Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Winner of the 7th Fortnight Poetry Prize is....

M. J. Arlett - pictured - for the poem 'Snowfall In Pennsylvania' (below). Congratulations! She wins £140 on this UK National Poetry Day!

Arlett was born in the UK, grew up in Spain, and now lives in Texas where she is pursuing her PhD. She is an editor at the Plath Poetry Project and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in B O D Y, The Boiler, Lunch Ticket, Poet Lore, Mud Season Review, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere.

The runner up is: 'Orlando’ by Eva Griffin.

The judge, Alexandra Payne wrote:

With the autumn equinox not long behind us, the numerous winter poems among the entries this fortnight really came into their own. None, however, with more delicacy and precision than ‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ by M. J. Arlett.

Like an iced-over lake, or a deer that freezes then bolts, this poem exudes a peacefulness with a simultaneous undercurrent of energy. In a time when everything seems to be moving so quickly and with so little meaning, ‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ is a pause to inhabit and relish.
The next iteration begins Friday 29 September, runs for 14 days, with a winner announced 7 days after that. The judge this time will be Ms Rosanna Hildyard, our senior editor.

Snowfall in Pennsylvania
Leftover flurries are falling into the hot thick air
climbing up to greet it. The drink
in my hand is fogging and I am snowed in
by happiness, mulling in a tub
of artificial heat. So this is winter:
the weight of water on water, the creaking,
a whole landscape come to pause in the great
depths of what can be accumulated
given enough time. Mother, I'm sorry
I'm so far away, but -my god- if you could see it.
The deer are breaking from the forest, the sky
is a suffocation and I have seen nothing before this.
- poem by M.J. Arlett, copyright the author
reprinted with permission
The shortlist of 14 was: 

‘Although the birds would mourn’ by Terence Degnan

‘Baby’ by Tania Hershman

‘Blood Rose’ by Carrie Magness Radna

‘Canzone to Labor in a Heatwave’ by Timothy Duffy

‘Classics of the Mask’ by Lou Heron

‘Orlando’ by Eva Griffin

‘Proteus’ by Sameed Sayeed

‘Quantity Surveying Belfast City’ by Suzanne Magee

‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ by M. J. Arlett

‘Still Life with You Gone’ by Ellen Girardeau Kempler

‘The credits are always right by the door’ by Kate Noakes

‘The Heron’ by Gareth Writer-Davies

‘The Matter of the Unconscious’ by Robin Richardson

‘Times & Spaces’ by Stephanie Roberts


I do not come to mourn Heffner. He lived to 91, and had what he wanted from life. What he wanted was desperately limited, although hedonistically exciting - he had the devil's bargain, as it were - all the sex, money, fame, and influence he asked for. Why mourn the villain who makes crime pay?

His impact on Post-war Western society was akin to that of the atomic bomb, and just as destructive. His "lifestyle" - never harmless boys will be boys fun - for all its purported social-justice elements and literary collusions (with sex-creeps like Sartre), was about radically free access to a certain kind of sexual pleasure - mostly white male middle-class heterosexual freedom (though he did advocate for gay rights at some stage, likely as a cover for his own need for total access to sex objects).

What brand is better known, or more sinister, than the bunny ears, other than the swastika? His persuasive Playboy stood for the idea of a male fantasy of never having to grow up, of high-end scotches, cigars; stereo and sports car acquisitions - and mostly, of endless available big-breasted women. Women as sex toys, and never as thinking beings, with hearts or souls. The staple at the heart of his nudes killed so many ways of loving properly.

It is hard to claim, though his daughter would, that Heffner's image or idea of women was empowering. It was demeaning.  Heffner's empire of media and clubs established a permissiveness that encouraged men like me to be male babies, craving easy sex, mommy's milk, and no responsibolity - it is the offer of the glamour of evil. It is very tempting. 
So, TV actors like OJ Simpson, rock gods, and celebrities entered his shadowy man-cave, and never left. But enslaving women - in word, thought, deed, ideology or costume - to serve your every whim is, in fact, criminal, or at least deeply amoral, and the Playboy Mansions should be bull-dozed as scenes of great social wrongs, just as we do with sex-crime murder houses.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017



Eyewear, the blog loves to share news of great popular songs (tracks) so you can hear our playlist. We are on Spotify endlessly as we edit. We favour indie guitar bands, 80 revivalists, synth-pop, dream pop, and George Michael, as well as Ska and The Smiths. We are publishing Sarah Walk, whose work is super - but we won't list her here, as that might be considered cheating... check her out. No National, lcd soundsystem or Fleet Foxes here, or The War on Drugs, sorry.... they would all make a best of year's end Top 100, and may well do....

