Tuesday, 21 June 2016



No one can predict the Spanish Inquisition, famously, and no one, probably, could have predicted the intensity of the current EU referendum campaign in the UK, which culminates in a vote on 23 June; currently the Remain and Leave camps seem perilously tied, at about 44% support each, with many in the undecided middle.
The most tragic result of the astonishingly vicious, often dishonest, sometimes racist, claims made in the UK media and by some Leave campaigners, was the assassination of the 41-year-old Labour MP Jo Cox, the first woman MP to ever be killed in office in Britain, and the first of any gender for over 25 years. The apparently far-right killer seems to have targeted her for the advocacy of refugee and immigrant rights she was widely known - and admired - for.
Eyewear, THE BLOG has long supported the EU, and more bluntly, EU integration. There was never a question of this blog endorsing the Leave campaign, but we do wish to underline here a few points for the undecided.
One of the oddest developments in the last decade has been "post-fact politics" - Trump is the latest employer of this rhetorical way of thinking and speaking.  It has now come to England, in the form of Boris and Gove - two highly-educated toff Tories whose various lies on the sides of their battle bus, and in interviews, are eye-opening and gobsmacking. As part of this way of debating, experts are trashed as being elitist and somehow in the pockets of the sinister EU, which has been demonised as if it was headed by SMERSH, SPECTRE or Fu Manchu.
There are two ways to debate - one either appeals to authority, or one trashes expertise as suspect.  Usually the side with the facts on its side supports authority. Eyewear is not unused to rhetoric, and will not lie.  What follows is blatantly an appeal to authority. So, let us consider who tells us that a vote for "Brexit" will be terrible for the UK economy, its NHS, and society in general?:
President Barack Obama
David Cameron, the current (Tory) PM
Jeremy Corbyn (the Labour leader)
Gordon Brown, former PM
John Major, former PM
The leaders of the 27 other nations in the EU
David Beckham
The Bank of England
The Economist
83% of British scientists
90% of the British Tech Sector
90% of those working in Higher Education in UK
Bill Gates
Meanwhile, the Leave side is endorsed by:
Nigel Farage
Donald Trump
The Daily Mail
Boris Johnson
Michael Gove
It is clear who we wish to believe, trust, and side with on this issue: the large majority of sane, rational, intelligent people, around the world, who oppose Brexit as A VERY BAD  IDEA INDEED.
Moreover, Eyewear - in publishing its pamphlet  #refugeeswelcome - made explicit its belief that human beings seeking safety, fleeing war zones and violent, failed states, cannot but be welcomed, and empathised with.
The Leave campaign has made it a crime, even a sin, to simply wish to travel, cross borders, and settle in a new home.  To be British and oppose this migration is historically ignorant, as well as cynical and unfeeling - no other group has moved around the world in greater numbers over the centuries than the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish - UK's nations (now playing football in the Euro cup). It is simply not the case that economic EU migrants (who are not refugees) are loathsome leeches. Rather, they are net contributors to the economy - they work hard for the NHS, do jobs Brits tend to avoid - and also bring their rich and various cultures to these shores.
The UK's entire cultural history is one of enrichment from outside influences: Celtic, Roman, Viking, French, Italian, and latterly Asian, Caribbean, African, Eastern European, and American. One does not "take control" of one's relationship to the world by barricading the door. Leave has left a bad taste in the mouth, and has no superior arguments - it seeks to win by an appeal to ignorance and hate.
Remain is the right thing to do.

Monday, 13 June 2016



Intolerance, like heat, rises.
No one should have to –
No, but, they do....

Without having to reload…

Almost a double entendre
But who hears twice
When they are dying (dead)?
To be killed for love

Or to be honest desire
Is an outrage; is there
A kind of killing permissible?
Revenge itself is outrageous.

It’s all a circle, or some shape,
Not the shape of bodies
Held together, as if by glue,
Stuck by blood or sex,

Or yes, the loving grimaces.
Is there pity for ignorance
When it results in such loss,
And arises from belief?

Bad beliefs, like bad music
Are immediately apparent
To the soul’s ear;
We cannot dance to hate;

Only love has a beat
And a groove worthy
Of proper physical attention.
No one may make light

Of atrocity, poetry out
Of such blindness
Seems obscene; but terror
Is the porn of our age,

Clicking its way to hits
And hitting out; snuffed,
Those viable, visible lives
So various in their options,

The multiple mouths, truths,
The hetero and homo of coming
To terms with ecstatic union;
Always rising above condemnation

Of pleasure, the final outcome
Of God’s giving us new bodies
That entwine even as they die.
Cry out Orlando, in pride.

