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Showing posts from March, 2009

Nicole Brossard At Foyles Bookshop 31 March

MARCH 31 – NICOLE BROSSARD & TODD SWIFT AT FOYLES BOOKSHOP

Acclaimed Montreal-based poet, novelist and essayist Nicole Brossard will tour the UK and Ireland this spring. In addition to participating in the British Association for Canadian Studies’ annual conference at Oxford University, the author of Mauve Desert and The Aerial Letter will read and sign books in London.

On 31 March, Foyles, the London bookstore, will hold an event entitled 'In Conversation With Nicole Brossard.' The event will be hosted by Montreal anglophone poet Todd Swift -- now living in London -- who will also read from his newest book, Seaway. Two-time Governor General's Award winner Nicole Brossard will read excerpts from her novels and poetry, including Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon and Notebook of Roses and Civilization. Audience members are encouraged to bring their questions for the Q&A session that will follow the readings, and to purchase books for signing. The event will be followed…

No Bother At All

Jacket's lately been publishing articles and letters defending or questioning Heaney's legacy and poetics. There is even a letter from poet Jamie McKendrick. I can't help but feel the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. There is a bigger picture, and a bigger struggle, and using Heaney as strawman/ punching bag (or Holy Grail) is just not on. Jeffrey Side, who knows his stuff, has set up a rather obvious Movement vs. New Romantic/Apocalypse historical binary. Histories of modernism are more various and complex than that, as Robert Scholes has shown us. Empson defended Dylan Thomas; Larkin adored Yeats (that sort of thing).

The problem is, when poets get stuck into arguing about 50-year-old grievances, it becomes as intractable as The Middle East - with the difference that the ground has shifted. The real problem, which Heaney typifies for critics like Side, is that there does seem to be a smug, conservative establishment at work in certain parts of the British poetry publ…

Third Wish Wasted

I've been reading Roddy Lumsden's fifth collection, Third Wish Wasted, which was launched on Friday. It's seriously good. Or rather, playfully good. Or both. Is there a better mainstream poet of his British generation, currently practicing now? Many might think so, I am not so sure. This new book is so full of word games, and new forms (charismatics, for instance), and delights for the mind and ear.

The poems are rich, sonorous, and always musical - though music varies, and so do these poems. Music, of course, is Lumsden's favoured realm - as is love, from sour to sweet - and how song and love merge well. This isn't a review, just a tip of the hat. Anyone reading Lumsden's work is likely to learn a few tricks of the trade. His growing oeuvre is increasingly exciting. I'd say he was a poet's poet, but his work is popular with more than just poets. Meanwhile, a whole younger generation of London-area poets has been tutored by him, and made bett…

Maurice Jarre Has Died

Sad news. One of the greatest film composers has died. Jarre created the music for three of the most sweeping Lean epics - Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and A Passage to India - as well as countless other films and TV series (such as the classic Jesus of Nazareth) - some of rather mediocre quality at best. But his best scores (including Topaz, Witness, and The Year of Living Dangerously) are unforgettable and always improved the films they were composed for. Most significantly, the marriage of the desert imagery and his momentous music, in Lawrence, must count as some of the most romantic cellulloid ever.

Jenna Butler On Rubicon Press

Rubicon is celebrating its 21st publication and so I asked poet, editor and
small press publisher Jenna Butler to write an article for Eyewear on her
experiences with the press.In the early spring of 2005, I began Rubicon Press with poet Yvonne Blomer in order to publish a collection of poetry from the MA in Creative Writing: Poetry at the University of East Anglia in England. When Yvonne and I moved back home to Canada after completing our degrees and decided to take the press along with us, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that it would flourish in the way it has. At just four years young, Rubicon Press has just released its 21st chapbook.

We decided to produce chapbooks (as they are called in the UK, pamphlets) because they’re akin to tasters of poets’ work. Chapbooks can be designed to create an immensely strong reader response in a very small space. Again, because of its short length, the chapbook format allows us to work closely with poets on both the editing and desig…

Review: Fever Ray

It is possible you have not heard of Fever Ray- I hadn't until today, when I read a review in The Guardian. Since then I have "spotifyed" the album, and am currently entranced. As the aforementioned review mentions, this is a work of rare and complex beauty - with echoes of the more experimental textures of the 80s.

