A footnote to this week's poem by Lotte Kramer (published in The Rialto, No. 80, Spring-Summer 2014) tells us that the poet "is a survivor of that small exodus of children organised by the kindertransport movement in the 1930s".Continue reading...
Felix Dennis cackling laugh, roistering humour, ribald in appetite, loyal and immensely generous has died aged 67 from cancer. One of the richest men in Britain, he made his money in magazine publishing, and was ruthless to the core when it came to pursuing a business opportunity: "I'm an amoral sod," he said.
He was unembarrassed by a decade of excess in the 1980s, during which he spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on drink and crack cocaine, with "14 naked hookers catering to my every whim," he boasted, and "partying like a lunatic". In later years, he wrote poetry and, following the publication of his first collection, A Glass Half Full (2002), undertook reading tours like a rock star, travelling by jet or helicopter to gigs.Continue reading...
A poem with the enigmatic title Sign to Be Erected at the Gate to Argyle Wood sums up in many ways the character of Felix Dennis, the publisher, wide-boy and latter-day poet who has died of cancer at the age of 67.
It was Judge Michael Argyle who, at the Old Bailey in 1971, jailed Dennis along with his two fellow editors of the underground magazine Oz. Argyle famously gave Dennis the shortest sentence because he was "the least intelligent", but his hopelessly flawed summing-up led to a successful appeal and subsequent ridicule.Continue reading...
No trade union leader since the second world war had to cope with such a catalogue of disasters, nor become so embroiled in a climate of political and industrial decline, as Norman Willis, the former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, who has died aged 81. As TUC general secretary for nine years from 1984 and before that as No 2 to Len Murray for almost 11 years, Willis was at the ringside, and then inside the ring, during what was one of the most traumatic and damaging periods in British trade union history.
The TUC had reached record membership levels of more than 12 million affiliated trade unionists under the leadership successively of George Woodcock, Victor Feather and Murray. The role of leading the TUC then fell to Willis a jolly, humorous man. It was, however, a poisoned chalice. He presided over a period in which the very phrase "trade union" seemed to evoke ignominious response and even ridicule. When he took over from Murray in mid-stream of the miners' strike the decline in TUC membership had already begun. By the time Willis left Congress House in 1993, membership had dropped to below eight million.Continue reading...
Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)
Director: Alan Rudolph
Entertainment grade: C
History grade: A
Dorothy Parker is widely remembered as one of the wittiest and sharpest writers of the 20th century. She was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a legendary lunching group of writers, critics and creative hangers-on who met daily at the Algonquin Hotel in New York between 1919 and 1929.Continue reading...
An impromptu drinking ditty, dashed off in pencil by Dylan Thomas while seated at a London bar, is to be published for the first time after coming to light during the centenary of the poet's birth.
The ode to the pub was discovered by Fred Jarvis, a former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, in papers belonging to his late wife, Anne, whose parents knew Thomas.Continue reading...
Music and poetry can be a powerful combination. The Show of Hands singer-songwriter Steve Knightley and the actor Jim Carter have known each other since the 80s, and are now joined by Carter's wife, the actress Imelda Staunton, for an emotional concept set, marking the start of the first world war. The first album includes angry and bitter poetry by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, the black trench humour of Edgell Rickword and the pained, poignant I Have a Rendezvous With Death, written by Pete Seeger's uncle, Alan Seeger an American volunteer who indeed died in the fighting along with the patriotic poems of Jessie Pope, who encouraged men to enlist. All are matched against subtle, atmospheric musical backing, making use of songs from the era. A second album includes new Knightley songs and a beatbox harmonica treatment of It's a Long Way to Tipperary.Continue reading...
Summer literature doesn't stop with Sonnet 18, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Le Grand Meaulnes, Ulysses, The Great Gatsby and Whitsun Weddings. Here are a few more sun-drenched pages to mark this week's arrival of the season.
Alexander Pope, Summer Second Pastoral (1735)
Source of the "where'er you walk" lines that Handel turned into the accompaniment for many a bride's entrance.
On 31 July 1914, Ernst Stadler had to change his plans. That afternoon, paper boys in the centre of Strasbourg had delivered news of the conflict between Germany and France. Would the university town soon become the frontline, the papers wondered. "Commotion in town," the German poet wrote in his diary. The day before, he had been set to leave Strasbourg. He would have a new life as an associate professor in German at the University of Toronto. But now Europe would keep him. Stadler, who had been a reserve lieutenant since 1907, was ordered to report to the 80th field artillery regiment in Colmar. "Evening lecture cancelled," he wrote. "Morning shopping: revolver."
Britain's poet-soldiers, in the national folklore, were the prophets who beheld the pity of war before it became apparent to the rest of the nation. Germany's poets had a less noble reputation: they lunged for their Lugers at the first opportunity. And for Stadler's generation as a whole, the generalisation isn't too broad. "How the hearts of all poets were on fire when war came!" Thomas Mann wrote later that summer. "It was a cleansing, a release that we experienced, and an incredible sense of hope."Continue reading...
With next week being Children's Book Week, I would like to put in a word for poetry in the hope that parents will pick up a book of poems at bedtime. Evidence shows that many children first discover poetry through their parents. I myself dipped into my father's books of poetry that were left lying around when I was child. I can still remember being moved by the music of the words and the pictures created in my mind.I'm not suggesting the poem replaces the story, but a poem read aloud casts its own spell and can hold children enthralled, awakening in them a new awareness and love of language. Poetry never forgets its roots in song. Children love the sound and associations of words; the surprise of images; of getting their tongues around the music of vowels and consonants. Pre-schoolers and older children enjoy the chance to feel the rhythm of the words through clapping, stamping and other movements. We can all remember the rumbustious enjoyment of nursery rhymes.
