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

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    Even the best poets would be in career trouble without the occasional grant or award

    My maple tree, about which I wrote a poem saying it would outlive me, is suddenly half dead and soon might be fully so. Yesterday, looking like a demoralised triffid, it was taken away in a van to a clinic for sick maple trees. Its chances are not great. Meanwhile, squadrons of trolls are preparing their epigrams about my presumptuous misreading of the future. Embarrassing? Totally.

    But having guessed wrong about my immediate death, I must be careful about forecasting the same fate for the tree. Perhaps it can be fixed. The treatment, however, will cost a few bob. I have considered writing another poem on the subject, but poems don’t make much money. This fact is well known in my native Australia, where the Council for the Arts is a haven for progressive intellectuals self-tasked with the mission to redistribute the money of taxpayers, who might waste it, among creative “communities”, which are sure to. Careful provision is made for the community of poets.

    Related: Clive James: ‘I can’t mock Donatella Versace, because I am no stranger to the plastic surgeon myself’

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    by Ian McMillan

    What I recall is this; it was autumn,
    And there had been an eclipse during which
    I stood with my dad in the garden


    And we watched as the street grew darker
    Than it should have, than it ever did.
    Now it was at least one day later

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    Selima Hill’s latest collection draws on the experience of psychiatric patients, metamorphic animals and erotic encounters in search of inner freedom

    Selima Hill begins her new book with a flourish:

    To the Woman with the Long Black Hair
    who may or may not want to be dedicated to
    but to whom I am going to dedicate this anyway

    Related: Poetry expresses what it is to be human – it’s therapy for the soul | Adam O’Riordan

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    This quiet, wry poem reflects on the unique, incommunicable knowledge that comes with service in conflict

    Combat Gnosticism

    Campbell’s term for war writing born
    of a gnosis only being there can earn:
    I witnessed it once from old soldiers
    in a poetry workshop at Age Concern.

    Related: The Blind Road-Maker by Ian Duhig review – songs of the forgotten and voiceless

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    Salman Rushdie thinks schoolchildren should learn poems by heart, and some experts think that, far from making kids hate poetry, the practice could be ‘life-enhancing’

    What can you recite by heart? Your times tables? German verb formations? The Lord’s Prayer? Salman Rushdie thinks it should be poetry. Speaking at the Hay Festival, the novelist described memorising poems as a “lost art” that “enriches your relationship with language”. But doesn’t learning poetry by rote make children learn the words but lose the meaning?

    Not necessarily, according to David Whitley, a senior lecturer at Cambridge University currently researching poetry and memory. He says that, while some people remember with horror having to recite poems in front of an audience, for many, learning poetry by heart can be “life-enhancing”.

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    Undergraduates press for compulsory course on canonical poets to be ‘decolonised’

    Undergraduates at Yale University have launched a petition calling on the English department to abolish a core course requirement to study canonical writers including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, saying that “it is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors”.

    The prestigious Connecticut university requires its English majors to spend two semesters studying a selection of authors it labels the “major English poets”: “Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and John Donne in the fall; John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and TS Eliot or another modern poet in the spring”.

    Many students do not read a single female author in the two foundational courses for the major.

    Related: Yale introduces gender-neutral bathrooms amid national debate

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  • 06/03/16--02:00: Poster poems: buildings
  • From Louis MacNeice at the British Library to Elizabeth Bishop’s Filling Station, some poets are good at recording life’s often unnoticed settings. What do you see?

    There can at times be a tendency to think of poetry as being primarily concerned with the natural world and fine emotions, a precious art divorced from the realities of everyday life. However, as regular readers of this series know, poems can be and have been written about almost anything. Take buildings, for instance. Most of us spend the best part of the day in or around one or more of the things. The majority are fairly prosaic and their very ubiquity tends to blind us to their features and characteristics – and yet, there is a rich vein of building-inspired poetry out there.

    Sometimes buildings impinge on our minds because we go looking for them “tourist-eyed”, as Australian poet Katherine Gallagher puts it in her poem Chartres. Of course, the famous French cathedral is a work of art in itself, but Gallagher skirts around the temptation to indulge in the ekphrastic; her poem does not describe Chartres cathedral itself, but evokes the sensation of approaching it in expectation. Finally, the building is transmogrified, an ark floating above its dull surroundings.

    Related: Poster poems: politics

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    Organisation founded by TS Eliot to ‘propagate the art of poetry’ will hand over activities after losing struggle to survive following axing of ACE funding

    Founded more than 60 years ago by TS Eliot and his friends to “propagate the art of poetry”, the Poetry Book Society has announced that it will be closing its doors and handing over its operations, five years after its funding was axed by the Arts Council England.

