Sunday, 29 November 2015

15 SONGS THAT DEFINED THE YEAR FOR EYEWEAR IN 2015

SHE LISTENS TO SPOTIFY A LOT
It's so typical of me to talk about myself.. Adele's great song 'Hello' sums up the Selfie age, perfectly, and also Eyewear's BLOG, which has always been of the digital age - self-important, fluid, ephemeral, fashion-aware, ubiquitous, curious, seeking, innovating, changeable, and deeply trivial.
 
Tis the season, again, of lists and we love them here but know them to be of course profoundly personal - and so what? Here are the fifteen tracks we played most this year at Eyewear HQ, and loved the most - though a few nearly got through, including songs by Madonna and Lana del Rey.... indeed, you know the year is rich beyond belief when we cannot even fit in critical darlings Julia Holter, Diiv, David Bowie, Ezra Furman, Everything Everything, Petite Meller, Peaches, Sleaford Mods, Grimes, Mark Ronson, Sia, Beck, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, or Deerhunter, to name just a few.
 
15 for 2015, get it?  Silly but it helps us to cut down the writing. And, if you made this as a list at Spotify, it would run for exactly 60 minutes!
 
So, here, in alphabetical order by title, are the 15 best popular songs of 2015 according to Eyewear's blog....
 
1. 'All of Me Wants All of You' - Sufjan Stevens
This is not only alphabetically the first songs, but coincidentally simply the finest song of the year. Chanelling Elliot Smith and Paul Simon, Stevens, himself a lyric genius, has composed a song that is as poetically confessional as Robert Lowell, but as contemporary as the masturbation while his friend checks her phone - melancholy, tender, fragile and a work of art.
 
2. 'Are You Ready?' - Mercury Rev
An indie band of somewhat mysterious purpose, enigmatic and rarely noticed, Mercury Rev are capable of creating an uncanny sound that skirts the edge of the experimental.  Here they combine their love of strings, echoes, and dreamy vocals, with a pop song about loving "psychedelic rock and blue-eyed soul" that is both sad and exhiliarting.  It may be about getting ready to dance or hit the town, or die, or have a kiss or a hit of something potent.  It is a very lovely moment.
 
3. 'Bills' - Lunchmoney Lewis
Few songs sound like instant classics. This is one of them - it arrives with its own zany post-Crisis/Crash exuberance and intent. If songs are meant to lift the soul and also tell a truth, few songs of this decade have been as tellingly accurate about Austerity and its personal demands.
 
4. 'Body Talk' - Foxes
Electro-pop was everywhere this year, and huge hit-making song-writing teams combined on many gigantic albums. Foxes released a clutch of singles, but this is the one that most strikes a chord. As catchy as anything Madonna or Lady Gaga or Robyn, or Taylor Swift have ever managed to produce, the themes of love, heart ache and desire, were as direct as the finest 80s hits - so it ended up speaking for itself.
 
5. 'California Nights' - Best Coast
Best Coast are a duo with few critical friends. This new track arrived without champions and the album was ignored at year's end by many list-makers.  However, in their attempt to take a Smiths riff and generate their own anthemic dream pop legacy, they have written a masterpiece of guitar indie swoon and jangle. I get high still every time I listen to it.
 
6. 'Can't Feel My Face' - The Weeknd
Canadians like Justin Bieber, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen and Drake dominated the charts this year. No Canadian song-writer managed better to create a classic, however - this song could be a missing Michael Jackson #1, and made the idea of loss of face oddly meaningful. A master class.
 
7. 'Cranekiss' - Tamaryn
A number of indie groups sought to revive the best dream pop traditions this year, but only one wrote the finest dream pop song since 'Fade Into You' - perhaps my favourite group now working (aside from The Jezabels). Exquisite, romantic, sad, and proto-gothic, it sets a thousand bedrooms darkly ablaze with passion and sensibility.
 
8. 'Decided Knowledge' - Dutch Uncles
Sounding like an oddly quirky revision of Tears For Fears, by way of OMD, this came in under the radar, as a deeply insightful and critical discussion of a life beset by the Toad work, and CV-obsession. Few songs discuss work, harmony, opinion, and money without letting on what is at stake, but no song I have ever heard could better soundtrack the ending of a film about an accountant, MP, or civil servant turning whistle-blower.
 
