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

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    ‘I’m here for everyone and from everyone. My voice is made by everyone’s voices,’ says Herrera, who was born in California to parents from Mexico

    Juan Felipe Herrera, the son of migrant farm workers in California, will become the United States’ first ever Latino poet laureate, the Library of Congress has announced.

    Herrera, 66, whose parents emigrated from Mexico, will in September become the nation’s 21st poet laureate – the first Latino to hold the position since it was created in 1936.

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    ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes’ says Mansfield scholar as she uncovers a cache of ‘literary gold’

    Nearly 30 unknown poems by Katherine Mansfield have been discovered in a US library, giving fresh insight into the writer’s most painful and difficult period, the evidence for which she had later destroyed.

    Gerri Kimber, senior lecturer in English at the University of Northampton and chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society, made the discovery at Chicago’s Newberry Library in May this year. The collection’s significance had remained undetected until now because it was marked with a name similar to the New Zealand-born writer’s previously published poems.

    Dear Mr. Mathews
    May I hear from you soon the fate of my poor ‘Earth Child’ Poems – I really am worrying about her immediate future – yea or nay.
    Love her or hate her, Mr. Mathews, but do not leave her to languish!
    Sincerely yours
    Katharina Mansfield

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    Up Everest with Public Service Broadcasting to a trip down Death Valley with Sonic Youth, RR regular Fuel takes a walk on the wild side with songs from last week’s topic thread

    What would the world be, once bereft
    Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
    O let them be left, wildness and wet;
    Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins put this plea in the poem Inversnaid. But humans are drawn to regions unknown and we climb Everest because it is there; Public Service Broadcasting providing a glistening tune for the summit of the world, highlighting our desire to explore and chart the world; to know its extent but not to know it profoundly.

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    A century and a half after his birth, the influence of WB Yeats is greater than ever. But how much do you know about the Nobel laureate's life and work? Find out with our anniversary quiz Continue reading...

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    Widely informed and immune to sentiment – a powerful collection from the German master

    In the title poem of his 1960 collection Landessprache (Language of the Country) Hans Magnus Enzensberger examines divided postwar Germany, in particular the west, where the economic recovery enabled consumerism to distract the population from an immediate past that many preferred not to dwell on. Enzensberger is brutally frank. His country is a “murderers’ den / where in haste and impotence the calendar tears its own leaves, / where the past rots and reeks in the rubbish disposal unit / and the future grits its false teeth, / … all because things are looking up …”

    This sense of things seems to have been both widespread and unpopular. To say, as Enzensberger did, that “it was like living with an enormous corpse in the cupboard” was to risk the disfavour of a state whose immediate predecessor had been in the habit of burning books and killing writers along with anyone else it cared to get hold of. The conservative politician Franz-Josef Strauss, a veteran of the Russian Front and rival of Helmut Kohl, referred to Enzensberger, Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll as Schmeissfliegen: blowflies.

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    The poet, novelist and playwright on family, Britain’s child soldiers and hating novels set in Hampstead (and then writing one)

    From a distance, Owen Sheers’s new novel appears to be missing a title; the cover looks bare but for the image of a flight of stairs, black against a backdrop of bilious yellow, and it’s not until you have the book in your hands that you make out the words lacquered over the top. Tip it to the light and “I Saw a Man” gleams into view like heat haze over tarmac. Put the book back on the shelf and it sinks back into the picture, leaving you wondering whether you saw anything at all.

    The title is taken from the opening verse of Hughes Mearns’s well-known “Antigonish”, which Sheers quotes at the beginning of his novel: “Yesterday, upon the stair,” it goes, “I met a man who wasn’t there./ He wasn’t there again today/ I wish, I wish he’d go away…” It’s a queer little poem, shifting back and forth between witty epigram and soured, creepy nursery rhyme, and the cover realises it beautifully. But it’s also a neat metaphor for the provisional, ambiguous story Sheers has written.

    Related: Owen Sheers: a Passion play for Port Talbot

    Related: Rescued from hell: the war veterans who took to the stage

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    The next occupant of the hallowed chair will be announced this week. And not for the first time in its long history, the contest has been steeped in controversy

    The electorate numbers more than 250,000 – all Oxford graduates who have bothered to collect their degree. The duties – one lecture a term for five years – are almost as paltry as the annual salary of £12,000. So the five-yearly contest to be elected Oxford University’s professor of poetry may seem an unlikely provoker of tabloid headlines, but over the years it has witnessed what one eminent, outraged academic called “indignities more suited to the Miss World contest”.

    Previous occupants of the hallowed Oxford chair, regarded as second only to the poet laureateship in British poetic prestige, include such grandees as Matthew Arnold, Cecil Day-Lewis, WH Auden, Robert Graves and Seamus Heaney. But 20th-century nominees also included a computer, a county hall caretaker, Muhammad Ali, Mao Zedong and the then prime minister’s wife, Mary Wilson. In 1968, an undergraduate rode naked through the streets of Oxford in support of her own unlikely candidate, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, during an unprecedented student ballot, which made no difference, anyway.

