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.


Friday, 28 April 2006

Poem by Alex Boyd

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Toronto-based poet Alex Boyd to its weekly Friday spot.

Boyd studied at Brock University and graduated with a BA in English. In 2000 he moved to live in Scotland, but now lives and works in Toronto again. While writing, he has worked for Chapters, the City of Toronto, the National Ballet and the federal government.

He is the author of poems, fiction, reviews and essays, and has had work published in magazines and newspapers such as Taddle Creek, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire and on various sites such as The Danforth Review.

In May of 2003 he inherited the well-regarded (and some would say infamous) IV lounge reading series from poet Paul Vermeersch, and as a result is currently booking and hosting the series. Boyd is a member of Greenpeace and PEN Canada.

He is a founder editor of the new online journal, Northern Poetry Review (see Links) which I recommend, even in its infancy.



The Baker Signed Up, 1914

When he stumbles in the trench
his hands cut into mud like dough.
Surrounded by puddles, rats, lice.

Helping carry wounded along wooden
planks because the mud is deep
enough to swallow a man,
he pictures it baked in the sun, hard.

He skips, sometimes, around shell
casings, oven hot and tumbling
from the back of a spent gun.

Under the familiar whistle of
falling bombs that softened
and pounded earth, he slept,
while explosions sliced at the edges
of his dreams: the song of chimes
above the door, the smell of fresh bread,
a Chelsea bun with icing dropped
into a paper bag and handed
over the counter.

poem by Alex Boyd
first published in the pamphlet Brick and Bone, available at www.alexboyd.com

Eye On Abraham Adonduwa

Abraham Adonduwa, pictured here, is a young Nigerian poet and writer, just starting out, who has being communicating with me over the past year.

He has energy, ambition, and an abiding interest in cultivating his craft, and writing poetry in English.

Eyewear notes his new blog, below, and wishes him well on his poetic journey in a fascinating land:

www.saintabadini.blogspot.com

Thursday, 27 April 2006

Look Again: Re-Review of Memento

I used to write film reviews for Look in the late 90s and early 00s.

Very occasionally, Eyewear will feature a rearview-mirror glance back at some of the classic, and not-so-classic, films I reviewed then.

Today, a masterwork of looking back, Memento.




Memento
Thriller
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Ann Moss

Rating: Five Specs (out of 5)

Tagline: “Photographic Memory”

MEMENTO is indelibly haunting and agonizingly suspenseful. The plot, despite its never-ending flashbacks, comes down to an elegant high concept, teased to perfection by new director and writer Christopher Nolan.
Leonard is a former insurance adjuster whose wife has been raped and murdered. In the attack, he received a massive head injury. Because of this, he has lost the ability to “make new memories” - everything he can recall is from before the horrific crime.
Imagine a world where you literally forget everything (except your name) every ten minutes. Leonard (played with intensity by Guy Pearce) is constantly waking up from a bad dream into a worse one. Where is he? Why does he have bloody marks on his face? Who is the woman sleeping in the bed beside him? Why is there a gun on top of the Gideon Bible in the sleazy motel room?
The only way he can keep any semblance of identity together is to follow a rigorous self-imposed regimen of short-term remembrance. This means he has tattooed his body from head to foot (backwards so it’ll read right in the mirror) with “facts” like “your wife was raped and murdered” - and the name of the prime suspect “John G.” he is obsessively hunting down to kill. There’s even a space above Leonard’s heart where he plans to tattoo the fact he’s got revenge, so he won’t forget that either.
To keep his day from disintegrating six times an hour, Leonard takes constant Polaroids of the things that matter most, like “my car” and the motel he’s staying at. His best friends — at the moment — seem to be a tough little guy called “Teddy” (Joe Pantoliano) and a skanky waitress named “Natalie” (Carrie-Ann Moss, as dark and sexy as in The Matrix).
On the back of their photos, he’s marked guides to their intentions, indicating whether they are liars or allies. Leonard has learned to trust only the notes he leaves to himself. As he says, with a condition like this, you have to be a good judge of your own handwriting.
Unbearably, we know (just a little) more about what his shady new friends have planned for him, and are forced to watch as Leonard stumbles from moment to moment, guided by the flimsiest of notes, photographs and pen marks on his hand. Sometimes this blind stumble through lost memories is so frustrating it’s funny. An existential x-ray as inevitable as a slow-mo bullet, this is the Film Noir equivalent of Dostoyevsky.
MEMENTO is one of the most thought-provoking and moving examinations of memory, love and betrayal ever put on film. It’s also a sly commentary on the mutability and impermanence of all images, including those committed to celluloid. As such, it’s as much about us, the audience, as it is about what’s flashing across the screen. You’ll leave the cinema suspicious of your loved ones and yourself.
You will never forget to remember things differently from now on.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Fleur Adcock Awarded Queen's Gold Medal

Eyewear is pleased to note that the Queen - having recently turned 80 - has all her poetry wits about her - and yesterday awarded the 2006 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry to Fleur Adcock (pictured here). Congratulations to her on this splendid occasion.

