Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2009

Swift Report 2009

I'll write my report in early 2010, and, not only survey this year, but a decade of work. In the meantime, may I wish you all a holiday blessed by health, peace, and love. As a veritable UK-style blizzard snows down upon London let me wish you a Very Merry Christmas!

Say A Word

Sad news. Brittany Murphy, pictured, one of my favourite actresses, has died, at the age of 32. Murphy, whose best role was perhaps as the silent insane asylum girl in the Michael Douglas thriller Don't Say A Word, was also great in Girl, Interrupted, Clueless, and 8 Mile. She was infamously sexy and intriguing on screen, and, to her fans, endlessly captivating. However, her career had somehow seemed interrupted, too. Eyewear is in shock at her sudden totally unexpected death. In my third book, Rue du Regard, a collection which deals with scopophilia, desire and film, I have a poem called 'Brittany Murphy Adoration Society', which is not entirely apt to quote here, but which explored her effect on those who loved to watch her act. She will be missed.

Bink Noll

As an anthologist I enjoy the bittersweet experience of reading forgotten anthologies of yesteryear - those charming time-tombs. No point in observing that most art is futile and ends in oblivion for most artists; we are mostly not Horace. Save our souls, but forget our names. Chad Walsh that great Champion of CS Lewis from Beloit College edited thanklessly a long unused Scribners anthology from 1964, Today's Poets. 45 years later it mainly holds up well though we no longer speak of wild man poets. Ginsberg is absent. Walsh predicts great things for Walcott but doesn't particularly enthuse about Larkin. The great Eberhart is given his due. Carl Bode we don't much read now. Nor Gil Orlovitz. Good to have them here. Vassar Miller is an intriguing poet. However I most enjoyed encountering Walsh's Beloit friend, Princeton man, the poet Bink Noll.

Noll, born in 1927, has the best poet name, no? I love the name Bink Noll. Anyway, he is too obscure now, but wrote well, if not …

End of the world or fantastic day?

Last night I was happy for the first time in four months; for a few hours I forgot I have to take six pills a day and am often in pain or discomfort. Friends took me to Cadogan Hall to see Nick Heyward reunite with Haircut 100. This band had only one album, Pelican West, which went to 2 in the UK charts in March 1982 before Heyward quit the next year to make his masterpiece, North of a Miracle, the great upbeat pop album of the early 80s. The show was only slightly marred by Heyward's Mike Myersesque eccentric tween-song ramblings. Actually the band was tight and hearing Love Plus One again and Fantastic Day - as well as A Blue Hat for a Blue Day - was a pure retreat to when we were all teenagers. This was my Buddy Holly - sweet clever love songs and fun clean tunes.

The audience was almost all late 40s and facebook fans. After the show which was too brief Heyward mingled in the bar with several hundred fans, smiling and genuinely bemused by the adoration. I hope for a Pelican East…

Oxfam Young British Poets Launch

On Thursday night, Todd Swift and Martin Penny hosted a Christmas launch at Oxfam Books and Music for a new poetry DVD, ‘Asking a Shadow to Dance.’ This DVD, directed by Jennifer Oey, showcases the work of 35 young British poets selected by Todd Swift. The readings were filmed in various locations in and around London’s Southbank and UEA and they are a delight to watch. All the poets have unique but equally expressive and interesting poetic voices.

The event was low-key, attended by those who braved the snow storms on such a cold December night. The atmosphere inside was however warm and welcoming; it was a great night for the young poets to meet each other, share their ideas and also hear each other read. Those who attended were also lucky enough to hear a song performed by Michael Horovitz, poetry veteran and editor of 1960’s poetry anthology, Children of Albion.

There will be another event for this DVD in March, when Todd will hopefully be in better health. Till then, please support …

Robert Earl Stewart

I've been reading the debut collection from Robert Earl Stewart, Something Burned Along The Southern Border. It is from Mansfield Press and is a handsome book. It's an excellent first collection. I'd published his work over the years at Nthposition and in anthologies and so am pleased to see this finally out. As Emily Schulz says, it maps "a seldom-recorded region of Canada, the joint of Windsor-Detroit". From such a potential bleakness the poet has rescued surreal and darkly witty poems. This is one for last-minute Amazon shopping.

