Sunday, 28 December 2008

A Death In The Family

Yesterday, one of my closest and most beloved family members died. I will write more, in the fullness of time, here, and elsewhere, but not yet.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Eartha Kitt Has Died

Holy Moly Batman! What a week... yet another fabled anti-war protester has died - this time, beloved camp cabaret act, Eartha Kitt, famed for her feline fling as Catwoman. Sad news. Kitt, as singer, actor, and kitsch heroine charmed millions. There is a slight irony in her dying on Christmas day (yesterday) as one of her most famous songs was Santa Baby.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Pinter Is Dead

Not a great week for anti-war writers. Sad news - one of the greatest contemporary playwrights, Harold Pinter, has died.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Adrian Mitchell Has Died

Sad news. The great British poet Adrian Mitchell has died - the "shadow poet laureate". Mitchell was a commited anti-war activist, a brilliant poet and performer, and an exceptionally warm and generous man. He donated his work to both my 100 Poets Against The War anthology, and also Oxfam CD project. I was very sad to learn of his death when I turned on BBC radio this morning. I had thought to stop blogging until January - as per my last post - but the death of such a poet demanded I return. He wrote a final poem a few days back - not knowing its mischievous title would be so oddly apt - and it is delightful - ending so movingly, so playfully. The British poetry world is poorer now that its leading moral compass is gone - though his work remains, to inspire.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

And To All A Goodnight

What a year. Eyewear, for one, is glad to take some time off with family and friends, sit by the yuletide fire, and listen to some sleigh bells - or some such version available in these isles. It's been a time-wasting pleasure to continue this ephemeral blog, and thanks to you, my readers, it makes sense to keep on keeping on doing it. For now. But not anymore, in 2008. The next few weeks belong to deeper magic, the time-tested recourse to seasonal contemplation, festivity, joy, and celebration, that is Christmas. At the peak of the year, at its darkest moments, in its wintry chill - light and warmth and fellow-feeling is both right and good. Then comes a new year. And that too, brings its needful ceremonies. See you then, and there! To paraphrase Les Murray, I wish you God this holiday season. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Love, for a start. And health. Wealth? Bah-humbug! That's proven even more ephemeral, hasn't it?, than blogs.

Conor Cruise O'Brien Has Died

Sad news. Conor Cruise O'Brien - writer, historian, public intellectual, and politician, has died. In some ways, it seems fitting (if nonetheless unwelcome) that his death should coincide with the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth, for O'Brien loved Milton, particularly Paradise Lost.

I have a great memory of spending New Year's Day morning with him, about a decade ago, at a lovely castle in Ireland, reading from that epic poem, with him, his wife the poet, and one of his sons. It remains one of the highlights of my life, to have been welcomed in to his circle of celebration.

A decade before, I had enjoyed his essays, especially on Yeats. His controversial literary opinions included a critique of Yeats as nationalist which profoundly questioned that poet's (quasi-fascist) role as Irish public man. Ireland has lost a troubling, problematic, great figure.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Poem by Katy Evans-Bush

A special Salt Cyclone event today on Katy Evans-Bush's tour of the world wide web. Eyewear is thrilled to be a part of this vivacious poet and blogger's whirlwind virtual voyage.

Katy Evans-Bush (pictured) was born in New York City and has lived in London since she was 19. Her poetry and essays have been published on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a regular contributor to the Contemporary Poetry Review and writes one of the most important British literary blogs, the very popular and always entertaining, Baroque in Hackney. Her debut poetry collection, which Eyewear recommends as one of its books of 2008, is Me and the Dead. Called "stylish, vivacious and darkly hilarious" by the Poetry Book Society, it is published by Salt, one of the significant poetry presses in the UK.

Evans-Bush has always struck me as a true original, one foot in New York, one in London (metaphorically), bestriding the pond with a wonky, warm charisma that has made her loved, and respected, by nearly all the younger generations of British poets now emerging (that is, everyone born since 1960 or so).

I've enjoyed her poetry since I first came across it, and have included it in anthologies, online, and even awarded it an Oxfam national poetry contest prize. If you're looking for a poet who combines a smart sense of style, form, humour, and heart, she's your gal.

A Crack in the Feeling

Broken in their box, quotidian eggs
— date-stamped, unusable. The omelette's off.

