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Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Swift Report 2008

In the past, these reports of mine have blended the personal with the public - and this year will be no different, except that I have less and less time for self-advertisement (though I am sure some followers of Eyewear will arch an eye at that suggestion). Basically, 2008 ended none too soon - it was a dreadful year in some ways.

My beloved Uncle Jack went into hospital in December. Then, Jack died, three weeks ago. I plan to write about him more later - his loss is too recent. But let me just say he was my best friend, and poetry mentor, since I was a child, and his death is the death of a second father.

So, what was the good of the year? I want to pause and note I have very good talented kind friends, and an extraordinary wife (who never appears at this blog only because she insists on it). I have, also, though this is often roughly-shaken, a faith, that, with stoicism as its backbone, and 21st century theology as its astringent companion, somehow muddles through. I continue to want to insist on the possibility of there being a God - I feel the closing of any door that big reduces the enigma of the universe profoundly. I also believe in faeries and unicorns, and microbes on Mars. I think I also believe that I could one day sail to Byzantium. One of the chief pleasures of being a poet is that one can dare to dream. The 21st century has become a cheap place, diminished by silly rationalism that has thrown out the wonder with the water.

Anyway, the chief events of 2008 that need to be celebrated (for me) are, I launched my New and Selected poems, called Seaway, in November. I have been a published, working poet since I was 18, so, at 42, this was a looking back over 20 and more years of writing. Salmon did a great job with it, thanks also to my friend Etienne who helped design the book, and also Patrick Chapman, for editing it, as well as Kevin Higgins, who wrote the Intro, and of course publisher Jessie Lendennie.

Also, in 2008, I co-edited the Oxfam Children's CD. I edited a special section of young British poets for The Manhattan Review. A poem of mine appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry of 2008 in English, edited by Stephanie Bolster - a great honour. I was also invited to read poetry at Oxford, a great thrill. Finally, some of my reviews appeared in some good places, such as Poetry Review and Poetry London.

I also continued to work on my PhD, which is a year or so away from completion now.

I suppose the best of the remaining news is I was hired as a lecturer at Kingston University.

In terms of travels, I went hill-walking in Exmoor National Park for a week, with some good friends. I also spent ten days in Greece. My wife and I spent a weekend with our dear friends, poet/novelist Lisa Pasold, and singer-actor-dramatist Bremner Duthie, for the Edinburgh Fringe, where Bremner's brilliant show, Whiskey Bars, was a smash hit. And, several times voyaged to Ireland, where I enjoy going to Mass, and having conversations with one of the wisest and kindest men in the world, Fr. Brennan.

I suppose there was more news at some stage, but that's it for now. I think seeing my friend Emily Berry launch her new collection was a special treat, too. Oh - one final good memory - watching Obama win with Nathan Hamilton, the poet.

Remind me what else I missed out on, but that's a lot. Have a good 2009.

More and more I see life and poetry as fortunate favours that come and go lightly, and we must be grateful for whatever bread we get.
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