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Showing posts from November, 2006

Life Lines

Six poets read last night for Oxfam, Tuesday, November 28th, in support of the Life Lines project, at Oxfam's flagship bookshop in London, at 91 Marylebone High Street, from 7.30 pm to around 11 pm. They were: Tobias Hill is one of the leading British writers of his generation. Selected as one of the country's Next Generation poets, shortlisted for the 2004 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and named by the TLS as one of the best young writers in the country. Byatt has observed that "There is no other voice today quite like this." NYC-born Eva Salzman trained as a dancer/choreographer. At Columbia University, she studied with Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott Stanley Kunitz, Jorie Graham, C.K. Williams and Elizabeth Hardwick. Awards include a Cholmondeley from the Society of Authors. Her writing has been widely published and broadcast on the BBC. Double Crossing: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Ruth Fainlight was born

Allen Carr has died

Sad news. BBC is reporting that anti-smoking hero Allen Carr has died. Of lung cancer. Mr. Carr helped me quit smoking (though I sometimes lapse). His method was simple and profound - to suggest that life without smoking was better (and less anxiety-prone) than with it (since most smokers feel they need the crutch of a cigarette) and celebrated every smoke free day as liberation from a terrible disease. Meanwhile the legal sale of tobacco products by major corporations, resulting in millions of preventable (and often painful) deaths each year, is one of the world's enduring evils, and in a hundred years will be viewed with the same moral disgust as the slave trade.

My father's 67th birthday

Had my father (pictured here with my mother) not died two months ago, he would have turned 67 today. Here is what was written in his memorial booklet. ---- Thomas Edward Stanley Swift November 26, 1939-September 9, 2006 ----- The poet Larkin wrote: "What survives of us is love". Tom Swift survives in that he has left each of us - family, friends and colleagues - with a great sense of love: both for him, and radiating from him. Tom's signature character traits were gentleness, a sense of humour, modesty, protectiveness and tremendous empathy, especially for the disadvantaged (both animal and human). The defining element of Tom's life was his family, for whom he would do anything. And, at the heart of his family stands an extraordinary love story - the 41-year marriage that he shared with Mary Margaret Hume, his beautiful soul-mate, who stood by him through health and sickness and gave Tom his greatest gift of all: love like a flame that never once swerved or threatened

Most favoured nation?

In order to get votes in Quebec, the governing Tory party has made a gesture that will satisfy only seccesionists and nationalists, by putting forrward a parliamentary motion that the Quebecois form a nation within Canada. Nationalism has a long history, and it has rarely been a good one; pandering to nationalists is a bad idea. Quebec is not a nation, for several reasons - chief among them the fact that Quebec is instead a province of a federation. It was founded by the English and the French, after being violently removed from its indigenous first peoples. The land now called Quebec is not by some kind of mystical union strictly identical to the aspirations of its "Quebecois" (that is French-speaking) people. Quebec belongs equally to its native and multicultural inhabitants, including the large Anglophone minority, none of whom wishes to see Quebec as a separate nation outside of Canada. Canada has but one nation, which is Canada. It is subdivided into various provinces,

Poem by Kimberly Burwick

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Kimberly Burwick (pictured) to this feature. Burwick obtained her B.A in literature from the University of Wisconsin, and her M.F.A. in poetry from Antioch University- Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Indiana Review , The Literary Review , Fence , Conjunctions and others. Her first book of poems Has No Kinsmen was recently published by California-based Red Hen Press. She currently teaches at the University of Connecticut, and lives on a farm in northwestern Massachusetts. I first met her in New York at the panel discussion on politics and poetry I was chairing, which featured Paul Muldoon , Pascale Petit, Mimi Khalvati , Glyn Maxwell and Simon Armitage , during the week-long series of events celebrating the launch of Short Fuse , an anthology I co-edited a few years back for Rattapallax. Since then, I've been following her work with much interest, and have been glad to publish her at Nthposition. She strikes me as

