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I wish I could give this sublime marrying of the art and the life 10 stars. This is very much a writer’s biography, and an absolutely gorgeous demonstration of how to frame a narrative begins, appropriately enough, with the framing by Gorra of the author, Henry James: “Many years later he would remember the way the book had begun. He was old then, and in England ....” It’s a description that mirrors beautifully the framing by James himself of the entrance of his great heroine, Isabel Archer, in The Portrait of a Lady, as “the girl in the doorway”.

Contest to remember

The world memory championships opened yesterday at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, the London restaurant. Among other tests, contestants, aged 16 to 50, were required to memorise, with punctuation, a specially written 40-line poem by Ted Hughes. Leading at the half-way stage was Dominic O'Brien, current champion, who broke his previous record by recalling the first 142 random digits from a list of 300 after they had been spoken once.

The Daily Poem: Nothing

For copyright reasons we are not able to provide the full text of the poem on this database. Following are the details of the publication in which it appears.

Portrait of Wordsworth

This, the most important portrait of William Wordsworth to come to light this century, is by the artist and diarist Benjamin Robert Haydon, and was probably the last in a series of sketches for his huge 'history painting' Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, now in the US. In that work, Haydon placed a lively John Keats next to the older poet, whom he shows in characteristically sombre mood, with what Hazlitt called 'his drooping weight of thought'. This drawing is now on display at the Wordsworth Museum, Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria LA22 9SH. Tel: 05394-35544

Underrated: Poet, patriot: The case for Rudyard Kipling

Kipling is a congenital itch on the English literary body. And, as itches tend to do, the arguments about his merits and, more often, his sins flare up every so often.

The Daily Poem: To Keats

For copyright reasons we are not able to provide the full text of the poem on this database. Following are the details of the publication in which it appears.

Brothers, whether we like it or not

WHEN I first started reading modern poetry, a large part of the romance came from a contemplation of the Faber list, which was printed on the back of each volume. The list seemed to tell you what you ought to read and what you ought to buy. And when a new poet was added to it, that seemed a signal honour.

Letter: Protesters who saw the wood and the trees

Sir: The bulldozing of the great horse chestnut on George Green ('Treehouse falls to M11 bulldozer', 8 December) put me in mind of a passage by W. H. Auden:

Letter: Age-old complaint

Sir: Thomas Sutcliffe ('Sixties sister calls the grey army to battle', 13 October) notes that Germaine Greer 'is a bit late arriving on the field of combat'. How many decades is it since W. H. Auden diagnosed the complaint?

RADIO / A force to be reckoned with

I MUST have sat there for three hours. The music was loud, stormy and irresolute. On the stage several strong, experienced - frankly, heavy - singers had taken up immovable poses. Feet firmly apart they faced front and let rip. Lulled into slumber by the lack of any noticeable narrative progression, I dropped off for half an hour. Nothing had changed when I woke, but to my horror, my watch declared that it was only 7.45. Four hours to go.

Letter: Scribbling while Sarajevo burns

Sir: On the Independent publishing poems by British poets about Bosnia:

BOOK REVIEW / Recent paperbacks: Baa Baa Black Sheep - David Malouf: Chatto & Windus, pounds 8.99

In this libretto (for an opera that will be premiered at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham on 3 July) David Malouf makes a resonant whole out of various parts of Rudyard Kipling's oeuvre. The miserable young hero of the story Baa Baa Black Sheep - which was based on Kipling's own childhood experiences of being sent away from his family in India to school in England - escapes in his imagination to the glorious world of the Jungle Book. Malouf's work elegantly illuminates the way that Kipling, so often seen as a spokesperson for the Establishment, was actually most comfortable and most powerful when siding with the outsider.

Letter: New poets who are old before their time

BLAKE MORRISON claims ('Poetry is alive and well . . .', 13 June) that the Bloodaxe The New Poetry anthology 'introduces a new generation . . . excluding all the poets in the last anthology of this kind, The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry, edited by Andrew Motion and myself in 1982.' This is what The New Poetry's packaging would have its readers believe; but the fact is that as recently as last year Grandchildren of Albion (edited and published by me at my own expense) introduced 40 British poets from exactly the same generation, with just as high a proportion of non-London/Oxbridge-based contributors.

Classic Thoughts: A Sahib who also served: David Malouf on the grace and clarity of Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901)

FEW READERS of Kim can resist its freshness, the sense the writing gives of being, like its young hero, awake in a 'great, good-tempered world'. The question, given a plot so boyishly involved with the Great Game, is whether the book is more than a bright adventure story.

Letter: How the nation divides over Larkin

Sir: It's always good to see someone having a go at a national institution, though it seems a bit premature to put Philip Larkin into this category. The nub of Bryan Appleyard's case ('The dreary laureate of our provincialism', 18 March) against the librarian of Hull University seems to be that he was too deeply attached to a certain kind of insular Englishness to have a wider appeal. He was, and is, 'a major post-war British figure' but not 'a major British poet' (Comment, 18 March).

BOOKS / Ahi] There's a bug in my sonnet: Andrew Brown explores the database that holds 1300 English poets

THE COMPLETE works of nine gross of poets sounds like a vision from one of Bob Dylan's apocalypse songs, and not a particularly attractive one: you don't want to meet 1,300 poets any more than you actually want to meet a hundred drummers with blazing hands or ten thousand talkers whose tongues are all broken; a first brisk spin through the first release of English Poetry on CD-ROM confirms that most of the poets whom history has forgotten could make Dr Seuss look like Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
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