Voices

You will look in vain for an ode to broccoli. And that is because broccoli is rubbish

Arifa Akbar: Hooray for miserable writers

Just as we are told that "bad news sells", so publishers began chanting a similar mantra in the 1990s when misery memoirs – first-person accounts of woe, ranging from sexual abuse to physical privation (or both, ideally, with a side order of anguish thrown in) – became highly marketable fare.

I've had the rhyme of my life: Inside a prestigious getaway for 15 Young Poets of the Year

For an indication of the health of British poetry, says Lemn Sissay, look no further than the strength of the entries to young people's competitions. "They're the momentum in a movement," he says – the force against a "competitive note" that has entered the contemporary poetry scene. The 42-year-old performance poet has just completed a week teaching the 15 winners of last year's Foyle Young Poets Award, which drew a record 14,000 entries from all over the world – and, by his reckoning, the future of the art form is very bright indeed.

Truth about love: New lyrics of loss, and joy, for grown-up Valentines

After an age of irony, love poetry for adults has returned. And often it takes the form of the elegy.

Medea, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford

Somerset Maugham once drolly suggested that we should try to forgive other people for the wrongs that we do them. Whenever I see Euripides' great tragedy Medea, I reflect that there could be an inverted corollary to that remark – we should seek to forgive people for the self-sacrificial things they have done for us. The eponymous heroine has pulled out all the stops to further the career of her eventual husband Jason. She has betrayed her father, helped steal the Golden Fleece, and murdered her brother

You don't have to be bipolar to be a genius – but it helps

Study reveals that high-achievers are far more likely to be manic depressives

Boyd Tonkin: Words that allow us to stare grief in the face

In a culture warier than ever of poetry in public places, it looks as if elegies can still take you through the grandest entrances. During the late 1990s, the Whitbread book of the year award (forerunner of the Costas, before beer gave way to coffee) went four times in succession to volumes of verse: two by Seamus Heaney, two by Ted Hughes.

Elektra, Barbican Hall, London<br/>Le vin herbé, St George's, Bloomsbury, London

Earplugs come in handy once Greek tragedy is in full cry, but a neglected oratorio proves exquisite

Tim Walker: 'Leanne Shapton's first novel is a work of meticulous high quirk'

The Couch Surfer: It took me days to recover from reading The Road. Why would I put myself through it all over again?

When heaven freezes over: How to keep plants warm this winter

Before the chill winds really begin to bite, it's time to think about wrapping up those delicate plants to see them through the winter

Life Support: How to be cheerful

Essential skills for the modern world

Sylvia Plath's son commits suicide in Alaska

Nicholas Hughes, the son of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, has killed himself. His death was 46 years after his mother committed suicide and almost 40 years to the day after his stepmother, Assia Wevill, did the same. He was 47.

William DeWitt Snodgrass: Poet whose highly personal works spawned the genre of confessional poetry

W.D. Snodgrass was a modern-day troubadour, with a lyric voice deeply influenced by his love of music. Of the generation that followed the major American figures of Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman and Robert Lowell, he enjoyed a prodigious early success, winning the Pulitzer prize for his first book of poems, Heart's Needle (1959).

Three Women, Jermyn Street Theatre, London

When babies were still seen as little pink bundles of love, Sylvia Plath had another view. To her, the newborn was a thief, of time, identity, and life itself. One of the three women in her radio play of 1962 (Plath killed herself the following year) enjoys motherhood, but not all the time. The secretary has a miscarriage, and the unmarried student, wishing she had had an abortion ("I should have murdered this that murders me"), gives her baby away.

Three Women, Jermyn St Theatre, London<br>Showstopper! King's Head Theatre, London

A forgotten radio play by Sylvia Plath captures the diverse universes into which women are propelled by pregnancy
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