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.


Monday, 25 May 2015

2015 MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE SHORTLIST FOCUS: MICHAEL CONLEY


A TEACHER FROM MANCHESTER AND A POET
Michael Conley is a 30-year-old teacher from Manchester.  He has been published in a variety of magazines including Magma, Rialto, Interpreters House and Bare Fiction.  His first pamphlet, Aquarium, was published by Flarestack in 2014. The poem here below is from his shortlisted collection for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2015.
 
We Discover A Severed Thumb In The Woods
 
Lying either side of it,
we play
who dares get their tongue closest.
 
It nestles
in a pile of wet leaves, real
as a joke thumb. 
 
It mightn't be a thumb after all;
could be a stubby finger.
It's hard to tell
 
without the context of a hand.
It smells like
the thing you can’t find
 
in the fridge.
You are winning: your tongue
is practically touching it.
 
 
poem copyright the author 2015.
 
 



Friday, 22 May 2015

Ode On A Summer Dress

Ode On A Summer Dress

A folly in couplets

Summer flings off traces
Of winter's heavy faces

To reveal the lines of youth
Beneath the veils where truth


Hides its knees and thighs
As bibles conceal their lies

By putting all that's best
Deep within the quest


And here she assumes a pose
Like the thorn upsets the rose

So Julia flows just as sweat
Wearing motion like the wet


Making theologians debate
Whether we need anymore wait

Since now she has shown up
We've witnessed heaven's cup


Overflow with honeyed hope,
As she ties light like a rope 

Or snakes around the shade
As if life demanded parades


She's all that can be known
When beauty's widely thrown

In with lithe, lean, cream and tan
Whatever ligaments between


But do not objectify
With your one Byronic eye

Or ape the bull that gores
Let out of braying doors


Avert your gaze awhile
Her smile is not your smile

The flowers in their fields
Return a private yield


She is a long bride of time
Not a whipping post to climb

There is no lust when blind
Which is how the wise are kind


Befriend the fully clad
To avoid the lewder salad

She ticks the form that bends
The wicked to their ends


Youth is not for the poet now
Go turn your pen out to plough

A garden ripe with rhyme
In which innocence bites thyme.


poem by Todd Swift
May 21, 2015

THE BIG SAY YES

There is no argument to restrict marriage to heterosexual citizens, even in churches. Tradition is a poor blueprint for a more just or modern world. Should we still burn at the stake? There is no explicit permission from God in the Bible but neither does God give permission for liberal democracy or hydro-electric plants. Homosexuality was a sin because all sexuality outside of marriage was a sin. So bring the homosexuality into marriage and Hey presto! That sin problem goes.

Meanwhile the idea that only a man and woman can be married because only they can procreate well not all of them can. Any couple can adopt and raise children as well. As for the argument that only married heterosexuals are truly able to be loyal and loving well sadly too many shelters for battered women tell another tale. Wedded bliss is not automatic for any gender or sexual bias. If Ireland votes No today it will be an embarrassment and a tragedy which is Hard to manage.

But they managed it in the body of Oscar Wilde whose trial was both humiliating and tragic. A Yes is the humane and visionary and compassionate and fully modern stance and those nuns and priests daring to speak out despite the Church being against in the main are heroes and future saints.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

SHADES OF EYEWEAR SPECIAL FOCUS ON OUR WRITERS AND POETS: #1 SUMIA SUKKAR

SUMIA SUKKAR, BRITISH WRITER AND POET
Over the next weeks, as Britain's sunny summer days intermiitently appear, we will be celebrating our Eyewear list of writers and poets HERE at our blog - each wearing a pair of shades, for the sheer fun of it. Enjoy and collect these cool images of the hot summer of reading ahead... and look for their books!

Sumia Sukkar is one of our younger Eyewear Publishing authors, but her debut novel, The Boy From Aleppo Who Painted The War, is already one of our biggest successes, in terms both of sales and critical reception.  It got a glowing review in The Times, and was aired on BBC Radio 4 as a special dramatisation last autumn - it was heard by over 600,000 listeners. There is now talk of a movie adaptation, and of course we are discussing foreign translations.  Her powerful, poetic and even at times visionary story of Adam and his sister Yasmine, caught up in the Syrian conflict, strips bare the savagery of war as it impacts on innocent civilians (and not so innocent people); explores taboos like mental health and rape during war in the Middle East, and, even more beautifully, portrays a loving Muslim family as decent and caring as any in English literature - a rarity that her work rectifies. A talent to watch, Ms Sukkar is already one of the most impressive young novelists in Britain today. And, she is a poet as well!

