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Mohammad Reza Shajarian embodied the timeless beauty of Persian music

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The singer, who has died aged 80, was silenced in his home nation for his outspoken criticism – but his artistry played on in the hearts of Iranians at home and abroad

I vividly remember the first time I met Mohammad Reza Shajarian on a summer afternoon in Berlin in 2011. He was touring Europe, along with his daughter Mojgan and an ensemble of young musicians. For Iranians, this was – along with North America – the only place they could experience their great idol on stage, given that the outspoken maestro of Persian classical music had been banned from performing inside Iran two years earlier.

Related: Iranian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian dies aged 80

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Derek Mahon obituary | Sean O’Brien

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One of the great poets of his native Ireland who combined an apocalyptic vision with a utopian sense of survival

Derek Mahon, who has died aged 78, was one of the great poets of his native Ireland and of the English-speaking world. He was routinely discussed alongside his contemporaries Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley, although his work was utterly different from that of either.

To poets growing up from the 1960s onwards, Mahon’s early books, such as The Snow Party (1975) and The Hunt by Night (1982), were an inspiration and a challenge. His poems were lyrical, witty, ironic, succinct, cosmopolitan, rich in phrase and image. Their formal splendour could be breathtaking. Mahon was capable of both grandeur and the demotic, wide-ranging in history and literature, environmentally and socially engaged but no one’s spokesman. His work combined an apocalyptic vision with a utopian sense of survival and renewal.

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Poem of the month: jay by Robert Macfarlane

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Jay, Jay, plant me an acorn.
I will plant you a thousand acorns.

Acorn, acorn, grow me an oak.
I will grow you an oak that will live
for a thousand years.

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I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke review – chapter and verse

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This riveting memoir of the Salford dandy’s ascent to national treasuredom charms with tales of heroin and Sugar Puffs

Even at the start, John Cooper Clarke never had stage fright. “They say about people in showbusiness, ‘They ain’t got something extra, they got something missing’.” In Clarke’s case, he was untroubled by self-doubt, and however low he sank, that never changed. You can hear it right through this wild ride of a memoir, in the sardonic Salford drawl that’s always ready with a quip or a comeback. Here, that voice takes a while to tune into, for it’s strange to have this dandified poet suddenly present himself in the plain clothes of prose. When he recalls his family, for instance, I couldn’t help think of his magnificently gloomy A Distant Relation: “All of our yesterday’s./ Familiar rings,/ I have to get away,/ Its breaking my heartstrings,/ We have a drink,/ On special occasions,/ It makes me think,/ About distant relations.” But the truth is in every way more prosaic. The young poet loved his mum and dad and most other members of his clan.

A nervous, malnourished youth, born in 1949, the young John survived a bout of TB to grow up in the largely Jewish neighbourhood of Higher Broughton (“Had I seen Schindler’s List? I was on Schindler’s List – Dr Schindler my dentist, that is”). When his mother went shopping, she parked him at the Rialto picture house, where a lifelong passion for movies was born. A bookish teen who hated school, where he was chastised for his “lack of team spirit”, he immersed himself in Mad magazine, comic books and pulp fiction, not to mention clothes, music, adverts, hair styles, modern art, football and showbusiness. The intricacy of detail he supplies is staggering, right down to his uncle’s “beautiful pale-blue and cream Dansette”, and you start to wonder: is he going to tell us everything? Apparently yes, because he’s forgotten absolutely nothing. This is the Lancashire lad as mohair-suited Proust, weak of lung but iron of will, plotting his course from antic poète maudit to punk laureate with all points in between.

