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Showing posts from May, 2006

Ian Hume Obituary In Today's Globe And Mail

My grandfather, Ian Hume , pictured above in fine form, is one of Canada's sports legends. His obituary appears today in Canada's leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail . See below for link to online version: I also append, below, a poem I wrote about him and his pet crow (and other aspects of his life mentioned in the obituary), published in Stand magazine; I hope the editor's of that fine UK journal will permit its reuse in this digital format on this occasion. A Good Person In Snow A good person, does it do them good, to go out, late, walking in the snow? How best, for them, to do more good than ill? Does their goodness have anything to do with the winter chill? I wish to walk so, along this narrow trail, with you and her, who are both the same person, observed either by myself, or a farfetched crow, such as my grandfather took everywhere on his seven-mile government roads, when wood was to hand.

Review: Scott Walker's The Drift

I have several reasons to find musical genius Scott Walker and his latest album, The Drift , of interest. I live in Maida Vale, and he famously did, during perhaps his most creative period. Secondly, and more importantly, up until this new release, I though I had created the most densely-packed, poetic, Brechtian and challenging "modernist-cabaret" soundscape full-length CD. It turns out the CD I co-wrote and developed with award-winning Canadian composer/ musician Tom Walsh (entitled The Envelope, Please , see links below) is, compared to Mr. Walker's latest, about as accessible as a Looney Tunes reel. The Drift is impossible to listen to, and impossible to turn away from - it has the impact of very bad news. It does not need long for a critic to establish how strange and off-putting this is, when one considers that Walker proudly spliced in sounds of raw meat being violently punched, and one approximately ten-minute song minutely explores the agon of Mussolini's

Northern Soul

I have an interview just up at Northern Poetry Review , the vital new online review from Toronto. Do check it out:

This Charming Man

Tory leader David Cameron (pictured) appeared today on the classic (BBC) Radio 4 show, Desert Island Discs. Famously, Mr. Cameron is trying to revive the Conservatives by leading them away from the unfriendly opinions of their majority of "crusty old Majors" - into a land of hip, young families with windfarms on top of their affordable housing. Mr. Cameron almost has my vote, after he selected several of my favourite songs as his favourite songs too ... A live version of "Tangled Up in Blue", The Smith's "This Charming Man", Radiohead 's "Fake Plastic Trees", something by REM so obscure it must have been suggested by a spin-doctor, and a rousing anthem from the hot new Mormon-led band, The Killers . He isn't much of a reader, though, as he selected a cook book for his one read (he already has Shakespeare and The BIble, though) - and his luxury, booze. Perhaps he should have selected The Collected Works of Rachel Carson, and a recyc

Todd's Miscellany

A few odd things noted in the papers the last few days.... Firstly, two infamous British egg collectors have died in separate incidents this week while climbing trees that hold nests of rare birds - it is illegal to "blow" the yolk from golden eagles and so on. Tragically, these and other men suffer a rare condition which psychiatrists have described as an "obsessional neurosis" that drives them to paradoxically become bird experts, then risk their lives to collect the eggs that sustain these endangered creatures; it's a condition that sounds dangerously close to all art. Secondly, no less a man than Jon Bon Jovi has given the final word on marriage. Asked why he doesn't engage in wild sex with anyone but his wife of 17 years, despite being a rock star he said: "I can't. Whatcha gonna do? That's the trade-off. That's OK. I can live with that. I got a good deal." Amen to that. And finally, when George Bush was asked what he'd miss

Poem by Lisa Pasold

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Lisa Pasold (pictured here in a brasserie in Nantes) to its pages this Friday. She has become one of the core poets in the new 21st century Paris expat literary scene, along with Jennifer K Dick and Michelle Noteboom . It was good to meet her when I lived in that city for several years, in 2001-2003. Indeed, I was so taken with her poetry, I included it in my survey of 20 younger Canadian poets published in the 2005 issue of New American Writing . One of the things I like about her writing is how she gets so much of the world in to it, without ever easing up on innovative practice - while retaining humour and perspective - making fast-paced avant-garde work with a voice behind it, mixing narrative and more opaque strategies in a new blend. Pasold is nothing if not active and travelled - she's been thrown off a train in Belarus, been fed the world’s best pigeon pie in Marrakech, mushed huskies in the Yukon, and been cheated in the Venetian gambling

