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Showing posts from April, 2009

All Fall Down

There is a good case for arguing that 2009 is shaping up to be the most catastrophic year in world history since 1939 (the start of the second world war). Despite the "Obama effect" - now in its 101st day - the world, in '09, is currently facing the most serious economic downturn since at least 1945, and, the most dangerous pandemic threat for forty years. On top of that, ongoing environmental degradation, and all the other problems that usually confront humanity, promise to make this end of the decade a particularly nail-biting one.

Eyewear, for one, is cautiously pessimistic. A few days ago, I believed that the swine flu virus might stay confined to those who had been to Mexico, or had contact with those there - but today, and as we move to Level 5, that seems less likely. Instead, health officials are now speaking of deaths - and the only question seems to be how many zeros after the one. One is reminded of Dylan Thomas who wrote that "after the first death t…

Flying Pigs

The WHO has argued that this recent swine flu can "no longer be contained". Perhaps. But is it not more a question that the current capitalist system - which is heavily reliant on aviation - did not want restrictive measures? Consider this option - had a limit or ban on flights to and from Mexico (even Mexico City) been implemented, and enforced, for a fortnight, until the full import of the virus could be determined, none of the cases currently in Europe, including Scotland, would have occurred. And, it is possible the life of the child who has sadly just died, because on the same plane with some other British-bound tourists, could have been saved. I understand that European tourists want to get home, but transporting them back in small tubes with recycled air for nine hours is a form of slow-motion homicide (potentially). As aviation is seen to be increasingly dangerous, to our health, why is it still allowed to thrive?

Is Roger McGough The Next Poet Laureate?

Eyewear's been out and about over the weekend, and bumped into a few leading poets, and the word on the street, and in the pubs, seems to be that maybe, just maybe, the next Poet Laureate for the UK will be Roger McGough. We'll see soon enough, but at one time it seemed that either Armitage or Duffy was the shoe-in, before other intriguing options emerged, too, like Jackie Kay and Ruth Padel. McGough, who donated work to some of the Oxfam CD work I did, is a hugely popular and likable British poet, equally at home with crowd-pleasing adults and children. He would be likely to continue the energetic outreach of the Motion years - but would he be the pluralist the UK poetry scene badly needs? In America, the idea of 'Hybrid Poetry' is catching on, and a similar generational shift is required over here. However, in terms of bringing poetry to the masses, the Merseyside poet could hardly be rivalled.

Eyewear Poll

Dear Eyewearers, in order to determine how often I should update my blog, which has become a hungry mouth to feed (with content), it would be very useful if you could vote in the poll. Basically, if it turns out almost no one really visits all that often, I'll wind things down soon. I have several big projects on the go, and am finding it more and more time consuming to keep Eyewear state-of-the-art.

Poem By Susan Millar DuMars

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Susan Millar DuMars (pictured) to the Friday Poets series. She'll be reading on Monday, 27 April, at the Troubadour in London, along with some other very fine Irish poets.

She is an American writer based in Galway, Ireland, born in 1966. She received a bursary from the Irish Arts Council for her book of short stories, Stupid Slim Neck Audrey Hepburn Dreams. Susan contributes a column on the arts to the Galway Advertiser.

She is married to the poet Kevin Higgins and together they coordinate the well known Over the Edge readings series in Galway. Her recent poetry collection, Big Pink Umbrella, from Salmon, was to my mind an excellent debut, and I look forward to what she publishes next.

Her writing manages to be both artful and very true, and is therefore often quite effective. One gets the sense that here is a writer who has lived, is living, and is sharing depths of experience, generously.


Fallen 1973

Jesus - a snappy dresser
in cranberry velvet, …

Silliman In London

One of the most influential and controversial American poets of the last thirty years - and the most famous American poet-blogger - Ron Silliman- will be reading in London on May 5, at 7 pm, at Birkbeck. An event not to be missed by anyone in the UK with even the remotest interest in contemporary US poetics, and the means to travel. I read with Silliman once, years back, in New York, at Bob Holman's venue. A very enjoyable evening.