    Related: Simon Armitage: making poetry pay | Aida Edemariam

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    In this piece from the Finnish-Swedish poet’s new collection, Houdini is an escape artist who longs for human connection

    I went to the basement on the afternoon of the
    nineteenth of August and made a carpet from
    galvanised three-inch nails and ice-green shards of
    bottles I had thrown on the stone floor.
    The audience roars when on the carpet I slowly stretch out
    my wonderful back.
    I can break out of all the strongboxes there have ever been.
    I walk with light steps in my star-strewn slippers.
    Everyone asks about my age and that the wounds don’t bleed.
    I give no interviews and think in the morning
    and the evening when I fall asleep about one thing. That one goes
    up to someone and means something. That one will stay.
    I wanted to change my life! Sometimes I think
    I glimpse a beloved figure at the bus stop,
    like a movement only, there was often someone else in a
    dark blue jacket and yet we vanish in the glitter.

    Related: Poem of the week: The snow whirls over the courtyard's roses by Tua Forsström

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    The British poet is praised by the jury for ‘speaking truth to power – forcefully, fearlessly and beautifully’

    Hailed by judges for speaking “truth to power – forcefully, fearlessly, and beautifully”, the British poet and journalist James Fenton has been named as winner of this year’s PEN Pinter prize.

    The award takes its criteria from the late writer Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech, in which he spoke of his belief that, as citizens, it is “mandatory” to cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

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    The newly appointed poet laureate of the US talks about his upbringing as a campesinos in California, the role of poetry in political life, and Allen Ginsberg

    “It’s a good thing, you know, it’s a good thing,” Juan Felipe Herrera told me on the phone last week, as he reacted to the news that he was going to be the next poet laureate of the United States – the first Hispanic American to receive the honour. But he would rather not stop there: “The more we engage in society, the more firsts we have, then there will be a moment when we have no more firsts.” He thinks about that statement for a second, then adds, “Or maybe there will always be new firsts.”

    Few people in America would speak of poetry as a realm of endless possibility in the way Herrera does, not anymore. For many people, poetry is still stereotyped as the inaccessible, ivory-tower stuff studied by academics and force-fed on high-school students or to be found in Father’s Day cards. Even the size of the stipend Herrera will collect as poet laureate – $35,000 – indicates a certain amount of public disinterest in this particular art.

    Blood on the daughter’s breast who sews roses

    Blood on the father, does anyone remember him, bluish?

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    Extensive correspondence, due to be auctioned later this month, shows a humorous, tender man - very different from the popular image of the late poet laureate

    Penning a teasing poem for an old friend who was turning 50 and promising jovially that he has no plans to “ease off” on his own writing, an affectionate and generous side of the notoriously private Ted Hughes has been revealed in an extensive collection of previously unpublished writings from the late poet laureate.

    The archive was put together by Hughes’s friend and manuscript adviser Roy Davids, who first met the poet in 1979. Davids had been asked to mastermind the sale of Hughes’s late wife Sylvia Plath’s literary archive for Sotheby’s. They would go on to become close friends, with the collection showing Hughes giving Davids writing advice, and laying out his thoughts on everything from the controversial publication of Plath’s journals to the state of his own career.

    When fifty comes the Century/ Panics, like Everest

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    He may have been a sexist curmudgeon, but he belongs in a neutral place that doesn’t skate over life’s difficulties, as open to interpretation as his poetry

    Philip Larkin was never treated with kid gloves by Britain’s media. Only last year, in a review of a biography of the poor sod, the Evening Standard described him as “widely viewed not just as racist, misogynist, porn-addled, devious in love, alcoholic, foul-mouthed and viciously right-wing, but also … dreary and twee with it” (even if they did add, “What’s not to like?”) The Scotsman summarised him, 10 years earlier, thus: “Misogynist, racist, loser – and poet”, before adding that he was also “a miserable old git” and a “creep of the first order”. It’s a particularly British way of memorialising somebody who, by creative rights at least, should be considered one of our national treasures.

    Related: Philip Larkin honoured with Westminster Abbey memorial

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    As a child growing up in Hong Kong, Emma-Lee Moss wanted nothing to do with her Asian heritage. Then books began to return her to herself

    Last week, a book arrived in my mailbox.On the back was a Chinese proverb: “It is more profitable to raise geese than daughters.” But at least, as the book’s blurb put it, daughters, like geese, “know the obligation to return home”.

    The book was called Loop of Jade, and it’sa first collection of poems by Sarah Howe. Like me, she’s half-English and half-Chinese, but I know better than to refer to her as a British-Chinesepoet. Actually, I think I know a lot about Sarah, who left Hong Kong for England when she was young, without ever having exchanged more than three emails with her. I soon discovered that I couldn’t read her book in public, for fear of crying in front of strangers. The way Loop of Jade found me began to feel like some kind of crazy magic, like the sudden appearance of water just as you noticed you were thirsty. For some months now, I have also been looking for home.