9. 'Hello' - Adele
No song will say 2015 like this one. Arriving late in the year, at a point when Ronson or Swift were poised to be the artists of the moment, this blew the world away. Simply put, Adele sells like Elvis, the Beatles, Wacko Jacko - she is as popular as any Brit has ever been Stateside, Churchill excepted, and is beloved because of her sincere small-town airs, and great pipes. You can run, but how long can you resist it? The video, brave and ludicrous at once, dared to be as big as the 80s, and won over a world. The anthem of the decade.
 
10. 'High Enough To Carry You Over' - Cvrches
This track reminds me of another funky 80s synth-pop band from Scotland, Endgames, but that was 35 years ago. Preposterously OTT, danceable, and twee, sung in a breaking male voice of angsty drive, as if Madonna's 'Borderline' had been sung by Joe her cousin, it is hard to let go of. I let it take me.
 
11. 'J1M1' - Atari Teenage Riot
If you want to hear the sound of angry hacktivism set to dance rock, turn to this German group as perturbed, left-wing, pacifist, and political as it is possible to be without becoming Jeremy Corbyn's campaign manager. An alternative indie anthem for the age of IS. "Don't let them break you" indeed.
 
12. 'New Americana' - Halsey
Remember Lorde? That was so, like, last year. High on legal marijuana, here comes the hippest singer-songwriter from the States since Lana became sort of well, old hat. Witty, satirical, and infectious to the max, this was the college radio classic of the year.
 
13. 'Sprinter' - Torres
Few songs are as haunting as a novella, or as serious, but Torres managed to tell a disturbed tale of running in school, a perverted pastor, and how glory, porn, theology and grace merge in a confused maesltrom of adolescence and identity-wonderment. Lyrically striking and fiercely intelligent, she has written a major song, with echoes of PJ Harvey's best work in the background.
 
14. 'That's Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)' - Kurt Vile
Americana is the gift that keeps on giving. Vile, a brilliant sometime collaborator with The War On Drugs, has written a few of the best songs of the 00s but this may be his most resonant, effective. Blunt as a clawhammer, and homely as a stoop that needs a lick of paint, he sits down and picks a few chords and a few words that manage to sum up the sorrows of the whole of existence. As poetic as the strangest Dylan works. "So sad, so true".

15. 'What Went Down' - The Foals
In many years, the Foals would have been said to have made the album of the year. As loud yet sensitive as Royal Blood fused with Fleet Foxes, or perhaps Nirvana and The War On Drugs, this was the loud-soft rock explosion of 2015 - a weird, driving, angry, leonine, Marlboro-burnt story of falling in love with a "girl with a port-wine stain" - it felt almost as if Lee Child's latest pulp novel had been set to throat-burning roaring lyrics, inflected with all the rage and sadness that only these violent, unsettled times can inflict upon sensitive artists and musicians. Grand, noble, tortured, majestic.














BEST TV IN 2015

As befits this new age of entertainment excellence, it is possible to declare 2015 one of the best years in the past 50 for TV, film, and popular music.

No list of excellent, popular TV in English would exclude Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Homeland, The Affair, Game of Thrones, Daredevil, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot, Wolf Hall, Humans, The Americans, Manhattan, Jessica Jones, True Detective (even season 2), and some guilty pleasure lists might even include Better Call Saul and the absurdly kitsch T&A throwback, Quantico.

However, in a supremely crowded field, Eyewear wishes to select two mini-series, one from America, and one from the UK, which both exemplify the very best of TV drama, especially when it comes to grips with politics and recent events.

The UK show is London Spy - not even concluded, but already, in its first three hour-long episodes starring Charlotte Rampling, Mark Gattis, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent, startlingly brilliant.  This series manages to combine the stylish and literary elegance and sad beauty of Brideshead Revisited with the violence and pornography of the most shocking art film you have yet to see. Based on a true spy story (a shy maths genius spy was found dead in a BDSM encasement in his locked rooms), it manages to yield scenes of poignancy, horror, romance and genuine disgust almost unparallend in current British drama. The script, cast and direction are all five star. A new benchmark.

