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Showing posts from July, 2007

Bad Week For Cinema

Eyewear is sad - and a little shocked - to learn of the death of cinema's great Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni - who gave us such great films as L'avventura, Blowup, Professione: Reporter (The Passenger) and Zabriskie Point.

Coming just after Art House Cinema's other major European Existentialist Auteur, Bergman, has died, this is staggeringly bad news for movie lovers. Antonioni's heroes looked out at the world, and into themselves, on journeys that brought them, often, to silent, mortal zones - in the process encountering erotic, dangerous interzones - as the image, and the imagination, hot and vast as a desert - mixed like windblown sands.

Antonioni was one of the finest image-makers, and thus givers, in film history, and Blowup's eerie London park, with its rustling leaves, and apparently abandoned body, is just one of them. More than films, his works were - are - environments - where mood, landscape, desire, and fate - meet (and sometimes absurdly) par…

Mimesis

Mimesis 2 is now out - an important second issue for a new, promising, small magazine devoted to the best international poetry from little and well known poets. It's edited by the poet James A.L. Midgley.

I'm in this issue, along with Andrew Sheilds, E. Kristin Anderson and Charlotte Runcie, others, and George Szirtes (an interview). At 55 or so pages, it is slim, well-produced, atttractively put together, and was sent to me rapidly after being published. What's not to like?

Okay, I'd like to see the next few issues develop a masthead that has some contributing editors, maybe tells us where the magzine is published from - and poetry reviews would be good, too.

Still, Mimesis is hereby Eyewear-recommended as a place for poets young and old to send work to.

Masters of Light and Darkness

Ingmar Bergman has died today. The world has lost one of its true masters of 20th century cinematic art - an art that, like painting, may soon become seen as less for all time than for an age, as new digital media technologies alter the beauty and struggle of the original process - a process that involved, more than anything, the deployment of light and shadow across human faces, across landscape, across vast moral and dramatic spaces, but finally, importantly, projected across screens, in dark rooms, with an audience watching. Often considered tantamount to a dream state, gazing at cinema, no other film-maker knit the dreams of film, the dreams of people, into such a rapt suture. Bergman is, of course, forever associated with European existential, psychoanalytic, and Surrealist aspects of film. More succinctly - he was the dark side of the Hollywood dream machine - the side that asked the complex questions about our desires and dark inner experiences. He will be missed, but lik…

Ashbery Is Eighty

The most influential and impressive living American poet, John Ashbery, turns 80 today. I missed his - was it 75th? - birthday in Paris a few years back - time is speeding up. Yet still the New York School master is, thankfully, abundantly with us (his latest collection, A Worldly Country, came out this year, in the UK from Carcanet). So: happy birthday, Mr. Ashbery. My poem for you is below.

It may seem churlish to say so, but many (most?) British and Irish poets and critics just don't get this most versatile, fluent and loquacious of American poets - and in the process, miss not just a passenger, but the conductor and whole train of current American poetics and poetry. In Ashbery, WCW's American grain is rubbed smooth with French verse, an appreciation of abstraction in art and talk, and a big city insouciance that is both lyrically pleasing and intellectually perplexing. A few years ago, that most traditional of lyrical craftsmen, Seamus Heaney, told me he didn't think A…

On the occasion of JA's 80th birthday

For John Ashbery, July 28, 2007

Send for the boys who do not care,
The rude birds that avoid the air,
The girls who shave off all their hair,
Flyers that crash down for a dare –

Send for the scribes who are impure;
Let them serve up sherbet and maize,
Warmest Florida days, a dance craze
Started in Harlem, and nothing in place,

See, there are no shoes to win this race –
Blessed are those who fail to justify
The ways in which they select high
And low manners of making desire sigh,

Flung off to deny, belie, codify, luxuries
Broadly open to all cavorting stylish eyes;
Mania belongs to the song of songs sung
With thrusters burning, all wheels swung

Wide to glide like butter or ice going across
A pan, out to the sea which cannot adjudicate
Between a well-turned ankle and a sharp skate
But glistens like a flustered many-glozed affair

That happens in every apartment where
Lovers cavort without scruple or design,
Or rather, have designed scruples that provide
All the pleasures of the moon, the day, denied

Them in the …

Poem by Elizabeth Bachinsky

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Elizabeth Bachinsky (pictured) this Friday.

Bachinsky has recently stormed onto the Canadian poetry scene as one of the significant, exciting new poets to follow - one whose fine sense of form is equalled by a hipster dedication to using the full spectrum of tone, style, and content - often voicing, with Browning's panache, the dramatic monologues of the marginal young (in one another's arms, etc.).

