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Keith Armstrong obituary

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My friend Keith Armstrong, who has died of cancer aged 67, was a dynamic activist for the rights of people with disabilities. He was also highly creative, working as an artist, poet and musician; and was a serious scholar of the history and linguistics of disability.

He contracted polio during infancy, and was in a wheelchair for most of his life. Yet he attended countless demonstrations, for CND, housing and disability rights, and was arrested more than once.

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Poem of the week: Ballad by Anne Askew

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One of the earliest women to publish verse in English, Askew faced harrowing persecution and her suffering sings fiercely in this defiant story of faith

The Ballad which Anne Askew Made and Sang When She Was in Newgate

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

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John Horder obituary

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My brother, John Horder, who has died aged 80, was known as the “hugging poet”. He was interested in the teachings of the India mystic Meher Baba, whom he called a “hugging genius”, and Baba’s maxim “don’t worry, be happy” became John’s favourite saying.

His first published collection was The Child Walks Around Its Own Grave (1966), for which he received two Arts Council awards. A selection, A Sense of Being (1968), was published as part of the Phoenix Living Poets series, and, later, Meher Baba and the Nothingness (1981). His plays included Cakes and Carrots and The African Who Loved Hugging Everybody. He wrote a reinvention of Rumpelstiltskin which I saw him perform; he had a wonderful stage presence.

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Huddled masses? Losers! Trump v Statue of Liberty

What poem would Trump like to see on the Statue of Liberty? Share yours

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We’d like you to join our Lady Liberty poetry challenge by submitting a poem that riffs on Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus


Donald Trump recently proposed to cut legal immigration to the US by half over in the next decade and to establish a merit-based immigration program. Under the plan, applicants with certain credentials, such as large salaries and English proficiency, would be given preference.

Many people viewed the proposal as an attack on American values like equality and opportunity. Trump’s plan also led to a heated exchange in a press briefing when CNN’s Jim Acosta asked White House aide Stephen Miller if the Emma Lazarus poem The New Colossus that is at the base of the Statue of Liberty is still relevant. In response, we’d like you to write poems that riff on the final lines Lazarus’s work:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

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A 'gurt' plan: National Poetry Day to celebrate England's local words

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From the Bristol word for great, via Merseyside’s ‘geg in’ and London’s ‘fam’, 12 authors are writing poems celebrating language tied to English regions

From the Berkshire term for a woodlouse, “cheeselog”, to a Suffolk phrase for lopsided, “on the huh”, England’s poets are set to do their bit for preserving regional dialects, with a series of poems celebrating local words.

The initiative to “shine a light into a lexicon that’s too often overlooked”, as the lexicographer Susie Dent described it, stems from the #freetheword project, a partnership between BBC English Regions, National Poetry Day and the Oxford English Dictionary to find unrecorded words used in everyday speech all around the UK.

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French Poetry from Medieval to Modern Times review – warm humanity, brave choices

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Editor Patrick McGuinness has assembled a rich and wide-ranging anthology that shows the strong links between French and English

‘Il faut être absolument moderne,” wrote Rimbaud: we must be absolutely modern. Has there been a foreign-language tradition more influential to modern English poetry than French? From WB Yeats’s symbolist beginnings to Ezra Pound and TS Eliot’s discovery of Jules Laforgue and Tristan Corbière, from Gertrude Stein’s cubist prose poems to Frank O’Hara carrying a Pierre Reverdy book in his pocket, 20th-century Anglophone poetry offers strong evidence for Wallace Stevens’s claim that “French and English constitute a single language”.

Patrick McGuinness, who is among the most Gallic (or, strictly speaking, Belgian) of modern British poets, has assembled a careful yet copious anthology, demonstrating just how close the two traditions are. Handily pocket-sized, this is not the book for great tracts of the Roman de la Rose and other early epics in translation; its medieval selections incline to ballades and chansons and the ultra-concision of this Christine de Pisan rondeau, in Norman Shapiro’s translation:

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Poem of the week: Helpline by Suzannah Evans

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A dystopian narrative, this fragmentary story compellingly depicts a familiar world gone terribly wrong with mystery, horror and a few glints of lyric beauty

Helpline

In the call centre at the end of the world
everyone is wearing the rags
of the clothes they came to work in two weeks ago.

