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.

Poetry's unlikely heroine hates her most popular work Popular writer has more than one best-loved poem

Writer irritated by success in poll of favourite poems

Books: Haunted by the demons of Derry

Patricia Craig reads a bleak quasi-fiction about growing up Catholic in 1940s Ulster; Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane Cape, pounds 13.99

Of exile and oral sex

Lachlan Mackinnon celebrates an underrated poetic original; Selected Poems 1933-1993 by Gavin Ewart, Hutchinson, pounds 9.99

Poetry Seamus Heaney QEH, London

I'm admiring the hairy interiors of the great whorls of his ears. The broad, bullish thrust of his shoulders straining against the seams of his jacket. And those hands too, deep-thrust into the trouser pockets, re-counting the loose change ...

3 - 9 May day planner

Today

Obituary: George Mackay Brown

Tomorrow is the feast day of St Magnus, the 12th-century martyr, patron saint of Orkney, and subject of the novel, Magnus, that the Orcadian poet and story-teller George Mackay Brown considered his best work. It would have given Brown quiet satisfaction that this was the day on which he would finally be laid to rest. Tomorrow afternoon, after a funeral mass in St Magnus's Cathedral, Kirkwall, he will be buried in a kirkyard he loved from boyhood, looking out across the Atlantic, a mile from the seaport of Stromness where he was born 74 years ago and which he rarely left.

We'll drink tae Rabbie, but whae's payin'?

Apparently, the bicentenary of Burns's death has not run smoothly in Scotland - what should have been a great chance to promote a bumper season of Scottish tourism has run into difficulties over lack of money and unclear management. I can't say I'm totally surprised. After all, it is one of the charms of the Scottish character that, though great as individuals, almost anything they attempt as a concerted national effort runs into trouble through lack of management and lack of money. Witness every World Cup football foray, Bonnie Prince Charlie, etc, etc. I sometimes think that Sir Walter Scott can stand as an emblem for the whole nation, with his huge international success followed by his business collapse and gruesome final financial ordeal.

Writers sell gems to fund retreat

Leading writers have donated a feast of literary treasures for auction to raise money to help fund a country retreat for writers. Authors as diverse as John Mortimer, Carmen Callil, Seamus Heaney and Nadine Gordimer have given items in the 76-lot collection to be sold by Sotheby's today.

Asda and aerobics

THE HUDSON LETTER by Derek Mahon Gallery Press pounds 12.95/pounds 6.95

Nobel poet shaped by contradictions

Fintan O'Toole offers an eve-of-ceremony tribute to Seamus Heaney

From the Shankill to the Falls, Clinton kindles hope

DAVID MCKITTRICK

A broken soul

BOOKS POETRY: LAMENTS by Jan Kochanowski trs Seamus Heaney and Stanislaw Baranczak, Faber pounds 12.99/pounds 6.99

LEADING ARTICLE:Ireland must vote for the future

Eamon de Valera, the towering figure who wrote Ireland's constitutional ban on divorce in 1937, would barely recognise his country today. In only a couple of generations, this land of green fields has become a largely urban society. The Roman Catholic bishops, once the nation's authoritative moral force, are beset by scandals. The birth rate has fallen below replacement level. And the territorial ambitions of Irish nationalism have been discredited by 25 years of IRA violence. The old order is dissolving.

Glyn Maxwell is one of poetry's rising stars. Now he wants to be taken seriously as a dramatist. What's he playing at?

Every so often over the last couple of centuries, some poet or other has decided that where English theatre went wrong was when it abandoned verse in favour of ordinary, prosy dialogue, and has set out to show the conventional playwrights a thing or two. Usually, this has turned out to be a mistake: what looks good on the page has turned out rather less appealing in the full glare of the footlights. Byron, Shelley and Tennyson all had a go at verse tragedy - reputedly with limited success, though since none of them has achieved a permanent place in the repertory it's hard to say (Shelley's unwieldy tragedy The Cenci is occasionally and very unwisely revived; the RSC is staging Byron's Cain next month). Hardy's The Dynasts has still never been performed in its sprawling entirety; Eliot and Auden have done a little better, though Murder in the Cathedral aside, their stuff is still more familiar from radio productions and anthologies than from actual stagings.

Letter: Better for verse

From Mr Peter Forbes
Career Services

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New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

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