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Showing posts from February, 2008

Poem by Derek Adams

Derek Adams(pictured here, in a photograph taken by his daughter Charlotte) is a poet Eyewear thinks well worth reading. His often macabre imagery is perhaps due to his wonderful eye for detail.

He was born in Walthamstow, East London in 1957 and has lived in Essex since 1985. A professional photographer since leaving school, he is a) currently working at the Natural History Museum and b) one of the organisers of The Essex International Poetry Festival.

His chapbook, Postcards to Olympus, won the Poetry Monthly Booklet Award 2004 and was named "Best Individual Collection Of Poetry For 2005" in Purple Patch Magazine's annual Best of the Small Press list; a collection Everyday Objects, Chance Remarks was published by the Littoral Press and unconcerned but not indifferent - the life of man ray came out from Ninth Arrondissement Press, soon after. He was the BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year in 2006.


Exhumation

Normally it is the one dark place in a well lit town
where only ghosts an…

Bourne On The Fourth?

Eyewear saw There Will Be Blood last night. It wasn't Kane - it was morose and downbeat like Ambersons, with some of the muddiness and new century cornpone of that film - and it made me think there will be hype. I found the didactic false prophet vs. false profit motif slightly linear, and the lack of any character development curious. Of course, the acting was bravura, the tone and pace original, and the Malickian attention to men at labour in American fields, moving and well-shot. It may grow on me. One thing about the Oscars this year - most of the US films up for the big awards were very dark, very violent - this is the age of Bush - and the toxic blowback from Iraq has just now begun to seep in to the water supply in Hollywood. The best American movie of 2007 was possibly the third Bourne feature - in terms of direction, and suspense; it too, was violent, and political, but somehow deemed irrelevant - perhaps because it expressed its skills so openly. Anyway, the good …

Boy Leaves Yale, Man Meets God

William F. Buckley Jr. who has recently died, was, according to some sources, variously: a CIA agent, Catholic, Yale Man, rightwing TV firebrand, homophobe, baronially arrogant, and one of the 20th century's most brilliant debaters. Only the last need detain us here. I share few of Buckley's vices, or virtues perhaps, and less of his ideology, but I have often felt that debaters, however otherwise turned rightwards, make the best companions (for dinner, if not bed). When I was a college debater of some repute (I often debated at places called Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Vassar, McGill, etc) Buckley was a hero, for his patrician indifference to low-brows and mass culture (though he practically invented High-IQ US TV discourse). My father (alas, dead) and I loved to watch him lean back in his chair, impossibly, an architect of disdain, a Pisa of scorn, his pen or pencil in his poised hand - about to strike, viperous. I met the gentleman once, all those teeth in that slithering sm…

Guest Review: Begnal On McLoughlin

Michael S. Begnal reviews
Dissonances
by Nigel McLoughlin

Dissonances is the fourth collection from the Irish poet Nigel McLoughlin, of County Fermanagh. As in the work of many Irish poets, land and place figure large here. But McLoughlin is not content to endlessly reiterate the standard rural pieties that we are now all so familiar with. There is a sort of a discontent running through this collection - indeed a kind of dissonance.

One of the first poems is "Chorus", which recalls Wordsworth's sonnet "Composed on Westminster Bridge", and like Wordsworth finds a surprising beauty in the morning of the city while (almost ironically) employing the language of the pastoral. Thus begins the section entitled "Tales from the Long Acre", the most lyrical of the four sections in this collection. "After Rain" demonstrates McLoughlin's imagist skills with passages like, "A car pinks by,/ the exhaust stutters/ a plume of smoke,/ thunder coloured..…

Poem by L.K. Robinson

Eyewear is very glad to welcome L.K. Robinson(pictured) to these pages this Friday. Robinson is, as well as being a London-based poet, a significant publisher who runs the rising new small press, tall-lighthouse, which is continuing to grow, in the process publishing many new and emerging poets of real talent.

In short, he's a mentor to the next generation or two of younger British poets, casting about for a home for their debut pamphlets and collections, as well as being a serious, energetic promoter of poets and poetry.

