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Sample delights from the CLPE poetry award 2015 shortlist


Looking for great children’s poetry? Check out the brilliant collections that have been shortlisted for this year’s Centre for Literacy in Primary Education prize and sample some of the poems – plus find out how to get involved in the poetry award shadowing scheme

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) has released the shortlist for its 2015 poetry award, previous winners of which include Roger McGough and Carol Ann Duffy. The award has been running each year since 2003 and aims to celebrate the very best poetry written for children.

The best berries are in my tub.

Frogspawn, black beads, spider eyes,

now memories

slowly drift on by

Handsome, lean wolf,

likes acting and cooking.

And here, under the green umbrella,

Pale, beaded mushrooms lie scattered –

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Why is children's poetry so invisible?


Chrissie Gittins says it’s time to get confident about children’s poetry, children love it – so publishers, bookshops and libraries should stop hiding it and start celebrating

Tell us your favourite poets and poems by email childrens.books@theguardian.com or on Twitter @GdnChildrensBks– and we’ll add them to this blog

Hoorah for the just-out CLPE poetry award shortlist! What treasures! In fact it’s the only award for a book of children’s poetry in this country. Lucky for writers of children’s fiction there are at least 10 opportunities for them to submit to prizes which are solely for fiction. But, is poetry eligible for the Carnegie Medal, the Costa Book Awards, and the National Book Awards? Yes it is! Have you ever seen poetry shortlisted for these awards?

Related: Sample delights from the CLPE poetry award 2015 shortlist

Related: Poems of our Earth – in pictures

Related: John Hegley performs I am a Guillemot - children's books podcast

Related: Your time to rhyme: A Dr Seuss challenge

@GdnChildrensBks My favourite poet as a teenager was Sylvia Plath. I still love and regularly re-read Ariel.

@MichaelRosenYes gets my vote!!! #poetryhttps://t.co/1ClzzEy78Q

@GdnChildrensBks@Armandii@clpe1@PoetrySociety One of my favourites is @Lizpoet (Liz Brownlee). Highly recommend! pic.twitter.com/TTIDkbDQgI

@GdnChildrensBks@Armandii@clpe1@PoetrySociety My favourite poem is Spike Milligan's 'On the Ning Nang Nong'. It has been since I was 7.

@GdnChildrensBks My parents were both children's poets, & I grew up surrounded by Spike Milligan, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Ted Hughes.

@GdnChildrensBks@Armandii@clpe1@poetrysociety Sarah Crossan! Stunning writer. Her words are crisp and clear and so, so precisely lovely.

@GdnChildrensBks@Armandii@clpe1@PoetrySociety My favourite poem is Edward Lear's The Owl and The Pussycat, I learnt it at primary school.

@GdnChildrensBks@Armandii@clpe1@PoetrySociety Too hard so many! Me-Forgiven by A A Milne Son1-Jabberwocky son2-Dad's in Bed Michael Rosen

@GdnChildrensBks@clpe1@PoetrySociety Polkabats & Octopus Slacks by @CalefBrown is a favorite--all his poetry books for kids are great!

The Sea's Hands by @george_szirtes is perfect @GdnChildrensBks

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Irish poet WB Yeats honoured with worldwide 150th birthday celebrations


From a new Irish stamp to a public reading by Fiona Shaw, global events in honour of ‘a great public and private poet’ begin

Open thread: which is your favourite Yeats poem?

The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1923, is being marked this year with hundreds of events and celebrations around the world.

The author, whose poems took six out of the top 10 slots in a vote at the end of 1999 to find Ireland’s favourite poem, was born in Dublin on 13 June 1865. The year-long celebrations centre on a four-day festival in June in Sligo, the inspiration for much of Yeats’s poetry; one of Yeats’s best-known poems, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, is about an island on Lough Gill: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; / Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, / And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

Related: WB Yeats: looming larger through the mists of time

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Open thread: which is your favourite WB Yeats poem?