13 JUNE, 2016
by T Swift


2016 is shaping up to be one of the worst years, at least from a Western historical perspective, since 1936.

The deaths of major figures (Bowie, Ali) aside - and sad as these are, deaths of major figures happen annually - there are several possibly disastrous events about to occur, within months.

One of these is the election of the sinister Donald Trump.

The second is a BREXIT for the UK from the EU, which could trigger a European, and at the least, British, recession, even depression. And also trigger a cultural collapse of arguably equal horror.

Meanwhile, the terrorist-hate attack in Orlando on the weekend, in which 49 people were killed, and as many injured, some awfully, for apparently their sexual preferences, is just sad, dreadful and heart-crushing on many levels.

What a year, what a month.

It is possible the UK will narrowly avert self-destruction and isolation, and vote to Remain, though currently polls strongly suggest otherwise; and it is possible Trump will lose, though such terror attacks on US soil only embolden his virulent rhetoric and make him, grotesquely, appear more oracular, and popular.

But what of this hateful ideology that wishes ill towards members of the LGBT communities across the West, and beyond? Have we really done enough, as open, rational, and humane societies, to push back against bigotry and ignorant fear?

Even the British Anglican church is in bed with gay-bashing communions in Africa; and in America, many born-agains espouse gay-hate. This is no longer acceptable, after Orlando. One is either on the side of ISIL, or one is on the side of tolerance, love and equal human rights. To sit on this sort of fence is tantamount to allowing evil ideas to fester.

I am loathe to search for silver lings after a brutal massacre.  So I won't search for one. Today is simply very sad.  Let us wish for love for all love. And keep rowing away from the rocks.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016



It won't be when it is;
it, it - identify the culprit.

That's mystery, not this:
we know what does the deed;

deeds are legal instruments also;
no day is quieter or more sad

than a May Bank Holiday Monday
when it is about to pour down

or the rain has just barely ended.
Gloom. The day presents badly,

won't look us in the eye.
Don't say autistic.  Closing down

the long weekend, time like
a French Play amuses with doors.

I have no business (being an I)
intruding or hiding here.

To conceal is to claim I am
a thing worth keeping from someone

or some thing.  Some body.
Bodies are extended metaphors

for extension, just as bank loans
are tropes for needing money.

It is all the same to me.
This landscape is a painting

in a gallery wandered about in
by lawyers here for the wine

and the chance to hit it off
with someone for a variety

of reasons, not one remotely
to do with the art. Which is okay.

Art is hardly interested in them, either.
It is a two-way street, indifference.

Most things remain remote
from the world of other minds;

it is unclear what things feel
about being inhuman, inanimate.

What would they say to Disney
or any two-bit Michelangelo

who might disturb their dull stasis
with reverse Mimesis, fantasy?

Guess what? My heart aches
with regards to legal matters

of the head; the hands do cartwheels
on the grass and the brain

half-believes the spirit is the soul
when suddenly, pig's organs

deliver themselves unto our selves
like ripostes from life itself,

a sort of mass-engineered
roller coaster of the damned

we are strapped into at birth
for the sheer hell of it.

Have no words. For it all.
The colossal shame of death,

the word I thought (I again)
might leave unnamed

as if that would be a defeat
for this non-linear thinker

which is only a disease, a knife,
heroin, a streetcar, a fall, a crate;

thin ice is one skate away
from being a simile for tragedy.

The woodchuck would, but won't.
Quite quaint, working in couplets.

They twin the mirrors they relate.
They spin their tectonic plates

like twins isolate their differences
in subtle acts and ways too shy

to be declaimed or claimed exactly;
a red not blue blouse; a moustache;

well, not that subtle, not too loud.
The cloud of objections to any vehicle

or tenor is diminishing as fewer
comparisons are made.

Quite how it ever got loose is
anybody's guess. Bad luck about

the box, the vase, the lamp, the cage,
whatever broke at this late stage

to let it out to roam at will like words;
the swords of pillage in the early days.

