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Poem by Tony Lewis-Jones

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Tony Lewis-Jones (pictured) this Friday.

Lewis-Jones was born in Wales, and educated at Clifton and Oxford. While still at school, he won the T.E. Brown Prize for Poetry (1975). His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies all over the world. He has held a number of poetry-related posts, including Co-ordinator, Poems On The Bus and Poetry In The Parks, Poet-In-Residence at BBC Radio Bristol and Poet-In-Residence at The Bristol Evening Post. He is one of the 100 Poets Against The War (Salt Publications). His most recent collection Anytime was nominated for the Welsh Book of the Year 2007.
I've known of his work since just before I first published him in my anthology Short Fuse, launched in New York and Paris, where Lewis-Jones read. This poem is, as with much of his work, all-too-relevant in this troubled age.

Ruling Class

You weren’t so handsome then.
More human maybe.
We beat rebellion
Into your tender intellect
Till there was nothing else.

In re…

West End?

Iraq seems to be coming to the streets of London.
Is this the way the West will end?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6255960.stm

Goodbye to all that

Tony Blair, the second-longest serving British PM of the 20th and 21st centuries, has left Number 10, for his new job as Middle East Peace Envoy for the Quartet. Eyewear is glad to see him go. Blair was a mostly negative influence on British politics, and society, more generally. He ushered in an age of spin - glib media-manipulation and poll-driven decision-making - and then, paradoxically - made an isolated, almost Lear-like stand, in pushing through UK support for the Bush-led illegal war on Iraq - never admitting the failed vision of that action. Both of these impulses - to manufacture events, and often deny the reality of others - has led to a widespread cynicism in British life, where often the worst are filled with intensity, and the majority lack conviction.
The latest example of this is Tory leader Mr. Cameron, a lightweight Blairesque figure, who may not be a match for the lead balloon gravitas of dour Mr. Brown, now Prime Minister. Cool Britannia seems a long way back, now.…

Review: Keren Ann

Keren Ann (pictured) is a French singer with a new self-titled English album recently out.

Keren Ann is nine moody songs, and might have been subtitled I'm Your Mazzy - since it's a faithful homage to a few styles that are best filed under, or between, those separated-at-birth troubadours of drowsy underground glamour Leonard Cohen and Hope Sandoval - in short, breathy slow narcotic chansons that swirl about the room, lazy opium for the masses, concealing a razor blade under their mirror smiles.

One can almost imagine handsome-lost Chet Baker in the Parisian background, nodding along (or off) to these tunes to drop out by.

"Lay Your Head Down" is the stand out track. A few others are good. None are ultimately exceptional, though some of these dream pop songs flirt harmlessly with greatness, but the whole is greater than the parts and permits a certain slack jouissance to play as aural wallpaper for that certain sort of night in.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keren_Ann

http…

Review: Prison Break, Season 1

America is a giant prison, and the bars are made of television screens. Maybe not, but fortress America has an incarceration problem - large numbers of its young populations are in prison.

The rest just watch those that are. Prison Break(which appeared in the USA on politically-conservative Fox) is one of the best contemporary television programs, and, at times, achieves a pop culture giddiness that one only gets when in the presence of entertainment genius. Eyewear gives it four out of five specs.

Fusing various elements (and cliches) from the original Mission: Impossible series, with The Great Escape, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, The Birdman of Alcatraz, X-Files, and even Robin Hood, its series arc follows the semi-mythic TV paths of the mysterious, resourceful stranger who comes into a community (Shane) to redeem a lost world.

No world could be more lost (other than Lost's) or self-contained than a prison's - and no stranger-hero could be more thrilling than Went…

The War Against God

Richard Harries, in today's Guardian Review, admirably and cleverly takes on Christopher Hitchens, whose new book is a direct frontal assault on religion and a belief in God. The main theme of all the recent anti-God tracts published in England and abroad is that man hands on misery to man, and that this deepening coastal shelf of pain was made by true believers - entirely ignoring the truth that the fact of man's wickedness is the best reason for the need for religion, not the best reason to assume it is yet another human evil. Religion - at its height - symbolizes the horizon at which the human finds possible perfection - hardly an aim worthy of such hack indignation...

This at a time when Hypocrite-in-Chief Tony Blair has met the Pope in Rome, on his way to becoming a Catholic - an admirable road to take, but one which will be paved with the need for a great deal of soul-searching, or at least, forgiveness. Lying to the nation and helping to instigate an illegal war are ha…

Poem by Linda Black

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Linda Black (pictured) this Friday.

I met her recently at an Oxfam poetry reading which she was attending, and she gave me her wonderful pamphlet, the beating of wings, from Hearing Eye (2006) which was a PBS recommendation, and which impressed me greatly.