2015 MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE SHORTLIST FOCUS: TONY CHAN



HE EMBARKED ON A SOLO TREK
 
In January 2015, Tony Chan decided to take a break from senior school English teaching. Unable to dream up better ideas to cover over his unemployment, he embarked on a 1400 mile solo trek across Britain.

The 78-day route started at Dunnet Head, Britain's northernmost point, and led to Britain's three other extremities. Each day yielded a sonnet. Tony is now working on his next creative project: a series of prose-fiction vignettes exploring lonesome lives.

  

MEMORIAL TREE

There is this secluded and shaded grove
Not easily noticed by passers-by
Where an ellipse of matured trees surround
An autumnal sea of long-fallen leaves
One tree stands solitary amidst all
A sapling rising slowly year on year
It is wintered bare to a slender trunk
Visibly without width and without leaf
Yet it is full with personal meaning
Each tiny branch a tender reminder
Of memories deep-rooted in the mind
This slight and single whip of English Oak
Unknown and left alone by most others
Draws me back and back to this poignant place.

 
poem copyright the author 2015
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

3333

FOR OUR 3333 RD POST, WE OFFER FOUR OF OUR CLASSIC IMAGES FROM OVER THE YEARS

ROAD MADDER: THE NEW MAD MAX REVIEWED AT EYEWEAR

CHARLIZE THERON IS THE NEW ICON
[SPOILER ALERT] The new Mad Max: Fury Road film has had a fascinating gestation and now a narrative of striving against another kick-ass franchise, Pitch Perfect, itself a vehicle for amazing women. Well, that's the media hyped story, and let's leave it there.  I saw Mad Max 4 (as it were) on Friday in 3D in London; at the end, reactions from the audience were mixed.  If you wanted to sum it up you might say Marmite - it did create a love-hate tension in the packed theatre.

I loved it.  I loved the insane Cirque du Soleil mania, the battery acid propulsion, the high-octane raciness; I loved the Trigger Warning vision of it.  The eco-warrior-feminist subtext; the redemption; the ugliness; the beauty; the sheer Wild West poetry of the cinema it extends and amplifies in its very motion.

I would argue that, at 70, director George Miller, in tandem with a hugely talented team - a crew of hundreds - has choreographed one of the most beautifully fluid and breath-taking action spectacles cinema has ever seen - or felt.  At times, it has the grandeur, sweep and power of The Searchers, Zulu, Ran, Star Wars, Indiana Jones 1, T:2, Lawrence of Arabia, Jackson's LOTR, and indeed Road Warrior.

Tempered by a very Australian sense of humour, and starring the two best-looking actors now working in movies (Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy), the melange of body horror, body paint, and body modification, presents us with the longest there and back again I've seen - 120 pure minutes of pure cinema. Vertigo and Rambo are almost as silent and thrilling - but it's hard to recall as wordless a world of pure visual sensationalism, put to the ends of a story with a heart at its bloody and horrific core.

Much has been made of the feminist element of the story, which I am unsure is really there (it may be a mirage) - surely the word matriarchal is more apt. Just because a film has active women in it doesn't mean the form or content is feminist - though this does pass the Bechtel test handily, and does terminate with a new hope, based on an idea of female fecundity and natural justice (essentialism?) returning to take control from a de-natured and evil cock-rock emperor of eye-scream. As well, the mostly-passive and doe-eyed stick-insect sex slaves are presented with a Vogue glamour that is almost preposterous (it must be said we assume intentionally). More clearly, as in the forerunners in the tetralogy, an ecological and pacifist ethos beats a taut drum in the background, even as caveman violence and vehicular manslaughter, as much as anything, save the day.

