About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is among the most read British poetry blogzines, getting more than 20,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. The views expressed by Canadian-British 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.


Friday, 30 September 2011

T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semite

It must be time to drop the idea that there is a genuine "debate", or an "ambiguity" about whether T.S. Eliot was a hater of Jews - a tedious tricksy attempt to deflect any responsibility for such unpleasant, wrong thinking, in and out of the poems.  Great American poet he is.  But he was as Anti-Semitic as they come.  This has been amply demonstrated by the letters of his now published (see review in the New York Times from which I quote):


'Eliot’s anti-Semitism is luridly on display. He refers to a “Jew merchant” and allows himself pronouncements like “I am sick of doing business with Jew publishers.” It’s damning that such remarks are made only to those who safely share his prejudice. Yet Eliot relied on his friends Leonard Woolf and Sydney Schiff, and as appalling as his anti-Semitism was, it never matched that of his wife (“horrible Jews in plush coats by the million”) and his mother (“I have an instinctive antipathy to Jews, just as I have to certain animals”).'

Adopting in The UK

A statistic from the paper the other day.  How many babies were adopted in the UK last year?  60.  That is a jaw-droppingly small number - given the number of children needing to be adopted (the thousands), and the number of loving potential adoptive parents waiting (also thousands).  There are many problems with the system, not the least of which is the excessive care taken in trying to find racially-similar parents - a pity because there is something beautiful about multi-racial families.  On average, a child takes 2 and a half years from entering the system to be adopted in the UK.  That is too long.  I have a radical proposal - cut the wait down to zero.  If someone applies to adopt, let them adopt.  By fast-tracking the initial process, the child gets into a home, and the caseworkers and social workers can then observe the child in situ carefully with the parents (vetted of course for serious criminal records beforehand), rather than carefully observing the prospective parents on their own for 9-12 months before adoption.  As everyone knows, fertile people are able to create children without any testing or vetting; no 12 social workers spend a year interviewing their family, friends, and neighbours.  Most parents are imperfect in a perfectly human way - they bumble ahead as best they can, warts and all.  Why not let adoptive parents be just as awkward, and real?  I understand that children are exceptionally vulnerable and need to be protected - but putting them into loving homes faster, fast-tracking the process, will lead to the majority of them being safer, and happier, sooner.  As for the problem adoptive parents, these can and should be treated just as any biological parent is.

No Laughing Matter

Any reader in Britain, of serious literature, might be disheartened to learn that sales of the recently short-listed Booker novels are, for the most part, in the low thousands (one of them has sold around two thousand copies); meanwhile, most poetry collections sell less than a thousand copies.  However - and this is the funny part - memoirs by comedians sell tens of thousands, making millions of pounds.  Apparently, this year's Christmas season, which began in publishing on September 29, features a number of comedy books, which sellers hope will hit the jackpot.  This may be fun on Christmas Day.  It is not good for culture, however popular.  The truth is, poetry has a particularly hard-sell in a culture, like Britain's, where the default setting is a guffaw, or chortle.  Poetry can never compete with stand-up, for even when it is light and witty, it is not Comedy; nor is poetry sex, drugs or rock and roll - the other obsessions of the marketers who peddle to us.  Comedy is a UK obsession, and, kept in its place, it is harmless good fun.  But Comedy has infected the British psyche.  Double-entendres, snickers, and cheap shots perforate and proliferate the fabric of our days.  Lewd puns and madcap stunts riddle our evenings.  With all the belly-aching jolly good fun, where is the time to sit quietly, and read (on Kindle or paper) a thoughtful work, that might demand actually having to feel deeper emotions, such as fear, loss, love, or empathy? Let us stop pretending that Poetry is popular.  You measure the popular by how much it sells.  The books that sell in the UK are by comedians.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Music For Christmas?

Hard to imagine in London's blazing Indian Summer, but the record-releasing end of year season is soon upon us.  Albums come out 24-7 these days (I am over-Spotified with checking out all the new stuff), but there are some unusually thrilling appearances on the horizon: 50 Words of Snow by Kate Bush (any new work of hers is a major event); Florence + The Machine's second, Ceremonials (she is shaping up to be a major figure, a new Bush); a third woman of musical gifts, Canadian Feist, has her second work out this month.  And of course albums from Coldplay, Radiohead, and Peter Gabriel are also intriguing options.  The Noel Gallagher project has started well, with a fun single, so that's to look for, too.  And, left-fieldish, a new Thomas Dolby double-album in late October.  Meanwhile, some of the best recent albums are Pajama Club, Wilco's The Whole Love, St. Vincent's Strange Mercy, and Again Into Eyes by S.C.U.M. not to mention the new Kasabian.  2011 is shaping up to be a very good year for music.  Should I add there's a new Pixie Lott coming too?  Meanwhile, we have to wait until 2012 for the 13th U2 - hopefully it will flip its web-shooters and swing city-blocks away from that maladroit musical.

Guest Review: Tyrrell On Glenn, Morton and Skeen


Lauren Tyrrell reviews
Names We’ve Never Known
 &
Never the Whole Story
 &
Lost Gospels

Poets possess that enviable power to evoke images from ineffable subject matter, to offer concrete renderings of complex or ethereal notions. Poets concerned with spiritual matters such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Louise Glück have demonstrated this capacity in their verse—they root their study of divinity in the physical world, grounding readers in images and emotions common to the human experience. With this accessible entryway into a poet’s exploration of faith, readers can engage in their own journeys, unraveling, reconsidering, or better appreciating their religious beliefs.
Former Texas Laureate Karla K. Morton (Redefining Beauty) invites readers on a spiritual journey in Names We’ve Never Known, her newest collection. To include readers, she anchors her moments of transcendence in straightforward terms. For example, in ‘The Sacred’ she describes God’s presence ‘inside each / sleeping woman’s womb; / pipe dangling from His lips; reminiscing…’ Morton’s casual portrayal of God here warms readers with familiar images. The gentle rhythm of participles adds detail one brushstroke at a time. These prosodic elements make her depiction of the divine feel organic.
This highly imagistic portrait contrasts with other poems in which Morton finds language inadequate to describe transcendent moments. One poem, ‘Athesists,’ invites nonbelievers to join her at Palo Duro Canyon:
let them watch thick canyon walls slide
from brown, to amber,
to dusty purple; let them stand beneath a
simple geode night

sky, watching it crack open to a drusy
of stars. . .and then let
them ponder the possibility that there
just might be something

some vast, wondrous Being, greater than themselves.

