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

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    by Will Kemp

    Winner of the 2016 Keats Shelley prize for poetry

    I peer outside then flinch from the headlights’ glare,
    a movement not dissimilar to the quirks and winces
    of Klaus Kinski in Nosferatuthe Vampyre,

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    Wakeling’s gruesome political poem, filled with phlegmy onomatopoeia and vivid imagery, is an evocative reminder of the atrocities humanity commits against itself

    Correctional

    No flag: they keep a man on the roof
    with a rattle in his throat. At his feet hang

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    Poet laureate concedes that the work, marking the replacement of traditional utility meters with ‘smart meters’, is one of her more unusual projects

    Poetic inspiration can come from anywhere, be it windswept landscapes, dysfunctional parents – and even, it seems, gas meters.

    Carol Ann Duffy has revealed that her next work as the nation’s poet laureate will mark the passing of traditional “whirring” gas and electricity meters that have sat in British homes for more than 100 years.

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    The Story of the Lost Child and a posthumous collection of the great Brazilian author’s short stories among 10 finalists

    The Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, already in the running for the 2016 Man Booker International prize, has made the shortlist for the Best Translated Book award.

    Worth $5,000 (£3,500) to both its winning authors and translators, the prize is run by the Three Percent blog at the University of Rochester, and underwritten by Amazon.com’s literary partnership programmes. Ferrante was picked by judges for The Story of the Lost Child, the final novel in her Neapolitan series, which also made the Man Booker International prize shortlist last week. Translated by Ann Goldstein, the novel was called “the first work worthy of the Nobel prize to have come out of Italy for many decades” by the Observer.

    Lispector is simply better at portraying women than pretty much any other candidate

    Related: 10 inspiring female writers you need to read

    Related: Sign up to our Bookmarks newsletter

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  • 04/20/16--09:11: Graham Pechey obituary
  • My father, Graham Pechey, who has died aged 75, had a lifelong love of literature and an enriching conversational and writing style – qualities that he employed as a literary scholar and lecturer.

    Born in sub-tropical Durban, South Africa, son of Dorothy (nee Hemphill), a housewife, and Noel, a bank clerk, Graham had a typical colonial childhood. He came to see South Africa – riven as it was by racial segregation – through an increasingly critical lens while studying and teaching English at the then University of Natal. In 1961, Graham left the Liberal party for the radical Congress of Democrats, which was allied with the African National Congress (ANC), a decision that friends marked as courageous.

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    As the Australian troubadour interprets the Bard’s famed sonnets, he discusses how their peculiarly specific structure makes them ideal pop music fodder

    It’s a heavy thing to lug around, but over his 30-year career the musician Paul Kelly has kept his three volumes of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, weighing 20kg, close by.

    Related: Bed tricks and broken women: Shakespeare's guide to love

    Related: 40 Sonnets review – the perfect vehicle for Don Paterson’s craft and lyricism

    Related: Who said it: William Shakespeare or Justin Bieber?

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    His name may not appear in the credits, but the playwright has inspired some unlikely renditions of his great works

    In this 1940 episode of Dave and Max Fleischer’s classic cartoon, the pipe-puffing mariner plays Romeo, Olive Oyl is his Juliet (with an ear-trumpet), while Bluto appears in top hat and cape. There are thespian in-jokes aplenty, a balcony that won’t stay still, and an intriguing skit where – fortified by his beloved spinach – Popeye gets the girl after indulging in some Shakespearean cross-dressing. All in six-and-a-half minutes.

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    A hopeful end-of-the-world novel contrasts with a poetry collection suffused with ennui

    Jenni Fagan’s debut, The Panopticon, catapulted her on to the 2013 Granta list of Best Young British Novelists. The Sunlight Pilgrims, her second novel, is a vivid and tender coming-of-age story set at the end of the world.

    In a caravan park in the north of Scotland, a motley cast of characters from the margins of society assemble to wait out the most extreme winter they have ever known. The earliest sections of the novel are narrated by Dylan, a tattooed giant who abandoned London when the art-house cinema in which he grew up was repossessed. He is grieving for his mother and grandmother, and doesn’t yet realise that the caravan he has inherited will lead him to a secret about his grandmother’s past. Later, we meet the charismatic and bold Stella, a transgender teenager with a crush on a local boy. Stella’s mother, Constance, is a tough survivalist who wears a taxidermied wolfskin and faces local prejudice for having had two lovers at once. Also resident in the caravan park are a hunchbacked man who is in love with the sky, and a woman who insists that Stella has two souls. Although these fantastical touches might suggest flights of fancy, they are subtle touches of magical realism, serving to enhance the portrayal of the characters. Despite the (hopefully fictitious) coming apocalypse, The Sunlight Pilgrims is firmly rooted in realism.

