Skip to main content


On Reading Derek Mahon

I wonder at how often
and when these poems
so well-wrought
will earn the readers

in the coming years
of digital concupiscence
and onanistic thrills.
A Chinese wall

is built around the fire
wall, and that is ringed
by weird indifference
to anything too brilliantly

said. There is a formal
way of being great
that has the fate of being

Experiment and hate
together pull down
the banners of a kingdom
built on the quaint

ideals of elegance or chivalric
poise. The noise we intake
instead is the bread
of ignorance we break

with ourselves.
Our brains have softened
as our tongues harden;
citadels are closed;

we’re bored and boring
in equal measure
unless maintained
at a pitch would kill Darwin

or Churchill; Mahon’s
style is beautiful, still, serious,
and makes an occasion
of the flow and spill

of words into a vase; a frame.
There is an object to the art
of poetry, it is that spoken song
in itself is less wrong

than remaining dumb;
no stone is Virgil
on the way to heaven;
one has to burst

into flame or stay a coal;
impacted into a cold potential.
Burn, burn,
and make of the line

a place to raise not decline.
There is the bestial bond
and the civil act;
a poet makes a pact

with savage calm, unruffled
madness squared into a dance
that has its measures
and its chance to obtain

moments of pause and freedom
beyond the domains
where normal countermeasures remain.
So it is I realise, upon reading Mahon,

who knew deep silences of loss
and lost places closest to home
or farthest – sheds, Antarctica, Delft –
contain their cause within the microcosm;

the battles on the plains of Abraham
were also felt in the fleas
on Montcalm’s mount,
in the heft of Wolfe’s lance; worlds

are less and more in one local fact;
but plain and bare and bald
vocalities are not true to the colours
of any tribal claims.

The bridge
of eloquence
needs to be crossed
more often.

May Sundays
during the afternoons
after Austrian pastries
and coffee with iced cream

and a lack of rain.
Nature is cruel
like a tongue
that speaks its mind. 

We need to cross
into silence unnerved.
You read to not be dead.

I write and speak. I speak
and am alive.
Words are the leaves
that thrive on sound. 

We make the sounds
to bring a speaking sea
to the knowing shore
with the bridge

of our mouths.
In that mouth a tree.
A flowering.
Truth is not what is said.

Truth is the life when speech
is made. Poems are lyrical
even if you hit them with
a lobster hammer.

They make a clearing
in the throat
for something better
than possible to escape. 

Poetry is unemployable
nonsense and inescapable
business but it is achievable
knowledge of what is possible.

15 May, 2016
Maida Vale, London

new poem by Todd Swift
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:

HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!