About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 25,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. and ha snow been read by over 2 million The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.

Sunday, 11 January 2015


The whole point of the Charlie massacre, when it was safe to be a pen-waving protester in the Paris squares a few days ago, SEEMED TO BE that a bunch of funny, rude and brave men (they were mainly men) drew and published cartoons making fun of religious figures; and some lunatics that couldn't take a joke and hated Voltaire and Liberty and the West had killed them in their offices.  It was like the scene in Total Recall when the  new-born saviour is brutally killed. It was gross and totally wrong. Totally.

And so a sort of childlike mania swept a lot of the world, and we all claimed to be Charlies.  Nevermind that 99% of us had never read Charlie Hebdo, didn't speak or read French, and didn't realise that a lot of the Charlie cartoons were probably illegal under hate laws in some Western nations, we all saw a moment of group love, a sort of Titanic of political engagement.  We are the world, and we don't like Muslim cartoon-killers, ok? Group hug time.

Then, suddenly, the lunatics started killing Jews, and it became muddier, more complex, and less clear-cut - were we all Juifs? If so, I didn't see those placards.  I didn't see a lot of Je Suis Un Juif signs, did you? A lot of us became Ahmed, the shot cop, and some of us the brave Muslim shop assistant - but, while the mass demonstration has gathered today in Paris, France - a storm is settling over the sunny uplands of our moral certainties. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is kosher food mightier than the machine pistol? For the killers have revealed themselves to not just be humourless monsters, but anti-Semitic ones too.

And while most people in France can claim to love cartoons, a slim but real minority can't claim to love Jews, judging by the way they vote.  In fact, Europe's dirty open secret is, it is almost as racist as it was in the 1930s. And it has the extremist parties to show for it. All the victims of the killers are equal, and need to be mourned equally, but the innocent shoppers in the Kosher market who were not in the business of goading maniacs and thus did not require police protection, are actually somehow viewed as beside the point, when they are more viscerally and genuinely informative of the nature of their foes: these killers are not cranky loner gunmen - they are part of a large consensus of fanaticism sweeping large parts of the Middle East

When Saudi Arabia can flog a journalist during Charlie week, we know there is a disconnect somewhere. What is really getting lost is Charlie's mad subversion. Charlie Hebdo was like National Lampoon, Monty Python, Private Eye, Mad Magazine, cranked up to 11. None of the political speeches about CH has been rude or funny or madcap. Hopefully the next issue of the Hebdo will return to what it does best: offending all equally. At the moment, and after some brilliant and imaginative illustrations and cartoons, we are settling for the usual rhetoric, the usual sombre tones.  To truly change the channel, we need to surf like Charlie did - on dangerous rude disruptive waves, and continue to fling snot and bile in all directions at once with comic fervour and clear-eyed distrust of all authority. Oh, and Je Suis Un Juif.

Roll Over Eliot and Tell Costa the News

A serious lack of intelligent critical engagement on the part of some players in the British poetry world has led to a situation of dumbing down, and aesthetic compromise. There is no genuinely engaged scholar of contemporary British poetry who could possibly think the ten-strong shortlist for tomorrow's Eliot Prize represents the ten best books of poetry published in Britain or Ireland this year - there are just too many glaring omissions. Further, the recent furore over Kate Tempest - a rapper and slam poet whose page-based work is mediocre and often lamentable - has been nothing short of disgraceful. Meanwhile, a perfectly pleasant, and amiable, and often funny poetry collection by a young man has won this year's Costa Poetry Prize - which is nice for him, but vaguely odd.  Again, the people who are selecting judges and selectors for most of the main prizes, book clubs, and festivals, seem either about 25 years out of date, or, far worse, guided by motives and poetics that are of dubious grounding. In the mad tilt to celebrity, accessibility, and accountability, an idea has seemingly formed that demotic, funny, usually rhyming verse is the most genuine way in which "real" poets can speak to "real people" in these "real" times.

Aside from the fact that we have had demotic poetry since at least Chaucer (and funny verse too), there is no reason to think poetry need be ever either "real" or "for the people" - poets are artists, and they should select their aims according to the art's interests, not the audiences.  Or at least, that is the elitist modernist view, which, up to a point I believe is essential as a starting point; tempered by a post-structuralist awareness of problematic issues with canon formation and ideology, to be sure.

It would be nice to be able to say that most poetry prizes in the UK are actually a tussle between modernist, post-modernist or avant-ist tendencies - but they aren't even that - like many reviews in newspapers, they are more often guided by pleasant, amiable, coterie group-think. So and so is handsome, or polite, or interesting, or has had a tough life, or taught me at this school or that course, or writes poetry like Heaney or Armitage, or was on the telly, or has won a lot of prizes, or is published by a big press... the number of reasons for selecting a poet to win a prize is so vast, it is hard to sometimes remember the real thing might be to ask who is actually writing the most interesting, or vital, or engaged, or informed, poetry. So long as 90% of people who read and write poetry in the UK think it mostly begins and ends with the list of three or four large mainstream presses, all is almost lost. Not quite, but almost.