Guest Review by Rufo Quintavalle: White Magic and Other Poems by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Rufo Quintavalle reviews
White Magic and Other Poems
by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski was born in 1921 and died in the Warsaw uprising in 1944 leaving behind him a substantial body of poetry, very little of which, up until now, has been translated into English.This book, a selection of his poems in a bilingual edition seeks to remedy this lack.The book is translated by Bill Johnston,Director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University, and is published by Green Integer.The claims made by Johnston in his introduction that Baczynski should rank alongside Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert and Wislawa Szymborska as one of the giants of 20th Century Polish poetry do him no favours.He is not (at least in translation) on a par with these poets.Better to consider him on his own terms, if we can, or failing that, to grant him the indulgence we would any poet who died at the age of 23.Excesses of religiosity, lyricism, grandiosity and morbidity – all of which Baczynski …

Best Of The Decade

The Sunday Times Culture section ran an intriguing list of the best of the 00s in film, pop, books, last weekend. It was a persuasive list. Best film: In The Mood For Love – which would have been my choice. Best book: Austerity Britain, by David Kynaston – a wonderful choice, and one that makes me particularly pleased because David is a colleague of mine at Kingston University, and also because my doctoral research is in the austerity years of the 40s and British poetry of the period. Best album: Kid A – not a bad choice either. Eyewear’s Top Films of the Decade would include The Lives of Others, The Bourne trilogy, Mulholland Drive, Elephant, The New World, Lost In Translation, Match Point (Woody Allen’s misunderstood film), Before Sunset, Let The Right One In, Casino Royale and The House of Mirth. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a noteworthy achievement of the time. In terms of albums, Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft remains the masterwork of the decade. Other acts that impressed i…

Guest Review by Kayo Chingonyi: ‘The Terrors’ by Tom Chivers

‘The Terrors’ is, by nature, a mysterious book. Even the preface, in
which the sequence is introduced as ‘a series of imagined emails to
inmates at Newgate Prison between […] 1700 and 1760’, is far from
explanatory. However, what might seem an overly complex book is shown
by attentive reading to be an engaging, if not always immediately
understandable, work of linguistic playfulness and incisive satire.

It is, perhaps, the juxtaposition of such a contemporary form of
discourse as the email with the style of the 18th century Newgate
Calendar which throws up the most questions. In some quarters it is
felt that since email has, in many ways, usurped snail mail we might
one day, as Michael Ravitch envisages*, appreciate the email as a
literary form rather than just a means to the end of relaying a
message.

The opening poem ‘A Guide to Email Etiquette’ serves as an orientation
to the world the reader is about to enter as well as an introduction
to the tropes at work in the book as a whole:

Don’t …

Glorious Basterds

A retraction. I finally saw the latest Tarantino film, and think it a work of cinematic genius. While I continue to regret his adolescent violence, this film has at its heart two or three set piece dramatic sequences that, in terms of suspense and wordplay, are among the most brilliant ever presented on screen - most especially the cellar Mexican standoff. As everyone now knows, this is QT's movie about the power of film - to make everything happen. Historically subversive and yet paying knowing homage to Pabst and other classic German film-makers, it is a disquieting guilty pleasure, with superb casting. He even includes a sly reference to the script about Nazi killers I co-wrote, and which his company optioned briefly, A Necessary Evil.

Sweeping all before it

As if to confirm my recent posts, The Guardian's poetry round up this Saturday featured a photo of Don Paterson and a statement from Sarah Crown that his collection Rain "swept all before it" this year. I find such triumphalist language of very limited value, especially as it plays into a marketing-branding-prize-giving perspective that has badly damaged the poetry world over the last decade. It is truly amazing to me to see all the Internet-based poetry initiatives of this decade - most which empowered thousands of poets - continuously ignored or downgraded in the mainstream media's summaries of the decade. Main reason: you can't buy and sell free poetry. Anyway, how did Rain sweep all before it this year? I think, rather, that 2009 was a richly varied year, with many books worth reading. A pity that critics in positions of authority and with wide public reach continue to try to establish a star system for British poets reminiscent of the BBC's interna…

Eyewear's Albums of 2009

In no order, the following ten albums were the ones that Eyewear found themselves returning to most often, in the pop/rock category. The Priests have a new album that's worth checking out, for those inclined that way. The Pope does as well. Both rise above schmaltz to be genuinely moving at times, if obviously not for all. Anyway, here are the ten:

Fever Ray, eponymous;
Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest;
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz!;
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion;
The xx; eponymous;
Lady Gaga, The Fame;
Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions, Through the Devil Softly;
Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fountain;
U2, No Line on the Horizon;
White Lies, To Lose My Life.

Others were close, but no cigar. A few were strictly guilty pleasures, like the latest Ah-ha, or Depeche Mode, or Simple Minds. The new La Roux, and the new Little Boots etc., the synth pop gals, were good but really rather limited. On another front, the best film of the year was Let The Right One In - but then I didn…

Noon Time

Two new pamphlets from the indefatigable Alistair Noon, based in Berlin! In People's Park, from Penumbra editions, is only £4.00 and is beautifully put together, both as a physical object, and a series of texts. This is excellent poetry. Someone should give Mr. Noon a full collection soon - Salt? I love the last line: "Around the toppled reptiles ran the gnawing rats". He has also translated Sixteen Poems by Monika Rinck, from Barque. "Absolute romantic zero" indeed! Excellent writing from a German into English. These are both stocking stuffers for the poetry buff in your linguistically-innovative home.