    Related: Junot Díaz: a life in books

    “Something sets us looking for a place.
    Old stories tell us that if we could only
    get there, all distances would be erased.”

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  • 06/18/15--10:25: John Bate obituary
  • My father, John Bate, a poet, librarian and father of 12, who has died aged 95, was a private man who reserved expression of his deepest self to his poetry.

    John was born in London, son of Leonard, a civil servant, and Maud (nee Banks). After leaving school, he went to work in Birmingham public library. He was 19 when the second world war started and he became a conscientious objector. He was put to work picking potatoes in Wales. Later on he joined a Sapper unit with other “conscies” and a group of them started Oasis, an underground magazine about the horrors of war. Lifelong friendships were formed.

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    Climb those library ladders and dust off the shelves to find music influenced by or making reference to authors, characters, quotes or plots in novels or any other form of the printed volume

    “So many books, so little time.” - Frank Zappa.

    The voracious reader, the ebullient book fan, the edgy eccentric, the pithy polymath – what better characteristics are there for the process of songwriting? It was just over 20 years this week that I was lucky enough to be present at a recording, in the old BBC TV Centre, of an early edition of BBC2’s Later with Jools Holland, now of course a cornerstone of British music TV for many a discerning and curious music lover. Elvis Costello, no slacker on literary reference and wordplay, was on the bill, but the showstealing highlight was the still relatively young band Radiohead, who had gigged for years, but were just beginning to break it big with The Bends, powerfully performing from that now classic album. In the short breaks between their songs, a friend with me at the time remarked how amusing and odd it was that frontman Thom Yorke didn’t busy himself with checking his guitar, or disappeared backstage for drink or drugs, as is expected of the self-respecting rock star. Instead he sat alone on the edge of the stage, quietly reading a book.

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    Classic Stage Company in New York, New York
    This production of the mortality play falls flat with diabolical sing-alongs, awful fight choreography and star Chris Noth wishing he were somewhere else

    In Doctor Faustus at Classic Stage Company, Chris Noth wriggles between salvation and damnation, which will be interesting to those who thought that battle was lost once he signed on to Sex and the City 2. The conclusion of Marlowe’s tragedy sends his soul to eternal perdition, which is probably more painful than enduring Andrei Belgrader’s purposeless revival.

    Faustus, an eminent scholar, has made himself master of every science and art, probably even clog dancing. Wearied with his accomplishments, he turns to demonology and he’s pretty good at that, too, soon conjuring up Mephistopheles (Zach Grenier), a genial guy in ruff and robe, who promises him absolute knowledge, absolute power and sex with dead hotties. The price: his immortal soul.

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    Semi-autobigraphical tale will follow other Bukowski adaptations including 1987’s Barfly, 1983’s Tales of Ordinary Madness and 2005’s Factotum

    Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical novel Women is to be adapted for the big screen by the production company behind The Hurt Locker, reports The Tracking Board.

    Voltage Pictures, also known for indie hits such as William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon, has obtained screen rights to the 1978 book. Women features Bukowski’s regular alter-ego Hank Chinaski, a booze-soaked LA writer juggling the many women who admire him for his literary genius. The film will be based on a screenplay by Ethan Furman.

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    Popular British poet selected for prestigious post ahead of strong field including Wole Soyinka

    The British poet Simon Armitage has seen off an international field to be chosen as Oxford’s latest professor of poetry.

    Speaking to the Guardian after the announcement, Armitage said he was “delighted and very excited and suitably daunted as well”.

    Related: Simon Armitage: making poetry pay | Aida Edemariam

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    by James Fenton, winner of the 2015 PEN Pinter prize

    Listen to what they did.
    Don’t listen to what they said.
    What was written in blood
    Has been set up in lead.

    Lead tears the heart.
    Lead tears the brain.
    What was written in blood
    Has been set up again.

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    Dylan Thomas’ celebrated radio play has been energetically adapted to the big screen with Charlotte Church among the gallery of fun performances

    The spirit of Richard Burton looms large over any rendering of Under Milk Wood: the actor’s sonorous vowels, on display in what has hitherto been considered the definitive cinematic version from 1972, somehow seem to perfectly embody Dylan Thomas’ effusive, garrulous poetry. It would be enough to put anyone off even having a go, but Rhys Ifans has stepped bravely up to the plate for this hyperactive, highly coloured adaptation directed by Kevin Allen.

    Under Milk Wood, famously, originated as a radio play that Thomas wrote for the BBC, and was first broadcast in 1954 after the poet’s death. With its discursive verse style, it’s a resolutely uncinematic text, for all its evocative qualities: the addition of actual images, you would suppose, would be superfluous. Allen’s version has stuck largely to illustration: Ifans speaks melodically over the top, with intricately structured scenes and tableaux doing the visual heavy lifting.

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