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THE SWIFT REPORT 2015

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 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 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. 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 vacation 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.

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...

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THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

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

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

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

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

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

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

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

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