TS Eliot Shortlist

The TS Eliot list this year is impressive. While there are (as always) unfortunate omissions (Lumsden's book was his best) it does feature fine collections from Szirtes, Gross, D'Aguiar, Oswald - perhaps the front-runners - as well as Williams and Olds - and others. It's an intelligent list. There were funnier, more experimental books this year, maybe, but whoever wins this will have competed among some of the very best.

Frank Lists

The Guardian Review has frankly ceased to represent its papers' own social or editorial values. Of late, it has toed an increasingly establishment line. In its recent "50 Books of the Decade" - which featured English-language books from America, the UK, and beyond, only one poetry collection was mentioned: Don Paterson'sLanding Light, from Faber. Now, given that Paterson was the only poet selected the week before, for the Christmas list, it is becoming tedious. But what is problematic is not Paterson's being listed - this collection is one of the major Scottish books of the decade, certainly - it is the utter absence of any other poetry books. Where is Alice Oswald? Carson? Muldoon? Something from a smaller press maybe? Some Giles Goodland? Or, .the utterly funny and experimental and daring Girly Man, by Charles Bernstein? Or, for that matter, the most politically inclusive poetry book of the decade, 100 Poets Against The War? Instead, by selecting a collectio…

Guest Review : Zoë Brigley on 'Language for a New Century'

A New Hybrid MuseLanguage for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, ed. Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, New York and London: Norton, 2008. ISBN: 9780393332384. Pbk, 734pp.Language for a New Century begins with a question about the meaning and value of poetry. Yet in this anthology, the question of value acquires all the more meaning, because the poetry comes out of postcolonial and diasporic settings. In their preface, the editors suggest that ‘Where the opportunities for fatal destruction, between people and between nations, are intensified, the same age-old questions still exist: What is the role of poetry? What can it do? Can poetry still matter?’. What this anthology offers is a poetry attuned to needs of particular cultures. It is a poetry that works for these needs, by reinventing form, syntax, the lyric mode and themes such as childhood, identity, politics, war, homeland, spirituality and the body. The writers included originate…

Best Of Lists?

In the world of poetry, there is always a fine line between cronyism and advocacy. After all, as I posited in another post, given the relative neglect of poetry books, friendship between poets is a vital part of getting the work "out there". Eyewear itself selects some books and poets to review and mention; logically, this excludes others. However, an issue may arise, when the main newspapers (I am thinking in this context of the British ones, but the point applies more widely I suspect) run their end of year Christmas Books lists. There is sometimes something farcical about the process; though not always. Naomi Klein, for example, used her space in The Guardian to draw attention to a Canadian book little known in England, which seems noble and useful. The poetry book that got mentioned the most (three times) in The Guardian was Rain. Published by Faber and Faber, and written by Don Paterson, it is a strong collection from a major Scottish poet. However, it is not ev…

Enfin, 35 Poets for Oxfam

While I have been on sick leave, Jennifer Oey, Martin Penny and Etienne Gilfillan, have managed to put together a fine film and DVD, for Oxfam, featuring 35 young and youngish British poets, selected by myself earlier in the year. The DVD will be ready for purchase on Dececember 17, when it is being launched in London, at 91 Marylebone High Street, London, W1, at 7 pm. The DVD is called Asking A Shadow To Dance: 35 Young British Poets for Oxfam. It features a number of fine poets, including Luke Kennard, Lorraine Mariner, Emily Berry and Luke Wright. It was filmed at UEA and the Southbank Centre, and also at the Manhattan Review launch of last year. Well worth supporting, for a good cause; it will be ready for online purchase after the 17th.

Strong Medicine

Thanks to friends for asking about me. I am on ever-higher doses of a medicine to help heal my esophagus. I hope to have this process under control within the next few weeks. I have very good doctors. I am not in pain all the time anymore, but still often uncomfortable. It's been a depressing time, becoming ill like this, with what may be a chronic problem. My new diet means I have lost 16 kilos in the past three months. I am now wearing suits from my twenties that I couldn't fit into for decades. That makes me sound like a former Fatty Arbuckle, but all I mean is I am now oddly slim. I hope to be stable or on the road to recovery in early 2010.

Three New Books

I have been reading three new books worth buying for oneself or a friend this Christmas: She Walks Into The Sea by American poet Patricia Clark (Michigan State University press); The Girl with the Cactus Handshake by Katrina Naomi (Templar) and Blood/Sugar by James Byrne (Arc). The last two just launched last few days in England. Naomi is a former student of mine at the Poetry School, and her work is witty, dark and deeply surprising in places. Byrne is one of the key figures in the London scene, as editor and young poet - now also based in New York. This is his second collection, and, as John Kinsella says, "here is a unique mytho-poetic". No one else thinks or writes like Byrne, and how he blends international and British traditions together is fascinating.

