Skip to main content

2501: In Praise of Folly

Stendhal spoke of love as a crystallization.  It is also hard work.  At first, the mad euphoria, the lighter than air mania, of it, is amazing - the blood is afire with zesty, biting potentiality, and the idea of the loved one is fixed in the imagination, making all else in life dull and secondary or tertiary in comparison; soon enough, reality rears its ugly head - and love, to be realised must be based on more solid plinths.  It needs a rock.  Blogs are like that too.  Eyewear reached quite a peak a few seconds ago, with its 2,500th post.  Over time, the initial love-stage, the infatuation, has worn off.  Disillusionment set in.  Hard work ensued.  Here I am, faced with this corpus of digital ephemera, read by thousands each day.  I do not exactly look on this work and despair, but nor do I swoon.  How I miss the happy glad days of folly, of mad love.  What a high!


Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

As you say, thousands of people are reading your blog every week and I think that you have definitely made a difference in prising the British Poetry Establishment open a minute crack. To prise it open properly, of course, you would probably need some weapons of mass destruction!

Best wishes from Simon
Fair play Todd, congratulations. Having only read your writing, I cannot claim to 'know' you in any existential sense, and I am sure the fictional reality of you my imagination has constructed, will be different to the Todd Swift I may one day meet in the flesh; but in amongst all this make-believe identity I am sure there will be a kernel of the genuine person there.

I have been following your blog since it started, around the time I was booted off for disruptive written behaviour, and then moved to poets on fire, until I was ejected from there for contravening the talk policy, before migrating to the poetry threads on the Guardian, until I was banned from there after several years, once I'd backed myself into a corner when I ended up writing some of the most dire and transparently bitter mad-dog-shite of my time thus far.

I noticed around a year ago that the first flush of social media internet exchange had died off. Poets on fire won the forum wars in the UK, its membership increasing exponentially like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more poets who joined, the more felt they had to be a member there in order to be a part of the UK mainstream poetry community, with the irony being that the 'debate' slowed to a trickle and is now, to all intent and purpose, dead altogether. People also seem to have woken up to Facebook, realising that, far from it being a cool place to share the hard won poetry knowledge we all seek, it's merely a mass personal information gathering site for corporate America, where people volunteer all their private details that are then used to make money for others.

Silence seems to be the new conversation. It's cool to say little rather than spamming your 10,000 hours to reach the oneself within we all seek to speak as. The entire global English poetry world has gone the same way. The Poetry Foundation closed the gates to open debate, then Silliman, and now the conversation has shifted to tweeted one liners, smileys and 'like' buttons as the primary means of poetic communication.

But not you. You are the one who 'won', for want of a more appropriate term, the competition to get an online audience. You are a class act, unafraid to take chances and appear foolish. You don't mind writing the odd clanger that the silent and fearful conversationalists, who constitute the online majority, would never dare to for fear of looking daft, or rather, what other people saying nothing, might think of them. But in the long run we all know, that's the way to do it. Be yourself and by doing so, stand out from the crowd, as you do. A top talker.


Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…


Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


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

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

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

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.