In this way, she extends contemporary Canadian poetry's unequalled exploration of the merger of high and low, form and content, and style and sensibility, that makes 21st century Canadian collections often richly ironic, speculative and positively excessive works - works simply disinterested in pure authenticity or tradition for tradition's sake - works asking questions (about identity, media, culture, and American experience) that poetry books in Britain and Ireland all too often don't even know exist.

(The starting gun for this poetry is t…

The Wolf Is Five!

The Wolf's subtitle is "The Magazine For New Poetry" - and, in Britain - it is.

I moved to London about four years ago. Poetry and English establishments being what they are, with all those competing class circles and cliques, the welcome was rough and cold at times - still is, in many ways. The Wolf, from my first months in the UK, was open to reading, and eventually publishing, my work.

If this was just about me, it'd be rather limited as an appreciation. But The Wolf has become, since founded in April 2002, by poets Nicolas Cobic and James Byrne, a truly indispensable small press publication for British letters and many writers - because it is marked by integrity, fierce independence, and a willingness to pretty much question every quietly held opinion and suggest new ways forward.

It provides a platform for many emerging, younger poets, who often have few alternative outlets in a publishing landscape that is cramped, conservative and too often pettily divisive for n…

Review: Zeitgeist

Billy Corgan (pictured in pseudo-sacrilegious pose) is the frontman - one wants to say evil genius - of Smashing Pumpkins- who were, after Nirvana, the major American alternative band of the 1990s.

This isn't just conjecture or opinion - though I want to stop here and coin an aphorism: fashions change, taste remains bad. SP saw their 1995 madly-ambitious magnum opus, Melancolie and the Infinite Sadness, go to number one at Billboard, following up on what I consider their greatest album (indeed, the greatest popular music album of the last 16 or so years, other than In Utero) - the sublime Siamese Dream.

SD meshed and mashed a variety of influences and styles, to gloriously evoke the head-rush of unchained rock guitar (often derided as "noodling") and adolescent vulnerability - so that the songs work together to present a landscape of teen isolation that is both defiantly itself and openly wounded by past abuses ("Disarm"); but the work is not altogether morose, a…

London Versus New York

I was recently mentioned in a Globe and Mail article pitting London vs. New York as cultural hotbeds.

Facebooking the music

Facebook is an addiction, but maybe a good one. I joined a few weeks back, and now have over 250 "friends" (see picture for example). I also have a pet penguin, that is regularly petted, and a garden in which the so-called friends can leave flowers. Presents one can exchange with anyone else on the network, in the world, include happy chipmunks and chocolate-coloured cherries.

If one wanted, one could have a countdown to when Bush leaves, a list of favourite CDs, or even, a test to see how many of your friends (them again) are like you. There is a herd mentality to the groups that spring up - appreciation societies for bands, and even one man who promised to "punch an astronaut" for every 17 new members he received....

It is zany, very fun, and really, the best new game in town - you can be a vampire, or a zombie, and attack "chumps" (friends and strangers) - or throw virtual cartoon food. You can also let everyone in your network know exactly what your lat…

At last, Atlas Reading!

There was a well-attended (200-300 audience members?) poetry reading at The Nehru Centre of The High Commission of India in Mayfair, London earlier tonight, to launch issue #2 of Atlas. Atlas is an international book[maga]zine of ‘new writing, art & image’ edited by Sudeep Sen and published by Aark Arts. I had the pleasure of reading with Peter Porter, Daniel Weissbort, Mimi Khalvati, Kim Morrissey, Chris McCabe, Daljit Nagra, George Szirtes and Sen. There was also a passionare, mystical Sufi Dance Performance by Manjari Chaturvedi.

Karl Ghattas Has Died

Eyewear is sad to report that long-time Oxfam Marylebone supporter, artist, and prize-winning poet, Karl Ghattas, has died, at the age of 49, in Barcelona, in his sleep. There will be a London memorial service held August 8, to include readings from his works, and all sales of his books at the event will go to Oxfam. Ghattas was a brilliant, passionate man, with his own sometimes contrary vision.

He had a an MSc in Philosophy from the London School of Economics, had placed first in the Hastings International Poetry Competition, and had had many one-man exhibitions of his work, between 1992 and 2006, in Barcelona, New York, Paris and London. His first full collection of poems had recently been printed, titled My Very First Poetry Book. His work can be ordered from Oxfam online here.

