Articles on this Page
- 11/27/14--02:23: _Clive James: It's a...
- 11/27/14--10:15: _Magna Carta story i...
- 11/28/14--01:46: _Was Shakespeare gay...
- 11/28/14--03:00: _Philip Pullman: Wil...
- 11/28/14--04:17: _How well do you kno...
- 11/28/14--08:27: _Time is running out...
- 11/29/14--00:00: _Writers pick the be...
- 11/29/14--16:05: _Grocery rhymes: how...
- 11/29/14--17:14: _Mark Strand, former...
- 12/01/14--02:06: _Poem of the week: C...
- 12/01/14--02:20: _Snow by Walter de l...
- 12/01/14--09:30: _PJ Harvey to publis...
- 12/02/14--00:00: _World Book Night ad...
- 12/02/14--23:59: _Celebrities, do you...
- 12/03/14--08:25: _Jon Stallworthy obi...
- 12/04/14--03:15: _The best poetry boo...
- 12/04/14--03:26: _Do good characters ...
- 12/05/14--07:00: _Poster poems: bees
- 12/06/14--11:41: _'I can't breathe': ...
- 12/06/14--16:04: _War poet Isaac Rose...
- 11/27/14--02:23: Clive James: It's awkward I'm still alive
- 11/27/14--10:15: Magna Carta story illuminated by discovery of medieval poem
- 11/28/14--01:46: Was Shakespeare gay, and does it matter? | John Sutherland
- 11/28/14--03:00: Philip Pullman: William Blake and me
- 11/28/14--04:17: How well do you know contemporary Scottish literature? Quiz
- 11/28/14--08:27: Time is running out for campaign to buy William Blake’s home
- 11/29/14--00:00: Writers pick the best books of 2014: part one
- 11/29/14--16:05: Grocery rhymes: how poetry has flourished in supermarket aisles
- 11/29/14--17:14: Mark Strand, former US poet laureate, dies aged 80
- 12/01/14--02:06: Poem of the week: Cat by John Gallas
- 12/01/14--02:20: Snow by Walter de la Mare - video
- 12/01/14--09:30: PJ Harvey to publish first volume of poetry
- 12/02/14--00:00: World Book Night adds poetry to mass giveaway next April
- 12/02/14--23:59: Celebrities, do your worst with verse – just don't call it poetry
- 12/03/14--08:25: Jon Stallworthy obituary
- 12/04/14--03:15: The best poetry books of 2014
- 12/04/14--03:26: Do good characters inevitably make for bad fiction?
- 12/05/14--07:00: Poster poems: bees
- 12/06/14--11:41: 'I can't breathe': young Twitter poet gives new voice to Eric Garner
- Jason Fotso’s poem, Last Words, is a response to the no indictment decision
- The Duke University freshman has also written about Ferguson
- Shot in the chest by Cleveland police – then handcuffed and fined $100
- Opinion: I’m black, British and I just moved to New York. I can’t breathe
Writer and broadcaster, who wrote a poem earlier this year predicting he would be dead by autumn, says he’s embarrassed he is still here
Clive James has lost none of his arch wit or charm, despite his long fight against leukaemia. The writer and broadcaster, who wrote a poem earlier this year predicting he would be dead by autumn, says he’s embarrassed that he is still here.
You’ve raised a very awkward point – I may have put myself in an embarrassing position hereContinue reading...
The Melrose Chronicle, written in Latin almost 800 years ago, is an account of events at Runnymede
A little-known medieval poem written almost 800 years ago by Scottish borders monks was revealed on Thursday as the earliest independent account of one of the single most important events in English history: the sealing of Magna Carta.
Curators at the British Library have been researching all aspects of Magna Carta for an exhibition marking its 800th anniversary next year.Continue reading...
Although not a new question, its re-emergence is germane to the interpretation of his plays, and not just a scholars’ spat
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, Let me not to the marriage of true minds, has of recent years become as popular a recitation at weddings as recitals of Frank Sinatra’s My Way at funerals.
If wide notice is taken of a current spat over what we can read about Shakespeare’s sexuality into the sonnets in the correspondence columns of the Times Literary Supplement, Sonnet 20 may be a future favourite at civil unions. The opening line, to remind you, is A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted / Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion.Continue reading...