But, he's a poet in his own right, too. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines. His first collection was winterburn, which was published by Waterways in 2004. His latest, second collection is you say it’s been good. Poet Helen Mort has written of this book that it "is a beautifully observed journey through night, winter landscapes and the contour of other people’s lives."


simple

They say the view
from here is simple

beyond the window the land is st…

Cha

Cha is a new Asian online journal always looking for new contributors, and readers. Do check it out.

Robbe-Grillet Has Died

One of the eccentric-yet-significant writers of the 20th century, Robbe-Grillet, has died. Aside from his infamous new style of novel, which sought to do away with plot as if it was but one more victim in a murder mystery, he scripted L'Année dernière à Marienbad - which remains one of Eyewear's favourite films. Its influence is everywhere, most recently in the temporally-refracted editing of Atonement's first 40 or so minutes (itself set in a similar space of fountains and gardens, though in miniature). He also wrote and directed other works for the cinema, though none with quite the same impact. At one stage, it might have seemed he would have been an intriguing candidate for a Nobel, but his eminence waned, if not his name, which remained the ultimate in one form of French avant-garde sophistication.

Review: Atonement

Eyewear is of two minds about award-winning Atonement - just as the film is, about itself. On the one hand, I admire the mise-en-scene, and the lush "hottest day of the summer in the Manor House" section, which comprises roughly the first 40 minutes of the film (more, in flashback, especially the diving-drowning scene). I am tempted to call it a "tromp lawn" film - for it plays with the mind's eye, surely, as much as it does on the filmgoer's easy sense of genre. I suspect, though, the film tries to have its Eton Mess and eat it, too - with a silver spoon.

By this, I mean, it is all very well to try and throw prisms and postmodernity at Brideshead Revisited type visual tropes (languid beautiful young things, army fatigues) - and, like The French Lieutenant's Woman - "offer" different endings - with a knowing wink that, well, you know, this Upper Class Porn (the tooting yellow car, the Remains of the Day decor, the flappers, the elegantly lit fa…

Deep Woods

James Woods is one of the most highly-esteemed popular literary critics, and reviewers, of the current age. Unlike, however, figures such as Ford Madox Ford (who encouraged Lowell), or, for that matter, Cyril Connolly, he is apparently indifferent to poetry's charms. Woods is a Novel Man. Apparently, his bluntly-titled How Fiction Works (taking the idea of a manual to its instrumental level, one supposes) sides with prose, over poetry. Well, apparently poets write mainly about themselves (and what selves!?) - and are more concerned with style than substance. Their "careless [lyrical] rapture" and interest in "strenuous display of style" are somewhat beyond Wood's pale. Well, okay. But literary criticism hasn't been this stern since Plato, and, surely, elements of style learned from poetry (and its musical aspects) have powerfully enriched the rhythm's of prose, as well as its-less-austere moments. One doesn't have to be Pater to recognise, or lo…

Submarine In Wales

Joe Dunthorne is a graduate of the fabled UEA Creative Writing MA - the British answer to Iowa. Eyewear featured his poetry a while back - and he is a very promising younger Welsh poet. But Dunthorne is also a novelist. Here, his new book, Submarine, gets a very good review in The Observer. It's been about 60 years since Wales had young male writers so equally adept at both prose and poetry - Owen Sheers recently emerged as a force to be reckoned with in both genres, too.

Singeing Gogarty

The Observer today reports on the vicious cyber-bullying that has been dished out to the son, Max Gogarty, of a Guardiantravel writer after he was given a prestigious blog space on that paper's world-famous site, accused of benefiting from nepotism, armed with middle class bona fides (the UK media world is often thought to be rife with such things). What strikes me, immediately, is how odd it is that this young man, and this rather common incident, suddenly receive such attention. Might it in fact be because, indeed, his father is well-connected? His father, after all, has written many travel articles for the paper in question, and the many bloggers who began to ask why they should be excited to follow his son's gap year hols had a point, surely, though some may have pushed it too far. His father is quoted as noting the quintessentially cruel nature of this bullying. Well, actually, no. The British can be cruel - but the online community, in general, is no stranger to snarling…

Soft Is Better Than Hard

A new report from a thinktank in Britain argues that the UK's "post-Christian" and "multicultural" society - supposedly fragmented, without a unifying idea or belief-system - makes the nation a "soft touch" for terrorists and other attackers. Britain is a soft touch - Democracy has a vulnerable belly - and thousands have died in wars to keep it that way.

