The Sonnet: An Anthology, edited by Robert M. Bender and Charles L. Squier. New York: Washington Square Press. 428 pp. $5.95. Introduced to England in the 1530s by Sir Thomas Wyatt, the sonnet (14 lines of iambic pentameter) flourished during the Renaissance with sonnet sequences like Sir Philip Sidney's ``Astrophel and Stella,'' Edmund Spenser's ``Amoretti,'' and of course Shakespeare's famous ``Sonnets.'' Traditionally, sonnets are love poems, like Petrarch's to his Laura. Yet the form has also served as a vehicle for rumination, argument, religious devotion, self-examination, and political expression, from Donne's ``Death, be not proud'' and Milton's ``When I consider how my light is spent'' to Shelley's ``England in 1819,'' Yeats's ``Leda and the Swan,'' and Claude McKay's ``If We Must Die.'' As this comprehensive anthology well demonstrates, the sonnet has shown great resilience and continues a vibrant form to this day. While the editors do not reprint entire sonnet sequences, they have taken care to provide representative samplings of individual poets, including all the aforementioned names, as well as Michael Drayton, George Herbert, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Beddoes, D.G. Rossetti, George Meredith, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Bridges, Robert Frost, Elinor Wylie, and many more practitioners of the sonneteer's art. Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control and Contraceptive Choice, by Betsy Hartmann. New York: Harper & Row. 368 pp. $10.95 (also available in cloth, $24.95).

How best to balance the collective perils of overpopulation with the desire of individuals to determine for themselves the number of children they will have? Betsy Hartmann, who has lived in India and Bangladesh; contributed articles to the Monitor, the Nation, and other publications; and was coauthor of two previous books on third-world problems, reaches some controversial conclusions. She fears that women's health and safety have been jeopardized by high-tech - and higher-risk - methods like the pill, the IUD, injected contraceptives, and sterilization, routinely administered in the third world in preference to safer barrier methods (diaphragms, condoms, cervical caps) and natural methods like rhythm that rely on a higher degree of user commitment. Rejecting Malthusian arguments about the clear and present danger of overpopulation, Hartmann suggests that lower infant mortality and a general improvement in women's status can lead - without coercion - to lower birth rates. She concludes that individual freedom - along with a wide range of options, including abortion - is preferable to superimposed directives. Her approach is well-informed and humane, blending clinical and statistical evidence, incidents from her own experience, and impassioned, persuasive argument. An important book, both for its arguments and for its scrutiny of specific programs in India, Kenya, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and of China's new one-child policy. Augustus John: A Biography, by Michael Holroyd. New York: Viking Penguin. Illustrated. 828 pp. $10.95.

``When walking the streets of Chelsea, so the story goes, John had a habit of patting local children on the head - `in case it is one of mine.''' The story, which Michael Holroyd related in this biography (first published in two volumes in 1974 and 1975), may be apocryphal; the multitude of children was real. Welsh-born painter Augustus John (1878-1961) was the epitome of the Bohemian artist. He did memorable portraits of such figures as W.B. Yeats, G.B. Shaw, Dylan Thomas, and Tallulah Bankhead, as well as a verbal self-portrait in his 1953 autobiography ``Chiaroscuro.'' His appearance was as striking as his behavior: he was 6 feet tall, red-haired, red-bearded, and sported gypsy hats and huge earrings. Holroyd brings to his subject the vivacity, sympathy, and immensely detailed knowledge of period and milieu that distinguished his celebrated biography of Lytton Strachey. He sees John as one of the ``fantastic gallery of characters'' who emerged to embody wildness at a time when British civilization was growing more mechanical and routinized. Whether or not this insight into the Edwardian age proves conclusive, Holroyd's portrait of the time, the place, and the ``fantastic'' people is a remarkable one. The Turning Point: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Chiang-Kai-Shek, 1943: The Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran Conferences, by Keith Sainsbury. New York: Oxford University Press. 373 pp. $13.95.

The seeds of the decisions that emerged from the famous Yalta and Potsdam conferences were sown earlier, in the conferences of 1943. Such is the contention of Keith Sainsbury, whose close, well-documented study of these crucial meetings leads him further to conclude that the outcome of the negotiations was more or less inevitable. Historians in search of ``turning points'' where the Soviet postwar expansion might have been checked as well as those who would find in the days of wartime cooperation a model for a more peaceful postwar existence will want to take account of this very thorough exposition of political, diplomatic, and military maneuverings among the Allies - as will the general reader interested in understanding how things turned out the way they did.

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