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Showing posts from September, 2010

The Week Hollywood Died

It's been a bad week for American cinema.  It seems hard to imagine another seven days or so in which so many generations of Hollywood died off, one after the other.  First, Gloria Stuart died - the actress with the incredible career from the James Whale and James Cameron periods.  Then the director Arthur Penn died - he who helped to announce the new wave of American counter-culture with the splatteringly subversive and sexy Bonnie & Clyde, still one of the great films about American violence.  And, the same day, Sally J. Menke, Tarantino's closest collaborator and editor of all his films, starting with Reservoir Dogs, died - closing another period of American cinematic style.

And, then, today, Tony Curtis, Bronx-born legend of bedroom and bedroom farce, the greatest male comedic sex symbol (the greatest female one was Monroe), and the last of his era's titans, died.  His career was really only 15 years, from Houdini in 1953 to The Boston Strangler in 1968, with perha…

2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize

The 2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize shortlist was announced the other day. The jury received a record total of ninety-five collections.  A Quechua Confession Manualby Sheila Hillier was selected for the shortlist of six titles by the judges Michael Laskey, Neil Rollinson and Jo Shapcott.  I am extremely pleased by this outcome.  As I wrote for the back of this collection, Hillier's collection is one of the best debuts in England for years.  The winner will be announced at the 22nd Aldeburgh Poetry Festival at 8pm on Friday 5 November 2010.


The other shortlisted poets are:
Christian CampbellRunning the Dusk (Peepal Tree Press)
Robert DickinsonMicrographia (Waterloo Press)
Katharine TowersThe Floating Man (Picador Poetry)
Sam WillettsNew Light for the Old Dark (Cape Poetry)
Tony WilliamsThe Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt Publishing)

Guest Review: Asbury On Finch

Nick Asburyreviews Zen Cymru by Peter Finch
Sometimes you wonder if books are the best place for poetry. The clean white page is like the wall of a gallery, elevating its contents and conferring status, but also sterilising the work, putting a polite border between it and the surrounding world. The poems in Peter Finch's collection come very much from the surrounding world: a gritty world of performance, literary engagement, and a career spent at the front line of Welsh cultural creation.
Many of the poems come with a contextualising back story. 'Kerdif' ends in an acrostic that has been inscribed into the pavement outside Cardiff's new central library. 'The Ballast Bank' has been incorporated into a public artwork at the entrance to the new South Wales Police Headquarters. The title poem was written as an interactive piece of web poetry. Others are clearly intended for public performance more than the page, with a tendency towards deadpan punchlines or spoken-to-…

Buried and Frozen

Two new movies out now in Britain - Buried and Frozen - chart terrifying ordeals by people caught in a single location - a coffin, or a chair-lift above howling wolves.  Psycho introduced us arguably to the psychopathology of the film experience - Peeping Tom had made audiences recoil a year before.  Now, viewers have been groomed to want, and expect, more sadism, more suffering.  Where once audiences cheered on heroes or ordinary people (they laughed, they cried) now they sneer, jeer and cheer as victims are tortured, mutilated, humiliated, and forced to endure the most nightmarish of scenarios.  There is no doubting the force of "car crash" viewing - some spectacles demand our begrudging, horrified looking - but is pandering to such a looking the best use of the filmic art?  I myself think both films are likely to be suspenseful, well-oiled, and, worst of all, entertaining.  Yet, how will this trend pan out?  As we aim ever more tightly at the heart of the isolated human b…

Adult Ed

Eyewear supported the Lib Dems in the last election.  And, has now switched allegiances, tentatively, back to Labour, who have done the right thing and renewed themselves.  I wish to give their new leader the benefit of the doubt. Ed Miliband has got several things right, it seems to me: 1) he has expressed regret for Labour going into Iraq as it did; 2) he admits Labour lost the election and has to be humble and truly listen; 3) he is putting the true middle class (and working class) concerns of the British people ahead of the well-to-do; 4) he supports universal welfare as a principle; 5) he is not knee-jerk anti-union; 6) he signals the end of New Labour and Blair-Brown division and wants a new generation to move on.  He is a thoughtful, sympathetic, strong-willed, well-educated, expressive leader, with the "charisma of imperfection" as he puts it.  An excellent foil for his equally well-educated and articulate opposite numbers, Clegg and Cameron.  The next five years wil…

245

Eyewear has now reached the numerically pleasing number of 245 regular "followers" of the blog.  Many more read it each week.  Most poems or articles posted are read by 100s of people daily.  While the traffic is not LA Freeway busy, it is engaged, global, intelligent and active, and I am happy to say that after five years, Eyewear is increasingly a great place for me to post reviews and featured poems.  It'd be swell to have 250 by the end of October.