In the 150th anniversary year of the Irish poet, pick your favourite work

News: Yeats honoured with worldwide celebrations

Would you rather arise and go now, slouch towards Bethlehem, or seek to tell the dancer from the dance? Is it the terrible beauty of Easter, 1916, the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart in The Circus Animals’ Desertion or the world more full of weeping from The Stolen Child that is closest to your heart?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats, one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, with worldwide celebrations. Nationalist, romantic, spiritualist; beacon of the Celtic Twilight, chronicler of everyday life and angry old man; Yeats went through many phases, and left many exemplary poems. In a 1999 poll to find Ireland’s 100 favourite poems of all time, he takes seven places in the top 10 (Heaney and Kavanagh hardly get a look-in), and dominates the list as a whole.

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When politics meets poetry: what the humanities bring to policymaking


Insights from the humanities deserve greater attention in debates about the role of evidence and expertise in policy.

Poets don’t often pop up at infrastructure conferences. But a few months ago, at a debate for infrastructure developers and policymakers, I began my remarks by quoting William Wordsworth.

Supporting the transition to a low carbon economy is a priority for Green Alliance, the think tank where I work. We’re part of that breed of environmentalist that reckons reducing the carbon in our energy system will require new infrastructure: pylons, turbines and railways, rather than roads and runways. But we’re democrats too, and believe there are real problems with the way the public is excluded from infrastructure planning at present.

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Enoh Meyomesse, Cameroonian writer and activist, released from prison


Meyomesse walks free from jail in Yaoundé after three years of lobbying by free speech campaigners

The Cameroonian poet, essayist and political activist Enoh Meyomesse has been released from prison this week after more than three years in jail.

“It’s funny to see the prison from outside,” Meyomesse told the writer Patrice Nganang, who campaigned for his release. “They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom, then there’s nothing to complain about.”

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The Saturday poem: Audiology

by Sean O’Brien

I hear an elevator sweating in New Orleans,
Water folding black on black in tanks deep under Carthage,
Unfracked oil in Lancashire
And what you’re thinking. It’s the truth –
There goes your silent count to ten, the held breath
Of forbearance, all the language not yet spoken
Or unspeakable, the dark side of the page.
But this is not about you. I can hear
The sea drawn back from Honshu,
Hookers in the holding pen, and logorrhoea
In the dreaded Quiet Coach,
The firestorm of random signs
On market indices, the bull, the bear,
The sound of one hand clapping and the failure of the rains,
The crackle of the dried-out stars,
Stars being born, anomalies and either/or,
The soundtrack of creation in an unrecorded vowel,
The latest that might be the last, the leading edge
Of all that is the case or is not there.
“The contradictions cover such a range.”
And I’m told that soon it will be easier
To balance out the love-cry and the howl,
To wear an aid and act my age, to hear the world
Behind this world and not to crave amnesia.

• FromThe Beautiful Librariansby Sean O’Brien (Picador, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

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Swooning over Rupert Brooke | Katharine Whitehorn


The First World War poets stirred the imagination not just with their words but also with their photographs

Ten days ago the Times headlined the fact that Rupert Brooke was a womaniser. I look forward to them revealing the number of Henry VIII’s wives any time soon. The paper published pictures of two of Brooke’s loves after a vast collection of letters and documents gathered for King’s College Cambridge revealed the poet’s many liaisons and his lack of interest in marriage.

The admiration of those who associate Brooke only with dying in Greece in the First World War, it seems, has prevented much consideration of his romantic side, but I’d have thought the poems alone were testimony enough to indicate his attitude: “Your hands, my dear, adorable/ Your lips of tenderness/ Oh, I’ve loved you faithfully and well/ Three years, or a bit less/ It wasn’t a success” quickly followed by “And I shall find some girl perhaps/ And a better one than you/ With eyes as wise, but kindlier/ And lips as soft, but true/ And I daresay she will do.”

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Poem of the week: Selling His Soul by Sophie Hannah


The formal conservatism of Sophie Hannah’s Selling His Soul does nothing to restrict this elegant love poem’s unsettling message

Selling His Soul

When someone says they have a poet’s soul
You can imagine laughing in their face –
A sensible reaction on the whole
But he convinced me that it was the case
And that his poet’s soul was out of place
What with his body selling advertising space.