The abstraction ‘something’ may frustrate readers who prefer to see a poet using concrete imagery. However, Morton’s move in this poem emphasizes her focus on the immediacy of her experience. Readers sit beside her at the canyon and witness her struggle to articulate what she sees and feels in the presence of such grandeur.
For Morton, grandeur emerges from a variety of sources. In ‘A Rare Man,’ for instance, the speaker describes the sound of a woman walking, ‘the sweet song / that swept between her bare thighs.’ This phrase, filled with sibilant ‘s’ sounds, encourages readers to notice that which we often take for granted. Morton exhibits here, and in many places throughout her collection, how a spare style can lasso the subtlest of subjects—the sound of legs rubbing against each other—with poignant language.
In some poems, though, Morton’s Spartan style grows thin. ‘Summer at Texoma’ depicts a friendly gathering, concluding with a trite observation: ‘True-hearted friends. / Words and wine flowing. / Life, lived well, / never ends.’ Her description here offers little more than generalities, and rhyme gives the verses a singsong tone that belies any sensual or analytical value the poem might contain.
Intellectual and analytical thinking guide Anita Skeen (The Resurrection of the Animals) in Never the Whole Story, as she explores a world riddled with love and loss, disease and delight. She divides her collection into five sections, and the title of each quotes Christian hymns, including ‘For the Beauty of the Earth,’ ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer,’ and ‘Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.’ Though such a structure might suggest overtly religious poetry too steeped in faith for most readers, Skeen’s approach to the spiritual proves more insightful than preachy.
This thoughtfulness flourishes in Skeen’s use of quotidian detail. ‘Water Aerobics, YWCA, Easter Sunday,’ for example, compares the women exercising in the water to Jesus, asking ‘if these bodies / wishing to give up their material selves / feel lighter, stones rolled away.’ Skeen views the class as a baptism, an observation that imbues ordinary lives, ordinary moments, with the presence of the divine. Similar observations root ‘Psalm for Anne.’ The poem describes a meeting in a diner in which one character, Anne, updates her friends about her metastasizing liver tumors. Skeen uses quiet images to convey the imminent sense of loss the group of friends feels—Anne’s partner ‘sits across the table / calmly eating pancakes. / Later, I notice she carves / a face into the one remaining.’ Here, Skeen combines the everyday image of a woman eating breakfast with a forceful verb (‘carve’), underscoring the widespread devastation of Anne’s disease.
                Memorable, multi-layered language surfaces in Skeen’s poems about Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Father and Daughter at the Nursing Home’ evokes a mother ‘who barely knows / her daughter of more than fifty years.’ Skeen uses railroad imagery throughout the piece, depicting how her father ‘switches gears’ when his initial conversation with his wife fails, and how they hear but cannot see a passing train in the windowless room. At the poem’s conclusion, the narrator describes their efforts to converse with her mother as ‘empty boxcars on a derailed train.’ The repeated figurative language creates a mood of desperation in the piece, palpable in all its characters.
                While dealing with themes of death, disease, and grief, Skeen offers stunning meditations on the natural world. For example, in ‘The Clover Tree,’ the speaker sits beside Little River, allowing her thoughts to course along with its flow; from grace to Georgia O’Keeffe; from family to ‘Good Night, Irene.’ Her thoughts halt, though, when she notices:
                                without my glasses,
                                the tree above is a field of four-leaf clover
                                on this, my lucky day, where I know
                                what the river knows, and I feel
                                I could go on doing this
                                forever.

This reflection cracks the building pressure of the collection’s ponderous motifs; she punctures the tension with close observations and reflections of beauty.
                Like Skeen, Canadian poet Lorri Neilsen Glenn in Lost Gospels, her fourth poetry collection, favors meditation to examine a world brimming with beauty and power. Blending verse and prose poems, Glenn’s collection bursts with shifts in form. In one series of prose poems, ‘Verge,’ Glenn discusses nature’s ability to elicit beatific experiences. Examining a red lily, the speaker sees:
holy red chalice, Hera’s wild colour, upright, anthers throbbing with pollen, those dark eyes a feral presence the child could not understand. All she knew was they were the answer to the question: What single thing do you love?

Pulsing language like this energizes the collection and gives Glenn’s poetry a breathless, charged feeling reminiscent of Mary Oliver in ‘The Summer Day’ or ‘The Swan.’ Readers will find themselves swept up in Glenn’s meditations, eager to see the intricacies of nature through her eyes.
                Glenn, though, does not restrict her revelations to the natural world. ‘Legs’ describes a young student with:
                the hungover look of thunder-clap sleep that follows love-making,
                a green scarf puddles loosely around her neck, rope on a pier. She floats up, out
                of slumber as though her limbs were cork…
                               
She is ready,
                                to spring into the day, to spring into the days. Pilgrim,
                                she may be an oracle.

While the unorthodox rhythm feels choppy, it parallels content. Stressed syllables and assonance accent the girl’s wild appearance, while softer phrases apply analyses and figurative language to those physical details. Here, Glenn’s stylistically strategic study lets the young woman’s youth and vibrancy pop off the page, helping readers to see the girl as Glenn does: bursting with wisdom and possibilities.
                Appreciating nature and people as portals to spirituality, Glenn also considers unpredictable forces. Another prose poem, ‘Winter fire on a country road,’ describes the speaker watching flames engulf a neighbor’s home: ‘we wonder what truth waits in the dark, what the devil offers this time, which new play god is rehearsing. We don’t know and who does.’ The speaker’s raw fear manifests the spiritual insecurities of the poet. These insecurities, in turn, render Glenn human, vulnerable, someone who, despite moments of transcendence, still grapples with faith, still trembles at powerlessness.
                To combat this powerlessness against unpredictable forces, Glenn revels in that which she, as a poet, can control: words. She celebrates the influential potential of her words in ‘Writing has always felt like praying.’ Describing herself as ‘ready as a tuned spring / to witness what is ravenous, mythic,’ Glenn imagines ‘cobbling a makeshift pulpit, casting truths as they are given me: / man, woman, child, sun, moon, breath, tears, stone, sand, sea.’ The rhyming couplet and use of strong monosyllabic words at the poem’s conclusion highlight the solid stuff of life. Such emphasis reveals the nature of Glenn’s spirituality, rooted not in mystical truths but in everyday manifestations of divinity. Readers might compare this poem to Hopkins’ charged praise of earth’s ‘dearest freshness deep down things’ in ‘God’s Grandeur.’
                These three recent collections demonstrate that poets need not bury their spiritual contemplations in lofty language or arcane philosophies. Morton, though sometimes dabbling in abstractions, keeps her feet steady on Texas soil. Her spiritual truths rise from this same vantage point, and resonate. Skeen and Glenn push spirituality a step further in their poems. They illuminate pathways that offer readers a new way to pray: not with recited supplications and thanksgiving, but with words as unfettered as the wilds that they use to celebrate life’s shining, and sometimes blinding, glories.

