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

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    Carolina Rabei has illustrated Walter de la Mare’s glorious celebration of a balmy Summer Evening – here’s her step-by-step guide on how you can do it too

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    The poet laureate is leading the Shore to Shore tour of Britain in celebration of independent sellers. She introduces new work by Clive James, Jackie Kay and Alan Jenkins

    The Shore to Shore tour – in celebration of independent bookshops – starts in Falmouth on 19 June and will end in St Andrews on 2 July. Alongside me in the back of the tour bus will be the leading Welsh poet Gillian Clarke, world poet Imtiaz Dharker, new Scots makar Jackie Kay, and journeyman musician John Sampson, complete with crumhorn. (He will have to sit alone ...) Along the way, at each stop – be it Chipping Norton, Crickhowell or Corbridge– we’ll team up with an extra poet specially associated with the area; including, in Caernarfon, the new national poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn and, in St Boswell in the Scottish Borders, the recent makar, Liz Lochhead. To coincide with the tour, Picador are publishing an anthology of newly commissioned poems about bookshops, some of which are printed for the first time here today. Adding up all the poets either on the tour or in the book, or both, we have nearly 40 combining to sing the praises of independent bookshops.

    Such places, whether in the tiny village of Much Wenlock or the graceful city of Bath, are deeply woven into the fabric of their local communities. The people who, devotedly, run them are the human link between author and reader: knowing both their customers and their customers’ children; celebrating their locality; and being almost always the only retailers to accept and sell 12 letter-pressed pamphlets by local poets. Their very existence is a kind of love and we – writers and readers – should love them in return by supporting them. See you on the road.

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    The poet, 67, on late fatherhood, not liking crowds, and being a control freak

    It only takes one person to change a lot of minds. I went to what can only be described as a slum school in Salford – rough and full of trainee punks – but I was very lucky in that I had one inspiring teacher, John Malone, who gave the whole class an interest in romantic poetry. Somehow he created a hothouse, competitive atmosphere. Poetry, because of him, became a macho thing at our school, and we discovered very quickly that it was a great way to impress chicks.

    I’m not fond of crowds. I’m no jittery neurotic, but I don’t really want to be surrounded by a lot of people if I have a choice. A big audience though… now that I love.

    If I wasn’t a poet, I’d probably be some tin-pot dictator of a banana republic

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    ‘Very dynamic’ finalists for the awards show influences from Greenlandic, Caribbean creole, Scots, and Kurdish languages

    From Kurdish writer Choman Hardi’s poetry telling the stories of the survivors of genocide to Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo’s examination of the alienation of the expatriate, the shortlist for the Forward prize for best poetry collection marks a “complete resurgence” and a “breaking down of barriers” in poetry, according to the chair of judges for the prestigious award.

    The shortlist for the £15,000 Forward prize for best poetry collection, won in the past by big names including Don Paterson and Sean O’Brien, was announced by writer Malika Booker. She said that this year’s contenders were writers “who are challenging poetry, who are using the formal constraints but are really modern, really expanding what we know as poetry and what we know as the English language”.

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    With nods to both Emily Dickinson and the hymns of Isaac Watts, this finds a mineral solidity in its metaphors of life and death

    Death makes dead metaphor revive

    Death makes dead metaphor revive,
    Turn stiffly bright and strong.
    Time that is felt as “stopped” will freeze
    Its to-fro, to-fro song

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    Iconic brand, which brought together groups of writers – including the bestselling Mersey poets – will release contemporary collections showcasing ‘a new golden age’

    Penguin’s iconic Modern Poets series, which was first launched in the early 1960s with the writings of authors from Lawrence Durrell to Stevie Smith, is being revived this summer to introduce a new generation of poets.

    Home to anthologies including 1967’s The Mersey Sound, which featured the work of the Liverpool poets Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri and sold more than half a million copies, the Penguin Modern Poets series aimed to “introduce contemporary poetry to the general reader”. There were 27 volumes in the first incarnation, each containing “representative work” by three modern poets, with the selection made “so as to illustrate the poets’ characteristics in style and form”.

    Related: Sign up to our Bookmarks newsletter

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    CLippa nominated poet John Lyons grew up in Trinidad in the 1930s and 40s where singing and tellings stories were as natural a part of his life as breathing. Now in his 80s, here’s why music still helps him go with flow and might help you too

    Music is the beating heart of my poetry. The sound of words in a certain order gives rhythm to my poems; it is a way of expressing emotions, feelings, thoughts and ideas about what is happening around me.