The alternative - a fortress, in mind and body (and infrastructure) might benefit those in defense or industry whose careers depend on garrison mentalities - but would not be a society that resembled the one that defeated fascism in 1945 - or resisted the darker designs of the Bush doctrine (well, some of them). Simply put, you can't have a free society and not have "fragmentation" in terms of belief. What do the generals behind this report want us to rally behind - some monolithic Orwellian creed? Secular Atheism? Theism? Militarism? Rugged Capitalism? - all of these jostle for space in …

Poem By Jessy Randall

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Jessy Randall(pictured) this Friday just after Valentine's Day.

Reading her poems online, recently, I was struck by her fresh, witty, whimsical take on eros, and other matters. The poem I've selected below perhaps exemplifies what I think is best in that aspect of her writing.

Randall is a rare books librarian living in Colorado. Her poems have appeared in Asimov's, Drunken Boat, and Painted Bride Quarterly, and she has also written for McSweeney's and Brain, Child. Her poetry is forthcoming at Nthposition. She hopes to publish a second issue of her zine, The Huge Underpants of Gloom, later in 2008.

Her first book of poems, A Day in Boyland, is now available from Ghost Road Press.


The Zone of Loneliness

“He was surrounded by a zone of loneliness” – Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands

This is a palpable lack
one I can feel with my tongue
the emptiness of my mouth, the bed
of my mouth, the recurring metaphors
flying over New York City.

The act of mis…

Decca dence: Morrissey's Greatest Hits

The CD is designed to look like a classic Decca label - the vintage simulacra suggesting vinyl, and perhaps a divine, long-past, moment of glamour for the recording artist. Morrissey's latest album has been greeted with much engaged critique, some of it of note for poetry anthologists, and others who like to think about the problematic nature of canons, and of career trajectories. This Greatest Hits has 15 tracks. As everyone now knows, the majority are from the recent two albums, from 2004 and 2006 - short shrift for the early works (post-Smiths) of 1988 - still, this is a 20-year-span retrospective. The absences trouble critics who (heaven knows why) wanted a seamless linear progression to be portrayed - as if Morrissey was not a provocative artist, but a national economy with a satisfying upward curve. Truth is, he is on the upswing - most of these "hits" are drawn from his late-flowering mid-career. I am thinking, now, of Gene Pitney, another flamboyant, odd, highly-…

Love, Poetry

What place does "Love Poetry" have in the 21st century, especially, shall we say, in the romantic quarrels between various suitors for Poetry's austere attentions - the post-avanters, the courteous, the discourteous, the mainstream, the innovative (all mere labels, just words, but with some force, one supposes, for all that)? I tend to want to think about poetry, these days, as something to do with artifice and emotionality - and feel the marriage of these two aspects, or elements, within poetry, is vital, and generates good things. I say emotionality, also, because while I agree with Charles Berstein that multiple (heterodox) styles and even voices within a poetic work can be admirable, it is not the case this invalidates the significance, or use, of the individual "voice" (though its primacy, in a polyphonic composition cannot be guaranteed, of course). Love poetry is usually lyric poetry - emanating from some "megaphone" - be that the idea, or real…

Sylvia Plath

One of the greatest American poets of the 20th century died 45 years ago, today, in London. Her work lives on - despite the urge of some diction-cautioning poets to try to curb and cure her baroque and excessive genius. It isn't the case that a poet's style must mirror a placid mind, or keep a governed tongue - for sometimes the internal is wilder than form itself may allow. Perhaps ironically, today was blessedly warm and sunny in London - the polar opposite of February 11, 1963. If Plath sent such poems to London editors today, what would they say?