Desmond Dekker Is Dead, The Music Lives On

Ska comes in waves. My brother, Jordan, who turns 35 today, was one of the key players in the Canadian ska/mod revival of the early 90s, and co-founded Stomp Records , which celebrated the 2-tone style, that most upbeat of music, with several important compilations. His band, The Kingpins , went on to release several great albums (and in a new incarnation just toured China). But the presiding spirits for his generation extended well beyond the brilliant, eccentric Bobby Beaton and Me Mom & Morgentaler , back, of course, to the original ska/mod revival of 1980 (The Second Wave) when The Specials , The Selecter , The Beat , and Madness , made ska the sincere rocksteady sound of Thatcher's bleak streets. But one of the presiding reggae spirits for their generation was Desmond Dekker . Rather than the visionary Bob Marley , whose fame sadly came to eclipse Dekker's, it was Desmond's "Rude Boy" persona - prefiguring almost every stance and trope in gangsta rap tod

Look Again: Re-Review of 13 Days

13 Days (USA, 2000) Historical Drama Directed by Roger Donaldson Starring Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood Headline: HIT OR MISS-ILE Rating: Three Specs (out of 5) 13 DAYS is close, but no Cuban cigar. As directed by Roger Donaldson - who also gave us Kevin Costner’s breakout Pentagon thriller No Way Out - it’s a talky essay on cold war diplomacy. It marks a return to form - and content - for Costner, who co-produced the film, and here gets to further praise the glory that was Camelot, in a role (Kenny O’Donnel, Special Assistant to the President) that could be described as Jim Garrison Jr., side-kick to JFK. The film’s 1962-based story is familiar from history books, thus facing the Titanic dilemma: we know the ship sinks. In this case, we know that the world - on the brink of Atomic War during the 13 days of the stand-off between the green President and red Nikita over the building of missile bases in Cuba - does not end with a big bang. Oddly, Donaldson, usually good at constru

Eye on Leonard Cohen

The man to your right is Leonard Cohen , Montreal's best-loved export, after the smoked meat. He's been getting some buzz lately, from Prince Charles , who, in a recent interview, became the unlikely successor to famous fan Kurt Cobain , saying something slightly incoherent like "I say, there's this chap Cohen and he is absolutely marvellous, has a deep voice and sings these really quite good songs, rather" or something like that. Not all English people appreciate Cohen - some (perhaps most) small-mindedly write him off as a kind of miserabilist crooner, a la Morrissey - that music to slit your wrists to tag never quite wore off - but then these are the same sorts of dolts who think Bob Dylan is simply that old guy with "the awful voice". Cohen, who is one of Canada's best 20th century poets (with all that statement entails), as well as an inconic singer-songwriter, is going on tour again soon, and has a new book, recently published, called Book

Hutton Report Returns

The last we heard of The Hutton Report , written by Lord Hutton (pictured) it was a travesty; this time around, it is an outrage - the Labour party has auctioned off a copy, oddly enough signed by Tony Blair's wife, to raise £400 for party coffers, though the report is in large part related to the tragic death of an honourable government civil servant - a subject that might have been expected to command a bare minimum of respect. Not for New Labour, where every twist is a spin. The Tories are baying for an apology. See link below: One of the best ways to revisit this issue is by reading Poems for Lord Hutton , which I edited, and which features poems by, among others, Attila the Stockbroker, chris cheek, Eva Salzman, Richard Peabody, Steve Tusane and Keith Tuma . See link below:

Eye On Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen - pictured here - the greatest playwright of the modern age and arguably second only to W.S. since Antiquity - died precisely 100 years ago today, on May 23, 1906. So, then, did the world change. My favourite of his plays, and one whose inexorable pressure of construction and execution I find aggravating to the soul and profoundly satisfying in the way all literary terror is, is The Wild Duck - the conflict between art and science, illusion and truth, reason and madness, are calculated and unleashed so lyrically in it. But all will have their favourite Ibsen moment.