Black studied Fine Art at Leeds Art College and etching at the Slade School. She ran Apollo Etching Studio in London and has exhibited widely. Her poems have appeared in various magazines including Magma, Shearsman, The Wolf and Poetry Salzburg Review and in the Poetry School anthologies Entering the Tapestry (Enitharmon, 2006), This little stretch of Life (Hearing Eye/ Poetry School, 2006) and the recently published I am Twenty People! (Enitharmon, 2007).

Black was recipient of the 2004/5 Poetry School Scholarship. She is the winner of the 2006 New Writing Ventures Poetry Award. The poem below appeared originally, as you might expect, in This little stretch of Life.


This little stretch of life

(from the l…

Poem for The Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, Villa Bled, Slovenia

Tito’s getaway in the Julian Alps
has a lake cut from a glacier.
The architecture is monumental, retro,
June sees the blue-green water halted
in its heat; gondolas with another name
move people out at commercial intervals
to the medieval church on the one island
in this small, historic country. Once there
they can enter the picturesque
and pull the bell’s knotted rope;

your wish goes with each weighted fall
of the body with the arms. Everyone
in the town of Bled can hear the throng
of peels. Here we are, in the postcard.
Hip, rich and uncertain how we love,
but not too unsure; each has accidents
in the past that make us unlikely to be hard
enough for our own good, but we can be cold.
The view would make Wordsworth write
poetry. Not all of it good. Memory

rewrites greatness like it does
our faults; was Tito faithful, this partisan liberator
to his wife? The church bells ring again –
some kid from Austria hoping for a loose buck tooth,
the guy with FRANK on his silver Cadil…

Editors

If the 00s have one house style - the 70s had Disco and Punk so the first decade of the 21st century might have many - it could just be coming to a head with the band Editors, pictured, whose second collection is out June 25 - see link for the first single from the album.

Call it "black transcendence" or "gritty lyricism" or "dark epiphany" or simply Joy Division gets Simple Minded - but it is a style pioneered by Coldplay recently, and one that apparently Interpol will assay soon as well. It's curiously English - after all, in poetry, 1940s romantic modernism (my term) encompassed the war and austerity years and a soaring eloquence. The same admixture of stark, unblinkered gloom and uplifting bells and choirs seems to be what's on offer now from Editors, too.
I'm looking forward to hearing the whole. I hope they get the balance right. Dancing with tears in one's eyes can be a somewhat mixed blessing...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/mpd/permalin…

Having Nun of It

Eyewear notes that The Guardian's ongoing exploration of whether poetry is newsworthy or not continues to swing, like a Viennese pendulum, between Thanatos ("poetry is dead says Martin Amis") and Eros (see below). There is a lot of poetry - political or simply well-written - worth writing about, that doesn't involve anything quite as sensational as a Nobel-prize-winning poet cavorting with three nuns in a convent, after all...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain/article/0,,2106160,00.html

Soho To Culture

Oxfam is currently recording a follow-up to their best-selling Poetry CD from 2006, Life Lines. Life Lines (which I edited and planned) is the best-selling British poetry CD of all time - 10,000 sold last year, with £50,000 ($100,000 USD) going to those in need.

Today, I was in a Soho recording studio with some fine contemporary poets, including James Fenton, John Fuller, Blake Morrison, Sarah Maguire, Mark Ford, Elaine Feinstein and Fred D'Aguiar.

I'd name them all, but it's a surprise... launches will be this autumn.... there'll be 60 or so poets on the CD....

This Just In

Avid readers of Eyewear will recall that last Saturday brought some issues with The Guardian's coverage of poetry in Britain. This Saturday, the Oxford-based poet, Alan Buckley (who will be reading for the Oxfam series this Autumn), replies, with a published letter.

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2103941,00.html

Poem by Claire Crowther

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Claire Crowther (pictured). I met her a few years ago at a writing workshop in Norwich, and then followed her poems as they appeared in places like The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, and Magma (she was featured there Winter 2006). She's a very good poet, and it is splendid news her collection is out.

Crowther spent many years as a consumer journalist, editor and director of communications in the British media industry. She began writing poetry nine years ago. Her work has been selected for several anthologies; current examples are We are Twenty People (Enitharmon Spring 2007) and Only Connect (Cinnamon Press 2007).

Her first collection Stretch of Closures (Shearsman Press) was recently published in January 2007. Two years ago, she was offered a bursary by Kingston University to write a full length second collection of poetry on the theme of grandmotherhood. This is due out from Shearsman Press in November 2008.


Honeymoon

Even the rock smells…

Poem On The Death of Richard Rorty

On The Death of Richard Rorty

Take a proposition, frere:
Everything is at stake:
The every and the thing.

Burning. Down. Mistake
This at your own inquisition.
Tough-minded Rorty’s gone.

