About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 20,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers, and vice versa. Eyewear blog is archived by The British Library. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Saturday, 27 February 2010

Canada Over All?

The rise of Canada as a force of nationalism to be reckoned with is underway with the BC games of 2010. The image of our victorious women hockey players chomping Sergeant Rock cigars on the ice, or our defiant brave and noble ice skater competing in the shadow of her mother's death, signal a new spirit, in a nation that is rich in natural resources, the arts, and had a relatively small banking crisis. Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in - and its people are vigorous, enthusiastic, energetic, and proud. More than the sea and China is rising this century. So are we.

Guest Review: Berry on Brandon

Liz Berry reviews
A Republic of Linen
by Patrick Brandon

Patrick Brandon’s debut collection, A Republic of Linen, is full of the careful observation and vivid visual imagery we might expect from a poet originally trained as an artist. Through their quiet, precise examinations, the poems in the collection uncover the curious in the everyday, drawing the reader’s eye to that which is intriguing and moving about the commonplace worlds of home and childhood. In ‘Attic’, the poem from which the collection takes its title, we peer with the narrator through the bedroom window to see his “thin boned bicycle’s still chained/ shivering, to the railing’s below” (Lines 14-15). The swimmer in ‘Sunday’, feeling like a melancholic dolphin in the local pool, slips “Straight in/Straight out” (Line 10) of the showers with porpoise ease while “others soap/their naked selves like cars” (Lines 11-12). This is the key to Brandon’s skill: carefully refocusing the lens to show the everyday world as a strange and surprising place.

A Republic of Linen is a very much a collection about observation. The tools of watching and looking are found everywhere in the poems: cameras, telescopes, windows, mirrors, eyes, spectacles and lenses. The poet’s eye is precise and photographic, an eye “developed to/ such a fine pitch I could pick out/ yarrow and knapweed/ in a teeming meadow” (‘Wildflowers’, Lines 3-6). Whether watching a boy walking a cat through the communal gardens or viewing a chastity rally from a bike with a “slow tracking dolly shot” (‘Clean’, Line 4), the poet’s eye is fixed, ready to capture the image through his own off kilter lens.

Yet conversely it is often failing to see properly that is at the heart of the poems: the “Telescope” fails to deliver its promise, the photographers of ‘Sade’ miss their subject, and at one point the narrator begins to wonder if “there is something wrong with my eyes” (Wildflowers’. Line 2). This difficulty of adequately seeing, capturing and recreating an experience through art or poetry is central to the collection. In ‘The Night Studio’, Brandon describes the creative process as “chasing an image as it shrinks back apace/into the dark from where it came” (Lines 20-21); the artist’s tool – here the brush but just as easily the pen – “threatening to push it further away” (Line 24). The vivid physical description of the photographic process in ‘Single Lens Reflex’ leaves only a blurred memory of the lovers and knowledge that a moment can never truly be captured or conjured by art. The book ends with a poignant sonnet, “En Plein Air”, in which an artist and his son plan to search for a place he recorded in a painting years before. In the final couplet the artist betrays his awareness that the exact moment and place may never possibly be recaptured for they were lost even as they were painted: “a recollection that it was already cold and getting late” (Line 14).

As with many debut collections the poems in A Republic of Linen are varied in both their content and quality. The strongest poems in the collection are those which deal with small intimate glimpses of the everyday and those which Roddy Lumsden describes on the blurb as “strangely confident and confidently strange”: the unsettling mysteries of “Dolphin”, for example, or “Flat Dad” in which the narrator carries his boneless father on his shoulders. A few of the shorter poems seem less deserving of their place, leaving the reader wishing that Brandon had taken the idea further and explored it more fully. Yet overall this is a rewarding collection and the precision of Brandon’s eye and his quiet confidence draws us into his strange and delicately observed world.

Liz Berry is a British poet and school teacher based in London. She won an Eric Gregory in 2009, and her debut is forthcoming from tall-lighthouse this summer.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Featured Poet: Liz Berry

Eyewear is very pleased to be able to return to its irregular feature series on poets deemed worth a look - worth a read. And more. The first of the poets I am happy to welcome to these pages in the new decade, this Friday, is Liz Berry (pictured). Ms. Berry was born in the Black Country and now lives in London where she is an infant school teacher. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in magazines including The North, Poetry Wales, Mslexia, Poetry Review and Smiths Knoll. She is a winner of a 2009 Eric Gregory Award. I was happy to be able to include her performing the poem below on the recently released DVD, Asking A Shadow to Dance, 35 Young British Poets for Oxfam. This poem is also the title of her tall-lighthouse collection, out this summer. She's one of the best emerging British poets I have met in a long time.


The Patron Saint of School Girls


Agnes had her lamb and her black curls;
Bernadette, her nun’s frock;
but I was just a school girl,
glimpsed the holy spirit in the blue flare
of a Bunsen burner, saw a skeleton
weep in a biology lesson.

My miracles were revelations.
I saved seventeen girls from a fire that rose
like a serpent behind the bike sheds,
cured the scoliosis of a teacher
who hadn’t lifted her head to sing a hymn
in years. I fed the dinner hall
on one small cake and a carton of milk.

A cult developed. The Head Girl
kissed my cheek in the dark-room,
first years wrote my name
on the flyleaf of their hymn books,
letters appeared in my school bag,
a bracelet woven from a blonde plait.

My faith grew strong.
All night I lay awake hearing prayers
from girls as far as Leeds and Oxford,
comprehensives in Nottingham.
I granted supplications for A-levels,
pleas for the cooling of unrequited love,
led a sixth form in Glasgow to unforeseen triumph
in the hockey cup final.