Related: John Cooper Clarke: 'My trousers? River Island or M&S. The skinniest they do'

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The best recent poetry collections – review roundup

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Runaway by Jorie Graham; It Says Here by Sean O’Brien; The Problem of the Many by Timothy Donnelly; and The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Jorie Graham’s poetry uniquely portrays the struggle to understand, to do the right thing, and above all to find meaning in the world’s “rich concentrate”. Her characteristically questioning work previously engaged with physics, history and personal morality, and now turns its attention to accelerating planetary crisis. Runaway (Carcanet, £12.99) was completed before the pandemic, but its capacious understanding makes it as able to speak to this as to climate breakdown and global suffering. Graham juxtaposes individual experience, “such local temporary wonders”, with an almost incomprehensible scale of disaster. She’s not the first to do so. “The Hiddenness of the World” pays homage to Edward Thomas’s first world war poem “At the Team’s Head Brass” while echoing Thomas Hardy’s contemporaneous “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’”. But she’s doing it with urgency and an attention so exceptional it comes out as tenderness: “falling all round u / is gazing, thinking, attempted love, exhausted love”. Sweeping lines and fractured phrases, ampersands and italics, lines unexpectedly justified right: all of these wake us up to “the freshness of what’s / there”.

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Poem of the week: The Bread of Childhood by Ihor Pavlyuk

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The past becomes almost magically present again in this potent Ukrainian elegy

The Bread of Childhood

Grandmother’s pyrohy oozing cherries, the soil
Fragrant with spring,
These are the heart’s embroidered memories
Touched by the cry
Of a crane.

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Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat named International Writer of Courage

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The author, imprisoned without charge since 2001, was chosen to share the PEN Pinter prize by 2020’s winner Linton Kwesi Johnson

The Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat, who was arrested in 2001 and is believed still to be detained in a maximum security prison, has been named International Writer of Courage by Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Johnson won the PEN Pinter prize earlier this year, for his “political ferocity” and “tireless scrutiny of history”. Accepting the prize last night, the Jamaican dub poet named Asrat, a poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Zemen, as the International Writer of Courage winner with whom he will share his prize. This award goes to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs, with previous recipients including the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano.

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Ivor Cutler by KT Tunstall review – a plum of a programme

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Tunstall’s celebration of the eccentric, poet and performer didn’t eschew more difficult testimony, but made a heartfelt love letter to a charming and yet slightly unsettling man

To me, Ivor Cutler was simply the author of the children’s book Meal One, in which a child and his mother find ways of coping as the plum stone the boy has dropped down a crack in the floorboards rapidly grows into a tree and takes over the house. It was charming and yet slightly unsettling at the same time.

By the end of Ivor Cutler by KT Tunstall – Sky Arts’ beautiful, heartfelt love letter from the singer to the poet/singer/humorist/unimpeachable link in the chain of great British eccentrics, and her long-time idol – I knew a lot more. Including that Meal One perhaps contains the essence of what turned out to be a charming and yet slightly unsettling man, whose career grew and flourished for nearly 60 years and which he seems to have at times allowed to take over his house.

Related: The wizard of odd

Related: Ivor, my inspiration

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Top 10 books about creative writing

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From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft

The poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It, I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.

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TS Eliot prize unveils 'unsettling, captivating' shortlist

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Judges say the 10 poetry collections nominated for £25,000 award are ‘as urgent as they are artful’

The prestigious TS Eliot prize has revealed a shortlist that shows that poetry is “the most resilient, potent, capacious and universal art we have”.

Announcing the 10 titles in the running for the £25,000 award for the year’s best collection, the most valuable prize in British poetry, the poet and chair of judges, Lavinia Greenlaw, said the jury had been “unsettled, captivated and compelled” by the books they chose.

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‘She never stops making demands on herself’: how US poet Louise Glück won the Nobel

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A writer of wisdom and grit, Glück sets a new course for each collection

  • Read Telescope, by Louise Glück, below

Readers who follow American poetry closely noticed Louise Glück in the 1970s. The rest of the literary world mostly took her Nobel prize last week as a surprise. And no wonder. She is not particularly topical, nor internationally influential; like the sadder-but-wiser adults who populate her later work, she can seem to keep her own counsel, to withdraw. That attitude is not so much a limit as a condition for her success, over a lifetime of serious, often terse, introspective, unsettling, sometimes exhilarating work. Like all authors of her calibre she harbours contradictions. Read her 12 collections (and two chapbooks) of poetry for the first time, and they may seem almost all of a piece. Read them again, though, and the divisions pop out: she has said that she tries to change, to challenge herself, even to reverse direction with each new book, and if you go deep enough you can see how she’s right.

