Quantcast
Channel: Poetry | The Guardian
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.
0

Poem of the week: Fish by Peter Finch

0
0

A witty riff on the avant garde, and Wales, sparkles and spits

Fish

He wrote the things decades back
He did them underwater
He pulled them out like sonic fish,
Dada hake, Bauhaus trout, Schwitters skate,
Showed them to Ormond who shook his head.
You’ve energy, Finch, but
they’ll not put that on your grave.
Flailing in the Welsh fog.

Continue reading...

The Guardian view on poetry for dark times: add Wordsworth to the stockpile | Editorial

0
0

A new exhibition traces the influence of the great Romantic’s childhood on his verse. Rereading it can give us inspiration in these testing times

The mysterious intensity of childhood has fascinated generations of poets, particularly those with an affinity to the Romantics. William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, were perhaps the most famous English explorers of the theme, seeking and celebrating in their work a past “state of simplicity” and vivid insight. Recollected, early experience seemed to them to offer clues to truths which had faded in adulthood. Wordsworth’s famous poem My Heart Leaps Up, written when he was 32, describes the child as “father of the man” and expresses the hope that the wonder present in the childlike gaze can somehow be preserved through to old age.

Taking that line as its title, a thought-provoking exhibition has just opened at Wordsworth House in Cumbria, exploring the childhood of the poet and his sister. To mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, the National Trust has placed miscellaneous objects from Wordsworth’s life on display, including a pair of ice skates and tinted spectacles, reflecting his fear of going blind. But pride of place goes to a baby bonnet knitted for Dorothy, hand sewn and almost certainly made by Ann, the children’s mother. The bonnet is the only item to be preserved from the siblings’ early childhood and it serves as a poignant reminder of the family tragedy that was to come. When William and Dorothy were eight and seven years old respectively, Ann died of an illness, possibly pneumonia. The children were orphaned and subsequently separated. As they reunited in adulthood, living together at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, the powerful memory of those early, brutally interrupted years must have played a significant part in their romantic evocations of a prelapsarian past.

Continue reading...

Poetry book of the month: Loss by David Harsent – review

0
0
A firm virtuosity and sense of estrangement drives this challenging new collection

This is a long watch of a poem, a tormented vigil. You want to ask, “Who’s there?” – a question you might, like the guard in Hamlet’s opening scene, call out in the dark. If loss is the subject, who is the loser? And what – or who – has been lost? These questions are not easily answered.

This is the latest volume in an extraordinarily rich period for David Harsent. In 2011, in Night, he made darkness visible. Fire Songs (2014) and Salt (2017) flared into apocalyptic view soon after. The subtitle of Loss is “white nights”, but do not expect any atoning dawns. The form of the new volume is painstaking: stretches of italics describe a figure looking through a window, writing on misty glass. He is a “man in waiting”. Sonnets alternate with trochaics and lead back to the frightening consciousness from which this fragmented narrative poem comes.

Continue reading...

Ali Cobby Eckermann on winning the world's richest writing prize: 'It's taken time to adjust'

0
0

Poet lived in a caravan when she heard she had won $215,000. Ahead of this year’s Windham Campbell, she reflects on what that recognition can bring

Ali Cobby Eckermann had $47 in the bank and was living in a caravan when she found out, in March 2017, that she’d won the world’s richest literary prize, the Windham Campbell.

The prize is a coup for any writer. Administered by Yale University, judged anonymously and not open to submissions (it comes as a shock to all who are selected, not least one who found it in her junk mail), it was worth some A$215,000 a head when Eckermann learned she was one of eight winning writers.

Continue reading...

Dorothy was also an amazing Wordsworth | Letters

0
0
Shirley Stuart on the contribution made by Dorothy Wordsworth, and Sylvia Ayling on memorising a sonnet by her brother

Whether their relationship was sexual is something no one but Dorothy and William Wordsworth will ever know, and that’s as it should be (Wordsworth siblings’ passion explained, 16 March). But once again, no mention was made in your report of Dorothy’s own poetic gifts and their influence on William’s poetry.

We very likely wouldn’t have had that everlasting daffodils poem if she hadn’t seen the field of flowers in bloom first and told William to go and look at them. She read and criticised all of his poems before he sent them off for publication and was a respected critic of the works of their entire circle. She did this while cooking, cleaning, growing the food they ate, making clothes for herself and William (at one point, even shoes) – doing everything that allowed him to be free to write.