Chapman On Ballard

The Thousand Dreams of JG Ballard

The 'Sage of Shepperton', JG Ballard, died on Sunday at the age of 78 after a long illness. His last published book, Miracles of Life, was a deeply moving memoir in which he reviewed aspects of his life from the vantage point of old age. It was a fascinating insight into the mind of this genius of the suburbs, who created a fictional world so complete and immersive, one was often tempted to just move there and be done with it.

However, it might be said that everything you needed to know about Ballard could already be found not in a memoir but in his novels and stories. From the heartbreaking beauty of an early tale, 'The Garden of Time', to the shattered realities of the none-more-avant-garde 'condensed novels' of The Atrocity Exhibition, Ballard's world was constructed out of his experiences as a boy in wartime Shanghai, as well as his engagement - shaped by those experiences - with the post-war world he found dull yet full …

JG Ballard Has Died

Sad news. An age has ended, with the death of one of the great visionary British novelists of the post-Orwell era. With Burgess and Burroughs, JG Ballardcan be said to have been one of the greatest darkly comic dystopian 'cult' writers of the last 60 years, inventing entirely new landscapes for a sociopathic Western society to expose and explore its drives and desires. Eyewear will be featuring a post by Patrick Chapman, one of Ballard's literary heirs, later this week.

Poem by Anne Korff

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the young German poet Anne Korff (pictured) this Friday - perhaps apt since her love of film dovetails with the fact that this week is the 60th anniversary of the editing of The Third Man. For those who are into auspicious numerology, this is Eyewear's 1,313th post.

Korff was born in a town next to Hannover, Germany, in 1985. In 2004 she graduated from the local secondary school and left to work and travel in England. In 2008 she graduated from Kingston University London with a First Class Bachelor Degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies. It was here that I met her, and where she impressed me greatly with the creation of a brilliant TV Bible on the golden age of Hollywood - and, of course, her poems.
They strike me as being very powerful and clever in their fusing of film and feminist theory with disturbing, sometimes erotic, and highly expressionistic verbal construction, often presented with disrupted syntax and hybridity of language - these …

Guest Review: Black On Flynn

Linda Black reviews
Drives
by Leontia Flynn

Leontia Flynn’s second collection Drives raises the question to what extent a troubled childhood influences creativity. According to Alice Millar such creativity 'somehow permits us to give form to the chaos within'(Pictures of Childhood). Millar rejects Freud’s notions of ‘infantile sexuality’ – his drive theory – and the Oedipal complex (referred to in one of the epigraphs to Drives) for unfairly blaming the child.

What of the parents in all this? ‘Back in his childhood were parental rows/really responsible…’ ('Robert Lowell'). ‘ A finger is pointed’ (‘Samuel Beckett’) mostly at the mother; ‘ It is inconceivable this is not to do with my mother’. In ‘Charles Baudelaire’s Mother’ he writes to her ‘I think the one of us will kill the other’. Bishop’s mother ‘won’t return from the institution’. Is the mother to blame? She certainly can’t, or didn’t, make things better; ‘… unheard and unheeded, are the cries of a blubbery child’. (…

Canuckifornia

Eyewear receives a lot of stuff it is asked to mention. I can't do it all. But somethings are too good to pass up. For one thing, this mooted book is a subject dear to my heart (Canadians in Hollywood); and, more to the point, it has one of the best titles ever.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: “Canuckifornia,” an anthology of Canadian poets writing about California, seeks submissions of individual poems or groups of up to 10 poems. Poets should be natives of Canada, former or current Canadian citizens, or former or current permanent residents of Canada. The purpose of this collection is to display a range of Canadian reactions to (and appropriations of) the myths and realities of California, a state where many expatriates have gathered. Canadians have migrated to the Golden State to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, Silicon Valley, academia and many other fields, and they have brought their own sensibilities to bear on the so-called “Golden State.” At the same time, California’s …

Blog Standard

The recent news in the UK has been filled with the planned "smear campaign" from one of The Prime Minister's Men - a plan to use a blog to spread gossip and innuendo to destroy rival politicians in the Tory Party. Eyewear found it odd how alarmed and shocked the media was at this (a little like the Casablanca moment when Louis discovers gambling in his casino). Anyway, for poets it was no news at all - since poetry-related blogs and "listserv" networks and sites have been spreading nasty, often anonymous criticism and worse - sometimes character-assassination - for years.