My favourite museum

Last week-end was one of the happiest in my life. I spent it with my wife in Berlin, as I was there for a poetry festival. I was last there 19 0r 20 years ago. I have many memories of that time, but one of the best was when a painter friend of mine brought me to see the works of the artists kept in the Bruecke (The Bridge) museum - the earliest Expressionists, all of whom were later described by the Nazis as "degenerate". One of the smallest museums in the world, it was designed to house just these artists, and its modern style, set among trees, makes it both beautiful and solemn. Even the chairs were designed to be exactly where they are. I love sitting in them, quietly meditating on the work of Fritz-Rotloff. I hope to return again. Few places on the planet make me so glad. I think it is the passionate use of colour in these troubled painters that, in such thoughtfully-controlled surroundings, is so moving. Order and chaos together are always lovely when in tangible equipoi

Robert Altman Has Died

Robert Altman (pictured) was one of America's greatest film directors, and his death is very sad news. The Player is arguably the best anti-Hollywood film ever made. The Long Goodbye remains a marvellous revisionist take on Chandler and film noir. Gosford Park would be nearly note-perfect, were it not for the miscue that is the Fry character's silliness near the end.

Poetry Hearings 2006

I am just back from Berlin where I was reading as part of POETRY HEARINGS 2006, the Berlin Poetry Festival run by poet and emcee Alistair Noon. All readings took place at Salon Rosa, a remarkable anarchist style squat in the East of Berlin; audiences were small (40-50) but attentive. Poetry sales were low. There was a film crew on hand and the poets were interviewed. The mood was very warm, and the readers soon bonded over the three days, creating a genuine sense of creative dialogue and sometimes exchange. The hosts were friendly and expert, and the emceeing spot on. I had a great time. Friday 17th November Todd Swift John Hartley Williams Giles Goodland Cralan Kelder Saturday 18th November Chris Jones MC Jabber Michelle Noteboom Leo Mellor Sunday 19th November Mark Terrill Jeremy Hilton Jennifer K Dick Rod Mengham Salon Rosa Sophienstr. 18 Entrance H (same entrance as the Sophiensaele theatre) 10178 Berlin-MitteU-Bahn Weinmeisterstr., S-Bahn Hackescher Markt

Poem by Philip Fried

Philip Fried (pictured here) is a New York-based poet, little magazine editor, and poetry advocate. Eyewear is very glad to welcome him as this week's featured poet. Fried’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets . His three books of poetry are Mutual Trespasses (1988); Quantum Genesis (1997), which A.R. Ammons called “a major new testament”; and Big Men Speaking to Little Men (Salmon Poetry, 2006). In addition to being a poet, Fried is the founding editor of The Manhattan Review , an international poetry journal that critics have called “excellent” and “lively.” And he collaborated with his wife, the fine-art photographer Lynn Saville , on a volume combining her nocturnal photographs with poetry from around the world: Acquainted with the Night (Rizzoli, 1997). As a poetry advocate, Fried organized a successful nationwide campaign to increase the number and quality of poetry reviews in The New York

Review: An Other Cup

The idea that Cat Stevens would convert to Islam, disappear for ages, and then suddenly reappear years later with a popular folk-rock album, now calling himself Yusuf , seems faintly absurd. There is something decidedly naff about the idea of Cat Stevens / Yusuf and no doubt many Eyewear readers, and others, will not explore this new album with the respect it actually deserves. Others will have been waiting for this with great eagerness. This is Yusuf's moment, at least in Britain. Surely no album's release could be more relevant in the week that Al-Jazeera English launches its world-wide television broadcasting news service, that Bush reels from his Iraq-induced losses at home, or that debate continues to rage about the role of the Muslim community in the UK and, indeed, everywhere. Yusuf is no apologist for his faith, but this grave, solemn, and at times preposterously upbeat recording, with its 12 songs (only nine original to the artist, and two brief spoken word poems