Modern cinema is in search of a zipless fuck, or, really, a guilt-free way of shooting Injuns. Zombies, Nazis, and robots are also fair game - a shoot-em-up is what we crave, and this is what this is.  It boils down to Ma and Pa Kettle on a rushing stagecoach, fending off the natives, in this case grossly-cancerous and cankered War Boys and Warlords. The ending, which is essentially a classic restoration theme of the good sheriff reclaiming the town, despite its biblical milk and honey theme, is an uplifting commencement for a debacle yet to be enacted - the Imperator (Theron) who will or will not hold back the male gaze and evil inherent in the bleak system established at the start.

Max does little but suffer, a Christ/Shane figure, and act as shotgun backup - until his decisive final reel Brando interdiction - rebelling against whatever the world's got. It's hard to see as feminist any story that requires a man, however silent, to speak for the women; or invent the daring final plan (which is of course the return to the castle/ death star/ throne of blood). Meanwhile, the one-armed Theron outdoes Linda Hamilton, Sigourney Weaver or Jennifer Lawrence, as a boy's fantasy of what a perfectly sculpted beach-ready kick-ass action woman could be.

Regardless of how connected to or deracinated from theory and geo-politics, the film is relevant precisely in its propulsion - its contemporaneity is in its kinetic ferocity; it is as well-made, as exciting, and dynamically unstoppable as any film ever before made. This may prove a false prediction, but possibly only the new Star Wars, and the new Bond, will make more money this year at the Box Office.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

2015 MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE SHORTLIST FOCUS: JEN CALLEJA

SHE ALSO PLAYS IN THE BAND SAUNA YOUTH
Jen Calleja (pictured) was born in Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, and lives in London. She is a writer, literary translator from German, reviewer and editor of Anglo-German arts journal Verfreundungseffekt.

Her short fiction and poetry have been published by The Quietus and Structo, in many independent publications, as well as released on record and played on BBC radio. She was runner-up finalist of Brighton Festival's inaugural Peacock Poetry Prize in 2011. She also plays in the bands Sauna Youth, Feature and Monotony. This poem is from her short-listed collection.


extract from she is that which I are
I come to an isolated factory. Disused, with a distorted structure. I remembered night shifts stirring, stirring, making checks and kicking back for naps. I’d eat – from the pots with a long spoon – the melting components. I couldn’t afford the canteen lunch. It was a story my friend enjoyed telling, the way only he can. It popped up in a graphic novel, green and brown and grey, and though I never felt that way, it really is what happened. The story became a screenplay, then came the movie with a slew of reviews which shared the same specific line misquoted, that became a rally slogan, or nothing at all.


poem copyright the author, 2015

POETRY COMPETITION FOR EYEWEAR 10TH ANNIVERSARY!

To celebrate the tenth birthday of Eyewear Blog - a major literary milestone in British poetry history perhaps (or not) - its spin-off sister, Eyewear Publishing is offering a £110 poetry prize for the best ten line poem using imagery in relation to eyewear, vision, opthamology, or something to do with monocles, glasses, glass eyes, eye patches, or optomosterists, including eye charts... and those tests that put a puff of air into your eye - ouch! Just email the poems as word docs within BEFORE MONDAY MAY 25TH to EYEWEAR TENTH BIRTHDAY POETRY PRIZE to info at eyewearpublishing dot com. Please share and retweet peeps!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

EYEWEAR THE BLOG IS TEN YEARS OLD

TEN YEARS OF SAUCY PHOTOS OF PEOPLE WEARING GLASSES CAN YOU IMAGINE?!
Ten years is a long time for a blog these days - any days. It may even be past its due date, as it were - but somehow, like some old dog in a cowboy flick, this blog lingers in the dust, wise, weak, and somehow sadder than sad, but there's a decency just in its continued tail wags and whimpers. Eyewear, the blog, has a claim to have made history.

It is probably one of, if not the, longest-running poetry blogs in the UK, and surely has the most number of recorded visitor hits (over two million), and a large number of posts (over 3,300) - an average of 330 a year. It is also British Library archived, and is still widely read - most weeks, a good post will get a few hundred readers - though we seldom get long chains of comments.

