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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 include Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Interpol, Tegan and Sara, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire and The White Stripes. I am sure there are others I will recall later. The best book of the decade list would have to include Bob Dylan’s first volume of his autobiography; as well as Charles Taylor’s The Secular Age, and Girly Man, by Charles Bernstein. The cultural event of the decade remains the Digital breakthrough of the Internet and social networking, which changed the way younger poets organise their sense of community, their publishing, and their world. This decade was shaped by 9/11 the Iraq War, and it certainly changed the direction of my work with poets. It remains incredible to me, as I am sure it does to many, how Tony Blair, a war criminal, is still at large at decade’s end.

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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

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