Adcock's poems are well-known, and loved, and some, such as "Against Coupling" ("I write in praise of the solitary act") have become contemporary English classics of wit and insight.

As an aside, Fleur Adcock is one of the more than 70 poets who recently recorded their poems for the forthcoming Oxfam Poetry CD Project which I edited, and which will be launched June 8.

Report below:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1760226,00.html

For more information on Fleur Adcock, see:

http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth161

Eye On Kenneth Fearing

From time to time, Eyewear will narrow its gaze and consider a poet of the past whose writing should be attended to in the present.

Today, Kenneth Fearing, pictured here.

Fearing was my favourite poet when I was an adolescent one winter, and I recall reading his cynical proletarian broadcasts on the page (from an anthology of "modern verse" my mother had used in college) with a vital thrill - the sky was a dark blue, and it was very cold outside, and this seemed like the world as it was to me then (sometime at the start of the Reagan-Thatcher 80s it must be said). But then, he seemed to slip from view - mine, readers, critics, anthologists - until quite recently.

I suppose what held against him was his life (somewhat shabby and unattended) and his broadly observant, but political poems, that were not in favour for a time; and his mordant, almost accidental Marxism. To one generation, he was the news; to the next, he was old news; and to ours, he seems to be returning as news that never staled. But, pulp novelist that he was, he must have sensed that style is the key - and I think he's a bit of a master of that.

I think an element of my poetry which is (and more often was) public in its pronouncements, and satirical, emanates like a long-lost radio wave from that time. I think I also loved the slovenly noirishness of his look, his person. At times, it almost seems as if he was single-handedly the only American Communist poet writing anything of interest during the spectacularly interesting period of the 30s through WWII - and certainly the only one doing so while wearing a fedora. Meanwhile, his crime novel The Big Clock was a Hollywood hit, so there was that twist in the tale - a dialectical man then, with hands turning both ways - towards profit, and a critique of capital. There's mystery in that, too, which he could've mined more.

I'll be reviewing the Fearing volume from the APP series mentioned in a previous post (it is number 8) when it arrives in the post.

In the meantime, here's a good biographical sketch:

http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/fearing/life.htm

Zukofsky Selected Poems

The American Poets Project, from the Library of America, is in the process of creating some of the most attractive poetry books ever made for English-language readers. The latest, #22, is Louis Zukofsky (pictured here), Selected Poems, edited by Charles Bernstein.

The collection has been rethought as a meta-text (or what I call meta-anthology) which excerpts the unexcerptable (the long poem A for instance) thereby recontextualizing how these pieces, these words, click together - a sort of one man canon-reshuffle.

The brief introduction by Bernstein is worth the price of the book alone (especially as most will have A on their shelves already, from the University of California press, all 826 pages of it). He draws attention, especially, to the cultural and linguistic differences in Zukofsky's background (his parents spoke Yiddish) that make him such a clear corrective to Eliot, without tipping the balance. Zukofsky is launched by, even as he writes against the specter of Eliot, in a poem like "Poem Beginning 'The'" - with its numbered lines, such as the Prufrockian number 58 "Do we dare say".

Zukofsky is a poet who could have become a William Carlos Williams but went farther than (even) he did with Paterson. By this I mean, his early short poems are in the Williams vein - yet already they are stranger, and so refreshing, reminding those in the mainstream how divertingly good poems can be when they are not what we expect, but what we could never have anticipated.

For example, the poem from 29 Poems, number 5, "It's a gay li-ife" provides perhaps the most fun lines of that era (and not much today is more thrillingly alive to its own sonic and syntactical making): "There's naw - thing / lak po - ee try".

Here's a link to more on "LZ":

http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/zukofsky/

Monday, 24 April 2006

Hello Americans


Simon Callow's second part of his superb biography of the terrific Orson Welles (pictured here) is coming soon, called Hello Americans. I heard Callow this morning on the BBC radio, and it seems promising. The book will focus on the side-projects that diverted the boy wonder from film, such as politics, journalism and comedy.

Sadly, this is only part two and we have to wait for part three, likely for another semi-decade, which will include later projects such as Touch of Evil. This book ends in 1947, so miles to go on the road past Xanadu before Welles sleeps.