However, for their part, Faber has of late published extremely exciting and intelligent new poets, such as Berry and de las Rivas, and will continue with Underwood soon.  I just think we need a lot more context, wider reading, and more robust intent on the part of some of the powers that be in these isles.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


Make no mistake, the terrorist massacre of at least 12 French journalists, editors, and cartoonists - writers and satirists - working at Charlie Hebdo in Paris (think a  socio-political combination of Mad Magazine, The Onion and Private Eye, with some of the cruder elements of Hustler), on the 7th day of the new year, is a seismic event.

As one cartoon had it, the twin towers were now two towering pencils, about to be destroyed. Of course, the deaths in themselves are sad and tragic. But the symbolic (as well as practical) impact of this attack is far greater than a count of the bodies, high as that is.  For, unlike the Brevik massacre, which was horrifying and cruel, but ultimately proved to be the work of an isolated madman without wider social connections, this was the work of a terror cell that may be linked to ISIS.

The massacre was timed with the precision of a military exercise - it occurred in broad daylight in the heart of one of the world's busiest, greatest cities - and was a calm piece of wet-work we might associate with the world's elite commando units.  Three men clad in black, armed with machine-guns, strode into a busy newsmagazine office at the worst time (was this an inside job?) - exactly when all the key editors and artists were there - and proceeded to execute them.

They also killed two armed police men, and then fled, without being caught, in a small car, later abandoned.  At time of writing, tonight, they have not been caught.  Forget amateur hour, or suicide strikes - this was chillingly planned, executed, and was, from the perspective of this most evil of operations, a total success.

Or was it? Charlie Hebdo may close (for a time), or not.  Tens of thousands of Parisians are gathering in the city tonight, and many French people are, in solidarity, changing their Facebooks to say Je Suis Charlie. Charlie Hebdo, a relatively poor-selling weekly, is now the most famous magazine in the world, just as, in a lesser way, the attacks on Sony made The Interview, a mediocre film, an instant classic.

Charlie Hebdo is not to everyone's tastes.  Let us be clear, it is often joyously tasteless, a shit-pie in the face of any and all powers that be. In fact, as a Catholic with great respect for all religious traditions (at their best), including Islam, I have been personally disgusted by some of their incendiary cartoons of the past, which have been vulgar, atheistic, and boldly confrontational.  They took no prisoners.

Okay, but, here is where we must draw what I call the Western line. I would never kill a cartoonist or editor for publishing such things as appear in Charlie Hebdo.  I would fight to the death, in fact, to protect their liberty, their freedom, to publish such work.  This is because the tradition that Charlie Hebdo is part of (the tradition that led to the French revolution and modern democracy) is also the tradition of Swift, Bentham, and all great satirists, and pamphleteers. For all the West's brutal faults, it is now commonly understood that we do not kill people for blasphemy, or for expressing ideas or opinions which question our own views.

But this is not a debating team wet-dream, only. This is not a hypothetical. This is a terrible, very frightening game changer for all writers, artists, satirists, publishers, and journalists, everywhere. What these extremists have demonstrated, in a way so clear and chilling it equals the horror of 9/11 - is that no one who thinks differently from them is safe, not even at home, in their own cities. If you publish something they don't like, they can rub you out. This is a kill fee with no fee, just the kill.  It is the radical and extreme and final riposte to gonzo journalism and its obsession with radical protest and guns - this is gonzo anti-journalism.

It is, in fact, the death of a free press in France, today - and hopefully, there will be a rebirth soon. But for now, we are facing a very bleak moment - for how do we protect other newspapers, magazines, blogs, and writers? How do we protect anyone who dares to question these maniacs? They live among us, they are well-trained, well-armed, and more deadly than any foe we have known before. SPECTRE and all fictional enemies now appear quaint, even aliens and asteroids and viruses and crop failure and global warming - we have madmen in our midst, and this is a fast-acting toxin.

As writers, and readers, we must stand up for Charlie Hebdo, for freedom, and somehow carry on, though we know we face terrible risks ahead. And, while this will play into the hands of fanatics who will seek to portray whole communities as dangerous, we must resist our own extremist reactions, while also being unafraid to hold firm, and take the hard decisions that need to be taken, to defeat the enemies of education for women, freedom of the press, and the Western way of life.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015



How good was 2014 for TV? So good that there is no critical consensus. Years past saw a relatively small list of television shows dominate the critical conversation – The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, maybe a sprinkling of Friday Night Lights or Lost if the critic wants to feel particularly transgressive. Shows written before 1999 are seen not as genuine predecessors but chicken scratch compared to the gorgeous calligraphy to come. It remains one of the things I love about American television – with ample time and a steady hand a relative newcomer can easily track down and absorb the medium’s accepted canon. A medium in relative infancy has no room for the gloriously messy and anarchic world of literary publishing.

