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Showing posts from February, 2007

Review: Inside The Outside

Tony Lewis-Jones , the UK poet behind Various Artists , a special e-newsletter for poets, commisioned a 500-word review. Here is the review, in full. INSIDE THE OUTSIDE AN ANTHOLOGY OF AVANT-GARDE AMERICAN POETS EDITED BY ROSEANNE RITZEMA Presa Press, 2006 Review by Todd Swift It is hard to imagine something smaller than “small press” poetry and poets who proudly assert their association to COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazines Publishers & Editors). I recall somewhere hearing that Michael Donaghy used to call experimental poets “ampersands” – well, these would be poets from the firm of Ampersand & Sons. I actually share some of the aims and concerns of this anthology, at least as outlined in the rather brief (two-page) Introduction by editor Roseanne Ritzema . I certainly agree with much (but not all) of the statement: “The large, commercial publishers, owned & operated by huge communications conglomerates, have published only what is deemed a safe investment, predictably

Great Revelations

As Easter approaches, the revelation that Titanic director James Cameron has helped to uncover the actual burial place of Jesus - and his supposed wife Mary Magdalene - is sure to raise some eyebrows, if not other body parts - among practicing Christians. Protests are already being heard, since for most people who believe in Jesus, the idea that He suffered on the cross, was buried and rose again on the third day, is of canonical importance. I am no theologian, nor was meant to be, but wish to suggest that it is high time we moved beyond a forensic ideal of resurrection for the body of Christ. I do not mean the actual divine miracle should be newly interpreted as a merely useful symbol. I mean that, in fact, the "body of Christ" is more aptly understood as His teachings, and his works. More fully, the spirit of the letter of Christ's law, graced with a tremendous genius for compassion, tolerance and indifference to power's corruption, is already a body resistant,

Hooray For Hollywood!

Hollywood has played the villain (see photo) for too long - albeit a good-looking one. Finally, they have given Mr. Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director (and Best Film) for a motion picture ( The Departed ) that Eyewear , on its general release last year, described as one of the best of its decade. See the review by clicking on the "film" label. Fans of great direction, and Taxi Driver , can now relax, safe in the knowledge a cinematic genius has been recognized in his time.

Ten Years Ago Today

Eyewear's nostalgia knows no bounds.... On Sunday, February 23, 1997, I hosted a Vox Hunt cabaret show at the Cabaret Music Hall on St. Laurent Blvd. in Montreal, featuring writer Evelyn Lau , "MTV Poet of the Year Regie Cabico , local slam champ Emily S. Downing ", as well as musicians Bionik , The Buzz Blast-Off Trio , and violinist Jonathan Crow , performing the work of Fritz Kreisler . I recall sharing cigarettes with Heather O'Neill that evening, backstage. She had run to a shop to get them for us. She must have been 22 or so. Already brilliant and writing then, she recently published a highly popular new Canadian novel. I am happy for her.

Poem by Kathryn Maris

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Kathryn Maris as this week's featured poet. Maris is an American poet based in London. She was educated at Columbia University and Boston University and has held fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in American journals including Poetry and Ploughshares ; in the British magazines Magma and Poetry London ; on websites such as Slate , Verse Daily , and Poetry Daily ; and in two anthologies. She regularly publishes essays and reviews in British and American periodicals and recently edited, with Maurice Riordan, a British and Irish poetry supplement for the American magazine Agni . She has just published her first collection, The Book of Jobs , which was launched in London on Auden's centenary birthday, a few days ago. I think this is a very fine debut collection (from Four Way Books, see link below), which emphasizes Maris's wit and sense of argumentative, stylish flow. Poems dash forw

A Reading and Refreshments

Kingston University – School of Humanities – Field of Creative Writing Creative Writing Reading Series IS PROUD TO PRESENT TODD SWIFT (POET) WEDS 28 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30 pm, in town house 111 OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS AND STAFF REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED

Auden on Ash Wednesday

In a canonical alignment of great beauty, today, Ash Wednesday, is one hundred years since Wystan Hugh Auden (pictured) was born, in York, North Yorkshire, in 1907. Some words of his below... We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son, We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father; "Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake." They will come, all right, don't worry; probably in a form That we do not expect, and certainly with a force More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem From insignificance. The happy morning is over, The night of agony still to come; the time is noon: When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure A silence that is neither for nor against he

