The other day I read a description of a crowd outside Buckingham Palace: “fifty percent selfie sticks, fifty percent Periscopers”. I still don’t own a selfie stick. But I have an awful feeling a fledgling Periscoper is what I am.Continue reading...
A Violence of Gifts, Mark Bowden’s ambitious new piece, takes inspiration from the latest scientific findings about the origins of the universe. Paired with Haydn’s Creation and Holst’s The Planets in concert it should be a mind-blowing evening
This is fascinating: Mark Bowden’s new work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which premieres this Saturday 18 April, is a potentially mind-blowing, cosmic-consciousness expanding, and explosively ambitious contemporary cantata that meditates upon the origins of all things. A Violence of Gifts, scored for orchestra, chorus, baritone and soprano soloist is a collaboration with the poet Owen Sheers that bears witness to a creative process inspired by everything from Haydn’s The Creation and Holst’s The Planets to Bowden and Sheers’s visit to CERN and the latest thinking on quantum and cosmic space-time.
The work’s magnificently redolent title comes from Sheers’s text, referring to the theory that the earth and moon are the results of a gigantic, violent collision between two planetary bodies early in the solar system’s history. As Bowden tells Wales Arts Review, it is the product of years of collaboration, of deep thought about how music might respond, represent, dramatise and reflect the most exciting scientific discoveries of our time. Appropriately, the piece is on a large scale – probably around 40 minutes when Martyn Brabbins conducts it at St David’s Hall, and so will be more than an equivalent counterweight to The Planets in the concert’s second half.Continue reading...
And because everyone would pay it, Britain would have a library on every street corner. Then the Queen could go in and borrow a copy of Rights of Man. Joy!
In the early hours of my day in charge of the country, the people of Barnsley will be woken from their flat-capped slumber by a rhythmic and insistent clanking as the machinery of government is levered into place in the middle of my village on the outskirts of The Shining City on the Hill, as we locals call it. The House of Commons, the House of Lords, the departments of state will all straddle the river Dearne rather than the Thames; there’ll be ermine catching in the swirling water, expensive suits dragging in the mud. From today, the south is The Provinces, and Round Here is the Home Counties. The Queen will relocate to Grimethorpe and, guess what: she’ll enjoy it. She’ll love it. She’ll wonder why she ever lived anywhere else.
Now it’s time to legislate, quickly, like all governments try to do, before people work out what I’m doing. Tax will be abolished; well, the word tax will be abolished and replaced by the word joy, because the paying of tax is a joyful thing. As the old saying goes, it’s the price we pay for civilisation.“Paid your joy, yet, George?” “I certainly have, Mavis, and that’s why I feel so joyous this morning.” “And is that why we’ve got a new library on every street corner, George?” “It certainly is, Mavis: I saw the Queen in there yesterday, borrowing Rights of Man!” “Ah, joy!”Continue reading...
When I nip into the GP’s surgery
To pick up a repeat prescription
For anti-depressants and sleeping pills
I find the fair-haired receptionist
On her elbows with laughter,
For no reason other than that this April day
Is all sunlight and blue skies,
Street lined with limes of new green leaf,
Tiny gardens jungles of white magnolia.
She announces: “Today is the day
For buying a villa on the seafront:
I know I must win the Lottery –
But how can I win the Lottery
When I do not even remember
To buy a Lottery ticket?
And even then, in any case,
I forget to check the results!”
She is weeping with laughter.
I wade out into the street
And not caring if YOU are watching me
I pluck a blue tulip from a front garden,
Wade back in and present it to her.
I, too, am weeping with laughter
As I let myself out of the surgery and –
Dear Mrs Double Parking – I do not give a farthing
What you think – it’s spring!
• From The Days of Surprise by Paul Durcan (Harvill Secker, £12). To order a copy for £9.60 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.Continue reading...
The opening stanzas to this landmark work show how much can be contained in a few dense but ringingly musical lines
Brag, sweet tenor bull,
descant on Rawthey’s madrigal,
each pebble its part
for the fells’ late spring.
Dance tiptoe, bull,
black against may.
Ridiculous and lovely
chase hurdling shadows
morning into noon.
May on the bull’s hide
and through the dale
furrows fill with may,
paving the slowworm’s way.
Trying to address the literary world’s reputation as an old boys’ club, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books included a number of panels in which women discussed humour, race and their own writing
“I kind of hate you for asking [that question],” Mallory Ortberg said to the journalist Ann Friedman at the Writing with a Smirk: Women and Humour panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday.
The question was: “Is there something different about female humour?” Friedman was almost questioning the need for the panel itself. And like Ortberg, the panelists seemed to mostly agree that there wasn’t. Issa Rae, the author of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, ventured tentatively that perhaps women’s humour was more “empathetic”, but she didn’t sound convinced. The humorist Pamela Ribon said that she felt like most women in comedy were waiting for the day when there were “men in comedy” panels. “Are men funny?” Ribon said, suggesting titles for such future discussions. “How to get a job in comedy if you are a man.”Continue reading...