Lauren Tyrrell is a graduate of Penn State's MFA Creative Nonfiction program. She currently works as an online communications specialist in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Hard Knox

Excuse me for thinking we are in a different century - one where witches are burnt.  The Italian retrial of Amanda Knox (who may or may not be guilty of a sex murder with a partner or two, or alone) has been facing eyebrow-raising praise and blame the last few days, on the basis of her looks.  Simple as that.  The prosecutor in the case has claimed that she is "diabolical" and that her fresh-faced innocence masks someone dedicated to drugs, drink and "lust", a modern female Dorian Gray.  Meanwhile, the defence claims she is like "Jessica Rabbit" - "not bad, just drawn that way".

Medieval, or simply Berlusconian, this may be - but also, in the age of Facebook, it speaks to a disturbing and eternal truth of the human condition: good-looking people are thought of differently.  Unfortunately, sexism comes with this.  Knox's eyebrows, heart-shaped face and full mouth, her clean-cut beauty, speak to certain fantasies surrounding all-American prettiness and decency, but, yes, in the age of Britney Spears, also the subversion of those values of seeming normalcy.  Indeed, it would be dishonest to deny that there is a tendency, in Japanese anime and American TV (Glee, Heroes) to play on the "cheerleader" image.  Nabokov explored this dichotomy well, how a certain sort of European perversion views American youth in a transgressive light; Freud harboured fantasies for American women; Ted Hughes remarked on Plath's "American legs"; and in Daisy Miller, we see the tragic downfall of another American ingenue in Italy, enmeshed in European passions.

All well and good - but should we really have to discuss how a defendant looks, in the 21st-century?  Anyone who thinks that a normal, even pleasant-looking person cannot be evil, has no familiarity with the history of serial killers; and the character Quasimodo of course shows us the reverse - the tender-hearted may be all-too-ugly on the surface.  The Knox trial needs to look deeper - to forensic and other evidence; motive; and opportunity.  The possibility that a young man or woman abroad might use drugs and engage in sex games is plausible.  So too, confusingly, is the possibility of innocence. Square one.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

New Poem by Ben Mazer

Eyewear returns to its tradition of offering poems by the American poet Ben Mazer on certain Sundays.



Untitled

Their floors and floors of unknown lives conspire
to neon, darkness, fog and rain and fire.

* * *

All lay in bed, and toss in negligees
or monogrammed pajamas, have their ways
of trimming their hair or doctoring their water.
One stares in blankness at the jewels he bought her,
goes to the window, braced to see the fog.
One fingers old certificates of stock,
and ties his tie. Although they all will die,
each one looks fabulous in evening dress,
and sloughs off the incipient duress.
The city is reflected in the sky,
has its own taxis, bars, Empire State
building. Theirs is a common fate.
The monstrous outgrowth of a humble start
crushes the spirit, suffocates the heart.


poem by Ben Mazer; published with permission of the author

The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize


The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

First prize: €2,000
Second prize: €1,000
Third prize: €500

The three winners will also be invited to read at a special award ceremony at Ballymaloe House in Co. Cork, Ireland, in March 2012, and their poems will feature in the spring issue of The Moth.


Set in ten acres of organic market gardens, orchards and greenhouses, which are, in turn, surrounded by a hundred acres of organic farm, Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School is just minutes away from the renowned Ballymaloe Country House and Restaurant, run by the Allen family for over 40 years. A creative haven for lovers of food and fresh produce, this family-run business is now the proud sponsor of the inaugural Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, launched in association with The Moth.

‘A little poetry enriches our everyday lives – so I’m delighted to be sponsoring this prize.’ Darina Allen

The Prize is open to everyone, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. Simply send your poem(s) along with an entry form (downloadable on The Moth website) or a cover letter with your name and contact details and the title(s) of poem(s) attached to: The Moth, The Bog Road Press, Cavan, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

The entry fee is €6 (or €7.50 if you’re paying by money order), and you can enter as many poems as you like. You can also enter online, using a debit or credit card, at www.themothmagazine.com, where you will find more details about the competition.

The competition will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose last collection, Black Moon, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and The Irish Times/Poetry Now Award.

Closing date 31 December 2011.

The official launch of the Prize will be held at The Grand Social, 35 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin on 7 July 2011, from 7 p.m. onwards − with readings by Eileen Casey, Anne Haverty and Gerard Smyth. Please visit The Moth website for more details.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Guardian Top 100

The Guardian has listed the top 100 people in the new digital landscape of publishing and reading in Britain.  Several of those at the top, associated with Amazon, and Google, and Apple, are American, as are a few top authors, including James Patterson, and Dan Brown.  Lots of agents and managing directors appear.  A few novelists appear - JK RowlingIan McEwan, Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie, for instance, as well as Stephen Fry.  We also get a trio of poets, Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, and Andrew Motion.  Patronisingly, #100 is "You" - the readers, tweeters, and bloggers.  It is a sort of depressing list.  It shows, to my mind, that whoever compiles these doesn't "get" the real shift that is coming - how radical the shift just may be.  I was surprised not to see Chris Hamilton-Emery, or Neil Astley, or Michael Schmidt, for poetry - each had brilliantly marketed it these past few decades using new ideas and retaining editorial intelligence.  No actual bloggers were mentioned; or content pirates; or indeed, any organisers of literary or cultural events in the digital underground.  No one involved with creative writing in the UK was mentioned - the major new force in generating excellent writers.