Eyewear has waded into most of the public and poetic and political controversies in the UK - and sometimes the USA or Canada - of the period 2005-2015. We've featured hundreds of guest reviews, guest poets, and guest essays. We have chosen hundreds of favourite songs, TV shows, films, AND books.  The aim has been to do something no one else ever really tried to do - a something that startled and confused many - and that was to run an editorially responsible blog as a kind of pseudo-glossy magazine - as if ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY had fused with THE ECONOMIST - to see if a broader audience could be found for poetry, by more often placing it in the context of politics and entertainment (including celebrity and sporting issues), surely the two most popular topics (along with sex) on the digital map these days.We often affected the pompous tones of talking heads and pundits, lampooned voice and style, and explored the ambiguity of artifice and faux expression. There was satire here, and not just on April 1 each year. And we often attacked capitalist materialism and atheism and proposed a more aesthetic-deistic model instead.

Did we succeed? Hard to say.  Poetry is still often described as dying. The world still elects conservatives and right-wingers. Wars still rage. Inhumanity, cruelty and despotism still reign, and that's just in the poetry world...

It hasn't helped sales, either of Eyewear titles, or the editor Todd Swift's collections, that's for sure - most poetry titles still sell well shy of the 1,250 mark, whereas the blog gets read by over ten thousand a week. Again, that's the world we live in.

If I am proud of a few things, it has been our openness to oddballs, mavericks, and the famous - our magpie, eclectic sensibilities; our wild invective, our wit, our humour (the posts were not all written by one hand, in one style). Mostly, I am proud to say most of what we predicted about the way that poetry would alter in relation to the online world has come true.  We live in an Eyewear world, and the new British poetry, however marginally, was shaped by the sorts of signals this blog, along with dozens of others, sent out over the past ten years, day in and often day out.

There won't be another ten years of this blog - technology, human staying power, and a fading interest in the way blogs deliver content - will see to that shift soon enough. But let's hope we do, somehow, make it to the very Eyewear year of 2020!

Here's looking at you.


2015 MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE SHORTLIST FOCUS: LEANNE BRIDGEWATER

SHE TOOK REFUGE IN A LIBRARY
Leanne Bridgewater's passion in life is poetry. Born in Birmingham, she now lives in Coventry. At 13, she took refuge in the Birmingham Library, writing all day.

She started performing with Birmingham Youth Poets at 15. At 17, she became a Foyle young poet. She graduated from an MA at 23. This poem is from her short-listed collection.


Jaundice

They call it the populative cycle
rooster's rival, banana sket
don't get eating too many biscuits.
Too many voices inside the shed
- want to make out and break out -
input lipstick on a garden hoe,
- make eyes at a gnome,
if ever they know
we are watching.
The sun is on its face.


poem copyright the poet, 2015.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

WHY IS BRITAIN?

The recent General Election in Great Britain and Northern Ireland has revealed that a large number (tens of millions) of voters, and the winning party (The Tories) have an answer to the questions What is Britain For? and Why is Britain? - and they are depressing answers.

The economy, and nationalism.

It seems the narrow priorities celebrated by our political parties, given as the narrative purpose for the existence of Britain, is that it is better that it survive and defend its borders and its economic growth, than that it not survive.

The losing parties are much the same, with the slightly more profound idea that the economic well-being generated by growth and commerce be shared a bit more equitably.

But, at the end of the day, there is no vision to lift us beyond a perpetual cycle of birth, treatable illness, merciful death, and, in between, work, or unemployment, profit or loss, then pensions or penniless retirement.

The reason I am a Catholic, and a poet, is that I find this vision of existence - secular, materialist, and capitalist- mainly driven by those in engineering, science, politics and finance - to be depressingly limited and technological. What is Britain for?

Where is a driving aesthetic, or moral, or ethical, or even philosophical, description of the purpose of a nation, or gathering of nations? What is the historical endgame? Where do we aim for, what is the goal?

America has such a story, because its narrative of hope and achievement is underpinned by a society less secular, and less scientific - Americans are bigger dreamers, bigger believers - but the stories British politics tells us, and we accept, are mean, petty, shallow and self-interested.

Britain once sought an empire; that may have been wrong morally, but at least it was an impressive goal with reach. Since Suez, it has merely sought to punch above its weight. Now it merely seeks to stave off ruination, and slow decline.