The title derives from the broadcasts Welles made about Brazil. See link below:

http://www.wellesnet.com/helloamericans.htm

No Jacket Required

John Tranter's new book Urban Myths: 210 poems will be published by the University of Queensland Press in May 2006. (322 pages. ISBN-0-7022-3557-1, paperback)

UQP's Internet site: http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/

Publisher's cover blurb:

Urban Myths: 210 Poems brings the best work to date from a poet considered one of the most original of his generation in Australia, together with a generous selection of new work. Smart, wry and very stylish, John Tranter's poems investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to converge life, imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the deepest human mysteries.

Extensive notes to the poems in the book have been posted on the Internet: http://johntranter.com/notes/um.shtml

Saturday, 22 April 2006

Airstream

My review of Airstream Land Yacht, the new poetry collection from Ken Babstock, is published today in The Globe & Mail.

I included Babstock in my survey of 20 leading younger contemporary Canadian poets in New American Writing in 2005.

See link below to online version; the image above is of the print version:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060422.BKSCOT22/TPStory/?query=ken+babstock

Friday, 21 April 2006

Poem by Penelope Shuttle

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Penelope Shuttle (pictured here) to its pages. She is one of the best British poets writing, and the long poem sequence contained in her forthcoming collection, recently excerpted in The Poetry Review, is staggeringly beautiful.

She lives in Cornwall and is the widow of poet Peter Redgrove (1932-2003). Together they wrote the ground-breaking feminist studies on menstruation, The Wise Wound, and its sequel, Alchemy for Women.

Shuttle has published many collections of poetry, including Selected Poems (Oxfordpoets/Carcanet) in 1998, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, as were two other of her books.

Her new collection, Redgrove's Wife (Bloodaxe, May 2006) looks back at her life with Peter, and the processes of loss and grief.

She has a grownup daughter, Zoe, who works in the field of rewnewable energy. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, and a Tutor for the Poetry School. Her work is widely anthologized, and can be heard online at The Poetry Archive, and read on the Poetry International site.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=1532

http://www.davidhigham.co.uk/html/Clients/Penelope_Shuttle

http://uk.poetryinternational.org/cwolk/view/27431


Redgrove's Wife

Pity Redgrove's Wife?
I think not.

Praise Redgrove's Wife?
Why not?

Kiss n'snog Redgrove's Wife?
I dare not.

Be-jewel Redgrove's Wife?
With topaz and coral?
I will not.

Publish Redgrove's Wife?
I shall not.

(But I shall).

Forget Redgrove's Wife?
No, I have not.

Question Redgrove's Wife?
Not yet, not yet.

Confuse Redgrove's Wife?
I need not.

Fear Redgrove's Wife?
Oh fear not.

Dream of Redgrove's Wife?
Yes, night after night.

Translate Redgrove's Wife?
Why not,
she's not made of tin.

Amaze Redgrove's Wife?
Leave that to Redgrove.


(written as a wedding anniversary poem for Peter in 2001)


poem by Penelope Shuttle
Title poem of forthocming collection from Bloodaxe

photo credit: Lyn Moir

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Hypocrite Ecrivain, Mon Frere, Mon Semblable

David Hill (pictured standing at one of the Bardroom events, which I helped to create with him several years ago) is a Budapest-based poet and journalist, who once agreed to have work up at this "blog". It's still there, as Exhibit A.

Now, he has written a savage attack on all blogs and bloggers, see below (and start about halfway down):

http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php?head=11&issue=84

I think he's wrong, obviously, but more than that, I think he's silly.

Blogs do inform fellow practitioners, and therefore serve some communitarian use. You also don't have to read them if you don't want to. And they are free. Surely three things in their favour.

It strikes me as the height of marvellous hypocrisy to bite the particular blog that "feeds" you as it were.

Go figure.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Freakopoetics #1

The economist Steven D. Levitt, with help from journalist J. Dubner, has helped to create a flashy new form of economics - one with little recourse to theory or even reference to money - but with an emphasis on incentives, and evaluating statistics to determine new ways of looking at curious relationships - inventing new quirky questions - hence, why do Sumo Wrestlers cheat, etc...

Well, their book Freakonomics is good for a flight, and quite imaginative and witty - though it tends to pad things out with repetition and potted histories (say of lynching) that, in the context, appear a bit tacky.

It introduces, however, a new field of econo-aesthetic study, Poetry Freakonomics, or, rather, Freakopoetics.

This is the first in an occasional series of Freakopoetic questions. Answers optional.