A good example is this one from Poetry Snark, about me. It's pretty crass and ignorant stuff. And that's the tip of the iceberg (the Titanic sank today, in 1912). Poets sometimes claim they batter each other to hell because "the slice of the pie is so small" but that makes little sense - competition only gets nastier the more there is at stake, not the less (see presidential e…

Guest Review: Mazer On Pollard

Ben Mazer offers a close reading of
'Invitation to a Vampire'
by Clare Pollard

From the point of view of this Bostonian, (spiritually exiled in his own city! gasp!), The Wolf in London (Editor, James Byrne) has just published something marvellous in Clare Pollard's 'Invitation to a Vampire' (The Wolf, 19). Every line in this poem is delicious, independently and in context carrying the weight of an enormously permeable presence. Just what that presence is, and what it permeates, tows and squeezes emotion through an intensity of impending dread into the heart of desire. The poem leaves nothing in its wake, seemingly swallowing up existence itself with its weird words.

The epigraph from Bram Stoker is worth saving for after. The poem truly begins in mid-flight—

Whirlpools of gulls whip over harbour—
clou ds of yellow eyes—
and the stone sea's fearsome, melted
and roused to terrible passion.


These inseminating 'Whirlpools&…

Guest Review: Horton On Dooley

Christopher Hortonreviews
Keeping Time
byTim Dooley

Tim Dooley’s book Keeping Time, his first full length collection since 1985, and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, appears to be less about keeping time and more about what occurs when you miss a beat to transcend the prevalent zeitgeist. Often, the characters in these poems are found caught between the orthodoxies of mundane post-industrial life and the urge to cut loose from the ‘rat race’ – the poems 'Out', 'Edit' and 'a Salesman in the Lakes' might all be cited as examples of this. In 'Out', for example, Lucille who has seemingly been laid off from her job, embarks on a winding journey of the east of England, then finally, the coast, where the sheer vividness of the natural world infers epiphany: ‘where oyster catchers dive for food/ and the diamond-glittering, brown-and-grey-skinned seals,/ swivel and swim between sand bank and arctic sound’.

Journeying is also important to Dooley and a number of …

Facebook Poets?

The Times has run an impressive article, singling out a few (ten) younger British poets, for attention. As I recently included or mentioned several of these same poets in my Manhattan Review section, such as James Byrne, Joe Dunthorne, Luke Kennard, and Emily Berry, I can only concur, and in fact, welcome such a focus on them. However, I cannot help but feel there is something a tad disingenuous about the "Facebook poets" tag that has been applied here. Not by the poets themselves, I hasted to add. As with "The Movement" tag, this is a media label.

I am the co-founder of the original "Poetry" group at Facebook, with over 6,000 members - and I can tell you, while poetry circulates via that leviathan, it does so at a snail's pace; few real poets post work online. Facebook mostly reps mediocre poetry; it is superb for advertising events, magazines, contests, etc. - and in that way only is this "generation" of under 35-year-olds shaped poetically…

Easter In England

Christ has risen, but not, it seems, in secular England. A quick look at the terrestrial TV listings for this long holiday weekend reveal no stone has been unturned, to present any even vaguely religious, uplifting, or redemptive shows. Where are any of the great Biblical TV or film epics of old? Or a family musical? Beyond the wasteland of cringingly-secular TV, turn to the pages of The Sunday Times - whose pages make no mention that this is the holiest day of the year for Anglicans and Catholics - hardly a complete minority of readers. Instead, lewd stories of brothels in Nazi-occupied France, and the latest sleaze from the Gordon Brown inner circle (which looks increasingly Nixonian) are paraded before us.

