About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 20,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers, and vice versa. Eyewear blog is archived by The British Library. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

THE AMAZING SNAKEHEADS

You may hear better or more artistically-important rock and roll or indie pop albums this year, but I dare you to find a more bracing work than Amphetamine Ballads by The Amazing Snakeheads - bracing in the sense that a flamethrower amuse bouche might be. Many bands try to sound raw, angry, and dangerous, but few sound like they genuinely are the type you don't want to ever meet in a dark alley, or even a pub.  This band does.  I am seeking comparisons, and here are some: early The Stranglers, early The Stooges, The Cramps. Even some of the madder parts of The Doors. Indeed, the song 'Human Fly' is almost tattooed onto the drinking arm of this band, it seems. That is, it is faintly funny at its most extreme, but always perfectly worked through its own mad sensibility.

But these examples are really just ways of saying this is swampy, roots guitar work, edged with bile, camp and swagger.  What you need to add is this is a band from Glasgow - and not, presumably, the swanky tree-lined bits, either. What I like about listening to this album is that it is often surprising, unsettling, but also aware of its mood and impact.  It feels like a drunken thug on one's doorstep. Adrenaline and panic merge with the suspicion this is an album to put Arctic Monkeys in their place - this sounds more like the real spirit of rock than almost any band in the UK since The Clash.  In short, this is an album that kicks the pricks, the struts, the ruts, out the jam, and everything else in its path, in a brew of reverb, spit, ale and sweat. I suspect the single 'Here It Comes Again' (on Spotify etc) is a bit of a rebarbative classic, with its lashings of retro-Bond guitar, 'Born To Be Wild' beat and shouting - a combination never heretofore attempted, I'd say.

EYEWEAR'S LIST OF 175 OF THE KEY POETS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

NOTE: I have edited and expanded this to 175 poets, after receiving some helpful feedback and also making notes after insomnia.

If you are, fortunately for everyone, alive today, and you write and publish poetry, you are a 21st century poet.  Other poets, less lucky, have died in the last 100 years or so, but their great contribution to poetry continues.  Poems, of all the literary art forms, are perhaps the most generous gifts, because compared to the energy and effort involved in their creation, the material returns are the least - so they stand as bequests to eternity, or at least, posterity.

Even a weak, or minor, poet may create a poem or three that are wonderful, moving, crafty, cunning, potent, convincing, wise, helpful, funny or delightful - but below is a list of 175 poets, who have written in the English language primarily, who published most of their poetry in the 20th century, and are no longer with us, who gave us whole collections that were and are vital and necessary to read.

No doubt another 25 or more poets from Canada, America, Ireland, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and beyond, could flesh out a viable "canon" of 200+ 20th century English-language poets we should all read, but I think this list forms a very good start, and includes poets of all schools, styles, decades, eras, genders, and political leanings, more or less.

While debates will hopefully always continue in academic and critical circles about the value of certain poets and poems in terms of adding to the general literature of their age (where is Newbolt?), it seems, looking at this list, unlikely any new very major poets from the period under observation will appear, though a few very good lesser poets may receive their due.  Terence Tiller, for example, is a seriously good, very brilliant and exciting poet, and when I publish his Collected Poems next year, his canonical status should be re-established.  But he is not ever going to (it seems likely) be read as more significant than, say, near-contemporaries like Auden, Douglas or Larkin - partially because his impact on his time, his contemporaries, was less. His influence if it arrives, will be more posthumous, as was Hopkins.

Please let me know who you would want to see added.  This is of course not a definitive list.  But none of these 175 can really be left out. Happy Easter!
 