As an exhibition of Blake’s paintings opens in Oxford, Philip Pullman reflects on how his poetry has influenced and intoxicated him for more than 50 years
Sometimes we find a poet, or a painter, or a musician who functions like a key that unlocks a part of ourselves we never knew was there. The experience is not like learning to appreciate something that we once found difficult or rebarbative, as we might conscientiously try to appreciate the worth of The Faerie Queene and decide that yes, on balance, it is full of interesting and admirable things. It’s a more visceral, physical sensation than that, and it comes most powerfully when we’re young. Something awakes that was asleep, doors open that were closed, lights come on in all the windows of a palace inside us, the existence of which we never suspected.
So it was with me in the early 1960s, at the age of 16, with William Blake. I came to Blake through Allen Ginsberg, whose Howl I read half aghast, half intoxicated. I knew who Blake was; I even had an early poem of his by heart (“How Sweet I Roam’d from Field to Field”); I must have come across “The Tyger” in some school anthology. But if Blake could inspire the sort of hellish rapture celebrated and howled about by Ginsberg, then he was the sort of poet I needed to read. Hellish rapture was exactly what I most wanted.
How do you know but ev’ry Birdthat cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight,clos’d by your senses five?
(The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider’s enmity.
Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God uskeep
From Single vision and Newtonssleep!
(“Letter to Thomas Butts”)
You might be brilliant on Burns and superb on Scott, but how much do you know about the Caledonian books of recent years? It's Scottish Book Week, so high time you checked Continue reading...
The Blake Society is £400,000 short of the amount needed to turn the Sussex cottage in which the poet penned Jerusalem into an artists’ space, visitors’ centre and memorial
Time is running out to save the Sussex cottage where William Blake wrote of the dark satanic mills and green and pleasant land of England in his most famous poem Jerusalem, with the Blake Society still more than £400,000 short of the total required to buy the house for public use.
The society has been trying since September to raise the £520,000 needed to allow the cottage where Blake lived between 1800 and 1803 to be turned into a “home for artists, authors [and] thinkers”. But as the deadline of 28 November approaches, the society has raised just £93,000.Continue reading...
It’s been a year of calls to action. Naomi Klein tackled climate change, Owen Jones got to grips with class politics, and Russell Brand preached revolution. Writers from Hilary Mantel to Lena Dunham recommend the titles that leaped out at them this year
• Nominate your book of the year in the form at the bottom of the article, for our readers’ choice list
To participate you will need to register or sign in by using the button below.Continue reading...
After a couple of students used a sonnet to take a swipe at Tesco, we look back at the often strained relationship between poets and superstores
In 1956, Allen Ginsberg’s poem A Supermarket in California placed famous poets in supermarket aisles: “Wives in the/avocados, babies in the tomatoes!–and you, Garcia Lorca, what/were you doing down by the watermelons?” Back then, the unlikely union of supermarkets and poetry was both literally and figuratively like chalk (used to write poetry on boards) and cheese (available from all good supermarkets). This week, the two worlds have collided again.
St Andrews University students Isabelle Bousquette and Tomi Baikie were so disgruntled that their local Tesco stopped selling a particular brand of popcorn that they “resorted to the only thing we really know, Shakespearean sonnet”. The verbally gifted duo sent in a poem of complaint, which included lines such as “Have I Butterkist my true love goodbye?/Let this be a dream. Restock when I wake.” Tesco’s complaints team whirred into action, penning an apology poem that made the word “continued” rhyme with “discontinued”, and offering a £10 gift card. The response intoned “A decision was taken though not in great haste,/To de-list this item ’cos it ended in waste.”Continue reading...
Strand, a Pulitzer prize winner, was haunted by absence, loss and the passage of time from the beginning of his career
Mark Strand, a Pulitzer prize winner and former US poet laureate widely praised for his concentrated, elegiac verse, has died. He was 80.
Strand, whose works were translated into more than 30 languages, died Saturday morning at his daughter’s New York home from liposarcoma that had spread throughout his body, just weeks after entering hospice care, said his daughter, Jessica Strand.Continue reading...
