Friday, 20 December 2013

THE SWIFT REPORT 2013

Swifty Lazaar, my hero and fashion guru.

Get ready to splutter with outrage and derision.  Here comes Todd Swift again, outlandish and fearless.

In a year where one of the top memes was Jean Claude van Damme doing the splits between two trucks, and another was Miley Cyrus twerking, you might think I'd have been okay.  But 2013 was an odd year, as readers of this blog (and others) may recall, if only for me.  I want to start by saying that the act of writing such a summary is at once a harmless writerly act of sharing, and also an aggressive one of self-advertising, but it is surely not naively narcissistic. I write on the eve of the darkest day of the year, which seems fitting to me, because 2013 was a year that started bad, and gradually moved into the light - with the highlights being when I became British in Marylebone, and then celebrated ten years of marriage, on June 6.

To begin with, my Grandmother, Melita Hume, died late 2012, basically early 2013, in the period just after Christmas - a sort of no man's land on the calendar - and this led to a family memorial service in the summer, when the ground had thawed and a proper burial could take place, such being Quebec's weather. My time at the memorial was charged with various degrees of ambivalence, especially as I was both mourning and returning, meeting and saying farewell.

My grandmother had written us all letters before she died, and reading those at the graveside was uncanny.  But swimming with my family at the lake in the summer was fun.  Meanwhile, I left my previous university and occasioned an infamous open letter, but was welcomed by the University of Glasgow's Creative Writing department, where I became a teacher.  Glasgow is ranked 51st best university in the world, so that was a reversal of fortune. I have met many very talented student writers and colleagues there, and grown to love Glasgow and its welcoming, witty people.

Of course, I was also attacked by a famous boy band, which led to bizarre headlines.  The champagne poet did not become a meme of the year, but it almost did, I am over the assault despite having never received a formal apology.  Meanwhile, as I keep saying, Eyewear Publishing, thanks to a brilliant team, went from strength to strength, launching many books in great venues in Bloomsbury and Soho (including the LRB and Foyles), and throwing great parties.  We launched our first novel - and I am very proud of these books.

I am also very proud of my two foreign language Selected poems out this year, one in Macedonian, the other in Dutch.  My launch in Amsterdam was really enjoyable.  I was pleased to be listed in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English.  I have also been working on two collections out next year - a pamphlet in the spring with KFS, and then my Selected 1983-2013, from Marick Press, USA.

I want to count my blessings - I have a wife who is supportive and delightful; a comfortable home comparable to Paul Muldoon's (a gentle bit of satire there) in the best city in the world other than Glasgow (where I also stay in a lovely flat); and lots of books to read, and stylish clothes to wear.  The drawbacks to my life are few, if worrisome - I eat and drink too much, and so, at 47, my boyish and svelte physique is gone.  I no longer slink about like the sexy rock-star lookalike I was in my 20s, when I was often compared to Gary Oldman.  Or was it Johnny Depp?  No, I am a pudgier man now if still slim-hipped.  I go to the gym and swim and run and ski, but the medication I am on does not encourage weight loss.  I do wear cool glasses, to compensate.  Such is male vanity.

But that is beside the point.  In general my health stayed good this year, despite trying to sell poetry in a Pop Up Shop in Notting Hill, made bearable for the week only by Charles Boyle, Lydia Bowden, Nii Parkes, my wife, and a few others. It helped I had a few lovely vacations - hill-walking in Ireland at Easter, and then a late October flight to Ibiza for some hippy market shopping. Also, some good friends visited, including poet Jason Camlot, and lawyer Phil Hiebert.

I struggle with some inner demons, because I had a crazy childhood, and some of the wounds remain; they are deep and while I slowly heal, I could do more. My faith is on a slippery slope, and I battle daily against the glamour of evil.  I want to be good, but do I do enough, frankly, to actually be good? This is a morally preposterous age.  Rob Ford, a moral buffoon, was chosen as my person of the year for a reason - he is the world that awaits us if we continue to become the junk we feed ourselves. The media is a cancer, and God has left our lives; and, where religion manifests itself, it seems to do so often negatively. The ray of hope this year was that little rhyme, the Pope.  I pray he is as he seems.  He seems the miracle of the year.

Goodnight, and have a wonderful Christmas, and festive season, and may the new year bring you and your family health, love, and peace of mind.  If I had one wish, it would be for everyone who reads this to buy Sumia Sukkar's brilliant novel about Syrian refugees in 2012 and early 2013.  It deserves to be a classic, and if I had the marketing budget, it would be. Ho ho ho and jingle those bells! Love, Dr Todd Swift
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