I am particularly struck by the aspects that sound like Duet Emmo, or indeed, many artists from Mute. It seems to combine aurally the electronic and the environmental in a way, that, too, later Talk Talk explored. Bjork, of course, seems the most direct seam mined.

At times, there are also more contemporary nods to TV On The Radio. In the process - and importantly from an eco-feminist perspective - it goes further, perhaps, especially in writing and singing about motherhood, childhood, and other "less rock" subjects - extending the politics of pop form. Fever Ray, the album, feels like a major musical event of the moment. It certainly sounds a lot mor…

Poem by Giles Goodland

I am very pleased to welcome the poet Giles Goodland (pictured) this Friday.

Goodland's work, in some ways, ravels up a few of the themes of the last few weeks' posts - particularly, the Forties, the environment, and capitalism. He is a London-based poet who has had several books published over the last two decades. Littoral (1996, Oversteps) is a walking prose and poetry notebook from the South West Coast. A Spy in the House of Years (Leviathan, 2001) is a sequence of 100 sonnets, one for each year of the Twentieth Century, each sonnet collaged from 14 quotations originating in a particular year (parts were recently anthologised in The Reality Street Book of Sonnets, ed. Jeff Hilson). Capital(Salt, 2006) collages uses of the concept of Capital from ephemeral publications over the last twenty years. What the Things Sang is due this year from Shearsman.

I've known Goodland for several years now, and read with him on a few occasions - once memorably in Berlin. I've been gl…

Poets Without Children

I have been thinking lately of poets - and other writers - without children. The world is such a fertile place, and April's cruel green shoots are coming. Yet, T.S. Eliot had no children - a fact I find less commented on than might be, since it immediately casts many of his poems about barren and fertile ground into new light. Blake had no children with his wife, either. I note, too that Jane Austen and Karen Blixen did not have children. Neither did Mahmoud Darwish. Or of course, Larkin. Or Emily Dickinson. Or Hart Crane. Among the busy world, many go by without offspring.

Derek Stanford Remembered

Oddly, The Guardian has just today run the obituary of the poet and critic Derek Stanford. Sadly, he died 19 December, 2008. Stanford should be appreciated - among other things - for writing on The Ninties Poets with sympathy, and for his early (1954) study of Dylan Thomas. He is not - I don't think - a major Forties poet, but he was a part of the period, and deserves to be recalled.

Leave The Banks Alone!

This is a Burke vs. Paine moment. The recent shattering of windows in the greedy Scottish banker's mansion may be momentarily thrilling - but as Burke observed, you don't rebuild a house by knocking it down. The plans afoot, to storm the City banks next week, timed to coincide with Obama's visit to London, are entirely misguided. One does not pelt a pilot with stale buns during a crash landing. The time to restructure the capitalist system is tomorrow. And slowly. Today we should be speaking and planning, together, how to locate a globally-sustaining ideology, or system, to allow for the world to continue managing the many forces straining against each other. Yes, we need to enter into a post-capitalist world. I am a post-capitalist. However, radicalism in the streets should not be simply a wasted resource. Best to conserve that radicalism for a revolution of minds. Put it in writing, not through someone's window pane.

Like A Prayer

For those who want to feel old, consider this: today marks the 20th anniversary of Madonna's Number One Hit, "Like A Prayer" - in the sense that it stayed at #1 until Easter, on 26th March. The album, of the same title, is considered by many to be one of the greatest pop albums of all time, and the song itself - despite or because of its wedding of religiosity and carnality - is sometimes considered Madonna's finest.

Personally, I prefer "Dress You Up". Her claim that "life is a mystery / everyone must stand alone" is at once religious and nihilistic. The cover of the album is, itself, a striking example of this. Madonna is famous for her anti/Christian puns and dress sense - and in some ways matches Donne or Leonard Cohen, in that department. She also favours simile. "Like A Virgin", surely, forms the basis for this later song. Her "down on my knees/ I want to take you there" it should be said was substantially borrowed from &q…

Guest Review: Jackson On Jordan

Samantha Jackson reviews
Moonrise
by Meirion Jordan

Meirion Jordan’s Moonrise is a superbly wrought debut collection that demonstrates a masterful craftsmanship that surpasses Jordan’s years (born in 1985). Under the shadow of the moon, Jordan weaves together seemingly discordant parts, deftly transporting us from poems steeped in natural imagery such as ‘Hawthorns Blossoming’ and ‘Poppy Field’, to poems that embrace abstract realities, such as ‘Strange Memories of Death’. What’s particularly impressive about this is that it doesn’t jar, it somehow feels ‘normal’ to shift from the iron bedstead in ‘Circe and Odysseus’ through to Aftershock in ‘Pirate music’ and gypsum daises in ‘Another poem about living on Mars’. Jordan gets away with this because his poems are so exquisitely balanced and drawn. Jordan’s background as a mathematician is made clear throught his precision and he is eager for us to pay heed to this.