Going Down On Your Permanent Record

It isn't just The Violent Femmes who have to concern themselves with permanent records. Poets, since antiquity - and perhaps, most famously, Horace (pictured) - then Shakespeare - have written of how (their) poems outlast gilded monuments and marble, to give famed life to a bravura poem that outlasts any normal subjects or objects. Poetry, then, as the gift that keeps on giving, a kind of quasi-vampiric pulse in the textual neck, even after the body's cold as granite. More recently, as poetry has moved to "inscription" online, in electronic form, old-school poets and publishers have lamented the loss of books, of paper, of tactile reading, and, indeed, even of writing itself. How ironic it is, then, that it may be the internet, in some form or another, that outlasts the libaries so much traditional store has been placed in. The British Library is helping to articulate this exquisite irony. As a founding member of the UK Web Archiving Consortium, it is running a two

Eye On Valentine Ackland

It is the centenary of a poet I had never heard of: Valentine Ackland (pictured above). Thankfully, an article in Saturday's Guardian Review section (see link below) has introduced me to this extraordinarily-intriguing-sounding poet - a lesbian, communist, Catholic, environmentalist (at various stages of her complicated journey through self-exploration) - whose poetry will be re-published by Carcanet, that necessary press (for those who want to reclaim the past we should not have missed, and read the present others would rather keep from us).,,1778230,00.html

Look Again: Re-Review of Hannibal

Given the conversation I had at the National Film & Television School the other day, about the relationship between violence, image, and poetry (on and off the screen) I felt this revisited review (a current Thursday feature at Eyewear ) would be timely. * Hannibal (USA, 2001) Horror Directed by Ridley Scott Starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore Rating: 3 out of 5 specs “The sacred and profane” HANNIBAL is the sequel to Silence of the Lambs , which is widely regarded as the finest horror film ever made. In that movie’s profound study of an erotic stand-off between good and evil, hick and sophisticate, female and male, law and chaos, in the shape of Agent Starling and Dr. Lecter, an almost archetypal classicism was reached. Silence was also utterly terrifying. It gave the world the most loved, imitated and infamous monster since Dracula; who can think of a “nice Chianti” the same way since? The baggage, then, was as heavy as if carrying bodies, for director Scott, who, in

Eye On Stanley Kunitz

One of the most vaulable books in my poetry collection is a first edition of Stanley Kunitz's Poems 1928-1978 . Opening it up today, on learning of his death at the totemic age of 100, I find one of his later poems (relatively speaking) as collected in that volume, "Trompe L'oeil", which features the lovely last three lines: "The fun was in the afterplay / when the true artisan / tells his white lies." I do not know his poetry as well as I should. I shall return to it, with due attention. What I do know is that Mr. Kunitz (pictured above) was a gardener, a man haunted by the tensions between life and death, a knower of grief and eloquence, and a pacifist who campaigned against certain American wars and police actions; he was a great mentoring figure, to Slyvia Plath , and many others. America's poet laureate (in a sense twice) he won several of the major prizes along the way, as if incidentally. There was a graciousness to his life that leaves us the be

Guest Has Gone

Eyewear has several reasons to mourn the recent death of the long-lived and legendary film-maker, Val Guest . Firstly, he was born in Maida Vale , where I now live; secondly, he directed two of the key films of the 50s, which in some ways, big and small, have shaped my own cultural projects - Expresso Bongo and The Qautermass Xperiment . The former of these films is still the best evocation of a hep-cat bongos-coffee-and-sex demi-monde in London, that real-life cats like Colin Wilson (labelled as an Angry Young Man) inhabited; the latter was the inspiration for one of the poems of mine which introduces my latest anthology, Future Welcome (DC Books, 2005), itself a sort of B-movie, except for poetry and sci-fi prose.