Making An Ash of Themselves

As an Anglican, I have been quietly observing the recent round of negotiations regarding issues relating to gay clergy in the American wing of the church, and hoping (some would say praying) for the best. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a sombre time of reflection and renunciation, moving in time towards the great feast of Easter, when light and plenitude returns to the world. The body surrenders much, and the mind is sharpened by its austere experience of a denuded world. It is time the Anglican communion surrendered its links with those within its body, who believe that gay men and women are not equally worthy of God's love, and seek to seriously delimit their agency within the life of Anglicanism. For the sake of staying enlarged as a governing body, the Church's current Archbishop, the very fine Rowan Williams , has been tempted to make increasingly absurd deals and accommodations, with fundamentalists who, to my mind, reflect none of Christ's extraordinary charity. Christ&

Welles-Sized Mardi Gras

The Carnival in Rio is in full swing and today is Mardi Gras - the time for pancakes and revelry before Lent. 65 years ago, Orson Welles (pictured there) was its unofficial presiding spirit of misrule, as a brief quote from my recent review (for Books in Canada ) of the wonderful Simon Callow biography Orson Welles: Hello Americans suggests: "After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December, 1941, his new-found career was, in a sense, sunk, as the mood of the nation swung away from the sort of thoughtful eclecticism he had epitomized. At just the moment when Welles was discovering his dark and complex genius, America was deciding it wanted light entertainment. Ambersons was never going to qualify as such, even if Welles had bothered to stay stateside and edit it. Instead, he was approached by the State Department and sent to Brazil, to act as a goodwill ambassador to help maintain relations with South America. Welles abandoned Ambersons with RKO, but did so with a great

French Dancing

On the subject of the French, I was at a small party near High Street Ken last night to say farewell to some friends heading back soon to France, which is always a sad occasion. However, we had a good time, especially as the evening came to a close, and, all of us in our 30s or very early 40s, danced to tunes from the 80s, on the lovely wooden floor, somewhat more stiffly than when we were younger, bien sur . The French dance Le Rock, of course, that regimented, impressive and faintly ridiculous style of swinging their partners about with impeccable timing that we in the English world associate with Jazz dancing from the 40s. I am tempted to try and compose a paragraph that has numbers 10-100 in it now, but will avoid that compositional urge. Have you seen battles of the iPods yet, at parties? I have. Amateur DJs, drunk on champagne, huddle in gentle conflict, each plugging and unplugging their rival machines, quickly accessing their own files, to inflict a new, more private choice of


I will be reading in Paris in March. More about that soon. In the meantime, I am delighted to have appeared on the remarkable poet's site Connaissances , from Jonathan Wonham , with a new poem. Wonham creates images especially to accompany the texts he selects, which is both an honour and a treat.

Poem by Jacob Polley

Eyewear is very glad to feature the work of Jacob Polley (pictured) this Friday. Polley's first book, The Brink (Picador, 2003) was a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. It was one of the best books of its year and excited me, particularly with its marvellous command of image and metaphor. His second collection, Little Gods , was published in December, 2006. This, from which the poem below is taken, is a remarkable book, delightfully (at times frighteningly) focused in theme and tone, with more than a whiff of the late 50s, early 60s, to its occult, enriched post-war diction, as if Hughes and Gunn were writing poems about rain, witches, love, channeling Keith Douglas on the Ouija board. It's a superb book, a haunted one, and one of the ghosts is decadent French poetry, too. It redeems, in some ways, the tedious normalcy of some recent British poetry. This is work of great ambition, and, more significantly, atmosphere. Polley was born in Car

Artie Gold Has Died

Sad news from Quebec. The poet Artie Gold has died. He was born in Brockville, Ontario in 1947, grew up in Outremont and became a Montreal legend. His work came to prominence in the 1970s and was collected in key anthologies of the period, as well as in his own works. His best-known collection is The Beautiful Chemical Waltz . Some of his poems linked to below.

