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

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    It was the epic, groundbreaking poem that tore down the cultural barriers of the 1950s and paved the way for everyone from Patti Smith to David Bowie. And, 60 years since it appeared, its influence shows no signs of fading

    Sixty years ago this week, on 7 October 1955, Allen Ginsberg read Howl aloud for the first time, at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It’s a poem with many anniversaries – Ginsberg began writing it in mid-1954, and it wasn’t published until 1956 – which may be why Hal Willner organised a 60th-anniversary celebration of it at the Ace hotel in Los Angeles in April of this year, with a lineup including Courtney Love, Beth Orton, Devendra Banhart, Nick Cave, Macy Gray and Peaches.

    That lineup hints at just how Howl has permeated popular culture and, unlike almost any other piece of literature, helped shape music as it is today.

    Related: Lawrence Ferlinghetti: ‘Most of the poets were on something, but somebody had to mind the shop’

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    He had ‘sex as strong as it comes’, Sylvia Plath said, and there’s plenty of bed-hopping, as well as torment, in this scrupulous and lucid biography

    As Jonathan Bate acknowledges in the last chapter of his biography of Ted Hughes, the poet liked to say that literary biographers were “vampiric”, and that famous authors should act together to frustrate their researches. But Hughes did not follow his own doctrine. He took care to preserve thousands of his manuscripts, including journals and letters. Some he sold to Coca-Cola-endowed Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, whose plentiful funds helped make his last years affluent. Many others he left to the British Library, a rich trove for a biographer. He can hardly have wanted them left unread.

    The main service that Bate has done is to read this huge mass of material with a scholar’s ability to date and arrange it. His biography is a first report on what lies in wait in the archive. It is, however, a report that has been hindered and constrained. As has been widely reported, he began his work on a “literary life” with the support of the Ted Hughes estate, controlled by the poet’s widow Carol. Late in the day this support was withdrawn: evidently, his researches were not purely “literary” enough. Permission for any substantial quotation from Hughes’s writing was also withdrawn, and Bate’s Unauthorised Life has to grapple with this ban.

    Related: Sylvia Plath’s suicide note - did it name a final lover?

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  • 10/09/15--00:30: Michael Rosen reads Oh Dear
  • Watch Michael Rosen read his new poem ‘Oh Dear’ from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young

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    Poet Paul Cookson orders you to unzip your lips and get poetry off the page and into the air

    One of my favourite poets, John Cooper Clarke, once said something to the effect that “if a poem doesn’t sound good when it’s read out loud then it’s probably not a very good poem”. I’d agree with that.

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

    Related: Poetry secrets: how to write a poem on a theme

    Related: Michael Rosen reads We Can

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    The broadcaster, writing in the Guardian about life after his leukemia diagnosis, talks of surviving beyond expectations – and his love of the Great British Bake Off

    It will delight his family and his many admirers, of course, but Clive James has admitted to feeling “embarrassment” at still being alive, a year after predicting his imminent death from cancer.

    The Australian broadcaster and critic, who has been receiving treatment for terminal leukaemia for more than five years, writes of blushing at the realisation he had “written myself into a corner” by announcing last September that he would die very shortly, when in fact his health has rallied thanks to an experimental drug treatment.

    Related: Clive James: ‘Months later, the new pill is holding back the lurgy'

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    Auden’s love of the Pennines has inspired a new song cycle by Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández. Its librettist, the poet and playwright O’Brien, reveals the origins of Notes from Underground

    WH Auden concludes his great poem “In Praise of Limestone” (1948): “when I try to imagine a faultless love / Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur / Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.” This geological attachment had a long history. As a boy, Auden (1907-73) had acquired books about mining and engineering. As well as being absorbed by the technicalities of the subject, he also viewed mining machinery and mining landscapes as having a magical or religious significance, and this sense of things remained with him for the rest of his life. On the wall of his workroom at Fire Island near New York, he displayed a map of Alston Moor in the north Pennines, and he was later to revisit the region. Many poets have a founding myth of place to animate and sustain their writing. Dante in exile had the city of Florence, Wordsworth had the Cumbrian lakes and Seamus Heaney had the bogland of rural County Derry. Auden’s myth was located among the fells and lead-mines.

    A Tyneside-born friend described the north Pennines, which are both close at hand and strangely far off, as “the Wild West”. The description was borne out in the summer of 1991 when Harry Collinson, chief planning officer for Derwentside, was shot dead by Albert Dryden as council staff and policemen approached with a bulldozer to knock down the bungalow that Dryden had illegally erected on land he owned near the defunct steel town of Consett. The raw and tragic violence of the confrontation gave it the aspect of a range war, waged in a place where feuds might linger. Not far away, Chopwell, “Little Moscow”, where Marx and Lenin Terrace can still be found, was the last place to give up during the 1926 general strike. Memories are long. Feuds were also of interest to Auden, whose early play Paid on Both Sides (1928) concerns a blood feud in the lead-mining landscape, waged between the Nower and Shaw families, drawing on Auden’s love of Icelandic sagas. There is an ancient lawlessness just under the surface of the Reiver territory along Hadrian’s Wall. In the 16th century it became ungovernable.

