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'He returned to what he really was': Clive James's daughter on his poetic farewell

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Artist Claerwen James on growing up with an extraordinary father – and how she bonded with him in his final months when they compiled an anthology of his favourite verse

Ten months before his death last year at the age of 80, Clive James underwent an eight-hour operation to remove a tumour on his face. Already very frail – he had been suffering from leukaemia for a decade – afterwards it took him almost a week to emerge fully into consciousness. “And even then, he was foggy,” says his daughter, the artist Claerwen James. “He couldn’t really see, which meant he couldn’t really read – and that had never been the case before.” For her father, this was not a small thing, whatever the size of his other problems. Words were his life raft.

But all was not lost. “The resource that he did have was the poetry he knew,” she says. “And he wanted to hear it. He’d recite a bit – sometimes, he’d have only a verse – and whoever was sitting with him would look up the next part, and read it to him. He loved this, and then he would often say a little about it. He’d tell us when he had first heard the poem, or point out which bit was most difficult to say.” Together, he and his readers got into a rhythm. “We started writing down all the poems he wanted to hear, and the relevant anecdotes, and in this way a manuscript began to emerge without him willing it.” If this felt at the time like a small miracle, it was also, in context, perfectly ordinary: “He was always working on something. There was literally never a moment when he wasn’t – and now, there was this. A pile of poems.”

Related: Clive James – a life in pictures

He was so much fun to be around. Everything was interesting. Everything was material

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Poem of the week: Huia by Bill Manhire

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Giving voice to a now extinct New Zealand bird, this is a plaintive but urgent warning about ecological fragility

Huia

I was the first of birds to sing
I sang to signal rain
the one I loved was singing
and singing once again

Big brother
says also but the baby always says wow
though soon enough she too is saying also
and listening to her father say later
and to the way her mother sighs and says
now would also be a very good time

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France divided over calls for Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine to be reburied in Panthéon

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Petition says the poets, who were lovers as young men, were ‘the French Oscar Wildes’ and deserve to rest in the mausoleum

France’s cultural elite are split over whether the remains of two of the country’s greatest poets, Arthur Rimbaud and his lover Paul Verlaine, should be dug up and re-interred in the Panthéon in Paris.

The secular mausoleum is home to French greats including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and Marie Curie. Now a petition signed by more than 5,000 people, including culture minister Roselyne Bachelot and a host of her predecessors, is calling on president Emmanuel Macron to allow Rimbaud and Verlaine to join them.

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Archive, 29 September 1980: first Poetry Olympics held in Westminster Abbey

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29 September 1980 Ten poets performed polemical poems, romantic ones, inspirational, tedious, long-winded and frankly inane ones

According to its originator Michael Horovitz, the aim of the Poetry Olympics is to encourage a rebirth of the spirit of Poetry and of the public’s interest in it. By that criterion the first Olympics, held in the appropriate and splendid surroundings of Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, must qualify as a success. Ten poets performed (if performing is what poets do) and the pews were packed – a fact due in no small measure to the presence of Gregory Corso, the American Beat poet, and Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke, whose work in reggae and rock music contexts has opened up poetry to an audience who might otherwise keep it at more than arm’s length.

The spirit of poetry aside, what the Olympics did show was the highly variegated and diversely shaped condition of the body. There were polemical poems, romantic ones, inspirational, tedious, long-winded and frankly inane ones. Russian emigre Edward Limonoz provided bitter-sweet comment on the state of the Russian Revolution; Dennis Lee from Canada, whose kaftan and beard actually gave him the impression of someone impersonating a poet, delivered whimsical nonsense about pixies; while the American Ann Stevenson gave us a poem called Swifts, perhaps the most quietly celebratory and life-affirming work to be heard all evening, in which simple truths surfaced with a natural and unforced elegance.