175 KEY ENGLISH-LANGUAGE POETS OF THE 20TH CENTURY (DECEASED)

ADRIENNE RICH

AE HOUSMAN

AI

AL PURDY

ALAN DUGAN

ALLEN GINSBERG

ALLEN TATE

ALUN LEWIS

AM KLEIN

AMY LOWELL

ANNE SEXTON

ANNE WILKINSON

ANTHONY HECHT

AR AMMONS

ARCHIBALD MACLEISH

ASJ TESSIMOND

AUSTIN CLARKE

BANJO PATTERSON

BARRY MACSWEENEY

BASIL BUNTING

BERNARD SPENCER

BOB COBBING

BRIAN COFFEY

CARL SANDBURG

CH SISSON

CHARLES CAUSLEY

CHARLES OLSON

CHARLOTTE MEW

CLAUDE MCKAY

COLE PORTER

CONRAD AIKEN

COUNTEE CULLEN

DARYL HINE

DAVID GASCOYNE

DAVID JONES

DELMORE SCHWARTZ

DENISE LEVERTOV

DH LAWRENCE

DIANA BREBNER

DON MARQUIS

DONALD DAVIE

DOROTHY HEWETT

DYLAN THOMAS

EDGAR LEE MASTERS

EDITH SITWELL

EDMUND BLUNDEN

EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY

EDWARD DORN

EDWARD THOMAS

EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON

EDWIN DENBY

EDWIN MORGAN

EDWIN MUIR

EE CUMMINGS

ELIZABETH BISHOP

ELIZABETH JENNINGS

EZRA POUND

FRANK O’HARA

FS FLINT

FT PRINCE

GAEL TURNBULL

GEORGE BARKER

GEORGE MACBETH

GEORGE MACKAY BROWN

GEORGE OPPEN

GREGORY CORSO

GWENDOLYN BROOKS

HAROLD MONRO

HART CRANE

HAYDEN CARRUTH

HENRY LAWSON

HENRY REED

HENRY TREECE

HILDA DOOLITTLE

HUGH MACDIARMID

IAN HAMILTON FINLAY

IRVING LAYTON

ISAAC ROSENBERG

JACK SPICER

JAMES K BAXTER

JAMES MERRILL

JAMES WRIGHT

JAY MACPHERSON

JF HENDRY

JOAN MURRAY

JOHN BERRYMAN

JOHN BETJEMAN

JOHN CROWE RANSOM

JOHN GLASSCO

JOHN HEATH-STUBBS

JON SILKIN

JUDITH WRIGHT

KARL SHAPIRO

KATHLEEN RAINE

KEITH DOUGLAS

KEN SMITH

KENNETH FEARING

KENNETH KOCH

KENNETH REXROTH

KINGSLEY AMIS

LANGSTON HUGHES

LAURA RIDING

LAWRENCE DURRELL

LEROI JONES/AMIRI BARAKA

LOUIS DUDEK

LOUIS MACNEICE

LOUIS ZUKOFSKY

LYNETTE ROBERTS

MALCOLM LOWRY

MARGARET AVISON

MARIANNE MOORE

MELVIN B TOLSON

MICHAEL DONAGHY

MILTON ACORN

MINA LOY

MIRIAM WADDINGTON

NICHOLAS MOORE

NOEL COWARD

NORMAN MACCAIG

PAT LOWTHER

PATRICK KAVANGH

PETER PORTER

PETER REDGROVE

PHILIP LARKIN

PK PAGE

RANDALL JARRELL

RAYMOND CARVER

REBECCA ELSON

RF LANGLEY

RICHARD EBERHART

RICHARD OUTRAM

ROBERT ALLEN

ROBERT CREELEY

ROBERT DUNCAN

ROBERT FROST

ROBERT GRAVES

ROBERT LOWELL

ROBERT PENN WARREN

ROBINSON JEFFERS

ROY FULLER

RS THOMAS

RUDYARD KIPLING

RUPERT BROOKE

SEAMUS HEANEY

SEAN RAFFERTY

SEBASTIAN BARKER

SIDNEY KEYES

SORLEY MACLEAN

STANLEY KUNITZ

STEPHEN SPENDER

STEVIE SMITH

SYLVIA PLATH

TE HULME

TED BERRIGAN

TED HUGHES

TERENCE TILLER

THEODORE ROETHKE

THOM GUNN

THOMAS HARDY

TS ELIOT

UA FANTHORPE

VACHEL LINDSAY

VALENTINE ACKLAND

VERONICA FORREST-THOMSON

WALLACE STEVENS

WALTER DE LA MARE

WB YEATS

WD SNODGRASS

WELDON KEES

WH AUDEN

WILFRID OWEN

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

WILLIAM EMPSON

WS GRAHAM

WWE ROSS

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A NEW POEM BY TODD SWIFT ON HIS 48TH BIRTHDAY

I've been writing poems again lately, now that I feel rather unmoored - it's been a decade or more since I was not teaching or studying or both at a university somewhere in Europe.  I posted a poem to facebook the other day that I may post here at some stage.  Turning 48 today is a mixed dish of sweet and sour.  I am very grateful and relieved to be alive.  My wife is a saint and a great friend.  I run a cool indie press.  However, my depression is bad, and I am facing lots of unspoken trials and tests currently, personal, and otherwise.  I decided to write this poem when I saw the title of a forthcoming album.  It made me want to try a "classic Todd Swift poem" from my early Montreal chapbook years, the kind of poem I might have written in 1994.  Fans (ha!) of my work will note this touches on a lot of the tropes and themes I enjoyed working with in Budavox, all the way back then; and the aim I had at the time to craft poems with the style and simple pleasing form of a ska or power pop/ new wave song.  Have fun!