Douglas Campbell Has Died

Sad news. The great Scottish-born, Canadian actor who made the Stratford Festival in Ontario a world-class place for the Bard, has died. I remember seeing him several times in productions, in my teens, when my Uncle Jack took me to plays there.

Review: New Moon

Eyewear saw New Moon and, while it was not swoon-inducing, thought it very good. The director lost his Pullman franchise when America balked at the Dark Materials atheism. So, he got a new film franchise to work on (though only one). Curiously, he opted not to keep Carter Burwell's brilliant, witty score, and went with something more traditionally romantic. The new film's key moments are a rotating camera over a quick montage sequence that sums up three months of despair in a teen's lovelife as autumn turns to winter; and a scene where a young werewolf pulls his t-shirt off to reveal Grade A beefcake - every girl and many boys in my cinema howled with lusty delight. New Moon is sweet tender romance. It reminded me of a James Dean film. But with less angst or terror. For a horror film, it is is lightweight. The main struggle is for the heart, not the heart's needle, or blood. I like this tenderness. It is a welcome break from torture and gore. When a main pl…

Review: Spandau Ballet

The 80s seems to have produced an endless supply of clever and often pleasingly
eccentric pop, much of which has been revisiting us this year, twenty years after
that decade ended. There's a new Moyet Best Of just out for instance. And since
the year began new albums from Simple Minds, Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen, to simply name three of the major bands of the time - each of which made it equally big in America as at home. Now comes the reunion album from Spandau Ballet after
almost Smiths-size acrimony. SB were not as big as Duran Duran or Tears for Fears
stateside, but bigger than OMD. They were part of the New Romantic wave at its height. Their unlikely name and likely look were of the moment, and song 'True' is one of the, yes, true classics of the period. While the new Frankie compilation is mainly a rehash of the hits, SB have rerecorded their greatest songs for this album. The results are both disarming and sometimes disappointing. 'True' is given new …

Mainstream Love Hotel

Todd launched his new collection Mainstream Love Hotel this September. Unfortunately, he has had to cancel his remaining public events in 2009 due to illness. For those who would like to support his book, it would make a particularly festive gift this Noel, not least because it’s jolly, red and all about love. Please order a copy direct from the tall-lighthouse website. KJ

Atheism For Kids

The latest atheist stunt is an unrolling of UK-wide billboards decrying the fact that children get labelled by their family faith before they can choose themselves. Philosophically this is facile and poorly considered. How else are adults to arrange the lives of children? Parents decide the names, schools, diets and doctors of children; what books they do or don't read; what bedtime stories they are told. Parents and other adults help shape childhood's imagination. Atheist parents are free to raise their kids sans God. It hardly makes sense for a Catholic family to do so. The atheist campaigners argue children should not have to decide a belief system until they are adults. That is rather like saying children should not have to go to school or eat greens until they are 18. Adulthood is precisely the moment for questioning childhood beliefs: not the moment for adopting them. Further, the soul is present at the start and cannot be left unsupported for so long. If adults choose …

"Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art"

Ben Wishaw and Abbie Cornish give stellar performances in ‘Bright Star’ as John Keats and his muse, Fanny Brawne. The film is directed by Jane Campion, who also directed Oscar-winning film, ‘The Piano,’ and it is adapted from Andrew Motion’s biography of the poet. Slender with a sensitive face and shabby clothes, Keats is a great contrast to his brash friend and flatmate, Brown, played by Paul Schneider. He is also a contrast to Fanny- who is vivacious and always dressed beautifully in clothes of her own making. Fanny and Brown’s banter is a source of humour in this tragic story of a great young poet burning out. Love thrives between Keats and Fanny in a world which recognises the physical, temperamental and monetary differences between them. Nevertheless, they are always surrounded by great natural beauty. The film is set in Hampstead, home of some of Keats’ loveliest poetry. This film is beautifully made and captures the Romantic ideals without being clichéd. As Shelley says in his …

Byrne and Brookes Have Forthcoming Books

Eyewear is looking forward to the new Arc press collection from James Byrne, Blood/Sugar. Byrne is one of the best of the younger British poets and also an important editor and organiser; he currently spends much time in NYC. Also out with a book soon is James Brookes whose pamphlet will be available before Christmas; Brookes won an Eric Gregory this year and is Hill-like in his qualities. More on that pamphlet later. Both young men were filmed for the Oxfam DVD project, also out at year's end.

Beating in the void

Poets are sensitive creatures...

