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

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    Thameside urn sculpture celebrates 18th-century poet’s work and underlines his close connection with town where he lived for a quarter of century

    The home of English rugby will be stirred “by tender strokes of art” as well as sport, following the installation of a new sculpture on the bank of the Thames celebrating the work of Twickenham’s most famous former resident, Alexander Pope.

    Based on an urn designed by the poet for the garden of a friend in the Midlands but since destroyed, the 8ft sculpture features Pope’s famous lines from Epistle IV in which he exhorts readers to “Consult the genius of the place in all”, a maxim that is still a guiding principle in garden design today.

    Related: Alexander Pope: in his own image

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    Citizen: An American Lyric, described by jury as a ‘powerful book for our time’, collects £10,000 award for best collection

    A book described by one critic as eavesdropping “on America and a racism that has never gone away” has won the top award at the 2015 Forward prizes for poetry.

    Claudia Rankine has already won the National Book Critics Circle award in the US for Citizen: An American Lyric. On Monday night at a ceremony in London she was named winner of the Forward prize for best collection.

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    Books about the erasure of memory are usually about its opposite - the real subject of works as diverse as TS Eliot’s The Waste Land and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is the struggle for fragments of recollection to shore against the ruins

    The irony of books about forgetting is that they are often about remembering. The absence of memory, or the fallibility of memory, is the seed from which a story is germinated. The elimination of memory through force, will or the process of time often turns into a story of the re-emergence of memory.

    Memories are not accurate records nor mirrors held up to the past. They are filtered, distorted, inaccurate constructions through which we view a version of a story of the past. Eyewitness accounts of events, as proved in numerous court cases, are notoriously unreliable.

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    The received wisdom is that Sylvia Plath killed herself after Ted Hughes left her for another woman. But, as Jonathan Bate reveals, the story of her last letter changes everything

    The biographer’s work is never done. There comes a time when you have scoured the archives, emptied the library shelves and spoken to all the surviving witnesses who are willing to share their stories. Every new detail is merely reinforcing the arc of the narrative you have shaped. That is the time to let it go, to press the Send button and wait for the publisher’s edit. But there will always be loose ends, unanswered questions, and things you have to leave out because there is just not quite enough corroborative evidence. This is the story of the missing piece in the jigsaw of my biography of Ted Hughes.

    Every life has its secrets and many have their lies. For the most part, they go to the grave with us. But in the case of the creative geniuses who transmute the dross of their day-to-day experience into the gold of enduring art, it is vital that posterity should have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is a story about the death of Sylvia Plath that goes like this (you can find it in a dozen biographies of her and in the film Sylvia with Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes and Gwyneth Paltrow as Plath): after six and a half years of marriage, of shared creativity, great poetry and the birth of two children, Ted left Sylvia for Assia Wevill and from then on Plath was alone with a toddler and a baby in the freezing winter of 1962. She gassed herself in the small hours of 11 February 1963, making sure the children were safe.

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    The New York poet has been writing since the mid-70s but with new fans – like Lena Dunham – she’s become one of 2015’s most celebrated literary stars

    For someone so indelibly associated with the East Village, it comes as no surprise when Eileen Myles suggests we meet in a hole-in-the-wall-type café to talk about this “shocking moment” (her words) in her career.

    That “moment” is being described as her ascension into the mainstream. It’s taken a while to come – she’s 19 books into a career – but this week Myles has two books out from a commercial publisher: a reprint of her autobiographical novel Chelsea Girls, and I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2015.

    Related: Patti Smith: 'It's not so easy writing about nothing'

    Related: From Jonathan Franzen to Eileen Myles: teeth, techno and trysts in fall fiction

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    Andrew Kötting recreates scenes of the fascinating and melancholy 90-mile walk undertaken in 1841 by the nature poet John Clare, in a bizarre documentary

    Film-maker Andrew Kötting again takes inspiration from that great psycho-geographer Iain Sinclair – with whom he recorded an unclassifiably strange journey by pedalo in the 2012 film Swandown. Now he has been inspired by Sinclair’s book Edge of the Orison, about the fascinating and melancholy 90-mile walk undertaken in 1841 by the nature poet John Clare, from a mental asylum in Epping to Northampton, on a pilgrimage to find Mary Joyce, the woman with whom he believed himself to be in love. 