And then 2014 happened. With Walter White’s conclusion told with deadened clarity, critical consensus collapsed. Critics went from arbiters to advocates – for the single-minded True Detective, the offbeat Fargo, the progressive Transparent. And I’d like to feel bitter about this shift, but the sheer weight of great material that aired last year speaks for itself. Even my own list saw a shake-up. Matthew Weiner’s elegiac Mad Men fell short for the first time in three years.

This is to no fault of Mad Men, which offered seven episodes of catharsis - a humbled Don Draper finally making peace with all of the demons he conjured over the years. Cannot wait to see how Weiner chose to end one of televisions' last great giants.

Though the networks still offered plenty of retrograde entertainment, casually progressive shows started to crack through. Black-ish not only revitalized old sitcom tropes, but also took on hot button issues with wit and pathos. And although How to Get Away with Murder has badly stumbled over several structural errors, Viola Davis' performance demonstrates how so many untapped stories still lay untold. For my money, there was no show as wonderfully progressive or subversive as Brooklyn Nine Nine - which manages to consistently deliver crackling comedy without reducing anyone to out of character histrionics.

Amazon burst into the big leagues with Transparent. Though Jeffrey Tambor's performance is a revelation, the show's depiction of casual religion and frictional family tension will stick with me even more. Proof positive that gender is just a thing we internalize, Transparent proves that real progress doesn't come when we deify marginalized groups. It arrives when we treat everyone like real people, with flesh and blood prejudices and biases and long held grudges and desires. The tenderness of Tambor's performance stands every bit as memorable as Josh's forlorn quest to find a female vessel for his insecurity, or Ali's directionless flopping around, or Sarah's marathon race to lock in long-term love like a business transaction. It’s a shame how many people will turn their head away from Transparent, because its on Amazon or because it explicitly seeks to smash barriers. Though Transparent was not the very best television series of the year, it may have contained my favorite scene - a Shabbat dinner gone horribly right, portraying the chaotic clashing of old rituals and new necessities with a profoundly Jewish pragmatism.

Other shows also gave us plenty to chew on; FX's The Americans steely precision and fiery performance by Kerri Russell deserves far more than the single sentence here. HBO's True Detective may have leaned too heavily on old tropes like the nagging wife, but its sense of atmosphere and loss were unparalleled. FX's Fargo improbably paid proper homage to its inspiration and offered a reminder that payoffs don't have to arrive years later. 24: Live Another Day livened up the summer with a superbly plotted season that reminded everyone that old relics can be dusted off, polished, and hold just as much power as our newest infatuations. Game of Thrones continued its overambitious march towards insanity, a continual high wire act that redefines what event television can be. The Flash pushed its budget almost as hard as it pushed the boundaries of network television storytelling, with incredible institutional memory and densely plotted payoffs conjuring the spirits of Whedon shows past. Deeply disappointed in the infantile House of Cards and sanctimonious Newsroom, I went international and found the Danish import Borgen. Though it finished airing in 2012, my most enduring memory of 2014 may very well be Birgitte Nyborg telling her fellow politicians that “All of us here have become ever so Professional.”

Everyone I know struggled to keep up with the avalanche of great television. The second series of Orange is the new Black and Masters of Sex are first on my list of shows to watch in the new year. 

But there was no show that left a deeper mark than FX's You're The Worst. My eyes glazed over the gaudy promos that pitched it as yet another nihilistic comedy about terrible people being terrible. Instead, I found a modern romance, the freshest story about two people falling in love since Harry Met Sally and subsequently froze the genre in amber. Well, at least in America.

In Britain, authors took a keen eye to enduring myths and changing attitudes – shows like Coupling, Gavin and Stacy, and Spaced took a gleeful axe to their suddenly stodgy American counterparts. Stephen Falk, creator of You’re The Worst, went into Hollywood pitch meetings and told them that he wanted to puncture every gaudy and internalized facet of the American romantic comedy. Gone was the over baked artifice. Instead, we follow two caustic cynics bonding over their own mutual dislike of other people – when Gretchen admits to setting her high school on fire to avoid a math test, Jimmy finds it to be one of the most romantic things he’s ever heard. They negotiate their kinks – Jimmy’s foot fetish is both a fountain of jokes and a part of his character. They eat and they drink and they fuck – but mostly, they just enjoy being around each other’s company.

You're the Worst captures the sensation of falling in love. It captures that moment when your significant other hears one of your secret shames and thinks it the coolest thing in the world. It captures the tug of war that underlines any relationship, correctly treating dating as something far more messy than a chess match. It captures that moment when you choose to unburden yourself ever so slightly, right after you've chosen to shoulder someone else's burdens not because you have to but because you want to.