Matthew Arnold described Shelley as 'a beautiful and ineffectual archangel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.' A poet too delicate for this world - as Jay-Z says, for this 'hard knock life.' As Eliot's recent letters - just-published - remind us, even the most classical minds have romantic agonies. KJ

Heavy Weighs In Crown

Sarah Crown of the Guardian has weighed in on the new Bloodaxe anthology, Voice Recognition, edited by James Byrne and Clare Pollard. Following on from Sean O'Brien's recent review of the new Faber pamphlet series for younger poets (including Heather Phillipson), which ends with his bracing reminder that the hard part is the next "40 years" of a poet's career, it is intriguing and informative to see how key critics of the British poetry establishment are beginning to welcome and receive this sudden generational bounty of new poets.

I for one selected - before falling ill - about 30 young UK poets for an Oxfam DVD, directed by Jennifer Oey, to be launched around Christmas. I was spoiled for choice, and hope there is a sequel, as there are many other superb poets I was unable to reach, some of them featured here in the past. My modus operandi is well known: to affirm, encourage, support and announce new talent. I much believe, to paraphrase Bono, that the sweetest s…

1, 450

This is the 1, 450th post at Eyewear. Not bad, all things considered. Just wanted to briefly recommend a few books I've been sent lately. First, A Tiara for the Twentieth Century, the collected poems of Suzanne Richardson Harvey. I published her work often at Nthposition, and think she's a fine American poet well worth reading.

Next, Dream Catcher issue 23, is the Canadian Issue. While I find the poets included in that section a little pell-mell, it's still a good thing to read if you're interested in Canadian poetry; what the issue does confirm is the fact that most people in the UK haven't a clue as to what the central line or lines of Canadian post-war poetry are - and neither do most Canadians. The situation is quite dire - a very weak tradition of poor critical evaluation has meant the ten thousand Canadian poets are at a loss to see the forest for the trees.

Finally, the Scrumbler, edited by Canadian-in-England, Mike Kavanagh, is a new children's poetry mag…

Dorothy Molloy's third book

Dorothy Molloy, the Irish poet, died in 2004, ten days before her Faber collection was published. It was a tragic debut. Her second collection was prepared posthumously, and also came out from Faber. Now, her partner has brought out her third and final collection, Long-distance Swimmer, with Irish press Salmon. As Andrew Carpenter writes in his Introduction, "Dorothy would have been delighted to know that Salmon was publishing her work." I've yet to read the book in depth, but it seems an image-rich, dark, and lively collection that I look forward to reading. New books from other Irish writers that have appeared recently, include C.L Dallat's, and the new one from Siobhan Campbell, Cross-Talk.

Queyras and Starnino

Good news. Canada's major poetry award, the GGs, has shortlisted two key 21st century poet-critics, Carmine Starnino and Sina Queyras, who represent widely divergent poetics. Both edited major Canadian anthologies recently - Open Field and The New Canon. As poets their work represents the major trends in new Canadian poetry. It'll be interesting to see who wins.

Introducing Kavita Joshi

Friends, the new assistant editor of Eyewear is Ms. Kavita Joshi. She is a fine younger British poet and recent university graduate from Leicester, where she studied literature. From time to time she may update the site. Mainly, she will oversee it in a caretaker capacity. Hopefully, pending reviews can be added later in the year.

Poetry and illness

Thank you, friends and followers, for keeping me on your radar. I saw my doctor again today. I am unfit for work, require more investigations, and am currently switching to a new treatment regime. I am in great pain most of the time. What a beautiful October weekend it was: the end of the British summer, and the best weather of the year. I am deeply moved by love and friendship now - more even than art, it endures, and matters. I cannot imagine what I ever had to complain about - if I did. What I had, before this ill health came, was a great treasure. The treasure remains. A dear true love. One thinks of poets and illness - Keats the best known, and not just because of the new film, Bright Star, which I hear is superb. Dylan Thomas, too. Eliot's nerves. Plath. The list is long. I am not sure pain makes things better creatively, though Delmore Schwartz thought so. Be good to each other. Don't take poetry prizes too seriously - I suppose my two main messages. I…

New Religion

The surprise move by the Catholic church to welcome dissenting Anglicans, even married priests, into the fold, is disconcerting. I'd take advantage of it as I am an Anglican moving towards Rome, however the main reasons most want to switch not fight are intolerant; namely, homophobia and other small-minded positions. This sort of thing means that when Stephen Fry recently debated against the Church he was able to use the subtlety of a Dan Brown to shoot fish in a barrell. A pity, because the good that Catholicism does in Britain and the world is greater than the evils its detractors claim.

The Fountain

Echo and the Bunnymen have an 11th album, if not an 11th hour conversion. But they have made a pop album that is almost annoyingly upbeat, and it sounds like Snow Patrol too often. While the fabulous wordplay surrounding sacharine, Shroud of Turin, and sack you're in is fun, nothing here reaches the splendour of Ocean Rain, or the erotic danger of Lips Like Sugar. A disappointment after Siberia, but worth listening to if a true fan.