Love flowed out of me like honey
from a hive, I was sweet with holiness,
riding home on the school bus,
imparting my blessings.
I was ready for wings,
to be lifted upwards like sun streaming
through the top deck windows;
to wave goodbye to school and disappear
in an astonishing ring of brightness.

poem by Liz Berry

Guest Review: Phillips on Naomi

Tom Phillips reviews
The Girl with the Cactus Handshake
by Katrina Naomi

From the outset, Katrina Naomi’s strikingly titled and entirely adept first collection plunges us into a world of polarities. Each of the book’s three sections announces a gulf: between ‘The Natural’ and ‘The City’, ‘The Sea’ and ‘Margate’, and ‘Darker’ and ‘Lighter’. In the opening poem we’re immediately reversing along the course of the Thames, from the sea, through the capital and then back up country to the source. ‘The Thames Never Breathes’, in fact, hinges on a rhyme between ‘nothing’ and ‘spring’, the inevitable opposition between the human and natural joined via a route that’s not that dissimilar to King Lear’s: the renewal of a ‘tiny spring’ only accessible if you’ve been through ‘nothing’ first. The final poem, ‘Kennington, Southbound, 11.10pm’, meanwhile, occupies a murkier psychological gap, dramatising a late-night encounter on a tube station platform in a discomfiting pair of monologues by the would-be murderer and would-be victim, both of them inadvertently finding common ground in the observation that the shoulder blades are ‘just the place to push’. This time there is only ‘nothing’ - no mention of ‘spring’.

Between these two poems, of course, there are plenty of others on many different themes – storytelling sailors, encounters in pubs, Cornish holidays, photographs, conkers, the scientific dissection of a street. Vivid descriptions of flowers form a micro-strand – fuschias like ladyboys, a Plath-like description of gladioli – while sudden, sharp, sensory perceptions of colour and noise recur. The Hughesian ‘Storm in Winkworth Churchyard’, for instance, echoes with the sounds of the ‘plastic noise as the air vent skips/clean through the window’, ‘a roaring of the yews’ and a door crack’s ‘shriek of lightning’.

A felicity of spot-on observation, from the ‘leopard print shoes’ in ‘Lunch at the Elephant & Castle’ and ‘Chinese lanterns of pomegranates’ in ‘Naturaleza Muerta’ to the light which ‘hardly knows how to settle before it is blown/elsewhere’ of (again) ‘Winkworth Churchyard’ and the ‘treble gills like tribal cuts’ of the caught fish in ‘Blue Marlin’, gives the whole collection a wired-in immediacy. At times, perhaps, this strays into garish, would-be Martian territory – the tin mines in ‘Crossing into Cornwall’, for instance, don’t seem to have much beyond a vague visual likeness to justify their being ‘upended like pistols’ – and there’s occasionally something a little too worked-up in chiming phrases lie ‘eerie like a prairie’ in ‘On Sally Gall’s Wave Photography’ or in the reversal of perspective in ‘The Longing of Cranes’, where the moon’s dredged up and the clouds are keel-hauled. But then, in ‘Pinochet’s Garden’ and ‘Overcoming Hydrophobia’, the switch from the mundane to the metaphorical - and even, perhaps, the metaphysical - yields lines with the ambiguous heft of the latter’s ending: ‘I immersed myself, opened my eyes/to the salt, swallowed a draft of him, felt his fists balling inside.’

All told, in fact, my only qualm would be that, in clinching an ending, Naomi’s pay-offs sometimes contradict the raggedy experience described in the preceding poem. The occasion, as it were, for saying ‘How would it feel to step off the turret of Dover Castle’ or ‘no more blood, just a hole’ doesn’t quite fit with the tenor of the lines that come before and, consequently, the endings are left with too much work to do. This, though, is probably merely a reflection of a current obsession in English-language poetry: the urge to ‘deliver’ something, whether that’s a nugget of wisdom, a punchline, a shrug, a ‘wild’ metaphor to justify poetry’s existence as another way of looking at the world. As it happens, the really engaging thing about The Girl with the Cactus Handshake are the poems which stick with the seemingly insignificant details and relish the language’s unexpected possibilities.

Tom Phillips reviews regularly for Eyewear.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Action Comics 1

The sale the other day of Action Comics #1 for a million dollars is both bound to raise a smile and a question. First, the nostalgia - my Dad once reputedly owned this comic, and sold it used for a nickel on St. Catherine Street, Montreal, when he was a little boy. Subsequently his mother threw out many other classic comics of the era, as he grew up. That's why these comics are so rare nowadays - spring cleaning and dog-eared over reading. That's the fun part. While I loved comics, and still do - and therefore am glad they are valued and collected - I wonder how many poetry books from 1938 are being bought and sold for a million in cold hard cash. Not many. I wonder, Eyewear fans - what book would you buy, if you could afford it, for such a mighty sum?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Looks Like Up To Me

This is the anniversary of my worst - although gloriously survived - year. At the end of February a year ago, a very close loved one became ill, and faced surgery. First few days of March saw them quite ill in hospital, when the surgery went a bit wrong. They recovered, but the stress of that time reminded me of three years before, in 2006, when I spent a summer with my father, by his side in hospital, as he lay dying of brain cancer.

Harrowing doesn't quite touch on that period. I suppose I was returned, if only second time farcically, to the storm and strain of inhospitality that even the best wards tend to offer. Fear of dying in such surrounds, fear of losing someone there, is now a part of what I need to work through - and I know I join millions who share my feelings.

Over summer 2009, worries and losses piled up, and by September 2009, I was suffering from - as long-time readers may recall - severe esophagitis (perhaps one of the most painful conditions). Every swallow, even water, was torment. I felt like (I was) dying. I became very depressed. Over the past five months I have come through a darkness such as I didn't expect to ever have to face. Each day has seen a slow step forward, with hope and health gradually improving, until, these days, I am back at work, not in 24-hour pain, and, to some degree, positive of outlook.

I still have the chronic condition, and have had to radically alter my lifestyle and diet. I now weight 67 kg, or around 10.5 stone, which means I am thinner than since I was 24, and can't drink wine or coffee currently. It's an odd back to the future purgatory. My work colleagues have been great, and teaching, which I love, is what I now do. I am about to turn 44. Middle age never felt like this before. Some days I feel old as the hills, but the mirror returns the face of a young man, doubtful, hopeful, tentative, determined. Full of love and vinegar.

Bella at the BAFTAS

The BAFTA awards are getting big time. The new president is balding Prince William. Long-jawed Tarantino was in the audience. Deeply sincere Dustin Hoffman gave an award. And, best of all (other than a woman director getting the nod, as rarely happens) twitchy pale teen ingenue Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame won the Orange Rising Star mask. Rumours of split with her vampire-friend, and most-desired male colleague, may explain her befuddled 'tude in this clip. Still, bravo to Bella, belle of the ball!