Guest Review: Spurrier On Pugh

Frances Spurrier reviews
Later Selected Poems by Sheenagh Pugh
Not many reviews of a 'Selected' would involve googling the execution of Lieutenant Hans Hermann von Katte but I found myself doing  exactly that when reading through Sheenagh Pugh's Later Selected Poems.  Owing to the omnipotent and unquestionable (!) Wikipedia I was able to enlighten myself that Katte was a army officer in Prussia , living from 1704-1730.  He was executed after it was discovered by King Frederick William of Prussia that Katte was plotting to help the King's son to escape from Prussia to Britain.   The poem's narrative is told from the point of view of five different characters who witnessed the events. 
                        Well would you credit a crown prince planning to skip the country?
It is perfectly possible to understand the sequence without any external referencing,  but I was so drawn into the happenings, that I felt I needed to know more about the historical context and learned…

New Poem by Stephen Sturgeon

Eyewear is very glad to welcome the American poet Stephen Sturgeon today, with a new poem.  Sturgeon's first collection of poems, Trees of the Twentieth Century, will be published by Dark Sky Books next spring. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Dark Sky Magazine, Harvard Review, Jacket and other journals. He edits Fulcrum: an Annual of Poetry and Aesthetics.
Epistola Cantabrigiensis (Over an Old Copy of Enemies of Promise)
I thought I saw you on Arrow Street, rippling like an infant scarecrow’s burnt-orange rags or tight in a green-striped sailor’s shirt, cocking your head side to side against the tearing flyers stapled onto any wooden things. I may have been unawake,
holding an imaginary and heavy orb in my hand, because nothing rests there. I do not think so. Going between two places, I never want to arrive, and would rather go on perpetually a passenger, passing through spicy air and scenes of acquaintances spatting, whose fight, though meaningless, is the only thing. Or…

Featured Poet: Catherine Woodward

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the young British poet (pictured provocatively above with Union Jack) Catherine Woodward this Friday.  Woodward was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire and has lived most of her life in Preston. Her first collection Delusions of Grandeur was published by Ettrick Forest Press and her poetry is soon to appear in Ettrick's coming anthology The Reiver's Stone.  She is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is a member of UEA's Creative Writing society and a part of its spoken word events. She lives in the city of Norwich.  I found this poem delightfully apt for a rather blustery London day.



The BBC Weather Report Predicts the Death of Catherine Woodward
A blonde woman came on the screen all smiles ‘On Wednesday we can expect the death of Catherine Woodward.’ I remember thinking at the time That she was wearing really ugly shoulder pads. ‘The death should occur at about three in the afte…

Eddie Fisher Has Died

Sad news.  Eddie Fisher has died.  Times change: Fisher was once one of the most famous people on the planet, a teen heart-throb easily as known as Lady Gaga is today, and his marriages and love liaisons were huge news.  Today, I wager, he is barely recognised as a musician or public figure.  One of his daughters has become iconic, though, for her roles in the Star Wars films, first iteration: the wonderful actor and writer, Carrie Fisher.

Low IQ Murder

The execution of Teresa Lewis diminishes the humanity of us all.  It has also seriously damaged America's moral position vis a vis Iran.  It seems hard to see how America can critique Iran for executing women, when it does the same itself.  Particularly sad, even tragic, in this case, were the circumstances: Lewis had a low IQ (whatever that means these days) of 72 - 70 would have made her ineligible for being executed; she hired the two hit-men (who testified against her), who both received life sentences without the death penalty.  Therefore, while she has died for the murders, the physical killers remain alive.  There was the strong possibility that Lewis had been manipulated by one of the killers, who was her lover; and while her crime was dispassionately planned, it was not the work of a mastermind, but a clumsy grab for insurance money: shabby but all-too-human.  In short, Teresa Lewis was a simple person who made a series of profoundly wrong choices, leading to the hiring o…

Get A Real Job

This is an excerpt from an essay taken from Best Canadian Essays 2009, edited by Alex Boyd and Carmine Starnino.  The 2010 anthology will be out soon, edited by Boyd and Kamal Al-Solaylee.  Worth investing in, I'd say.