Valentine's Day

Eyewear hereby offers a litte pre-Valentine's poetry on the cusp of the great day for (and of) Eros. Much love to you and your beloved (and other loved ones). Hotel Oriental sometimes the visible is the deeper world Christmas lights in Shanghai the rain is her leaving a hotel is a room that you buy with minutes & days the woman next door keeps your dollars in a tin box a body is also a place you can wait in gambling, until the end of longing & thin walls let desire through like rain-obscured radio or the click-click of vinyl how you love is how photographs will remember you: in dark suits, hair slicked back, slim moustache, a body carrying itself like a film actor’s the rain projects its film on the green wall & its ghost, its furrows its slinking unfolding rivulets of time every drop that falls has hurt you in its motion each drop her heel in the hall, her coming forward, going away in the hotel you shared as each body shares its double its mind, with some element o

State of the awards

Eva Green (pictured) has recently moved to London, for work. Her talented work in Casino Royale has put her on the UK map and last night she won a major BAFTA (the British equivalent of an Oscar, which is a bit like saying a damp afternoon in Brighton is the equivalent of Miami beach) for rising star. Green, who was soundly cheek-pecked by rising new Bond Daniel Craig , is no doubt the most popular newcomer in town. The best BAFTA film was The Queen . Frears , the director, hoisted his trophy and half-heartedly announced himself "Queen of the world". Ricky Gervais was a presenter, and seemed nervous and rude (his persona?), insulting several "people who don't speak English" who had won awards - as if talent is bounded by language: hardly the message of another nominee for Best Picture, Babel . The Last King of Scotland , a film based on the novel by poet and author Giles Foden , won for Best British Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Lead Actor ( Forrest

Turning Point

After September 2001, America experienced its burning Reichstag moment - a trumped-up (or misinterpreted) crisis laid the groundwork (amid the rubble in Manhattan) for the rise of an extremist American Presidency, one that could be described as neo-democratic, or pseudo-fascist, but is basically a new hybrid form of ideology - hyper-capitalism fused to hyper-militarism: do as we say or your're f----d as one Bush lieutenant put it. In 2003, when I and countless other poets were among the first to warn of this, many in the media suggested this was mere scare-mongering. Now, as Bush is poised to attack Iran (see this week's The Economist for their sober version of how this could very well happen) and is offering to cut health care for the weak and aged in America to pay for his continuing insane war aims in Iraq, a turning point has occured, today - a major breaking point you might say. Russia has said enough is enough. The days of the hegemony are over. Unipower is being challen

Poem by kari edwards

The American poet kari edwards (above) died too young, late in 2006. I had been in email contact with her a few months before then, and would have featured her work at some point between then and now. Her writing is necessary reading for anyone who wants to think through the connection between language, poetry, and a cluster of issues relating to gender, identity, aesthetics and politics. kari edwards grew up in Westfield, New York. In college and graduate school she studied art and creativity. She received a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from Washington University in Missouri (1982) and became an artist and teacher, teaching for many years at Denver University in the art department. In 1995 she returned to school at Naropa University in Colorado for a Master’s degree in contemplative psychology (1998). After finishing that degree, kari continued on in the Poetics and Writing department for another Master’s of Fine Arts degree in poetics (2000). Throughout her writing care

Requiem for a Heavyweight

Rob(ert) Allen, my dear friend, mentor and fellow Montreal writer, was, as I have said elsewhere, one of the great Canadian writers of our time. He was not as well known as Atwood or Carson, but his poetry stands comparison; and his prose is equally brilliant. I am certain that his work will enter the Canadian canon within the next decade, as its full range is reckoned. In terms of wit, erudition, and elegance, he had few peers. His writing belongs on the same shelf as The Third Policeman or Aberation of Starlight , or Gravity's Rainbow . Today, Canada's national newspaper of note has run an obituary that gives some sense of the man we love and miss still.

Review: The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

Eyewear is getting old - or maybe it's living outside North America. Having never seen Garden State , an indie Gen Y film from the 00s, I missed the scene where Natalie Portman's character infamously (at least in almost every review I've read of the band) recommends The Shins , saying "they'll change your life". Until today, my life had only been changed by 9/11, the war in Iraq, marriage, leaving Paris for London, and the death of my father and several other family members and loved ones (death didn't just visit Arcade Fire in a press release, it is real and outlines us with light and dark) since 2000 rolled us into a new world order. But the state of my garden has been at least slightly enappled, with Wincing The Night Away , the third album from the band with the name like The Smiths . The Shins, friends, sound a little like The Smiths, when not sounding like The La's . Or for that matter The Red House Painters (hear "Summer Dress") or

February Poetry At Nth Position

Candé-Sur-Beuvron, Saturday afternoon by Emily Dening The hour by Victoria Heath Imago by D Nurkse Sylvia's sister by Janet Vickers Veronica's veil, The pilgrim route & Hammock by Sally Carr Shadow & The library by Tamar Yoseloff Playing by Angela Topping Ears & April morning by Valerie Trueblood A note on Delmore Schwartz by Mark Dow Downpipe cat & Monkeys by Nicholas Messenger