Poem By Ken Edwards

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Ken Edwards (pictured) this Friday. His books include the poetry collections Good Science (Roof Books, 1992), eight + six (Reality Street, 2003), No Public Language: Selected Poems 1975-95 (Shearsman Books, 2006), Bird Migration in the 21st Century (Spectacular Diseases, 2006) and the novel Futures (Reality Street, 1998). The prose work Nostalgia for Unknown Cities is seeking a publisher.

He has been editor/publisher of Reality Street Editions since 1993. Edwards is active in music as well as writing: he wrote the text for a piece by John Tilburyfor piano, voice and sampled sounds, There’s something in there…, which was premiered in Leeds in 2003, and his music for Fanny Howe’sSpiral was first performed in Brighton and London in 2004. After 35 years in London, he now lives with his partner Elaine in Hastings, on the south coast of England, and works as an editor for the Royal College of Nursing.

Brilliant Sojourn

1
Lagged in our tree-house we turn hands …

There is no bloodless myth will hold

J.K. Rowling (pictured) is the most successful novelist in the history of the form, if one thinks in strictly commercial terms. She is, on the eve of the last installment of the Potter series, already a dollar billionaire (worth apparently between £500-600 million). She is, in terms of cultural impact, already, at least, comparable to authors now canonical, such as Mark Twain, Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie - each hugely popular in their lifetimes - and each creating a character of near-universal recognition (Tom Sawyer, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot). And, she has maintained total artistic control over the American, Hollywood production of her films - a miracle, given that only, perhaps, Spielberg has more power in the domain - and even he couldn't imprint his own vision on the Potter franchise. In short, Rowling is a hyper-star - easily one of global popular culture's top ten figures for the start of the 21st century.

And yet, this very impressive, admirable and meteo…

Prison Broken?

Prison Break- one of American TV's best-loved and most entertaining guilty-pleasures of the 00s - set itself an intriguing structural challenge: the first season would be mostly set in a maximum security prison, and be all about attempted release from said constraint; the second season is about escaped convicts unleashed and on the run. In brief: control vs. chaos, or perhaps, formal versus free verse. If season one was poetry, season two of Prison Break is prose. The tone is different, and dissipated.

One thinks of the difference between the films The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal - where, similarly, the issue was of order and escapade. Visions of Dr. Lecter strolling about sun-stroked Italy wearing a hat and carrying a Herald Tribune like a retired Interior Decorator from Des Moines was a let-down, to be sure. So too, the squalid squabbles of the "Fox River 8" once set out in the vast landscape that is America. But, thankfully, thematic and poetic elements survive, …

Quizzed Shows

The BBC lied. Perhaps not shocking news, but it should be. Those three letters (two the same) once symbolised - along with wartime propaganda - a sense of integrity, a sense of British decency. No more. A few years back, the elegant, if somewhat worthy film Quiz Show told the story of how the Golden Age of American TV in the Eisenhower Era was exposed for the sham it was - about as honest as a two-bit carnival in Idaho - but the story seemed remote from contemporary experience - we all knew, or thought we knew, that the Wizard of Oz was trumped up quackery, and that grand illusions and narratives were the order of the day; unflappable, cynical, we took our daily doses of TV with grains of salt leavening the laudanum - in a blissful opium dream, unwilling to consider the truth, or consequences. Well. If institutions like the BBC fix their contests and call-ins, for better TV, what else is fixed, in British society? Dossiers for war? Reports on police culpability in the shooting of inno…

Irish Poet Deserta

Carcanet has recently published Selected Poems by Thomas Kinsella. Kinsella is fast approaching his 80th birthday (born in Dublin in 1928). This year, he was awarded The Freedom of that city (as was U2, shamefully before). As younger Irish poet-critic David Wheatley recently indicated in his Guardian review, here is a major Irish poet to reckon with - a figure who, if the poetry world were at all balanced, proportional and fair - would be mentioned in the same (or an earlier) breath as Heaney, Longley and Mahon (indeed, he is of an older generation and is in fact their senior in many ways).

I am currently making my way through this new collection, with something akin to awe and gratitude (as the blurb might say). How do we not all know these poems (or do we?). "Baggot Street Deserta", so far, has struck a particular chord - its combination of evening young man's reflective doubt, and poetic high rhetorical flying, manages to get a bit of Yeats, a bit of Prufrock-era Eliot

French Made

There's a good and interesting review written by the British poet and critic, Lachlan Mackinnon, of an important new anthology of English poetry translated into French, in the July 6, 2007 issue (no. 5440) of the TLS. The book in question is from the canon-making Gallimard, and is titled Anthologie Bilingue de la Poesie Anglaise. It is relatively comprehensive, stretching from Beowulf to Simon Armitage, at over two thousand pages.