Todd Swift Reading in Cambridge March 2

Next week will be busy for me, exciting, and a little exhausting. Following on from hosting the Oxfam event on March 1, Tuesday March 2 finds me reading in Cambridge with Charlotte Runcie, for tall-lighthouse and Helen Mort, along with other poets from the floor. A chance to get a signed copy of my 2009 collection, Mainstream Love Hotel. The event starts at 7.45 pm, at the trendy gastropub,The Punter, 3 Pound Hill, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB3 0AE. Admission is £3; concession £2.

Return of the Oxfam Series

I was down but not out the last six months - and now am coming up for air, a little battered but once again able to crawl on my own hands and feet. One day I may be Homo Erectus again. For now, I'll paddle and inch forward, one day at a time, best as I can - no Prince William, nor meant to be. The Oxfam Series (a long-running London event that has raised over £25,000 for the charity over the years since its launch in 2004 when the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, Wendy Cope and Charlie Dark read for a packed shop, and also launched a variety of CDs, pamphlets, contests and a DVD of poetry, which have raised an additional £50,000) is now back too. Future guests will be announced at surprising intervals.

In the meantime, the March 1st event will be a wonderful occasion, and I hope you will attend, or tell others to. David Lehman, poet, critic, writer and editor/anthologist extraordinaire, is over from NYC, and will be reading with fellow Ashbery fan, Faber poet, essayist, and scholar, Mark Ford. All in aid of the new Oxfam project, 35 Young Poets for Oxfam. Reading short sets in the first half will be five of the best of the younger Brits: Heather Phillipson, Emily Berry, Liz Berry, Kayo Chingonyi and Luke Kennard - among them they have a clutch of award wins and noms (Eric Gregorys, Forwards, tall-lighthouse, Poetry London, and slam competitions), and some darn fine books and pamphlets to their name (and more forthcoming), including from Salt, Faber and tall-lighthouse.

It should be a very good night of poetry and cheer, indeed. Do rsvp by calling Martin Penny at the Oxfam shop, where the event will start, Monday March 1, 7 pm, at 91 Marylebone High Street, London W1. He can be reached at 020 7487 3570. Hope to see you there.

Cryptology

Poetry in the Crypt has been running for a number of years by some very good poet-organisers, and is one of the best and most vital of London's reading series. Its first event of 2010 features Linda Black, Andy Croft & Deborah Tyler-Bennett, 7 pm, Saturday, February 27th, at St Mary's Crypt, Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2TX. Part of what makes the series so enjoyable, apart from the unique subterranean location, is the hospitality offered - delicious cakes, coffee and tea - and the opportunity for readings from the floor. As well, the proceeds will go to Hospice Care Kenya, so the £4 admission will sting a little less.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

New Poem by Todd Swift

Reflections on the Confession of Tiger Woods

Slowed by what slows the mood
I locate by moving slowly the good
Which is simply the bad passed
Without, in the process, becoming toast.

Sex addicts and poets are lost
In the flood of power that most becomes
Those who reside in interior luxury;
The sea overrides the beach, desires

To reach the inland empires, may breech
The green controlled lawns of golf;
There is a gulf between swing and speech,
But tongue and arm both touch

The rough yawn that lies between fire
And rain, beauty and being plain;
No god or man or woman resists a lyre
If plucked by a finger that has tension

And release at its recall; longer fingers
Better caress the strings. Redder lips best
Sing of wine and grape-sweet nights;
Light demolishes the injurious sheets,

Renders them just fabric, not gold thread,
Pulls back the lids to let us see
That the lover we sought to overcome
In our riding passion is a tomb,

And all the soldiery are not drunk but dead.
Skin is what we touch to comprehend our
Own infrastructure, feels softest if bare;
Move with care and caution in the lounge

Where VIP and vampire entertain each other
With intoxicating indifferent motions in the air.
Such places are not places to pitch a soul,
But gutters for excrement to thrust slop on;

So castles and cathedrals are white bowls;
Our beds are also toilets of a loose dawn.

poem by Todd Swift

Byrne's, Baby, Byrne's

Eyewear is pleased to spread the news about the 2010 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year competition sponsored by Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop & Michael D. Higgins TD. In 2010 Over The Edge is continuing its exciting annual creative writing competition. The competition is open to both poets and fiction writers. The total prize money is €1,000. The best fiction entry will win €300. The best poetry entry will win €300. One of these will then be chosen as the overall winner and will receive an additional €400, giving the overall winner total prize money of €700 and the title Over The Edge New Writer of The Year 2010. The 2010 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year will be a Featured Reader at a reading to be scheduled in Galway City Library in Winter 2010/11. Salmon Poetry will read without prejudice a manuscript submitted to them by the winner in the poetry category.

"I Need Your Help"

Those who heard Mr T. Woods speak yesterday are no doubt in one of two camps - those who think him facile, cynical, even hypocritical (or overheated in protest), and see this as a laughable celebrity moment - and then again, those who (or so I hope) see the pathos and significance of what could be a genuine flood of change, taken hold of in this man's onrushing loose life. The important words, surely, were "I need your help". Billionaires, world famous and great at their work, rarely stoop to such vulnerable postures. There is something of the New Testament in such a humbled mightyman, calling for help. In that series of books, he would have received it, from a loving man-God, who forgave all and accepted all sexual sins. Sex addiction, such as Mr. Woods has bluntly explained it, is no joke.

Rather, it seems the virus of the age - and not just for those, such as he, who had immense power and immense opportunity. The Internet now permits anyone to access lewdness that would have made Caligula blush, and in seconds. And, in secular fame-based Western cultures, famous men and women are almost expected to be promiscuous (at least rock stars and film actors and male novelists and poets are). It seems odd that only politicians, priests and sportsmen are censored for priapic adventures - but then, only if they purport to be holier than holy. Always, it is the Tartuffe who suffers, more than the blatant Falstaff, to mix playwrights. Mr. Woods is an emblem of a terrible truth - sex is a temptation that no one (almost) is immune to; and, even in these post-Victorian times, there is a hygiene to our days and nights - we are expected to keep some of us to ourselves and in our pants.