Meanwhile, handsome smart rising star Oscar Isaac, in Show Me A Hero, a six-part series based in Yonkers in 1987, becomes a young mayor accidentally embroiled in a national race issue over affordable housing for African-Americans in a mainly White neighbourhood.  What could and should have been a rather dismal local politics miasma becomes as fascinating as if Dickens had written up a show about the Russian Revolution and set it in a small city outside New York city. Hugely rich characters, and tragic human failings, lead to small yet elementally seismic losses and bad decisions, even amongst those with the most ideals to waste.

Both shows reveal the darkest hearts of human behaviour, and of human governance, but offer glimpses of hope, and both, curiously, for such gritty and secular narratives, have a sort of King Arthur mythic template beneath them (both are about a Waste Land, a young hero, a quest for a cleansing grail, and, well, both have mentors and enemies).

Regarding camp choices, I reserve a space in my heart for True Detective 2 whose few episodes became Lynchian and Kubrickian and rather thrilling at times. As well, Quantico, the most popular new US show, was so achingly crap it was very sexily fun trash, a sort of FBI Baywatch.

It is true that Dickensian, the new Luther, and Christmas Sherlock are still to air, but this is it for now, give or take.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

EYEWEAR PUBLISHING PRAISED IN THE TLS!

Good news in tough times. Eyewear Publishing
is mentioned in a new review by poet and critic Rory Waterman in the latest issue of the TLS - it's a round-up following the Michael Marks shortlisting, discussing various pamphlets.

 Here is a brief taste: 

'Eyewear Publishing, founded by Todd Swift in 2012, has quickly risen to prominence for its similarly attractive poetry volumes, and has now launched the stylish pamphlet series Eyewear 2020/ (get it?), which demonstrates much of the rich multifariousness of British poetry in 2015.'
 
There is mention of Sam Jackson, Matt Howard and Damilola Odelola, among others.  Seek it out.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

THE GOD OF CARNAGE


2015 has been a year of outrages - terrorism - a word which may have its origins, as some rather crass pundits wryly observed, in the rampant and often cruel massacres of the French revolutionary period.  The West - no stranger to cruelty to the Other and others itself at least since its settlers and explorers raped, tortured, and pillaged across the Americas - and in two World Wars the perpetrators of the worst atrocities in human history (the Holocaust, the dropping of nuclear weapons) - has finally met its match.

Civilization was once used to contrast the good with the barbaric.  The endless random killing masterminded by half-insane fanatics and fantasists, motivated by a medieval theology of incompatible Jihad, has cast itself as the new normal of barbarism. IS, the current bogeyman, though having never put forth a 9/11 style spectacular, instead went all Digital Age on our asses, chopping off heads for our apps and iPhones, smashing ancient cities for the cameras, and then pulling off a Mumbai-style and curiously pathetic spree of slaughter in Paris, twice, in one year, like a sequel to its own crazed movie.

At time of writing, mourning has become eclectic, and divisive; in what can only be called post-rational society, we now accuse our grieving allies of not caring as much for the fallen of Beirut, Mali or Kenya - and Ukraine is half-ignored. Realpolitik's diktats now mean the UN has rallied its Security Council and the world, including odd-man-out Russia and standalone China, in a bid to obliterate IS, which is both a bastion and a bastardised idea. You cannot kill ideas, but one supposes, you can blow those who hold them to shit, as Trump, panto Nazi Yankee, now says.

Paris II was the threshold of violence across which IS took us - a ritualistic breaking of our taboo-protected soul-hymens. They have helped us to grow up, our liminality now shed.  We are adults at last - face to face with an evil enemy worthy of our own past sins, and our own demons. IS is the perfect foe, because it lacks any empathy or recognisably sane goals. If there is a clash of civilizations between the West and others, there is also a clash of barbarisms, and IS has seen our Nagasaki, and raised us a Bataclan.