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'England hath need of thee': appeal to save Milton's Paradise Lost cottage

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Charity seeks to build on lottery pledge to secure a lasting future for museum in home where writer completed his epic poem on the fall of man

Pointing to Wordsworth’s comment more than 200 years ago that “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour. / England hath need of thee”, a charity has launched an “urgent” appeal to the public to help it preserve the 16th-century Buckinghamshire cottage where John Milton completed Paradise Lost, 350 years ago.

The radical poet lived in the Chalfont St Giles cottage after he fled London during the 1665 plague. Although he remained there for less than two years, it was where he completed his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. The cottage is the only surviving residence of the poet and is open to the public as a museum. It holds a leading collection of first editions, as well as a lock of the poet’s hair, and an original proclamation from King Charles II, banning his books. According to the charity, it is the second-oldest writer’s home museum in the world after Shakespeare’s birthplace. Without a much-needed injection of cash, however, the museum risks closure.

Related: Quiz: How well do you know John Milton?

Related: Paradise Lost 'translated more often in last 30 years than previous 300'

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Adrian Dunbar on directing Homer on a Donegal beach – and his fears for Line of Duty

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The actor best known as Superintendent Ted Hastings in Line of Duty is bringing Homer and Heaney to County Donegal. Our writer joins him for oysters as he takes his dogs for a windswept walk along the shore

There is a story about this seaside town, says Adrian Dunbar, as we lunch on oysters and crabcakes in Bundoran, on the southern edge of County Donegal. Outside Madden’s Bridge Bar, the sky is the colour of porridge. Inside, the Guinness is bible black. And in the distance, the peaks that rise up over the Wild Atlantic Way are shrouded in cloud.

It’s the story of an ancestral homecoming, says the 59-year-old actor, now best known for his long-running role as Superintendent Ted Hastings in the BBC police drama Line of Duty. In the early 1960s, Dunbar relates, a young man was brought back to Ireland from Los Angeles by his parents. “As they came down through Bundoran, he was sitting in the car thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be so bored.’ But as he came across the bridge where we’re sitting, he saw the waves and just sat up in the car, shocked that nobody was surfing. He went and got himself a piece of board, fashioned a surfboard out of it, and actually managed to get up on a wave.”

'I'm like everyone else in Line of Duty – just keeping my fingers crossed I don't get killed off'

He starred in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – but the scene ended up on the cutting room floor

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The New Depressus: readers' poems for Trump's America

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After a senior Trump adviser dismissed the famous poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, we asked readers to reimagine The New Colossus in a style that would be to Trump’s liking

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When Milton met Galileo: the collision of cultures that helped shape Paradise Lost

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A transformative visit to Catholic Florence inspired the Puritan poet to write his epic masterpiece, a BBC documentary reveals

It is an epic poem with a daunting reputation that has struck fear into the hearts of many a student of English literature. Recounting the fall of man, and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Paradise Lost cemented the reputation of its author, the staunchly Protestant poet, John Milton, as one of England’s literary giants.

The 10,000-line poem is regarded as one of the defining contributions to the English canon, a work to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens. But 350 years after its publication, some rather surprising influences on the Puritan imagination of its author have emerged, the result of a little-known journey the poet undertook to the heart of Catholic Italy.

Related: 'England hath need of thee': appeal to save Milton's Paradise Lost cottage

Related: Paradise Lost 'translated more often in last 30 years than previous 300'

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Poem of the week: One day he came back with news … by Kenneth Steven

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This poem, taken from the Scottish poet’s reimagining of the tale of Naoise and Deirdre, sees the doomed lovers enjoy a timeless day at an Argyll beach

One day he came back with news
of a white strand that ran for miles.

