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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice
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    The poet appointed by lord mayor Magid Magid to champion creative arts wants to change the face of poetry

    People too often think of poetry as posh and white: “the picture of snobbery,” says Otis Mensah. But at just 23-years-old, the self-described working class radical hip-hop artist and storyteller was last month given the title of Sheffield’s first poet in residence. As the first hip hop artist to be awarded a poet laureate title in the UK, he wants to use the position to “break down barriers”, smash the stuffy stereotype, and remind people that poetry is meant to be “for the people”.

    Related: Magid Magid, Sheffield’s lord mayor: ‘I’ve had a lot of stick, but I don’t care’

    Related: Colleges exaggerating arts students' career prospects, says Ofsted chief

    Related: How to study abusers: should reading lists come with a content warning?

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    This beautifully understated life of Francis of Assisi, told in spare, unpreachy verse, illuminates our own times too

    This is unlike any poetry collection I have read. Ann Wroe, accomplished biographer of Shelley, Pontius Pilate and Orpheus, has elected to recount the life of Saint Francis of Assisi as he lived it – through song.

    Not known as a poet (she is obituaries editor on the Economist), Wroe has launched into rhyme as if (as must be the case) she has always been at home in verse. It is with a feeling of incredulous excitement that one realises that this is no less than a devotional book – beautifully published by Cape, with an image of Saint Francis taken from a medieval fresco in Subiaco, Italy, on its blue cloth-bound cover. In our secular age, the book seems literarily heretical – triumphantly unfashionable. But do not imagine it to be conventionally devout. It does what poetry is meant to do, and seldom does: it takes you to another place while making you reflect on what it is to be here.

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    This cheery tribute to bibulous conviviality also serves up a warm moral

    Written at an Inn at Henley

    To thee, fair Freedom! I retire,
    From flattery, cards, and dice, and din;
    Nor art thou found in mansions higher
    Than the low cot, or humble inn.

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  • 11/26/18--06:57: Anthony Edkins obituary
  • My father, Anthony Edkins, who has died aged 91, was a translator, poet, and part-time lecturer at King’s and University colleges in London. He published the first of his six books of poems, Worry Beads, in 1976, and continued to write well into his 90s.

    Anthony was born in Timperley, Cheshire (now Greater Manchester), to Muriel (nee Ashman), a domestic science teacher, and Robert, a builders’ merchant. He went to Cotton college boarding school in Staffordshire and volunteered for the army in 1944 at the age of 17, joining the Royal Artillery Gunners.

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    Children are being taught that there are right and wrong answers in poems

    Do you like poetry? I do. It’s an art form that can entertain, provoke, console, reflect, observe and much more. A breakthrough for me was at primary school when Mrs MacNab got us to perform poems as if we were a choir.

    “Choral speaking”, it was called, so there were solos, duets, sections where we said a whole line together, there were moments when we divided into “parts” and other moments where we created the rhythm with words or sounds. One I enjoyed a lot was Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop. We didn’t have to explain under test conditions what it meant. We got the meaning through the way we interpreted the poem in building up our performance.

    Related: Dear Damian Hinds, What’s so difficult about giving every child a library ticket? | Michael Rosen

    Related: Dear Damian Hinds, reducing learning to yes-no questions, like Brexit, is not a great idea| Michael Rosen

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    Uncollected poems and an essay show the troubled confessional poet striking a much brighter tone than in her more famous work

    A handful of forgotten early works by Anne Sexton, in which the American confessional poet explores a brighter array of subjects than her usual darker fare, has been uncovered by scholars and will see the light of day for the first time in more than half a century.

    Sexton, known for her Pulitzer prize-winning poetry about mental illness and death, began writing after she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown. One of the US’s most acclaimed poets, she killed herself at the age of 45 in 1974, leaving behind her collections including her 1960 debut To Bedlam and Part Way Back and 1967’s Live or Die, which won the Pulitzer.

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    Paper claims Lowell’s earlier writings can be seen in Hughes’s poem Pike and Lawrence’s The Rainbow, but her gender and sexuality made her unpopular

    Ted Hughes’s poem Pike is one of the late poet laureate’s best-known works, taught in schools across the UK and endlessly anthologised. But Hughes’s image of a fish with “green tigering the gold” has an unacknowledged debt to a forgotten poem by the American poet Amy Lowell, according to an English academic who claims that Hughes “confidently fished out the most appealing imagery from the earlier work” in a new paper.

