stop him

    You might not know it, but James Franco has a new movie coming out this weekend.

    His documentary about the history of Saturday Night Live will be released on Hulu on Saturday evening, just in time for the shows 40th-season premiere. But for Franco, one movie isnt enough. Did you hear about his new book that came out this week? Hollywood Dreaming: Stories, Pictures, and Poems is Francos fifth book that he wrote all on his own (if you dont count chap books, art books, collaborations, anthologies, literary magazines or Italy: From I to Y, which was written by James De Franco).

    In Milk, you were such

    A fine homo. And when

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    Alan Bennett reveals far more of himself than he does of Hardy, Larkin, Betjeman and co in this nonetheless enjoyable anthology

    In Alan Bennetts play The History Boys, there is a point at which the schoolmaster, Hector in what now seems a legendary performance by the late Richard Griffiths discusses Hardys poem Drummer Hodge and movingly reflects on how important it is that Hodge has a name. In the same scene, Hector observes: The best moments in reading are when you come across something (a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things) that youd thought special, particular to you and here it is, set down by someone else, a person youve never met.

    Hodge resurfaces in Alan Bennetts anthology of six poets but what is absent is anything to equal Hectors emotional response. If Bennett feels any sense of wonder, it is undeclared. If moved by a poem, he tends not to mention it. This anthology is enjoyable, informative, entertaining but deflationary. The chosen half-dozen are: Thomas Hardy, AE Housman, John Betjeman, WH Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin and each poem comes with a commentary. Housman, he tells us, was a pallbearer at Hardys funeral. This is one of the books rare, affecting details. Whats more, there is a rightness in having a neighbourly Hardy and Housman here Housman is Hardys poetic pallbearer too.

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    The Forward prize nominee on his ADHD, dual identity and latest poetry collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion

    Jeremy Paxman recently outraged the poetry world by using his chairmanship of one of its premier prizes as a pulpit for denouncing an art form that, he said, had connived at its own irrelevance. Announcing the shortlists for this years Forward Prizes, he called for an inquisition into the purpose of poetry, saying poets should talk more to ordinary people. The cluster of events around National Poetry Day this week will certainly strain his thesis, from a national slam final at the Royal Albert Hall to the Forward prizes themselves, at the Southbank Centre in London.

    One poet who will be hoping that Paxman stands by his views is a 35-year-old Jamaican whose work would appear to do what the broadcaster demands. Kei Miller is among five poets in contention for the 2014 Forward prize for best collection, which will be awarded on Tuesday. This month, he was named as one of 20 Next Generation poets, a zeitgeist-defining list produced every 10 years by the Poetry Book Society. He is also shortlisted, along with Man Booker laureate Eleanor Catton and Baileys winning novelist Eimear McBride, for the multi-disciplinary Dylan Thomas prize for writers below the age of 40.

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  • 09/28/14--16:20: Dannie Abse obituary
  • Welsh poet and chest consultant who observed both the ordinary and the horrific in modern life

    The diverse literary output of the Welsh writer Dannie Abse, who has died aged 91, was considerable in both quality and quantity, and achieved in addition to the long hours that he worked as a doctor. Though he wrote in other forms, he was best known for his poetry, and it is remarkable for its consistency.

    Most of the works that appeared in 1989 under the title White Coat, Purple Coat: Collected Poems, 1948-88 are distinguished by clarity of expression and formal accomplishment. In many cases they display a sense of mystery and wonder in confronting the magic that may be uncovered by the patient and acutely observant contemplation of the ordinary events and experiences of urban existence.

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    Writer considered at the top of the Welsh tree, after winning the Wales Book of the Year 2008 award for The Presence

    Welsh poet and author Dr Dannie Abse, the one-time winner of the Wales Book of the Year award, has died at 91.

    The writer, who recently lived in north London, was once hailed as being at the top of the Welsh tree by the countrys literary body and named a CBE for his talents in the 2012 New Year honours.

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    A desert lynx in a zoo prompts an elegiac reflection on death and natures carnivorous cycle

    The big-cat house at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris is the focus of Pascale Petits new collection, Fauverie.

    Previewing the collection on her blog last year, Petit explained that the word fauverie also conjures a fauve wild beast painting, a habitat of primal colour and encagement. This weeks poem, Caracal, comes late in the collection and forms a moment of reflection, a cool breathing space, where quiet earth colours predominate and match the elegiac tone.

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    Obituary

    When I asked Dannie Abse to join this year's jury for the Forward prizes for poetry, he wondered what it would involve. "Reading just about every book of poetry that's come out this year," I replied.

    "Ah!" he said. "Well, it's a good way of keeping up. I do like to know what's going on."

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    Cambridge University finds out which poems have embedded themselves in our memories, and the Guardian looks for verse that folks can recite by heart

    Poets love their alliteration, but seldom can it have been applied in more imaginative pairings than in the events around this years National Poetry Day, on Thursday 2 October. The Museum of Liverpool is making ingenious use of the day to show off some of the archaeological treasures unearthed on the site of the museum. The pots on show in Poetry Pottery all, naturally, have verse inscribed on them. In Sussex, Poetry and Pizzas will offer a tasty incentive to roll up for an exploration of the role of landscape in memory, through poems and pictures brought along by participants in the event.

    Both are reminders that the theme word of this years day is remember. To celebrate the theme, Cambridge University is launching a nationwide Poetry and Memory survey to discover which poems are most deeply engraved in popular memory. Video contributions have already been pouring in to the Guardians own mini survey of the poems people can recite by heart. Well run a selection of them on the books website on Thursday, so add your own now.

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    Judges praise Millers distinctive voice as The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way To Zion takes £10,000 prize

    The Jamaican poet Kei Miller has won the prestigious Forward prize for the best poetry collection of 2014 for his standout book based on dialogue between a mapmaker striving to impose order on an unfamiliar land and a Rasta-man who queries his project.

    The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way To Zion took the £10,000 prize, with judges relishing Millers ability to defy expectations and set up oppositions only to undermine them.

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    Newsflash: chance to be part of an epic 100 line poem to celebrate the centenary of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

    Anyone aged seven to 25 can be part of a really exciting Poetry Day project: Dylans Great Poem.

    Its a chance to join in with developing an epic 100 line poem on the theme of remembering (this years Poetry Day theme) to celebrate the centenary of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who was born 100 years ago. This poem project is being run by Literature Wales but you dont have to be Welsh to join in!

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