The Tories will cuts Arts funding; and the British, especially the English, will continue to stave off emptiness with a diet of celebrity gossip, box sets, music festivals, drink, drugs, sex, and books by comedians and footballers. It is a dismal future, only marginally improved by choirs, some plays, and a handful of new poems and novels each year worth reading and recalling - and a few great songs. What makes British life worth living should not be just procreation and assisted suicide, not just atheism, bake-offs, a bit of shits and giggles, and so-called aspiration - Champagne for breakfast, a fake tan and a villa in France.

What is Britain for?

For power, for greatness, for profit, for self-defence, for business?

I wonder when it might become about justice, saving the environment, creating more and various art forms, and richer, more nuanced and complex life experiences? Maybe even, just a little, about trying to impress God.

SWIPE RIGHT

The future will be televised
So, the cataclysm has come.  Let's be blunt - the left of centre blogo-twitter-sphere in the UK expected a hung parliament, with the Lib Dems, Labour and the SNP barely managing - perhaps at the edge of some sort of constitutional tension - to lock the Tories out of power, as Ms Sturgeon often put it.

Instead, a very British type of passive-aggressive communication led to pollsters being fed a pack of two-faced answers for months - as usual with Brits, what they felt inside, and what they admitted to on the face of it, were ironically distanced from each other.  The nation lied to itself much as they might to a fellow employee or lover. This played into Tory hands, since if the polls had warned of a Tory landslide, more anti-Tories might have come out to poll - 66% voting is pitiful. Brand and Morrissey and other ego-fed culture cat who claimed non-voting is better now better be prepared to lap up the cruel gruel the Tory fools will spill onto our cracked plates.

What does Eyewear think, as a blog? Well, we think the result may not be all bad (though it is bad). Firstly, the SNP should be able to negotiate fairer terms for Scotland. Secondly, the Tories will probably get the economy going again, despite the social injustice this may entail. Thirdly, Labour is going to have soul search, and may come up with a dynamic and telegenic new leader able to actually sell the party to a wider public - since the Nixon/Kennedy debates of the '60s we have known an odd-looking leader is harder to sell, yet Labour allowed a brother-stabbing funny-looking man with borderline Marxist tendencies to stump for them.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable deserved a better fate. Their punishment seems disproportionate to their crimes, as if a child stealing a loaf of bread was to be decapitated.  It is true Clegg lied big-time to student voters and went into power with the Tories; but he and his party softened the blows that now surely will rain down on us all. Tory-lite for 5 years thanks to Cleggmania may prove a better fate than it now looks.

The worst outcome for the UK will be a Brixit, or Brexit, and a Scoxit, - either or both would be tragic for the UK, though broadly this blog supports Scottish independence.

The Tories are better at wealth creation - it is what they exist for mainly - but not so good (to be polite) at social justice and fairness. They tend to punish the weakest in a society they barely believe in.

Despite his few deep faults, Tony Blair (who this blog despises for Iraq) did represent what now appears the least despicable compromise possible in these selfie-days of self-focus - Blairism, comfortable with business, banking, and social equality, is a centre ground that we will learn to welcome over the next five years of a Tory Majority that will see terrible cuts to the Arts, healthcare for the mentally ill, and the weakest and poorest in our kingdom.

The voters have inflicted this wound on themselves like a Manic Preachers' fan at a Borderline Personality club night. Look to the right, your neighbour did this to us, maybe even you did it to us.

We need to move fast, past hate and suspicion, to defend the hopes of the large minority that are on the outside now, looking in. We should hope that Labour elects a daring new leader, ideally Mr Umunna, a brilliant communicator with a balanced sense of the centre, and a compelling identity that promises, and not just for shallow reasons, our own Obama Moment.

Ideally, Nick Clegg will find a job somewhere, where his five-language-speaking intellect and inherently calm decency can use his family man good looks for the good of the world.

Ed Milliband faces a cruel future, unless his brother has a job for him in New York. Rarely has a man fallen so far so fast. He too is to blame.  He had hubris, and a false sense of destiny. He took a story of corporate and banking culpability and squandered the age's contempt for the 1% by basically being too weak.

But he has been punished enough.

Let us try to get through this hell together, and make of it as much of a heaven as we can, locally, nationally, and globally.