Joseph Wiseman Has Died

Sad news. The great Montreal-born character actor, Joseph Wiseman, unforgettable as the first major Bond villain, Dr No, has died. He was also in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, that important Canadian-American film set in Montreal.

Update On Poetry Day

I was reading Helen Gardner the other day on the "art of TS Eliot" and it struck me that the phrase he borrowed from Julian of Norwich, for his Four Quartets, "and all shall be well..." has come to be, I think, widely seen as his. Allusion begets authorship. Today is National Poetry Day in Britain. I am still dealing with a condition that basically has three outcomes - one, it clears up in a few months; two, it becomes chronic, and I am on medication for life; or three, it becomes chronic until treated with surgery. It isn't, currently, life-threatening - though it can become pre-cancerous if not treated thoroughly and effectively. The problem is, the medication has side effects, and the condition itself is unpleasant, and sometimes alarmingly painful. I don't want to belly ache: there are many people with worse conditions. However, because I have erosive esophagitis, it means that there is near constant burning down the length of my food pipe; and, …

Roman Knows

Thanks for all the get-well comments. My condition is ongoing but hopefully can be managed by the treatments on offer. At the moment I am mostly in some pain throughout the day. I don't intend to return too often to these pages for a month or so, but did want to briefly mention that, after thinking about it, I agree with the arrest of Polanski. Chinatown is a great film, and was once my favourite, - as is Fearless Vampire Killers, Bitter Moon, and Frantic - but what he did (which he admitted to) is a crime that warrants punishment. As with Pound, we can have the man, and the work, and need not tar the one with the other. Polanski's tormented, oddly unfortunate life deepened the filmic intensity of his best projects, but the films rarely open out onto any apology or remorse, for evil. They're works of genius; but a genius inflected darkly.

Still Ill

I am doing my best to recover. Find this more challenging than expected. Have a lot to say about new poets and collections, hope to do that when better later this year. Will write more in 4 weeks hopefully. Yours, Todd. ps thanks for the comments.

Eyewear Wide Shut

Until I recover from my illness, I won't be posting here. Hope to return in late October or November. In the meantime, please do enjoy the numerous reviews, features and essays already provided. In its small way, Eyewear has become a resource. I hope to be able to continue adding to this resource in the future, with many good reviews and features in the pipeline. Thanks to all those who have followed this blog over the years.

Dan Brown's Lost Art

Dan Brown's new book, launched at midnight, has sold more books in its first seconds than all the poetry books in the world will sell this month. Or than all the Booker books will sell this year. This is a fact - combined with his relatively artless prose - used to demonise Mr. Brown in certain quarters. But as a film buff and creative writing teacher, I have thought about this. What Brown does is eventing. That's right, a new genre title: eventing. That is, it isn't just writing, or entertainment, but creating an event. It's not just event publishing - the event is the sort of book it is. The use of plot, the style, is pre-cinematic, or post-cinematic, or maybe supra-cinematic - the book-as-movie-as-shared-experience. The popular interest means there is no use in saying it shouldn't be popular - it is popular. We can analyse why and how. But perhaps it is not a bad thing that it happens. I don't think it adds to literacy - people are not reading bu…

Mainstream love hotel launched and update

Thanks to all those who came, or wrote, or called, about last night's launch. It was a resounding success, and very moving. The Calder Bookshop on The Cut was packed, we sold almost all the books we had, and many of my dear friends, and very fine poets, were in attendance - and on a night of monsoon-like rains. I must thank especially Emily Berry, Les Robinson, and my wife, for making the night so special. The book is now on sale at the tall-lighthouse site, for those who couldn't be there. And, thank you to those who have written about my health. I have a painful but treatable condition which can usually be resolved in a few months, without surgery, and there is no current worry it is pre-cancerous (though it can go in that direction). My spirits were raised by the launch. But the weeks ahead will be a challenge. I am juggling teaching, co-editing a Carcanet anthology, finishing my PhD, and the usual writing and organising. I may well have to take it easier. I move…

Belated Review: Only By The Night

I suppose in a year I'll like the new Kasbian, too. On that note, let me admit, I finally fell under the spooky spell of the Kings of Leon, whose 2008 Only By The Night, reveals itself, now that I have listened to it, as 11 dumb, sex and religion fuelled, unbelievably catchy cornpone clearance style American rock songs that together make up a soundtrack that could easily have underscored all the best Miami Vice moments. It's cool music for people who think cool means trailer parks, shot guns, mojo, torn t-shirts, biceps, tats, rattlers, beer, gals, and the darkness of the devil that must be obeyed and resisted in equal cross-roads measure, with a goatee, beard, or one of those beardy things under the lower lip. A great album of its range and aims. Very satisfying to listen to when very ill and on meds, and feeling a swooning menace all around.