What has happened to England, and, more generally, to the UK? Its churches are half-empty - and so are its poetry readings. I see a connection (Eyewear always does, of course) between the ebbing of the sea of faith, and the decline in an interest in poems. Consider how many of the…

Music In The First Quarter Of 2009

What was the dominant trend or style of popular music in the 00s? Clearly, the digital explosion of "myspace" guitar bands like The Arctic Monkeys, - and albums online, like In Rainbows, and the developing complexity of dance and pop music (one thinks of Britney Spears) and the ongoing importance of rap (L'il Wayne). Then again, the rise of Freak Folk; or such acoustic bands and signers, like Bon Iver and The Fleet Foxes. Also, the treated voice (Kayne West, Fever Ray) and the return of synth-pop.

Anyway, the last year of this decade has begun impressively, with several albums released since January 1st that are among the strongest since 2000, and will certainly be among many critics' end of year lists. If the trend for 2009 continues, this may be the decade that ends with a musical bang.

Eyewear wants to suggest the top seven albums so far, in no order, as he's heard them (and this excludes mixed but sometimes interesting new works from Springsteen, Doves and Depe…

Guest Review: Naomi On Four From Cinnamon Press

Katrina Naomi reviews
An Elusive State: entering al-chwm by Steve Griffiths;
Flashes and Specks by Elizabeth Ashworth;
Hearing Voices by Ruth Bidgood
and Return to Bayou Lacombe by Jan Villarrubia

Four very different voices from this publisher based in Wales; ranging from visions of Utopia, to poetry of the natural world, to found historical poems, to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Steve Griffith’s An Elusive State: entering al-chwm is intriguing from the start. The reader is guided into the pronounciation of ‘Al-chwm’ but its meaning is unresolved. Griffiths offers an introductory poem before exploring the nature of this state in over 40 poems (including several sequences). He puns on ‘state’, whether this is a state of mind or a state of being, is left for the reader to decide. This is an enjoyable puzzle. I found a great deal of political allegory and philosophy, alongside references to the USA, the Islamic world and Wales. The collection contains mostly short-lined, longer poems an…

Good Friday

For The Haliburton Of It

It's becoming something of regular thing: the annual Haliburton literary evening is having its third outing later this April, on the 21st. I'll be along to read, with a bunch of other writing-and-reading Canucks based in London, including my fellow poets John Stiles, Pierre Ringwald, Heather Taylor, and Nancy Mattson.

April Poets Now Online At Nthposition

Angel In The House Of Poetry

I think this is worth following this month of poetry: Angel House Press is running an online project called NationalPoetryMonth.ca, a celebration of the nation of poetry. Each day during the month of April, a new poem will be published. The writers come from the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and the United States. The site is free and all of the poets have graciously given their poems without payment. The schedule is below.

1. Elizabeth Kate Switaj - Passage
2. Camille Martin - katrina, tundra
3. Emily Falvey - Envy
4. Colin Herd - after i
5. Gil McElroy - Many Bits of Order
6. Marcus McCann - Loaded-ness
7. Kane X. Faucher - Untouch
8. Frances Raven - Leveling
9. Ben Ladouceur - Bayshore
10. Joel Lipman - Untitled [Golden Ink]
11. Sheila E. Murphy - Stop Keeping Things (All to Yourself)
12. Sandra Ridley - Untether : Unhinge
13. Christine McNair - so be it
14. Jamie Bradley - Epithalamion no. 1 / Epithalamion no. 2
15. Paul E…

My 43rd Year To Heaven

Dear Eyewearers, I have grown old, and roll my blog - or rather, want to offer you a new poem on the occasion of my 43rd birthday, today, in sunny London.

My 43rd Year To Heaven

History presses like a wall
against our shy backs –

shall we take the floor,
now that nothing costs more

than it did in 1944, and dance?
Life is such that one has to go

in and out of doors of great hotels
to sleep on beds that later are remade

while all the bills get paid
by an invisible millionaire

for some, while others become maids
or valets until their skin goes grey.

The sun will return in the morning
to remind us that the night belongs

to priest and demon equally,
and after the eighteenth-floor leap

into the delicate unspeaking air,
the chauffeurs look the other way.