Yes, this may be a power list, but it is also a mainstream, obvious list, a tip of the iceberg, that will be of little use to anyone wondering what comes next.  In 2003, I predicted much of this, when CNN filmed my (Salt published) e-book coming out, the fastest book at that time, published one week after the contract being signed.  For almost a decade I have used the Internet to warn, cajole, and argue for (and sometimes against) the value of social networking and the Internet, to create alternate readerships, and new platforms for writers and readers.  Apart from the American geniuses at the top of this list, very few in British publishing have done much, until very recently (for instance The Waste Land e-version) to really capitalise on, what the digital sweep means.  The reason - what remains unrecognised is the direct threat to an established hierarchy that the digital world represents - a hierarchy paradoxically bolstered by such quaint lists as these.  The true powerful writers are those writing now, perhaps studying creative writing, planning their first book, whose brilliant ideas will feed the games, books, films, and other content of the future, some of it unimaginable; and the most exciting publishers are those even now imagining radical new ways of redefining the way literature is thought of in the UK.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Up In The Air

Forgive me thinking that the NASA satellite threatening to scatter deadly bits and pieces over populated areas of the Earth later today is an apt Damoclesian symbol for our current age - the Age of WTF.  We are currently living in a sort of limbo, or suspended state of emergency - bad stuff, or weird stuff, seems just around the corner.  Our world economy seems on the brink of a second Great Depression; environmental chaos looms; in the UK, universities and hopsitals are in breaking-point flux; societies are unravelling; and even the speed of light seems no longer to obtain.  I confess to being more than a bit anxious about what's to come.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Nevermind the Anniversary

Eyewear is jumping ahead a bit.  On the 24th, Saturday, it'll be the 20 year anniversary, as we all know, of Nevermind, universally regarded (now) as the single most important popular music album of the 1990s, a true generational watershed moment.  I still remember the first time I heard it, in 1991, at an October house party, in Montreal.  It was on in the background.  I was drinking a beer, talking to a guy in an untucked flannel lumberjack-style shirt, and we both stopped and said - hey, this is f***ing good.  Soon, I had bought the CD, and was playing it all day.  I was lifting weights then, at my Verdun apartment, and used to keep it on in the background; and it became the soundtrack to my personal life, for a while.  Sure, the rest of the story gets a little boring, soon enough - the loser club death, the wasted genius.  But Cobain and Co. created a few tracks the aural equivalent of The Beatles.  Truly great stuff, that belonged only to us - people then in their 20s.  Of course, that makes me 45, which sort of sucks, but it was good to have our own sound, not the 60s.  I should add, I still think Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins come close to Nirvana at times.  But name another album where each of the 12 songs is a classic.  Don't bother.

I.M. R.E.M.

So, they've split.  The greatest American Indie band of the 1980s (other than Pixies and The Replacements), and arguably one of the major bands of all time, practically the inventors of College Radio, R.E.M. started lean, incredibly poetic and enigmatic, invigoratingly political and sexy, and sometime in the mid-90s became increasingly bloated, over-familiar and ultimately staid, every one of their originally-brilliant stylistic moves now tics; they began to pastiche themselves.

The best way to think of them is in the late 80s.  Stipe's yearning, haunted lyrics made him arguably the most intriguing young American poet of the time, committed, post-modern, and witty; somehow, coming from The South, they channelled a sense of Whitman, and Poe.  People loved them, fell in love listening to them.

I think of masterpieces like 'Swan Swan H', 'Fall On Me', 'The One I Love', 'Half A World Away' and 'Orange Crush', let alone their more popular songs, like 'Losing My Religion', 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?', 'Man On The Moon' and 'Everybody Hurts'.  I made a list of their best songs this morning at Spotify, and had around 50.  Try doing that for almost any other band, ever, including The Beatles, The Doors, The Smiths, or U2.  The truth is, R.E.M. were at a genius-level of creativity between 1983's Murmur and 1994's Monster.

Then came the slow, definite decline, painful for all fans to listen to, but always fraught with hope of some sort of resurgence.  It never came, and their break-up, though sad, is also welcome.  It allows us to now go back and appreciate what was achieved, in a new light.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Guest Review: Hirschhorn On Bernstein


All the Whiskey in Heaven. Selected Poems
&
Attack of the Difficult Poems
By Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein is one of the leading poets of what is commonly known as the ‘language’ school of poetry, and now serves as Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Theory at Princeton University – all signs of establishment acceptance of what was once considered a fringe movement.

Attack of the Difficult Poems is a collection of Bernstein’s essays and presentations that discuss the theory and methods of experimental poetry. Bernstein defines the term ‘difficult poem’ as one with difficult vocabulary and syntax, hard to appreciate on first readings, but affecting the reader’s imagination; all of which makes some readers feel stupid.  More formally, we should say that the difficult poems disrupt syntax; play with the geography of the poem on the page; deal in contemporary language and idiom; often erudite; may incorporate non-linguistic elements; privilege sound over sense, or idiom over sound, or the aleatory over idiom; but above all, are experimental.  One can learn to read and appreciate this poetry. The digital age now opens a whole new way to produce and understand poetry: vocal attributes of a reading can be parsed from audio recordings, a technology Bernstein is helping to develop. (1)

Bernstein’s own metier is about breaking boundaries, playful transgression, sarcasm, and experiment. The cover of Attack…, for example, is garish yellow and orange, the lettering resembling Mad Magazine’s Pow! Bam! Zap!  The first thing to know about the selected poems is that few of the titles relate in any way to what follows; that is a charming aspect of the serious game.  Sometimes, however, the title is in code: Dodgem consists of broken lines, busted words, odd punctuations, much spasmodic white space, which reminds me of the electrical dodge-em cars we kids drove around in amusement parks. Or, consider the prose poem Azoot D’Puund written in a send-up of those NYC subway ads for shorthand courses, ‘If u cn rd ths, u cn gt a jb’.  The first line goes: ‘ iz wurry ray a ZoOt de puund in reduce yap crrRisLe ehk nugkinj.’  (What, me worry about the British pound?)  He experiments with nonsense typography, neologism, and a joke about insurance form pages titled, This Poem Intentionally Left Blank.

Some of Bernstein’s poems superficially resemble those of John Ashbery (who praises Bernstein), but they originate from a totally different milieu. If John Ashbery is a frenchified canape/martini-Christian, delicate, whisper-in-your-ear poet, Bernstein is a New York City herring/schnapps-Jew, raucous, in-your-face poet.  He dares you to pay attention, like that too-smart kid you knew in school always raising his hand. But there is great substance to the work. I don’t know Bernstein’s personal history, but I grew up in the same neighborhood and attended the same New York City high school.  During my medical school years I worked as an attendant at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.  Thus I know that Bernstein’s poem, Asylum – his fifteen-page philippic inveighing at the indignities, deprivation, psychological and even physical torture visited on patients – is exactly on the mark.  The poem is ‘languagey’, that is, written in broken lines, jump-cut images and dissociated thoughts, the poem itself enacting the chaotic drama. Asylum becomes increasingly compelling as it progresses because one senses so much was at stake for the poet; so much then at stake for the reader.