    According to Dr Hannah Roche, a lecturer in English at the University of York, it is “nothing short of incredible” that Hughes’s 1959 poem Pike “has not been considered in its close relation” to Lowell’s 1914 work The Pike. In her paper Myths, Legends, and Apparitional Lesbians, which has just been published in the academic journal Modernist Cultures, Roche pinpoints similarities between the poems.

    Lowell was a rather large lady, a lesbian, a woman, so for all these reasons she’s unpopular, uncelebrated

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    Found in a box, the 400-year-old volume is one of the largest handwritten collections of the poet’s verse and is expected to sell for more than £200,000

    A previously unrecorded handwritten manuscript of John Donne’s poetry has been found in a box at an English country house in Suffolk.

    Dating back 400 years, the bound collection was kept for at least the last two centuries at Melford Hall in Suffolk. Sotheby’s expert Dr Gabriel Heaton was on a “standard checking visit” to the property when he found it in a box with other papers.

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    From Brexit satires to time-travelling murder mysteries and a former first lady’s wry observations on life in the White House, our critics pick the best novels, poetry, sports and children’s books of the year

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    Among her other political concerns, the poet Judith Kazantzis honoured the interest in criminal justice pursued by her father, Lord (Frank) Longford.

    I met her at a Longford prize event, which I was attending as editor of Independent Monitor, a journal concerned particularly with the work done by volunteers for the Independent Monitoring Boards in prisons and immigration removal centres. She then wrote movingly for the Monitor, in April 2006, about her perspective on the years her father spent visiting prisons, and his dedication to the rehabilitation of Myra Hindley. For its title, she used the epitaph he chose for himself: The Outcast’s Outcast.

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    An essential collection of prose poems from across the globe, by old masters and new, reveals the form’s astonishing range

    You might think of a prose poem as a bastardised form – neither one thing nor another; a modernist mongrel. But this anthology is an invitation to rethink its place in literature (mongrels are, after all, prized for their intelligence). It is a wonderful book – an invigorating revelation. Jeremy Noel-Tod has done a stupendous job in corralling 200 poems from around the world. His definition of the prose poem boils down to “the simplest common denominator… a poem without line breaks”. Not a single piece here is unworthy of notice and the excitement is that, alongside indispensable familiars – Turgenev, Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Czeslaw Milosz – there are many unusual suspects. Noel-Tod maintains that the prose poem “drives the reading mind beyond the city limits”. It does – and its suburbs are extraordinary.

    Baudelaire is usually hailed as the originator of the prose poem with his Petits poèmes en prose (1869), followed by Rimbaud with Les Illuminations (1886), but Noel-Tod reveals that Edgar Allan Poe got there first with Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848), an “unclassifiable essay, both mystical and scientific”. This anthology, which contains its own share of the unclassifiable, is published in reverse chronological order: contemporary, postmodern and modern. To qualify for inclusion, prose poems needed to have been previously published as poetry. And what emerges is that the prose poem has always been a liberating space and that being “neither one thing nor another” is its power: it lends itself to the liminal, experimental, to dreams and in-between feelings – especially about writing itself.

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    This meditation on defeat was written around the time the author was declared insane, but shows a thoroughly lucid artistry

    Sonnet – September 1922

    Fierce indignation is best understood by those
    Who have time or no fear, or a hope in its real good.
    One loses it with a filed soul or in sentimental mood.
    Anger is gone with sunset, or flows as flows
    The water in easy mill-runs; the earth that ploughs
    Forgets protestation in its turning, the rood
    Prepares, considers, fulfils; and the poppy’s blood
    Makes old the old changing of the headland’s brows.

    But the toad under the harrow toadiness
    Is known to forget, and even the butterfly
    Has doubts of wisdom when that clanking thing goes by
    And’s not distressed. A twisted thing keeps still –
    That thing easier twisted than a grocer’s bill –
    And no history of November keeps the guy.

    Related: Poem of the week: The Mangel-Bury by Ivor Gurney

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    Readers Veronica Edwards, Clive Boutle and John Osborne rush to the defence of Cornish literature

    Max Liu’s portrayal of Cornwall (Why neglected Cornwall needs a literature of its own, 3 December) is not one I wholly accept. Having lived there for 35 years, I saw what could amount to almost revolutionary changes. True, Cornwall was deprived in many areas, but never off the map thanks to its thriving mining, fishing and farming industries whose demise had a profound effect.