From Walcott to Amis, from Spears to Woods, figures who run amok in the fields of play are called to account. Feathers should never be too ruffled. Sport must not rut too much. We fear Dionysus and pretend to be Apollo. Mr. Woods deserves our respect for inadvertently tearing the modern mask aside, much as Wilde did 100 years ago or so. We should help him, and ourselves - but not to too much.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The British Disease?

So it isn't just me, wee Canadian in Britain that I am, who has finally recognised, then recoiled from, the toxic bite of the endless, sinister snake that is the British media. Now the Vancouver Olympics chief has hit out at what Eyewear has been noting all week - a brutal and cynical news cycle of attacks, bent on downgrading a superb event, due to one tragic accident, and unseasonably warm weather (as if the English can keep their own weather under control either!). People in glass houses indeed - and what does this warn about the coming media storm in 2012? This sort of media approach has often sidelined and diminished poetry in the UK, too - because any thing based on love, enthusiasm and good news tends to ask to be kicked and trampled, apparently, by the kitten-bashing talking heads and journalists of these isles.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Obituaries: Fritz On Poole and Rety

Phil Poole and John Rety
by Leah Fritz

Phil Poole and John Rety, both people of significance to contemporary poetry, died within days of each other - on the 1st and 3rd of February, respectively.

John Rety was a founder of the Torriano Meeting House and managed the events there with his partner, Susan Johns, for 23 years. He and Susan also ran Hearing Eye press which published pamphlets and books by both well-known and ought-to-be-well-known poets. John was particularly proud of the anthologies, In the Company of Poets and Well Versed, which he edited, but he took great pride in all the publications of Hearing Eye, whether or not they sold. Among Hearing Eye's publications are pamphlets of John's own work in both poetry and prose, sadly unheralded as the original and substantial works they are.

Politically John was an anarcho-pacifist. His daughter, the artist Emily Johns, following in his footsteps, is co-editor of Peace News. His political beliefs were his own, though. By definition, a true anarchist makes up his or her own mind about everything. An atheist, John abided religiously by his own strong sense of right and wrong.

Born in 1930 in Hungary, John's childhood and adolescence were dominated by the murderous antisemitism of the Nazi holocaust. Separated from his Jewish parents at an early age, he learned to survive by his wits. Although he sometimes took issue with the government's policies, John passionately loved the United Kingdom, in which he found freedom, his adored small family, friendship and the world of poetry.

He also became a grandmaster in chess!

Last year, Phil Poole edited Torriano Nights, a festschrift for John Rety, which was published by Acumen and Phil's own Woodpecker Press. In it I wrote, 'John Rety and I have a lot in common: We both have roots in Eastern Europe, we are about the same age and we spent the sixties and seventies of the (sigh!) last century opposing the Vietnam War, albeit in different countries. So it's no wonder that I sometimes feel we are related by blood, and who knows - perhaps we are.' That's how close I have felt to him and Susan and Emily during the almost two decades I've known them.

Phil Poole and I, on the other hand, were on the periphery of each other's lives until recently.
Born in Birmingham in 1944, Phil moved to London in the 1960s and married Urja Burkhardt, a German artist, in 1988. They maintained residences in both Munich and London. A master woodcarver, Phil restored the woodwork surrounding the clocks designed by Pugin in the Houses of Parliament. He also produced some delightful, often amusing, sculptures, parts of which moved in surprising ways. One of these sculptures is on permanent display at the Torriano Meeting House, where Phil, as a poet, was an habituée. There he often read works-in-progress and occasionally performed as the invited poet.

Gradually Phil became more closely tied to the Torriano Meeting House. When Camden Council discontinued its grant in 2005, he wrote a spirited defence for the Camden New Journal. In his quiet, unassuming way, Phil organised a committee to save the Meeting House despite the council's intransigence, and the poets who frequented it came through in many ways to raise the rent money demanded.

A few months ago, Phil performed at the Meeting House and read some new poems inspired by the tests and treatments anent the cancer he had been diagnosed with. As one who had also gone through some of those the rites, I was especially intrigued by his humorous take on the awful processes.

The content of those poems caught my attention, but his skill as a poet held me. I sent him an e-mail to tell him how fine I thought his work was, and he promptly began e-mailing me more and more poems on various subjects: love, travel, history, politics and, of course, woodworking. I became convinced that a book should come out of this and suggested that he or Urja contact John Rety about publishing one through Hearing Eye. Phil was perhaps too self-effacing about them to do so, and Urja said she didn't know John very well - so I got in touch with him, and he and Susan agreed immediately. By that time we knew that Phil didn't have long to live, and so the race was on to get one out as quickly as possible.

Phil died the day after the decision was made, but Urja at least had time to tell him about it. I sent Susan the poems I had collected and she began editing the book. She and John asked me to write an introduction. John, Susan and I discussed my draft on the phone, and talked about how to organise the text of the book.

The next day John Rety died suddenly of a heart attack.

Emily Johns came to London to take her mother back with her to Hastings where she could mourn and convalesce from the terrible shock. Susan and John had been together constantly for most of their adult lives.

The typescript of Phil's poems had already been given to Martin Parker to print, and Susan asked me to put them in some sort of order. Somewhere within her Susan found the courage to go on with this project. She approved of everything before it went to press.

The book, Phil Poole's Poetry: A Collection, will be presented at his funeral on Friday, the 19th of February, at 3.30 pm, at Golder's Green Crematorium. From 5pm there will be a reception and poetry event at the Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town.

Orbis

This in from Carole Baldock, poet and Orbis editor. Orbis is an important UK-based magazine with international scope, and an openness to various poets and poetries. It also reviews well, and widely, and has lively contests each issue. It's an essential little magazine. So, consider the message below:

"Suggestions and submissions welcome for our next issue, the big 150. Plus 40 years of Orbis - and my 30th issue as Editor. And consider the latest issue -

Orbis 149, Autumn/Winter 2009

Featured Poets
Winners of the Virginia Warbey Prize

1st Prize: Jamie Walsh (Preface)

2nd Prize: Shelley McAlister (Sacred Heart)

3rd Prize: Jane McKie (Vija Celmins’ Surfaces)

Poems from Carol Carpenter, Stuart Jay Silverman, Robert Stein, Louise Warren; Prose: Vanessa Gebbie and John Lowry; Translation Jonathan Greenhause: Prefiero by Marcos Barcellos; Obituaries: Mike Shields on James Kirkup and Pauline Rowe on Michael Murphy & Matt Simpson. Reviews Editor: Nessa O’Mahony. "

TP On MLH

Tom Phillips, over at his blog, has a review of Mainstream Love Hotel.