An ostrich-egg-in-dome, and plastic grass.
A dino egg, the raptors not drawn right.
These keepsakes can be lifted out of what
was meant to be (that bursting universe).
The robin, just a colour-sample (say
robin's-egg blue, a can of paint) : I never
see them lying cracked upon a path,
it seems too much to hope for now.
it seems too much to hope for now. I like
your eggs arranged in circles on the ground
(the largest first, then smaller outer rings
like planets with unfledged inhabitants
whose language can't be spoken, round a sun
that spreads its light like yolk along the lawn),
duck-eggs, and seven empty pigeon shells
whose hatchlings hang arse-up along a wire.
The ceiling leans toward them like a sky
whose robin's-egg-blue arc has just one fault.
Before your outer galaxy I quail:
its compass points — ambition, comfort, luck,
a ghost, desire — are shifting on the chart.

O egging (over) of my pudding (proof
whereof is where ? I ask). My open mouth.
O germ, O ovoid calm, O heavy world.
My love my love.
This rubber egg : the shtick
a child would use, to beat the laughter out.

poem by Katy-Evans Bush
from Me and The Dead; reprinted with permission of the publisher and author (note this version has a few variant lines due to formatting online)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Eyewear's Albums of the Year

Long gone is the idea that any one critic can survey the entire mediascape, and determine what is truly "the best" of a period, in a genre. Instead, one can, at best, suggest what one encountered, and how its impact was received - still, an evaluation, but one admittedly provisional and problematic. I no longer even know why I try to put together such lists, but, since I find myself buying a lot of pop / rock / indie albums (I like such music, though less and less), and enjoy sharing the best of these with friends, I thought I'd put forward my not-definitive list of the albums of Eyewear's 2008.

In descending order, here are the ten albums that most delighted, moved, inspired, or thrilled me - as popular recorded music by a band or singer:

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Portishead - Third
Joe Jackson - Rain
The Verve - Forth
Keane - Perfect Symmetry
Foals - Antidotes
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
Madonna - Hard Candy


A few other albums were on my radar, and fill out the top 20, in no order:

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
AC/DC - Black Ice
The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
Duffy - Rockferry
Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid


2008, to my mind, created no truly great album (I am sure readers of Eyewear will disagree) - something definitive (then again, I have yet to hear the new Britney Spears). Styles continue to splinter, veer back, pay homage. A few records were mostly disappointments, retreads, or flops, by The Cure, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, REM, and Guns N' Roses. It seems a little odd to note that 2009's most-awaited album is by U2. But that will be an event, hopefully.

Dorothy Porter Has Died

Sad news. The Australian performance poet Dorothy Porter has died. The Guardian ran a good obituary on her the other day. I first came across her work when co-editing Short Fuse with Phil Norton, back in '01-02 (the good old days) - we included some of her work in the anthology. She was a major force on the Australian poetry landscape.

Monday, 15 December 2008

John Glassco Born 99 Years Ago Today

One of the most intriguing and cosmopolitan of all Canadian poets is John Glassco - Montreal-born, Paris-forged, and Eastern Townships-retired - whose 99th birthday this would be today (15th December) if he had not died in January, 1981. Lately, some of his prose has come back into the limelight. His centenary will be quickly followed by a biography from Brian Busby that I, for one, cannot wait to read.

This excerpt from "Brummel at Calais" is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because English-French aestheticism and stylishness have always been a part of modern Montreal poetics, much more so than in the rest of Canada. I am surprised that John Ashbery has not written about John Glassco, since in some ways Glassco is a precursor of his, in francophile interest.

An art of being, nothing but being, the grace
Of perfect self-assertion based on nothing,
As in our vanity's cause against the void
He strikes his elegant blow, the solemn report of those
Who have done nothing and will never die.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ghosts in some machines

The latest Poetry Review is out (Vol. 98:4). There are reviews of Rowan Williams and others by Evan Jones, poems by Alfred Corn and Leah Fritz (among others), and my review of four collections, too. Plus much more, including a new interview by Ben Hickman with John Ashbery where, asked who some of his fave British poets are, he mentions Mark Ford, Jackie Kay, and Peter Robinson; he also observes that being MTV laureate has not increased poetry sales one bit.

Also just in the post, a beautiful-looking issue (#2) of Paxamericana, featuring poems by yours truly, David McGimpsey, Paul Vermeersch and other Canadians. I was also recently in the latest London Magazine, with other poets asked to write about famous British art works. I selected Stand Up! by Sir Terry Frost (2003), the year he died. The new design of the magazine is sort of Beardsley-inspired.