I was sad before, and may be later today,
and the intensity of our hug

as we watch Niagara's Herculean effort
pour like a slot machine made good

is a long abstract emotional flood.
You and I pump blood and adore

the time we were given to love
but sense, like tiny …

Review: Twilight on DVD

I finally saw Twilight - and haven't read the novels. Let me wear my heart on my sleeve - I loved it. Most reviews patronise "the girls" in the audience who swoon. However, I feel everyone deserves a slice of the Teen Gothic Sublime, and rarely has a film delivered so well on the genre (Titanic perhaps). There are dozens of art-house reasons to sneer at this sort of sentimental portentous product - and one to cheer: because they did it without irony.

Irony, the bane of modernism (and its spice) has rendered many a Hollywood project DOA - so this one's undead and undying romanticism was blessedly true to the material, and the vein being mined. No one tried to be hip or knowing. They just played it straight. Star-crossed lovers, vampires, deep woods that David Lynch could sink his teeth into, and high school hormones and angst, even baseball - what more could a North American kid marooned in London want? Well, one thing - a Carter Burwellscore, his best since Fargo.

I lo…

The Griffin Prize Shortlist Announced

As the editorial in Carcanet's PN Review #147 observes, in Britain, with the decline of public interest in poetry, and the death of engaged serious newspaper reviews of poetry, prizes are the way most people hear about a book of poems. The editorial observes that, while for the media, poetry is never news (one could recoin a phrase: poetry is news that never becomes news), prizes are news. So what the poetry publishing slash marketing people did was, create a lot more prizes, to generate more interest.

In a way, this is a good thing. What's wrong with prizing poetry? All who love the art want to see it more visibly appreciated, not less. As that infamous editorial goes on to observe, though, prize juries too often (all the time?) fall into the hands of certain coteries, cabals, elites, gangs, - call them what you will, you know them when you see them. Basically, prizes tended to be judged by peers and colleagues, and almost no attempt to even appear disinterested is under…

An Older Magic and the New Atheism

Aslan, of course, was reborn thanks to an older magic; and in Holy Week it is good to know that some forces are at work to counteract the far newer atheism. Madeleine Bunting's thoughtful piece in The Guardianconsiders ways that scepticism of religion can be more creatively nuanced, and how even Andrew Motion wonders at what it would be like to believe. More importantly, she reminds her readers that religious faith can be a constantly enacted process - not a dumb-list of things to obey - and, for the Christian, must ultimately be about love - a love that forgives and is kind.

Guest Review: Wilkinson On Nurkse

Ben Wilkinsonreviews
The Border Kingdom
by D Nurkse

In much the same way that D Nurkse’s seventh collection of poems, The Fall (2003), comprised of three sections of grouped poems, his ninth and latest book, The Border Kingdom, is divided into four sequences. The variety of the poems and the uneven length of the sequences, however, suggest that the book’s prevalent theme was not conceived from the outset. Poems, after all, have a useful tendency towards naturally grouping themselves together and forming a coherent whole; different poems extending into one another through recurrent images and themes, as a result of the poet’s preoccupations, interests and concerns. Where The Fall’s sections addressed childhood, married adulthood and illness in old age, then, charting the Blakean journey from innocence to experience and the consequent fraying of our thoughts, beliefs and singular identities, The Border Kingdom’s four groupings of poems approach states of limbo and ambiguity from an assortm…

Surgeons vs. Bankers

A beloved friend has recently had surgery, and I have been with them in hospital for 48 hours, getting out for a few sunshine and aimless wandering breaks. All I want to say now is - whatever they pay surgeons - and nurses - it isn't enough. Any society that does not reward these remarkable hard-working life-givers and savers fully is doing something utterly wrong.

This Monkey's Gone To Heaven

Doolittle, whose 20th anniversary was last Friday, is perhaps the least likely Easter release of all time, and, I think, one of the greatest pop culture products of the last 30 or so years. Anyway, it's a great album, and one of my ten favourite. The lines "If the devil is six/ Then God is seven!" must be among the most ecstatic and joyously weird ever sung.