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    Kippers, Christmas, birthdays and bathos in collections by Elaine Beckett, Crispin Best, Sam Buchan-Watts and Rachel Curzon

    A camel, it is said, is a horse designed by a committee. The latest batch of Faber New Poets was selected by a committee of six from a longlist of 60 manuscripts. Given this procedure, are camel warnings in order? Or are camels what the age demands? Faber’s introductory anthologies and pamphlets have previously given us an early sight of poets such as Elaine Feinstein, Ian Hamilton, Douglas Dunn, David Harsent and Paul Muldoon– hard acts to follow.

    Elaine Beckett (bravely appearing as No 13) is laconic, undeceived and clearly not a camel. She works in a vein that many readers will recognise, at times recalling Hugo Williams in her patient orchestration of apparently “ordinary” language which she makes memorable by sentence construction and a good ear. “Melting” is a funny poem about an encounter with a fishmonger. “I said I’d like to buy his kipper”: in comparison with what’s going on here, the word “innuendo” suggests an ineffable delicacy. It seems that Sid James has finally made it into poetry. Beckett’s robust approach also works under grimmer conditions in “The Woman Who Cries”. The arrival of a brilliantly evoked Picasso postcard – “there she was: / fractured, pitiful, a red-and-blue lifeboat lodged / in her hair, driven mad by her own salt waters” – reveals both the male sender’s grasp of the situation and his complete want of tact. Not all the poems here are so successful. “Dreaming of the Professor Who Gave Me the Sack” is almost there, but ends with a repetition that should have been ironed out. Yet Beckett’s unselfconscious alertness is appealing.

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    Getting things out of proportion is an occupational hazard for anyone whose occupation is over

    It was either in the teleprompter script or in the crawler along the bottom of the screen – probably the latter – that NBC News conveyed the following information: “Isis fighters are shaving bears and hiding in civilian homes to avoid airstrikes.” The reason I can’t be absolutely certain is that I read the line quoted somewhere in the blogosphere, where mistakes made by the traditional media are a constant source of glee. A satirical website with a staff of two young male deadbeats and a woman in a hat can thus rejoice in ridiculing a television outlet with a budget of millions.

    And so the shaved bears pass on into history. The day might come when some unusually clueless scientific group is inspired to publish a landmark paper about the shaved bears (“Climate change makes more bears lose hair, says new study”) but it’s more likely that the misprint will continue to be seen as a mistake. It’s the best that any writer can hope for: that the misprint will be flagrant enough to look like one, instead of subtly changing his meaning.

    Related: Clive James: ‘Bob Geldof dropped the F-bomb in his show about Yeats’

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    by Wendy Cope

    My father must have bought it second-hand,
    Inscribed “To RS Elwyn” – who was he?
    Published 1890, leather-bound,
    In 1961 passed on to me.
    November 6th. How old was I? Sixteen.
    Doing A level in English Lit.,
    In love with Keats and getting very keen
    On William Shakespeare. I was thrilled with it,
    This gift, glad then, as now, to think
    I had been chosen as the keeper of
    My father’s Shakespeare, where, in dark blue ink,
    He wrote, “To Wendy Mary Cope. With love.”
    Love on a page, surviving death and time.
    He didn’t even have to make it rhyme.

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    Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
    The actor’s 1769 ode, with music by Arne, was paired with Sally Beamish’s Shakespeare Masque, with texts by Carol Ann Duffy, in this celebratory Ex Cathedra concert

    Celebrations of Shakespeare’s genius are not an exclusively modern phenomenon. In 1769, the actor David Garrick organised “An Ode upon dedicating a building and erecting a statue, to Shakespeare at Stratford upon Avon”. Garrick wrote the texts – the “testimonies”; some he also delivered, while others were sung to airs and choruses by Thomas Arne, the leading English composer of his day.

    The forces involved were considerable – soloists, full-size choir and large orchestra – but the original performing material has been lost. All that has survived is a short score, containing Arne’s eight arias and a brief semi-chorus. That formed the starting point for the reconstruction of the Garrick Ode by Adrian Horsewood for its first performance since the 18th century in Ex Cathedra’s Shakespeare 400th-anniversary programme. The concert also contained a brand-new Shakespeare Masque that the choir had commissioned from composer Sally Beamish and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

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    A wedding gift in verse, this is a warm celebration of art and craft, friendship and Welshness

    Jasper
    for John Jones the potter

    Waxwork of a crag, a model of sea rock
    In gleaming maroon –
    Hear the waves break on it, see the fish fly
    Under the moon!

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  • 04/25/16--04:17: Jock Scot obituary
  • Poet who wrote only one collection but was a prolific live performer

    Against considerable odds, some self-created, Jock Scot, who has died aged 63 from cancer, transformed himself from a punk fringe-player into a much admired performance poet on the UK’s underground literary scene. Where is My Heroine? (1992), his only written poetry collection, was an autobiographical, confessional work, simultaneously harrowing and hilarious, detailing his several years as an addict.

    He followed it with My Personal Culloden (1997), a spoken word album that seemed more his metier, the lines delivered in his soft Edinburgh burr. The material again came from a world he knew well; there were self-explanatory titles such as Just Another Fucked-up Little Druggy on the Scene or There’s a Hole in Daddy’s Arm.