Then there's the latest, stunning Wolf #19, in which my poem "Myth" appears. This Winter 2008 issue is rich with reviews, and poems by, among others, Ruth Padel and Siddhartha Bose. This just a round-up of recent things I've been connected to, publications all deserving of renewed, or new, or ongoing, support during this economic crisis.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Bettie Page Has Died

Sad news. Bettie Page, The Queen of the Pin Ups, and later born-again Christian, has died.

Poem by Rufo Quintavalle

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Rufo Quintavalle (pictured) to these pages this Friday - especially as I have been publishing his work at Nthposition now for several years, always happily. He was born in London in 1978, studied English at Oxford and the University of Iowa and lives in Paris with his girlfriend, Agnès and daughter, Edda. His poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The Wolf, The London Magazine, Smiths Knoll, Upstairs at Duroc, MiPOesias, and elimae. A chapbook, Make nothing happen, will be published by Oystercatcher Press in 2009.

There is no other contemporary English poet quite like Quintavalle: from his extraordinary name (perhaps the most inherently exciting since "Ezra Pound") to his exotically-imagined, deeply-thoughtful, ruefully witty, and sometimes very brief, poems, to his slightly marginalised location across the Channel, he represents a different current - one that, should he continue to write as well over the next few years, will establish him, one hopes, as a key British poet of the 2010s.

He surely is the sort of poet a publisher like Salt, or eggbox, might want to seriously engage with - for, among other things, his work moves beyond simplistic poetry battles, to keener demarcations - towards a wide open poetry both intelligent and ludic, both linguistically adept and formally capable. He surprises, and pleases, at once.

Milosz in California

We are more than just meat he whispered
to the swimmers at the beach,
but the swimmers mistook his whispering for the wind
and looked for the white foam lifting from the waves.

We are more than just meat he said,
but the swimmers heard eat
came out of the water
and shared out fruit among them.

We are more than just meat he bellowed
from his hill above the sea,
but the swimmers had left and the black waves
laved then uncovered the beach,
and swimmers, waves and beach,
nothing bellowed back.

poem by Rufo Quintavalle

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Indian Poetry Now

Jeet Thayil, the Indian poet, has edited an important new anthology of Indian poetry (in the English tradition), just out from Bloodaxe, a book Eyewear will review in time. Before then, it needs to be said that The Guardian ran a hugely blundering (and borderline offensive) review of the book - a dismissal by other means - on Saturday, an odd act since the UK has been in need of such a collection for more than a decade. I have long believed that the best of Indian English-language contemporary poetry, from the likes of Ranjit Hoskote, Vivek Narayanan, and Sudeep Sen, is among the best of contemporary poetry from anywhere - and its lack of availability, until now, was almost silly, if not sad. So, Thayil should have been thanked first, criticised, if at all, later. Anyway, he's responded.

Guest Review: Paine on S/S/Y/K

Vicky Paine reviews
Stop Sharpening Your Knives (2) – Nine New Poets

The second anthology from the Stop Sharpening Your Knives collective is an attractive, glossy paperback with contributions from nine poets and three artists. A glowing foreword from Lavinia Greenlaw describing the anthology as a 'remarkable gathering of emerging poets', together with admiring back cover blurbs from Hugo Williams and George Szirtes, make this an impressively packaged anthology.

This is all to the good since the point of anthologies of new writers is exposure, a way of building up a poet's profile. A new poet may not be ready for a full-length collection but that isn't to say she's not deserving of a readership. Equally, a poet may be writing to a publishable standard but it is notoriously difficult to convince a reputable publisher to take on a first collection. Poets usually have to complete a sort of informal apprenticeship, publishing in magazines and perhaps in pamphlet form. Anthologies produced by collectives like SSYK, or by universities for creative writing students, are an increasingly common component of this apprenticeship.

The title of this anthology series, Stop Sharpening Your Knives, engages with this idea of exposure and publicity. It preempts a negative response and requests a space for the work to exist, sheltered, as it were, from the knives of the critic. Poets seem particularly prone to wrestling with questions regarding the quality and purpose of their art; you rarely hear a poet declaring themselves to be a genius or even much good. In the March 2008 edition of the online magazine The Roundtable Review, SSYK co-editor Sam Riviere suggests the title 'referred to the feeling that once in a while you can stop being witheringly self-critical and show people what you've been doing.'