Every single traditional show on television crams in a "romance", whether it’s warranted or not. And so people fuck like marionettes, or blandly crush on a coworker for a delayed love triangle, or drearily burp up platitudes. You're The Worst argues against all of that bullshit, unafraid to show real worry and vulnerability. When Gretchen gets an offer to spend the weekend with another guy, Jimmy doesn't coyly find a contrived way to get her to stay. Instead, Gretchen bluntly asks him to tell her to stay, if he wants to. And so Jimmy looks at her and says, with devastating earnestness, "Don't go."

It also features a vibrator hooked up to Christmas lights, too.

For that reason and so many more, You're The Worst was my show of 2014. Over fifteen years ago, David Chase created The Sopranos and lit the industry afire. And over a decade, television went from an also-ran to a true creative fault line. David Simon’s The Wire is the finest indictment of modern society I may ever witness. Show after show after show lined up and gently pushed the boundaries of how we use television to tell stories. There was a queue.

Stories now spin out in new directions, unafraid to show a man crying, a woman cracking a joke, a biracial kid tentatively trying to straddle two worlds - these elements no longer notable for their uniqueness but their ubiquity. And there are those who will want to return to the safer confines of the well-executed but well-trodden path of entertainment with clearly identified motifs and white hats and network-approved Comic Relief Characters. And those products will continue to exist and serve their audience. But me?  I’ll take this newer path. I want to see where it leads.




Johnny's in the attic now, and the snow

has started to cover the skylight with the slightest

sound disappearing into silence.

A bare bulb shines on an unlabeled box—

a set of Pyrex tubes. He pulls one out,

looks through the still clean glass at all the dust

he's stirred up by digging around up here,

seeking nothing in particular

but whatever feeling he might find.


The air begins to summon back the Christmas

cough that laid him up till New Year's Day.

He pulls up the cord behind his Bauhaus lamp;

out comes a badge that someone must have worn

since he was a kid—or just held up

to the light to see one corner of the star

had broken off. And on the wall is Bogart—

what's the use of a man in a fedora

no one ever smiles to recall?

He used to dream of repartee, of friendships

that were beautiful enough to end.


There's a paisley cloth on Dad's old trunk,

and the lid only opens with a slippery effort

and a cut on his knuckle. Sucking a trace of blood,

he fingers a pair of old sandals it made

no sense to keep, all sentiment forgotten.

This dug-up life just barely feels like his.

Here's a set of guitar strings for the guitar

he'd never seriously played, then handed on

to Bob, who went off overseas and wrote

so many letters, all so long he never

read them, sending only postcards back.


When had he last recalled this model airplane?

In the basement, when he should've been in bed,

he'd slowly glued the balsa, piece by piece.

The smell of the glue had slowly overwhelmed

the smell of the wood; he'd gotten dizzy with it

and his lack of sleep, but kept on building.

It'd flown so often, breaking only once,

a simple enough repair—will it fly again?

He's a man in an attic shuffling through his stuff,

things forgotten, things he'll never remember;

he's throwing away his life while the snow falls

and the wind blows whichever way it blows.


            Revised February 2009, typed October 2010
Andrew Shields' debut full collection is out with Eyewear July 2015!

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2015 terms and conditions

The Melita Hume Poetry Prize

THE MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE is an award of £1,500 and a publishing deal with Eyewear Publishing Ltd., for the best first full collection by a young poet writing in the English language, 35 YEARS OR UNDER at the time of entry. The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers. This is open to any one of the requisite age, of any nationality, resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  It is free to enter.

Previous winners are Caleb Klaces for Bottled Air (2012); judge Tim Dooley; Marion McCready for Tree Language (2013); judge Jon Stone; Amy Blakemore for Humbert Summer (2014); judge Emily Berry.

2015 competition

The Judge for the 2015 competition is Toby Martinez de las Rivas.  His poetry collection Terror was published by Faber & Faber in 2014, and he is widely considered one of the best younger poets now writing. Toby Martinez de las Rivas was born in 1978. He grew up in Somerset, then moved to the north-east of England after studying history and archaeology at Durham where he began writing. He first worked as an archaeologist and this, together with the landscape of Northumberland and the work of north-eastern writers such as Barry MacSweeney and Gillian Allnutt have had a significant impact on the development of his own poetry. He won an Eric Gregory award in 2005 and the Andrew Waterhouse award from New Writing North in 2008. His pamphlet was published by Faber as part of the Faber New Poets scheme.

The judge will select the best collection from the shortlist, which will be no more than ten, and no fewer than six poets.  The 2015 competition is now open, and closes at 5pm on April 8th, 2015.  The prize is free to enter, and submissions will be accepted from anyone of the requisite age, of any nationality; the poet must be resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  Manuscripts must be between 50 -100 pages; and the work must be previously unpublished in full book form. Up to half the poems can have appeared before in a pamphlet.