Q: HOW IS THAT 156 POETS CAN APPEAR IN AN ANTHOLOGY, AND THE BOOK ONLY SELL 12 COPIES?

In other terms, this is called THE LAW OF NEGATIVE POETRY SALES, which says that, for every poet included in a poety anthology or magazine, assume zero or minus sales. The reason? Poets do not understand the concept of shared incentive.

For instance, let us assume that 156 poets were included in an anthology - let us call it Anthology P.

If each poet - perhaps through viral marketing - encouraged friends, family, themselves - to purchase said P - let us say x 100 - sales of the book would be a staggering (for poetry) 15,600 units. This would mean each poet included in the book would be included in one of the best-selling and most widely-owned and distributed collection of the year - a good credit.

However, usually, poets manage to drum up few if any sales, so sales usually come in at 12 - less than the number of contributors, and the book sinks like a stone.

Perhaps this is a failure of nerve?

Or perhaps poets, like cats and other famously selfish and arrogant creatures that enjoy licking their derrieres, simply do not enjoy lifting a finger / paw to assist in the promotion of a work when others can do it for them?

Perhaps, following the logic of Freakopoetics - a new incentive should be offered - one modelled on taxation. In this model, unless Poet Q sells 100 units of Anthology P, they will be fined, to the tune of $1.00 per book not sold...

Maybe not.

Stay tuned for future installments.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Notes from Ireland

I was in Ireland for Easter, at an auspicious and controversial time - the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

I also had a chance to talk with my friend, Fr. Brennan, who sometimes lectures at Fordham but is also a parish priest. His moving, thoughtful Easter Sunday homily included references to both Patrick Kavanagh (pictured) and Howard Nemerov - surely a unique occurence in Christendom this year?

Seamus Heaney's new collection, District and Circle, was ubiquitous, and was book of the month at Hughes & Hughes (the airport book sellers among other things) - and he also received a glowing review in - of all places - The Economist. Will read it more closely in days to come. The poems I did read were satisfyingly tight, crafted and palpable - evoking the real presences of things of this world - it seems a late, valedictory collection.

Andrew Motion, in his Guardian review, noted (I write this from memory) that while it did not surprise with new tactics or strategems, the new Faber collection confirmed the necessity of Heaney's project - which seems to be to establish (even sanctify) a good relationship between word and world, one that is creative, healthy, and optimizes the best that both language and experience have to offer each other; it is a deeply gifting (and gifted) act to be pursuing, and one that is radically conservative in nature.

As always, I am torn between my appreciation of such stately care placed at the service of poetry's grand tradition, and, an urge to chafe at the bit, and pursue newer, and sometimes less redemptive tracks. Poetry also, it seems to me, troubles as much as heals.

While in Dublin, I picked up Vona Groarke's latest, Juniper Street, just out from The Gallery Press, which does a good-looking book. Groarke was based in Dundalk but now lectures in America. Look forward to reading her new one.

I also noted the new Selected series from Penguin - James Fenton, Roger McGough and Carol Ann Duffy out now - Hill and Mahon and Sophie Hannah out this summer. The books are beautifully designed, and will hopefully bring new readers to these essential poets; Hannah is young, and it is most impressive to see her up there with the others.

I also bought the new Selected from John Burnside, just out from Cape, so a lot of reading next month.

Emerson

Claudia Emerson, pictured here, has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2006, for her collection Late Wife, published by Dave Smith's imprint.

Smith is, himself, a leading poet - and, indeed, one of the central figures in the (poetry) regionalism debates of the last decade of the last century - a defender of voices from the South.

Those who notice such things - and there are many - will observe that Emerson writes a formal, conservative, even traditional lyric.

If one checks to see who the jurors were, one sees that the names Ted Kooser, Mary Karr and Michael Harper appear. Kooser, apparently contra much that is avante-garde or political in poetry, has written about the need for "lucid", reader-friendly poems.

I haven't read the collection but will try to locate the book here in England in order to do so.

For those interested in finding out more, here's the link to the collection's publisher, the BBC and finally the Pulitzer site with the list of jurors:


http://www.lsu.edu/lsupress/Books/Fall2005/books/Emerson_Late.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4917338.stm

http://pulitzer.org/

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Easter, 90 Years Ago

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

poem by William Butler Yeats, greatest of the Irish poets


One To Watch

The results of the CBC Quebec Short Story Competition 2005-2006 were announced at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal last weekend. The competition, now in its seventh year, plays a vital role inthe English language literary community in Quebec. Each year the three winning stories are broadcast on CBC Radio One, and every three years Véhicule Press publishes an anthology of winners and honourable mentions.