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Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz review – fearless, sinuous and breathtaking

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Natalie Diaz’s second collection plunges the reader into Native American culture and bold takes on sexual love

Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She grew up on the banks of the Colorado river and water is her element. Her second collection, nominated for the Forward prize, is authoritative, original and sinuous. It is a fascinating plunge into Diaz’s culture, especially in The First Water Is the Body, a long, defiant, breathtaking poem in which she shares the way she sees river and person as one: “The river runs through the middle of my body.” Water and its fate are also fused with the treatment of Native American people as “exhibits from The American Water Museum” states plainly:

Let me tell you a story about water:
Once upon a time there was us.
America’s thirst tried to drink us away.
And here we still are.

Related: Natalie Diaz: 'It is an important and dangerous time for language'

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Michael Rosen on his Covid-19 coma: ‘It felt like a pre-death, a nothingness’

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Earlier this year, the beloved children’s writer spent six weeks on a ventilator with coronavirus. He talks about the magic of the NHS, the mismanagement of the crisis and how his near-death experience has changed him

“I’m drinking lemon tea,” Michael Rosen says. “Would you like some? It’s what my mother used to call Russian tea, by the way.” And before I am through the kitchen door of his north London home, he has given me a potted history of Russian tea. It is classic Rosen. Rarely does a sentence pass without the much-loved children’s poet and author teaching you something. There are anecdotes within anecdotes, tangents galore and an astonishing frame of reference – from the Palestinian professor Edward Said on “othering” to the former footballer Gordon Strachan on resilience, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah on us all being migrants and the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, on memory banks – and back again. “Sorry to inflict the Arsenal mug on a Man City fan,” he says with a wicked smile. Rosen, it seems, knows everything about everybody.

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old contracted Covid-19. He spent seven weeks in intensive care, six of them on a ventilator. His hair is white and thinner (although still pretty lush), he wears a hearing aid because his left ear is buggered, the bags under his eyes are more scrotal than ever, his left eye is fogged over, his voice is underpowered and he struggles with his breathing. Then there is the dizziness, numb toes, increased arthritis and blood clots on his lungs. Having said that, he is doing amazingly well. He is not hobbling around his kitchen, but cantering. He is writing books and newspaper columns, performing on his YouTube channel (run by his son Joe; 86m views), tweeting like billy-o. And yet there is something different about him.

There was a bit of me that resigned myself to the fact that I would be in a wheelchair

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Top 10 verse novels | Sarah Crossan

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From Homer’s classical epic to Kae Tempest’s mythic struggles in modern London, these books show that poetry can be more immediate than prose

Verse novels have been with us for millennia, yet when you publish one, many are surprised by your breach of the prose-novel tradition and also somewhat fearful of trying something new.

It is curious how we love poems as children, and as adults drag them out for weddings and funerals – and yet in our day-to-day lives feel poetry doesn’t belong to us. When I speak at events the overwhelming refrain from my audiences is that poetry is difficult and makes readers feel ignorant. But the verse novel, well that’s something slightly different. As a poet I write with melody in mind, but as a novelist, story is king, so if showing off with language will muddy my reader’s ability to engage with the characters, I scratch it out and try again, and most verse novelists I read do the same.

Related: Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan review – subversive spin on adultery

Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan is published by Bloomsbury. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.

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Petina Gappah: 'Last book to make me laugh? The cheese chapter in Three Men in a Boat'

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The Zimbabwean writer and lawyer on crying over Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, the influence of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the books she feels have been overlooked in 2020

The book I am currently reading
Belonging, the second part of Simon Schama’s magisterial series The Story of the Jews.

The books that changed my life
Peter Schaffer’s playsEquus and Amadeus. Reading them as scripts inspired me to become a playwright.

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Authors hope The Lost Words followup will inspire action and change

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The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris celebrates the magic of British wildlife

Their last book of poems about everyday wildlife became an international cultural phenomenon. Now Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, the creators of The Lost Words, have produced a new book conjuring up the magic of British wildlife in a time of ecological crisis.

The Lost Spells, which celebrates barn owls, swifts, gorse and foxes through poems and artwork, is already being adapted for music and film projects and live performances, including a concert to be livestreamed from the Natural History Museum early next year.

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Derek Mahon, Belfast-born giant of Irish poetry, dies aged 78

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Poet famed for A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford and Everything Is Going to be All Right, read on national TV as the pandemic hit, has died after a short illness

Derek Mahon, the Belfast-born poet who became an immense figure in Irish poetry with poems such as A Disused Shed in Co Wexford and Courtyards in Delft, has died at the age of 78 after a short illness.