Few sober soldiers and terrorists (even terrorists) shoot weeping teenagers at rock concerts, unless they hate the very idea of youth and rock music. As I have said elsewhere, killing people while they laugh, and drink and talk at a Paris café is the secular analogue of killing a person at prayer in a Mosque. But how to grieve the unspeakable and unsayable? The media, never exhausted by spectacle and carnage, has packaged nightly this last week of candles and banners, and wreaths, as if we had a thousand Lady Di's dying each day. Our ability to be moved by our own suffering is, in the Selfie Age, extraordinary. As one poet said recently, we turn from murder to kittens, in one click or swipe. We hold heaven and hell in our hands.

IS is the opposite of kittens, in every way. Hart Crane knew that a kitten cried in the wilderness - kittens are the Western image of helpless lovely cute decency and hope. So long as there is a kitten there is hope.  IS expends and desolates hope with every gay person thrown off a roof, every child shot in the head, every atrocity enacted with definitive aplomb. They like being themselves, just as we like loving kittens. They represent precisely what we are not. We know that so why have we not destroyed them yet?

Ah, we do not want boots on the ground, blowback, and so on. We blame ourselves for our incriminating actions in the Middle East and Latin America and Asia and Nuremberg. We suspect this is our Nemesis.  We hate ourselves like all good narcissists, really, deep down.  We have expected this punishment since Hobbes, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud and Foucault told us we had monsters within - but of course we never really repented or stopped being who we were. We just made movies and pop songs and porn and colas and shoes and cars instead and bought them.

However, despite our evils, IS is not finally about us. Sorry, but even narcissism has limits. Just as metorites and storms and cancer cells are not about us, in the first instance, IS arises alien not from the West but from a perversely dogmatic (but human) misreading of a book that is not of Western origin.

Harold Bloom might appreciate the sinister irony that all the evil in the world seems to come from misprision and misreading, still.  IS wants to generate a divinely-sanctioned Caliphate, underwritten by murder and cleansing sacrifice, smack dab in the centre of the oil fields and temples of the world. Like Superman in one of those films, they want to fly around the planet backwards and return to a time before Americans and post-Christian decadence, and Western power, before Bush and Bach, before Pope and popes, before Swift and Taylor Swift, before Whitman and Chaucer. Before Rousseau, Lincoln, Austen, Sontag, Justin Bieber.

In their sandy severe and devout world, without sex accept on their curious terms, and without love except the love of killing and their God, and without reading except of their select texts, they will build a new order, not so different from Hitler's.  Just as we have learned not to judge or blame the victims in the death camps, we cannot blame the beheaded and callously shot victims of IS. We are blameless because this meteor of hate rides before us, and would do this to anyone, at any time, unless they spoke their endlessly limiting language of focused rage and transformation.

God help us all.  Help us to read properly. And to love more than kill.

Teach me how to mourn properly, without malice or sentimentality.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

EYE SPY

SHE WAS A SPY
The new UK Spy bill being mooted - see here - is unacceptable, and yes, will out people's private browsing habits, which are more personal and potentially embarrassing or damaging than we might care to admit, as a society.

Simply put, a large percentage of the British public uses the Internet to do one or more of the following: a) cheat on a spouse or partner; b) look at (legal) porn; c) look at (illegal) porn; d) read up about suicide or mental illness or some other illness they may wish hidden; e) illegally pirate/ download American TV shows; f) pirate music, books, movies; g) explore other odd, eccentric or very personal hobbies or obsessions.

If the government is able to collect the data exhibiting this behaviour, and if it is gathered, and then perhaps hacked, or simply used by their own unscrupulous intelligence agencies, mass harm to the society would ensue.

This is because you could easily blackmail anyone in politics or any position of authority to make them do your bidding in exchange for suppressing a-f above.  Given that almost EVERY young British male between the age of 15-25 does at least b) as do may women, you would quickly be able to embarrass or blackmail many persons in Britain once they reached a position of power - until such time as looking at porn was no longer a social taboo.