    As a child in Trinidad singing and telling stories were as natural a part of my life as breathing. Long before I grew to love the beauty of language in poetry, I enjoyed its rhythm of music in storytelling. Those stories were about folklore characters and jumbies (ghosts); and often accompanied with song. My imagination went wild, making these stories heart-thumpingly scarier and scarier. Looking back, I suppose, it was then the seed that linked poetry and music was planted in my mind.

    Related: CLPE children's poetry award shortlist 2016 announced – in pictures

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  • 06/14/16--03:48: Sam Gardiner obituary
  • Hard-hitting but witty Northern Irish poet

    Sam Gardiner, who has died aged 79, was a distinguished member of the generation of Northern Irish poets that also included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon.

    While Mahon traded Protestant Ulster for visions of exotic elsewheres, Gardiner was adept at uncovering his sceptical humanist visions closer to home. In his poem Protestant Windows, winner of the 1993 National Poetry Competition, he transplants the violence of the Reformation to a quiet suburban close. Arguing with some PVC window salesmen, a defender of the sash-cord window (introduced by King Billy, he claims) is martyred when the window descends unexpectedly on his head, leaving him “reel[ing] /towards eternity”.

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    Bouquets beneath the Humber bridge, the mayor of Gibraltar in his trunks, windfarms and mudflats … the train ride from Goole to Hull has become a symphony of stories

    A short while after leaving Hessle station, my daughter hands me a drawing. She’s been sketching the vast 2,200-metre-long Humber bridge, which we’ve just this minute passed under. What, I ask, are those tiny figures? The people who’ve jumped, she explains.

    We’re wearing headphones attached to a laptop that is playing a work of music and poetry. It consists of 10 tracks, five to be played on the 30-minute Goole-Hull journey, and five on the return. The music is by Gavin Bryars, the poetry by Blake Morrison, whose words for the Hessle-Hull section inspired my daughter’s drawing.

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    Clouds from a huge volcano plunged the world into endless winter in 1816. Crops failed, famine and disease spread – and great poets and composers of the day responded with works of gloomy genius

    In April 1815, weeks before Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo, Mount Tambora, in what is now Indonesia, erupted. It was one of the largest volcanic incidents ever recorded and could be heard up to 1,600 miles off. Ash fell 800 miles away, and for two days following the explosion the 350 miles surrounding the mountain were in pitch darkness.

    Many people feared that the world was facing its apocalyptic end

    Mt Tambora fired up imaginations to interpret their environment, reflect the climate and capture the spirit of the age

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    A new poem by the poet laureate, written in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings

    This writer is gay,
    and the priest, in the old love of his church,
    kneeling to pray.
    The farmer is gay, baling the gold hay
    out in the fields,
    and the teacher, cycling to school each day.
    The politician is gay,
    though he fears to say,
    knotting his tongue, his tie;
    and the doctor is gay,
    taking your human pulse in her calm way.
    The scientist is gay,
    folding the origami of DNA,
    and the judge, in his grey wig, is gay.
    The actress is gay,
    spotlit in the smash-hit play;
    the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,
    our children, are gay.
    And God is gay.

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    On 18 June 1816, Mary Shelley had a dream that inspired Frankenstein. Before and since, dreaming has provided much literary inspiration – have you been awake to it?

    Which literary softie said: “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time."


    Ron Weasley

    The BFG


    “Last night, I dreamed I went to…”



    The Lighthouse


    In War and Peace, what is is the dream that makes Pierre assess his "evil passions"?

    He gets lost in a blizzard

    He’s attacked by dogs

    He runs out of wine

    He straps a bear to a policeman

    “The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life” is a quote from which influential study?

    Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung

    The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

    The Republic by Plato

    My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

    Which poet “spread my dreams under your feet”?

    WB Yeats

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    William Wordsworth

    Sylvia Plath

    In Homer’s Iliad, Zeus uses a false dream to inspire who to what?

    Agamemnon to attack Troy

    Achilles to kill Hector

    Helen of Troy to throw a hissy fit

    Aphrodite to fall in love with a donkey

    Which character in a Russian novel dreams about a scruffy old peasant muttering to himself in French?

    Chichikov in Gogol’s Dead Souls

    Yuri Zhivago in Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago

    Vronsky in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

    Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

    “I had my railway dream instead. Changing trains at Birmingham, some time during the war… A timetable I couldn’t read, a blur of figures. No hope anywhere; no more trains; desolation, darkness. You’d think such a dream would realise when it had made its point?” Which novel’s narrator has grown weary of his unconscious mind?