MYSTERY GIRL DELUXE
It was never quite the kiss or weather.
We fell down after reading together
Simply since love is a matter of fact
At Easter; it often follows the act
Of indiscipline, the shifting feathers
That transform a swan; bars of leather
Were not our scene, but we attacked
Ideas of unison with underage tact.
We ached to wake up as F. Kafka;
Cherry-balmed lips the morning after.
It was sub-zero that April in Montreal;
The metro was blue; the turnstile
Saw us part, Walkman’s synchronised
To Orbison’s dream tears in our eyes.


April 8, 2014
poem by Todd Swift
 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

TRUE DETECTIVE, THE UNCANNY MASTERWORK OF AMERICAN TELEVISION

We live in the Renaissance of the Dramatic Television Series - everyone knows the list to trot out: The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire, Damages, even Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards (American version), The Killing, The Bridge, and, of course, the badass Shakespeare of our time, Breaking Bad. This is not news. This is the given world of our time - television drama is as good or better than any novel or play a contemporary master can throw at us.

There is no book by Philip Roth, or Martin Amis, or Atwood, or play by Stoppard, or Wilson, any better than The Wire or Breaking Bad.  Maybe as good.  Not better. I therefore did not expect the crowning achievement of this whole excess of excellence to be an 8-part series starring two actors who I rather disliked until a year ago - Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Then came True Detective.

There will be no spoilers here.  I am not going to say much - it has all been said.  But let me say it again, because I love this show, and at the end of it, feel as strangely shaken as only the greatest cultural events have left me.  This is a masterwork of intertextuality and genre artistry - on the one hand, as its title suggests, it draws on the rich vein of American pulp detective fiction from the 20s to the 60s, which emerged into film as noir; and there are nods to early Kubrick, Welles and Lang, in the style, as well as the post-modern noir expert, David Lynch.  Lynch introduced onto TV with Twin Peaks the idea of metaphysical detection, as it were - the uncanny meeting the banality of police work.

This was not a new idea, per se, mystery and horror meeting.  Sherlock Holmes had faced evil, or potential evil, in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Chandler had all along seen Marlowe as a knight errant, and the knights, of course, came up against supernatural antagonists, from The Green Knight, to the monsters and magicians of The Quest of the Holy Grail. The Wicker Man, too, had seen a policeman up against devil worship; and The Kill-List more recently updated that idea to include hit men hunting Satanists. And, then, again, the X-Files suggested the idea of an investigative pair searching out horror; and that was partly based on the Silence of the Lambs world. And let us not forget Angel Heart.