Things Fall Apart

Curriculum is the surest way to immortality, one would think - that and a Nobel. Oddly, two of the great English-language Nobel winners of the last 100 years - one dead, one living - Yeats and Pinter (very much on opposite sides of the political and lyric spectrum) have just been axed from set text lists in the UK. In their place, some invaluable new voices have been added. But, surely, reading isn't such a zero-sum game as that? Yeats isn't just a poet - without him, Heaney doesn't make any sense, let alone Muldoon . And, while it is good to see Dylan Thomas properly ensconced, his own lightning was forked partially on the basis of the late-flowering fuse of romanticism that Yeats lit, surely. Yeats is - paradoxically - England's greatest 20th century poet (though they'd rather it was Eliot ). Just as Wilde is their greatest playwright in 150 years. No doubt slightly hard to bear. These major Irish writers are, of course, first and foremost Irish - but their w

About Suffering He Was Never Wrong

2007 is the centenary of W.H. Auden , pictured, one of Eyewear's beloved poets. Look out for some important new publications or new versions in April, this year. Meanwhile, the major English poet James Fenton (who read last year for the Oxfam series) has a fascinating essay in today's Guardian on him, see link below; one thing that emerges, that I did not know, was that Auden did not enjoy the idea of poems being too well-performed by their authors in public, and disapproved of readings that were too much like advertisements; I suspect he would have disapproved of my own reading style, then. Chastened, I may subdue my theatrics. Also below, a poem I wrote for Auden, which play off of, among other things, the photo image presented here. I offer my earliest draft, in ironic inversion of Auden's own habit of altering his young work later, often harming it. Auden In Snow I’d love you until the snow turned black and white, And history melted into a photograph. You come Towa

Poem by Peter Riley

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Peter Riley (pictured) this Friday. Riley was born in 1940 near Manchester, read English at Cambridge, worked at the University of Odense (Denmark) for several years and has since subsisted by casual teaching of various kinds and bookselling, first in the Peak District of central England and then Cambridge, where he ran a small press and collaborated in organising international poetry events until retiring in 2005. His website is at His other recent books are The Dance at Mociu [Transylvanian travel sketches] Shearsman Books 2003, Excavations [prose poems] Reality Street Editions 2004, and The Llyn Writings and The Day’s Final Balance (uncollected writings 1968-2006), both newly published by Shearsman. A selected poems, Passing Measures was published by Carcanet in 2000. These are the first four poems of a sequence situated in a mediaeval hermit’s cave in a wood in Derbyshire. Each poem in the sequence begins by paying atte

Corporate Watch

Eyewear would like to let you know that an Anti-corporate Poetry Anthology has been Launched to Celebrate Corporate Watch's 10th Anniversary, February 2, in Oxford. Corporate Watch , the radical anti-corporate research and publishing group, has published its first collection of poetry, in celebration of its 10th anniversary. The collection, This Poem is Sponsored By...: Poems in the Face of Corporate Power , features over 60 poets including Adrian Mitchell , Mario Petrucci , Heather Taylor , Aoife Mannix , Attila the Stockbroker and Todd Swift. With bold passion and bare faced cheek, the poems in the collection confront the advertising industry, the media, supermarkets, banks, oil companies, consumerism, and the work ethic, and play with visions of what the world could be like if we can see beyond the mall. The collection brings together so many strong voices it feels like a declaration from a strident and colourful movement. Author and journalist George Monbiot says of the colle

Oxfam Poetry Tonight!

Life Lines: 7 Poets for Oxfam February 1, 2007, 7.00 pm Oxfam Books & Music, 91 Marylebone High Street London, W1 with Derek Adams Philip Fried Mark Ford Martha Kapos Blake Morrison Jacob Polley Penelope Shuttle hosted by Todd Swift February 1 2007 Oxfam Winter Reading 1. Derek Adams was born in London in 1957, now lives in Essex where he is an organiser of the Essex Poetry Festival. He is BBC Wildlife, Poet of the year 2006 & was winner of the 2004 Poetry Monthly booklet award with his pamphlet "Postcards to Olympus". A full collection Everyday Objects, Chance Remarks was published by the Littoral Press in 2005. He is also a professional photographer and is currently working on a series of portraits of poets, some of which were exhibited at the Poetry Cafe in October 2005. 2. Martha Kapos is an American (originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts) but now thoroughly rooted in London. Her collection My Nights in Cupid’s Palace came out from Enitharmon in 2003. It was