The very first poem, ‘Calculus’, makes a case for the powerful pairing of p…

Motion Unbound

Andrew Motion has been a poet laureate that Eyewear could deal with - in the way that Pound had commerce with Whitman.

Motion has been good - more or less - for poetry in Britain, 1999-2009. His most important work may have been his poetry about bullying, and the Iraq War (related themes), but for most people, the Poetry Archive will seem the lasting monument. I personally regret never having been asked to record for that Archive, but then again, nothing about the poetry establishment in the UK will ever surprise me - I have lived here for over 6 years, and am still treated like an arriviste every day.

Anyway, back to Motion, whose support of my work with Oxfam and those poetry CDs was instrumental. His agreement to read at the first-ever Oxfam event way back in 2004 (five years ago now) meant that Wendy Cope also came onboard, as well as Agbabi and Dark. After that event, all the other great and talented poets were more willing to appear. I think Motion is a very fine, serious poet, an…

Poem by Michael S. Begnal

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Michael S. Begnal(pictured) this week - a week in which I returned from Galway, Ireland, where for so long he worked and wrote and was such a a poetic influence. This is something of a milestone, as he is also our 151st featured poet!

Begnal is the author of three poetry collections - in reverse chronological order: Ancestor Worship (Salmon, 2007), Mercury, the Dime (Six Gallery Press, 2005), and The Lakes of Coma (Six Gallery Press, 2003).
He is included in the anthologies Breaking the Skin: New Irish Poetry (Black Mountain Press, 2002) and, in the Irish language, Go Nuige Seo (Coiscéim, 2004, 2005). He is also included in the essay collection, Avant-Post: The Avant-Garde under “Post-” Conditions (Litteraria Pragensia, 2006), and edited Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy (Arlen House, 2006). Begnal was also formerly the editor of the Galway, Ireland-based literary magazine, The Burning Bush (1998-2004).

The Fluctuations

THE FLUCTUATIONS are …

Guest Review: Smith On Quintavalle

Barbara Smithreviews
Make Nothing Happen
by Rufo Quintavalle

You take a calculated risk when you take on Auden’s phrase “poetry makes nothing happen,” from his infamous elegy to W. B. Yeats. You might take that risk in spite of all that lies behind that phrase: a whole movement in poetry that was beginning to end in the late thirties, not just a ‘so long’ to Yeats, ‘and thanks for all the fish.’ This was a time when writers and artists were emerging from a decade of discovering how closely one could marry one’s convictions with one’s art and how important that would come to be in the future.

If only they had known what we know now: all art is continually trying to reinvent itself, to ‘make it new.’ Some people are overt in their convictions; others prefer to be oblique. It is always easy to recognise the difference after the fact.

This might just be what Rufo Quintavalle is attempting in the pamphlet, Make Nothing Happen from Oystercatcher Press. It is in the chiselling away of that ‘s’ fr…

Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets

I was glad to receive, in the post, a new anthology from Carcanet, to be launched next week. It's Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets, edited by Andrew Johnston and Robyn Marsack. I think it is safe to say that Anglo-American poetry is more influential on, than influenced by, the Commonwealth poetries of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and that few poets from these important nations ever get the wider readersip they deserve.

New Zealand has not been that well-served in the past by major international collections, so this is a significant book I look forward to reading and commenting on this spring and summer. Some of the poets gathered here will be known already - such as Curnow, Manhire, Tuwhare, and of course C.K. Stead, the important critic of modernist poetics. One ominous sign, though - the Introduction speaks of ardent literary nationalism finally managing to free NZ poets from the "well-behaved and predictable" British models.

I myself think a lot of damage ha…

The Best of Irish Poetry

Happy St. Patrick's Day! While in Ireland over the weekend, I picked up an anthology edited by a colleague of mine, the poet and short story writer Paul Perry. His Best of Irish Poetry 2009 is well worth the Amazon order it may take to wing it across some wide water. Poets selected include Heaney, Muldoon, Higgins, Flynn, Boran, Groarke, Laird, Longley, McGuckian, Mahon, O'Donoghue - in fact, most of the best of the living Irish poets.