The 2015 shortlist will be announced in by June 2015 and the winner will be announced by July 2015.  The winning collection will be published in 2016.


Terms and conditions

1.     This contest is open to poets 35 years of age or under at date of entering.

2.     Entrants can be from anywhere in the world.  Entrants must be currently resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland— please note that publication will be in the UK and sold internationally.

3.     The Prize is free to enter.

4.     Work must be in English and unpublished in its full form (up to 50% can have appeared in pamphlet form prior to submission and individual poems may have appeared in magazines).Translations and self-published books are not eligible. The work must be by a single author.

5.     Only electronic manuscripts are admissible. No printed paper entries will be accepted. Documents must be titled with the name of the poet.

6.     Manuscripts must include a standard covering sheet that includes your name, address and contact details, your date of birth, the title of the work, a biography of between 150 and 250 words and a statement that you have read and accepted these terms and conditions. Covering sheets are available as a Word document upon request from us at info@eyewearpublishing.com .

7.     Manuscripts must include a table of contents and a list of acknowledgments for poems previously published.

8.     Electronic manuscripts must be typed in Microsoft Word or supplied as a PDF file, paginated, single spaced and between 50–100 pages in length.  The page size must be A4 (297 × 210 mm).  The page count does not include the covering sheet, list of contents or acknowledgements of previous publication.

9.     No alterations to the manuscript will be accepted after submission. No correspondence can be entered into for entries once they are made.

10.            Submissions must be sent via email to info@eyewearpublishing.com by 5pm on April 8th, 2015.

11.            Late submissions will not be accepted.  Eyewear Publishing takes no responsibilities for technical difficulties. 

12.            Confirmation of receipt of entries will be sent by email within ten working days of submission.

13.            The winner will receive a £1,500 prize, including publication within 18 months by Eyewear under their standard contractual terms, and a launch in London.

14.            The shortlist will be no fewer than six and no more than ten poets. 

15.            All poets must agree to send promotional material if requested (photo and extended biography), and grant permission to be listed as shortlisted for the prize in press releases and online.

16.            Poets agree to abide by all the rules, and must accept the prize if selected as the winner.

17.            We cannnot offer feedback on individual entries. 

18.            Eyewear Publishing Ltd. retains the right to cancel the Melita Hume Poetry Prize without prior notice.



1.     I have included a completed covering sheet with my submission.

2.     I have emailed my submission.

3.     I have read and understood the terms and conditions above.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Gone Man, sadly
Eyewear can't see everything, even with our x-ray specs.

We loved House of Cards, Homeland, The Americans, and a bunch of other TV shows and movies, from The Grand Budapest Hotel to The Lego Movie to The Drop, The Equalizer, Deliver Us From Evil and The Giver to Interstellar to Guardians of the Galaxy to Peter Jackson's rip-roaring final Hobbit film; as well as the creepy voyeurism/news satirical thriller Nightcrawler (with a great turn by Rene Russo).  Not to mention the impeccable yet odd homage to 80s erotic thrillers/slasher/actioner films, The Guest, the year's guiltiest pleasure. Another fine film was Belfast-based thriller '71, with an impeccable recreation of a visual and film stock style from 40 years ago. Locke, with Tom Hardy, our favourite new actor, was a brilliant one-hander, a sort of 2001: A Birmingham-London Odyssey.

Gillian Anderson - The Fall 2. Anderson has not been so riveting since House of Mirth years ago, and makes her British detective a more mature and complex counterpoint to her earlier iconic role as Scully.  This often nasty series is a new Prime Suspect-quality show, that, despite its visual cruelty, yields striking performances.

Woody Harrelson - True Detective.  The true believer might opt for the gaunt haunted McConaughey, who is brilliant in this great series (see below) however Harrelson's everyman turn as the Horatio-like foil to Rust's Hamlet is actually the more challenging role, and he gets it so right.

True Detective. This brief, literate, weird, and profoundly mythic reimagining of American noir through HP Lovecraft and anti-natalist thinking is one of the finest TV shows ever made. It bears comparison with Twin Peaks and the X-Files for astonishment factor, the uncanny and quality.

House of Cards, Transparent, Orange Is The New Black, The Americans... all these and others have claim to being great TV - but in the first year since Breaking Bad ended its triumphant run, and became one of the great cultural products of the decade, no show could lay claim to such monumental greatness.

One show, however, received almost no attention or acclaim at all, and this was little-seen Manhattan, a perfectly-realised, brilliantly-acted ensemble drama set in a slightly-fictionalised Manhattan Project microcosm in the Mojave desert. Filmed with the gravitas of Brideshead Revisited, and as intelligent as the best BBC or PBS dramas of yore, it combined intelligent elements of history and science seamlessly with concerns about sexual identity, intellectual purpose, and moral values, and was often erotic and thrilling, at once.