I particularly like Bernstein’s list poems that play on the infinite combination of words. In Particular lists several dozen kinds of people each doing or being something unrelated or indifferent to his or her own status. ‘An adolescent Muslim writing terza rima… A Buddhist financier falling to ground… an australopithecine toddler grimacing in the basement… A maladroit Swede coughing bullets… A D.C. dervish dribbling dodecahedrons…’ The music and imagination run riot in each line bringing delight and surprise (Harold Bloom’s criteria for poetry), which should make any ordinary poet say, ‘do I dare to eat a peach?’

Thank You for Saying Thank You sets up an ‘accessible’ straw-poem the better to burn it and begins, ‘This is a totally/ accessible poem./ There is nothing/ in this poem/ that is in anyway/ way difficult/ to understand./ All the words/ are simple &/ to the point.’  And it ends, ‘This poem/ belongs to no/ school. has no/ dogma. It follows/ no fashion. It/ just says what it says. It’s/ real.’  The joke, of course, is in the stuttering lineation, a difficult poem in disguise.  It wants to teach us how to understand what ‘understand’ means.

There is hazard in being amusing or astonishing – providing simple entertainment for the reader without engagement in emotion, wisdom, or epiphany. Hazard in experiment, too: restraint, attention to and drawing from tradition are not lightly dismissed. Those who deliberately seek novelty may become trapped in their very aspiration, their world hermetic, uninviting; violating what Juhani Pallasma, Finnish architect and theorist calls ‘the power of limits’. (2)

Is Bernstein just an entertainer?  Not by a long shot.  His Report from Liberty Street gives the pained eye-witness account of 9/11 – ‘I took a walk on Liberty Street today. Only it was not the same place as I had known before’.  The refrain of the poem, ‘They thought they were going to heaven’ carries a double edge.  At the end the poet reflects on what troubles poets in every generation: ‘The question isn’t is art up to this but what else is art for?’ and concludes with Ozymandian bleakness, ‘”The lone and level sands stretch far away”’ that surrounds the ‘colossal wreck’ that has become America in the 21st century. Another fine polemic is War Stories, ninety-five declarative sentences, each beginning with ‘War is’.  Not simply a feel-good anti-war poem (‘War is an excuse for lots of bad anti-war poetry’), the poet is clear-eyed, unsentimental: from ‘War is never having to say you’re sorry’, to ‘War is the legitimate right of the powerless to resist the violence of the powerful’.  Bernstein understands the human condition, from ancient days onward: ‘War is us’. 

The title poem of the poetry collection, All the Whiskey in Heaven, is a traditional love song beginning, ‘Not for all the whiskey in heaven’, and ending, ‘No, never, I’ll never stop loving you/ Not until my heart beats its last/ And even then in my words and my songs/ I will love you all over again’. He isn’t joking.

Difficult poems are difficult to get ones ear or eye around, especially for readers accustomed to the popular poetry of, say, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, or Mary Oliver, among others.  Difficult poems may appeal to only a minority of readers, themselves poets or critics of poetry. Yet they have long been around, beginning with Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, on through the Surrealists, Pound, Stein, Objectivists, Oulipo, the language-poets, and even Geoffrey Hill.  Thus to call the kind of poetry Bernstein espouses ‘non-poetry’ – as a recent British reviewer did – is oafish. In the end all that is written as poetry is poetry; taste and the test of time will determine what endures.

Bernstein’s last essay in Attack… is a mock confession, Recantorium – Galilean in scope, Yom Kippur atonement in form – for daring to oppose the ‘Official Verse Culture’ that rewards and promotes ‘accessible poetry’, the kind coming out of most creative writing programs.  But between the lines Bernstein can be heard to murmur – no, to bellow – ‘EPPUR SI MUOVE!’

1) A fine survey by Ernest Hilbert demonstrates what else is possible in the new forms of verse: Without a Net: http://www.cprw.com/without-a-net-optic-graphic-and-acoustic-formations-in-free-verse-by-ernest-hilbert.

 (2) The Thinking Hand. Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture. London: John Wylie & Sons, 2009. p. 113.


Norbert Hirschhorn is an American physician and poet, author of two collections, and several pamphlets. He lives in London and Beirut.

Guest Review: Britton On New Zealand Poetry


Iain Britton on

This is a book of some 600 pages or more, divided into 5 major sections, compiled by two university academics, Paula Green and Harry Ricketts, both recognised in New Zealand as accomplished writers, poets and critics in their literary fields.

Although it is an anthology, it could also be viewed as a textbook into modern NZ poetry, spanning the years prior to the Second World War up to the present day. The poets represented are among the stirrers, shakers and pathfinders involved in the creative pursuit of establishing a firm identity for New Zealand poetry.

99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry offers sections relating to poetic forms, poetic contexts, features and effects, New Zealand poets along with types of poetry - such as visual, confessional, experimental and so on. There are significant samples of poems throughout the book, with photographs of poets, thoughts and comments and biographies near the end.

Included are highly-regarded New Zealand poets like: Allen Curnow, CK Stead, Bill Manhire, Fleur Adcock, James K Baxter and also Elizabeth Smither, Hone Tuwhare, Kapka Kassabova, and Ian Wedde.  Dipping and diving into this anthology will reveal the wealth of talent and originality of  these poets, along with that of others writing today. There is a vibrant and vigorous poetical culture alive in New Zealand. Being a Pacific nation, there is a huge presence and influence of peoples who have settled in New Zealand from the islands and Pacific-rim countries and made NZ their home. Today, Asian nuances are entering the multi-ethnic structures of our language, enriching it and adding to the poetic dimension.

This collection offers up a great literary meal, which one can enjoy and return to when hungry for more. Any reader would learn much about New Zealand poetry from this poetical smorgasbord of well-produced sections wrapped inside its glossy orange cover. Being a New Zealander, I thoroughly recommend it - there is a uniquely accessible ‘down under’ feast to be had here – and it is an excellent introduction to New Zealand poetry.

Iain Britton is a poet from New Zealand.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Karla What You Ask For: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy



Eyewear could hardly have asked for a better film.  The Le Carre adaptation, best known as the vintage Alec Guinness slow-burner from television, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, divides its times (before and after John Hurt as Control) simply by the glasses that Smiley (Gary Oldman) wears - the past is more owlish and horn-rimmed, the present (1970s Wimpys-era Britain) Bakelite rims.