According to the review, the translators (there are dozens employed) mostly get things right, and, though there are rather curious omissions (Kenneth White) and curiously obscure inclusions (Michael Edwards), the work is ultimately impressive: "the editors of this volume and the translators have achieved an extraordinary entente cordiale."

Eyewear recently lived in Paris for a few years (2001-2003) and is much encouraged by this newly-expressed interest in the English poem. Poetry is apparently less of a living form among the French, with a fe…

Interminable Entertainment

Eyewear would like to report that the war to colonise our imaginations has been won. Prince, as we have all heard in the last few days, has begun to disseminate (I select this term carefully), his songs for free, via newspapers and the Internet; meanwhile, reports stream in of a generation of "screen kids" raised on a steady diet of web-based, digi-tainment. Meanwhile, the Potter franchise - a mighty juggernaut - rolls forward.

Students of media and culture might want to suggest a term for this landscape of ours - one with no foreseeable horizon - "Interminable Entertainment". Put bluntly, there is no end in sight, to TV episodes airing, music groups releasing songs, films being produced, books being published - and new works being created and distributed in media as yet unknown. Creators have a moral right to protect these works - but do we, the targeted audience, have a moral right to resist? To ever shut down, turn away, avoid the never-ending stories and un…

Poem by John Menaghan

Eyewear is glad to welcome John Menaghan (pictured) this Friday. Menaghan was born in New Jersey to Irish-American parents. He lives in Venice, California.

He is winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize and other awards. Menaghan teaches literature and creative writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he also serves as Director of both the Irish Studies and Summer in Ireland programs and runs the annual LMU Irish Cultural Festival. Several of his poetry collections have been published by Irish press Salmon, such as All The Money In The Worldand She Alone.

Menaghan’s recent move into playwriting has seen his one-act play A Rumor of Rain performed at the Empty Stage Theater in Los Angeles (as part of an evening that included work by John Patrick Shanley and Neil Simon). He is currently working on two full-length plays, one set in Berkeley, California and the other in Belfast, Northern Ireland and a sequence of short plays on the theme of leaving and being left beh…

Moving On Up

There are - according to engine Google - 13 million or more hits that come up when you search for "eyewear". This humble blogspot is now so popular, it is 4th on that list. Who ever said "men seldom make passes / at girls who wear glasses"?

Hands Off, She's Mine

Canada is often considered the Switzerland of North America (five hundred years of peace, good government, etc... and all it created was the Cuckoo Clock etc.) - a dull neighbour to the North of the Toxic Texan and his large empire. Think again. Canada is shaping up to be more like the Saudi Arabia of North America, but with ice instead of sand - potentially massive amounts of oil reserves are becoming available in Canada's True North, strong and free. And PM Harper has finally found a position he can defend well and truly - by laying down a strong riposte to American (and other) claims on Canuck territory. Eyewear mainly abhors violence and military might, but, if someone has to control 25% of future oil reserves on the planet, better a mild-mannered middle power like Canada, than, say, Russia or the US.... eh?

Review: Our Love To Admire

The new Interpol album is recently out, with stuffed and mounted (extinct?) animals from kitsch dioaramas on the cover and inside the lyricless booklet. As is well-known, it is their third, but first on a big label. The question that arises on first hearing this moody, slow-burning, sometimes exquisite, even morose album, is: what exactly does this foursome think they're doing?

Labelled under the genre "alternative", American, New Yorkers, and based in the terrorised first decade of the 21st century, Interpol (their name itself is a sign of the times), is a weird cultural throwback. Oddly, the style Interpol have adopted is derived from Joy Division (from a post-industrial town in the North of England) with a hint of The B-52s (listen to those herky-jerky vocals again). Interpol seem like poseurs in this lineage. But they do not parody, but perform a pastiche of a style, and thereby refresh it for the current age.

That is, they sound like Joy Division, if Joy Division …

A report on poetry in 2007

I write this as someone who has spent over 20 years writing, editing, publishing, and promoting poetry, in both North America and Europe.
There is no mass interest in poetry, in the United Kingdom, in 2007.

Last year, I edited a poetry anthology CD for Oxfam that has since sold over 10,000 copies, in less than a year. It is, as such, the best-selling British poetry CD of all time. As far as I can tell, this fact – hardly remote from social or aesthetic concern – has received no mention in any mainstream media in the UK.