JUNE 7 2016

Friday, 3 June 2016

Chrissy Williams' review of Andrew Shields' collection from Eyewear

I enjoyed Chrissy Williams' review of Andrew Shields' collection from Eyewear. I was surprised though to see quatrains viewed as a traditional form. Well they are but it is also 50 years or more since Olson gave us his projective verse. Poetry cannot be judged by how it looks on the page. I call that the fallacy of form: that somehow some poetic options are more or less quaint. We are post-experiment now.

Conceptual poetics has opened the door to every kind of option. For a poet to return to a stately older form to work in is no less bold or noble than for a person to wear gloves in winter. Sometimes it is cold and the gloves serve well in their chosen task. Poetry reviewers do not understand it seems to me the paradox their instrumental task boxes them into: to describe something heretofore unfamiliar and new.

The critic enters into a rhetorical maze that is a trap: however they wander they aim either to the exit that says original or old hat. But the maze itself is fixed. I try instead not to evaluate in terms of originality which is a bogus pursuit devised by Chevrolet salesmen.

I ask does it sing? Does it serve? Does it bring pleasure? Is it good within its chosen bounds? My kitten will never bark. My dog will not purr. I feed them both.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Good to see brilliant poet and scholar Ben Mazer get a review in a recent issue of the NYRB from Helen Vendler no less for his scholarly Collected John Crowe Ransom.

She admires Ben's editorial work but is almost comically prim in doling out praise to Ransom himself, who she seeks to place as resolutely minor-minor. Her understanding of his Christian ironies is oddly limited. For instance she asks what a poem that references roses and hay has to do with Christ? Anyone familiar with religious symbolism can answer that in seconds.

She claims it strange to title a book Poems About God in 1919; yet that collection is a collection of poems about religious belief. She later accuses Ransom of writing as God in "a language never heard on earth or heaven" which is a rather odd complaint. If God does not exist poets can surely invent any language they want for Her; if She does exist, explain Miltonic rhetoric as being any less eccentric?

Indeed, Vendler's main quarrel seems to be with modernism balanced by high lyrical modes and aims; Ransom's exquisite cruel ironies of diction which I love (primly propped) etc she reviles as inexpert or quaint. Well, no. Ransom was a very urbane agrarian indeed. His best poems show a mastery of style over content that Winters and Gunn would aspire to.

It is one of Vendler's faults to expect poetic diction to organically enact empirical equivalents (as in Heaney) but there is a poetics of style that sees the poem as its own end. Ransom can be read as a disciple of Pater or Wilde. He is certainly a pleasure to read. If he is minor I am happy to be of his party.



Denise Riley's new collection, Say Something Back, from Picador, is not just a good book of poetry. It is, in a very quiet way, truly great.

Line after line, phrase after phrase, pivot and lift with a certain extra sense of all the ambiguities, ironies, and possibilities, not just of deploying those particular words in that order, but of saying anything, at all - and deeper, of even the possibility of constructing any kind of sensibility at all; especially when the tongue and the poet come up against death's impasse.

Or is it one? If language has any chance of outlasting what ends us, Riley's new poems, believe it or not, with terrible solemnity, much learning and bravado, and not a little black-comedy, offer options for what kind of poetic ectoplasm might gather and remain. If at all.

They say the brain is plastic and grows smarter in the presence of intelligence. Every poet, every writer, who wants to grow into using words, and feeling words, and feeling being itself, could grow from reading this modestly encompassing masterwork.


Here is a wake up call for British poets, and British society over-all - the closing down today of the Poetry Book Society charity (founded by TS Eliot and friends in 1953) is a cultural tragedy. The PBS was not without controversy, and some argued it favoured mainstream presses and poetry books over the avant-garde and the performance-oriented; but it did much to foster poetry reading nonetheless, and its aims were noble in the main.

It is hardly to be understood how a nation of tens of millions of university-educated readers cannot find time or money to keep alive a few fragile poetry organisations that form a bulwark against the general ignorance flooding in from the world of sensual-visual pleasures that roil about us. For shame! Put down your EL James, JK Rowlings, Lee Childs, and Dan Browns, and set aside a small penance for poetry. When a society's poetry organs wither, the head is ill. Yes, booklets and prizes have been harvested, shorn off for other bodies to run. But when a PBS goes, what is next?


A WORK IN PROGRESS... I am writing this first part on the eve of New Year's Eve day - and as new remembrances come to me, I may well...