    The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

    The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

    Saturday by Ian McEwan

    Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

    In Neil Gaiman’s comic book series The Sandman, what is not an alternate name for the main character Dream?



    The Cat of Dreams


    Which American writer said: “Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely"?

    F Scott Fitzgerald

    Emily Dickinson

    William Faulkner

    Henry David Thoreau

    “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Which wise wizard said this?


    Albus Dumbledore

    The Wizard of Oz

    Harry Dresden

    Dreams inspired which of these pieces of literature?

    Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

    All of the above

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    A diptych of early and late work displays a consistency of skill and wit across 40 years

    Your ashes will not stir, even on this high ground,” wrote the young Derek Mahon in “In Carrowdore Churchyard”, his elegy for Louis MacNeice, “all we may ask of you we have.” Ashes may not stir, but poems can and do: Mahon’s elegy is now titled “Carrowdore” and the elegant summation of the dead poet’s work has become “Soon the biographies / and buried poems will begin to appear.” Mahon’s first selected poems was in 1979, since when he has published two further selected poems and two collected poems, revising and deleting work as he goes. A biography has appeared too, Stephen Enniss’s After the Titanic, with its share of “buried poems”. “A great disorder is an order,” writes Wallace Stevens in “Connoisseur of Chaos”. For the sake of the reader trying to steer a course through Mahon’s work, one can only hope so.

    More than 40 years since their first publication, Mahon lyrics such as those of “Glengormley”, “An Image from Beckett” and “Lives” retain their crystalline wonder. Marvellian cadence and existential menace are thrillingly conjoined. Where Seamus Heaney used his bog bodies to enter the mind of the tribe, “Lives” issues stark warnings to us to revise our “insolent ontology”. “Courtyards in Delft” is Vermeeresque in its capturing of the poet’s childhood, and of the eerie calm of art in the midst of social turmoil. “A Disused Shed in Co Wexford”, that hymn of distress in the face of historical atrocity, is truly Yeatsian in scope and ambition.

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    Poet Maggie Smith’s Good Bones has been shared thousands of times since its launch on Wednesday

    A poem by US poet Maggie Smith that tackles “how hard it is to love this world as it is, and to teach my kids to love it”, has gone viral in the wake of this week’s tragedies.

    Smith, who has released three books of poetry with small presses and won the Independent Publisher book awards’ gold medal in poetry for her collection The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, published the poem, Good Bones, in the new issue of American literary journal Waxwing on Wednesday.

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    After my illness, I walked alone through Spain, with an anthology of verse chosen by friends

    In Dante’s time, books were sold in apothecary shops: literature as medicine. I learned this when I was very ill, during an acute episode of manic depression, and I was struck by the profound metaphor behind this commercial fact. The apothecary of literature can heal, and I would need it desperately.

    I had experienced a psyche-fracture, which included hallucinations of wings, seeing my own and others’, these wings a metaphor for thought, the wings of the mind. Although I felt compelled to enact the urges of mania, I had a greater wish to hold very still and see what would happen if I let this madness take a metaphoric route. What happened? Poetry.

    In the illness I could write nothing except poetry

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  • 06/18/16--03:00: The Saturday poem: Piercings
  • by Harry Giles

    It took two looks to see him,
    head whipped and jaw loosed, silent
    moviewise. The boy who broke me in,
    my nut, my skin, up, who said a break-
    down would do you good. The change

    snuck him past me, but: same flesh,
    same stride. I called. We spoke.
    The quick, smiling chat of two
    folk who knew inside each other’s
    mouths, but not heads. I looked hard.

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    When their half-brother took a fatal overdose, twins Matthew and Michael Dickman wrote a series of poems in his honour. Now, the collection is breaking taboos about suicide and inviting comparisons with America’s great poets

    If you go to interview twin poets about the death of their elder brother, and the work they have made jointly in response to it, your natural expectation is that the atmosphere will be serious, even sombre. And, indeed, my conversation with American writers Matthew and Michael Dickman, whose book revolves around the suicide, a decade ago, of their half-brother Darin Hull, frequently enters inevitably painful emotional territory, and the extent to which art is ever able to chart a course through it. But the morning that we spend together is punctuated with gusts of hilarity, irreverence, playfulness and informality, the alternating rainstorms and sunshine that flood the Bloomsbury streets outside an almost too neat pathetic fallacy.