Do not begin at the beginning; Firstborn (1969) was apprentice work. Instead, look at poems from The House on Marshland (1975) and the volumes that followed (available in the UK as The First Five Books of Poems). These elegantly laconic pieces portrayed women or girls seeking certainty and stability in a world whose only stable truths were grim. Glück’s version of Gretel, after escaping the witch, cannot stop imagining the oven in which her brother almost died: she feels as if she had not saved him. A poem called “Here Are My Black Clothes” begins: “I think now it is better to love no one / than to love you.” “Love Poem” condemns a lover or an ex: “No wonder you are the way you are, / afraid of blood, your women / like one brick wall after another.”

Glück’s poems face truths that most people deny: the way old age comes for us if we’re lucky; the promises we can't keep

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Michael Rosen to publish book about his near-fatal Covid-19 ordeal

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Beloved children’s author will reflect on illness that put him in intensive care for 47 days using mix of poems and nurses’ ward notes

After spending 47 days in intensive care fighting coronavirus, Michael Rosen is bringing out a book about his experiences with the illness, from the doctor who said he had a 50/50 chance of survival to the nurses who cared for him while in a coma.

The former children’s laureate, one of Britain’s most beloved authors, will publish Many Different Kinds of Love, a mix of prose poems and extracts from the notes written by nurses on his hospital ward, in March next year – 12 months after he first fell ill. The poet went home in June having lost most of the sight in his left eye and hearing in his left ear, and having to learn to walk again.

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

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On my radar: John Cooper Clarke's cultural highlights

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The poet on vintage TV, elegant writing about architecture and Dylan’s endearing take on the Great American Songbook

John Cooper Clarke is a performance poet, comedian and presenter who rose to fame in the 1970s as one of the first “punk poets”. He was born in Salford in 1949 and his third album, Walking Back to Happiness, released in 1979, featured the UK top 40 song Gimmix! (Play Loud). Clarke has toured with Linton Kwesi Johnson, and performed alongside the Sex Pistols, Joy Division and Buzzcocks. He released his first poetry collection, Ten Years in An Open Necked Shirt,in 1983 and has appeared on TV shows including Would I Lie to You? and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. His memoir, I Wanna Be Yours, about growing up in a Salford suburb, is published this month.

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Poem of the week: It Was As If a Ladder by Jane Hirshfield

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This enigmatic symbolic narrative has unsettling resonance for our times

It Was As If a Ladder

It was as if
a ladder,

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Letters: Anne Stevenson obituary

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Dennis Butts writes: Anne Stevenson was a lovely person whom I got to know when she taught creative writing at Bulmershe College, Reading, in the 1970s. She was a splendid teacher, always encouraging and sympathetic to young students, but also firm and clear about standards.

She arranged visits by such poets as Andrew Motion and Vernon Scannell, and helped publish a selection of the students’ work. One highlight was when she organised a punt-picnic for the students on the Cherwell at Oxford. I always thought that she would make a great professor of poetry there.

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Country diary: these rocks are all trying to tell us something

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Ilkey Moor, West Yorkshire: The message in the neolithic cup-and-ring marks is harder to read than Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones

Air races over Ilkley Moor. New rivers leave it as fast as they can, and its trees die young. What endures is rock, and the rocks, it seems, are trying to tell us something. Hundreds of them bear prehistoric “cup-and-ring” marks: circular hollows pecked with tools of harder stone and concentric halos, like Van Gogh stars. The motif recurs so widely in ancient rock art, it’s hard not to conclude that it must represent some universal experience.

Related: Ancient wonders: five little-known archaeological sites in the UK

Related: Written in stone: why walkers are finding poetry in West Yorkshire

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