Poetry At The National Film & Television School

Each year the (UK) National Film & Television School asks their Year One Group (Documentary Direction; Cinematography; Location Sound; and Editing) to combine strands, and produce a short film based on a line of poetry. The tutors for the course are directors Asher Tlalim and Dick Fontaine. Fontaine has directed documentaries with, and about, The Beatles , Norman Mailer , and many of the great American Jazz legends. The visiting Tutors are writer Jane Corbett and cinematographer Sean Bobbit . They also invite two guest poets each year to kick-start the intensive 5-week project as part of a workshop panel, to read their poems, and discuss the creative conflict between image and word. This year, I was invited to join English poet Julia Casterton . We read some of our poetry, and had an intense, free-wheeling debate on violence and experience, where to place the camera when filming in a war zone, cinema of the Holocaust, the relative merits of Tarantino , and the dialectical natur

Review: Stadium Arcadium

The opening - rousing - chorus on the new, much-hyped double album from RHCP is "California Rest In Peace / Simultaneous Release" - and this just about sums it all up. It seems that, with the recent voracious rise of a China that has zero tolerance for Kyoto Protocols the world is suddenly in a boomtime, with an economic bubble that sees the value of everything rising at once - copper, gold, oil, property. It is a heady counterintuitive moment - at once, the 00s are surfing on the edge of destruction but also, well, surfing. No other artists currently alive and so nakedly ubiquitous serenade this cocksure, self-destructive, overabundant moment so well as the Red Hot Chili Peppers . By thrusting their sugar-tongued subtext so firmly into a cheek bronzed in La-la Land, by making California their own Yeatsian Byzantium at the end of things (no country for fully-dressed men without six-pack torsos), that is, a place where annihilation and fulfillment collide in a tectonic shift

Eye On Abraham Lincoln Gillespie

There aren't any images of Abraham Lincoln Gillespie , that I could find, so instead here is one of South Philadelphia in the 1930s. He was born there in 1895, and returned at the start of the Depression, from expat Paris in the 20s. It's somewhat amazing, perhaps even unbelievable, that Gillespie is so little known (though his work is now, barely, anthologized in a few places) and under-represented on the Internet, as well. Having read what I can find of his life, and having seen a few of his poetic texts, you'd think he'd be more widely recognized as the eccentric genius that he is. For make no mistake, few writers in the 20th century have had such a shabby treatment at the hands of posterity, or such a strange trajectory while alive. ALG took a creative turn, after being married to an orphaned sweetheart, after a jolting auto accident, that sent him spiraling into the orbit of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound in the cafes of Paris. Claiming himself to be t

Poem by Cath Nichols

Eyewear is delighted to welcome Cath Nichols (pictured here) to its storied pages this Friday. Nichols has a new collection out, Tales of Boy Nancy - a pamphlet of poems published by Driftwood (2005). Another recent project has been a film with commissioned music, launched at the National Maritime Museum during last year’s Homotopia festival. For four years Nichols co-ordinated Liverpool’s Dead Good Poets Society , but has left to pursue her writing career and commence an MA in the autumn at Lancaster University. Previous roles include mental health work, artists’ model, journalism and waitressing (indeed she has even been a drag poetry waitress). Her forthcoming project examines the history of various characters associated with the Woolworth’s empire in Liverpool and New York. A full-length collection, My Glamourous Assistant , is forth-coming from Headland Press in 2007. She recently recorded poems for the Oxfam Poetry CD, out in June, titled Life Lines , which I edited. Calenture

Slammed in Galway

An Irish poet, Maureen Gallagher , has written an article in the Galway Advertiser attacking the local poetry slam scene, and quoting me prominently in it. Here's the link to the article: Today, the paper kindly published my reply, titled "How I stopped worrying and learned to love the slam". Those of you in Galway, do the right thing and support the Advertiser by buying a copy. Who says poetry doesn't sell papers?