    The laughs begin straight away, as we’re settling down, and Michael – the older of the 40-year-old twins by two minutes, and a shade more reserved than Matthew – is pouring us coffee. One brother – I forget which now, because they both do it – calls the other “Chancho”. What’s behind that nickname, I ask. Ah, they reply; yes, they’d better explain. “Since high school we’ve called each other pig,” says Michael, “and then versions of it in different languages, like cochon or chancho, or the diminutive in Spanish, chanchito.” “Also, piggy, or Mr Pig,” adds Matthew. “Or Piggums,” rounds off Michael. They also have pig tattoos on their arms.

    'We were raised without a father, so there's part of us that, through our older brother, got some of that energy'

    'The subject of suicide, at least in the US, is still one that there's a lot of shame around… people keep it quiet'

    “My brother opened / thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body / until it wasn’t his body any more.”

    “Once, I had a brother / who used to sit and drink his coffee black, smoke / his cigarettes and be quiet for a moment / before his brain turned its armadas against him”.

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    A warm pastiche of an 18th-century travelogue, this is a touching portrait of the tourist’s comical but sincere search for exaltation in Wales


    Warner, setting out eagerly from Bath
    at five on a lively morning
    for the inspiring rigours of Wales
    with obliging C----, equipped himself for adventure
    with a rusty but respectable spencer
    (good enough for North Wales, he said).
    The travellers’ huge pockets bulged with clothes,
    maps, and little comforts; their heads were full
    of Ossian, whose horrendous glooms
    they were gratified to recognise
    one evening on the road to Rhaeadr
    (though Ossian had not prepared them
    for the state of the road, or the shortage
    of bedchambers at the ‘Lion’).
    Romantic tourists, no doubt, perpetual
    outsiders, but willing to love,
    and finding much “singular, striking
    and indescribable”. They were comic
    (embarrassed at being spotted,
    with their pedlars’ pockets, by fashionable females),
    but worked hard for their exaltations,
    plodding twenty-five miles to Machynlleth
    north over boggy mountains, or stumbling
    two hours across rocks to find a guide
    to Dôlbadarn ruins. They were uncomplaining
    on Snowdon in a thick mist (they drank milk
    gratefully, but longed for brandy), and did not grumble
    when, at Aberglaslyn, salmon failed to leap
    (only two would even try). Who can say
    that at the end of August, leaving Chepstow
    for flood-tide at the ferry, they were taking
    nothng real away, or that their naive and scholarly wonder
    had given nothing in return?

    Related: Poem of the week: Death makes dead metaphor revive by Denise Riley

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    A novel written in free verse takes the Carnegie for the first time in the medal’s illustrious history

    Find out who won the inaugural Amnesty CILIP honours

    Chris Riddell wins the Kate Greenaway medal with The Sleeper and the Spindle

    Sarah Crossan has won the most coveted children’s books prize in the UK, the CILIP Carnegie medal with her “poignant and perfectly crafted” verse novel about conjoined twins: One. The award is judged solely by nation’s librarians and was set up in 1936.

    Sarah Crossan was shortlisted the prize in 2013 for The Weight of Water and 2015 for Apple and Rain. Now, One has brought her to Carnegie glory, alongside her wins the YA book prize and the Irish children’s book of the year.

    Related: Carnegie medal and Kate Greenaway shortlists 2016 announced

    Related: Carnegie medal 2016 longlist - in pictures

    Related: Sarah Crossan: I had this idea that writers were a different breed

    Related: Robin Talley: 'it’s important for fiction to show the breadth of the world we live in'

    Related: How to draw… a smug polar bear

    Related: Chris Riddell wins the Kate Greenaway medal with The Sleeper and the Spindle

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    The poet laureate begins a series of reports from the Shore to Shore poetry tour, where she is travelling with Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay and John Sampson

    So. Most of us have arrived in Falmouth, this Saturday night before our first event on Sunday: some by train, some by plane, and some still on the road southwards in the tour bus. It’s a gorgeous, warm evening in the Greenbank Hotel right on Falmouth’s harbour front where, we’re pleased to be told, Kenneth Grahame came in 1906 to write The Wind in the Willows. Outside on the terrace, we hear oddly displacing eastern music drifting over the harbour from this weekend’s sea shanty festival, and see the lights of settling boats murmuring to the sleepy waters. Some of us find the bar and order fish and chips while watching Portugal v Austria; the non-footie personnel eat in the restaurant and avoid the howls at Ronaldo’s missed penalty (justice for sneering at Iceland).

    Related: 'No drugs on the bus': Carol Ann Duffy takes a road trip

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