Continue reading...

'After prison, I'm stronger, more vulgar!': the irrepressible Stella Nyanzi

0
0

She was imprisoned for writing a negative poem about Uganda’s president. Never one to be silenced, Nyanzi is back with a radically rude collection

In February, Stella Nyanzi was released from prison. The feminist academic and writer spent almost 16 months inside Luzira prison in Uganda for writing a poem on Facebook about Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s mother’s vagina. In the untitled poem, she graphically described the vagina in grotesque terms (one line reads: “I wish the lice-filled bush of dirty pubic hair overgrown all over Esiteri’s unwashed chuchu had strangled you at birth”), framing the president’s emergence from the birth canal as a metaphor for his increasingly oppressive near 35-year rule.

But Nyanzi came out of prison all guns blazing, head first into a tense political climate as Uganda’s 2021 election looms closer; when she stepped out of the court in Kampala, she donned a tiara and a sash that read “FUCK OPPRESSION” and began to address crowds. When we meet weeks later, she’s excited and speaks quickly; she wants to show people – particularly those “inspired to write as boldly or even bolder than me” – that imprisonment did not silence her.

Related: ‘You can't handcuff my spirit’: jailed writer wins freedom of expression prize

Continue reading...

Eight authors share $1m prize as writers face coronavirus uncertainty

0
0

Bhanu Kapil, Yiyun Li and Namwali Serpell are among the winners of the 2020 Windham Campbell literary prize

Coronavirus and culture – a list of major cancellations
Coronavirus – latest updates
See all our coronavirus coverage

The day before British-Indian poet Bhanu Kapil learned she had won a Windham Campbell prize, she had been wondering about how to balance writing, teaching and caring for her elderly mother. The next day, she received an email from the prize’s director, Michael Kelleher, informing her that she had been awarded $165,000 (£141,000).

“Sitting in bed, wondering about the future, I’d said, aloud, ‘Help’,” said the 51-year-old, who had never won a poetry prize before. “The moment Michael told me I’d won, I felt as if what I’d called out had been received. And I am not a religious person.”

Related: Maria Tumarkin on winning the 2020 Windham Campbell: 'It feels like a complicated gift'

Continue reading...

Lockdown: Simon Armitage writes poem about coronavirus outbreak

0
0

Poet laureate says society may emerge from the pandemic ‘slightly slower, and wiser, at the other end’

Simon Armitage has written a poem to address the coronavirus and a lockdown that is slowly being implemented across the UK, saying that the art form can be consoling in times of crisis because it “asks us just to focus, and think, and be contemplative”.

The poet laureate’s new poem, Lockdown, moves from the outbreak of bubonic plague in Eyam in the 17th century, when a bale of cloth from London brought fleas carrying the plague to the Derbyshire village, to the epic poem Meghadūta by the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa.

Continue reading...

Poetry can be the bridge that connects us during these difficult times

0
0

On World Poetry Day, poet Mary Jean Chan recalls growing up during the Sars crisis and considers the role of poetry in a crisis

In the days after the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK, I watched in horror as government policy failed to mobilise the public and enact drastic social distancing measures comparable to those widely used in other countries. I tried to write but found myself unable to express something that might be of use. As a poet, I could not muster the right words. On 13 March, I realised that a prose poem of mine titled “Safe Space II” from my debut collection Flèche was being shared widely on Twitter. It begins:

Wash your hands. Rub soap into foam into lost hands. Focus on the running tap, the way your hands momentarily disappear and you feel safe again. The bathroom is a place you can always rely on, in whatever country […]

Something about the specificity of poetry allows it to crystalise experience, as if one were pausing time

Related: Tackle that to-be-read pile: the books to try if you're self-isolating

Continue reading...

Four cheers for the Guardian amid the gloom | Letters

0
0

Gerald Dunning and Vee Singleton find solace in poetry, Laurie Moye is thankful for extra puzzles and Annie Grist’s spirits are lifted by spring pictures

On Saturday morning I was preparing to bury a much-loved 15-year-old cat and the prospect of living under siege from the coronavirus for months seemed bleak. Then I opened my Guardian and discovered not only the perfect solace of Simon Armitage’s poem, Lockdown (21 March), but also the joy of a resurgent Nancy Banks-Smith (A tale for our times, 21 March). Please persuade her to come out of retirement. No one could better assume JB Priestley’s role in our current crisis and even a short weekly column would do wonders for morale.
Gerald Dunning
Tonteg, Rhondda Cynon Taff

• Thank you for the extra puzzles. I will no longer sit down to my morning cup of coffee and find there’s no suguru to get my brain going on a Saturday; and I can save Maslanka’s puzzles for Sunday. And what a joy to have the handcrafted kakuro back.
Laurie Moye
Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire

Continue reading...