Among this year's winners is Montreal-based poet, fiction writer and webartist J. R. Carpenter (pictured above) whose work I have published recently at Nthposition, and also in the anthologies Future Welcome and 100 Poets Against The War. Her winning story, "Air Holes", weighs in at a sparse 921 words, yet, with the help of eight or nine characters somehow manages to be both sad and funny.

Here's the opening paragraph: "The tide will go out at two today. The kids and I will go down to the beach. Between the tidemarks, beneath our feet, tight-lipped steamerclams will burrow sandy deep. But we will find them. Their air holes will give them away."

Carpenter is - strikingly - a previous winner of the CBC Quebec Short story competition (2003-2004) for her story "Precipice" which was recently anthologized in Short Stuff (Véhicule, 2005).
She is also a Web Art Finalist in the DrunkenBoat PanLiterary Awards 2006. Her web art/poetry project "How I Loved theBroken Things of Rome" is launching at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto April 13, 2006; and her web art/poetry project Entre Ville is launching at the Musée des beaux-arts in Montreal April 27, 2006. More information can be found on her website at: http://luckysoap.com/

Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The second album from (the) Yeah Yeah Yeahs (i.e. Karen O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner - pictured left) is one I've been listening to all week, in a state approaching mild euphoria (that famous oxymoronic condition).

Forget Arctic Monkeys or the new The Strokes (oh, yeah, you already had, sorry) - this may be the best commercially-released indie rock album of 2006, so far.

The last time three members of an American band sounded this good was maybe 15 years ago, and that was Nirvana. I am not making claims for greatness here - I don't think the lyric-writing talents are on par with Cobain, who was a strangely genuine genius - but the energy, the style, and the sound are up there.

What's lacking is originality, and I have to say, in this instance: so what?

Karen O practically channels Siouxsie here (particularly of the underated great album from '91, Superstition, at the time blindsided by Nevermind), on the album's best tracks "Dudley" (with OMD chiming start), "Turn Into", "Deja Vu" (a bonus track ironically) - and the masterpiece - "Cheated Hearts" with its impressive claim "sometimes I think that / I am bigger than the sound" - which becomes, in the context of this matrimonial mind game (running rings around rings) - as it reaches its climax - a credo of sweetly monumental proportions ("take these rings / stow them safe away / wear them on / another rainy day").

This is one of the best retro-alternative, yet fiercely-of-the-moment American albums since 2000.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Publishers Weekly Notices Poetry E-Magazines

This just out...

"Poetry books are still far from mass consumer products, but just as the language in which poems are written is ever evolving, poetry's capacity to find its readership is adapting to and flourishing with the new medium."

Well, yeah, okay...

Been saying this since 2002. I am a little surprised this story avoids Nthposition, which has had over 500,000 hits several years before many sites named and whose archive of poems is second-to-none (okay, we don't have Paul Muldoon).

Anyway, I am glad the legit paper press is starting to read the writing on the screen.

Of course podcasting poetry is the future-as-here, beyond even online text.

British poetry publishers, and poets (notoriously net-shy) should prepare for this, and start working with people who have been able to aid and abet the transition from magazine to e-magazine, from book to e-book, so that both books in the hand and books online can thrive in a mutually sustainable way.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6323184.html?display=current

Ruth Taylor Obituary In The Globe & Mail Today

Ruth Taylor has died, February 18, 2006.

She was a friend of mine, and one of the best poets of her generation. I fondly recall reading and talking with her on The Main, at Concordia, and elswehere in Montreal, in the late 80s and early 90s, before I moved to Europe.

Below please find a brief biographical sketch:

Ruth Taylor was born in 1961, in Lachine, Quebec. She received a BA from McGill University and an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. She published two major poetry collections, The Drawing Board and The Dragon Papers. She was the editor of the anthology Muse On! which selected work from authors published by the small, but influential press The Muses Company. She taught for many years at John Abbot College, on The West Island. She was a significant part of the Anglo poetry scene in Montreal since 1979, when she burst on to it as a prodigy.

rob mclennan has more at his blog here:

http://robmclennan.blogspot.com/

Here is the latest, an obituary published in The Montreal Gazette:


A restless spirit 'always on the brink of combustion'
English literature teacher wrote poetry and found wonder in everything around her

ALAN HUSTAK, The Gazette

Published: Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ruth Taylor, who taught English literature at John Abbott College for 20 years and had two slim volumes of her poems published, was an often troubled spirit who, nevertheless, made a deserving impression on Montreal's English-language literary scene.

Brash but vulnerable, she died of alcohol poisoning in her house in Notre Dame de Grace on Feb. 18 at the age of 44.