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Temples of literature: writers' houses – in pictures

How well do you know the Romantic poets? - quiz

We're two centuries on from the high watermark of a heroic age for writers. From deathless couplets to dieting tips, test your knowledge of the lives and works of Byron and co Continue reading...

Beata Duncan obituary


My mother, Beata Duncan, who has died aged 93, was a much-loved poet and performer. Her work was published by John Rettie’s Hearing Eye Press, in several Arts Council anthologies, national journals and newspapers, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Several poems won National Poetry Competition and other prizes, were set to music by the composer Richard Arnell and are featured on the website poetrypf.co.uk.

Beata pioneered a succession of poetry workshops in London, and developed a distinctive style of public reading at libraries, pubs, bookshops, theatres, the Southbank Centre, the Poetry Society, and the Torriano Meeting House. Sharing platforms with Hugo Williams, Alan Brownjohn and Margaret Drabble, she became a popular performer in north London.

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The National's Bryce Dessner on the American landscapes that inspire him


Ahead of a concert series in London of new music exploring the American musical landscape, the musician selects seven works that provide fertile ground for his imagination

Robert Frank: The Americans

... An American
is a complex of occasions,
themselves a geometry
of spatial nature.
I have this sense,
that I am one
with my skin
Plus this—plus this:
that forever the geography
which leans in
on me I compel
backwards I compel Gloucester
to yield, to
is this

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Wole Soyinka leads candidates for Oxford professor of poetry


Nigerian Nobel laureate receives strong support to win 300-year-old position, held in the past by writers from Matthew Arnold to Seamus Heaney

Nobel laureate and political activist Wole Soyinka has put himself forward as one of three candidates for the position of Oxford professor of poetry, a 300-year-old elected post which is seen as the top academic poetry role in the UK.

First held by Joseph Trapp in 1708, the professorship, second only in prestige to that of poet laureate, has been filled in the past by Matthew Arnold, Cecil Day-Lewis, WH Auden, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon. The 2009 election saw the acclaimed poet Ruth Padel, the first woman to be elected, resign less than two weeks after securing the post. Her departure came after the revelation that she had alerted journalists to allegations of sexual harassment which had been made against her rival for the position, Nobel laureate Derek Walcott.

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Poems by JH Prynne review – ‘the ultimate poet of “anti-pathos”’


Distance and difficulty, yes. But there’s also pleasure in the Stockhausen of modern poetry

In The Making of the Reader, David Trotter proposes a useful distinction between “pathos” and what he terms “anti-pathos”. In any poem the voice of the self and the voice of the text are subtly different. For a Romantic poet their clash results in pathos: the pathos of origins, sincerity and feeling. In modernist poetry, what we frequently get instead is “anti-pathos”, which rejects appeals to origins and insists on dissonance, not harmony, as the defining condition of art.

JH Prynne is the ultimate poet of anti-pathos. Everything about him spells distance and difficulty. He does not give poetry readings; he does not appear in anthologies and is never nominated for prizes; his books have Captain Beefheart-like titles such as Her Weasels Wild Returning and Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage~~~Artesian; he attracts acolytes and execrators, rather than run-of-the-mill readers, and, most important, no one knows what any of it means. Such are the familiar assumptions where this poet is concerned. Passions run deep: when The Oxford English Literary History had the temerity to suggest that Prynne was more deserving of notice than Larkin, the brouhaha ended up on the Today programme. Now consider the following lines, from “The Glacial Question, Unsolved”:

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Mark Doty: ‘This book is not a leisurely meditation on mortality. This is my life for all to see’


The American poet and Aids chronicler talks about drugs, gardening, break-up tattoos and letting go after years of being strong

In 2008 the American poet Mark Doty was awarded the National Book award for Fire to Fire, a volume of new and selected poems. The collection was the summation to date of a career that had already seen him pick up other major awards in the US, as well as being the first American to win the TS Eliot prize in the UK. Doty’s work had been acclaimed for its intense appreciation of the natural and emotional worlds, but he had become best known as a reluctant chronicler of the Aids epidemic in a series of books in the mid-90s that included a deeply affecting portrait of the death of his long-term partner.