    EU money made a dramatic difference and resulted in the renewal of the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project.

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    Border Districts described as ‘crowning achievement of a singular literary career’, beating works by Peter Carey and Richard Flanagan

    Gerald Murnane has beaten Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan, Kim Scott and Michelle de Kretser to win $80,000 for his novel Border Districts in the fiction category at the 2018 Prime Minister’s Literary awards.

    Judged by panel, the awards are among the most prestigious in Australia and the richest, with $600,000 in total prize money awarded across six categories, including $5,000 for each of the 30 shortlisted authors.

    Related: 'It's uncanny': acclaim at last for Gerald Murnane, lost genius of Australian letters

    Related: Gerald Murnane: one of Australia's greatest writers you may never have heard of

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    Correspondence from 1907 sees the 19-year-old poet advising college friend that ‘I am sorry you have placed me on a pedestal’

    An unpublished letter in which a young Rupert Brooke advises his lovelorn friend Ernst Goldschmidt to not “place … me on a pedestal”, has been found in Goldschmidt’s archives, bundled together with two unsent letters from Goldschmidt in which he tries to lay out his feelings for the poet.

    Brooke was 19 when he wrote to Goldschmidt on 25 March 1907, telling him that “I am sorry you have ‘built an altar in my heart’, and placed me on a pedestal … It is a mistake I made myself, once. Life is one of those ridiculous jests of which one never sees the point – until it is too late, and one does not appreciate the humour.”

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    Several authors have accused Ailey O’Toole of using their poems to write her own, including the Pushcart-nominated Gun Metal

    A prize-nominated poet’s debut collection has been cancelled and her work removed from online publications after multiple writers accused her of plagiarising their work.

    On Saturday, Ailey O’Toole, an American poet who was nominated for a Pushcart prize for the poem Gun Metal, was publicly accused by Rachel McKibbens of taking lines from her poem, three strikes, and using them in Gun Metal. McKibbens’ poem, which draws on her childhood trauma, reads: “Hell-spangled girl / spitting teeth into the sink, / I’d trace the broken / landscape of my body / & find God / within myself.” O’Toole’s Gun Metal reads: “Ramshackle / girl spitting teeth / in the sink. I trace the / foreign topography of / my body, find God / in my skin.”

    Related: 'Plagiarists never do it once': meet the sleuth tracking down the poetry cheats

    We are still processing the recent events but please know we have taken all necessary steps to rectify the recent disturbing developments. Please know we do NOT accept or tolerate plagiarism. We are hurt, we feel the pain & anger of those who have had work stolen.

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    The Scottish poet and editor on defying conventions of genre, the elusive nature of what he does, and the importance of external validation

    Robin Robertson is an acclaimed poet who has won all three of the Forward poetry prizes. His latest work, The Long Take, a narrative poem, is set in the years immediately after the second world war. The story unfolds in New York, San Francisco and, most importantly, Los Angeles, and follows Walker, a traumatised D-day veteran from Nova Scotia, as he tries to piece his life together just as the American dream is beginning to fray at its edges. It was shortlisted for the Booker prize and, last month, won the Goldsmiths prize for fiction, awarded to works that “open up new possibilities for the novel form”. Robertson also works as an editor at Jonathan Cape, where he publishes, among many others, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Oswald and Adam Thorpe.

    When you come to look back on this year, and the fact that what you took for a poem has been so celebrated as a novel, what will you think?
    That it’s all been a terrible accident? It is rather dreamlike. But this confusion over genre. I’ve been asked about it a lot. It is a long narrative poem; I don’t want to apologise for that. However, it’s also sui generis. It has prose in it, too. It’s to do with how you propel narrative; with how you make the reader pay attention to particular aspects of the story. Writing it as I did allowed for more control over some of those techniques.

    Related: Robin Robertson wins Goldsmiths prize for innovative fiction with The Long Take

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    Plus essays from Alice Pung, a new Garry Disher thriller, a biography of Germaine Greer and short stories from a Miles Franklin winner

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  • 12/09/18--01:00: Best books of 2018
  • Observer critics pick their must reads of 2018, from life in 50s Harlem to a tale about the Troubles via Michael Wolff’s lurid profile of Donald Trump

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    Silence, and what might be contained in nothing, gets quiet attention in this satisfyingly calm work

    Event

    Nothing is happening
    Nothing

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