Poem of the week: Antidotes to Fear of Death by Rebecca Elson

0
0

An intense engagement with mortality, by a young writer taken too soon, blends religious and scientific imagery

Antidotes to Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Continue reading...

Top 10 novels and stories about shame

0
0

Anna Ahmatova, David Malouf, Yukio Mishima and more explore the emotion that tears us apart but leads us into compassion, writes Christos Tsiolkas

I was an adolescent when I first came across the letters of St Paul. Though I had been raised Greek Orthodox, at 13 I had joined an evangelical church in the hope that God would banish my shame. The shame of being different. The shame of hurting my immigrant parents’ honour. The shame of being gay. At that age, all I could hear from Paul was his admonishment in his first letter to the Corinthians that my homosexuality would banish me for ever from God’s love and grace. I battled with that for over two years before finally abandoning my faith. It was a relief to declare myself atheist, and a relief to begin the slow, difficult process of extricating myself from shame.

In my late 20s, however, I experienced another form of shame. I had betrayed a man I loved. I had betrayed my ideals. In a state of misery I found myself walking into a small Uniting Church. My body fell to weeping and prayer – for aid from a God in whom I no longer believed. On the pew in front of me there was a copy of the New Testament and I began to read it. I read Paul’s letter to the Romans and this time I heard the voice of a man struggling with doubt and confusion, shame and regret. And I heard his words of solace and compassion. My novel Damascus is my attempt to reconcile these two versions of Paul. It is the story of a man, not a saint, since it is the living, breathing, conflicted man who interests me. This is the man we can still hear 2,000 years later through the letters he left us.

Damascus is published by Atlantic (RRP £16.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15.

Continue reading...

Don't panic: the best books to help us survive a crisis

0
0

Joe Moran looks at books on how to keep calm in times of adversity - and take joy where we find it

The coronavirus has put life on hold. In this time of fractured human contact and fear of the unknown, we need to read authors who will embolden us for the hard season ahead, while also offering a calming sense of perspective.

Eula Biss’s book-length essay On Immunity does the trick. She begins with the story of Achilles, whose mother dipped him in the river Styx only to leave the vulnerable spot on his heel where she held him. The story’s moral, in Biss’s words, is that “immunity is a myth … and no mortal can ever be made invulnerable”. And yet she admits that she found this message hard to accept after the birth of her son in 2009 – especially when, shortly afterwards, the swine flu epidemic began. Biss explores how hard it is for even the most clear-eyed of us not to succumb to panic and dread.

Sometimes we need to hunker down just as nature does, paring back to the basics of existence

Related: Got 150 hours? Great audiobooks to listen to on lockdown

Continue reading...

I, Cinna (the Poet) review – Tim Crouch and Jude Owusu are dream teachers

0
0

Available online
A gift for homeschoolers, Owusu dazzles as the poet from Julius Caesar, drawing young viewers into the creative process

The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this film of Tim Crouch’s monologue, part of his series magnifying the experiences of minor characters from Shakespeare.

Originally commissioned for the 2012 World Shakespeare festival and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it was performed last month by Crouch at the Unicorn theatre in London. But the film version from 2012 is on YouTube and I decided to watch it with my 10-year-old, Aggie, who tells me she would usually have maths about now. I’d imagined it would provide an hour of escapism and a bit of a sideways look at history but by the end, Aggie is furiously scribbling her own poem inspired by Cinna’s call for creativity.

Continue reading...

'Everyone is pulling together': poems by NHS workers to raise money for Covid-19 appeal

0
0

Anthology These Are the Hands collects poems from across the health service, from doctors to cleaners

Nurse Audrey Ardern-Jones writes of her colleagues around the world “who in fog-grey mists of locked-up wards / talk gently to the confused, the paranoid”. Consultant paediatric intensivist Colin Begg reflects on a night shift, and the “complexity / and compassion, / heat and harsh lighting / and at its centre, a person / trying not to die”. And medical student Anna Harvey describes working on a donor’s body, “The flesh too different from our own to compare / saturated with preservative.”