James Purdy Has Died

Sad news. James Purdyhas died. Purdy's great novella Malcolm was published 50 years ago, and found favour immediately with a slapdash cabal of wits, misfits and weird modernists - but was equally ignored by the more "preppy" (his words) crowd.

I read Malcolm at 14, and it had an instant effect - its grotesque flamboyant perversity enchanted me. Oddly enough, I never read more of him after that - you know how polymorphous teen readers are - there were others to curl up in bed with.

Still, reading about his career again in the New York Times obituary it struck me as surprising he had lived so long, and been quite so marginal.

Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz!

(The) Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been a favourite of Eyewear's since at least spring 2006, when, three years ago, they launched their second full album, Show Your Bones. It was one of the best of that year.

Now here they are, seeing out this decade of boom and bust with an electro-punk work - Britishly-titled, It's Blitz! - that joyously combines the best of late Blondie, Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and, now and then, OMD - which is to say, it's a pop-disco-new wave mix - not a million miles from the sort of Goldfrapp stuff on their middle albums. What's not to like? Well, Adorno fans will slink away from the dancefloor immediately - this is not art, it is brutally entertaining diversion.

Of course, bands have been mining the 80s for most of the 00s, so nothing here seems like an entirely new move - but Karen O is on form, and, in almost every song, improves on her trademark New Yoik yearning vocals. On just a few listens, I already love it - it puts recent release…

Seaway Launched In Galway

I am just back from Ireland, where I spent the weekend leading up to St. Patrick's Day reading poetry in Galway to launch my Seaway: New and Selected. I also had time to enjoy Ireland's rugby victory over Scotland on TV. My reading was a busy launch in a most convivial space - Sheridan's Wine Bar - an upstairs rectangular room lined by excellent wine in bottles. The forty or so punters who crowded in to listen and buy books sat or stood comfortably for several hours, as in a pub, and were amiable about the press of bodies. The crowd was mixed, including poets, students, friends and family - and a few household names, like Rita Ann Higgins. I was reminded how, generally speaking, the Irish are such fun to be with - there was bubbling laughter and goodwill across the evening, and little of the tense hustle-bustle one sometimes finds in London. I was particularly glad to see Mary Madecthere.

The evening was part of the Over The Edge series, which has been running for five year…

Nthposition in March

Nthposition has just uploaded 13 poets for March, including Greg Santos, Jake Kennedy, Steven Waling, Matthew Gregory, Rachel Thompson, and Patricia Clark. I am handing over editing duties for half a year or so, starting with the June 2009 issue, to superb Paris-based poet Rufo Quintavalle.

The Commonwealth at 60

The Queen today marks the 60th anniversary of The Commonwealth - an affiliation of nations once part of the British Empire, still nominally ruled by Her Majesty. However, as the BBC report notes, most people in the UK could care less about it. As a Canadian, who grew up singing "God Save The Queen", and learning all about British culture, history, and tradition, as a boy, The Commonwealth was a significant link to the mother country, and to a great (and heroic) past. Obviously my childhood education was not informed by post-colonial discourse - and as an Anglophone in a mainly Francophone province (Quebec) all ties to the English Tradition were welcome, and encouraged. Still, despite all I now recognise about the Empire's many faults and crimes, I do respect some of what British Rule bequeathed to Canada - not least a direct link (if one wants it) to some of the greatest poetry and drama ever written. So it is, I have long felt affection for The Commonwealth, its Ga…

Manhattan Review Launch Reviewed

Barbara Smith, an emerging Irish poet of talent, flew over from Ireland to attend the Manhattan Review launch in London, which I hosted on Thursday, and has written a glowing post. It was great to have her in the audience.

Böll Over

Heinrich Böll has just suffered one of the worst indignities any great writer can - to be badly served after death by fate or circumstance. Or bad planning. In what would be Kafkaesque tragedy if it weren't about to become known as Böllesque, all the writer's long-collected papers, novels, letters, photos - everything, his vast archives - have been obliterated when the building meant to house them collapsed. It's a major loss and almost a scandal - and, above all else, a pity. We'll have to make do with his published work, or start digging.

Poem by Heather Phillipson

Eyewear is very glad to feature a poem by the poet, musician and visual artist Heather Phillipsonthis Friday.