“Into the scented woods we’ll go,” wrote the poet and novelist Mary Webb, “And see the blackthorn swim in snow.” The woods are scented by things I can barely detect: violets, anemones, sorrel, bud burst, and I have to imagine their combined fragrance set against the edgy pong of wild garlic leaves and vagrant smells wafting through the woods on the breeze.
Close up, the flowers recall Japanese or Chinese paintings – star-like, fragile yet sharp, ephemeral yet eternalContinue reading...
This Thursday, antiquarian book fairs will spring up in locations the world over – from a woolshed in the Australian bush to the top of a Chicago skyscraper. Here is all you need to know, plus some of the rarest specimens you might bump into
- Going to one of the fairs? Photograph and share your book finds here
There are all sorts of ways to promote reading. The latest arrives on Thursday, in the shape of “a Mexican wave starting the day in Australia and, as the sun goes, finishing the day in the United States”. The wave in question is one of pop-up antiquarian book fairs - stalls where passers-by will have the opportunity to buy rare books, prints, manuscripts and ephemera. The organisers, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, want you to think of it as “a mixture between bookish flash mob and speed dating for book lovers”.
The project will coincide with the Unesco-backed World Book Day– not to be confused with the UK’s celebration of the same name – and will see more than 25 pop-up fairs across the globe (plus a mobile one, in the form of a campervan selling books on the road from Salisbury to Oxford in the UK). You can find all the information here. Some that stand out at first glance are a woolshed in the Australian bush, a train station in the Netherlands, the top of a Chicago skyscyraper and a microbrewery in Portland, Oregon.Continue reading...
This year, the annual event to promote reading is giving away an anthology of poems for the first time, and the response has been extraordinarily positive
“Is it mine? Can I keep it?” Kieran has just read a poem aloud in the foyer of St Mungo’s Broadway hostel for the homeless in London’s Covent Garden. Silence by Mourid Barghouti begins: “Silence said: / truth needs no eloquence.”
Why did he choose that one? “Because I like silence. There’s not enough of it.” Kieran, 24, has lived in the hostel for more than a year since a serious motorbike accident interrupted his working life as a mechanic. Soon, he hopes to leave, to find a job, a place of his own.Continue reading...
Hopes, dreams and plans … can they be hardened into action? Whether they stay as fantasy or become reality, suggest songs that capture what we want to become
“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine,” said Elvis Presley, whose motor roared into action with as much thrust as any famous figure in music’s history. But once on the road, ambitions can change, and where the King was concerned, this came around 1960 when, until his incredible ’68 comeback concert, he spent most of the decade making 27 fairly rubbish films instead of fulfilling his original dream of musical greatness. His ambition wavered. A typical plot of one of these movies consisted of the following motivation: “Girl A likes me, and so does Girl B. Which one do I choose on this endless holiday in Hawaii? I dunno, uh huh. Guys, in the meantime, let’s sing around 13 songs …”Continue reading...
From William Blake’s Robin Red Breast in a Cage to Benjamin Zephaniah’s National Anthem, Wendy Cooling and Piet Grobler share poems that celebrate the beauty of the world – but also point out where there is danger and we need to act.
The poems and illustrations are from All The Wild Wonders, Poems of our Earth, edited by Wendy Cooling illustrated by Piet Grobler.Continue reading...
“That there’s some corner of a foreign field/ That is for ever England”. It is one of the most recognisable passages in English poetry, published in March 1915, and exactly a century ago this week the author of The Soldier was dead – one of the first victims of the Dardanelles campaign.
Rupert Brooke’s death was not exactly heroic. He died from blood poisoning following a mosquito bite in Egypt. But he was by then very famous, lionised by politicians and uncritical in his support for going to war, which he described as “swimmers into cleanness leaping”.
Virginia Woolf witnessed his bizarre trick of diving naked into river and emerging with an erection
Related: Love letters expose the patriot poetContinue reading...
Georg Friedrich Haas’s 2009 work, sung with authority by Claire Booth, describes the unstable trajectory of the poet’s relationship with a younger woman
In November, the Royal Opera stages the world premiere of Morning and Evening, a new work by the 61-year-old Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas. By way of a taster, this Linbury programme brings together two of Haas’s earlier works, linked in a production designed and directed by Netia Jones.
Atthis is mentioned in the poems of Sappho as a love-object. Haas’s 2009 song-cycle – here sung and spoken with shining authority by the soprano Claire Booth, stationed on a ledge at the midpoint of the lunar disc that forms Jones’s set – sews Sapphic fragments together in an account of a relationship between the poet and the younger woman that begins with its dissolution and travels backwards in time to its inception. The text is alternately in ancient Greek and German, though Jones’s atmospheric video designs also incorporate Ruth Padel’s English translation alongside diverse imagery including water, frost, plants and glass shattering.Continue reading...
