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

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    To mark World Poetry Day, use your literary intuition – or your eye for real estate – to house some of the world’s greatest poets. But can you figure out which bard is at home in each house? Muse on location, location, location with our poetical property quiz

    1 Which of the following poets lived in this idyllic Welsh boathouse?

    2 Which poet’s St Petersburg residence contained this fine study, featuring the sofa on which he died?

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    Angela Neustatter meets artist Claerwen James and her father, writer and broadcaster Clive James – and finds he is making up for all the years he wasn’t around for his family

    Since Claerwen James abandoned a promising career as a molecular biologist in 1999 and went to the Slade School of Fine Art, she has painted exquisitely wrought pictures of small children, who seem lost in a wistful world of their own. She denies they are intentionally autobiographical, but they do resonate with the sadness she felt as a child: “To some extent I see myself in most of them; yes, something is resonating there.”

    Claerwen, 44, has never painted her own nine-year-old daughter, Maia, even though her daughter has asked her to. “Maia would be a terrific subject,” she says “but I can’t bear the idea. My paintings are melancholy and I would be afraid of creating a portrait that took Maia’s joyousness. I can’t do that to her, and it is not the way I want to see her. It is what emerges in my pictures because I think what I am painting is how hard life is and disappointment inevitable. I didn’t like being a child much.”

    Related: Claerwen James: portraits of melancholy children - in pictures

    Related: Clive James: ‘I’ve got a lot done since my death’

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    The author and journalist on Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, Milton’s Paradise Lost, the magic of Nick Cave and puppet shows in Salzburg

    Novelist and journalist Polly Samson was born in London in 1962. She originally worked in publishing, including a role on the board of Jonathan Cape, and has written for the Observer, Guardian, Sunday Times and Daily Mail. Her first collection of short stories, Lying in Bed, was published in 1999, followed by Perfect Lives in 2010. In 2001 she published her first novel, Out of the Picture. She is married to David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, and has co-written lyrics with him for several of the band’s albums. Her novel The Kindness is out now (Bloombsury £14.99).

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    This unusual sonnet reminds the reader to appreciate the utilitarian and social dimensions of the natural world as well as its aesthetic beauty

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    Re the “mystery” of the Bodleian Library’s Sheldon tapestry (Report, 21 March), a massive landslip at Kynaston, possibly caused by an earthquake, took place over three days, starting on 17 February 1575. Approximately 60,000 cubic metres of land moved downhill, carrying full-grown trees to an adjoining property. John Philips, quoted by Gilbert White in his Natural History of Selborne, wrote: “I nor advise, nor reprehend the choice / Of Marcley Hill; the apple nowhere finds / A kinder mould; yet ’tis unsafe to trust / Deceitful ground; who knows but that once more / This mound may journey, and his present site / Forsaken, to thy neighbour’s bounds transfer / Thy goodly plants, affording matter strange / For law debates!” The site is still marked on current Ordnance Survey maps.
    Stephanie Ross
    Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

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    The Western Australian’s voice has been heard at anti-war and anti-logging rallies, in pubs and prisons, ferries and demos, and universities from Austin to Calcutta

    While the only poet named among Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures is Les Murray, Venie Holmgren is a splendid candidate to add to the list. At 92, the writer and poet can look back on a life of activism, adventure and enterprise. And that life is far from over as she works on what she sees as a neglected history: the story of the anti-Vietnam war movement in her native Western Australia.

    As she wrote in her most recent book, Tea House Poems, she is often “snuggling down/ down deep/ into bed/ when suddenly/ a poem limps in/ needing attention”. In a soft, clear voice, Holmgren presents her poems from memory. That same voice has been heard at anti-war and anti-logging rallies, in pubs and prisons, on river ferries and demos, and in universities from Austin to Heidelberg, Germany, and on to Calcutta.

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    The critic and wit’s return to poetry is suffused with loss and guilt, yet although his impending death is ever-present in the verse, his humour still shines through

    “It’s not that I’m afraid to die,” goes the Woody Allen line. “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Not all writers feel the same. Some would like to be there to take notes: death is good material, “the trigger of the literary man’s biggest gun”, as William Empson put it. The ideal would be resurrection – the author, brought back to life, recounting what it feels like to expire. Next best, though not to be wished on anyone, is a drawn-out terminal illness, allowing for lengthy contemplation of what’s to come.