Margot Douaihy's "Shorts" is a playful imagining of poems as characters: 'So what if your poem turns up in shorts [...] when the other poems don tuxes'. She combines a laidback humour with elegant imagery: 'Tell your poem it's ok to [...] see beauty everywhere, even in the barrel of a gun,/ hollow as a throat. Anything hollow can sing.' Douaihy's poems are beautifully controlled, but she might want to consider varying her tone as four of her six poems are in second-person and two are a series of commands.

Jack Underwood co-edits SSYK and was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 2007. His poems show deft handling of both ideas and language: 'Your horse/ has arrived and is bending himself into the room,/ refolding his legs. I knuckle his nose,/ which reminds me of the arms of a chair.' The comparison of the horse's nose with the chair is gracefully handled and the gentle humour is tinged with sadness of love as a memory: 'We are crunching on polo mints together/ and remembering the way your body used to move.' It would be good to see his imagination tested by formal constraints, not necessarily strict poetic forms, but simply by writing more often in stanzas of equal length for example, to build up a sense of rhythm and control.

Robert Herbert's poems are concerned with location and communication and he uses the sounds of words to create pleasing aural effects. In his sonnet "Being in two places at once" repeated enjambment softens the impact of the end rhymes and these sounds resonate throughout the poem, emphasising the echoes between the two places in the speaker's mind. Just occasionally his lines are too much of a mouthful, for example, the first line in "The Solitude Suicides" which reads, 'One mid summer, the hot high noon light hit'.

Hayley Buckland makes use of a wide vocabulary, revelling in the sound of scientific words: 'in a circus/ of atriums, ventricles,/tricuspid valves,/ interventricular/ septums'. 'The Crèche' uses rather typical poetic subject matter - looking at old photos - but her language is fresh, describing spider plants as 'spilling their babies' and old furniture 'like ancient Victorian/ nannies'.

The sonnet's flexibility and brevity provide a structure that poets still find stimulating. Tim Cockburn's sonnet "A Rave in North Norfolk" uses sophisticated syntax - his final sentence stretches for nine lines – to slow the poem down and make detailed observations of the stragglers sleeping in the restored calm. In other poems he takes his time over images, for example: 'the redirected Anglepoise/rendering bluish that fridge-blank stare', but he uses such precise language that he avoids sounding overly descriptive and builds up a meticulous and emotionally-charged poetic landscape.

Matthew Gregory's poems consist of large blocks of text only sometimes broken into still chunky stanzas. This means it is easy to read his poems too quickly and miss the wonderful images which come thick and fast, for example, 'the yuccas in the lounge, crest-fallen', a mobile phone vibrating 'in your palm/ like a trapped moth,' or a body under a duvet as, 'mountainous/and foreign as the cloudscape/ under an airplane.' A little more space would let these images to linger and also allow the poet to see where a few judicious cuts could be made in order to focus the poems a little more.

Agnes Lehoczky pushes images until they become distorted and strange,starting with 'from the receiver sea gulls are pouring out' until she is 'stuff[ing] the gulls, my couriers, into the phone'. She declares that 'lips need to be elastic slugs in the act of androgynous love', a delightfully bold line, but at times her poems seem in need of paring down, of needing a choice between two or more images. She also needs to consider the musicality of her language and in some places work to push the rhythms further away from those of prose.

Co-editor Sam Riviere, commended in the 2005 New Writing ventures and awarded second prize in this year's Poetry London competition, gravitates towards narrative poetry. Some poems like "The Kiss" are rather too anecdotal but when he plays with language, for example his use of unexpected words - hookers 'aerobicize' and underarms are 'mallowy' – and uses grammatical concision - 'instead/ of a flowers he carried/ that thug's bald child' - his work is lifted from the anecdotal to poetry worth savouring.

Nathan Hamilton often seems to save his best lines for the last lines, for example, 'The absent speak louder,/ keep conversation short' and in the final poem, 'Another chapter closing too quickly/ on the fourth floor; brutal/ and miserably rigged.' Sometimes he can lean too heavily on description but when his images are simple, for example, 'road-stuck fur' or 'a sorry gob of junk' they are all the more powerful for their straightforwardness.