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    The BBC’s poetry day was certainly epic. Elsewhere, the lost art of getting lost, and Gabby Logan on 5 Live

    We British: An Epic in Poetry Radio 4 | iPlayer
    The Loss of Lostness Radio 4 | iPlayer
    All About Property with Gabby Logan Radio 5 | iPlayer

    On Thursday, Radio 4 celebrated National Poetry Day with a whole day’s programming devoted to how poetry has made the British who we are. (God, how the BBC loves exploring who we are, uniting the UK in a cross-cultural, multi-platform, educational yet uplifting moment.) We British: An Epic in Poetry was, indeed, an epic. Even though the poems stopped for regulars such as The Archers and The World at One, you were never more than a few moments from a rhyming couplet.

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    Jonathan Bate’s unofficial biography of Ted Hughes captures the great poet in all his wild complexity

    There was so much of him. He lived the lives of many men called Ted Hughes. Driven, all of them, by a core of energy so bright and fierce it burned out many of those he encountered. By the time he reached manhood, he had, fully developed, an appetite, even a greed, above all a relentless questing passion for the life of passion itself which he sought and fed with poetry, sex and transformative mysticism about the earth and its meaning. Sometimes jubilant, sometimes tormented. He had a compulsion, which seemed to him to be mysterious, to confess and describe everything that claimed his concentration. And at whatever the cost.

    As a boy in Yorkshire on the moors he saw the cruelty of animals, and with his idolised 10-years -older brother, Gerald, was himself unafraid to shoot, to trap fish and skin them. From his family and their friends’ lacerated feelings in the first world war, he knew about the cruelty of man to man. From his always vast reading he absorbed the violence of society.

    This is a powerful and clarifying study, richly layered and compelling

    Hughes was condemned but it never stopped him writing, and in secret he began his act of atonement

    Ted and Sylvia were twin stars shining and spinning together, but too fierce to be able to hold on to each other

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    Street slang gives vivid, swaggering life to this portrait of a young man keeping up his style while working as a rent boy

    Aunt nell the patter flash and gardy loo!
    Bijou, she trolls, bold, on lallies
    slick as stripes down the Dilly.

    She minces past the brandy latch
    to vada dolly dish for trade, silly
    with oomph and taste to park.

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    The Booker prize-winning writer Ben Okri was called a genius by Jeremy Corbyn in his Labour party conference speech. Here he responds

    They say there is only one way for politics.
    That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
    And shapes it with a ruler’s edge,
    Measuring what is possible against
    Acclaim, support, and votes.

    They say there is only one way to dream
    For the people, to give them not what they need
    But food for their fears.
    We measure the deeds of politicians
    By their time in power.

    Related: Who are the inspirational figures quoted by Jeremy Corbyn in his speech?

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    Exclusive: Nigerian writer, cited as inspiration by Labour leader in speech, pens new verse suggesting ‘There’s always a new way’ and sends it to the Guardian

    The poet and novelist Ben Okri has repaid the compliment of being cited as an inspiration in Jeremy Corbyn’s first major speech as Labour leader – in a poem celebrating a new dream of political power bringing peace, health and happiness.

    Corbyn, in his first speech as leader to a Labour conference, namechecked Okri, along with Maya Angelou and Kier Hardie, saying: “It was the great Nigerian writer Ben Okri who perhaps put it best: ‘The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love.’”

    Related: Ben Okri: A new dream of politics – a poem

    Can we still seek the lost angels
    Of our better natures?
    Can we still wish and will
    For poverty’s death and a newer way
    To undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth
    Of the Middle East, and prosperity
    In Africa as the true way
    To end the feared tide of immigration?

    They say there is only one way for politics
    That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
    And shapes it with a ruler’s edge
    Measuring what is possible against
    Acclaim, support, and votes.

    Related: Who are the inspirational figures quoted by Jeremy Corbyn in his speech?

    There’s always a new way
    A better way that’s not been tried before

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    Carol Hughes says unauthorised biography by Jonathan Bate, shortlisted for Samuel Johnson prize, is riddled with factual errors

    Ted Hughes’s widow has described a new unauthorised biography of the late poet laureate as being riddled with factual errors, just days after the work was nominated for the Samuel Johnson prize.

    In a letter to the book’s author, Jonathan Bate, who is a professor of English literature at Oxford University, and to its publisher HarperCollins, a solicitor for the Hughes estate said Hughes’ widow, Carol, found the mistakes offensive and disrespectful to her husband’s memory.