If this seems far-fetched, consider the life and story of J. Edgar Hoover, who compiled dossiers on tens of thousands of Americans, via wire-tapping and then blackmailed them for over 40 years, becoming the most powerful man in America, able to make and break Presidents even. This is because of human nature.  Humans sin, and the Internet encourages a variety of legal sins, some of which are socially unacceptable.

Grown married persons who are, say, politicians, priests, generals, doctors, educators, CEOs, and so on, might not want their partners to know they look at legal porn sites that feature young-looking women dressed as schoolgirls, or whatever their particular kink was.  Newspapers would and could topple leaders. We are in a new Victorian Age - but instead of the brothels of Marylebone (that serviced thousands of men every night 130 years ago in London) - we now have the Net.

The question becomes, what are the threats such blanket spying on us all would defeat? Terror attacks - however terrible - usually only kill a few hundred people at a time.  Their impact is awful but containable

Allowing a home-grown spy agency to possess information rendering all our online behaviour transparent is not containable, and would damage the lives not of hundreds of people, but tens of millions. If it stifled expression, exploration, and creative expansion of the Internet, it would also ruin the economy.

It is a Police State charter.

The State can always find an enemy to justify taking our rights away.

It is our duty, as citizens, to oppose this, even if it means putting our lives at some risk by risking we will leave some of our enemies able to communicate without our knowing about it.

So we must oppose this plan, even if it leaves some questionable, even unethical, human behaviour in the shadows.

A society with all its vices exposed at once to public inspection would collapse.

THE SECRET TO PUBLISHING

THE BETTER PUBLISHER
I have discovered the secret to publishing success: print money.

Seriously, the success of a publishing house is directly connected to the following statement: if you publish books people want to own and read, they will buy them from you.  If they buy them from you in large amounts (over a few thousand copies) you make a profit on initial expenses, and can also cover overhead costs, marketing, salaries, design, postage, etc.

In short - if publishing as a business model is to be viable, the publishing company must produce goods/items/units/books that are in demand.

The reason poetry presses fail, struggle, and generally require state or private funding (subventions) to survive, is because they underperform at generating sales revenue.

In ugly words: poetry is something not in demand.

Despite some big selling poetry titles every year, most poetry titles will sell between 50 and 800 copies - usually around 200. Very few sell more than 2000.

A company that only produced books (or any product) that only 200 people wanted would soon face financial crisis, unless the total cost of manufacturing those items was less than the amount you could make from selling 200 copies (the most, after deductions to retailers and distributors is around 50% of cover price for most presses) - so if your unit cost was £10, you would make £5 per book sold - selling 200 would make you £1,000.

Most presses need revenue of at least £20,000 a year, if not triple that or more, to employ staff, and cover expenses - which means you would need to sell 4,000 books a year to break even.  And that would require you to produce around 20 poetry books a year.  And of course, this would not leave room for growth.

This is why almost all the poetry publishers are either supported by larger genres, or grants.

POETRY IS IN INSUFFICENT DEMAND AS A COMMODITY TO SUPPORT THE PRODUCTION OF POETRY BOOKS ON A LARGE SCALE*.

So, any press that is interested in publishing poetry and wishes to survive must

a) publish other kinds of books in greater demand;
b) find patrons;
c) seek arts support from government.

And this is what Eyewear currently is doing.

*This may be a good thing; poetry's resistance to commercialisation is a strength as an art form, but a challenge for anyone wishing to try and run a business based on selling poetry books to people, even excellent poetry books that might raise the consciousness of their readers.

THE 1&1-ARVATO ONLINE HOSTING SCAM

Eyewear - no naïve wanderer in the online world - has become victim of a dreadful scam. A few years ago we bought a number of domain names from a supposedly-reputable company known as 1&1. Sadly, at the time I did not Google their reputation. It turns out they have, at least since 2010, if not earlier, been accused by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of former customers, of running a breath-taking and cynical scam.

Though they have been taken to the Trading Standards people, and often threatened with legal proceedings, this seems to have avoided major media attention - though that may change, because we at Eyewear are outraged at the intimidating way we have been treated by these unprofessionals.