So, the elements involving a partnership of differing tormented cops, hunting a serial killer associated with evil, in a wasted land setting (here Louisiana after Katrina) are not original to the writer; nor is the Southern Gothic overlay of Bible Belt fire and brimstone tent preaching, or titty bar cheap sex and cornpone Southern detectives and deputies.  All this is a given imaginative landscape.

We have read Tradition and the Individual Talent.  This grail myth moves the canonical works around to make way for its advance on what has come before.  No TV show I have ever seen has introduced so many unusual, cutting-edge, and startlingly disturbing philosophical ideas into a cop show, even one facing evil as the enemy.

For instance, - and I am an educated man - I was unfamiliar with anti-natalism. I did not know of Thacker's ideas of the Horror of Philosophy; or Benatar's idea of "the harm of coming into existence" or indeed the ultra-nihilism of Brassier.  The author of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, did more than replay the tired existential tropes of the original noir shows. Instead he plotted a terrifying narrative discourse, which allows the viewer to see and feel and test these variously chilling arguments for the futility of human experience; while exploring moral challenges, and themes, mainly of love, friendship, fidelity, honour, and duty.

The confrontation between light and dark is as old as Greek legend and thought - it is of course the pagan classical backdrop to all Western culture. But enfolding this is reference, as well, to the weird tales and mythologies of Bierce, Lovecraft and Chambers, whose work the King in Yellow from 1895, is a sort of gloss for the whole series., which starts, tellingly, in 1995.  Horror, philosophy, and narrative dramatic TV, had not been put together this well, I think, until True Detective, whose shocks, reversals, and ultimately weird and potent ending, take us as far into Grendel's dark lair as any hero has gone before.

None of this quite explains the devil's brew aspect, how it has all come together so magisterially, leaving a real metallic taste on my tongue, a sulphuric frisson.  The world looks much more rich and strange after this series. You must see it, despite the trigger-points lurking within. As a Catholic, I enjoyed having my theology tested against the extreme mood of nihilism haunting the bayous and the stinking burn-out churches.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

POETRY FOCUS: LISA MARIE BASILE

Smoking is bad for you; poetry is good for you.  Balances out?
Eyewear is very pleased, thrilled, even, to share with you a few poems by an American poet who we adore, and not just because she wears the coolest glasses ever. She is one of the most provocative and promising of poets we've come across lately.

Lisa Marie Basile (pictured) comes from the bloodline of Giambattista Basile, the Italian fairy-tale writer. She is a graduate of The New School’s MFA program for creative writing in NYC. The author of Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press), her newest chapbook, war/lock, is out from Hyacinth Girl Press in 2014. Recently, Noctuary Press, run from University of Buffalo, accepted her full-length poetry collection, APOCRYPHAL.

Her work can be seen in PANK, kill author, Johns Hopkin’s The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, decomP, Saudade Review, La Fovea, Prick of the Spindle, elimae & Pear Noir! among many other publications. She is the founding editor of Luna Luna Magazine, a women’s culture, lifestyle and art website. She also edits Patasola Press, a micropress that focuses on emerging, established and female writers. She is an assistant editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.

if the memory went my way
 
the child me        [the me that is not me]
would be stuffed inside a woman-wife
 
as she carries two bouquets:
one from my father and one from me.
 
i am inside my mother.
the me that is not me.    the future me
 
born of the kind of love
that sneaks up on you.
 
we bring flowers to those who lose something,
but what if we preempted their loss--
 
would it make the heart hurt less?
could i comfort her before my birth,
 
a sort of starstuff that sacrifices
its own existence
 
to spare a woman some pain?
if only she knew how to avoid it:
 
the aisle draped in calla lillies & mache lantern
in chantilly lace and audacious hemline.
 