Todd Swift For Sale

I cannot hope to compete with The Beatles, who roll out this week their video games and remastered mono tracks. How many fans got mono from the fab four fellers? Anyway, I too am rolling out my latest (sometimes music-themed) collection of love poems, and poems that love poetry (maybe too much). For those abroad, or bored, or all-aboard, they can go here to the mainstream love hotelsite and order a copy. Thanks! Canadian orders will be possible soon, too. I'll suggest they do a US thing too.

Guest review: Parmar On O'Mahony

Sandeep Parmar reviews
In Sight of Home
By Nessa O’Mahony

It would be too simple to evaluate Nessa O’Mahony’s most recent work, In Sight of Home, on the basis of whether or not it succeeds as a ‘verse-novel’. And yet with the current surge of interest in the form (to the great excitement of ever-present forefinger-wagging genreists) each verse-novel sets itself a near impossible task: balancing the presence of often tedious narrative (see Ruth Padel’s Darwin: A Life in Poems) with the exploration of character through lyric. The trouble, in the case of Padel’s book, is the spectre of Charles Darwin, transmuted through the poet-biographer, whose voice clangs over epistolary prose. O’Mahony could have operated via a similar procedure: we know that some of her book is based on what appears to be twenty-two letters from Margaret Butler, a nineteenth-century Irish emigrant to Australia, but thankfully O’Mahony departs from the day-to-day recounting of domestic life to make an implicit inquiry …

America can go to heck

The way many Americans have treated Obama lately - calling him a national socialist, a socialist, or a non-citizen - well, it is just too much to accept. Americans, who somehow briefly contrived to appear brilliant and brave when they elected the radical man, now appear dim-writted and reactionary at their reluctance to support him. Kick the yes-we-can hard as you want, Obama is still great.

Foulds Up, Fry Out

Adam Foulds was a poet. Now he is a Booker nominated novelist who writes about poets - and a poet. Foulds is on a meteoric trajectory. Good luck to him. I think all poets should write novels. They pay better and get more attention. Do more people read them? How many poetry books get optioned? What is writing for in the 21st century of celebrity?

Poor Mr. S. Fry has begun to discover too much occasional tweeting is damaging his rep. A Sunday Times article lambasted him for being so obnoxiously omnipresent. Fry has the Welles status - media type with big brains - but sadly, looks more like Wilde than contains that man's genius. Good luck to him.

My father's anniversary

This is the third anniversary of my father's death from brain cancer. I miss him. I do feel his presence, from time to time. My faith is shaken, I confess. Tested but not lost.

I am currently facing a diagnosis of having a disease of the oesophagus, which, while treatable, can lead to worse things, and has some painful implications. Not a great time to take up throat singing.

There a few new poems for my father in my new collection, to be launched on the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I noted in the weekend papers that religion might be "hardwired" into our brains. The ambiguity continues. Some will see this as proof of God's design, others of the strictly mechanistic explanation of the universe. To my mind, since love, taste, desire, sight, and all other of the things that make existence rich and deep, stem from the brain and its chemistry, it can hardly be a small thing for belief or faith to reside there as well. Since neuro-chemistry is part of the fabri…

Squinting at Eyewear

Readers of Eyewear will have to squint to find my British debut poetry collection mentioned in the PBS (Poetry Book Society) bulletin for this quarter. Too many books get published, and editorial needs are many.

Wuthering Bites

The dumbing down of Britain and America continues, with ITV's broadcast, over the last two nights, of a new version of Wuthering Heights, destined to be aired in America, too, and then let loose on the world in the form of a DVD. That this latest heap of rubbish was masterminded by the creator of Desperate Romantics - a bodice-ripping series that lays waste to the Pre-Raphealites - should surprise no one. The media has discovered - again - that high culture and emotionality and poetry can sell - if commodified and repackaged to be all about sex and violence - which, as Frankie said a while back, were "the new gods". Though Tom Hardy is rather good at being handsome and menacing as Heathcliff, everything else about this adaptation is beyond poor. I don't want to flog a dead horse, but le me briefly explain.

The novel, on which this TV two-parter was based, is, as we know, one of the greatest books in the English language. Its passionate exploration of the psychology of…

Back To School

September's here again. Soon, students and teachers will be back to school. Ah, pencils! Ah, paper! The thrill of the new pencil case. The delight in choosing the right binders. Also, buying all those required texts. As a lecturer, I must confess to a mood-swing as soon as August ends - a swing to a different mode, that of module leader - new seriousness and alertness enters the bloodstream, just as the air turns crisper, and then, yes, leaves begin to yellow and fall. Before then, perhaps, an "Indian summer".