"Ruth lived at an intensity that was always on the brink of combustion," Endre Farkas, a mentor and friend who was also her first publisher, told mourners at her funeral.

"She was driven by a child-like innocence that found wonder in everything around her and a mystical calling that left her profoundly alone.

"Ruth didn't have an easy life. She was hard on herself and could be on others. She could be at one moment intensely loving and profound and the next frustratingly petulant and pushy and self-centred. ... She wasn't good at politesse and, therefore, was not able to navigate the world that is too much with us."

Ruth Taylor was born in Lachine on Jan. 10, 1961, and was raised in Pincourt, where she went to St. Patrick school. She studied at John Abbott College, where she edited Bandersnatch and Locus, John Abbot's literary magazine.

Her first book of poetry, The Drawing Board, published in 1988, was followed by The Dragon Papers, which was shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation Award in 1993.

A Gazette review of The Dragon Papers by Anna Asimakopulos praised Taylor's "precocious display of poetic skill," and described it as "a wild and magical collection."

"Taylor is unabashedly erudite," Asimakopulos wrote.

"Her poems teem with mythical and literary allusions. Words spill out onto the page like secretions, as sinuous, sensuous and challenging as the dragons serve as both subject and metaphor.

"Part of what makes The Dragon Papers such a joy to read is its playfulness. In the opening pages, Taylor's poet-persona invokes the Muses, calling "O Calliope's cyclopean cantaloupes./O Polly's perfect hymen./O Euterpe's usurping ukulele underwear."

Taylor was a wide-eyed, wild eyed bohemian with a mischievous smile who played guitar and excelled at calligraphy.

"She was into magic in an Irish kind of way," freelance theatre critic Janet Coutts, a longtime friend, recalled.

"She was always aware of beauty and of what underlies reality.

"She could be infuriatingly direct, but she was practical. Her difficulty was that she was always engaged in two struggles at the same time, fighting for her life and fighting to end it."

Taylor enrolled in McGill University in 1989 but received her master's degree in English literature from Concordia University in 1993.

She returned to teach English literature at John Abbott College.

She took part in and was a tireless organizer of numerous readings and spoken word festivals. It is expected her last book, Comet Wine, will be published posthumously.

One of the poems from the collection:
So in our limited hours we play
at mixing potions, trading schemes and chords
and making slim chances guard the hoards
in Energy's smithy tempting swords
to blades of strong grass and drinking gourds
and midnight pipes that chase the light
into dancing dawn's first ray.

Her marriage to Nicolas Keyserlingk ended in divorce. She is survived by her son, Emmett, her mother, and a brother.

A poetic and musical celebration of her life and her poetry will be held at O'Hara's pub, 1197 University St., March 25 at 8 p.m.

Ruth's obituary in the national newspaper, The Globe & Mail, by MJ Stone, was published April 11, 2006, and can be found here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060411.OBTAYLOR11/TPStory/?query=ruth+taylor

Monday, 10 April 2006

Portrait Of Poet As Young Man

A dear friend gave me this old photo of myself on my birthday.

It was taken 15 or so years ago, on or near Baile Street in Montreal. I look younger now than I did then...

New From Charles Bernstein

The master of innovative American poetry and poetics, Charles Bernstein, has some new works worth investigating....

Shadowtime: the CD

NMC, a British label specializing in new music, has just released a CD of Shadowtime. Recorded in July 2005, in collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and the English National Opera (ENO).

Music samples from all 22 tracks, links to related texts, and ordering information
Green Integer book of the libretto
Shadowtime web site


Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems edited and introduced by Charles Bernstein
Library of America's American Poets Project
(See also David Kaufman's review in the Forward.)

Sunday, 9 April 2006

Review: Creamsickle Stick Shivs

John Stiles, pictured here, whose work I included in my recent survey of the best Canadian poets under the age of 40 in New American Writing, has come out with his second collection of poems from Insomniac Press lately - Creamsickle Stick Shivs.

The title refers to the evil lurking in the hearts of choirboys everywhere, and the third section chronicles the darkest thoughts of a poet working in a Church Charity Office, who masks his despair and disgust with Richard III's eloquence.

This is a very strong collection. Anyone who wants to know where Canadian poetry is going to go in the next decade should read it. More to the point, it is an exceptionally honest, bracing, funny, angry and raw book - and anyone who is tired of reading poetry that is bloodless or constrained should turn to Stiles to have their socks blown off - the man writes like we sometimes imagine The Beats did - only better - he has a sort of Henry Miller swagger, and tenderness. What I say about Higgins holds true for him, too - his voice, his style, are so unique as to offer a challenge to the idea that poetry has a sanctioned diction whatsoever.

