Arts and Entertainment Sinéad Morrissey is the winner of the TS Eliot Prize

Winning the TS Eliot Prize is hardly a matter of life and death. But the film of that name inspired Sinéad Morrissey to pen a collection which finally secured the UK’s most prestigious poetry prize for Belfast’s first poet laureate.

Human Chain, By Seamus Heaney

Typically, beautifully, the 12-line title poem of a volume that embodies Heaney's return from illness begins with a "close-up" of aid workers on TV swinging "bags of meal" one to another as soldiers fire.

Book Of A Lifetime: Beowulf

So, in 1983, I was 12, and my parents took me to see an actor who had been in 'Star Wars', performing in York Theatre Royal. I felt a little self-conscious as the lights went down, a harpist plucked out a strange tune, and then a single man, in fur and cloak, appeared under a lone spotlight. "Hear," he said, "Listen!" So Julian Glover began his rendition of 'Beowulf'.

TP Flanagan: Artist and teacher whose work inspired Seamus Heaney

"As an artist, he has gone his own way, explored the Irish landscape and enhanced Irish landscape painting through the discovery andelaboration of an individual style," Seamus Heaney wrote in 1995 in a tribute to his friend TP Flanagan. The occasion was a major retrospective of Flanagan's work at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, in which the full range and distinctiveness of the artist's accomplishments were acknowledged and applauded. Atmospheric, elegant and enchanting, the works on show were an endorsement of Flanagan's high standing among Irish artists of the 20th century.

Boyd Tonkin: Poet who combines high art with common life

A couple of years ago, I heard Derek Walcott speak at the St Lucia high commission in London to an audience largely made up of his fellow-islanders. As always, he insisted that pride in a place and a home should always combine with a keen embrace of the best the wide world of culture has to offer. "Art is as necessary as sewage," he said.

Books of the Year: Poetry

An exciting new band of names is causing a stir

The South Bank Show: Final Cut, By Melvyn Bragg

"They've killed the show", moaned Melvyn Bragg when ITV brought down the kibosh on the arts programme that had become a revered institution over its 32-year (and 110-award) lifespan.

The Ballad of John Clare, By Hugh Lupton

This novelisation of a year in the young life of the poet John Clare is a testament to a lifetime's groundbreaking commitment to folk culture. A renowned folk performer, but a first-time novelist, Hugh Lupton is neither a prose stylist, nor a formal innovator of fiction. But he is a master in two areas: storytelling and English rural folk culture. Lupton knows Clare and his village of Helpston, Northamptonshire, as well as anyone, and reconstructs Clare's times with a rare conviction. The context, landscape, language and texture of Clare's life and landscape are re-imagined in enchanting and accurate detail.

The Forward Book of Poetry 2011

The Forward prizes anthology turns in its annual magic trick. Within a few hours of delight and surprise, it makes readers who have backslid on attention to new verse feel in the loop, and up to speed.

The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry, Edited by Patrick Crotty

This is a magnificent anthology. Its size alone (over 1000 pages) would make it outstanding, but more to the point is its scope and adventurousness. It achieves what might seem nearly impossible, a balanced view of Irish poetry from the earliest times to the present. It does a great job of sorting out the unsurpassable from the merely passable. It's undaunted by the magnitude of the undertaking. Of course, like all editors of anthologies, Patrick Crotty isn't without a quirk or two, or an idee fixe of his own. These are most apparent, perhaps, when it comes to contemporary poetry and the vexed question of who's in and who isn't. As Crotty acknowledges in his sterling introduction, it's inevitable that "eyebrows will be raised" over this or that choice. I would have dropped some and added others; but every reader, naturally, will have his or her own opinion.

First foot forward for Heaney

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney won the Forward Poetry Prize last night, having been a runner-up on two previous occasions.

Paul Vallely: Why poetry is as essential as air

The trapped Chilean miners have included a poet among those whose skills should ensure their survival underground

Granta 111: Going Back, ed John Freeman

This superb collection of short stories, memoir, artwork and poetry, loosely connected to the theme of "going back", includes contributions by Seamus Heaney and Joseph O'Neill, letters by Iris Murdoch and a recollection of his uncle's farm by Mark Twain. About as eclectic as you can get, then – but that doesn't mean unfocused.

Never say die: Who wants to live forever?

The secret of living to 100 and beyond is all in our genes, according to new research. But who really wants to survive into extreme old age – or for ever? Not me, insists John Walsh

A new professor of poetry at Oxford, and no scandal

There were no blazing rows this time. After months of speculation and public controversy, Geoffrey Hill has been elected to the Oxford Professorship of Poetry – generally regarded as the most prestigious position in the poetry world after the Laureateship – by a landslide 1,156 votes. He fills a gap in the university’s teaching hierarchy left by the resignation of Ruth Padel last May.

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