    Kötting has Toby Jones recreate the scenes of Clare’s great journey or ordeal, often amid bizarrely alienating and alienated scenes of modern life. Jones recites some of Clare’s work in voiceover, and Kötting also asks Jones’s father Freddie Jones to recreate his performance as Clare from a 1970 Omnibus documentary, from which he samples the patronising narration assuring us that Clare “was a minor nature poet who went mad”. 

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  • 10/02/15--03:30: Poster poems: parody
  • Parodies range from the sweetly celebratory to the viciously unforgiving. So sharpen your quills – it’s time to deliver poetic justice

    One of the marks of the serious poet is that they develop a unique, instantly recognisable style of their own, a trademark voice that means regular readers of verse can tell their Shakespeare from their Milton, their Browning from their Dickinson, at a glance. The flip side of this is that the more distinctive a style is, the easier it is to send up. Indeed, many of our most original poets have found themselves the subject of numerous parodists, whose work can range from gentle, affectionate ribbing to witty but well-placed literary stilettos.

    Joan Murray’s We Old Dudes is on the gentle end of the spectrum. Her Republican-voting, golf-playing pensioners are a fine balance to Gwendolyn Brooks’ seven pool-playing juvenile delinquents in the poem that inspired Murray’s parody, a poem that could, itself, be read as a gentle poke in the ribs of the Beats. As is the case with many such send-ups, Murray is also making a serious point: everyone has a story and everyone ends up in the grave.

    After reading the take-off of Hiawatha, it’s hard to read the original without smiling

    There is an air of portentousness about TS Eliot’s writing that is catnip to the eager imitator

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    Bridget Smith’s film of the physicist reading Sarah Howe’s poem is part of a star-studded project hoping to inspire readers to explore light through poetry

    Physicist Stephen Hawking and actors Samantha Morton and Sean Bean have joined forces with leading artists to make a series of short films encouraging people to dispense with prose for a day and “make like a poet”.

    Organisers of National Poetry Day are hoping to inspire readers to record their own creative responses to poetry, as part of a competition culminating with a display of the winning words, images and videos in the Blackpool Illuminations on Thursday 8 October 2015. This year marks the 21st anniversary of this annual celebration of poetry, with a week-long series of events all over the UK on the theme of light.

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  • 10/03/15--03:00: The Saturday poem: The Lion
  • by Mona Arshi, from Small Hands, which won the Forward prize for best first collection

    How unstable and old he is now.
    Lion, like God, has snacks sent up

    by means of a pulley. Although
    you can never master the deep language

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    The Forward prizewinner’s portrait of racism in the US is not just realistic, it captures a poetic truth beyond facts

    Claudia Rankine’s collection of tense lyric essays Citizen this week won the Forward prize for best collection. The book recounts both quotidian racist “microaggressions” and internationally reported police brutality and violence targeting black Americans. I teach a course on women’s writing, and we read Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, and CD Wright’s One With Others, but it is Citizen that sticks with my students.

    Related: Claudia Rankine's Citizen wins Forward poetry prize

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  • 10/03/15--22:00: We love...
  • From the perfect LBD at Boden to a burger that will have you licking your fingers, here are six things that will make your week a lot better

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    Finding a firefighter willing to read a poem was not the easiest task, poet Liz Brownlee found, when she started searching for people whose lives are involved some way in light to be filmed reading poems about light for National Poetry Day. Watch the results of her project in these films

    National Poetry Day’s theme this year is light. As a National Poetry Day ambassador, charged with igniting enthusiasm for all things poetic, this sparked many ideas to celebrate the day.