Gone Girl. David Fincher's new surprise masterpiece, using every one of his stylish tricks to evoke a world as cool, disturbed and sexually compromised as Hitchcock's Pyscho fused with North by Northwest.  A screwball comedy of guilt, suspicion and crafty authorial post-modernism, it's surface pleasures were icy but deep as a knife wound. The soundtrack has its own Vertigo-esque charms as well.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - A Most Wanted Man.  This is my sentimental favourite.  This was a strange, completely mesmerising, transformative performance, with a ball of rage exploding at the end, which sums up the master's great curtailed career.

Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl. Pike might be seen as a surprise choice in this category, but she was fascinating, hugely poised and watchable, and ultimately shocking, in her complex role within roles of the perfect cool girlfriend gone sour as the bad wife.

'71. The Belfast-set film's use of an ominous tribalistic drumbeat, and sorrowful folk tune, managed to both ratchet up the tension, serve as a coda at the mournful end, and also signal rays of hope amid the mayhem.

Grace of Monaco - this would have been my favourite bad movie of the year if The Guest had not cleverly adapted the very idea of a pre-planned cult movie and made itself such. A bizarrely affectless and yet at times histrionic telling of how little Monaco stood up to de Gaulle with the thanks of the intelligence of Grace Kelly, the movie star, who turned her back on Marnie and Hitchcock to be the perfect princess. Wooden, clumsy, contrived, and yet wonderfully kitsch.


Here is a list of 20 of the movies, TV shows, music pop albums, and poetry books that Eyewear, the blog is most looking forward to (we aren't of course hyping our own amazing list of forthcoming poetry books here):


We speak here of UK release dates...

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - what's not to like? The sexiest actor out there today, Tom Hardy, filling in for Gibson, in George Miller's near-silent master-class in silent dusty roads to death.

SPECTRE - Well, it's the next James Bond, and it may have Blofeld in it, and some Alp skiing action. Skyfall was over-rated, and had some odd problems in continuity, but it had intelligent design and acting.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - I would be lying if I didn't say this better be good, and just may be amazing.  The last three films were rubbish, but we have a new start here. Exciting, frankly.

BIRDMAN - Apparently the movie of the year, we enjoy great come-backs, and this one has one of the most startling in Michael Keaton's resurgence.

WHIPLASH - JK Simmons (a major character actor) has apparently turned in a career-defining performance as an insane Jazz teacher/ mentor.  Anything that can make teaching life-and-death thrilling (as it truly can be) is welcome.

2015 looks to be one of the great years for film, with, as well, new films by Spielberg, Roy Andersson, Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson and Ron Howard. We also look forward to 50 Shades of Grey, The Martian, MI: 5, and the Avengers sequel.


MARK RONSON - UPTOWN FUNK - the title track was a late-blooming mega-hot end of 2014 for Ronson, and if the other songs are anywhere near to that one's upbeat zany 80s vibe (think Michael Jackson meets Frankie Goes to Hollywood) then this will be very fun.

BOB DYLAN - SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT - one of the more eccentric albums from the genius - a reversioning of standards from the American songbook, a sort of deconstruction of Nat King Cole and Sinatra.

SLEATER-KINNEY - NO CITIES TO LOVE - the greatest girl group of all time returns.

MADONNA - she'll be back in 2015 with a new album, and judging from throw-away single, 'Illuminati', this could be great, and out-Gaga Gaga.

THE WATERBOYS - MODERN BLUES - a once-great band, a new album after some Yeatsian dalliances... this will be a flop or simply majestic.

TV SERIES (returning)

TRUE DETECTIVE Season 2 - A hard act to follow, series 1 (stand alone) was a masterwork of weirdness.

HOMELAND Season 5 - Well, Brody really is dead, sort of. Quinn is the new love interest, lost on a mission; Lockhart (the best creep in TV) is going; Saul is back in charge; and Carrie is either going to take on Mum duty again, or be an agent again, or what? Hard to tell where to go from here, but some parts of Season 4 were as exciting as anything else on TV.

THE AMERICANS Season 3 - The smartest, sexiest show ever made about marriage and ideology, with lots of room for more wigs and erotic Russian accents.

HOUSE OF CARDS Season 3 - We will be able to gorge again on the most dastardly Congressman ever to become President, and his ultra-cunning and charming wife.  Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are electric.

MAD MEN - the end of the series.  Well, this long ago became somewhat dispiriting - but we all want to see if the most handsome ad-man of all time, is going to find some sort of integrity, peace or just die on the instalment plan.

Of course, there are also Game of Thrones, Manhattan, the Hilary Mantel adaptation, Wolf Hall, the last season of Glee, Fortitude (mystery set in Arctic), Sherlock, Better Call Saul, but that's much more more than 5...