    Clive James made his name as a television critic, essayist and wit. But he began as a poet, and four years on from being handed a death sentence (with leukaemia, emphysema and kidney failure – “the lot”), he is ending as a poet. In 2013, he published his 500-page translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which he’d been working at for decades but only finalised after getting ill. His Poetry Notebook, a volume of appraisals and apercus, appeared last autumn. And now comes this collection of 37 poems, all composed over the past four years.

    Once I would not have noticed; nor have known
    The name for Japanese anemones,
    So pale, so frail. But now I catch the tone
    Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees
    Without my seeing them. I count the bees.

    Related: Clive James: ‘I’ve got a lot done since my death’

    … those years in the clear, how real were they,
    When all the sirens in the signing queue
    Who clutched their hearts at what I had to say
    Were just dreams, even when the dream came true?

    You dream that you might keep it in your head.
    But memories, where can you take them to?
    Take one last look at them. They end with you.

    Related: In search of lost time with my father, Clive James

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    From Hungary to Guadeloupe and the Republic of Congo, the ten shortlisted writers inhabit literary territories that are new to many English readers. Chair of the jury Edwin Frank introduces a stellar line-up

    • Man Booker International prize 2015 shortlist announced

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  • 03/26/15--04:29: Richard by Carol Ann Duffy
  • The poet laureate’s eulogy, written for Richard III’s re-interment at Leicester Cathedral, to be read by Benedict Cumberbatch

    Richard

    My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
    a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
    emptied of history. Describe my soul
    as incense, votive, vanishing; you own
    the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

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    Sailing from the Hebrides to Hong Kong via the Pixies to Mendelssohn, RR’s old sea dog sonofwebcore picks a beautiful list of lands and soundscapes from last week’s topic

    Why are some islands enchanted? Well, I reckon I know, but certain things are best kept secret until you know me better. The Pixies, however, progress through their own Isla de Encanta without much fuss. Mama Papa, however, was new to me. I played it to my missus, my brother, my daughter and my mate in Canada, but none guessed it was by Joan Armatrading. Actually, I wouldn’t have known either – though she was born on the island of St Kitts.

    Blow me down. A Captain Beefheart song surfaces. Not entirely sure what he’s on about, to be honest, other than the Sheriff of Hong Kong, but hey, check out that guitar! One of my old mates, a top actor, found an old Harry Belafonte LP in a car boot sale. He taped me a copy, and I’ve loved it and Jamaica Farewell ever since. I mean, when your mammy approves …

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    The poet laureate’s Parliament poem on pollution and climate change accompanied the launch of the Guardian’s Keep it in the ground campaign

    Parliament

    Then in the writers’ wood,

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    The Nobel Prize winner, who was also a psychologist, passed away in Stockholm after a short illness

    The Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2011, died in Stockholm on Thursday at the age of 83. He had lost the power of speech after a stroke in 1990, but continued to write poetry, and with his left hand to play the piano.

    For most of his life, he worked part-time as an industrial psychologist and the rest of the time as a poet.

    Related: Nobel prize for literature goes to Tomas Tranströmer

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    On the centenary of the his death, a cache of love letters brings the elusive golden boy of Edwardian England into focus

    On 23 April a bundle of neglected love letters and a devastating, secret memoir, released by the British Library after almost a century, will open a window on to one of the enduring mysteries of 20th-century English literature: the life and loves of the first world war poet Rupert Brooke.

    Throughout his short career, the precocious author of The Soldier was an elfin figure of fascination, once described by WB Yeats as “the handsomest young man in England”. In our own time, Brooke has become the haunting symbol of a doomed generation, flitting across the pages of novels by Alan Hollinghurst and AS Byatt like a volatile and irreverent Peter Pan. Androgynous in fact and fiction, his true character has been tantalisingly elusive.

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    Performance poet Hollie Poetry on why always wanting to throw up before a gig is a small price to pay for spreading the word

    Long before she quit her day job and adopted the stage name Hollie Poetry, Hollie McNish was scribbling poems on whatever surface she could find. She started at the age of four, and when we meet she is clutching a folder full of her teenage work. “They’re terrible,” she laughs. “They’re mainly about sex and not getting into nightclubs.”

    But she kept writing, slowly developing her poetry until, aged 23, her partner urged her to start reading it out loud for other people. It took her a year of attending a poetry night in Covent Garden, London, to work up the courage to go on stage, but once she started there was no stopping her and soon she was attending open-mic nights up and down the country. “I still get scared though,” she says. “Standing on the stage makes me want to vomit before most gigs.”