The director, Tomas Alfredson, is an emerging master of mood and nuance - his masterwork was Let The Right One In, the subtle vampire story.  Perhaps because Oldman has played Dracula, he seemed right for the part.  Smiley is a sort of husk, a prematurely stooped, stiff, pale, bespectacled spook.  Oldman is hidden in the role, a sort of mole inside his own character.  A few flashes of his eyes, a few small gestures.  He barely moves.  He is the spy as spider, waiting for the fly.

The film is ravishingly retro, a Larkin-landscape of all that was crummy about the 70s in London.  Britain seems no less disconsolate than behind the Iron Curtain (Budapest).  Except for a few tense set-pieces, the film is like watching paint dry - which is half the point.  Some paint.  Like Munich, Spielberg's thriller, without the thrills, or The Day of the Jackal, without the rushing around, the movie proceeds like the chess game it is a simulacrum of.  The pawns are the lower echelon spies that Karla and Smiley move.  The Queen is Smiley's wife, who, in 1955, during a failed turning exercise, Smiley hands over, as it were.  Smiley's wound is that his deadly enemy knows his weak point, his love of a woman, and uses it mercilessly.


The film, funniest when an owl makes a Potterish and explosive appearance, is about love and hate.  Love of nation, hate of enemy.  Love of friends, co-workers, and hate of the same.  It is a queer world, with numerous bisexual and gay affairs.  Only Smiley, it appears, is actually able to love one woman, without having her killed, and he is of course a cuckold.  Indeed, a subtext of the film is the misogyny of the spy game: built by men for men, women are bit parts, used for sex or "treasure".

This movie is the most beautiful English-language film I have seen since, perhaps The Constant Gardener, another Le Carre filmed by a foreign film director.  There is a level of composure and delicacy here, in the palette and style, that is close to genius.  Just don't expect more than a bat squeak of adrenaline.  Suffused with melancholy, the final vision is of Smiley's stare, begging the question: what does he really see in all this?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Michael Hart Has Died

Sad news.  The father of the e-book, Michael Hart, has died, at the age of 64.  Hart's Project Gutenberg put tens of thousands of texts freely out there, for readers wherever they might be.  A true visionary, he will be missed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Hope Is Back

Dr Sandeep Parmar
I was glad to attend the Bloomsbury launch of the Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees, from Carcanet's Fyfield Books, last evening.  The book has been edited by British poet and scholar Sandeep Parmar, currently a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge.  Mirrlees is the little-known modernist who wrote the splendid and astonishing poem 'Paris', published in 1919.  It anticipates many of the elements of The Waste Land, and is one of the most experimental English poems from the period.  It has recently become seen as integral to a reformation of the modernist canon.

This rediscovery of Mirrlees is down to a few people, and Parmar is one of them, who have heroically worked these past few years to bring proper attention to bear on this writer.  Mirrlees has a complicated life, in that she was a lesbian who turned against her past life and became a Catholic, moving to South Africa, and writing relatively traditional verse in later years, dying in her 90s.

Her three novels are obscure, though one, a fantasy book, has recently been republished, championed by of all people Neil Gaiman.  Anyone concerned with modernist poetry will want to read this new book edited by Parmar, especially for the thorough introduction, which is the most complete discussion of the poet's work and life to date - Parmar had access to hitherto unseen archives, and was able to discover and publish many new poems.  Parmar is currently working on the biography of Mirrlees, which will be most welcome.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Guest Review: Loveday On Robinson


Mike Loveday reviews
by Jack Robinson

Days and Nights in W12 is a sequence of 110 prose pieces, inspired by London’s W12 district. It is written by more than one writer. Not that you’d know. The cover tells you the author is Jack Robinson. But before you can say Jack Robinson, as the phrase goes, you should be alert enough to note that Robinson is indeed a pen name – in fact a pen name for a poet using Robinson as an alter-ego while presenting a prose version of himself. 

As well as there being more than one writer here, there is more than one book, in many respects. There is the travel journal which conjures modern day Shepherd’s Bush, its public face and its shadowy hidden self; there is the book of prose poems, where phrase and sentence replace line break and stanza, written with a tough and supple musicality. There is the book of witty and diverting miniature short stories about fictitious characters populating W12. There is the local history book which details Shepherd Bush’s past, its literary, architectural and cultural heritage. You could easily find and describe other books here if you turned its kaleidoscope another notch.

Robinson is Charles Boyle, Faber poet, now prose writer and editor / publisher of the wonderfully eclectic, quietly iconoclastic – also prize-winning – CB editions publishing house. And he has written here a multifaceted, rich and sophisticated book of prose. It refuses to be caught and held to account for its agility and speed of thought, and reading it is like some wonderful grown-up game of playground tag.
There are some links below to online excerpts. There’s a difficulty with choosing excerpts from this book to discuss, which is that the wilful variety and range of the book makes it tricky to find selections that are unequivocally representative.


So I’m going to be wilfully mischievous in scope, and write only about one piece of prose, in the first link: Bird Over Prison Wall.

Like every prose piece in this sequence (I hesitate to call them prose poems, because Boyle has also hesitated to do so – they are that, and other than that, and more than that), Bird Over Prison Wall is short, i.e. less than one page, with a black and white photo taken by the author and which supposedly prompted the prose which follows beneath it. The photographs appear as if snapshots captured for a journal. They are frequently haunting or witty in themselves – and sometimes you do wonder which was the chicken / egg prompting the creativity – the writing or the photograph. (In fact I’d love to see a bigger, perhaps hardback version of Days and Nights in W12, with more room for larger photographs – they are consistently fascinating enough companions for the prose to merit being given more space – while still not distracting readers’ attention from the writing).

In Bird Over Prison Wall Robinson helpfully sets out what the reader might need to escape from prison – “courage, self-belief and meticulous planning and attention to detail, besides contempt for the regime”. There is a touch of local history (possibly made fanciful in this case) – the spy George Blake who escaped via a rope ladder “whose rungs were made of knitting needles”. And we are offered the dry cynicism that the abstract tools for escape first quoted are qualities “possibly much the same as those that got you into the place you’re now trying to get out of”. Social critique is offered in passing, like someone leaving a wise idea on your front doorstep then slipping away before you’ve had a chance to thank the delivery-man for his gift.
The piece closes with a resonant sentence – sophisticated and deft – which encapsulates the spirit of this writer: someone seemingly neither inside nor outside the system, who knows how most griefs and joys arise from the miracles of accident and hazard, and who has spent a god part of their life watching and writing about the world as gracefully, accurately and casually as if he were managing to pull the wingbeats of birds into his very sentences:

“Then there is luck – a guard momentarily distracted, a pile of sand that cushions your fall after you miss a foothold – which you cannot determine, but which sometimes you can feel in your bones, as light as air, as in the hollow bones of birds that enable them to fly.”