Libraries are currently promoting Children's Book Week and they usually have a great selection of poetry for children and parents to enjoy together. Nevertheless it strikes me as a bit of a shame that for older readers, poetry is found in a separate section in the library or bookshop whilst children's poetry can be found with picture books, fiction and non-fiction on the children's shelves. Might that be a barrier in itself to encouraging parents to pick up a book of poetry for their own and their children's pleasure?
Judge, Foyle Young Poets Award 2014
I am looking too hard, or this scene is looking too hard
at me. Turn of the century and the last Chief Rabbi of Crete
is standing by seven naked bulbs, the first electric light
in town. What of the chandelier, a shiver of gold
chrysanthemums or, if you prefer, the roof?
He has decades to go, this Rabbi. They'll bury him in 1933.
Imagined Sons by Carrie Etter consists of a title sequence of prose poems, framed and interspersed by 10 poems shaped in the call-response form of the catechism. This week's poem is the third of these, and shares their common title A Birthmother's Catechism.Continue reading...
The Irish author Dermot Healy, whose poetry and novels drew him fans from Seamus Heaney to Roddy Doyle, has died aged 66.Continue reading...
The cupboards are full to bursting, the judges mopping their brows as they start to fill nine slots on the 2014 Guardian first book award longlist from the publishers' nominations. But now it's your chance to help us find the 10th, as we throw the doors wide for readers to tell us about this year's most exciting debut.
Last year saw a triumph for poetry, as Claire Trévien's Shipwrecked House was voted on to the 2013 longlist . She followed in the footsteps of Sarah Jackson, whose collection Pelt was longlisted in 2012, and Juan Pablo Villalobos, whose novel Down the Rabbit Hole was the first readers' selection back in 2011.Continue reading...
The Irish writer Dermot Healy, who has died aged 66, was once described by Seamus Heaney as "the heir to Patrick Kavanagh". If Healy's poetry was steeped in the same rural tradition as Kavanagh's, his novels evoked a more fractured interior world, with characters who often seemed haunted or on the verge of psychological disintegration. "A lot of people are able to see better, see what's there," Healy once said of his writing, "but I might see what I think is there."
Despite being lauded in Ireland, where A Fool's Errand was shortlisted for the 2011 Irish Times poetry prize, Healy remained a bafflingly under-appreciated writer elsewhere. He wrote five works of fiction, including A Goat's Song (1994), one of the great Irish novels of recent times, as well as several volumes of plays and poetry and an acclaimed memoir, The Bend for Home (1996). His fellow writer Pat McCabe described the latter book as "probably the finest memoir written in Ireland in the last 50 years", while Roddy Doyle once called Healy "Ireland's finest living novelist".Continue reading...
I had known about Eva Hesse's work for years, but the moment I really paid attention was when I visited an exhibition of what she called "test pieces" in Edinburgh in 2009. Hesse, who was German-Jewish, emigrated with her family to New York in 1939 when she was three. She died from a brain tumour when she was just 34. "I would like the work to be non-work," she once wrote. "This means that it would find its way beyond my preconceptions."
The "test pieces" (also known as studioworks) are difficult to describe. They are small objects that initially appear to be offcuts, or abandoned starting points. They seem unrealised and unsustainable, not least because Hesse often used perishable materials such as latex, wax, string, cheesecloth and plaster, which she made luminously strange. This sense of incompleteness is amplified by the fact that many look as if they ought to contain something. They are almost envelopes, bottles, boxes or bowls things we usually discard on our way towards what matters.Continue reading...
In this blog Rowena talks to fellow contributors to the War Girls anthology including Melvin Burgess and Anne Fine about the impact of first world war poetry and fiction and why finding out about the first world war remains significant for a new generation
Remembering the first world war, with its poems and poppies, is somehow part of being British. I'm not talking about the actual events: very few people can remember those now. I mean the powerful words and harrowing pictures which bring home the reality of that war.
But why bother remembering? Isn't there enough violence today without fretting over the past? Well, yes and no.
When I was a reporter with Reuters, I witnessed the end of Ethiopia's 30-year civil war, and wrote about the terrible human toll of other conflicts as well. But seeing modern warfare first-hand didn't erase the horror I'd felt when reading Wilfred Owen's first world war poems at school. His haunting images of life and death in the trenches will stay with me forever.
Berlie Doherty told me about a similar experience when she was a girl. "It wasn't until I was a teenager, loving poetry, that I read the likes of Wilfred Owen and began to comprehend the utter horror, waste and devastation of those years. In Owen's time men and boys wanted to fight: it was a glorious thing to be fighting to save our country from the enemy. Nothing of that came over to me the sentiment of 'Pro Patria Mori' ['To die for one's country' - a phrase in one of his most famous poems] seemed a horrifying con trick. Owen's poetry took me into the very heart of the crime that was war."Continue reading...
There's no "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways", or "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" here: instead, a new list of the 50 greatest love poems ranges from Maya Angelou to Vikram Seth and from Pakistan to Nigeria.
Chosen by poetry specialists at the Southbank Centre, instead of focusing on more traditional options by the likes of Barrett Browning and Shakespeare, the selectors looked at work written over the last 50 years to come up with their list. The American Angelou was chosen for her lyrical plea, Come, and Be My Baby, in which the poet writes: "you sit wondering / What you're gonna do. / I got it. / Come. And be my baby", while Indian author Seth makes the list for the mournful All You Who Sleep Tonight"Know that you aren't alone / The whole world shares your tears".Continue reading...
News: John Masefield's unseen tributes to King George VI revealed
Song of the Birds for the Queen's Majesty
The April sends her message forth:-
"Come back, you Birds, into the North".
Back the Birds come.
The words ring, that were dumb.