Ash Wednesday


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Guest Review: Hymas On Noakes

Sarah Hymas reviews
The Wall Menders
by Kate Noakes

This is a second collection, whose voice is strong, confident, sure of subject and identity. As such it’s a steady illuminating read, a manifesto for environmental awareness.

From the dedication, itself a poem, Noakes declares a pull between external and interior lives in a neat, rhythmical acceptance that hints at a queerly felt displacement. This tension between the sanctuary and hopefulness of outside and the world of work binds the collection.

The first section, Taking a Hammer, is a series of meditations on how the poet travels within the natural world, moving through comfort where moss, mountains and clouds offer a “place where /no-one can touch me”, where she can “float free” and “breathed soft under the massif’s roar”. So far so connected. But with ‘The fire walk’ the tone shifts slightly; as “footprints in the embers hardened/into memory”. This hardening continues in the following poems. Here Noakes considers graffiti, identity chips, maggots and drought, culminating in the most energetic poem of the first section, “Clean burn”.

The imperative tone shook this reader up; suddenly I was being commanded to observe, not just presented with a series of softly turned images. The tonal turn creates a more visceral urgency, laying the path open for her interpretation of Ovid’s tale of Mestra.

There was discussion on the Magma blog last year on the relevance of classical stories in contemporary poetry. And while not completely ‘up-dated’, this retelling acts as the pivot to the collection. For those who don’t know it, Noakes summarizes the story before launching into her own version. As an ‘old’ story, it stands firm in the collection; engagingly crossing between classical and contemporary imagery, emphasising the environmental traditions of Noakes’ subject matter. While I know I was meant to feel repulsion and horror at the story there was a truth to it I welcomed. “The split of crashing timber/is as nothing to the screams of a dying nymph. // Men with chain saws, band saws”. The time of nymphs is coming to an end, if not already long gone, both inside and outside this collection. The renewal within the story, albeit rising from violence, provides hope for a new future. Hope, however, is not enough. Hope is a passive state, wishful thinking, which requires action and vigilance to bring its seeds to fruition.

So, meditations of the first section give way to the labour and physical engagement of the second. Mortar and Lime begins with the poem “New year” and the (possibly unfortunate) chime of being washed ‘back to basics’, and with “A call for action”. Action indeed follows.

We meet the wall-menders of the book’s title, along with peat cutters, sheep shearers, gardeners and other agricultural workers – the severity of which is not skirted around, “Footsore and blistered, hands cracked/ and bloody from a day of slash and burn”. It is in this section language comes alive. Noakes revels in specific terminology, of “our coloured architecture/defined in witcherts/ and dabbins”and how the workers “thought about/scored coping, lunkies for sheep;/ made stiles and badger smoots”. The rhythm of each poem lifts off with hard consonants and internal rhymes. Still the style is fluid and rolling, but with a stronger pulse. Everybody’s sleeves are rolled up.

Then the fruits of labour. The final few poems of the book relish nature’s produce: mushrooms, mistletoe, watercress, shellfish, tea. Here the tone reverts to the more luxuriant first section, but coming after the act of harvesting, they carry a different weight. A knowingness, with less sacred rewards, more physical nourishment and earned delight.

This sequence clusters in couplets and metrical rhythms that relax in long lines. Not that this is unique to the collection, but here the subject and its music seem most harmonious. The poems run in regular stanza lengths. Unstressed syllables frequent line ends, so metre and enjambement are relied upon to stretch meaning and potential, into the space created around the poem. A space edged with lush imagery of pearls, sticky-beaks and minerals a-plenty.

This collection addresses many facets of our interaction with nature, and while some ring louder bells for me than others, all hold water and convince me of their truth for the writer. Noakes writes with a quiet sincerity that tugs at the need for reconsidering how we work with nature, how we live in our imagined landscapes and how we can unite the two.

Sarah Hymas is a poet, puppeteer and sailor.

Doug Fieger Has Died

Sad news. The Knack singer, and writer of song 'My Sharona', Doug Fieger, has died. That 1979 song was the theme of my just-pubescent junior high school years. The song was jarringly adolescent, leeringly (disconcertingly) hypersexual, and utterly catchy - it was, simply, the power pop song of the year - and is arguably, along with 'High School Confidential', one of the raunchiest ever written about the stickiness of love and desire. I loved and feared it then, and still do. It sets me going every time I hear it. While The Knack never amounted to much after that, they allowed power pop a moment in the sun, and caught the new wave cusp as the 80s began.

Bad Canada

The problem with the media is that its function is the message - it needs news, and if it doesn't have a feed, will stir the pot to make one bubble up. So it is with the British media and Vancouver 2010. The ongoing demonisation of the games - the virtual garlanding with tragedy's albatross - stems largely from the fact that Team GB is not currently doing well in the medals table. I find it to be negligent to report more on a pre-games accident than on the fact that athletes from many nations are daily striving and winning in good faith and with alacrity and poise. The charge, made in the Independent the other day, that Canada's winter athletes have an unfair home advantage, having had more time than foreign competitors to train, is absurd - all host nations have such advantages - and, given Canada's only recently assuaged drought of home-won gold - it is a dubious advantage at that. The luge death was a terrible accident. It is true the poles were in a bad place, and the track was very fast. But given the demands of the sport to be fast - and the fact that all dangerous sports are dangerous - it seems time to mourn the athlete, and let the living athletes also receive their due.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Reply To Jane Holland

Jane, thanks for your comment re genre fiction, pulp fiction, and my library post. I confess to being totally flabbergasted by your comment that I am a snob and elitist culturally. What planet are you on? Certainly, not planet Eyewear. Anyone who ever reads this blog will know it is wildly and widely open to popular culture, genre fiction, kitsch, and breaking down barriers between high and low culture.