Stiles - who originates from rural Nova Scotia (Port Williams) - opens the collection with a section that presents dramatic monologues in stark, challenging, and utterly musical local patois - and their skewed, drunken lilt is Faulknerian - these are dispossessed lovelorn luckless folk, passionate as all get out, and roaring to grab a chunk of life.

There are a few poems in this collection that variously slip between language poetry, and the purest form of self-confession possible, and the cracks in the vase are hard to find. Well-wrought? Hell, no. Powerful as a poke in the eye? Yessir. This one is great.

http://www.insomniacpress.com/title.php?id=1-897178-18-2

Saturday, 8 April 2006

Todd Swift Is 40

Readers of Eyewear have commented on the transition from the original name of this blog, to the new one.

I offer this image as one possible clue to the shift in title.

Orson Welles, one of my heroes, knew the shock value in modernism's willingness to project the artist's project.

However, his brand of modernism's constant willingness to put himself, and his auteur status, front and centre, remains a dramatic challenge to his radical other, T.S. Eliot, the objective impersonal author (supposedly) - the only other American of the age equal to him in terms of genius-as-cultural-influence - and remains a radical challenge to post-structuralism's death-of-author.

As film-maker and magician, Welles knew that some hand had to hide, and guide, the forces behind the camera eye - it might as well be his, or said to be so.

So it is, I have always loved the moment, in one of his creations, when he intones the thrilling words - I am Orson Welles, and I directed this picture - or some such statement. To me, Welles is the father of the blog, and its very power, which is to make each one of us an auteur, unafraid to say so, and to come out of the dark, like mercury flashing, and present our selves, as images, ideas, theatre of the mind.

I turn 40 today.

Friday, 7 April 2006

Poem By Dominic McLoughlin

I'm very glad to welcome Dominic McLoughlin to the Friday Poem feature here at Eyewear, especially at a time when he has had such recent good news: having a poem place second in the very competitive National Poetry Competition 2005 (UK). To read that poem, go here:

www.poetrysociety.org.uk/comp/comp05.htm

His poems have appeared in the anthology Entering the Tapestry edited by Mimi Khalvati and Graham Fawcett (Enitharmon, 2003), and in magazines including The Rialto, The Shop (from which the poem below is taken) and The Oxford Magazine, and at nthposition. He lives in London, England.


The Asking Price

What am I bid for the crocked, the broken-backed
the well-past-its-sell-by-date, the tear-stained and pain-wracked?
Who’ll give me a starting price
on this lonely parcel that meant something once?

I, for one will bid you the moon and the stars and the sun.
I’ll give heaven and earth and all I am worth,
God and the angels, looney tunes,
all the half-remembered lyrics from my youth.


Well if nobody else in the room is bidding
this gentleman seems to have covered the floor
with collateral that sounds awfully impressive
though it can’t be strictly accounted for.

And for those who’re wondering
if they should have waved their paddle
let me just re-cap on the kind of twaddle
this lot is described as having become.

It’s useless, incompetent, gauche
on a losing streak, up to no good, humourless, weak.
Amongst its many faults is a fatal flaw
it doesn’t think it deserves to be valued anymore.

What am I bid? The moon! What do I hear? The sun!
Your last chance to speak. I’ll give you everything! Going, going,
gone.


poem by Dominic McLoughlin
originally published in The Shop Issue 9, Summer 2002

My Last Day Of Being 39

I was born on Good Friday, April 8, 1966.

I turn 40 tomorrow.

As most everyone I know has said, "40 is the new 30" - and, since 30 is the new 20, and 20 the new 10, I feel pretty young.

I actually thought this would be a moment of profound stock-taking. And it is, except, my first decision was to defer despair until 45, which is the new 40. 50 is now where middle-age, to me, kicks in. But I did make a list. See below...

12 THINGS I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE ACHIEVED BY 40 BUT DIDN'T

Won an Academy Award
Made a Million Dollars
Six-pack Stomach
Grown Taller
Able to Speak Chinese Fluently
Been a Regular Guest on the Tonight Show
Drive
Successful Deployment of Goatee
Became Madonna's Close Friend
Paid Off Student Loans, etc.
Read War and Peace, Remembrance Of Things Past & Middlemarch
Lived In Tangiers

