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.

Does this modern nation still need a Poet Laureate?

Poetry has always been a threatened creature. Poets are not literary stars and sell few books

Books: Sadness and anger in injury time

The Triumph of Love by Geoffrey Hill Penguin pounds 8.99

Radio: What are radio's critics listening to?

I was driving at speed in the fast lane of the M25 when a front tyre burst. Some six seconds later the car bumped to a standstill on the hard shoulder. This scary incident happened a couple of years ago, and I've taken to driving much more slowly since. But it still bothered me that I didn't understand how on earth I had wrenched the old banger through dense, fast-moving traffic to safety: it seemed miraculous that the route had been clear. Now at last, after listening to Frontiers (R4), it begins to make sense: it is all to do with subconscious knowledge.

Books: Capturing both soil and starlight

Michael Glover recommends poetry books for children

Arts: Sex, size and schizophrenia

Pushkin was a poet of paradoxes. Misogynist or feminist? Heretic or Christian? One thing is certain: he wasn't a tall man.

Monitor: Picking poets - what the world's newspapers say about the next Laureate

POETRY IS part of our shared, communal life. From this perspective, designating a National Poetry Month might seem as absurd as having a month for Our Genetic Heritage. Yet it is a very good idea just the same. For poetry isn't only bodily, it is also civic. Poetry month and the posting of short poems on subway cars may violate some notion of the form's intimate quality. But the civic space is where language and makers live. In the 17th century, poets - some of them great ones - wrote poems flattering royalty and toadying up to rich, eminent patrons. That was part of the civic life of art, a part of the way that society held on to the art of poetry, thereby preserving it for the unborn.

Hughes buried in home village

ABOUT 200 mourners gathered at a village church in Devon yesterday to pay last respects to the Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, who died last week of cancer, aged 68.

ESTABLISHMENT BARD TOPS LIST

ANDREW MOTION is emerging as front-runner to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate, writes Marguerite Jones. The biographer of Keats, prolific poet and professor of creative writing at East Anglia is seen as an Establishment figure who would be highly acceptable for the job.

Does modern Britain really need a Poet Laureate?

THE RATE for the job was fixed in 1692 at pounds 100 per year. No one has managed a pay rise since. In the lists of the Royal Household, it features alongside the Swan Marker, the Bargemaster, and the Keeper of the Royal Stamp Collection. It has a cast-iron record for inspiring duff ceremonial verse from major poets - when, by chance or design, major poets happen to win the post.

The life of Brian and his volunteers

As part of the Gate Theatre's A Home for the Exiles season, Brian Friel's Volunteers is receiving its British premiere. Set on a construction site in Dublin, an archaeological dig is in progress, and layers of Irish history are unearthed: a Norman jug, a Viking skeleton with a hole in its skull. As they work, the diggers question their own histories and imagine alternative stories of victimhood for "Leif" the Viking. As a metaphor, its currency is obvious: Mick Gordon, the Gate's Northern Irish artistic director, believes that the people "at home" are now "involved in a difficult and essential process: the disentangling of personal histories from ideological ones." But Friel's (above) metaphorical template is, with fitting inevitability, something of a relic itself. Volunteers was written in 1975, the same year Seamus Heaney excavated "Viking Dublin" in North. Despite the success of Friel's work here, it's not much of a surprise that it took so long to arrive. His previous play, The Freedom of the City, a thinly veiled response to Bloody Sunday and the Widgery report, outraged London reviewers in 1973; and, on the surface, Volunteers is also very much of its troubled time. The diggers are Republican internees, whose volunteering for a civilian cause has made them marked men in prison. But the play represents a transitional stage in Friel's career. He drew back from impassioned polemics and used the political context to challenge historical determinism through an incisive mixture of storytelling, role-playing and irreverent humour. This oblique and bravely inconclusive approach was met with some bemusement in Dublin. One critic lamented that "the great dramatic subject of internment" hadn't received the "great play" it deserved. But, as Translations and Friel's other subsequent plays have proved, the dramatic subject is just the start; the greatness lies in the ground he excavates around it.

Ted Hughes wins pounds 10,000 poetry prize

TED HUGHES, the Poet Laureate, continued his marvellous year last night when his book Birthday Letters won the pounds 10,000 Forward Prize for the best collection of 1998.

Boy who preferred Shakespeare

ENCOURAGING schoolboys to enjoy their literary heritage has always been a vexing task. First, they used to prefer playing football. Then they started watching football. And now, they prefer reading football.

Listening between the lines

What do you gain from hearing authors reciting from their own work? Michael Glover contrasts the voices of poet Seamus Heaney and novelist Iain Banks as they speak for themselves.

Marvels and murders

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 by Seamus Heaney Faber pounds 20/pounds 12.99: If you took the rejected poems from Seamus Heaney's new Selected, he'd still be awesome

Obituary: K. W. Gransden

K. W. GRANSDEN, poet, scholar and literary critic, was a man of many and varied talents, whose life no official title can encapsulate. Emeritus Reader in English and Comparative Literature at Warwick University is part of the story, but he was more than that.
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