Soon after the NBA Doty bought a cottage in “a non-fancy part of East Hampton. No mansions”, where he was attracted to the dense trees surrounding the house and the garden. “Although it was not one I would have planted myself,” he says, “I was drawn to it and – it is difficult to talk about this in anything other than a new-agey way – felt an energy in the soil that I could use. So I put my writing studio outside and was very in touch with that natural world and its cycles and mysteries.”

Related: Mark Doty's workshop

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Should the poet laureate have to write about the royal birth?

Princess Charlotte is now a week old, but so far there has been no news of a Carol Ann Duffy poem to commemorate her birth

It’s now a week since Princess Charlotte was born and, as we went to press, still nothing from the poet laureate. I think we can assume that Carol Ann Duffy is not going to be putting pen to paper.

Royal occasions are also the greatest human occasions: birth, marriage parenthood, death

Related: Royal baby: Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to baby girl

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Poem of the week: from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe


The tumultuous energy of this 17th-century soliloquy remains alive with the terrors that follow a deal with the devil

FAUSTUS: Ah, Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d.
O, I’ll leap up to my God! – Who pulls me down? –
See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ! –
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!
Yet will I call on him: O, spare me, Lucifer! –
Where is it now? ’tis gone: and see, where God
Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!
No, no!
Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Earth, gape! O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist.
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud[s],
That, when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven!
[The clock strikes the half-hour.]
Ah, half the hour is past! ’twill all be past anon
O God,
If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
Yet for Christ’s sake, whose blood hath ransom’d me,
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav’d!
O, no end is limited to damned souls!
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang’d
Unto some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv’d in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu’d in hell.
Curs’d be the parents that engender’d me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv’d thee of the joys of heaven.
[The clock strikes twelve.]
O, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell!
[Thunder and lightning.]
O soul, be chang’d into little water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
[Enter DEVILS.]
My God, my god, look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books! – Ah, Mephistopheles!
(Exeunt DEVILS with FAUSTUS)

Last week’s poem, Sophie Hannah’s Selling His Soul, set me thinking about both the origins and the modern usage of the phrase. The Labour party’s soul was in the news, after all, post-UK election. Shirley Williams, rising above party politics, claimed democracy had been put up for sale. But I didn’t find any accusations, from right, left or centre, of actual soul-selling, let alone satanic barter. Generally speaking, “selling your soul” in modern usage denotes submission to dull routine or lucrative scam. Deals with the devil are rarely implied, even metaphorically. You can choose wealth and power (and sell democracy) and it’s just about being “aspirational”, right?

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Simon Armitage joins field for Oxford professor of poetry


Bestselling ‘self-schooled’ poet nominated alongside Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and three others for prestigious position

Simon Armitage has thrown his hat into the ring to be the next professor of poetry at Oxford University, a prestigious position that was first established in the early 18th century and whose previous incumbents include Robert Graves and WH Auden.

The bestselling poet will be up against Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for the five-year role, which is voted for by Oxford graduates and seen as the UK’s second most important poetry position, behind that of poet laureate. Three more candidates are also in the running, with poet AE Stallings entering the race late last week alongside the poet, novelist and critic Ian Gregson, who is currently professor of creative writing at Bangor University, and the poet, publisher and psychotherapist Seán Haldane.

Related: Wole Soyinka leads candidates for Oxford professor of poetry

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An anthology of poetry on climate change


UK’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy introduces a series of new work from a variety of poets commissioned specially for the Keep it in the Ground project

If information was all we needed, we’d have solved climate change by now. The scientific position has been clear for decades. Researchers have been waving a big red flag that has been impossible for our politicians to miss. Even Margaret Thatcher was giving speeches about global warming in 1988. So why have we made so little progress? Why do carbon emissions continue to rise seemingly inexorably?

Information, it seems, is not enough. Journalists have transmitted the warnings of scientists, but they have sometime focussed too much on the mini-controversies and the unimportant disagreements and not enough on the big picture. That has often left readers confused.

Related: Vertigo by Alice Oswald

Related: Keep it in the ground: a poem by Carol Ann Duffy

Related: Join the Guardian's climate change campaign

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