On First Looking Into Chapman

Cicatrice is the new poetry book from award-winning writer Patrick Chapman , pictured here, author of Jazztown , The New Pornography , Touchpaper Star and the film, Burning The Bed . It is published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast and is available now. Cicatrice is the follow-up to Touchpaper Star , to which it is a companion volume. Containing love poems ranging from the intimate to the erotic, to the slightly deranged, Cicatrice is fifteen mini-dramas that pack a real emotional punch. Eyewear urges you to find and read this. Chapman is one of the very best Irish poets born in the last 40 years. His work probes vast and intimate spaces most contemporary Irish writing avoids. Buy Cicatrice from Lapwing: Buy a signed copy of Cicatrice from the author: Patrick Chapman Online: Irish Literary Revival: Burning The Bed:

Poseidon Misadventure?

The Poseidon Adventure is one of my top ten favourite films - for various reasons that include unforgettable performances by Gene Hackman , Ernest Borgnine , not to mention Red Buttons , plus grime-smeared survivors leaping into water-filled inverted steam shafts. It is a movie that exceeds labels such as camp, kitsch, so-bad-it's-good, dreck or B-movie, to simply rise to the top of any list of disaster flicks from the 70s, surely one of the most viable, and riveting, genres of a very fecund period. The only film that comes close, but is truly dreck in comparison, is The Cassandra Crossing , which, starring a pre-murder O.J. Simpson , and featuring the twin themes of the bubonic plague and The Holocaust, is doomed now to be a modish curio and not a classic, thought its mix of bio-terrorism and concern with anti-semitism is still highly-charged stuff today. So why am I so discomfited by the news that the film has been remade, and is one of the summer's biggest thrill-rides, ret

Eyelevel: Virilio

I'm currently reading Virilio's Art and Fear .

Hoffman La Roche

The squint to your right belongs to man of the moment, Philip Seymour Hoffman , arguably the finest American actor of his generation. He recently played Truman Capote , a darkly complex protagonist, for which he was awarded the best actor Oscar - in the process giving the world the first serious portrait of an intelligent gay writer - that is, a writer who just happens to be gay. Hoffman's Capote may be bitchy and stylishly dressed (as many straight writers are) but he is, above all else, determined and envious and talented - and that uncomfortable true-to-life brew is never left to boil over in scenes of camp. My favourite part of Capote was the Nancy Drew-Hardy Boy relationship between him and the author of To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee , as they visit small town America with sophisticated Manhattan mores. A TV series could be spun from just such a collision of glamour and cornpone-crime. Perhaps an adaptation of Capote's true-crime novella, about handcarved coffins,

Freud's 150th Birthday

What to buy the man who dreams of cigars and American women? A new pipe. Happy Birthday Sigmund. Your talking cure works wonders. love Todd ps and many repressed returns!

May Poems Online At Nthposition

The prediction & Between commissions for Russian aristocrats by Matthew Caley Parable & Misocainea by Ed Taylor a e I o u by Victoria Heath Grandma takes the kids for the weekend by Sari Grandstaff Steam & Cold by John Hartley Williams Two budgies & The flat of the hand by Emily Berry Magpie & The hum by Lawrence Pettener Internal exile by Donal Power Tea-time is exactly six Notte Bianca by Caoilinn Hughes BPM 37093, Western & The Buddha and the stone by Kalman Farago

Oxfam Spring Poetry Reading Tonight

Thursday 4th May 7.00pm Oxfam Spring Poetry Reading 2006 Oxfam Books & Music 91 Marylebone High Street Hosted by Todd Swift - Oxfam's Poet In Residence Seven Poets For Oxfam: Dannie Abse Olivia Cole Tim Dooley Mark Doty Alan Jenkins Valerie Josephs Carmine Starnino Admission free, suggested donation £8

Look Again: Re-Review of Nurse Betty

Nurse Betty (USA, 2000) Comedy/Thriller Directed by Neil LaBute Starring Morgan Freeman and RenĂ©e Zellweger Headline: Betty Oops Rating: Two Specs (out of 5) NURSE BETTY is a “problem picture” - but not the kind that Hollywood great Stanley Kramer used to produce and direct. This time around, it’s not the issue that defines the critical condition the film is in, it’s the lack of a guiding center (call it heart). Indeed, NURSE BETTY is almost a case of cardiac arrest, and this can be traced to the toxic misanthropy that director LaBute ( In the Company of Men ) is known - and in some circles praised - for. The film is DOA in the cutting room, simply because it attempts to freakishly graft two moods and multiple genres onto one movie-going experience. On the one hand, it is an ultraviolent, hip black comedy about two witty, bickering contract killers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock ) searching for a nameless-but-valuable shipment (as in the far superior Pulp Fiction ). On the other, it