    The organisation, which saw more than 100 poets band together to protest its 2011 ACE funding cut, said that it would be transferring its “key” activities to Inpress and the TS Eliot Foundation, with its three members of staff made redundant. Inpress, a not-for-profit sales and marketing organisation for small poetry and literary publishers, will take over its 1,000-plus membership and continue the PBS’s quarterly “selectors’ choice” bulletin and book of poetry. The TS Eliot Foundation will take on the management of the prestigious TS Eliot poetry prize, which was set up by the PBS in 1993 in honour of its founder.

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    Trawsfynydd,Gwynedd, Wales They are constantly in motion, dancing out of the gorge in undulating flight

    Pont y Llyn Du on the Afon Gain, in the lonely moors east of Trawsfynydd, above the old gold mines at Gwynfynydd, is one of those places at which you’d never arrive except by design. It’s one of my favourite haunts in the Welsh hills.

    The peaty hill stream rushes down through a miniature rocky gorge under the old humped bridge to debouch into a round pool of amber depth, encircled by green pastures. You can traverse through on rock ledges beneath the arch, plunge into the pool if you’re hardy and of the “wild swimming” persuasion. What most appeals to me are the spirits of the place.

    Related: UK wagtails face long-term decline

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    by Helen Mort

    “The Grepon has disappeared. Of course, there are still
    some rocks standing there, but as a climb no longer
    exists. Now that it has been done by two women alone,
    no self-respecting man can undertake it.”
    – ETIENNE BRUHL, 1929

    When we climb alone
    en cordée feminine,
    we are magicians of the Alps –
    we make the routes we follow
    disappear.

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    The headline (Cuts-hit Poetry Book Society to close, 3 June) and some passages in your online article about the Poetry Book Society gave completely the wrong impression of the PBS’s situation.

    The Poetry Book Society, now owned by Inpress, is very much alive and will be powering up rather than winding down its activities. The corporate entity formerly known as the Poetry Book Society, on the other hand, has gone into liquidation. The former directors wished to preserve the continuity of the service to its members, the poets and publishers whom it has supported since 1953, so before the company closed they worked very hard with the directors of Inpress to find a new home for the name – the Poetry Book Society – the goodwill, the format and most importantly the continuing interests of the membership.

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    A gift from Elizabeth I’s ‘saucy godson’ to his wife brings lusty and sparky life to the epigram form

    Of a Poynted Diamond given by the Author to his Wife, at the Birth of his Eldest Son

    Deare, I to thee this diamond commend,
    In which a modell of thyself I send.
    How just unto thy joints this circlet sitteth,
    So just thy face and shape my fancy fitteth.
    The touch will try this ring of purest gold,
    My touch tries thee, as pure though softer mold.
    That metal precious is, the stone is true,
    As true, and then how much more precious, you.
    The gem is cleare, and hath nor needes no foyle,
    Thy face, nay more, thy fame is free from soil.
    Youle deem this deere, because from me you have it,
    I deem your faith more deer, because you gave it.
    This pointed Diamond cuts glass and Steele,
    Your love’s like force in my firme heart I feele.
    But this, as all things else, time wastes with wearing,
    Where you my jewels multiply with bearing.

    Related: Poem of the Week: Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister by Robert Browning

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    New York’s ‘Kanye Baudelaire’ talks to Lorin Stein about Donald Trump, departed friends and why a life without writing is pointless

    Frederick Seidel is no one’s idea of a protest poet. Born in a well-to-do suburb of St Louis, Missouri, educated at Harvard, encouraged early on by Ezra Pound and Robert Lowell, he has always written from firmly within the establishment. From the beginning, his poems showed an intimate acqaintance with the powerful and the beautiful, and a fascination with the accoutrements of wealth. Seidel is known – in some circles, notorious – for writing poems about Ducatis, and the Concorde, and his tailor. (“Reading Seidel now,” Clive James grumbled, “it saddens me that I have spent my long life dressing like a student.”) His new book, Widening Income Inequality, begins with a reminiscence of Elaine’s, the night spot made famous by Seidel and his jet‑setting friends: “We drank our faces off until the sun arrived, / Night after night, and most of us survived.”

    And yet, as the title suggests, this latest collection is attuned to politics, especially the politics of race. Attentive readers know this is nothing new. Racism, violence, the legacy of slavery, the connection between privilege and misery, are constant themes in his poetry. Seidel’s elegy to Michael Brown, “The Ballad of Ferguson, Missouri”, sparked outrage in March 2015 when it appeared in the Paris Review – partly, I think, because it treated the shooting of a black teenager by white police as the latest instalment in a recurring nightmare. For him, Brown’s death evokes the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Seidel’s friend Robert Kennedy - events that have haunted his work for nearly half a century.

    When I am writing, I feel that my life is busy. That I’m a creature with a purpose. When I’m not, I feel a bit floaty.

    I drank with Francis Bacon and that vehement crowd. The nightlife, the daytimes seemed magic and exciting and different

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    David Franzoni, who wrote script for 2000 film starring Russell Crowe, to pen biopic on 13th-century Muslim poet and scholar

    An Oscar-winning screenwriter has agreed to work on a biopic about the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi.