Have you ever read Eyewear on James Bond, Tarantino, or Ross Macdonald, for instance? Or, have you ever read my own poetry collections, which are filled with positive homages to Hitchcock, Chandler, and a variety of pulp and film noir sources. Perhaps you fail to recall my anthology celebrating "B-Poetry". Or forget I worked in TV for a decade, writing for schlock like Teenage Ninja Turtles, and Japanese anime like Sailor Moon? Or perhaps you ignore my work for Penthouse? In short - geez, come off it, Jane! You can't protest about one post without reading it within the context of the blog as a whole. If Eyewear isn't open to pulp, what is? My point was, Patterson is rubbish pulp, and Fry is a poor salesman for contemporary poetry.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Neither a Borrower

It is hard being a British librarian. One has to lend, as often as not, mediocre rubbish to semi-literate readers who prefer pap to Pope. The year's most borrowed listings are out, and reveal a top 100 riddled with pulp fiction too bland even to deserve that B-side accolade. The top poetry book? Well it comes from faux-genius S. Fry, who is neither a poet or a critic, but a celebrity whose main message is to argue against vers libre, 100 years too late. In fiction, it is an American crime writer who has a Fordist production line to pump out his books so cheap they should be recalled as unsafe at any speed of reading. Literacy is so often extolled as a virtue that we often forget that reading badly can also mean reading unwisely. At least they only borrow bad books and not buy them.

Rockies Start

Canada's winter-discontent games are whizzing like a snowball with a rock in it. On the one hand, the opening ceremonies folded the Luge tragedy into the pomp like the end of Star Wars with Jacques Rogges solemnly ruling over his quasi-fictive utopia with emotive solidity; on the other hand, the rain has postponed events, Heil lost her golden moment, and Celine Dion didn't sing at the opening, where dysfunction kept some of the pillars slow to rise; on the other hand, KD Lang sang Cohen with genius and it was good to see the fiddle and Who Has Seen the Wind back in pride of place; on the other hand, the display of oil-rich Cannuck bravado was off putting - though what other nation (GB?) would place a slam champ on a pedestal to mouth stirring sub-Cicero corn? The rise of spoken word at the games confirms my Poetry Nation prediction of 12 years ago. Hopefully neither sleet nor Heil will slow the games as they slide on. The black arm bands are the lining of a silver games that so badly wanted to stay golden.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Bemused Britain Vaguely Eyes Snowless BC As 2010 Winter Games Commence

Eyewear is a staunch supporter of the Olympic movement, and, as a Canadian landed in London, is wide-eyed at the lack of British interest in the Vancouver Games, about to begin in a mostly snowless environment that beggars belief. The British like their hardware, and their medal haul at the summer games were impressive. They don't do snow that well - leaves on the tracks slow them, snow halts the nation. Winter does not inspire athleticism here, but weary hunkered down stoic getting on. So it is, Team GB aims to win three medals. Meanwhile, the big story about Canada's team is two-fold: a) they've never won a home Gold: and b) they have created a scientific project to plan to dominate their own games. That seems oddly inhospitable, but it was time to do Soviet-era science on the bobsledders. The Winter Games are good spectacle. Cool eyewear, Velcro and Lycra. Stupendous spills. Rocketing pucks. May the flame never go out!


Phil Poole and John Rety Have Died

Sad news, first brought to my attention by Leah Fritz. Phil Poole and John Rety both recently died, two North London fixtures on the arts and poetry scene. Poole has written a collection of poems that will be published posthumously next week. Rety died very suddenly of a heart attack. He ran the Torriano Meeting House with his partner, Susan Johns, for 23 years, and also the publishing house, Hearing Eye.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Alexander McQueen Has Died

Sad news. One of the greatest of contemporary fashion designers, Alexander McQueen, has been found dead at his home in London.

Valentine's Day Poetry Contest

Forget roses for the big day - why not a tree? That's what this company does. And they're running a poetry competition. Love is, after all, along with death, and political resistance, and nature, and language, and desire, and - well, along with a few other things - one of the central concerns of poetry, and life.

London Word Festival 2010

More good stuff from Tom Chivers. This year's London Word Festival features a rejigged Briggflatts, John Hegley, Luke Kennard, Tim Turnbull, and lots more. Worth checking out if in London or the UK - or for that matter near a train station in Europe.

Jewish Book Week

This year's Jewish Book Week looks as good as ever, perhaps even better, with appearances from, among others, George Szirtes, Adam Lebor, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, Steven Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein and David Lehman.

A tale of two magazines

I recently got the new Tears in the Fence (issue 51) in the post; and Upstairs at Duroc issue 11. They're two of the best international little magazines of our time, and form a sort of London-Paris Nexus. The firstly mentioned mag has some great reviews and articles, by Ian Brinton, Jennifer K Dick and Tom Chivers. John Goodby's new Dylan Thomas-inspired work uncaged sea (Book and CD) is reviewed, and boy do I want a copy - it sounds brilliant. Duroc features a few poems of mine, and work by, among others, Rufo Quintavalle, Peter Hughes, Adam Fieled, and Laura Mullen. Subscribe to both.

Review: The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack's eponymous album is a garage rock classic. As such, it is both utterly lacking in innovation, and crudely compelling. They do it well, and what they do is simple and onrushing. We all know the antecedents of this mainly North American phenomenon, and we know that anyone who name checks this style has The Seeds, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones in their closet, as well as early REM. And indeed, this California band has all of that going on. The fifth track, "Pull Out", had me dancing in my living room today, not something a moderately depressed person usually does. It's that fun, that good, that dumb. There are and will be more complex, multicultural, and surprising albums this year. Not sure there will be one more addictively visceral.

Lynn Taitt Has Died

Sad news. A great musician has died. The Guardian ran the obituary today of Ska and rock-steady legend, Lynn Taitt, who moved to Canada in the late 60s and found himself, among other things, playing in my brother's Ska revival band, The Kingpins, in the last few decades of his life. Coming as this does almost to the week of the 30th anniversary of The Specials' first Number One in the UK, it's a reminder of the enduring appeal and quality of this great music and its various styles.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Jacket Required

The world's best poetry magazine may be Jacket, and John Tranter - with Pam Brown -has been editing it for an eon, thank goodness, so sad-glad news to hear he is stepping down from the day to day stuff, after issue 40, and the magazine will be moving stateside - all archived at the University of Pennsylvania. Jacket 2 will arise in 2011, via the university and PennSound, edited by a new team. The new editor will be Michael S. Hennessey.