her waist is a meadow, but she hid it;
the small sacred burst of pain
 
red wine flowing free between two summer legs
on a sepia summer day.
 
we will love eachother endlessly
even if i have inherited her weaknesses.
 
  
father
 


this is my muted apricot & green mythology
the hum of power lines
children with tincan secrets
a girl naked, hilltopped,  with snowwhite tits
touching boys   
stolen Treasurer cigarettes
& high red underwear.
me.        Lolita me.            me with bubblegum
& magenta.                         i’m on the white pony
& he is so much bigger than what he really is:
fat            unbuttoned shirt                            
bald-headed silver specked,
a perfect god.

GUEST REVIEW: VADHER ON MOHANTY

Snehal Vadher reviews
Five Movements in Praise
By Sharmistha Mohanty 

 
“The land rises and falls, a geological breath.” So begins Sharmistha Mohanty’s new book, and from that moment on, the language remains acutely perceptive to time embedded in our experience of the world. Five Movements in Praise is Mohanty’s third book of fiction, in which she continues on the journey begun in her first book, Book One, an exploration of storytelling itself through fragmented narratives. Although this phrase suggests postmodernist tendencies, the values and aesthetics of Mohanty’s work are far from those observed in works classified under that label.

For one, we see her trying to form continuities out of the disjointed and disparate pasts, rather than play with them through pastiche. A relentless force is at work in Mohanty’s prose to bring closer, to buttress, times and spaces far from one another. So the story of Manaku, a Pahari painter living in the early 1700s, is placed right next to one in which a traveler crosses the endless, mythological night of a painting of Radha and Krishna by one of Manaku’s own predecessors. Similarly, the story of an old man who frequents an Irani cafĂ©, whose owner sits reading Li Po, is placed next to one of a pujari of a shrine at a street corner, outside which, once its doors shut in the evening, “women and eunuchs blossom.”

What Mohanty achieves by doing this is exactly what Manaku finds he has achieved in his painting, in the above-mentioned story:

“It was a mistake that made him see, slowly, that brought him to a belief he never had before. That each thing in his painting was equal, as it was in the landscape in which he moved, none diminished by the other, freed from a hierarchy imposed only by the eyes.”

As the reader accompanies the narrator through the book’s varied terrain, reflected in the titles of the five movements—Town, Forest, City, Caves and Landscapes—Mohanty dexterously situates not only times and spaces but also discourses on the same plane, placing philosophical meditation next to kitsch and the surreal next to the real, suggesting that there is hierarchy in what we see because there is hierarchy in the ways of seeing. 

 As landscapes are made continuous by the elements of light, rock, air and sky, the discontinuities in discourse are stitched together by a prose that remains restrained yet honest and sincere throughout the journey. Mohanty wields it like a tool, with full understanding of its power, as is evident in these lines:

“In places that are forgotten, the sky goes back a hundred years, then a thousand, then a thousand and eight hundred. It holds up a ruined fort, presses through the stone lattice work of mausoleums, watches from a shaded pavilion. Only sometimes does the land bear a fort, a mosque, a stupa, a line of caves. Otherwise it is empty except for barren hills and scrub.”

 The power of concision often renders the language so abstract that it slips into the realm of poetry and makes Five Movements in Praise an exciting work to read:
 
“I only wanted to go to the other shore,” he says.

“I’ve been rowing all night,” the boatman replies, “and only at dawn can I see that I’m still in the same place.”     

 In a little more than hundred pages, Mohanty manages to create beautiful and haunting landscapes, explore philosophically the idea of the original and convey the brutality of living in contemporary times, when violence has become part of the everyday. Five Movements in Praise fuses the myriad harmonies and cacophonies of life to create a music that is enriching and humbling to listen.  

 
Five Movements in Praise is published by Almost Island Books. 122 pages, £15.53