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Review Christmas quiz 2012: the answers

How did you do? Here are the answers to the fiendish quiz John Banville: 1 Rainer Maria Rilke, in the opening lines of the Duino Elegies. 2 Lolita, on the first page of Vladimir Nabokov's novel. 3...

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Wenceslas

A Christmas poem by Carol Ann Duffy The King's Cook had cooked for the King a Christmas Pie, wherein the Swan,once bride of the river,half of for ever,six Cygnets circling her,lay scalded, plucked,...

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Carol Ann Duffy by Nicola Jennings

Poet Laureate Nicola Jennings

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The Seacunny by Gerard Woodward – review

Gerard Woodward's latest poetry collection has a rare mix of beauty, clarity and wit A "seacunny" – in case you did not know – is "a helmsman in vessels manned by Lascars in the East India Trade". And...

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Poem of the week: Christmas at Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson telescopes the distance between a cosy Christmas scene and a life-and-death struggle on the high seas Born in Edinburgh in 1850, Robert Louis Stevenson was the son of a...

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Benjamin Zephaniah: 'There isn't enough anger in politics'

Benjamin Zephaniah started out reciting poems at punk gigs. Now he's one of our best-loved poets, and will guest edit Radio 4's Today next week. Brace yourselves, he's got plenty to say When Benjamin...

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La Folie Baudelaire by Roberto Calasso, translated by Alastair McEwen - review

Alex Danchev is dazzled by Roberto Calasso's meditations on Baudelaire Roberto Calasso takes his cue from Sainte-Beuve: "M Baudelaire has found a way to construct, at the extremities of a strip of...

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The Saturday poem: Compartment

By Richard Price When the girls all shook a coke to pass aroundI saw my daughter find a lifelong friendfor half an hour – all, surely, Katie's age. Hopeful look, touch of hand; rare common...

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Unsent: New and Selected Poems 1980-2012 by Penelope Shuttle - review

Sean O'Brien enjoys an earthy collection of beauty and bereavement In the title poem of Taxing the Rain (1992), Penelope Shuttle wrote: "When I wake the rain's falling / and I think, as always, it's...

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Your books of the year

From history to fiction, politics to poetry, Guardian readers pick their favourite reads of 2012 Timothy Adès London My best new books are: Victor Hugo, How to be a Grandfather, the Complete Edition,...

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Poem of the week: Breathless by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

This brief, beautiful love poem captures the sense of expectation with which we greet a new year This week's poem, and one to welcome in the new year, is "Breathless" by the Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq...

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Which books will win the 2012 Costa prizes?

It's the Costa category prizes tonight. Will a comic beat Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies as novel of the year? And who should win the biography and poetry awards? Scarcely have the first-footers...

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My hero: Dennis O'Driscoll by Seamus Heaney

'Dennis was beloved by his friends for his originality as a poet and his courage and merriment as a man' Early on he wrote to Enid Blyton and WH Auden and received replies from both. In later years he...

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Swedish Academy reopens controversy surrounding Steinbeck's Nobel prize

Archives reveal that John Steinbeck, who beat Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell to the Nobel laureateship in 1962, was a compromise choice Giant of American letters John Steinbeck beat the British...

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Jayne Cortez obituary

Poet whose incantatory performances could be militant, lyrical and surreal The poet Jayne Cortez, who has died aged 78, was unambiguous about her craft: "Words are musical – there's nothing more to...

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Dennis O'Driscoll obituary

Poet with a direct style that stood out among fellow Irish writers In an age when poets tend to hover near schools and universities, Dennis O'Driscoll, who has died suddenly aged 58, was an exception....

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The Havocs by Jacob Polley – review

Ben Wilkinson explores a poet committed to his nightmares "Who says havoc is a vice of the young?" asks the speaker in the title poem of Jacob Polley's third collection, The Havocs, which has been...

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Nick Laird: a life in writing

'I would drive through Moy, the venue of many of Paul Muldoon's poems, every Saturday on the way to visit my granny' The oldest poem in the 1,100 pages of the 2010 Penguin Book of Irish Poetry is an...

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Sharon Olds: 'I want a poem to be useful'

The celebrated American poet on her abusive childhood, the end of her marriage and writing about pain Sharon Olds has the wrong surname. At 70, you can see the young woman in Olds – in the sweep of...

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Poem of the week: The Shortness of Life by Francis Quarles

From a writer known for his pious themes, these verses offer an appealingly mundane view of time's passing The Protestant poet, Francis Quarles, by his own description was an "Essex quill". He was...

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