If the point of these anthologies is exposure for new poets then I hope this one does its job. The editors, commendable poets themselves, have selected contributors united by an interest in language and excited by its possibilities. Their subject matter is diverse but contemporary, mostly avoiding cliché and predictability. I for one am glad that the SSYK editors decided to 'show people what they've been doing'; I hope they don't find my critical knife too sharp.

Vicky Paine is a writer based in Scotland and recently won the McLellan Poetry Award.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Wolf 19 Launched Tonight

The Wolf #19 launches at The Poetry Studio (upstairs from Poetry Cafe) on Monday 8th December at 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden. 8.30pm sharp.

Readers on the night to include Ruth Padel, Todd Swift, Clare Pollard, Sandeep Parmar, Evan Jones and Michael McKimm.

The launch of Zeppelins

Those in the know in London and beyond will want to be at the Zeppelins launch Tuesday 9th December, 7-10pm at The Rose, 35 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL. Chris McCabe's new collection, from Salt, promises to be one of the better books by a new poet of this decade. I've included McCabe in my Manhattan Review section on The Young British Poets, as I believe in his writing. The launch will also feature readings from fellow Salters and excellent poets Simon Barraclough and Luke Kennard - so much to enjoy.

The Life and Death of Henry Reed

The very fine British poet, Henry Reed, author of A Map of Verona, died 22 years ago today, 8 December, 1986. He has yet to entirely get his due, since he is one of those poets whose work was mainly done in the 1940s, something of a Sargasso Sea when it comes to wrecked reputations. Still, his poetry is beginning to come out of the despond, and Carcanet does a Collected Poems now. Reed is intriguing for any number of reasons, but fans of codes and cyphers may want to know he worked at Bletchley Park during WWII.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

12 Poets of December Now Online at Nthposition

The critical faculty of the poet, The poet's body, A rooftop in Marseilles, Soft as a dewdrop rests her sex on me & Slowly the moon
by Sebastian Barker
Girl, I have the words & Of uncreation
by G B Clarkson
by Sophie McGrath
There is no cure
by Shane Neilson
Milestone & Heron
by Gill McEvoy
Extended family
by Anselm Brocki
Tag & North
by Alex Pryce
Picture problems & Invitation
by Amy Walter
A rhyming reflection on the one-sided heritage of Eros in the Western literary tradition & Sweet-toothed
by Bethan Tichborne
Modern life II & Depiction of heaven as a virgin forest
by Virginia Konchan
Dockyard doomette
by Adham Smart
The illustrator & Swimmers in open water
by Rebecca Farmer

Milton and Morrisons

The Guardian has a timely leader today reminding England that one of its greatest poets, Milton, is about to have a 400th "birthday" this December - and is in danger of becoming unread, untaught, and underappreciated.

At first, this might seem an improbable complaint, yet, reading the latest issue of The London Magazine (celebrating 276 years), I came across the following from poet-novelist Tobias Hill on the subject of poetic diction: "Ian MacMillan has a good line on this: don't put any word into a poem you wouldn't use in Morrisons [a store]; to do otherwise is as odd as popping out to the corner shop in a Shakespearean ruff".

Eyewear likes a bit of ruff. All of British poetry's current problems can be traced to such an attitude (one even more crudely anti-modernist, and anti-Renaissance, than anything Larkin ever came up with). MacMillan's offhand poetics of normalcy contains so many blandly buried assumptions it is startling: because, depending on what language one speaks, what gender, or race, or class, or nation, one speaks from, or belief system, one is likely to want to use different words in a corner shop. For MacMillan, an "ordinary bloke", poetry is about the down-to-earth, local, and unnassuming language of commerce. This is as far from the rhetorically rich, deeply-informed, and resonant, language of Milton as possible.

England's poets, today, often as not, are afraid to use the "mandarin tone" - favouring instead a laddish "democractic voice" - terms from Armitage and Crawford - the voice, it must be said, of the less-literate, and the less-thoughful, many. Milton was, clearly, a religious, deep-thinking, highly-engaged human being, perhaps a little elitist, who loved the full resources of language - sort of like Robert Lowell, or Geoffrey Hill. In the UK today, current poetic taste has drifted from Lowell (except insofar as he was Heaney's friend), and is mainly indifferent to Hill (seen as difficult and OTT).