The mirror of nature’s broken
After a roughhouse wedding.
The mind. Between. A swing.

Once, a canoe went out on a lake.
A paddle swerved, bringing motion
Forward, like blowing will for fire.

It reflected on water, as
Dancing girls and boys shine
A floor with their sure smoothing skitter.

One figure, in the water, touched on
Another, in the vessel. Who was firstly real?
None. Neither. The sister of knowing is making.


poem by Todd Swift

Michael Hamburger Has Died

The great Anglo-German poet-translator Michael Hamburger has died.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=185#

June Nthposition Now Online

Freudian slips

Today's Saturday Guardian Review section seems designed to send Eyewear into overdrive.

The Page 3 Boy is Martin Amis, the UK's latest celebrity creative writing professor, quoted as saying (at the Guardian's own Hay festival) "You may have noticed that poetry is dead. The obituary has already been written. It has a ghoulish afterlife in readings and poetry slams ... not many people curl up of an evening with a book of poetry ... reading a poem involves self-examination .... we don't have the time or the inclination." Josephine Hart, poetry impresario and editor, writes the reply, linked to below.

There are so many things to say about this article, I will number my comments.

1. Nothing is more trite or tiresome than yet another trumped up literary debate.

2. The ping-pong story: poetry dead, poetry not dead, poetry dead, poetry not dead - should be shelved for another decade. As Andrew Motion, many people involved in the field of poetry, and I, have explained - l…

Economical with truth

One doesn't have to be Noam Chomsky to recognise that the "West" has a circular logic to it, one that has been cruelly exposed this week, during the G8 summit, and the scandal involving massive kickbacks for armaments.

The West - according to Tony Blair in his recent Economist article - is fighting a battle against forces that want to destroy our way of life and oppose our core values of democracy, and freedom. That's why, for example, we're in Iraq, hemorrhaging badly.

However, the West isn't based on democracy or freedom. Tony Blair, asked, beside a smirking George Bush, the other day, at the G8, about an ongoing corruption scandal linking money for weapons systems, said he couldn't have allowed the corruption investigation to proceed, as this was a matter of "national security." Though we in the West "elect" governments into power, once they are in power, they prosecute wars, destabilise foreign regimes, and support the global arms tr…

Poem by D. Nurkse

Eyewear is very honoured and pleased to welcome D. Nurkse (pictured) this Friday. He is the author of nine collections of poetry, including The Border Kingdom, Burnt Island, and The Fall (Alfred Knopf, New York, 2005, and 2002), Leaving Xaia and The Rules of Paradise (Four Way Books, New York, 2002 and 2001), Voices over Water (Graywolf Press, 1993/Four Way Books 1996), Staggered Lights (Owl Creek Press, 1990), Shadow Wars (Hanging Loose Press, 1988), and Isolation in Action (State Street Press, 1988). His poems have appeared in some of the best places for poems to appear, like The New Yorker, Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Wales, The American Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review - and dare I say Nthposition.

Nurkse has written extensively on human rights, on repression and children in Haiti, on the impact of apartheid on children, and on the effects of maternal mortality in Africa. He worked professionally for Defence for Children International, and was a consultant to …

Only Connect....

I was recently interviewed by one of India's leading bookstores.

My father and mother visited the shop a few years back, to hear Gunter Grass read.

The shop personnel were exceptionally welcoming and expressed interest in interviewing me in future. Then my father fell ill, and this was forgotten, until a few months back.

Here are links to the site.


http://www.oxfordbookstore.com/oxfordonline/services/rhyme_or_reason/poetpourri/poetry_todd_swift.asp

http://www.oxfordbookstore.com/oxfordonline/services/rhyme_or_reason/poetpourri/index_poetpourri.asp

Commedia del Arte

Eyewear was sent this press release last night. Congratulations to the winners.

It's good to see so many hungry poets dining so well...

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TORONTO – June 6, 2007 – Charles Wright’s (pictured) Scar Tissue and Don McKay’sStrike/Slip are the International and Canadian winners of the seventh annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The C$100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest poetry prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners. The prize is for first edition books of poetry published in 2006, and submitted from anywhere in the world.

The awards event was hosted by Scott Griffin, founder of the prize. Renowned poet Matthew Rohrer was the featured speaker. Judge Karen Solie announced the International winner and John Burnside announced the Canadian winner of the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Hundreds of guests celebrated the awards, including Canada’s former Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson; The Honourable Caroline di Cocco, Minister of Cu…

Fourth Anniversary

Today is the fourth anniversary of my wedding to my wife, S. Egan (pictured), in Ireland.
It was the best day of my life. Below is a poem, inspired by the occasion, and first collected in my third book, Rue du Regard, from 2004.