Mahon, whose poetry career spanned a half-century, was most often compared to WH Auden, Louis MacNeice and Samuel Beckett, with the critic Brendan Kennelly calling him “a Belfast Keats with a Popean sting”. Several of his poems became staples of school curricula, and, as Ireland locked down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, RTÉ ended its evening news bulletin with Mahon reading his poem Everything Is Going to be All Right, which includes the lines: “There will be dying, there will be dying, / but there is no need to go into that.”

Related: Derek Mahon: 'An Englishman in France is an expat, but an Irishman is an exile'

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Kae Tempest: what I have learned from 20 years on the mic

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The poet and musician reflects on the alchemy between artist and audience – and how storytelling unites a room

James Joyce told me once: “In the particular is contained the universal.” I appreciated the advice. It taught me that the closer attention I pay to my “particular”, the better chance I have of reaching you in yours.

I’ve been getting on the mic for 20 years now, desperate for every opportunity to speak and be heard. Along the way, I’ve walked into a lot of rooms and thought to myself, Man, I don’t know how it’s going to happen tonight. I’ve felt myself judged. Felt myself the wrong person for the occasion. I’ve looked out at crowds and judged them. Been faced with people who I know are not “my people”, and thought, There’s no way you and I are going to get there together. And time and time again I’ve been proved wrong.

The writer’s intentions for their own work are as misguided as a parent’s intentions for the life of their child

Related: Biggest books of autumn 2020: what to read in a very busy year

On Connection by Kae Tempest is published by Faber & Faber.

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How a TV baseball movie inspired late Lennon love song

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Beatles expert studied dozens of obscure films to solve mystery of the 1980s track Grow Old With Me

A month before he was shot dead in December 1980, John Lennon released the song Grow Old With Me, its lyrics drawn from a Robert Browning poem.

Inspiration for the song was known to have come to Lennon in July that year, while watching a film about baseball during a visit to Bermuda. Now, after a somewhat quixotic hunt that involved scouring television schedules and watching dozens of obscure movies, a leading Beatles scholar has identified the exact film, solving a mystery that has lasted for decades.

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Poem of the week: Oh wert thou in the cauld blast by Robert Burns

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A heartening song of love and hope to warm spirits as the outside world gets chillier

Oh wert thou in the cauld blast

Oh wert thou in the cauld blast,
On yonder lea, on yonder lea;
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee:
Or did Misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a’.

Related: Poem of the week: Huia by Bill Manhire

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Kae Tempest publishes first book since revealing they are non-binary

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On Connection, which draws on their life struggles and creative joys, was written ‘for others who don’t fit’

The award-winning poet and musician Kae Tempest has published their first work since announcing they are non-binary, a meditation on creativity and connection written for “others who don’t fit”.

On Connection, published this week by Faber & Faber, explores how in a time of division, “immersion in creativity can bring us closer to each other”. It is Tempest’s first piece of writing since the acclaimed artist announced they would be changing their name to Kae, and their pronoun to they in August.

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Rage, white supremacy and roses: the art that sums up the Trump era

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CocoRosie’s call to arms, a mauling from Michelle Wolf, Arthur Jafa’s white supremacy montage and Melania Trump’s gardening … Guardian writers pick the moments that encapsulate Trump’s reign

Since he’s a former real-estate tycoon, it seems fitting that Donald Trump’s tenure should express itself in some sort of building. So which edifice best defines his era? Well, there is the “big, beautiful wall” planned for the border with Mexico. “Nobody builds walls better than me!” he declared, yet so far just a few miles of steel fence have materialised, some of it already blown over in the wind.

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From standup to stanzas: Frank Skinner's terrific guide to poetry

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The comedian’s new podcast is bursting with enthusiasm for poems. If standup forces him to be funny, here he forces himself to be true

‘Phwooar – Ginsy Ginsy Ginsy, I love you so much!” You won’t find that in FR Leavis. The “Ginsy” in question is beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The literary critic is Frank Skinner, deconstructing Ginsberg’s Sunflower Sutra on his Absolute Radio poetry podcast. Now embarking on its second series, the podcast is a terrific listen: bursting with enthusiasm for its chosen poems and constantly amusing about Skinner’s relationship with them. The standup is also quite brilliant at giving us footholds on the verses under review: Parnassus never felt so approachable.