FRANCES LEVISTON - DISINFORMATION - Leviston's essay on the autumn British Poetry issue was a reminder she is one of the smartest of the young British poets.

JACK UNDERWOOD - HAPPINESS - Underwood is the last of the generation of Riviere, Kennard, Berry, Leviston and Mort to get his debut collection, and it promises to be brilliant.

PAUL MULDOON - ONE THOUSAND THINGS WORTH KNOWING - Ireland's greatest living poet, and one of New York's wittiest, has a new book? Heart-stoppingly exciting.  Few poets command such expectation.

RF LANGLEY - COLLECTED POEMS - A chance to finally read the hopefully not as slim as apparent output of one of the slyest and most compelling of the innovative Cambridge poets (sadly deceased) that have inspired the work of, among others, Denise Riley (and myself).

SANDEEP PARMAR - EIDOLON - Parmar, an American-British poet and academic and editor and critic, is one of the finest poets writing in English these days, and backs up her intellect and knowledge of hidden aspects of modernism with a passionate appreciation of the Plath tradition.  This book could be one of the contenders for collection of 2015.

There's also a new Don Paterson out this year; the Collected Poems of TS Eliot in two volumes, edited by Christopher Ricks; and collections of great interest by PJ HarveyChristian Wiman, Donald Hall, James Byrne and Tony Hoagland, among others.

Note, some information here from:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30554336

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Eyewear, the blog is on the cusp of greatness - it enters its tenth year in 2015 as the longest-running personally-edited British poetry blog.  A decade of posts.  Wow.  This is the 3,300th.  Enjoy.


As we know, flying is the safest form of rapidly crossing vast distances (especially oceans, mountain ranges, jungles, forests, deserts, and the poles). Millions of people fly every year, and only a few thousand die in hull losses (crashes). However, as we also know, 2014 was the most deadly in a decade.

Every time a billionaire airline company owner weeps in sorrow, or tweets in joy at a miraculous disaster averted, they avoid the ugly truth - commercial passenger aviation is based on a table of profit and losses, whereby some deaths and accidents are factored in, in advance.  If you don't build and fly airliners, people can't die in them, so obviously, so long as planes are not 100% safe (they are only 99.999% safe), the airlines are culpable, like tobacco companies, for some of the deaths, indirectly, perhaps only ethically. You cannot throw 400 people into the sky ten thousand times a day and then act surprised when some fall down and die.

No, we all accept, rather cruelly, the lottery of flying.  We know some people will die each year in a plane, flying with teddy bears and books and iPhones just like us, but we don't want those people to be us; so long as it usually is someone else dying, we accept the risk.  It is a risk unlike that of a major operation.  You never really have to be elsewhere, but sometimes you do need a tumour taken out.

One thing seems clear - more or less, planes, since 2005, are safer than before.  They fall down less often, and explode less often.  If we remove pilot error, wartime acts, and terrorism, from the list, we see the machines themselves almost never fail.  Few engines explode, few wings fall off - though rudders do, and engines do fail.  Which leaves us with this year.

In 2014, a few planes appear to be have been brought down by failure to fly when entering stormy weather.  This is a cause for grave concern, and should be addressed immediately.  This is because a) storms are foreseeable and b) inevitable and c) avoidable.  It is arguable that no passenger jet should ever have to fly anywhere near a serious storm system, at a time when it might prove deadly, in the same way no plane would be asked to fly into a volcanic ash cloud.  So why have so many recent air disasters arisen after pilots lost control during major storms?

The answer is ugly - the business demands more flights, more often, and planes are being thrown into air that is more turbulent than it should be.  If flying was deemed a little less urgent, and a little more deadly, we might be more cautious as consumers, and could expect to only be flown somewhere during calm winds.

This is perhaps silly, but it is a fact - we get the dangerous skies we demand.

If an airline advertised it would not fly into storms, or heavy weather, it might lose some business, but might gain much more from those of us (a silent majority) who fear death every time we take off.  And land.


"Close Reading" is the term for a technique often used to read poems, or poetry that was instigated in the 1920s at Cambridge by several critics; and though it tends to be questioned now, most poetry book reviewers, and even most poetry critics, do, at least sometimes, read poems from a close reading perspective. And that's fine.

But I wish to assay something else, also, now.  Imagine if we only discussed the weather in Britain - the storm fronts, the cloud banks, the gale force winds, the light and heavy rains, even the snow - in terms of individual snowflakes or pellets of rain.  It wouldn't do - instead, we generalise; draw expansive maps, and look at much larger forces.

If one sees each poem as a drop of rain, or perhaps one weather event on one day, then by stepping back, we see a broader picture emerge.  Heaney as a warm summer breeze; Larkin as a squall.  This is not meant to be apt, just a lightness of touch.  But the idea is there - what is the distant reading of a poet? What does that look like?