Here are 25 recent tracks that over the summer and last few weeks have wormed their way deep into our psyches.

1. 'Persistence' - Albin Lee Meldau
Hardly a household name, he should be. This is the sort of passionate throwback to CCR guitar rock too many hipsters have aimed for of late. He achieves something classic, catchy, and oddly poignant here.

2. 'Royal Highness' - Tom Grennan
This is pure rock pop, with a touch of Hall and Oates in the lyrics, and a little bit of Jake Bugg, and some garage rock swagger. It's a bit silly, but energetic and sort of delirously happy.

3. 'In Undertow' - Alvaays
Basically, the best dream pop band of recent time stamp, this is haunting, sad, sweet, and perfect break-up music - "there's no turning back after what was said" - classic Brexit sentiment too.

4. 'Spent The Day In Bed' - Morrissey
Britain's favourite UKIP supporter - a tragic misalignment of talent and thinking - starts his new  grumpy yet scarily catchy song with music you'd associate with Supertramp - noodling organ. Oh well - his Trumpian attack on the news that makes "you feel small and alone" is bizarrely linked to a day in bed to "do as I wish" - you can please yourself...

5. 'What Have We Done?' - OMD
No one wakes up from their bed and asks for more OMD. Yet they were the smartest of the synth-pop 80s hit-makers, and their new comeback album is very good. This may be a Brexit song, too. It opens with some 'O Superman' Laurie Anderson stuff, and gets haunting and wise.

6. 'Someday' - Pale Seas
The sort of song I love. Swooning indie guitar twangs, echo chambers, and gender-neutral vocals, and lyrics that Echo & The Bunymen would consider apt, this is thrillingly melodramatic alternative pop - " your echo leaves a scar" indeed. I want to go to a small seaside town with these lads and get drunk.

7. 'Coke ' - BLOXX
'She's the greatest at it' - another dream pop song with a wonderful vocalist, who may be a girl, or a boy - love that ambiguity. Like early Cranberries, it is sincere, twisted, sexy - does she do blow or blow do?

8. 'Fantasy' - George Michael, Nile Rodgers
Well, perverse as it is to raid a dead man's back catalogue or in this case, second-rate unrecorded sessions, no one is better, ever, than Nile Rodgers, at producing this stuff - not even Sir George Martin - another GM of genius.

9. 'Vin Mariani' - Baio
Who are these guys? They sound like ABC married Human League. So 80s you want to sue a decade or something, but really, well done. Just great pastiche.

10. 'To The Bone' - Steve Wilson
A man who wants to merge Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel rock with 21st century stylings - and includes those noises that sound like zoo animals that Talk Talk did so well - but also uses Rush Prog rock... well, what a song! Like the theme to an 80s cop show set in Cincinatti called Maddoxx.

11. 'Shade' - IAMDBB
'Uber uber everywhere.... ' compelling hip-hop with an eerie Numan sensibility, this is icy cool and seems to be lamenting a bad world making too much money - and suggesting Trump will lose in 2020...

12. 'Bike Dream' - Rostam
If you love Vampire Weekend, you will sort of like this song, which could be a throwaway from a few other Brooklyn bands, but is redeemed from being so quirky and sweet and screwy you fall in love. Neck-kissing and penguins, I think are mentioned.

13. 'Lion's Pride' - Trevor Sensor
Great name. Pipes that sound like a frog has swallowed a pack of Marlboros, washed down with The Pogues, this is singer-songwriting you will either adore or despise.

14. 'Hey' - Hey Charlie
Fancy a girl band like The Runaways doing a song that is a rip-off of Nirvana? Check. Want a song that is mindlessly sexy and snot-nosed? Check. Here it is, go entertain yourself.

15. 'Feels Like Heaven' - Ariel Pink
Sweet, nostalgic, The Smiths lite. I am in love again.

16. 'Millenial' - Sam Fender
If you thought Trevor Sensor is stridently singer-songwriter sincere, check this out. Either an ironic Cambridge jape, or the most achingly sincere yawp of the times, you choose - but it is unforgettable.

17. 'Liars' - The Ninth Wave
Some more great indie rock pop with new wave twangs.

18. 'Take Back Time' - Faux
Wow. The most 80s pop song on this list, which is a miracle. A resurrection of Prince and Kenny Loggins, who never worked together with Huey Lewis, except now.

19. 'Work It Out' - Tiggs Da Author
This may be a pseudonym. Who would have expected a rewrite and new version of 'Jerk It Out'? Great.

20. 'King Charles' - Yungblud
Crazy energy, ska and dance and hip-hop and all sorts of stuff mix up with baggy-trouser 90s indie Happy Mondays stuff - and it is funny.