Pixies albums are strange, exciting, exotic, and chilling events. On Doolittle, religion, surrealist film, mass murder, true love, general mania, desire, the body, and evolutionary theory, get flummoxed with sounds never before linked - ululating and alternatively crooning vocals, perhaps the creepiest, most plaintive of all time and most willing to go new places - and zanily, uncannily creative use of the rock palette of instruments. It's the album that, when you heard it, you knew you were "alt" or "indie". Heaven it was to be young in 1989.

Pixies were to music what Peter Lorre was to German …

Blogs In Books

Browsing in a bookshop near Hampstead Heath yesterday, I came across Nick Laird's new novel, which I flicked through, before going on to other novels there, including my favourites, such as The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited - works of masterful stylishness. I wouldn't want Eyewear's readers to think I don't enjoy good prose - sometimes, it can almost be as good as poetry. Anyway, back to this new novel. I haven't read it, of course, but I've read bits of it, in situ, and there seems to be a key character in the novel who is a thirty-something, chubby, frustrated Londoner who has a blog, where he basically rants about TV shows, films, albums he likes, books, etc.

Now, Laird has been lurking on the blogosphere, no doubt researching this character for his novel. I know this, because he's read Eyewear at least once or twice. I am glad to see bloggers in novels. It's a bit like Conrad tossing in an anarchist; or Maugham a scientist. Bloggers are a par…

The Good News

Caesar and Christ were not meant to be fused - one rendered to one precisely what the other had no earthly need for, secular power. However, on Palm Sunday, it seems a blessing in the open to hear news that the world's most powerful military leader has announced - even as utopian horizon of action - the idea of a nuclear-free world. Obama may do secular - but unlike Blair, he also seems to do a bit of God, too.

Poem by Jason Camlot

Jason Camlot(pictured) is a poet, singer-songwriter, and university lecturer based in Montreal, at Concordia University. His areas of interest include Victorian Literature and sound recording techniques, especially in the early days of the wax cylinder. I have much more to say about him, and will add more to this post later.

This is from his second collection, Attention All Typewriters!, from DC Books.

The Wind Divider

Träumend an der Schreibmaschin’saß die kleine Josephin’…--Gilbert and Profes

Hovered and swiveling behind the gray
cloth wall of her cubicle
divider, she has me seek into my drawer
for more than pencils. My rebel
typewriter girl who goes to the movies
alone soaring to screen
on the paper-clippèd wings
of my lighter /darker imagination.
Green ice-flashes of the Photostat machine
ignite her as St. Theresa in passion. She glides
past my station in white stockings
and Wallabees, red ones, like some devil nurse
prepared to I.V. the water cooler
with one scarlet ink cartridge.
Her hair black a…

Eyewear's "Followers"

Eyewear has over 70 "followers" currently - but I feel the term is misleading. That's because they're leaders themselves. Most of them have their own dynamic literary blogs. The blogosphere, for all its faults, does run on sympathetic energy, in many ways. Eyewear also is regularly read by hundreds, often thousands, of other readers each month. Increasingly, it's one of many places for writers, especially poets, to meet. I just wanted to step away from the droll persona I sometimes adopt and express my appreciation for all your support over the last few years. Keep leaving comments. And, as always, I welcome reviews and reviewers.

Poetry vs. Literature

Poetry is, of course, a part of literature. But, increasingly, over the 20th century, it has become marginalised - and, famously, has less of an audience than "before". I think that, when one considers the sort of criticism levelled against Seamus Heaney and "mainstream poetry", by poet-critics like Jeffrey Side, one ought to see the wider context for poetry in the "Anglo-Saxon" world. This phrase was used by one of the UK's leading literary cultural figures, in a private conversation recently, when they spoke eloquently about the supremacy of "Anglo-Saxon novels" and their impressive command of narrative.

My heart sank as I listened, for what became clear to me, in a flash, is that nothing has changed since Victorian England (for some in the literary establishment). Britain (now allied to America) and the English language with its marvellous fiction machine, still rule the waves. I personally find this an uncomfortable position - but when on…