All are contributors to a new poetry anthology, These Are the Hands, that collects poems from NHS doctors and nurses at all stages of their careers, as well as others whose vital work keeps the health service going, including cleaners, interpreters and clerical staff.

Continue reading...

My son was diagnosed with autism at five. Did he inherit it from my misunderstood mother?

0
0

When my son was diagnosed, I was told the condition was hereditary. Suddenly my late mother’s ‘eccentric, bossy’ personality began to make sense

Solomon was my first baby. He was loud. He screamed full throttle for an hour until the midwife swaddled him. I knew he was different from the moment I washed his slick dark hair and saw the ecstasy on his face. At home, he’d stare at his ladybird rattle for 15 minutes at a time. He’d gurgle with delight when we sang to him, but scream frenetically at the noise of the Hoover or blender. At postnatal groups, he’d crawl into a corner, alone.

As a toddler, he learned all his times tables from watching a video repeatedly. He adored Thomas The Tank Engine and could quote from it seamlessly. Solomon had hyperlexia, a precocious reading ability. He was exceptional at maths but also an avid reader. He loved words. He’d make up brilliant, onomatopoeic neologisms to describe facial expressions that amused him (an “agarg” was absolute surprise).

My mother used to turn up, unannounced. That would be reasonable, had she not travelled 6,000 miles from Nigeria

Related: Is my autism a superpower?

Continue reading...

Bohemian tragedy: Leonard Cohen and the curse of Hydra

0
0

The musician was inspired by married writers George Johnston and Charmian Clift when he visited the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. But their golden age came at a price

I’ve been noticing of late how often the woman you see in the photograph, with her head on Leonard Cohen’s shoulder is captioned as “Marianne”. In fact, this beauty is of a different and wilder nature. Her name is Charmian Clift, and she was one half of the tragic couple, cited by Cohen as his inspiration and often dubbed “the Ted and Sylvia of Australia”. It was Clift’s memoirPeel Me a Lotus, that first set me on the path to the Greek island of Hydra and to writing a novel set among the artists’ colony of which she and her husband, George Johnston, were the undisputed king and queen.

It is 60 years this month since a 25-year-old Cohen – pre-songwriting and with one collection of poetry under his beltset foot there, hoping to finish blackening the pages of his first novel. He had left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000, and had been attempting to complete three pages a day at a boarding house in Hampstead.

Confused and unstable, at 15 Axel was taken to India and given acid by the father he barely knew

Continue reading...

Poem of the week: Letter to My Daughter by William Palmer

0
0

A parent’s regretful words, ruing miscommunication, sing with clarity and concision

Letter to My Daughter

The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass…

Continue reading...

Bristol celebrates its poet genius who died at just 17

0
0

Poems, exhibitions and a comic book to mark talent of Thomas Chatterton, 250 years after death

He was revered by poets such as Wordsworth, Shelley and Coleridge and a romanticised painting depicting his deathbed remains an enduring image of doomed artistic talent.

Now a series of projects marking the 250th anniversary of the death, at the age of 17, of Bristol-born Thomas Chatterton is under way to remind people of his extraordinary but often forgotten life, and, perhaps, inspire a new generation of Romantic poets.

Continue reading...

'Anti-Asian racism has come roaring back with Covid-19': Cathy Park Hong on being Asian American

0
0

The Minor Feelings author talks about stereotypes in the wake of the coronavirus and being inspired by Richard Pryor

When the state of New York received its first confirmed coronavirus patient, both the New York Times and the New York Post published articles with accompanying pictures of East Asian people, even though the diagnosed woman in the news report had recently travelled to Iran.

“Anti-Asian racism has come roaring back with the coronavirus scare,” says Korean American writer Cathy Park Hong. “People don’t think Asians face racism, but it’s always lurking under the surface. For instance, my friend is worried for his kids. He lives in New York City, and he has a son in school who has been bullied and made fun of for having the coronavirus. There’s this yellow peril stereotype that never goes away.”

White America has flattened our experience to a single story – Minor Feelings is an attempt to overthrow that

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is published by Profile. (£16.99)

Continue reading...