Somehow in a few words Boyle has explained escaping captivity with real attentiveness - as if he has himself been imprisoned, suffered, yet bore his imprisonment as lightly as a gentleman soldier, and then insouciantly broke free with the spirit of a dancer.

This is a book which deserves to be on the bookshelves of households in big cities, with the details of its black and white photography (sometimes offhand, at other times more studied), and its glint-in-your-eye prose beguiling guests while you prepare your Sunday tea (and your conversation that is almost as casually intelligent as Boyle’s). In fact this book belongs to anyone who has ever lived in a ramshackle, gritty, beautiful city. Someone who knows how grateful we are to seize moments for reflection in the midst of urban discomfort. Most of all it’s a book, when you pay it full attention, which will teach you to notice your surroundings – wherever you live – with a carefulness and interest you never quite realised that you were capable of – or that you ought to possess.

Sequences of short prose ask questions about reading habits. This is a book you can easily read cover to cover, then re-read and re-consider during one idle, leisurely weekend. But it’s also a book you can pick up and slip yourself into randomly and daily during those ten minutes along the central line at 8:15 am. You could probably make time to dash through six or seven of these prose pieces in the ten minutes. But you’d be better off picking just a couple to read that morning –  and reading them over and over and over. And then turning back to the others you read elsewhere in the book yesterday which you’ve just noticed they connect with.

But don’t trust my words too much on this. Buy the book and think for yourself as you read. And don’t trust Robinson’s words too much either. Or Boyle’s. I’d say that’s half the point of this anarchic, respectful, rueful, amused, light, serious, sprawling, precise sequence. Trust one sentence too much and one that follows will surprise you in the most charming or most wrong-footing way. The other half of the point is to trust Boyle and Robinson wholeheartedly. He /they have probably realised a few things about your own experiences which are worth hearing all for your selves.

Mike Loveday's debut poetry collection will be launched in London October 12 at the Oxfam series.  He is an MA student in creative writing at Kingston University, and editor of 14, a magazine devoted to fourteen-line poems.

A Prize Worth Having

Eyewear recommends entering the Troubadour poetry prize.  Details also below:


Announcing the £2,500 Fifth Annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize

Judged by Susan Wicks & David Harsent (with both judges reading all poems)

Sponsored by Cegin Productions

Prizes: 1st £2,500, 2nd £500, 3rd £250 & 20 prizes of £20 each
Plus a Spring 2012 Coffee-House-Poetry season-ticket
and  a prizewinners' Coffee-House Poetry reading
with Susan Wicks & David Harsent on Mon 28th Nov 2011
for all prize-winning poets

Submissions: by Mon 17th Oct 2011

Judges:

- Susan Wicks has lived and worked in France, Ireland and America and has taught at University College Dublin and University of Kent; she is the author of five collections of poetry including 'Singing Underwater' (1992), which won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize, and 'The Clever Daughter' (1996), which was shortlisted for both T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes, and she was a Poetry Society 'New Gen' poet in 1994. A short memoir, 'Driving My Father', was published in 1995, she is the author of two novels, 'The Key' (1997) and 'Little Thing' (1998), and 'Roll Up for the Arabian Derby', her collection of short stories, was published in 2008. Her latest collection of poetry is 'House of Tongues' (Bloodaxe, 2011).

- David Harsent, a Visiting Professor at Sheffield Hallam University and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has published ten collections of poetry and several limited editions, and has received a number of awards, including the Eric Gregory Award, the Geoffrey Faber Award and the Cheltenham Festival Prize. His most recent collection, 'Night' (Faber, 2011) was a PBS choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. His previous book, 'Legion', won the Forward Prize for best collection 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His 'Selected Poems' was published in June 2007, and was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize.

- Both judges will read all poems submitted.

Rules:

- General: Entry implies acceptance of all rules; failure to comply results in disqualification; submissions accepted by post or e-mail from poets of any nationality, from any country, aged over 18 years, and writing in English; no poet may win more than one prize; the judges' decision is final; no correspondence will be entered into. 

- Poems: Poems must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) and must not have been previously broadcast or published (in print or online); winning & commended poems may be published (in print or online) by Troubadour International Poetry Prize, and may not be published elsewhere for one year after Monday 17th October 2011 without permission; no limit on number of poems submitted; no alterations accepted after submission.

- Fees: All entries must be accompanied by fee of £5/€6/$8 per poem; payment by cheque or money order (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only) payable to 'Coffee-House Poetry' with Poet's Name (and e-mail Entry Acknowledgement Reference, if paying for earlier e-mail submission) written clearly on back.

- By Post: No entry form required; two copies required of each poem submitted; each poem must be typed on one side of A4 white paper showing title & poem only; do not show poet's name or any other identifying marks on submitted poems; include a separate page showing Poet's Name, Address, Phone No., E-Mail (if available), List of Poem Titles, Total Number of Poems and Total Fees at £5/€6/$8 per poem; no staples; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post; we recommend folding A4 poems in half in C5 envelope as this does not incur 'large letter' charge if less than 5mm thick (UK); entries are not returned.

- By E-mail: No entry form required; poems must be submitted in body of e-mail (no attachments) to CoffPoetry@aol.com; entries should be preceded by Poet's Name, Address, Phone No., List of Poem Titles, Total Number of Poems and Total Fees at £5/€6/$8 per poem; acknowledgement will be sent to entrant's e-mail address showing Entry Acknowledgment Reference; send payment by post within 14 days quoting Poet's Name and Entry Acknowledgement Reference; e-mail entries will be included only when payment received by post; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post.

- Acknowledgement/Results: Postal entrants may include stamped, addressed postcard marked 'Acknowledgement' and/or stamped, addressed envelope marked 'Results' if required; results will be sent to all e-mail entrants after winners announcement; no correspondence will be entered into.

- Deadline: All postal entries, and postal payments for e-mail entries, to arrive at Troubadour International Poetry Prize, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON, W4 1ZP postmarked on or before Monday 17th October 2011.

- Prizewinners: All prizewinners will be contacted individually by Monday 21st November 2011. Prizegiving will be on Monday 28th November 2011 at Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Poems On 9/11

Eyewear asked poets to send their poems for this grim anniversary.  Here are a few below.



The Nowhere Inn
 
Boycott, I think it was, scored
a century and secured England
from defeat. We lost the trail
of celebration in The Nowhere Inn.
Two boys, underage, necking lager
and playing, over and over, 'Geno'
on the jukebox. Falklands-bound,
Devonport sailors puked on the lino.
Then so did we. On 9/11,
Edward missed his usual train.