In this modern take on Baudelaire, a moment of sensual connection with a pet resonates with a lover’s unknowability
The New Zealand-born poet John Gallas recently published an enticing and timely collection of translations, 52 Euros. The “Euros”, 26 male and 26 female poets, range from Akhmatova and Apukhtin (“the Russian Oscar Wilde”) to Zhadovskaya and Jens Zetlitz, the latter represented by a splendidly raucous drinking song, Grapes Were Made to Grin the World (“Fillerup! … Gedditdown!”) Gallas stamps his translations with the vitality and lexical daring exhibited in his own poetry. A quieter poem such as this week’s choice, Cat (Gallas’s version, with Kurt Ganzl, of Baudelaire’s sonnet, Le Chat) is no exception, although its technical interventions are subtle.
Unrhymed, the translation is rich in assonance, the relationship of its sounds emphasised by the rhythmic compression. The several coined words make their presence felt, but they also participate in the alliterative melody: they are audible but without jarring.Continue reading...
Happy December everyone! Now we are officially allowed to think about Christmas and wintery things – so let’s get in the mood with a very beautiful animation
Walter de la Mare’s beautiful poem Snow has been illustrated by Carolina Rabei – and turned into this totally Christmassy video!Continue reading...
The Hollow of the Hand is a collaboration with Seamus Murphy, who created films for the album Let England Shake
Not content to be bound by the song, PJ Harvey is to release a book of poetry and images. The Hollow of the Hand, created with the photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy, is a 224-page collection that chronicles the pairs travels around the world over the last three years, to locations including Kosovo and Afghanistan. The pair had previously worked together when Murphy made a series of 12 films to accompany Harvey’s album Let England Shake.Continue reading...
Twelve and a half thousand copies of an anthology featuring poets from TS Eliot to Les Murray will be distributed free in the spring to promote reading
The people of Britain are set to become a little better versed in the works of some of modern poetry’s greatest names after a poetry anthology made it on to the list of titles to be given away in their thousands as part of World Book Night next spring.
Featuring well-known modern poetry including TS Eliot’s Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and Philip Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb, as well as lesser-known poems by the late Scots Makar Edwin Morgan, Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska and Australia’s Les Murray, Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy is the first poetry anthology to be part of the nationwide giveaway since it launched in 2011. Financial support from the Jerwood Foundation and Forward Arts mean that 12,500 copies of the title from tiny poetry press Bloodaxe will be given away on 23 April next year, alongside equal quantities of work by authors including Roddy Doyle, David Almond, Rachel Joyce, Lynda La Plante and Elif Shafak.Continue reading...
PJ Harvey can be trusted to produce the good stuff, but when other arty types wax poetic, the results – and reviews – can be mixed
The indie music darling PJ Harvey has announced she’s publishing a book of poetry. Given the consistently high quality of her musical output over the years (and also because I’ve harboured a muso crush on Polly since the early 1990s and she can do no wrong in my eyes). I’m confident her musings won’t send the ancient art of poetry into disrepute.
However, the transition from musician to poet isn’t always an easy one. There’s a real risk that, without any musical accompaniment to help an initial idea to blossom, a songwriter’s words will land with a dull thud when attending the party on their own. It takes skill to make language dance without a soundtrack.
There are so many things, that I want to do, but I just run out of drive.
There are so many things to share with you, but I wonder why I’m alive
My world’s mine and yours is yours, and I really don’t want to change it
But I think that love is the primary cause, and why I’d like to rearrange it.
There’s so much love I could give to you, I just want that you should know it.
There’s so many reasons to live for you, I just wish that I could show it
My world’s mine and yours is yours, and I know that yours is free
But I don’t want to live in this world of mine if I must live here as me.
Poet, biographer and literary scholar who became closely linked with the war poet Wilfred Owen
When Jon Stallworthy, who has died aged 79, delivered the British Academy’s Chatterton lecture in 1970, taking as his subject Wilfred Owen, a journey began with the war poet with whom he became almost inextricably linked. Among the audience that night was Owen’s younger brother, Harold, who asked Stallworthy to write the poet’s biography. Thus, in 1971, Stallworthy was commissioned jointly by Oxford University Press and Chatto & Windus to write a biography of Owen and to edit a comprehensive edition of Owen’s poems and fragments.
Wilfred Owen (1974) was called “one of the finest biographies of our time” by Graham Greene and went on to win the Duff Cooper memorial prize (1974), the WH Smith literary award (1975) and the EM Forster award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1976). The two-volume Complete Poems and Fragments (1983) was followed by subsequent editions of the Selected Poems. But Stallworthy travelled with many other poets and along many other paths in the course of his life as a biographer, literary critic, editor, teacher and, above all, a poet in his own right.Continue reading...