They sped there and broke out into the sea:
the delicious cool of it, the blue-green deep.

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The Last Poets review – godfathers of hip-hop deliver grit, wit and raging anthems

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Jazz Cafe, London
The ever-shifting collective vindicate their status as rap royalty with a stripped-back show that fuses knockabout humour with scorching rallying cries

More revered than heard over their five-decade existence, the Last Poets are customarily cited as the progenitors of hip-hop. While there’s substantial truth to this, it both oversimplifies that story (hip-hop emerged as a culture in itself, which meshed with the kind of rapping pioneered by the Poets), and diminishes their own work: it marks them as a stepping stone, whose significance lies chiefly in their influence.

Yet their records are extraordinary. They have few peers in their inflammatory artistry, and in their melding of rhythm and language into a single, fluid entity. They began on the streets of Harlem. That, you’d imagine, meant playing to a tough crowd; 49 years on, they still know how to put on a gripping show out of next to nothing.

Related: The Last Poets: America in poetry from black power to Black Lives Matter

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David Gill obituary

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My father, David Gill, who has died aged 82, was a poet, teacher and lifelong activist for peace and justice.

His first post was at Bedales, the progressive boarding school in Hampshire, where he was taken on to teach German and English in 1960. After two happy years, he left to travel to Africa, where he spent two years teaching at Nyakasura boys’ school near Fort Portal, Uganda. His experiences there informed his first published book of poetry, Men Without Evenings (1966); a second collection, The Pagoda (1969) followed, in the Phoenix Living Poets series.

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Benjamin Zephaniah: ‘I’m almost 60 and I’m still angry. Everyone told me I would mellow’

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The celebrated dub poet might grow his own vegetables in the shires – but he is still in a revolutionary mood. From carnival surveillance to the abandonment of the Grenfell families, he says Britain needs radical political change – now

Benjamin Zephaniah’s 1998 poem Carnival Days is a lyrical love letter to the Notting Hill carnival, where “We dance like true survivors / We dance to the sounds of our dreams.” Or, more accurately, it’s a love letter to what the carnival once was. He still supports the event, which takes place in London this weekend, and plans to be there on Monday, but reckons it has become less innocent, less spontaneous in the two decades since he wrote his poem. These days, even dreams have to be policed – and ideally sponsored.

“It’s become more corporate and – to some people this might sound positive – more organised,” he says. “Stalls have to pay a fee; sponsors get involved. People used to take to the streets and do it for themselves. They’d say: ‘I’ll sell some food on this corner; you sell some food on that corner.’ It was organised anarchy. There was no big committee. There was a group of people and that was it. Now, it’s all about liaising with the police, which for me takes away the spirit of us really taking to the streets. The idea that we are in control, that we run things, that the authorities have nothing to do with this and the police have to stay out there – that’s gone.”

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So They Call You Pisher! by Michael Rosen review – style and humour

Poem of the week: Epilogue by Robert Lowell

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Lowell casts a critical and concerned eye over the failures of poetry – but his masterful, free-ish verse answers the question of why the form matters at all

Epilogue

Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme –
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.

But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralysed by fact.
All’s misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

Related: Robert Lowell at 100: why his poetry has never been more relevant

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Edinburgh book festival with Colson Whitehead and others – books podcast

From Evelyn Waugh to Elizabeth I: Vivien Leigh's eclectic library up for auction

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Personal inscriptions from Winston Churchill, Orson Welles and AA Milne in the actor and avid reader’s library are expected to sell for more than £500,000

Vivien Leigh’s star-studded library, including books inscribed by AA Milne, Winston Churchill, Truman Capote and Evelyn Waugh, as well as a document signed by Elizabeth I, is expected to exceed the £500,000 sale estimate at auction next month.

Among the highlights of the collection is a copy of Gone With The Wind, with a well-preserved handwritten poem given to the Scarlett O’Hara actor by the book’s author, Margaret Mitchell. It is expected to surpass its £7,000 estimate.

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