To summarise, the scam works like this: when you first order the domain name and web hosting, you have to give them your credit card or PayPal details; you also, unbeknownst to yourself (because it is in illegally dense and opaque terms and conditions) agree to pay them in perpetuity - unless you can cancel. In short, you sign up for renewal every year or two, forever.

When Eyewear cancelled its contracts with 1&1 this August, because we no longer wanted to use them, we ticked the cancellation boxes, and removed our credit card details. We then received an email saying it was cancelled.  Which is where, ethically, it should stay.

However, a few weeks ago, a so-called collection agency named Arvato sent me emails, letters, and then began daily phone calls, asking for over £900! It appears that 1&1 "renewed" all my cancelled domains, and seek payment for them anyway - though I clearly told them I did not want them.

When I contacted Arvato I was told there was nothing I could do. I had to pay before my "account could be unlocked" to further discuss matters. In otherwords, I am locked into a running contract in perpetuity, and every week I do not pay this agency, the fees mount.

It turns out, you CANNOT ACTUALLY CANCEL your 1&1 contracts by email or online, but have to also send them a passport photo and signed special letter "proving" you wanted to cancel - this information buried deep where no one ever sees it until it is too late.

Since I have been billed for now over £1,500 of web-hosting stuff I do not want, starting less than two months ago, I have tried to speak to a human being at the company, but it is all designed to defer you endlessly back to a website that never seems to work when you get to the cancellation pages.

I always pay my debts. I believe if you want and use a service, you should pay for it. It is unethical to tie people down to service payments that people say they do not want, and are not using - and then pass them on to a collection agency within a fortnight.

The sinister aspect is, when I Googled this subject, I found out that hundreds, possibly thousands of people, have this experience every year. And some people, when they try to transfer or sell their domains registered at 1&1 discover they never really owned the domains anyway.

Most disturbing, Arvato is a company owned by 1&1 - an arm of the company, designed only to chase these bogus bills, and threaten escalating costs and fees. They also use other companies of their own devising to chase these debts.

The unethical aspect of this is that they claim that 1&1 cannot discuss the billing now that the matter is placed with the debt collectors - but they are based in the same company, and according to dozens of online reports from ripped-off customers, this is part of the structure of the scam - some people find they get bills years after they cancelled.  Once they have you, they try to scare the weak, the old, the nervous, the ill-informed, or the honest, into paying up - paying for a falsely-incurred, contrived debt. They threaten court, but never actually - apparently go that far, since they know what they are doing is against trading standards in the UK.

It is a web of lies, and I regret the day I ever went into any form of commercial dealings with 1&1. Avoid them at all costs.

CREATIVE WRITING AT BRITISH UNIVERSITIES - A BASIC CHECKLIST FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS

WAITING FOR THEIR CW TUTOR DR TODDO TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE

Like many courses and degrees offered by one of the 115 or so British universities, Creative Writing comes in many shapes and sizes. Prospective students are often faced with bewildering choices, if even between local or regional options. This is a brief guide to the perplexed - a simple checklist. Here's how it works - for every yes score 10 points.  This will give you a score of between 0 and 100.  Clearly, you will want to attend a university that scores above 50%.

1. UNIVERSITY RANKINGS.
There are several ranking systems you can locate easily online with Google, updated every year. The question here is, is the university you are considering ranked in the Top 50? If it isn't, the likelihood is, for all its potential benefits, it won't be able to offer many of the advantages of a more prestigious, better-funded campus, that can attract (often) brighter students.

2. DOES IT HAVE CW ACROSS BA, MA AND PHD?
Many students who wish to study for a BA in Creative Writing (or a joint honours course) tend to ignore the depth of the creative writing subject area and the provision at their prospective universities. Without an MA or MFA or PHD option for students, it is relatively clear that the university commitment to CW is rather skin deep - and you won't get the benefits of a fully-enriched study environment, with student writers at all levels of experience.

3. DOES IT HAVE A READING SERIES?
Student writers need to be exposed to published, talented writers across every year of their study, and the best way to arrange this is to have a guest reading series that brings in poets, novelists, and life writers to read for the CW students and to offer advice.

4. DOES IT HAVE A WELL-PRODUCED PHYSICAL STUDENT WRITING MAGAZINE OR ANNUAL BOOK?
Universities may want to save money by trying to put a student magazine solely online (and the digital aspect is crucial of course) but the better UK universities tend to also publish physical student-edited literary magazines, that feature student work alongside well-known authors. This becomes a useful calling card, for agents and readers, and a lovely thing for your friends and family.

5. DOES IT HAVE AN EXCELLENT LIBRARY?
Writers need to have lots of books to read close to hand. An excellent library is essential.

6. DO THE CREATIVE WRITING TUTORS/LECTURERS HAVE MANY PUBLICATIONS?
It is all very well to profess writing, on a theoretical basis, but your teachers at university level should be world-class writers and poets, or at the very least, have publications from recognisable presses. Forget prizes - these are often acquired via cronyism. And many brilliant avant-garde writers avoid prizes and go with smaller presses. However, when you Google your teachers, go to Amazon and other book retailers online.  They should have published one or more books within the last 3 years. Ideally you should then order the books and read to decide if you like their poetics, or style, or themes. Study with writers you admire.

7. IS THE UNIVERSITY NEAR MAJOR CULTURAL OPPORTUNITIES?
Most universities in the UK are situated near at least a small local city or town, and most are therefore near some form of cultural opportunity (cinemas, art galleries, museums) but here we mean can you really say the university is near, say, a major city, or major cultural attraction, or area of outstanding natural beauty - or is it in some form of backwater? A rule of thumb - it should never be more than 90 minutes by train or bus from a city of over 250,000 people.

8. DOES IT HAVE A TRADITION OF CREATIVE WRITING?
Some UK universities have been offering creative writing for decades; other for mere months. With judicious online research, you can quickly discover which universities are leaders in the field, in terms of time and care taken developing a serious CW pedagogy. UEA, for instance, was the first in the UK to offer CW courses at MA level.

9. STAFF TO STUDENT RATIO
You will want to make sure there are enough CW teachers and tutors to go around. If you have a BA cohort of 50 or 100 students, and only one or two teachers, this ratio is likely to be rather poor. Does your prospective university offer a good ratio?

10. IMAGINATIVE AND INNOVATIVE VISION
All universities are going to claim they are innovative, and imaginative, but when you read about the different courses on offer, carefully consider what genres are taught - and if the subjects are siloed or de-siloed. Clearly, if you are an undergrad CW student, you will want to take courses in various writing genres, and forms, like screenwriting, short stories, life writing, digital writing, poetry, etc. You may also want to write erotic or fan fiction, or perhaps thrillers, or fantasy novels. Does your university seem welcoming to practical issues relating to advice about future publication, also?

It isn't just about taking a place near a uni near to your parents, or far from them. It isn't about being close to London (maybe). But it has to be about going to the university that offers the best possible teaching experience, and for creative writing nothing beats well-funded, serious universities that respect their students and staff, and want to develop an ambitious environment. The table here can help.

I offer below a rough list of 20 of the better-known and recognised British creative writing unis (in alphabetical order) - but apply the above measuring-stick for yourself.




1.      BATH SPA

2.      BIRMINGHAM

3.      CARDIFF

4.      DURHAM

5.      EDGEHILL

6.      GLASGOW

7.      GOLDSMITHS

8.      KINGSTON

9.      LIVERPOOL

10.  MANCHESTER

11.  NEWCASTLE

12.  OXFORD BROOKES

13.  PLYMOUTH

14.  ROEHAMPTON

15.  ROYAL HOLLOWAY

16.  ST ANDREWS

17.  SURREY

18.  SUSSEX

19.  UEA

20.  WARWICK



Monday, 2 November 2015

JINGLEBOOKS!



HO HO HO IT'S TIME TO ROCK AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TUBE RIDE HOME AGAIN
Ho ho ho - all Eyewear book titles are now 35% OFF UNTIL DECEMBER 15 (last day we can guarantee delivery more or less on time with our skeleton crew of cheery Elves) - code is JingleBooks !!!!

THE WINNER OF THE 9TH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS...

Kierstin Bridger! Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal. ...