Phillipson (pictured) is one of the best of an emergent generation of younger poets now redefining poetry in London and the UK more generally, and, as such, Faber will be publishing her pamphlet later this year, along with three other younger poets. She has been Artist-in-Residence at the London College of Fashion. She was awarded the Michael Donaghy Poetry Prize from Birkbeck College in 2007, received an Eric Gregory Award in 2008, and won a Faber New Poets Award in 2009.

Forthcoming publications include Stop Sharpening Your Knives 3, S/S/Y/K/3 (Eggbox, 2009), City State: The New London Poetry (Penned in the the Margins, 2009) and Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe, 2009).
German Phenomenology Makes Me Want to Strip and Run through North London

Page seven – I’ve had enough of Being and Time
and of clothing. Many streakers seek quieter locations
and Marlborou…

The Sampler

Poet Christopher Horton has started a cool new poetry resource online, The Sampler, offering poems by London-based poets. I'm pleased to have been recently added, alongside poems by Isobel Dixon, Chris McCabe, Simon Barraclough, and Roddy Lumsden - good company to keep!

Michael Donaghy

It is five years since Bronx-born British-based poet Michael Donaghy died, suddenly, at the age of 50. As I've written elsewhere (on several occasions) Donaghy is the fourth most influential American poet to come and live and work in Britain, in the 20th century, in the same group of four as Eliot, Pound, Plath.

This is not to say he revolutionised poetry like the first two, or emotionalised it like the third, just listed - but his immense stylistic influence on an entire generation of mainstream lyric British (and particularly English and Scottish) poets is ongoing, and can be clearly traced in the work of poets like Don Paterson and John Stammers. Donaghy was unusually charismatic, funny, and talkative, and also smart. He loved musicality in verse, and he loved ideas in tune with that music.
His work is no surprise to anyone who knows the work of James Merrill, or John Hollander, or Daryl Hine - it is Yankee Wit writ large, and guided by Donne and Auden. What makes Donaghy perhaps…

Guest Review: Harlow On Rushdie's Best American Short Stories

Morgan Harlowreviews
The Best American Short Stories 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie
Not many literary publishing ventures come as close to a sure thing as the Best American Series, annual anthologies in a growing stable of genres. The year's 'best' work, culled democratically from a wide-ranging list of periodicals, with final selections and an introduction by an editor at the height of popularity, has attracted a steady readership since the series inception in 1915.
The series' history, as well as the question, Why read? are topics of discussion returned to frequently in the introductions of The Best American Short Stories (BASS) and The Best American Poetry series, often turning on the present health of the story and on the state of poetry today. Salman Rushdie takes up that tradition, but asks, instead, obliquely, why write? leading, as Rushdie tends, to a higher, purer realm of understanding. Reader, writer and publisher take note f this remarkable truism, that reading …

Special Kay

The BBC's cack-handed decision to scuttle the Oxford winning team on University Challenge (which included the best-ever contestant, Ms. Trimble) on a technicality, is both sad and mean-spirited; when considered in the light of the far worse offences perpetrated by the likes of Mr. Brand, it borders on the hypocritical. When even Ur-presenter Bamber Gascoigne weighs in, you know something is amiss. Basically, Mr. Kay entered the contest in good faith - as a student. The BBC, by failing to record all the shows during the school term, and failing to keep Mr. Kay informed of how this might effect contestants who had just recently graduated or left university, is partly responsible for his failure to entirely pass muster. However, whoever snitched was nasty, and whoever jumped at the Beeb and kicked the champions down is dim. They've snatched a defeat from a victory, and spoiled a feel-good story forever. In the process, they may just have ruined a once-timeless and quaint sh…

The Young British Poets Are Coming!

The Manhattan Review Launch in London
Hosted by Todd Swift
Thursday, 5 March, 2009 - 7 pm start time; ends at 10 pm
Oxfam Books and Music shop, 91 Marylebone High Street
London W1 (5 minutes from Baker Street tube station)

With special guests
Philip Fried, poet and editor, in from New York and Penelope Shuttle

And with short readings by many of "The Young British Poets":

Joe Dunthorne
Emily Berry
Zoe Brigley
James Byrne
Isobel Dixon
Nathan Hamilton
Luke Kennard
Chris McCabe
Alex McRae
Helen Mort
Daljit Nagra
Sally Read
Kathryn Simmonds
Jack Underwood

Admission free