    Related: Welcome to our poetry-themed week - an overview

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    As poet James Fenton accepts this year’s PEN Pinter prize, awarded for verse that has spoken ‘truth to power’, his friend Julian Barnes celebrates his ‘deeply particular alloy of gravity and levity’

    Poet, librettist, translator, essayist, journalist, poet, war correspondent, political columnist, foreign correspondent, poet, traveller, exile, theorist of Crepuscular Journalism (according to which sources become more trustworthy after dark), theatre critic, art critic, Oxford professor of poetry, historian of the Royal Academy, garden writer, poet, old friend of nearly 40 years – not, so far, thankfully, novelist – but poet, poet, poet …

    I first met James Fenton when I joined the New Statesman in the 1970s under the indulgent editorship of Anthony Howard. The magazine’s three stars – all precociously talented, as well as alarmingly younger than me – were James Fenton, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis. Martin had already published a novel, Christopher a political biography, James a collection of poetry as well as reportage from Indochina. They all seemed confident in their understanding of the world, and seriously intent on shaking things up. Not that they were interchangeable. Martin at one point explained the difference between Christopher and James to one of his girlfriends. The girlfriend – I forget which, one of the mille e tre– remembered the difference but not how it operated. And so, ingenuously, she asked one of them (again I forget which), “Are you the one who can write but can’t talk, or the one who can talk but can’t write?” Their friendship survived this moment of satire; and over time Hitchens learned to write and Fenton learned to speak, even unto professorship.

    Related: Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi named co-winner of PEN Pinter prize


    Oh the thing that people do,
    The thing that people do;
    It’s long-winded and it’s difficult,
    Like changing trains at Crewe ...

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    New bacterial evidence proves Neruda was murdered by the Pinochet regime says Rodolfo Reyes – however, other family members remain unconvinced

    Pablo Neruda’s nephew has become the first member of the Nobel-winning poet’s family to state publicly that he believes his uncle was poisoned.

    Neruda, a longtime member of Chile’s Communist Party, died at the Santa María Clinic in the Chilean capital, Santiago, on 23 September 1973 – just 12 days after the military coup that toppled President Salvador Allende.

    The investigation represents a major advance, because it contradicts the official story that Neruda died of cancer. With all this new information, we believe that there was indeed third-party intervention.”

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    The National Trust-commissioned Nation’s Ode to the Coast was written by Cooper Clarke – with help from the British public – and is a celebration of time and tide, and bucket and spade

    He can’t swim and by his own admission prefers to keep his trousers on at the seaside, but that hasn’t stopped Dr John Cooper Clarke from penning an ode to the UK coastline … with a bit of help from the British public.

    Commissioned by the National Trust to celebrate 50 years of its Neptune Coastline campaign, the Nation’s Ode to the Coast began taking shape this summer when the poet wrote the opening verses of the poem. The public were then asked to submit social media posts that summed up their love of the coast, in the form of words, pictures or sounds, using the #lovethecoast hashtag.

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    Watch Michael Rosen read his new poem ‘Boing! Boing!’ from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young

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    We asked you help us celebrate National Poetry Day by sending us readings of your favourite poems. Here are some of our favourite videos

    We’re breaking with “the tyranny of prose” this week, and turning to you, our readers, to make the most of National Poetry Day by making poems come alive. The focus of this year’s UK-wide celebration of poetry, for which you can find the full programme here, is to get you thinking, dreaming and acting like a poet. Here are some of the video dedications you shared on GuardianWitness– a mix of your own creations and your favourite poems by others.

    If you’d like to join in with your own dedication, you can follow the lead of readers who’ve already shared their videos here, or by clicking on the blue “Contribute” buttons on this page. You can also follow the action on social media via the hashtag #NationalPoetryDay.

    To a 6-year-old sister and the beautiful way she sees the world

    An (attempted) poem for a baby daughter

    WB Yeats for a husband

    A Smile To Remember by Charles Bukowski for victims of domestic abuse

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    On Poetry Day, savour the 15 glorious winning entries from this year’s Foyle Young Poets competition and see if you can spot the famous poets of the future

    Every year, 15 young people across the country are selected as top winners of the Foyle Young Poets competition. Judged by esteemed poets Liz Berry and Michael Symmons Roberts, their work is selected from thousands of entries from all over the world – with many winners going on to become established poets in their own right so take note of these names!

    Related: Welcome to our poetry-themed week - an overview

    Related: Why is there so much poetry in YA/teen lit?

    Related: How do I get involved in the Guardian children's books site?

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  • 10/08/15--05:30: Top 10 poems about light
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    Prepare to be thrilled as Joseph Coelho performs poems from his prize-winning collection, Werewolf Club Rules, and offers his suggestions for your own poetry writing Continue reading...

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