Has it got anything to do with Skinner’s comedy? Well, it certainly tells you plenty about the man, and makes you wonder whether he might have taken up stanzas not standup, had that not felt like an even bigger leap from his lowly Black Country beginnings. That’s the take-home from episode one of this second series, in which Skinner discusses Liz Berry’s poem Birmingham Roller, about the West Midlands pigeon that cavorted in the skies of Berry’s (and Skinner’s) youth.

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I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke review - wry and dry

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The ‘bargain-basement Baudelaire’ looks back at his life with an unflinching gaze, plus plenty of gags and mad anecdotes

When the teenage John Cooper Clarke announced he wanted to be a poet, his alarmed parents asked for examples of people who had made a living from it. “I discovered that most modern poets had to work as teachers, bank clerks, insurance salesmen, doctors, diplomats, railroad workers, tax collectors, publishers or postal clerks,” he recalls in his memoir. Even Philip Larkin “turned out to be a librarian by day”. His father’s feelings about these literary aspirations were summed up in three words: “Get a job.” So he did.

Before his beatification as “the Bard of Salford” (though he prefers “the bargain-basement Baudelaire”), Clarke was variously a bookie’s runner, an apprentice car mechanic, a cutter in the rag trade, a lab technician, a fire-watcher at a naval dockyard and a trainee printer. But at no point did he give up on his ambition to be a poet. Early on he realised that, in order to get paid, he would need to combine his way with words with live entertainment. In the early 1970s, he road-tested poems such as “Salome”, “I Married a Monster from Outer Space” and “Kung Fu International” at local comedy clubs (Bernard Manning was an unlikely mentor).

I have a delicate ego and what I require from an audience is a unanimous display of carefully considered adulation

Related: Arctic Monkeys review – cheesy irony dissolves into masterful rock'n'roll

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Louise Glück wins the 2020 Nobel prize in literature

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The Swedish Academy has chosen the American poet, citing her ‘unmistakable poetic voice’

The poet Louise Glück has become the first American woman to win the Nobel prize for literature in 27 years, cited for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

Glück is the 16th woman to win the Nobel, and the first American woman since Toni Morrison took the prize in 1993. The American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was a surprise winner in 2016.

Related: Louise Glück: where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner

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Louise Glück: where to start with an extraordinary Nobel winner

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Poet Fiona Sampson explains why she admires the 2020 Nobel laureate and picks her favourite poems from a long career

I have been reading Louise Glück for more than 20 years, longer than the many poets whose star has risen and waned in the meantime; longer than I’ve been writing poetry. Perhaps this is why I’m so moved and excited by today’s announcement that the 77-year old American has won the Nobel prize in literature.

But I think it’s much more than this. The 12 collections (and two chapbooks) of poetry that Glück has published to date vary enormously in style and theme, from the domestic and familial stories of her first books, 1968’s aptly-titled Firstborn and her breakthrough second collection The House on Marshland (1975), to the fabular and increasingly philosophic writing of later work like Averno (2006) – named for the entrance to the Classical underworld – and her most recent collection, Faithful and Virtuous Night (2014). But what unites all this work is a quality of lucid, calm attention. You read a passage by Glück and think, Ah yes, of course, this is how it is. She has the extraordinary writer’s gift of making clear what is, outside the world of her poem, complex.

Fiona Sampson is a poet. Her latest collection is Come Down (Corsair 2020).

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Louise Glück: Colm Tóibín on a brave and truthful Nobel winner

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Her brilliantly controlled poems offer a picture of the world as a struggle between ordeal and wonder

In Stanford in 2008, the Irish poet Eavan Boland told me how much she admired the work of Louise Glück. She took down some volumes of her poetry from the shelf in her office and gave them to me.

That night I read the opening lines of a poem:

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