Television. Film. Music. These do not need state sponsored support to generate interest, even desire, on the part of mass audiences. It is true that government support may (this is debatable) improve these forms of entertainment / art – but it hardly need advertise them. Marketed, admittedly, by commercial interests, the demand is still high, and continuous, for new movies, TV shows, and songs by popular performers. Novels, too, are relatively popular.

Poetry is not a form…

Review: The Good Shepherd

Eyewear recently watched The Good Shepherd (2006) - the Robert DeNiro-directed film tracing the origins of (the) CIA, from the late Thirties at Yale (with its secret cloak-and-dagger collegiate society) to the Bay of Pigs Fiasco (the film conveniently side-steps the contemporary era, when a former Director of the agency became President of the USA, and his son, also became President). Matt Damon stars, as an American Smiley figure (Wilson) sad, stooped, seemingly suburban, matching wits with his equal number in Moscow, his personal life empty as his stare on the bus to work.

The film ends on a note of resounding sorrow and defeat - even despair - as the entirety of a man's life (his soul) is rendered to ash - and the pseudo-Christian message shadowing the film reveals itself (Mark 8:36) - "for what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?" - a good question the film-makers think could be applied to American foreign policy, as well,…

Poem by Stephanie Bolster

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Stephanie Bolster (pictured) this Friday. Bolster is one of the very best, and most popular, of the new generation of Canadian poets. Her first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems (1998), won the Governor General's Award (Canada's top literary honour) and the Gerald Lampert Award - and will appear in French with Les Éditions du Noroît this autumn 2007, translated by Daniel Canty.
She has also published Two Bowls of Milk (1999), which won the Archibald Lampman Award and was shortlisted for the Trillium Award, and Pavilion (2002).
Bolster recently edited The Ishtar Gate: Last and Selected Poems by the late, very fine Ottawa poet Diana Brebner. She is also editing an anthology of poetry about zoos - and is guest editor for the inaugural The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2007 anthology.
She teaches creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. The poem below originally appeared in The Fiddlehead, and appears here with permission o…

July Poetry Now Online at Nthposition

Ten new poets now online at http://www.nthposition.com/ including Claire Crowther, Tony Williams, Kavita Joshi and Michael Kavanagh. Enjoy. I'm currently reading new poems for the autumn and winter issues, October, November and December 2007. Submission guidelines at the site.

Review: An End Has A Start

Editors (pictured) burst onto the scene in the last few years as the band that sounded most like Joy Division, other than Interpol. Their highly-anticipated second album was recently released. Eyewear had been very hopeful it would be even better than their haunting, morbid first album.
The current English guitar band style is, broadly-speaking, to be angular and anguished - and always anthemic - this period style starting with Radiohead, moving to Coldplay, and then erupting in a variety of bands like Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, and now Editors. This English Line of moody, introspective, yet ringing bands is perhaps inspired by U2 (though often borrowing heavily from great unsung Simple Minds).
The new album under discussion here, is ten songs that each lay claim to being stirring and existential. Most are about air disasters, imminent death of loved ones and one's self, and the general morbidity of late capitalist society. The songs are propelled by dramatic drums and churning …

Banksy Is A Great Artist

An article in today's Guardiansuggests that Banksy, ultimately, is not a serious artist, and his works are not great art - and may even threaten the values that tether true art to society with his parodic style.

This is nonsense, and dangerous thinking. It's the sort of quasi-traditional, pseudo-conservative twaddle that mars so much British thinking (and critical writing) on practitioners who bother to extend the limits of their chosen creative fields.

Rather than wagging a finger at Mr. Banksy, the Guardian (supposedly left-leaning) might want to hand him a flower in the barrel of a gun - his aesthetic revolution has not only been televised, it's been put against the very walls where many would be shot ....

There are, I suggest, four measures by which all great art and artists can be evaluated:

1. Does the work engage with the recognised tradition within the art form, and then extend, refresh, or challenge it?

2. Does the work make innovative use of materials or dissemination…

A Kind Of Slow Motion Launched Tonight

you are invited to the launch of
Janice Fixter’s first full poetry collection
a kind of slow motion
at the Poetry Café, Betterton Street, Covent Garden
at 8pm on Wednesday 4 July
where Janice will read from her
collection together with special guests
Wendy French, Todd Swift, Anne-Marie Fyfe

for further details contact 020 8297 8279
or events@tall-lighthouse.co.uk

a kind of slow motion £7 ISBN 978 1 904551 30 0
available from 4 July from www.tall-lighthouse.co.uk

Organic Form

I am just back from hill (and vale) walking in the Lake District with some good friends, and A. Wainwright as guide (only in book-form, alas).