All The Whiskey In Heaven

Good news. Charles Bernstein has a Selected Poems out in March, from Farrar Strauss Giroux, titled All The Whiskey In Heaven. One of the funniest and most inventive poets in the English language under one cover - what's not to like? Pre-ordering will never feel better. By the way, with a book from FSG, is the ultimate rebel and un-mainstream poet about to get a book deal with kissing cousin Faber and Faber?

Swift Sightings

What's a blog for, if not to sometimes toot one's own horn - and all the better when the links also lead to much other excellent writing. My poems appear at the recently online Blackbox Manifold 4, in good company, with work also there by (among others) Charles Bernstein, Sean O'Brien, John Tranter and Medbh McGuckian; several of the poets share an exploration of high rhetoric and poetic excess, which is good to see. And, a new poem is happily up at Hand + Star.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Alan Baban On A Decade Of The Best Music

Alan Baban on the Music of the 00s

Culturally we inhabit the margins. If the major movement in pop music over the last ten years was stealing other people’s ideas, we’re now in a position to see exactly what we got away with. What did we get away with?

We got away with wholesale theft. Many of the decade’s most lauded bands did double-up as penciled-in, papier-mâché versions of older (always better) acts. You can footnote The Strokes at Marquee Moon. The National did a fairly risible REM. Our own Libertines tried to do The Strokes, then they did The Clash, then they did The Strokes again. Too many bands copped Talking Heads. Not enough copped Pavement— not even the band’s erstwhile frontman Stephen Malkmus, who shot off into acid-psyche territory with his new band The Jicks, and in the process put out this decade’s best guitar album (2005’s utterly loopy Pig Lib). Sidenote: too many people played guitar, then again, too many people didn’t. Radiohead did and didn’t. (I liked them better when they did.) Further sidenote: Too Much Guitar is the name of a record released by Memphis rockers the Reigning Sound. That is the other great guitar album released this decade, appropriately released on LA-based indie In The Red.

This decade saw a lot of once-mores, more than a few have-anothers. Sometimes it was wholesale artistic re-appropriation. How else to explain Weezer releasing not one, but two, eponymous albums this decade, not counting the game-changing classic the band dropped back in the day— the original Weezer (1994) which, of course, got treated to a glitzy reissue ten years down the line. If one needed any reminding of how far that band has fallen. (For all intents and purposes, Rivers Cuomo lost his mind this past decade.) And then there’s Interpol: if we’re starting an encyclopaedia, that band’s entry can be a full-flash photo of Paul Banks staring into his RayBans, at night, in the dark.

Did these people take Billy Corgan at his word when he laughably proclaimed, ‘Rock is Dead’? Maybe Corgan is floored that the popular rock band Stereophonics still exists. Regardless, Is This It and Turn on the Bright Lights were hugely affecting records. They also threatened to schematize the very sound they seemed to celebrate— after their largescale success, the gates were left open for so many gamey pretenders to offer retreads, tired run-throughs, the same old repackaged sex. This wasn’t retro-revivalism; it was the affirmation of a dead language.
But with respect to where we’re at now, this is sort of beside the point.

For all their vicarious panhandling, the 2000s at least preserved one (sort of) important notion. It didn’t matter if you were a retro-outfit stealing somebody else’s act. At least the notion of their being an act still existed. One act was different from another. It didn’t matter if The Strokes filtered Television through early Ramones, or if Interpol made Joy Division sound vaguely post-grunge. Television wasn’t Joy Division. Likewise, nobody could really mistake Interpol for The Strokes, despite the two groups coming from the same city, during the same time period and being (more or less) equally hyped.

Now we steal from everywhere, all the time, at once. Maybe the new mantra could be Nothing In Its Right Place, But Everything (Sort Of) Works. Picking genres is anyone’s guessing game. The Venn plot of musical influences is a time-lapsed stereogram; everything overlaps. Sooner or later this is going to become a problem. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is rightfully regarded as a modern classic. It makes sport of simple classification, bends frequencies to its will; collapsing dub, house, straight-up indie rawk and ambient into one rolling ball of goodwill, and then firing the thing into deep space so it can float. Zero-gravity music: absolutely no pretense.

But later this year their Brooklyn cohorts Yeasayer drop their sophomore release (Odd Blood), and let me tell you, Yeasayer’s second album is just awful. Painfully bad. It takes all the good things about Animal Collective’s breakthrough and stretches them out of all proportion. Disney samples do not a good album make; the pitch-shifting privilege is should not be abused; kettle drum cameos does not equal serious musicianship. Odd Blood is laboured, fraught-over and relentlessly turgid. My fear is that Animal Collective’s perfect sun will now be followed by this smeared-over, stale aftermath of copycats. Let’s hope not.

I’m really meant to be writing about my favourite records of the past ten years. If I had to choose a favourite album it’d be Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon. If I absolutely had to choose. This isn’t based on iTunes: a cursory run through my playlist tells me that my most-listened to album, since 2004 at least, has been Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft”. I adore that record— to me, it’s amongst his finest works, the best of which (if you wanted to know my take on Bob) is the cautionary John Wesley Harding. I think we all come to Dylan’s music slightly brain-damaged by his status as a popular icon. There’s a real temptation now to homogenize his work.

I don’t see any recurring themes in the past decade of Bob’s mature music, ‘cept for the fact the music is more mature by dint of the man being older, presumably wiser, a grizzled veteran seemingly with time to spare. “Love and Theft” has little or nothing in common with Modern Times. It is also far superior to the Daniel Lanois helmed Time Out Of Mind : a lot funnier, it’s also a lot more fun to get through. Dylan brings it all back home. Rag-time, Cole Porter, rockabilly, even ominous psychedelia finds its home among the album’s twelve tracks. It’s like hearing a lot of good, free advice from someone who’s spent a lifetime earning it. Not quite believing, all the while, that this is the same Dylan who cleared the 80s on the back of a three-disc collection of his outtakes and hits (Biograph); the same Dylan who, for all anyone knew, was kicking back content we’d only get through his official Bootleg Series, poorly-recorded live versions, the odd (who’da thunk?!) charitable radio hour.