Get A Real Job
In Grade 8, I joined an extracurricular social studies club called Project Business, designed to help young people learn about supply and demand economics. I signed up because Krista Copper was in it. She had brown feathered hair, eyes like a stunned deer, and wore a corduroy jacket buttoned right up to her chin, which gave her a look of impenetrability that I found alluring. We were to make peanut brittle and sell it at lunch hour, calculating the cost of the peanuts, sugar, molasses and labour time, and fixing a price that would recoup our costs or, even better, make a profit.
The club was divided into three competing groups. I made sure I was in Krista’s, and she set the strategy. The key, she said, was the quality of our peanut brittle. Her mom’s wa…

Geoffrey Burgon Has Died

Sad news.  The British composer Geoffrey Burgon has died.  While not a household name, Burgon composed the music for the best TV series ever made - 1981's Brideshead Revisited (The Wire is in second place in case you were wondering).  Burgon's exquisitely apt music helped to elevate that extraordinary series, as had his score for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in 1979.

Kevin McCarthy Has Died

Sad news.  The great character actor Kevin McCarthy, best-known for his role in the original sci-fi poli-sci film classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, recently died. In an odd coincidence, the film was seen as a commentary on McCarthyism; Joe McCarthy was no relation. His ultimately-paranoid performance has become a benchmark for the genre, and the movie introduced the idea of "pod people" into the imaginative lexicon of North American suburbia - where unthinking ideological "mind absorption" seemed to have struck all those zombified by the Eisonhower-era.  "They're here already!  You're next!" could be the rallying cry for any concerned citizen though - afraid of either immigrants or the Tea Party.  Several times remade, never bettered. 59 years later, it remains one of the must-sees of the period.

Common Health Games?

The fact that teams and individual athletes are beginning to pull out of attending India's pending Commonwealth Games in Delhi is unquestionable - but is the nature of the health scare debatable?  One of the Indian officials responsible for cleaning up the contested athletes' apartments complex noted that standards of cleanliness might be different for some nations in the West - a fascinating moment of "relativism" at work.  The comment is both startling and, in a sense, apt - are there universal standards of cleanliness?

If societies are to be encouraged to develop their own belief systems, and cultural values - if multiculturalism is to be allowed to flourish even in a globally-connected capitalist system, which India is clearly a triumphant recent member of - then can they also continue to maintain their own particular, indigenous levels of hygiene?  Might the pampered Australians, or Europeans, expect a sparkling deep clean that in India, with its monsoons and ot…

Review: Losing Sleep

Depending on your age, and your love of Scottish post-punk bands, you will either be a fan of Edwyn Collins, or only know him as the singer of a quirky hit featured on the soundtrack for 1995's Empire Records - "A Girl Like You".  Collins, who fronted a key band of the time, Orange Juice, has an entirely unique vocal style, that was very refreshing and non-mainstream in the classic 1983 hit single "Rip It Up" - one of the finest songs of the 1980s.  Collins has had a patchy career - but is beloved - and can be rightly said to have gifted us with at least three great songs in his 30-year career - for the title track of his first album since 2005, "Losing Sleep" is also splendid.

The album has been well-received in the UK, for two reasons: one, this is a near-miraculous comeback for Collins, who suffered a "double brain hemorrhage" five years ago, and had to relearn how to basically speak and play from scratch, and two, the album is also a thr…

New Poem by Philip Hancock

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Philip Hancock's new poem this sunny September Tuesday.  His poems have appeared in journals including: Magma, Nthposition, Oxford Magazine, Poetry London, The North, The Rialto, and The Spectator.  Hancock's debut pamphlet Hearing Ourselves Think was published by Smiths Knoll (2009). A selection of his work will appear in Carcanet’s forthcoming OxfordPoets 2010.  
Demolition of the Power Station
Coming back up the A34, counting how many pylons. The cooling towers where the white clouds are made, always there. A black-tipped chimney, zigzag ironwork, slanted conveyors. Squat transformers fenced in. Flashing NCB lorries, white-hatted Dinky men.
Dynamite day: crowds stand behind barriers. Their mouths come open, thick dust boils up and up, and through the clearing for the first time what lies beyond: the backs of houses, light green fields, horses easing up, a line of poplars.
Now the open curve of the new road, the billboards for retail and office space…

Guest Review: Van-Hagen on Infinite Difference

Steve Van-Hagenreviews Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by U. K. Women Poets ed. byCarrie Etter
The sub-title of Carrie Etter’s anthology Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by U. K. Women Poets presumably alludes to the 1998 anthology edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain, Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan Press and University Press of New England, 1998). Two years before this, Maggie O’Sullivan’s Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the U.K. (Hastings: Reality Street Editions, 1996) which, as its title indicates, also contained North-American work, was the last such anthology of women-only poets. Despite O’Sullivan’s anthology, in Caddel and Quartermain’s offering two years later just ten women poets were included, out of a total of fifty five. Despite the received opinion that writers of ‘other’ poetries of both sexes were well represented in Keith Tuma’s important Anthology of Twentieth-Century…