21. 'Kill4Me' - Marilyn Manson
Egregious. Sick. Evil. Yes, but supremely well-made evil sick egregiousity. Most shocking song since, well, 'Great Balls of Fire'.

22. 'Nancy Drew' - Slotface
A riotous girl band punk stomper, so funny and zany and sweet, it makes you want to read those mystery books again.

23. 'Yuk Foo' - Wolf Alice
An even more riotous girl band punk stomper, making 'Husbands' by Savages sound quiet and sedate. Pretty much the most exciting song I have ever heard. I think she says she doesn't give a shit. Love this.

24. 'Roulette' - Katy Perry
This is sublime. No pop song has ever been more weaponised. Perry here becomes better than Swift, Madonna, Gaga, or Spears(though not Rihanna). Sexy - insane - violent. In some ways more twisted than Manson's track. "Everything in moderation, sometimes you gotta give in to temptation" - a celebration of Tinder sex... preposterously savvy. Kitsch at maximum stunning.

25. 'Don't Know Why' - Slowdive
We end with a sad, autumnal, shimmering dream-pop track of majesty and purpose.


Thursday, 7 September 2017


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 shirts                            I couldn’t fit in then

are half my size now                           I wanted to wear

smaller and smaller                             articles of clothing

I shrunk to the size                              that disappeared


of an afterthought                               in a sinking ship body

too buoyant to sink                             too waterlogged for land

I became                                              a dot of sand

silent as dusk                                      becoming night


my first time sailing                            I capsized

and almost drowning                          in oversized clothing

I sat the captain’s seat                         I couldn’t fit into

till I sunburned                                    my entire body


lobster body                                        kids called me

with claws showing                            more names

than I can recall                                   the skin and the cells

the burning only                                  have themselves


beach bodies are                                  naked and brave

to be sought after                                I told myself

instead find treasure                            to look in the mirror

inside the self                                      until I saw the sea

Judge Rosanna Hildyard's commentary:

Many of the poems this fortnight experimented successfully with innovative form. For example, the ‘transition poem’ as used by PC Vandall is a difficult feat to pull off. Using the same form and words as Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Night Dances’, Vandall reworks the word order to subvert the original’s meaning. Vandall picks up Plath’s particular, concise description in this poem, and carries on with the intriguing ambiguity of the poem in this response. With lines like ‘the white space of your eyes, / the drenched smell of calla lilies’, Vandall’s response is more suggestive of romantic obsession than parental tenderness.

Anne Walsh Donnelly’s simple list of instructions ‘Your Guide To Becoming A Writer’ is a blackly funny example of a comfortablly familiar form, while Daniel Duffy’s series of poems inspired by landscape paintings work together as various forms which make a coherent poetic narrative. His poem ‘President Returns To New York...’ is a parody of the social column or political circular – with a crafted rhyme scheme, it works as both poem and prose.

The winning poem, Wheeler Light’s ‘Life Jacket’, shows what a good poem should be: a balance of matter and form. It is a poem about the humiliation of having an ill-fitting body, about the modern alienation from physical being, a universal preoccupation. In a world where our lives and work are largely based in the intellectual realm, our bodies are both us and not-us, and this poem shows exactly how that confusion feels:
I capsized
in oversized clothing
The poem is an immaculate image itself: ten squares of four lines on the page. But the poem is equally instantly effective aloud, with its clipped lines, lack of punctuation and subtle consonance refusing an emotional reading. It is terse: not a word is wasted, for example in the uncomfortable comparison of the speaker’s ‘sunburned / lobster body’ with ‘beach bodies’, a few lines later. The resentful comparison is all inferred through apposition: this is the epitome of the maxim show, don’t tell. Language is restrained in amount and stylistically, accurately reflecting the speaker’s internalised pain. It is beautifully controlled.
Here was the shortlist of 14 poems:

1.   Anne Walsh Donnelly – 'Your Guide To Becoming A Writer'

2.   Beth Brooke - 'I Miss You Today'

3.   Bill Garten – 'Recover'

4.   Carol Stewart - 'The Eleventh Hour'

5.   Carrie Magness Radna – 'Resentment'

6.   Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

7.   Emily Sage - 'Arabesque #1 Debussy'

8.   Kerry O’Shea – 'Artwork By Hillel'

9.   Lou Heron- 'The Eternal Spring', 

10.                Maria Castro Domiguez – 'A Better You'

11.                Nazariy Telyuk  - 'Smoking A Cigarette'

12.                PC Vandall – 'After A Poem By Sylvia Plath' 

13.                Simon Lewis – 'Searching For Peter Shirtliff'

14.                Wheeler Light - 'Life Jacket'

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


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.


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...