I think that too often, poets and critics nowadays know too much - or think they do - about poets, poetries and poems.  After all, poems are an old technology, and how they are made has not changed much in 2,000 years.  We can all quickly understand why we do or do not support the lyric, the voice, the conceptual, the linguistically innovative, and so on - and we can quickly comprehend the mechanics of set poems.

What happens if one steps back into a fog bank, past the awards and the prizes, the certainties of greatness, and acclaim? What does one see, or feel, about contemporary poetry?  What vague notions, images, impressions, and reports from afar does one detect?

It is worth the effort to imagine ourselves way beyond a place where we think we know what a poem or poet is, even.  What else might be poetry? Is all poetry man-made?  Is it lasting? Impermanent?  Cold? Hard? What worlds are summoned and summed up therein? Perhaps let us resist pat maps and anatomies, new directions; old shibboleths.

From space, our poets are sometimes smaller, sometimes brighter, than we might think, and their work, as a whole, constellates a wide range of patterns, worth observing, apart from the need to hone in on anyone line or phrase. This is a breaking away from the human form the poem insists on, to the form an eye makes, distantly.

Just some thoughts, on the edge of a new year. It may be that we need to apply ideas of weirdness and speculative realism to the objects and things that are poems, and poets.


End of the year best of lists are, as we know, vaguely suspect.  They are riddled with cronyism, laziness, neglect, partiality, bias, improvisation, ego, incompleteness, and general lassitude.  It is literally impossible (that is, I defy you to prove scientifically it is possible) to survey (in short, read) every book of poetry, every poem, every magazine, published in the English-speaking world. However, what is the point in giving up? 

A while back, a metaphor was introduced, that of the "Internet surfer" - it suggested a sort of skilled adroit yet reckless conquest (albeit very brief) of the unconquerable and impossibly vast - we surf the oceanic forces at our peril, but touchingly so, because humans can at times rise above nature's vast impervious strength. That is an artistry of the body and mind, but Internet and more broadly, magpie cultural surfing - that pick and mix mash-up hybridity that has become the default position of most artists these days (think of St Vincent, by many standards creator of album of the year, or Beck, or The War On Drugs, the other contenders - all are mash-ups).

In short, we cannot survey all, we must survey all - we must seek to rise above the ungovernable swells of content, and do our agile and effortful best - we must take on the playful role of surfer, the impossible athlete of ephemeral grace. Such lists, then, become not canonical interventions, not even helpful signposts, but acts, in their own right, of art.  The art of being a cultured person.  What was once called a reader. Readers have never been asked to read everything.  One of the charms of being a reader is that one reads what one wants.

My ideal form of reading is in a place that no longer exists.  It is to my mind the great Valhalla and Heaven of reading.  It is in December, or early January.  It is in Quebec, in the forest.  In My grandmother's large wooden house.  A fireplace roars with huge logs crackling. Outside, snow drifts halfway up the windows.  The snow is about five feet or ten feet deep in places.  Outside are wolves.  It is possibly minus twenty outside.  If you go outside you may well freeze to death.  So you stay inside.  It is 3 pm.  You have a cup of cocoa.  And you sit in a huge comfortable armchair by the fireplace, and you read.  You read what you take down from her shelves.  For Melita Hume is a collector of books.  All sorts, history, criticism, anthologies, Russian, Chinese, French, German, English - and you are fourteen or twelve.  But you can read Nabokov.  You can read Twain.  You can read poetry.  You can read Bloom.  You read Dickinson, Atwood. You read widely, as you wish, you are free, and safe, and yet to take the risks the reader takes.

So, two images - one is of being ensconced, the other of being a sort of flung conch. Both involve perfection of the moment. Joy is central.  Reading without joy is a waste of time, and is not the aim of reading.  What you read may be tragic, informative, funny, or maddening - but the reading must be a joyous act.

So what is my list of the year?  It is a list of books piled by my bed, and piled by where I read.  It is a list of books read, half-read, books I want to read.  It is a wish list, a shopping list, a love list. Friends jostle with strangers, even possibly enemies.  It is not a list of recommendations.  It is a list of what I would dip into again, by the fireplace, in the blizzard. I do not list the books I wrote or have published this year, but all those, it goes without saying, should be here. I am adding 21.  Memoirs, magazines, pamphlets, poetry by the dead and living - young and old. Litcrit. Rescued reputations.  Eccentrics. Bestsellers. Humour. Sex. Bereavement. Mental illness.

You may have many more choices.  Think of this as a desire of reading. A start, a foray, a jumble, an over-reaching.  A relaxed Saturday.  A snowfall.  A bit of fire. A memory jolt.  A mixed bag.  Mixed nuts. Help-yourself. Just some of what might be said. A gentle reminder. I keep adding: