|A YEAR OF POETRY AND FEAR - WE NEED AGENT DOUBLE O SOUL|
Long-time readers of this blog will know there is usually a sprawling self-advertisement and summary near the end of each year by the editor, Todd Swift.
This year, he would like to err on the side of brevity.
2015 was the year I left teaching at university level (at least for awhile) after more than ten years in academia, often as a senior lecturer. I turned my attentions to my own writing (poems, essays, a novel I am crafting, screenplay ideas), and mostly, to editing, and running the indie press Eyewear, now into its 5th year.
About Eyewear, little need be said here, except we published over 15 books this year, and I am immensely proud of all of them - and of course we also had our pamphlet series, 20/20, shortlisted for the Marks Prize. And our Mark Ford book won the prestigious Pegasus Award from THE POETRY FOUNDATION, in the USA.
Our two best-sellers of the year were books on the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and a book of poems by celebrated singer-composer Keaton Henson. Both have sold over 1,500 copies in a crowded Christmas market.
We also published a great memoir/novella by the genius Mario Bellatin, translated by David Shook, and books by great poets like Sean Singer, Andrew Shields, Ruth Stacey, Mel Pryor, AK Blakemore, and E. Stefanidi, H. Knibbe translated by J. Pope, Elspeth Smith, and so on...
The darkness of 2015 was mostly created by the Islamic fanatic terrorists who killed people over the year, from Paris to Paris, and the equally fanatic (and destructive) response of the demagogue Donald Trump, the American Hitler.
There were also numerous deaths of dear and close friends, including one of the founders of Eyewear, brilliant Dutch poet, Hans Van De Waarsenburg.
Highlights of the year, have included discovering the world's greatest Northern Soul track by Nolan Porter, 'If Only I Could Be Sure', and seeing the great films Carol, The Big Short, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Mad Max: Fury Road is likely the best-made film of the year, and the best performance I have seen so far has been by John Goodman in Trumbo. Spectre was a let-down, and the new Tarantino, despite a brilliant visual palette, gratuitously cruel.
A school version of Guys & Dolls conducted by the maestro Chris Dawe in London was brilliant. And Then There Was None was the best Christmas telly - the worst sadly, Sherlock, in my opinion travesty more Mind Fuck than Mind Palace. I also enjoyed being a part of the PoetryFilm event at The Groucho Club.
Thrill of the year had to be seeing our new Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, as a special guest at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, and meeting my college debating partner Gerald Butts, the PM's chief advisor.
My poems appeared in various places, especially The Moth and Blackbox Manifold, and The Pickled Body, and a new anthology edited by Sudeep Sen.
I am currently working on my tenth poetry collection, to come out in a very limited edition this year, to celebrate my 50th birthday coming in April. I am more and more of the opinion that one might as well self-publish if one runs one of the world's best presses, and wants one's book done properly, especially as most UK presses now ask for waits of 2-3 years before bringing out books.
Without a doubt, the best of the year was the time I spent (twice for two fortnights) with my brother Jordan, his wife Jacinthe, and my beloved Godson Alex, now Six; and my wife - who wishes to remain nameless - the five of us create a band of intrepid sojourners, and given Alex's unique private language, the whole adventure is always eccentric and joyous.
Firstly, we spent summer vac in Florida (Disneyland, then Miami, and Cocoa Beach for swimming with sharks, alligators, and rocket launches), and more recently, London-Edinburgh over Christmas, including walks in Soho at night and great veggie Chinese food at Yming.
Nothing for me is more real, more poignant, or important, than these weeks with my closest family. To state the bleeding obvious: Love and kindness, playing games, and spending time with our nearest and dearest reminds one that despite the dreadful world outside, we can always gather around a hearth and radiate small genuine warmth.
I would like to end on a shout out to my marvellous and intrepid Eyewear team, Edwin Smet, Farhan Mannan, Oliver Jones, and now Kelly Davio, onboard to make Eyewear truly great in 2016.
Love one another. And flourish as best one can in 2016, if possible with the least amount of intoxicants. More exercise, less visual rubbish, less sugar, less booze, seems the way to go for us all...
The world needs a detox, if not an enema, eh?
Anything left out of this tiny letter will of course be added later, and apologies for my increasingly scattered memory.
TODD SWIFT, PHD
MAIDA VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND
5 JANUARY 2016