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    Incidental chat, rambling openings, snatched dialogue or spoken asides? Sift out favourite songs containing spiel to help make this week’s list the talk of the town

    Sometimes when walking down a city street, or entering a shop, or any public place or even work, I have a strange fantasy vision. It is that during the drab hubbub of chatter, the habitual exchanges of conversation, task, travel or retail, that everything is suddenly elevated into the world of song. That the person working the supermarket till will suddenly stand up and soar into a beautiful aria about the bagging area, that men working on those roadworks will break out into song-and-dance routine in the manner of West Side Story, that the many rows of heads staring at computers in the Guardian office will suddenly lift, like trumpet valves in shiny golden sequence, rows of elegantly sung voices proclaiming the launch of the latest breaking news story, blog or feature, and create a harmonious sequence that, whether in current affairs or otherwise, expresses how “all the sound of the Earth is like music”.

    I mention this line because it comes from the musical Oklahoma, and was actually used when I helped co-ordinate a true fantasy at a friend’s wedding last year. It was all carefully planned. At the beginning of what was expected to be a speech at the post-ceremony dinner, without any warning, I suddenly pulled out my guitar from under the table, and various glad-rag-clothed groups of guests entered into themed song in rehearsed harmonies at carefully timed moments. The couple? Their facial expressions changed from shock-horror and embarrassment to amazement, then joyful, tearful delight. Phew.

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  • 10/16/15--22:00: What is an ideal childhood?
  • We asked five people who have reason to know about it – Michael Morpurgo, Cerrie Burnell, Lemn Sissay, Jacqueline Wilson and Laura Dockrill – what makes for the best start in life

    A child needs to feel from the very start that she or he is wanted and loved. They should grow up in the soil of affection of care. There is no replacement for that, it is the most important thing. If that isn’t right from the very beginning then everything that follows is playing catch up – trying to make better that which isn’t good.

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    A new exhibition in Mons recalls the drunken row with fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud that led to a charge of attempted murder

    Sitting in prison cell number 252 in Mons city jail, Paul Verlaine, the then little-known French poet, drew sketches and composed what many literary critics consider to be his finest poetry.

    Unlike his contemporary and friend Oscar Wilde, who was sentenced to hard labour in Reading jail, the Frenchman – who had been convicted of shooting his fellow poet and lover, Arthur Rimbaud – had a relatively easy incarceration. Away from the Parisian cafes, the beer and, particularly, the absinthe that was to destroy his health, Verlaine converted to Roman Catholicism and spent his 555 days behind bars reading, and writing work that would later earn him the title of “prince of poets” among his peers.

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    The poet and novelist on the delightful excess of The Wolf of Wall Street, the art of Egon Schiele and the complexities of Falstaff

    Michael Rosen is a writer, a former children’s laureate and a household name, perhaps best known for the by-now-legendary We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. It is possible to go on a Michael Rosen Hunt at the Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford, where an interactive exhibition devoted to him, Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things, opened last week and continues until 10 April. And unstinting as he is, he also has two new poetry books just out: Don’t Mention the Children, poems for grownups (Smokestack Books £8.95) and A Great Big Cuddle – Poems for the Very Young (Walker Books £14.99).

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    Get a sneak peek into Michael Rosen’s world as the former children’s laureate and author of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt introduces his new exhibition in which you can step inside a huge chocolate cake, discover a secret larder, swishy swashy through a Bear Hunt and explore Bad Things in the Dread Shed.

    Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things - a fully immersive and interactive giant exhibition for families - is open from 19 October 2015 to 10 April 2016 at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, London

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    An enigmatic narrative about a man, whose status seems to shift from verse to verse, reveals some stubborn social structures

    Commoner. Groundling. Outside now with a ticket stub
    while your worships feast indoors. Claims you said
    you’d see him soon, but worries he’ll disturb.
    Nose a ruddy bulb. Fidgety and well-prepared,

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    HarperCollins defends book as a work of ‘impeccable scholarship’ after the Hughes estate accuses author Jonathan Bate of factual inaccuracy

    The publisher of Jonathan Bate’s controversial biography of Ted Hughes has hit back after an attack on the work’s accuracy by the late poet’s widow, saying that while Carol Hughes and the Ted Hughes estate did not support the book’s publication, it was written with the “close cooperation” of the “equally credible sources” of Hughes’s sister and daughter.

    Related: Ted Hughes’ widow criticises ‘offensive’ biography

    Related: Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by Jonathan Bate review – sex and self-deception

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    London is seeing the rise of a new wave of young black creatives, from style queen Swanzy to painter Barka and performance poet Belinda Zhawi. Is this the future of Afropolitanism?

    The women in Barka’s paintings have full lips. The men have broad noses. But although their skin is always shaded grey, the imagery is unapologetically black. No one in Barka’s portraits returns your gaze because, he says, they are, “funky, fly and don’t give a fuck”. The artist dubbed his series Black Romantics, but the label has come to mean something bigger: a new wave of young black artists committed to painting, filming and saluting the style of black Britons.

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