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    Sean Borodale explores the mysteries of culinary transformation in dynamic, sensual poems written as he cooked

    These wonderful, original and sustaining poems were written while Sean Borodale cooked (rather as his first book, Notes for an Atlas, recorded his London walks – streets rather than a stream of consciousness – and his second, Bee Journal, his bee-keeping). One imagines him in his kitchen, and wonders how it must have been to have pen next to pan, the challenge of it all coming to the boil together, of poetry stewed, sieved, weighed, leavened – and served.

    I love the culinary vigilance, sight and insight, the ear for sound effects (“I heat the pan. It happens quickly;/ the cadence is furious”). I hugely enjoyed tasting/reading, and felt an unforced rejoicing at the luck of finding myself at Borodale’s table. But there is also a submerged absurdity, unacknowledged and possibly barely recognised. There are moments when the precious takes hold, as in Preparing Potatoes, in which the humble spud gets unexpectedly promoted. “They are the gloomy dead, potatoes,/ along the walls at Mycenae.” It is splendidly pretentious. The high-risk intensity and folding in of classical references into the recipe won’t be everyone’s dauphinoise.

    Related: There’s poetry in peas

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    Find out everything you would ever, ever need to know about sustainable, self-restrainable Guillemot, who uses its bill a lot, in this immortal poem by John Hegley Continue reading...

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    A biographical sketch of a misfit soul carried into the carnage of the first world war rises to an elegy for a ‘life half lived’

    April Fools’ Day
    in memory of Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)

    Does anybody know what it was all for?
    Not Private Rosenberg, short as John Keats.
    A nudge from Ezra Pound took him to war,
    to sleep on boards, in France, with rotting feet,
    writing his poetry by candle ends.
    His fellow soldiers always found him odd.
    Outsiders do not easily make friends
    if they are awkward – with a foreign God.

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    At last, this poet of many voices receives his due – with a postwar anthology all of his own

    In 1998, two similar poetry anthologies were published: The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945, edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford, and The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, edited by Sean O’Brien. In neither did Jon Silkin, one of Britain’s most prolific and influential postwar poets, who had died the year before, appear. This, despite the fact that he had edited a well respected collection of first world war poetry, written the very popular poem “Death of a Son”, and had his work included on the GCSE syllabus. He also founded and edited for 45 years (with a three-year hiatus between 1957 and 1960) the poetry magazine Stand. But then inclusion in anthologies is always a matter of taste and circumstance.

    The editors of this Silkin collection have done a supremely conscientious job. The book is not cheap, but it does include a lot of poetry. Silkin published 11 volumes from 1950 on; also included here are 11 sections containing uncollected and unpublished poems, which do his legacy no harm. His first collection, The Portrait and Other Poems, published shortly after he was discharged from national service as a sergeant instructor, was one he didn’t reprint, and he didn’t include any of its poems in collections published during his lifetime. But there is good work in it (such as “The Author Addresses His Razor”: “You do not flinch. / Your edge is fire and calm oiled seas. You know / Your ultimate power as I know mine, you are keen / For the end”. Note the double edge, so to speak, that he gives the word “keen”).

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  • 03/31/15--04:42: Tomas Tranströmer obituary
  • Swedish poet lauded for his ‘translucent images’ and unforgettable metaphors who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2011

    Though the dozen or so collections by the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, who has died aged 83, occupy very little space on a bookshelf, the response that they received was enormous. His poems were translated into 60 languages, with at least two dozen translations of his complete work, captivating readers not just throughout Europe but in the Americas, Australasia, the Arab world, India, China and Japan, to the extent that in 2011 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

    It is hard to see any simple or conclusive explanation for this wide appeal. Some readers have said that his poems are accessible, and so they are – but only up to a point: there are dark currents beneath the surface, and some of his later works are enigmatic. Others admire the way in which they surprise us even after repeated readings, as if they don’t get “used up”. Others are entranced by his metaphors, which often make us see ordinary things not necessarily in a new light, but in a light that we had not noticed before, as in December Evening 1972, from the collection Stigar (Paths, 1973), included in the New Collected Poems (1997 and 2011) that I translated for Bloodaxe Books:

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    The author adds his voice to that of educationalists, early years specialists and psychologists in calling for the ‘statistically invalid’ assessments be stopped

    Children’s author Philip Pullman has joined leading educationalists, early years specialists and psychologists in calling for the testing of four and five-year-olds in their first weeks at primary schools to be scrapped.

    The tests, known as baseline assessment, are due to be trialled in a number of schools from September and will be used to measure basic skills including children’s ability to count and recognise letters and numbers immediately when they start in reception class. They will be introduced nationally in 2016.

    Related: Testing times for primary school pupils and Labour’s education policies | Letters

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