Top Intellectuals

"ACP" - Agnes Catherine Poirer - pictured here - covers the London beat for the French press, and effortlessly combines the twin francophone gifts of smarts and style, much as Sartre did - and also enjoys the curious French habit of turning everything elite and sexy into an acronym. Recently, she pointed out, quite rightly, in The Guardian , that there are few if any public intellectuals in the UK. No, comedians and BBC radio hosts don't really count, nor ghost writers for Wayne Rooney et al. The English don't accept this - perhaps to be expected. To confirm her thesis, she pointed to the fact that a woeful 3% of books published in the UK are translations, whereas in France the figure is more like 25%. This could be due to the fact that the French need to translate Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickens, Austen and Swift , and we don't. However, there does seem a high-brow trade imbalance here, especially if one considers that probably 99% of those translations are o

He Misses Snow...

Eyewear wishes to congratulate Pierre Ringwald , whose new collection (cover pictured here), A World of Sudden Claws , from The Tall-Lighthouse press is the Poetry Book Society's Pamphlet Choice for spring 2006. Ringwald was born in Edmonton in Western Canada in 1971, but spent over 20 years in Ottawa where he was active member of the local arts community as a drummer, dj and performance poet. He relocated to London in the summer of 2001, accepting a teaching post in the English department of St. Gregory’s RC Science College in Brent. When he isn’t teaching, he divides his time between writing, performing, and djing. According to his bio he "misses snow". Eyewear will be running a Friday Feature on Ringwald later this month. In the meantime, read the book.

Critics' Choice

The Oxfam Poets reading (see earlier post) has been selected by London's must-have Beidecker to the cool, Time Out , as the #1 "Critics' choice" of the week of May 3-10, for all book-related literary events. The reading, featuring seven not-to-be-missed poets, beats out legendary crime writer Elmore Leonard (at #3) and narrowly KOs Fight Club's Chuck Palahniuk (at #2). Looks like poetry and Oxfam are finally hip... (the series, which I organize and emcee, is now in its third year, and going strong).

Review: Snow Patrol's Eyes Open

The best thing about Snow Patrol's ambitious fast-paced, persistently and sometimes achingly sweet new album, Eyes Open , just released, is the 8th track, "Set The Fire To To The Third Bar" which features Martha Wainwright (pictured here) on vocals. I knew Wainright, socially and professionally, when we both lived in Montreal - she performed often at some of the cabaret evenings I was organizing or performing at, under the Vox Hunt and Yawp! banners; she was always gracious and gifted. This track captures the sort of Montreal vibe that recently got Arcade Fire noticed over here in the UK. On this track, Wainwright achieves something nearly uncanny - she manages to be both herself, and a young Kate Bush . It's a great song, and makes you want to go paint the town red immediately. She's touring this summer in the UK, so do check her out. The British press is saying this may be Snow Patrol's breakthrough in America - they've sold well but no cigar yet. I

Happy May Day

Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn Upon her wings presents the god unshorn. See how Aurora throws her fair Fresh-quilted colors through the air. Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see The dew bespangling herb and tree! Each flower has wept and bowed toward the east Above an hour since, yet you not dressed; Nay! not so much as out of bed? When all the birds have matins said And sung their thankful hymns, ‘tis sin, Nay, profanation, to keep in, Whenas a thousand virgins on this day Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May. Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen To come forth, like the springtime, fresh and green, And sweet as Flora. Take no care For jewels for your gown or hair. Fear not; the leaves will strew Gems in abundance upon you. Besides, the childhood of the day has kept Against you come, some orient pearls unwept. Come, and receive them while the light Hangs on the dew-locks of the night; And Titan on the eastern hill Retires himself, or else stands still Till you co