Eyewear, too, has snapped into a new form, and has new, post-summer purpose. Over the next weeks, I will hopefully begin to start featuring poets again on a regular basis. I also have many reviews to roll out. But not too quickly. The next few weeks are very full of other things to do. On the subject of reviewing, let me say this about that: I get many more offers for review copies than I do for reviewers. It is very difficult to persuade people to rev…

Mainstream Love Hotel

My 6th full poetry collection - and debut British collection (after living here since 2003) - is being launched at the legendary Calder Bookshop, on The Cut, in London, at 7 pm, Tuesday, September 15th (three weeks from today). The publisher is that intrepid small press, now in its tenth year, tall-lighthouse, run by the great Les Robinson. The title is Mainstream Love Hotel. You are very welcome to attend the launch - admission and wine free.

Tears in The Fence 50

I'll be reading on September 5th as part of the celebrations in London for the publication of the 50th issue of Tears in the Fence, one of the indispensable, and more internationally-aware, little magazines of poetry and criticism from the UK. The latest issue features two poems by me, and poems by, among others: Melanie Challenger, John Kinsella, John Welch, Luke Kennard, Isobel Dixon, Jeremy Reed, John James - so you can see its an inclusive and intriguing spectrum. There are also some good reviews and articles by Jennifer K. Dick, Jeremy Hilton, John Stiles, Frances Spurrier, and Dfiza Benson (to name a few). It's a strong issue, and an impressive line-up of talents. Hats off to the editor, David Caddy, and associate editors, Sarah Hopkins, and Tom Chivers.

Humbug

In some quarters, Arctic Monkeys are a sort of second coming of The Beatles, The Kinks, Joy Division and The Smiths combined - an authentically-British, regional, literate, and above all first-class band. Gordon Brown and Simon Armitage (and a handful of models) are among their best-known fans. Andrew Duncan, in his latest book, raises the question, how is that pop lyrics are popular, when poetry, which is often like pop lyrics, isn't? The answer, which he does not offer, might be: music. As poets are tired of hearing themselves say, poems are lyrics with the music in-built - poets are one-man or one-woman bands. Armitage is among those careful to delineate the subtle knife that divides a song by Morrissey or Alex Turner from a poem by Geoffrey Hill or Carol Ann Duffy. Duncan, when trying to ascertain the points of difference between "mainstream" and "avant-garde" poems (his terms), doesn't make enough of the ear/eye distinctions between traditional l…

A friend has died

Sad news. My friend Dr.Richard Berkowitz, beloved partner of Letty Dahme, has died, yesterday, in America. I met Richard on Hydra, Greece, an island we all loved. He was a witty, compassionate, deeply thoughtful, rational, and fine person. He was the light of Letty's life, and together with her - though he was already well into his 70s - he travelled the world, sailed, and otherwise acted like a person half his age. His dancing at my wedding, back in 2003, was spry and impressive and full of vim. I liked him immensely. I loved him. He'd been a talented doctor before retiring. He retained dignity and concern from that career. In Letty, he found a brilliant and literate interlocutor, and friend, and they sparked off each other, adding years of renewal and love and hope. Letty and Richard inspired all who knew them. They made one know that life and love are far less limited than some might claim. They opened doors to people, made unexpected links, and experienced eac…

A New Poem Inspired By Reading Giles Goodland

Hammersmith, June

The sadness of England.
The coming storm.
The exodus from Tesco.
The death by flu.
The disused factory.
The walk under the rail bridge.
The can of lager in the hand.
The silence of certain streets.
The man smoking by the nursery.
The internet in the video store.
The broken espresso machine.
The 11.30 Mass.
The sunbathers on the Green.
The uneven footing.
The broken pavement.
The methadone clinic.
The shelves outside the shop.
The closed inquiry.
The rain at five to six.
The word path.
The hot and cold.
The end of the class.
The poets of promise.
The ground floor flat.
The geraniums in the box.
The sense of an ending.
The slow growth for another year.
The fear of the impending.
The autumn after the summer.
The unsigned contract.
The request for information.
The loss of nerve.
The godfather agreement.
The leukaemia email.
The post on the floor.
The revolutions elsewhere.
The rubber band left untouched.
The locks on the door.
The friends over after dinner.
The bra being modelled.
The detector vans.
The five nov…

The New Andrew Duncan Book: Preaching to the unconverted

I received a review copy of the new Andrew Duncan book of polemical criticism, The Council of Heresy: A primer of poetry in a balkanised terrain, on Friday, and read it through over the weekend, as gripped as if by a thriller. Duncan is perplexing and exasperating and compelling in equal measures: he's arguably one of the most significant poet-critics now writing seriously in Britain (if not the most), because of his passion, wide experience, eccentric insights, and unexpected juxtapositions and references (often to obscure German or medieval or theological texts). He never writes as an academic, per se, but uses footnotes. He is definitely not of the "mainstream" yet he retains an open mind. And, unlike almost everyone else, he knows who Terence Tiller is (the best joke in this book is when he claims that the 40s poets failed because of their moderation, a paradox worthy of Wilde).

He also has here rescued Anthony Thwaite from semi-obscurity (and let's face it, undes…