POETRY / A verse to publicity: It's National Poetry Day; poets are everywhere - television, radio, even trains. But will they ever achieve star status - will their love lives ever grace the tabloids? Robert Hanks calls for a radical change of image

Today is, as you can't have failed to notice, National Poetry Day. The nation is positively throbbing with anapaests and trochees, rondeaus and villanelles. Poets will be reading at the National Theatre and going into schools, community centres and bookshops around the country. Poetry will be blasted over the PA system at Waterloo; pupils of Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted, will be handing out their own poems to commuters on the Berkhamsted-Euston line. There have been features in the press and on radio; Melvyn Bragg devoted last week's South Bank Show to the 20 'New Generation' poets launched earlier this year; Radio 3 will be broadcasting poetry all day.

BOOK REVIEW / High minds, low deeds: 'Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993' - Ian Hamilton: Bloomsbury, 20 pounds

IN HIS opening essay, Ian Hamilton refers to Holden Caulfield's definition of a good writer as someone who makes you feel you could call them up on the telephone. I haven't tried, but it's a definition apt for Hamilton himself, who writes in the frank, witty, engaging and intelligent manner of the finest essayists. The book is a collection of writings loosely held together by themes: literary biography (Hamilton wrote one on Robert Lowell, and had a go at Salinger), poets and writers including Sylvia Plath, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Robert Graves and Seamus Heaney, and essays on sports, sex and journalism.

BOOK REVIEW / Call of mother nature: The Great Umbilical - Rachel Billington: Hutchinson, pounds 17.99

MOTHERS are tougher on daughters: they set them higher standards than their sons, indulge them less and demand that they grow up sooner. This is not one of the insights in Rachel Billington's first non-fiction book, though it could well have been: the book is a compendium of anecdote, poetry, observations from novels, sociological research and psychiatric theory, all tossed together in an attempt to prove that the line of heredity and learning through mothers and daughters, so long publicly undervalued, is crucial. Property and name may have passed through the male line but, Billington believes, it is the line through mothers and daughters that conditions much of our conduct and dealings with each other, and so the world we inhabit.

Books: Myth in the making: Ted Hughes has always had his doubts about criticism, but this first collection of prose gives the remarkable range of his work over 30 years, as well as insight into his motives and methods

ONE NIGHT, as a student at Cambridge, Ted Hughes had a strange dream. For some time he had been finding his weekly essay a torment to write, and once again he had ended up sitting over a blank page till 2 am before giving up and going to bed. He dreamt that a fox - a very large fox, as big as a wolf - walked into the room on hind legs. It looked as if it had just stepped out of a furnace, its body charred, its eyes full of pain. It came up to his desk, laid a bleeding hand on the blank page, and said: 'Stop this - you are destroying us.'

BOOK REVIEW / From here to maternity: 'The Virago Book of Birth Poetry' - ed Charlotte Otten, 6.99

THEY didn't include childbirth in the old Eng lit canon. The other eternal verities, yes: how we live in or leave the world, but not how we enter it; love, death, even children once they'd grown up a bit, but not babies being born. Twenty years ago, the only regular anthology piece on the subject was a couple of stanzas from 'Homage to Mistress Bradstreet', spoken in a woman's voice but written by John Berryman and happily conflating sexual ecstasy and labour pains as only a non- participant could:

Artist written back into 'Sergeant Pepper' script: David Lister reports on a woman who helped to design a famous LP cover

JANN HAWORTH was recently playing Trivial Pursuit when the question came up: who designed the album cover for The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper?

A bracing dip in Majorville

MAJORISM has made it into the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, so now everyone wants to know what it is. The daily Independent has invited readers to send in suggestions; reporters have been dispatched to Brixton to see if they can spot it. But I can tell them that they are looking in the wrong place.

POETRY LIBRARY QUIZ WINNERS

The winner of a weekend for two in Dublin is Brian Docherty of Crouch End, London; the second prize goes to Peg Topping of Bournemouth; and the five runners-up prizes to Nigel Bartlett of West Hampstead, London; Ivy Dennett-Thorpe of Felixstowe; Sue Deakin of London NW11; Mrs S C Gibb of Tiverton, Devon; and Mr P Thompson of Stoke Newington, London.

Don't bother with an agent, just get yourself an adjective

I AM thinking seriously of becoming a writer. Do you have any advice for me?

THEATRE / The Fringe: Taken down and used in evidence: Sarah Hemming on a spate of docudramas, including Sticks and Stones, The Secret of the White Rose and Letters Home

Say one morning an incident takes place outside your front door and you feel compelled to write a drama about it. Would you repeat verbatim everyone's point of view? Mix true statements with imagined dialogue? Or dramatise the incident and characterise the people? How much would you shape your material, how truthful could you be?

Health: Writers of insight and insanity: Inspiration and mental illness sometimes go together, and can run in families. Rob Stepney on a link that may bring hope

Gwen Watkins's youngest son, Tristan, suffered for 20 years from manic depression and died two years ago. Her husband, the poet Vernon Watkins, who died in 1967, experienced a severe schizophrenic breakdown when he was a young man.

BOOK REVIEW / A diary of the dying time

IF THERE'S an image which typifies Sharon Olds's powerful sequence of poems about her dying father, it's the drinking-glass by his bed. The glass is grimly functional: as the cancer grows in his throat, so the glass fills with globules of his phlegm. But it's not without beauty: 'like a glass of beer foam', it sits there 'shiny and faintly golden'; he reaches for it 'like a god producing food from his own mouth'. To his daughter, staring at its transcendent ordinariness, it becomes

BOOK REVIEW / PAPERBACKS: A Journey into the Red Eye - Janice Markey: Women's Press, pounds 7.99

Iconcolastic study of Sylvia Plath's poetry, to mark the 30th anniversary of her suicide. To combat notions of Plath as narcissistic, neurotic and death-driven, the author claims to find evidence in her work of warmth, broad humanity and, yes, even humour.

The Daily Poem: Experimental

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.

BOOK REVIEW / The singing flight of the frump: 'Tsvetaeva' - Viktoria Schweitzer, Tr. Robert Chandler & H T Willetts: Harvill 20 pounds

MARINA TSVETAEVA imbibed her mother's sublime Romanticism - adoration of art, music, literature and noble sacrifice - with the milk of her many wet-nurses. Her quiet father (who created what is now the Pushkin Museum) provided the wherewithal for servants, education and holidays in dachas, while her mother strode about announcing: 'Money is filth]' This was the springiest of launch-pads for the future poet who never really came down to earth, even though the revolutionaries burned down their Moscow house and ultimately wrecked her life. It is easy to see that someone like Tsvetaeva would have driven the Social Realists mad.
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