Casting The First Stone

No one wants to see people stoned in the public squares of England - though everyone does get stoned, to paraphrase one Mr. Dylan. Still, one figure has been drawn and quartered of late - Dr. Williams. It's therefore good to see the clunking fist of GB (Gordon Brown)retracted. The commentariat of London and beyond should be ashamed of themselves - England's famous tolerance for free speech seems to extend only so far - the limit being questioning Secularism's rising tide. This is the week-end, after all, which saw The Guardian distribute free copies of its Darwin booklet, with the drooling praise of Dr. Dawkins. Darwin (himself a religious man, at the end merely agnostic) is a little god now, as the patron saint of British scientism and atheism - as if he killed God with his observations. There's talk of painting a "Sistine Chapel" ceiling for him in some great museum. What I think is worth noting in all of this is what Dr. Williams really said, what really u…

Guest Review: Mooney On McOrmond

Jacob Arthur Mooney reviews
Primer on the Hereafter
by Steve McOrmond

It is common for poets from McOrmond’s area of the world (Atlantic Canada) to approach nature with a humility so complete it can look like ennui to a distant observer, but for McOrmond, it is rarely that simple. It’s really more of a sense of being comfortable with one’s smallness and with the natural world’s blunt and frequently massive ecology. In Primer on the Hereafter, his second collection of deftly tuned and plainly spoken lyrics, McOrmond wades into the physical world around him and is at his best when not causing too many ripples, instead positioning and repositioning his sensitive lens in an attempt to frame a narrative for his focussed observations. I like to think of it as a book of nature poetry that is not always (or even often) about nature.

What I like best about Primer on the Hereafter is the subtle crisis of self-representation that flares up every time McOrmond busts out a down-homeism to give place-s…

February Poems Now Online At Nthposition

Poem by Sally Read

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Sally Read (pictured) this Friday. Her first collection of poems, The Point of Splitting, was published by Bloodaxe Books in March 2005. Her poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals including Crab Orchard Review and the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday. She has also featured on the CD Life Lines (Oxfam, 2006), and BBC Radio 3’s The Verb.

Her work has been translated into Italian, and published in international reviews and the anthology, Gatti come Angeli (Medusa, 2006). Her work has also appeared at Nthposition. In 2001 she was the recipient of an ‘Eric Gregory’, awarded to the most promising poets in Britain under 30. She is currently working on her second collection. I've long considered Read one of the most exciting, talented younger poets writing in English today - something to do with the range and originality of her themes, her unflinching eye, and sensuous ear. Her poems pivot on a stylish edge where American and English st…

Unto Caesar

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the nominal head of the world-wide Anglican communion, of which I am a small part. Tonight, he is under great political and public pressure for comments he recently made, about multicultural tolerance in Britain. I'd ask that those who feel able to do so, might want to pray for him at this challenging moment in his career.

He's a brilliant, informed, and compassionate Christian, and I think he's working through, and thinking about, some highly-complex ideas - his gravest sin might have been in overestimating the media and general public: intelligent discussion is rare these days in the marketplace - too often the polis becomes instantly enraged. It isn't just other cultures, other nations, that are excitable or intolerant - it is also us, the West.

Williams was seeking to reply to that, to try to welcome, within limits, a different vision of things, of law, into the fold. Much more thought needs to done on all sides be…

What Is A "Literary" Blog For?

This is my 840th post at Eyewear (give or take, some have gone by the wayside). I confess to being agnostic about blogs - the fact I have one should not be considered a ringing endorsement. I blog, therefore I am in the blogosphere, but where that gets me, or you, or anyone, is another matter. I think that this uncertain (or to be more stylish - say problematic) genre which is a blog leads to errors in reader response - though, how can any reader ever be really wrong about their own reaction? It is my experience that the Internet is not a cool medium. Or do I have that inverted? What I mean is, it evokes strong, near-instant responses. Blogs are emotive. They employ and discharge feeling - in that sense, they are like elements within poetry. But blogs also use (usually) prose, and are informative, and discursive - hence, the rational patina of much blog writing.

Still, the writing may appear calm and cool and collected, but the impression, of a reader, upon finding their name, or book,…

Barry Morse Has Died

The Guardian obituary fails to mention it, but "British" actor Barry Morse, who has recently died in London, was a naturalised Canadian citizen, from 1953 on, and a key actor (in more ways than one) in the renaissance of Canadian television, film and stage drama of the second half of the 20th century. He was a beloved national Canadian treasure. He was also, of course, a major character in two classic TV shows, The Fugitive (one of the very greatest series), and the retro-kitsch Space 1999. As Eyewear often observes, there's a blind spot where Canada should be in the London Eye.