So long as "poetic diction" is constrained by nonliterary social demands - the need to be normal, and like everyone else (not "odd") - then poetry resists being strange, eccentric, flamboyant, and deeply exciting in new and unimagined ways. To be embarassed to try on a little of Shakespeare's clothing, from time to time, is to be less than a full poet.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Poem by Jenny Pagdin

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the poet Jenny Pagdin (pictured) to its pages this Friday. I first met Pagdin when she was studying at The Poetry School (well, before then, we were introduced to each other by the American-Canadian poet Eric Ormsby). Since then, I have followed the development of her work with some interest.

Her earlier poems, of three or four years ago, were small, complex works, combining near-scientific observation with sensuous, sometimes erotic, emotionality - all wound tight with brilliant diction. Her new work, it appears to me, is opening up, and growing in stature as it assays traditional forms, in surprising ways, sometimes employing more colloquial, and directly sexual, or personal, themes.

Pagdin is completing the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. In between times, she works as a charity fundraiser in Norwich. Her poetry has appeared in magazines including Nthposition, Agenda, Dream Catcher and The Frogmore Papers. Do expect a very fine collection from her in the next few years.


The cool ones then are cool no longer,
The beauties faded pretty soon
But that was no consolation at the time,
When your place in the league table was all.

The beauties faded pretty soon
But when we were fourteen
And our place in the league table was everything
We weren’t to know that.

When we were fourteen
And everyone had an eating disorder
We were not to know that
All of us hated our bodies.

Everyone had an eating disorder,
A body top and a lumber jack shirt.
We all of us hated our bodies
And wanted a blonde, crispy perm.

In our body tops and lumber jack shirts
We got thrown out of Boots for opening the bottles.
We wanted blonde, crispy perms:
They were having none of it.

We got thrown out of Boots every Saturday:
Lilac eyeshadow was the most popular
But they were having none of it
And we couldn’t afford even one.

Lilac was the most popular eyeshadow.
If we’d not heard the latest james or Brian May
Then we couldn’t afford anyone to see
- And nothing would ever beat Bon Jovi’s lips.

If we’d not heard the latest james or Brian May
If we had our ties on properly, or our skirts not rolled up
Still, nothing could beat Bon Jovi’s lips
Or sleeping under a Ryan Giggs duvet.

With our ties on properly, our skirts unrolled,
We looked much younger.
We slept under Ryan Giggs duvet covers.
And wallpaper collaged from magazines.

We looked much younger without the makeup.
We aspired to A2 art folders, to drinks in cafes
And wallpaper collaged from magazines.
But the tuck shop sold wham bars and irn bru and whispas.

We aspired to art folders, to drinks in cafes,
But the canteen sold jackets and plastic cups of cheese.
The tuck shop, wham bars and irn bru and whispas
And the cloakroom had rows of River Island bags.

The canteen had its jackets and plastic cups of cheese
Matron dispensed pills, hot water bottles.
The cloakroom was full of River Island bags.
And buses were the place to meet boys

Matron dispensed pills, hot water bottles,
We wore netball skirts and sports knickers
And buses were the place to meet boys
- Boys we kissed against the six-foot fence.

In our netball skirts and sports knickers,
Some of us attracted attention
From boys - pressed up close against the six-foot fence -
We knew through casual unions.

Some of us attracted attention….
It was no consolation at the time,
But I know from casual reunions since
The cool ones then are cool no longer.

poem by Jenny Pagdin

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Boomslang two is out, edited by poet Kate Noakes. She's looking for submissions for #3: email her at kate dot noakes at googlemail dot com. I am sure she will gladly sell you a copy via that contact address too. I have four new poems in the issue, happily. It's a very little magazine, just starting out, so do support it.

New Styles of Architecture

What's wrong with Britain? Prince Charles? Modern buildings? Modernism and modernity tend to be associated with things people like to be associated with, in most Western countries - indeed, modern art, modern love, and modern poetry inspire great affection. Not in England, at least where the Prince and his allies are concerned.

Canada In Crisis

You wouldn't know it from the BBC, or the British media, but, Canada is undergoing its gravest (and most intriguing) political crisis since its foundation, in 1867. In a nutshell, the very recently elected (rightwing) Conservatives face a no-confidence vote that will see them replaced by a grand coalition of all the other three main parties in the House, led by the Liberals - a major switcheroo that is all the harder to stomach, for many, since one of the parties is the Canada-despising Bloc Quebecois. However, there is a long tradition of such Upper / Lower Canada shenanigans. The Governor General will decide next week, or sooner, whether this can go ahead.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

December Oxfam Poetry Fundraiser Tonight!