If, as the aphorist once quipped, wisdom in the young is as unattractive as frivolity in the elderly, young poets have a tough gig. In our culture there is a premium placed on youth, but the truth is that in any generation there are only a handful of voices worth listening to: poets who – through disposition, intellect, circumstance, commitment to their art and the odd stroke of luck – write those few poems that ring true and refuse to be forgotten. Great poems are as likely to be penned by a 30-year-old as a 70-year-old. Faber’s New Poets series provides mentorship, financial support and pamphlet publication to four previously unpublished poets. Its first two outings paved the way for talents such as Fiona Benson and Sam Riviere. Now it is the turn of this latest four to receive the mixed blessing of heightened critical scrutiny, public attention and general promotion afforded to few debutants.
At 25, Rachael Allen is the youngest: a fact that helps explain her poetry’s up-to-the-minute contemporaneity, alternative humour, and occasional shoulder-shrugging cool. Dotted throughout her short collection is a series of poems that takes its cues from the internet-meme-generating 4chan website: “Random”, “Cute/Male”, “Social”. If that means nothing to you, you’re not alone. But while these conversational snapshots are littered with in-jokes and non sequiturs, they also transcend their specifics, to grapple with universals such as love, loss and childhood nostalgia. It makes for moving, often funny reading: “the tacky smell of sweets that could have been lipgloss” at a time when “Gina G was the pathway to enlightenment”. Allen’s is a sceptical, droll outlook, but she isn’t afraid of occasional profundity. “Early Harbour” is a painfully beautiful lyric that charts difficult waters, while “Goonhilly” casts a wry eye over our past lives, making the eponymous telecommunications site a metaphor for life’s chances and choices: “She asks about radar and you will conclude it is dangerous / … isn’t anything we can’t see?”Continue reading...
I am becoming a connoisseur of walking sticks
Comparing my own stout stump with the slender ferrule,
The harsh metal wand, or the pair of hospital crutches.
Not lameness or amputation, thank God, simply old age
And a condition known as “degenerative spine” –
Something between a moral menace and a washed-out weakling.
The death of Rupert Brooke leaves us with a miserable sense of waste and futility, yet it is impossible to withhold even the most precious personalities
The news that RUPERT BROOKE has died on a French hospital ship and been buried at Lemnos will bring deep regret to those who care for literature and will touch those who only knew him as a gallant young poet gone to the war. He was not a warlike poet, but one of niceties and delicate apprehensions, of moods and impressions; with sympathetic fancifulness he would penetrate to the consciousness of a fish in the cool stream. It is difficult to imagine the process of adjustment by which such a man would fit himself for the savage blatancies, the shrieks and roars of war, and hardly less difficult, perhaps, to associate him with all the straitnesses of uniform and drill.
But our poets are deeply of the nation, and RUPERT BROOKE answered the call like thousands of other young men. It is said that he expected to die - perhaps most imaginative men who go to the war expect that, - and yet he looked unshrinkingly at the prospect. He was one of the four poets who issue their “New Numbers” from a Gloucestershire village, and in the last of “New Numbers” BROOKE had a series of sonnets on the war that rank among the few fine things provoked by it. His death leaves us with a miserable sense of waste and futility, and yet, while we begrudge him, we know that it is impossible to withhold even the most precious personalities; wives and mothers have learnt that. We are told that he was strong in conviction on his country’s side and with “a heart devoid of hate.”
Read the poem that won Daniella Cugini first prize in the Keats-Shelley Young Romantics prize: Presence
Plus find out about the other winners in the competition judged by Carol Ann Duffy
Earlier this year we told you about the Young Romantics creative writing prize, organised by the Keats Shelley Memorial Association. Young people aged 16-18 were asked to write poems and short stories on the theme of Lost Angels. And a new 16-18 year old category was introduced in an essay writing competition.Continue reading...
The art here is in the omission, whereby the ordinary is made mysterious, its strangeness exposed, and at the heart we find an unspoken act of violence
They had become concerned about him and started
to keep an aggression diary.
Dav Stewart’s photograph for Tempest’s album Everybody Down will go on display in the exhibition Picture the Poet
A 2013 photograph of a pensive Kate Tempest is the latest album cover image to be acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London. The NPG, which already owns Mischa Richter’s Back to Black portrait of Amy Winehouse and the Mario Testino shot used for Madonna’s Ray of Light, has added the image from Tempest’s Mercury prize-nominated album Everybody Down to its collection.
The photograph was taken by Dav Stewart who, along with the art director Luke Eastop, has collaborated with Tempest on the cover art for her albums and singles since she was an unsigned artist. The portrait for Everybody Down was taken in a studio set up in the photographer’s east London flat.Continue reading...