Flim-Flam World

The BBC radio morning show, Today, broadcast a story (this morning) about Barack Obama's visit to an English town, years ago, for a family wedding, which resulted in him fleeing from a stripper in a pub dressed like (apparently) a posh schoolgirl. He did the right thing.

Not sure why this was reported today, except it's Super Tuesday, and also Shrove Tuesday, and also Pancake Tuesday, and also, dear me, Mardi Gras. Lent is coming. What will you give up? The Republicans look set to set aside Mitt, in favour of John. Hillary still has miles to go before she weeps. I suspect she'll ultimately overcome and take the Democratic nomination, and then JM will be the next President.

Obama wrote poetry (such bloody awful poetry one is tempted to say) and the BBC also had some of that read out too - something about a "flim-flam world" and his grand-father. Reminds me of exactly the sort of poetry Charles Bernstein, in A Poetics, mocks (all poets got grandparents, all poets got…

Top 10 Film Villains

The Observer's new Film Quarterly magazine is chock full of all kinds of candy that's bad for you, but that seeks to sell, deliciously, mainstream industrial cinema (I mean, that Hollywood stuff we love and love to knock, us Art Housed). Okay. And it has a very fun and quite considered Top 10 of Film Villains, selected by their best critic, Philip French. I was very pleased to see Joseph Wiseman'sDr. No (many might have thought Goldfinger the best Bond baddie), Lorre'sM, Palance's killer from Shane, Welles in non-cuckoo-clock mode, and Hopkins as pure sociopathic evil. - etc. Some of the great villains were not included, including: Mr. Bates from Psycho; Darth Vader; Malkovich's weird assassin in In The Line of Fire; and Brando's Kurtz (Mister Kurtz, He Bad). Who else? Well, The Jackal in the film of the same name (original version). One pleasant, refined choice: James Mason in North by Northwest (a subtle choice, that).

Guest Review: Crowther On Maris

Claire Crowther reviews
The Book of Jobs
by Kathryn Maris

I, for one, appreciate the North American presence in the UK poetry scene. I don’t know if it is as pronounced outside London as in the capital, where you can often hear Americans read. This dripfeed of an alternative English has certainly nourished my own work. Indeed, from Eliot and Pound a hundred years ago through Sylvia Plath to our own time with Michael Donaghy, Anne Stevenson and latterly such stimulating arrivals as Carrie Etter, Jane Yeh and Tamar Yoseloff, there’s a tradition that has made a huge impact on British poetry. Even short trips have helped. A fascinating bond developed between American Robert Frost and Welsh-English Edward Thomas during Frost’s stay in Beaconsfield and Gloucestershire before the first world war, allowing both to realise their poetic genius (though it might have contributed to Thomas’ demise as Frost blamed himself for encouraging Thomas to enlist).

New Yorker Kathryn Maris’ established presence…

Winter Tennis Gets Read

The Globe and Mail, Canada's leading national newspaper, reviews my 2007 collection, Winter Tennis, today, in its Saturday edition, along with other poets of interest.

Woman, Interrupted

Has there ever been a sadder story? Yes, maybe, but not since Frances Farmer has a talented, much-loved, and world-famous female celebrity lost their mind, so in public. As if Foucault's interest in madness and sexuality had fused in one form, then burnt out, Spears, a performer of stunning effect, is simply human, and in danger. Now, the media needs to go far away from this. No crowds. Let this person heal.

Poem by Alison Brackenbury

Eyewear is very glad to feature Alison Brackenbury (pictured) today. Brackenbury was born in 1953 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and went to the village school at Willoughton and then to Brigg High School. She studied for an English degree at St Hugh's College, Oxford.

Brackenbury has worked as a librarian in a technical college (1976-83), then as a part-time accounts and clerical assistant (1985-1989) and, since 1990 has worked in the family metal finishing business - a poet in a boiler suit.

She is married, with one daughter, and lives in Gloucestershire. Internet-savvy, she's one of the Poetry School's online tutors; and has a blog. Her latest collection, drawing on work from two acclaimed BBC radio features, is Singing in the Dark, published this month by Carcanet, from which the poem below is drawn. I've been reading this new book, and it is impressive, very English, lyrical, often based in Nature, or sentiment, and reminiscent of some of the best British poetry writ…