DECEMBER 2, 2008, OXFAM Reading
7-9 pm
8 poets in 80 Minutes
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1


Niall McDevitt performed in various Ken Campbell productions including the 24-hour play THE WARP, a sex education play for children WE DON'T TALK ABOUT IT, and a Melanesian version of Shakespeare PIDGIN MACBETH. His poems have been published in Poetry Ireland, The Wolf, The London Magazine, and broadcast on Radio 3, Radio 4, RTE1 and Resonance FM. His poem 'Off-Duty' was winner of BBC Radio 3's THE VERB Urban Poetry Competition in 2005. He leads Blake/Rimbaud/Yeats and other poetry walks in London.

David Prater's publications include The Happy Farang (2000), We Will Disappear (2007) and Morgenland (2007). He is the editor of online poetry journal Cordite ( and also maintains an Internet home page ( He has performed at various Australian and international poetry festivals and currently lives in The Hague.

Julian Stannard teaches at the University of Winchester. He is the author of Rina's War and The Red Zone (Peterloo Poets), and his writing has appeared variously in the Guardian, TLS, Sunday Telegraph, Poetry Review and The PN Review. He was recently a Bogliasco Fellow in Poetry at the Ligurian Study Centre, Italy.

Peter Robinson published a new collection, The Look of Goodbye: Poems 2001-2008 (Shearsman), at the beginning of this year. His translation, The Greener Meadow: Selected Poems of Luciano Erba (Princeton), was awarded the John Florio Prize in September. In the next twelve months or so he will publish Poetry & Translation: The Art of the Impossible (Liverpool) and Spirits of the Stair: Selected Aphorisms (Shearsman). He is Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Reading.



Joe Dunthorne's debut novel, Submarine, is published by Hamish Hamilton. It was shortlisted for the Bollinger Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. He was the winner of the Curtis Brown prize in 2006. His poetry's been read on Radio 3 and 4, Channel 4 and published in Poetry Review, Magma and the New Welsh Review.

Nancy Mattson lives in London, where she moved in 1990 from the Canadian prairies. Her first poetry collection, Maria Breaks Her Silence (Regina: Coteau 1989), published in Saskatchewan, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. Her second collection is Writing with Mercury (Hexham: Flambard 2006). She is one of five poets in Take Five 06 (Nottingham: Shoestring 2006). In 2007 she was a Poetry Fellow at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. She co-organizes Poetry in the Crypt in Islington.

Philip Hancock. Born Newchapel, Stoke-on-Trent. Poems in magazines including: Magma; Nthposition; The North; Orbis; Other Poetry; Oxford Magazine; Poetry London; The Poetry Paper (Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2007); The Rialto; The Spectator; Smoke; Smiths Knoll and Tears in the Fence. Philip was selected for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Seminar and read at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2007. A debut pamphlet is due later this year.

A.F. Harrold has published two collections of poetry (Logic & the Heart (2004) and Of Birds & Bees (2008)) and two collections of comic entertainments (Postcards From The Hedgehog (2007) and The Man Who Spent Years In The Bath (2008)). He often works as a performance poet and a cabaret artiste, as well as a man prepared to do just about anything with words for almost any amount of money. Among other things this year he was Poet-in-Residence for the Glastonbury Festival's website, which involved very little mud, thank goodness.

Niall McDevitt (Christmas ending - 3 Geoffrey Hill poems set to music)

Monday, 1 December 2008

Auteur Dreary?

News that the world's most French, most prestigious, and most pretentious film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema, has neglected to list a single "British" film in its top 100 has put the British critics and pundits into apoplexies of Blimp-like consternation. What?!!! No Powell and Pressburger? No Lean? No Reed? How dare they? In fact, there are several British auteurs in the list - Hitchcock and Laughton make the top ten; Chaplin is also there. Given that the magazine's perspective is on director, not nation of production, this should limit the insult. Still, Carol Reed's The Third Man is, frankly, one of the greatest films, and should be there. So too, I think, should Black Narcissus. Still, it is good to see "Kane" still at number one, 67 years on. Given how Welles died thinking himself a failure, that's a moving tribute.

On the value of reading during a global pandemic

On the value of reading during a global pandemic Though it save no life passes time that could be wasted w ith Money Heist or Tiger Ki...