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2018 is likely to be considered a year that many people would soon like to forget. It had its fair share of war, murder, famine, refugees being mistreated or ignored, stupid polluting, cruelty and political ineptitude. Historically, the Western powers, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, have not been this weak since the 1930s, or in as much disarray.

2018 saw many notable and world-changing deaths and many not noted, not least the deaths of those lost at sea, or killed while reporting (every death is the end of the world, as Derrida once said) - mention here is due, at least, to those figures who touched my life in some small way (usually only with their works or words): Morgan Tsvangirai, Aretha Franklin and Stan Lee, William Goldman, Pete Shelley and Philip Roth, Margot Kidder and R Lee Ermey, Sir Roger Bannister and Stephen Hawking, Jenny Joseph and Reg E Cathey, Emma Chambers and Billy Graham, Johann Johannsson (whose Sicario score is an ominous masterwork) and Dolores O'Riordan, Mark E Smith and John McCain, Penny Marshall and Burt Reynolds, John Mahoney and Rick Genest, Dorothy Malone and Neil Simon; closer to my own life, the brilliant Canadian poet, Susan Briscoe, died; she had been a college friend and colleague; and we also lost the great Dutch poet Menno Wigman - dear God, such losses.

There was hardly a government at all at the end of December, in Britain; and America has a President who is probably as morally bankrupt as any they have ever had. While the US economy by some measures is doing well, retail and high street sales in the UK nose-dived at Christmas; this was the year that saw HMV and other beloved British brands disappear or collapse; not for the first time has digital disruption led to loss and unhappiness.

But I'll avoid the political summaries; they are easily found elsewhere. Here, for my few (very few) fans, friends, family, and readers, I wish to offer an exceptionally brief and I hope modest account of the highlights of the year for me. I won't focus on illness, negativity, or family members who are struggling - there are times and places for such writing, and this is not that time or place.

The highlight of the year was my Pembroke College, Cambridge, residency, ending October 2018; I was writer in residence. Readings, tutorials, writing and pamphlets ensued; and an anthology is on the way. The Master, Lord Smith, is a great person, and made me most welcome.

The second important event was my mother's visit to the UK, with my aunt Heather, and our subsequent trip to Venice together.

Thirdly, I would say the opportunity to work with a hero of mine, Pete Shelley, and his designer friend, Malcolm Garrett, on the Collected Lyrics of Pete Shelley. Tragically, Pete died recently; suddenly. He was the first openly bisexual artist who made me feel at home in the world with my erotic energies and creative identity.

Rounding off the top 5 would be my time with my godson Alex and my family in Florida in July (including a visit to Key West); and Christmas in Ireland.

This year, I also turned 52, and celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary. My faith sputtered and probably died, but I am gingerly renewing it, with guidance from a good friend, a spiritual advisor.

Also, this year celebrated the 7th for the press Eyewear, which was restructured end of this year to try and stay solvent in an exceptionally negative pre-Brexit British economy. We launched a fine number of wonderful political, poetry, fiction and philosophy titles, at beautiful venues. 

In dark times, and these are very dark, entertainment and escapism are welcome, and 2018 offered exceptional books, music, TV, and film.

My favourite book was by Aidan Mathews, a new collection of poetry by a lesser-known Irish poet, Strictly No Poetry. My top films would have to be, so far, Bird Box, with its terrifying vision of criminally insane acolytes of a soul-destroying supernatural menace stalking the world, followed by another superb horror film, Hereditary. A third, entirely under-rated film was the sequel to Sicario, which may be the bleakest and most cynical film about the war on terror and the Mexican border imaginable. A Quiet Place and the final, dark Orson Welles might round out a top five. I should also mention Paul Schrader's morally coruscating First Reformed, with a stunning performance of a harrowed soul by Ethan Hawke; 2018 seems a year to explore dread and challenge. 

Musically, the new album - Honey - by Robyn marked a career-defining return after almost a decade, to renew pop.

There was too much good TV - overwhelmingly so - but Homecoming with its paranoid 70s stylings, and cool film scores re-purposed, was among the best - but I think the hat gets doffed for deliciously nihilistic spy drama The Americans, ending its final 6th season on a heart-bending note.

Watching the England football team almost bring the World Cup home after 50 years was a rare bit of good news, during a very hot and sunny London summer, though the ending was spoiled a bit by Serbia.

Some very good friends stood by me this year, and they are silently thanked here; as are some newer friends I have made. It may be anodyne to say so, but friendship, loyalty, and love are so important in this breaking world. A special note to Suetonius, who is my best (animal) friend.

I look forward to a more calm, peaceful, and constructive new year, and being able to write more, and publish more brilliant writers and poets.

May the force be with you.


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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.