    David Franzoni, who wrote the script for the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator, and Stephen Joel Brown, a producer on the Rumi film, said they wanted to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema by charting the life of the great Sufi scholar.

    Related: Rumi's Masnavi, part 1: World figure or new age fad? | Franklin Lewis

    Related: The true spiritual leader of Iran is Rumi | Melody Moezzi

    Related: Whirling dervishes at the Rumi Festival in Konya – a photo essay

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    From punk to poem-songs, the 2016 Poetry and Lyrics festival reveals how music fits into the poetic tradition

    The Welsh word “cerdd” can be translated as either “verse” or “music”. It covers both meanings, because, as we know from history, when the great bards were performing their poetry it would be accompanied by music. The two were always intertwined and music, poetry, spoken word and performance have been a part of our society for centuries. The festivals called “eisteddfod” combine literature, music and poetry. These cultural competitions were not just for the rich or educated, but were held in pubs and other meeting places and brought everyone together. They are part of an oral tradition entrenched in Welsh society as it is in many other cultures, as diverse as the Somali tradition of oral storytelling or praise poetry in India and Pakistan.

    The Poet in the City festival of Poetry and Lyrics is another way of bringing people together and highlighting the idea that poetry and music are not, and have never really been, separate. The events will delve into the nooks and crannies of many different genres to draw out this connection and show how it lives in unexpected places. Take punk, for example: with the exception of artists such as Patti Smith, it’s not usually associated with poetry. But Steve Lamacq, along with the Adverts’ TV Smith, Pauline Murray of Penetration and Crass’s Penny Rimbaud, will consider a less celebrated side of the movement: the lyrics about tenderness, love and social commentary that articulated a generation’s experience of the world. It is work that fits easily into a poetic tradition.

    Related: Poetry expresses what it is to be human – it’s therapy for the soul | Adam O’Riordan

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    Learn the great verse of the past, and it will be with you when you’re sad, joyful – or just jumping into a hot bath

    “My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense.” This is what I thought when I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night and ended up listening to a podcast about the European Union referendum.

    Related: Is Rushdie right about rote learning? Is Rushdie right about rote learning?

    A great poem works at many different levels. The more you read it – the more you live with it – the deeper you can go

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    A subtle exploration of how we deal with grief, in a poem by one of Hungary’s most celebrated writers

    By Krisztina Tóth and Peter Sherwood for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

    The poplars’ catkins, no “Crematory” sign,

    then a tin roof, the stack’s angled design,

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    Unlike the democratic experience of the Potter movies, it seems only the smug rich can afford tickets for the stage play

    Tickets are on sale for the new London West End stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the inevitable online explosion in tickets getting resold – a single £130 ticket went for £2,000 – proves what I have always suspected: theatre is a horrendous apartheid world that discriminates in favour of the smug rich, and cinema is a socialist utopia where everyone is welcome equally. You want tickets to the new Harry Potter play? Good luck. You’d better be well connected or well off.

    But when new Harry Potter movies were coming out, fans were treated democratically. They had access to the films and DVDs, and everyone from the hedge fund manager to the student nurse (or indeed the single mother forced to write books in the local cafe) paid the same and got the same experience.

    Related: Memorising poetry is an art of the heart | Christina Patterson

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    Jonathan Safran Foer, Judith Kerr and Gordon Brown are among the scheduled appearances, which the event’s director says will be ‘about creative ideas and imagining a better world’

    More than 800 writers, politicians, actors and scientists, from Eimear McBride and Jonathan Safran Foer to Gordon Brown and Thomas Keneally, will gather at the Edinburgh international book festival this August, where they will address issues from the EU referendum to the refugee crisis.

    “This year’s festival is about the desire for us to engage in bold, positive, creative thinking about what we want the world to be like,” said director of the festival Nick Barley as he unveiled a programme that also features the actor Alan Cumming, Scots makar Jackie Kay and Man Booker International prize winner Han Kang, from Korea. “If you look at the political discourse in Britain, around the EU referendum and the Syrian refugees, it has been characterised by fear and negativity. And I don’t believe that the great steps forward for the human race have ever been made on the basis of fear.”

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    Sports Direct | Brexit | Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali | Memorising poetry | BHS collapse

    It would appear that we wouldn’t need to leave the EU to lose our hard-won rights for workers (This is a brutal and inhumane way to treat staff – and Sports Direct is not alone, 8 June); just unfettered zero-hours contracts, a low-paid workforce terrified of becoming unemployed, and people like Mike Ashley running the whole thing. Rights? What rights?
    Diane Janicki
    Oldham

    • Will a Brexit legal challenge to the extension of voter registration go all the way to the European court (Cameron accused of bias as extension to vote deadline expected, 9 June)?
    Harold Mozley
    York

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