Review: Depeche Mode, The Best Of, Volume 1

The new Bond film premiered last night in London. More on that later. What was missing on the red carpet was a band: Depeche Mode . Somehow, the Bond producers never got it - there has never been a group whose music so perfectly meets the special needs of their franchise - whose every song has always fused sex, violence, technical precision and strange passion - in short, pop songs for the age of everyday psychopathology. Perhaps what makes almost every one from critic to mogul to man in the street, in the UK, somehow underestimate DM is that, in a secular climate, their heat is partially generated by the frisson of Deep South Bible Belt spanking. "Personal Jesus" is a good place to start. It opens their best of (18 tracks, only one new, "Martyr). The song broke DM in America in a way that has never happened, say, for Robbie Williams (a blessing). It became the template for later Depeche Mode songs, even albums, and remains their most striking and frankly disturbing wor

Prisons and Prizes

The superb Irish poet Sinead Morrissey (who has read for the London Oxfam series in Marylebone and is pictured here) wrote one of the finest poetry collections of 2005, The State of the Prisons . It is now short-listed for a major UK prize for the best book by an author under the age of 35. Several of the poems in the collection are among the handful of the very best written in English since 2000 and one or two at least will endure. May she win.

Review: Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid

Simon Armitage , pictured here, has a new collection of poems out from Faber & Faber, with the intriguing title Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid . Armitage is one of the most popular and widely-imitated poets among some of the better poets of my generation and those slightly younger; and is becoming an iconic figure of his generation, much as Auden or Hughes were, for theirs. I have heard Armitage read several of the poems from it, firstly at Ledbury last year (where I read as well), and then again more recently at the launch of the Oxfam CD, Life Lines , where he kindly volunteered to read. These new poems are some of his best, and also take him in a different direction - one similar, in tone and emphasis, to the lyrics on Thom Yorke's recent The Eraser . So I was somewhat surprised to read, in the Guardian , Robert Potts write that: "He still writes as well as anyone, in his particular vein. But the limits of his language really are the limits of his world;

Poem by Cath Vidler

Eyewear marches on, like time, or a newsreel from an Orson Welles film. Each Friday it features a poet worth reading, based somewhere in the English-speaking world. So it is that I am very glad to welcome to these storied flat-screen pages, this particular Friday, the one and only Cath Vidler . Vidler (pictured above) is an Australian poet I think particularly intriguing for her wit and innovative practice. She is also editor of online journal Snorkel ( Vidler founded Snorkel in 2004 after returning to Sydney from New Zealand, where she spent three years immersing herself in the literary culture of Wellington. Snorkel aims to bring together the creative writings of Australians and New Zealanders, while also featuring contributions from the wider international community. Her poems have appeared in Sport, Turbine, Trout, Tinfish, Cordite, Alba, Otoliths and, most recently, Nthposition . 10 Domestic Alternatives 1. The succulents are entirely underwater or completel

Palgrave Omissions

Sarah Broom now gives the world her study, Contemporary British and Irish Poetry . Eyewear welcomes her broad church attention to both mainstream and experimental (as well as performance-oriented) poetries and poetics, and the inclusion of Don Paterson , Denise Riley , Simon Armitage and Jackie Kay for serious study is all good news. However, to say "future books of this kind will no doubt include the likes of" or "there are many I would have loved to include but could not" followed by names like: Pascale Petit, Paul Farley, Alice Oswald, Caroline Bergvall, John Burnside, Derek Mahon, J.H. Prynne, Tom Paulin W.N. Herbert, Lavinia Greenlaw , etc, is to be slightly too limited in scope; and George Szirtes, Roddy Lumsden, Polly Clark, David Harsent, Michael Donaghy and Sinead Morrissey are not even regrettably excluded. According to the author: "this book has been written, for the most part, in New Zealand". Indeed, this would have been a fine manuscript i

Review: Blasted (in German)

The Barbican was last night bursting with writers, film-makers and actors (such as the couple Natalie Portman and Gael Garcia Bernal ) drawn to the intriguing spectacle that is Blasted , as interpreted by Germany's most infamous, if not preeminent, theatre company Schaub├╝hne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin , under the direction of wunderkind Thomas Ostermeier . Eyewear was not hugely impressed by one of Ostermeier's productions shown in Budapest several years ago - a typical instance of Ordeal Theatre - blaring industrial noise, a shaven-headed man in a wheelchair shoving rotting sausage into the faces of the bourgeois audience, and a real writhing snake, all set in a pit; sometimes it seems that in Europe to be a respected auteur one just has to do angry, sexual, loud and nihilistic. Which leads to Sarah Kane . Kane is the Cobain Slash Plath of contemporary British Slash European drama. Famous by 23 for Blasted , which was pilloried in the philistine UK press as being essentially

Good Riddance

Now For Some Good News...