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    At eight years old, the very last thing Gavin Puckett wanted to do in his spare time was read a book – reading was tedious and to be done at school. Then he discovered Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and everything changed

    When I think back to my childhood, the reasons for my reluctance to read seem quite obvious now. It wasn’t that I found reading difficult or anything like that; it was more that I just didn’t enjoy it. Back then, for me it was simple - books were for school, and school was a place I had to attend despite my protests. It was the law, apparently!

    Related: The greatest inspirational quotes from children's books

    Related: Which Roald Dahl character are you?

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    The Disneyfication of Tintagel (Report, 25 April) is nothing new. I grew up in the village in the 80s and it was already a tacky paean to Arthur. For centuries, Tintagel was a small collection of hamlets where people either farmed or quarried slate. It was Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (and a new railway to nearby Camelford) that brought the first wave of tourists in search of Merlin & co in the late 19th century. While a statue to Tennyson or Geoffrey of Monmouth may be more appropriate, the Arthur connection is best seen as a bit of fun, and one that is best washed down with a pint of Tribute and a pasty.
    Chas Bayfield
    London

    • Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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    What’s it like to have Britain’s most common surname? To find out, poet Jackie Kay went on a quest round Salford – and met a bedridden tarantula-keeper and a woman kidnapped by her own husband

    Morrissey once told an interviewer that he chose to call his band the Smiths “because it was the most ordinary name”. It was “time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces,” he reasoned. More than 30 years later the singer has given his blessing to a special project celebrating people with the surname Smith in his old stomping ground.

    Jackie Kay, chancellor of Salford University and Scotland’s national poet, has spoken to 30 Smiths living in Salford, the Greater Manchester borough where Morrissey, Johnny Marr et al posed outside the Lads’ Club for their 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. The resulting interviews will be mixed into a soundscape with three Smiths tracks – Panic, This Charming Man and What Difference Does It Make by the Sheffield-born musical artist and DJ Oberman Knocks.

    There are stories of hospitals nearly performing operations on the wrong Smith

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    St John at Hackney, London
    Wainwright’s high-risk labour of love pays off as he corrals opera stars, actors and Florence Welch into luscious arrangements of the Bard’s classic poems

    Were most pop artists to record an album of Shakespearean sonnets to mark the 400thanniversary of the playwright’s death, it would be impossible not to suspect rank opportunism. It’s to Rufus Wainwright’s credit, then, that his own motivations for taking on such a potentially credibility-shredding project appear to be entirely honourable.

    Wainwright has a history of audacious ventures – his last recorded work was a crowdfunded, self-penned opera, 2015’s Prima Donna– and also previous form with the Bard. He first scored one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, for Michael Kamen, more than a decade ago, while three further orchestrations popped up on his 2010 album All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

    Related: Rufus Wainwright: Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets review – engaging and sumptuous

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    She was London’s Young Poet Laureate, becoming a voice for its marginalised people – now her work has been recited by the queen of pop

    She writes of places where many Beyoncé fans rarely go, the portions of London where the faces are black and brown, where men huddle outside shop-front mosques and veiled women are trailed by long chains of children. Warsan Shire, the Somali-British poet whose words are featured in Beyoncé’s new globe-shaking Lemonade album, is a bard of these marginalised areas – she was even named the first Young Poet Laureate for London at 25.

    Beyoncé reads parts of Shire’s poems, including For Women Who Are Difficult To Love, The Unbearable Weight of Staying (the End of the Relationship) and Nail Technician as Palm Reader in interludes between songs in her 12-track, hour-long video album that premiered this week. Truly, Shire was a brilliant choice for Beyoncé’s unapologetically black and female album: like the people and places from which they are woven, Shire’s poems – published in a volume titled Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth– are laden with longing for other lands and complicated by the contradictions of belonging in new ones. In Conversations about Home, she writes: “I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget”, and: “They ask me how did you get here? Can’t you see it on my body? The Libyan desert red with immigrant bodies, the Gulf of Aden bloated, the city of Rome with no jacket.”

    Related: 'Beyoncé is not a woman to be messed with' – Lemonade review

    Related: How Beyoncé's Lemonade became a pop culture phenomenon

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    Children’s author Nicola Davies has written this poem in response to the government’s decision not to allow lone refugee children a safe haven in the UK

    A few weeks ago I heard a story about a child turning up at a school near a refugee camp and being turned away because there was no chair for her. She came back the next day with a broken chair and asked again. I can’t remember where I heard the story but it’s melded with all the other things I’ve heard over the last few months about refugee families and lone children.

    The ideas and images have been running in my blood like a fever. But this week, with the government’s response to children utterly alone in the world (when the Conservative party voted against the UK accepting 3000 unaccompanied child refugees from Syria) I couldn’t ignore the story burning in my veins. All other work had to be put aside. So rough and ready as it is, here is my response to their policy:

    Related: Jon Walter’s top 10 refugee heroes in children’s fiction

    Related: Tales from a diverse universe by Shaun Tan – gallery

    Related: Why I wrote a book about having a disabled sibling – in pictures

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