- Tom Phillips

When Freedom Stands

Babies are born and lovers lie;
We’ll make plans, when Freedom stands.
Do not let their stories die.

We teach the how, perhaps the why;
Teach to repeat, to ace exams;
Heart and truth would make them cry.

He stayed inside, in search of his brother.
The second plane hit, lens on his mother.

They put on their fire suits, knowing the worst.
They stormed the pilot; called home first.

Some got relief. Some got the wall.
Nine-thousand remains: nothing at all.

Heartbeats skip and minutes fly
Like spy planes with capture plans.
And the dead cannot ask why.

It’s not the oil. Truly, we’ll try.
Allied lands, joining hands—
Empty space in our New York sky.

Babies are born and lovers cry;
We’ll make plans, when Freedom stands.
Do not let their stories lie.
Do not let their stories die.

- Heather Grace Stewart

Tanka

America
the dispossessed
murmur your name
in dreams -
do not desert us.

9.9.11

- Tony Lewis Jones

Al-Muhandis
(following Lawrence Wright The Looming Tower, pp 70-71)


Up and
up and
up he climbs.

Following donkeys bearing caterpillars
through Taif’s granite time,

to reverse a caravan trail
55 miles to Mecca’s
contemplative space.

From the mountains
the future highway unwinds
via basalt, stone and sand

and then on
to bind a nation
and unravel modernity.

- Rishi Dastidar


The Day


There are several faces of the most famous day in American history - and the defining moment of the 21st century.  There are the faces of the valiant rescue workers, caked in soot and sweat.  There are the astonished faces of the shocked and bereaved, fleeing, simply staring, or returning to help.  And there is the clueless face of the worst American president ever, on hearing the news of the attack.  Ten years later, it is clear that 9/11 ended the so-called "post-modern" era.

Instead, the terrifying event immediately stamped the age with its defining images, and its defining conflict - between The West, and a newly-resurgent variant of fundamentalist Islamic ideology.  Depending on who you talk to - Tony Blair for instance - the West's reaction - wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - did, or did not, act as bellows to the coals.  The question which remains unanswered is -  was there anything "we" could have done differently, before or after?  Nothing justifies the murder of the day - but history lessons would have forewarned "us" that exceptionalism and neo-colonialism, coupled with a hedonistic, capitalist and scientific world-view, could hardly endear us to people with a less-secular perspective, people who felt our very existence was illegitimate, and a profound insult to their way of life.  What no one quite expected was that such people could be so determined, and so deadly.  Or so imaginative.

Ten years later, the cultural impact of the day has been mixed.  It has informed music, plays, films, poetry, and fiction - but few if any truly great works of art have emerged from the decade dealing directly with 9/11.  Nor have the wounds healed yet.  It is all too soon.  Politically, many argue that we are in the long wake of the attacks now - that with the killing of the mastermind, and the decline of the wars it triggered, and the rise of China, new forces and factors are at work - the Arab Spring was the broom to wash away the debris of ten years before.  We can't be sure.

The towers collapsing remains our benchmark for contemporary outrage, and fear.  The decade has seen the rise of very violent horror films, and a swing to religion in America - surely interconnected - our bodies have been exposed as ultimately, utterly vulnerable to atrocity anywhere, even in our heartland - and morbid nihilism or evangelicalism seem apt responses.  True Blood, Twilight - what are vampires but victims that carry on by other means, bled dry, yet romantically driven forward?  Elsewhere, we found distraction in Hogwarts, deeply impacted by 9/11 of course in its political nuances; and followed the true post-9/11 star, Matt Damon, whose everymanism coupled with quickfire responsitivity to violence became the icon of action films.

As to the conspiracy theories, they have faded in lustre, it seems.  The new conspiracy theory is that America is led by a secret Muslim, a sort of Hawaii Malcolm X, as if the planes of that day were a dark stork, that dropped a Midwich cuckoo into our midst - who would grow to become president, and tarnish America.  2012's elections will next define where America, and the world goes - back to a Texan imbecilism, or further on, past the green light.  All we know is, many died and suffered that day.  And we will never forget.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Oxfam's Back To School Poetry Event October 12!


BACK TO SCHOOL – FIVE POETS FOR OXFAM!
SPONSORED BY THE KINGSTON WRITING SCHOOL
HOSTED BY TODD SWIFT

OXFAM BOOKS AND MUSIC
91 MARYLEBONE HIGH STREET
LONDON W1
CLOSEST TUBES BAKER STREET, BOND STREET

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12th, 2011
7PM START TIME
ADMISSION £5/ £3 CONCESSION
ALL PROCEEDS TO OXFAM, REGISTERED CHARITY

KHIN AUNG AYE – BURMA (Translated by JAMES BYRNE)
TODD COLBY – USA
ANNIE FREUD - UK
ILYA KAMINSKY – USA
MIKE LOVEDAY – UK (Launching his debut pamphlet)

Khin Aung Aye is one of the leading Burmese poets of his generation.  His work is translated into English by poet and editor James Byrne.

Todd Colby has published four books of poetry: Ripsnort, CushRiot in the Charm Factory: New and Selected Writings, and Tremble & Shine, all published by Soft Skull Press.  He was also the editor of the poetry anthology Heights of the Marvelous: A New York Anthology (St. Martin’s Press).  He was the lead singer for the critically-acclaimed band Drunken Boat. Colby serves on the Board of Directors for The Poetry Project, where he teaches poetry workshops.

Annie Freud is the daughter of painter Lucian Freud, and the great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. She saw her father regularly throughout her childhood and he painted many portraits of her. Since 1975, she has worked intermittently as a tapestry artist and embroiderer.   Her first full collection from Picador ,The Best Man Who Ever Was was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2007.  Her second collection, The Mirabelles, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize earlier this year.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former USSR and arrived in the United States in 1993 when his family was granted asylum by the American Government. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa, which won the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award.  He has received a Lannan Fellowship, Whiting Writers Award, and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry Foundation. Kaminsky lives in San Diego where he teaches at SDSU.

Mike Loveday studied English Literature at Merton College, Oxford.  He is completing an MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University.  Loveday is editor-publisher of 14, an illustrated magazine devoted to sonnets, ghost-sonnets and stranger fourteen-line poems. His poetry and prose appears in many publications.  His debut pamphlet, He Said / She Said was published by HappenStance in July, 2011.