From Jimmie Walker Swamp

from Thirty-Eight Sonnets from Jimmie Walker Swamp 1 The declined summer seemed to call for white wine, then the sun sank and I was lost in time. Night takes half my hours, lately, and the reading light burns the page until I am insensible. What seemed light is dark, the dark a riot of burning. The ferris wheel in town blares its incandescence; the stage show can be heard for two kilometres. I can't know much of the world beyond. Land stretches to the limits of morning, much as, when I was a child, the map went to the edge, then kept going, to the wild, unlettered future, as shadowed as the past. Half my life has been knowing the dark earth of here, and not the promised secrets of the universe. I have it all here in my head. I don't know what it's worth. poem by Robert Allen (pictured above) first published in Standing Wave (Signal Editions, 2005)

Robert Allen Has Died

One of Canada's greatest contemporary writers, Quebec-based, Bristol-born Robert Allen , has died suddenly of cancer, peacefully, at Jimmie Walker Swamp (his home in the Eastern Townships) with many who loved him at his side. Rob Allen (pictured) was many things - cult novelist with a linguistic turn that was Joycean in its word-play, but Nabokovian in its themes ( Napoleon's Retreat ); lyric poet with many collections (such as Wintergarden and Ricky Ricardo Suites ) who wrote both of nature and zany pop culture icons with equal brilliance; and, throughout his career, a poetic natural scientist, who, encouraged by his teacher A.R. Ammons at Cornell, in the '60s, began possibly his greatest work, The Encantadas - a long poem inspired by Darwin and Melville , two of his heroes. This last poem, which I think is one of the finest ever produced in Canada, and certainly in the last 40 years, was recently republished in a beautiful new edition by Conundrum press. Rob Allen was al

November Poetry At nth position

New American Writing 24 review by Kevin Higgins Z213: Exit (extract) by Dimitris Lyacos East of London & The church by Rumjhum Biswas Portrait of market researcher as loose cannon, The next day & I want to be a spy by Jon Stone At 8.53pm my television breaks, Rescue & Alternative version by Kathryn Simmonds Poem from travelling on a train, Fem kinetique & Sammy sold at market by Phil Ruthen Last days of Ishmael by Estill Pollock Grist, You are never just out, walking a field & Platform by Siobhan Campbell Traveller's house by Kavita Joshi Singing lessons & Learning to touch by Aleah Sato Beyond your concern & Two old heads by Ian Seed

No More Fish

I found this rather more apocalyptic than even the news is wont to be these days....

Drive Time

Eyewear has long enjoyed the cinematic worlds of David Lynch . Even Dune . Good to see poetry trying to explore them with pleasure, intelligence, oddity. See the call for poems below:

Lady or Tiger

Eyewear has always loved Sylvia Plath 's poetry. Therefore, it considers the discovery and online publication of a new poem by her cause for some celebration, even at such a solemn time as on All Soul's Day. For Plath, in her way, was great-souled, and open. The link to the poem is below. As an aside, "Ennui" (a title that harks back to decadent French poetry of the 19th century) is also a title of one of my poems, published in the collection Rue du Regard (Montreal, 2004). It is below. Ennui These narrow proud hours, afternoon’s, imprisoned in the footnotes of the day: three to evening’s commencement, want so much out of themselves, and me: their ambition aches, the heart knowing its bored mistress has selected a finer suitor for enjoyments. In this period: august, terminal, promising all, desiring more, I refuse royal decrees, the slow time’s purple writs, its arrogance of minutes, illuminated spring, an