12 THINGS I HAVE ACHIEVED BY 40 BUT DIDN'T EXPECT

Married To A Wonderful Person
Gainful Employ
Poet-in-residence, Oxfam
Published a Bunch of Books (A Few Quite Good)
Got To Write Poem For A Royal Wedding
Review Books For Books In Canada
Lived in Cool Cities Like Budapest, Paris and London
MA (Distinction) From A Really Good Creative Writing Programme
Have Maintained Close Ties to Many Of My Dearest Friends
Don't Smoke, Jog Frequently, Rarely Ask For Second Helpings
Am Frequently Happy, Often Content, and Usually Optimistic
Flew To Japan For Many Hours Without Fear

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Penned In The Margins, So To Speak

A new London initiative to represent (let alone present) good younger poets spearheaded by bright thing Tom Chivers (see picture above):

http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.html

Irish Poet Kevin Higgins Turns 39 Today

Let's all cheer for the jolly good fellow Kevin Higgins, (see left) whose 39th birthday coincides with today - April 6.

Higgins is one of the best Irish poets currently writing, under the age of 40 (he still qualifies) - for reasons that are starkly plain to the eye and ear when one opens his debut Salmon collection, which has sold very well indeed over the past year.

No one else in Ireland, in the race to outdo Heaney or Muldoon, has thought to reconsider Patrick Kavanagh's path - that is, the jaded, satirical voice of the countryman faced with city realities.

Moreover, Higgins writes with something of the satirical savagery of a Yeats (himself wrestling with Swift's vicious if ghostly tongue) - but, and here's the showstopper - he does so in a style all his own. In an age when most poets would arm wrestle over a scorpion to get their own signature voice, Higgins just has it.

It isn't always the prettiest singing voice, but it gets the job done, and well. Once you've read Higgins, you actually know what Ireland in the 21st century is like - you know how globalisation has altered Galway life - and you know what an ordinary Irish man, with uncommon poetic gifts, feels and thinks about life, love, family, history, and the future. And you also laugh. Few Irish poets have ever been as funny as Higgins.

If Higgins keeps to it, sticks to his guns, and publishes another two or so books in the next decade, by the time he is 50, he'll be exactly where any poet would want to be - in the unforgettable zone.

In the meantime, let's cheer him on, as he enters the last lap of his 30s, on the cusp of the 40s where all sorts of wonderful poetic challenges still await.

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

The Sun and The Last Mitterand

The idea of a political double bill isn't bad, especially if you throw in the additional shared themes of bodily decrepitude and power (i.e. politics by another name). These two films, now available on DVD, are both superb examinations of "great" men in decline - one, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, a shy, eccentric man with a terrible facial tic, who would rather study cetaceans in a lab than negotiate surrender to the Allies - the other, the carnivorous leftist French leader whose shady past in Vichy during WW2 interrupts his dying days as caught by his official biographer. In each film, the study of character is exquisite - one becomes Hirohito in an extraordinary act of cinematic phenomenology - and Mitterand, though always the other, is so exuberantly portrayed he is larger than most actual lives - his literary interventions and monologues on food and women, make him a kind of French Orson Welles. I highly recommend both films, two of the finest of the last few years.

Awesome, Totally Awesome

David McGimspey, arguably Canada's funniest (ever) poet (but he's more than that, too) has edited an issue of Matrix (#73), arguably Canada's hippest literary journal - featuring, arguably (okay, okay, let's just agree to disagree) many of the leading thrilling cool writers / poets out there today, in Canadaland - such as: Arjun Basu, Jason Camlot, Mary Crosbie, Nick LoLordo, Jennifer LoveGrove, Eva Moran, Paul Vermeersch, Alessandro Porco and Ali Riley (and me, too) - some of them familiar to readers of Eyewear aka TS Review.

McGimpsey has titled the issue the Awesome issue - and why not? It is.

For more online info go to http://alcor.concordia.ca/~matrix

[the image here is of the great Japanese Olympic gold skater Shizuka Arakawa and is also awesome]

Review: Waiting For Godot

The Barbican is putting on a festival to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beckett's birth on Good Friday, April 13, 1906. See link below.

I saw the opening night event, Waiting For Godot, and will review it here, in the fullness of time...

http://www.barbican.org.uk/beckett

[photo credit: Richard Avedon]

Gene Pitney Found Dead In Hotel

My favourite singer-songwriter, Gene Pitney, of the uncanny vocal range and chameleon style, has died in Cardiff, Wales, more than 24 hours from Tulsa.

He is pictured here, a much younger man, signing his autograph for fans.

Link here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/4878926.stm

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Nemo No More

The American movie director Richard Fleischer has died recently.

He had an extraordinarily eclectic career, managing to helm several of my favourite films, in oddly-varied genres (thriller, fantasy, sci-fi) including: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (pictured here), Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green and Mr. Majestyk (arguably Charles Bronson's greatest film).