“Love and Theft” is just as thoughtful, just as loosely stylized as the man’s best output, benefitting the most from its clear, sparkling production: the first adequate representation of his live sound on a studio record. The band plays it off the cuff, despite being rigorously drilled. There are no slip-ups: only carefully planned instances of chance. Dylan sounds like he’s choking down on the exhaust fumes of a van pulling away. This isn’t the tired seer of the by-the-number cover years, nor is it the boring evangelist of the religious albums; although those personalities have been subsumed to create this new, more playful Bob. He has at his subjects like a brain-medic with chopping shears. (There’s an image.) “Love and Theft” is BD juggling a load of juiced-up brains, including (as it were) some of his own. It is, at its heart, a generous juggling act.

Some more great records. Gang Gang Dance put out the world-owning Saint Dympha. The Boredoms ascended to a greater spiritual place with Vision Creation Newsun, then spent the rest of the decade being the best live band on the planet. This culminated with the 77Boadrum spectacular, wherein the band would arrange to be accompanied in a wide open space by, yes, 77 drummers all playing at the same time. My abiding memory of catching the Boredoms live extravaganza is seeing their frontman Eye shamanastically go nuts at the centre of a drum circle, whilst banging on what I think was a Christmas tree made of guitar heads. You just don’t forget that shit.

Hendrik Weber put out a phenomenal record under the name Pantha du Prince. This Bliss was electronic music hemming and hawing: expansive, emotional and totally vocal-less experiments in how one co-opts space to make something tangible. Game-changing dance also came from Ellen Allien with Berlinette.

Lo-fi came to the fore during the tail-end of the decade. Hard to tell sometimes if these groups were makeshift, chancing or just for-the-hell-of-it. Wavves is an example of someone who was just-for-the-hell-of-it. Times New Viking, however, were and still are the real deal. Their debut collection Dig Yourself had the distinction of single-handedly resurrecting the long-dormant Siltbreeze label, and its songs –the first teenage anthems to escape the shadow of the Modern Lovers – were spirited hyper-kinetic things. Often these lo-fi acts would use noise as a thick glaze: a protective screen held over half-formed material that went nowhere fast. Psychedelic Horseshit (yep, Psychedelic Horseshit) took this sound in a more interesting direction. Think of the holy-roller noise of Kevin Shields as arranged and performed by Mark E. Smith. On their debut, the unfairly ignored Magic Flowers Droned, the band never misses a trick. Here you can hear a point-by-point refutation of the Beach Boys (“Bad Vibrations”), free-spirited trashcan solos in the style of Cale-era Velvets, enough garbage metaphors to make Lou Reed wince. I love it.

Which brings me back to Spoon. The Austin-based indie act released four of this decade’s best rock records— count ‘em, four. Formed from the core duo of frontman Britt Daniel (for my money, this generation’s Costello) and drummer/engineer Jim Eno, Spoon find their inspiration not only in the songs they write themselves but also in how those songs are presented to us. They’re fantastic arrangers. Each of their records steps forward to explore a different aspect of the band’s sound, whilst staying true to a weird quality that is totally ‘Spoon’; what one of my colleagues calls the band’s ‘Spoon-o-city’. So, 2001’s Girls Can Tell sees them play break-up with dark, moody numbers: equal parts spindly guitar figures and blunt chords. The following year’s Kill the Moonlight finds them stripping the atmosphere away, hard-panning sounds to the left and right, exploiting schisms in their sound to create tension. Opener “Small Stakes” is made out a kick drum, some snare drum, one-not keyboard and Britt’s always charismatic vocal performance. Later he beatboxes on “Stay Don’t Go”, lets words fly out of his mouth in a fight with the school bully (“Jonathan Fisk”) and finally manhandles the beat on the skeletal pop of “All the Pretty Girls Go to The City”. 2005’s Gimme Fiction is almost claustrophobically insular, always driving inwards, equal parts brain-damaged funk and MOR album-rock. (That’s a weird-ass combo, by the way.) But it was 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga that gave us the culmination of all this tinkering. At ten seconds in half an hour, it’s a perfect record, a Spoon jukebox joint. Quick: here’s the track that sounds like the Specials (“Eddie’s Ragga”), here’s the one we cut with Jon Brion (“The Underdog”), here’s your new romantic comedy credits stable (uh, everything else). It established the band in the States, but their reputation on this side of the pond is way more underground. When I caught them on the Ga tour, it was to a crowd of maybe one hundred people in a bar. I stood next to Britt as he bought a drink before the show. They put out a new record this past month (Transference) that’s proving divisive amongst the fans, on accounts of its buried hooks, its increased reliance on atmosphere and studio trickery. It’s fine record, un- or under-appreciated, and like the rest of Spoon’s back catalogue, deserves your total submission to its excellence.

So, yeah. That was the decade.

Alan Baban is a London-based poet and writer. He reviews music occasionally for Eyewear, and often for Coke Machine Glow.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Papal bull?

Secular Britain is up in arms today as the Pope has spoken out about an "equality bill" that would require (among other things) Catholic orphanages to give equal consideration to gay parents. Now, Eyewear has always been an outspoken defender of gay and queer rights; and has often chided the Anglican communion for being intolerant. I believe Christ would not have unwelcomed homosexuals.

That being said, the Pope has, surely, the right - the right of freedom of religious practice, if not expression - to defend the non-secular (that is, religious) convictions that he believes underpin the faith he is leader of. We (or you) may not agree with him - but he has the right to say and believe - or religious freedom has been abandoned for some sort of vague secular notion. But secularism masks an aggressive rationalist attack on faith, and one man's secular equality might be another person's sin.

Meanwhile, Wole Soyinka, the nobel prize winner, has recently called Britain a cesspit of "Islamism", due to its history of arrogant colonial tolerance. So it seems Britain offends some for being too open to religion, and others for not being open enough. Between Peter and a hard place then.

District 9 Among Oscars Top Ten

Good news - the Academy has nominated the South African sci-fi instant classic District 9 as well as Avatar for this year's Oscars - first time in decades that ten films will vie for the statue. The big news is the ex-husband and wife head to head, as Avatar and The Hurt Locker both lead in nominations. I predict that the 3-D blockbuster will win, for the obvious reasons. Jeremy Renner is superb as the wild man bomb disposal expert, but will likely not prevail over sentimental favourite Jeff Bridges. Absent is much mention if any of The Road, or for that matter Brothers. Tarantino's film has done surprisingly well, and hopefully will win best supporting actor.