On His Wedding

Rising early as if for a duel, seconded
By a best man, I wake to sky that’s bleu cĂ©leste,
Rented tails, and fresh anxiety, but bride
And groom do not turn backs to pace. We
Collide at an altar, as though it was a super-
Conductor. As old Wagner marches
You up the aisle, my awe wells up at what is
Brought in: veiled, molecular, still flowing out.
Your entrance is an atomic favour, for witnesses
Observe us, met here not to cut, but sew space
Rent in multi-fabrics. Our cells push and pull,
Mysterious as that new-smashed meson X(3872).
Side-by-side, apart, like shadow and
Direct flame crossing to overlap, as a rosy flower
Sometimes is mistaken for its name.

Olympic muddle

The "jagged emblem" and logo for the 2012 London Olympics has just been unveiled, and it is hard to imagine a more ill-conceived, unattractive, and ultimately, confusing design. It actually manages to take athletics, one of the most beautiful, thrilling and fluid of human endeavours, and render it ugly and dull.

What could the other runners-up have looked like, one shudders to think, if this beauty was the winner?

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/olympics_2012/6718243.stm?dynamic_vote=ON#vote_olympic_logo

Houten here

Bond 22 is already casting about for their next "Bond Girl" - and they may be going Dutch. Eyewear has it from the rumour windmill that the Bond producers have opened their little black book and pulled slinky Ms. Carice van Houten (pictured riding side-saddle) out. She's the undercover Mata Hari-type starlet who recently had the world agog in Paul Verhoeven's Nazi-era erotic thriller, Black Book, the top-grossing Dutch film of all time. Black Book, by the way, is fantastic. Verhoeven, who almost defined a kind of 90s kitsch in terms of OTT sex and violence (always interrogating American decadence and ignorance, bien sur, in the po-mo process), has created his finest film yet - and that includes Basic Instinct. van Houten falls in a big way for a Nazi in that movie (and in real life, what do you know, she's dating him too?) and things get complicated when she starts living a double-life, as a leggy Nazi mistress / resistance fighter. Eyewear hasn't seen anythi…

Atlas Didn't Shrug...

Atlas 02 is a a cultural magazine that comes from India and is edited by the poet Sudeep Sen. The contributing editors masthead is impressive: Peter Bradshaw, Les Murray, Donald Hall, Fiona Sampson, Peter Porter, Ruth Padel, and others.

Its chief function is to publish new writing, but it also includes a variety of art and image related features. The second issue is just out, with a feature on Canadian writing (yes, I am included), with new work by (among others) Evelyn Lau, Robert Priest, Alison Pick, Margaret Atwood, John Barton and PK Page.

There's also an interview with Salman Rushdie.

It's an impressive achievement, and one of the best-designed journals of its kind I've seen. The cover is striking and persuasive, with its bold use of photographic colour and a stark black background. The interior layout has a kind of Internet browsing interface feel to it - all seems contemporary and to hand. Exactly 400 pages in length, this is a high quality international journal punchi…

Eyewear Is Two

Eyewearis two today, friends. If that seems astonishing to you, imagine how it feels where I am sitting. On June 1, 2005, when I sat down to start "blogging" the whole fad was about as likely as riding around on those old bicycles where one of the wheels is giant and the other tiny - you know the ones. Parasols. World Fairs. 1902.

Then, for awhile, everyone was blogging - reports of a million new blogs starting a day. Blogs became popular. Blogs became books. Then blogs became big business. In 2006, The Guardian, the BBC, and other major media outlets starting pushing their blogs on us. The blogosphere began to look, read and feel, just like any other clone street in the UK, Tescoised and manipulated by corporate interests. Or worse, not - for every sleek blog there is one that is amateurish and rubbish.

Meanwhile, social networking began to evolve. Myspace. Beebo. Facewhatsit. Everyone linked to everyone, saying zilch. Actually, saying, look at me, I am cool, too. In the age …

Poem by John Mole

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome John Mole. He was born in the early Forties, in Taunton, Somerset. Mole has appeared at various festivals both as a poet and jazz clarinettist, the latter on several occasions with fellow poet Roy Fisher. His most recent collection is Counting the Chimes: New & Selected Poems, 1975-2003, published by Peterloo Poets, from which the poem below is taken.

Peterloo Poets will be bringing out This is the Blackbird: Selected Poems for Children and The Other Day, a new collection for adults, later in 2007. Mole has compiled programmes for Radios 3 and 4, including Time for Verse and Poetry Please, and his collection of review essays, Passing Judgements, was described by Terry Eagleton in the Times Literary Supplement as 'striking just the right balance between high critical discourse and racy journalese.'

Recipient of the Gregory and Cholmondeley Awards for poetry, the Signal Award for his writing for children, and an honorary doctorate from the Un…