From Kate Tempest’s Greek gods to an ode to Didcot power station and Dannie Abse’s farewell – this year’s poetry roundup
The British poetry community has been mourning the loss of one of its leading lights, Dannie Abse. His death in autumn at the age of 91 marked the end of a literary career that had spanned more than half a century; Ask the Moon, his new and collected poems (Hutchinson), had been due out next year, but was published in November to mark his passing. Abse’s preoccupation with questions of life, death and what comes after may have been unremarkable among poets, but as a practising doctor, he brought a blend of precision and compassion to a body of work that was attentive, tender, always deeply felt. “And how would I wish to go?” he mused, in ‘Last Words’:
Not as in opera – that would offend –
nor like a blue-eyed cowboy shot and
short of words,
but finger-tapping still our private
morse, ‘...love you,’
before the last flowers and flies
It’s quite the moral test for an author to turn virtuous lives into compelling stories, and some of the greatest authors have failed it
The books blog has been hosting a series of posts on readers’ favourite villains in literature. It strikes me that a list of virtuous characters would be a far more challenging proposition. It’s almost a critical commonplace that Lovelace in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is fascinating despite his crimes and misdemeanours, but the eponymous Sir Charles Grandison in the novel which followed it almost unspeakably dull in his goodness. Satan is thrilling in Paradise Lost, Jesus is a bit of a prig in Paradise Regained. “Good” characters are often despicable in their moral certainty: the hypocritical Chadbands, Jellybys and Pecksniffs in Dickens; Tietjens in Parade’s End, the sanctimoniously liberal family at the heart of AS Byatt’s The Children’s Book.
How can a writer make goodness interesting? George Eliot tried with to do so by examining redemption in Silas Marner. The only problem is that the narrative jumps ahead, giving us the miserly misanthrope before and the radiant saint after he adopts a lost child, with no charting of the gradual change between the two. Naivety has often been used, whether in the “holy fool” Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot or the hero of Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk (or, further down the literary scale, Forrest Gump). There are the suicidal gallants, in love with someone they know loves another, best exemplified by Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (it helps if they have a louche past that can be redeemed).Continue reading...
Many poets have hymned the giant impact of these miniature creatures – now it’s time for you to get busy
It’s a startling fact that one third of everything we eat depends on the presence of the humble bee for its existence. Without bees, a whole range of food crops, from almonds to watermelons, would simply stop producing. If the trend of the last decade or so that has seen bee populations decline– as a consequence of disease, pesticide use and other environmental factors – were to continue, food supplies would collapse and prices would soar, resulting in a crisis as great as any we have ever experienced.
These gloomy thoughts were triggered as I read Alex Finlay’s recent book-length bee poem Global Oracle. The poem encompasses many of the important roles that bees have played in human culture, from their association with the oracle at Delphi to their place in rural weather lore. As I read the book, I was also struck by how often bees have appeared in poetry down the centuries.Continue reading...
The last words of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old man who died after being placed in an chokehold by New York police officers in Staten Island in July, have found a new audience on social media, thanks to a teenage poet from Minnesota.
Jason Fotso, 17, from Maple Grove near Minneapolis and now a freshman at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, constructed a poem, Last Words, out of the letters that make up the words said by Garner as he struggled with police in an arrest that was filmed by a passerby.
I – I – I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t be.
You see me.
You see thug.
You see sin.
A poem I wrote about Eric Garner, written solely with rearranged letters from the entirety of his last words. pic.twitter.com/LLhHVCPPlvContinue reading...
Formal identification of stretcher bearer would be first time a serving war poet is captured on film, say experts
After 30 years in the police force, retired DS Terry Abrahams has developed a sixth sense for recognising faces. It’s a talent that led him to spot, in a piece of first world war film footage, one of Britain’s greatest poets during active service.
The Imperial War Museum is now investigating the footage which, if verified, would give a unique insight into war poet Isaac Rosenberg. Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, a leading scholar of war poets and Rosenberg’s biographer, told the Observer this would be a “very significant” discovery – the only known moving image of a war poet in the trenches.Continue reading...