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Showing posts from March, 2010

Ted and the National

Congratulations to Alice Oswald , for winning the first ever Ted Hughes award. Meanwhile, the UK National Poetry competition has Helen Dunmore , the novelist/poetas its first place winner. Good to see Cherry Smyth, Jane Yeh, Jon Stone and Sam Riviere - to name a few - among the commended. Now I really must go take my spring break as promised ....

The Lesser of Three Evils

The British election campaign has begun, more or less - and the voting is likely to held on May 6. Eyewear declares its support, without much fanfare, for The Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg . Labour under Gordon Brown was faltering, indecisive, weak when not surly or arrogant, and, on Iraq, the Gurkhas, and MPs for hire, unimpressive. Eyewear does not support the cuts in taxation advocated by Osborne and the Tories, and suspects that beneath the Morrissey -loving exterior facade of father-to-be normalcy, David Cameron is still a bit of a retrograde toff, a Thatcher -Lite. If enough voters support the Lib Dems - who opposed the Iraq War, and, with Vince Cable , foresaw the banking crisis - then Britain might finally get what it so badly needs - a viable third party. A hung parliament would be good for these people, and for uz .

Petty Gossip?

I am on the road to Rome, but have paused to check my location against the sun. At the moment it seems High Noon in Vatican City, where the Pope - on the ropes - stares unblinking out at a secular world that doesn't seem to get his POV. What the current Pope calls "petty gossip" is, to the world at large, a rather serious moral and criminal fault - indecision or even cover-up regarding child sex abuse cases, on a horrific, even epic, institutional level. The world has unfairly equated the Church uniquely with perversion, when, in fact, all organisations, and walks of life, conceal such predators - but the Church does bear especial responsibility for veiling its culpability behind a uniquely (once strong) moral position, quickly eroding, perhaps gone forever. The Rock on which the Church is built has been battered by a sea of allegations. The Pope, it seems, is in danger of a Marie Antoinette moment (let them eat cake). By thinking the crowds want crumbs, when in fa

Stead As He Goes

Eyewear would like to congratulate New Zealand's great CK Stead , major 20th century poet-critic, for his post-stroke win in his 77th year of the Sunday Times Short Story Competition .

British Summer Time!

What a week. Champagne at the Ritz for Britain's top poets. Now the daffodils are out, the sun is beaming, and the clocks spring forward. It is officially British Summer Time! Break out the barbecues! Don the wetsuits, swim the ice-cold seas, and prepare for Andy Murray to lose in the finals of Wimbledon, after Gordon Brown loses in May. Better still, who can wait to line their hamster cages with all those Summer Reading Lists, compiled by the friends-of-writers? Of course, it isn't all grim - with all the rain will come rainbows. And the grass will grow greenly, pleasantly. And the sand castles will be knocked down only to be rebuilt. Soon, back to school, leaves falling, and snow on the line, grinding Christmas shoppers to a halt. 2011, and a new Eliot winner. The cycle of life!

Amazon Is Amazing

There has been a recent hullabaloo in Canada as big-name mostly Toronto-based authors like Margaret Atwood protest the idea of Amazon - the world's leading Internet provider of books etc. - into the Canadian market. Canadian cultural protectionism (CanCon) has done some good, and some harm, over the years. Before it existed, my father's records went up against The Beatles and Elvis in the battle of the bands, and lost. With such protection, third-raters like Caucasian Chalk Circle had their moment in the sun. The Canadian Government admirably subsidises many small Canadian publishers. This means many Canadian poets and writers get published in their homeland. I realise that the lack of many international book-selling chains in Canada means the country has an enviable number of small local independent book-sellers. However, from my perspective as a small press writer, Amazon has done far more good than harm for me, and my peers. After all, most poets sell most of their

Pullman Punches

Philip Pullman is having a good time. His new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is out, and of course, launching it bang u p against Easter, the holiest week of the year for Christians, he is getting good press - which means sales. There's something tacky about that marketing stunt, like when Antichrist was launched on DVD at Christmas, which is not heroically atheist, but just capitalist-secular-shabby. Pullman, of course, is getting credit for shooting sacred cows (or fish) in a barrel . Surely, every theology student, and every teenager, has whimsically speculated on the possibility of a dark side to Jesus - a theme explored in The Last Temptation of Christ , for instance, to good effect. Nor is the idea that the Church wickedly betrayed the Jesus message new either - Dostoevsky made it the cornerstone of the Brothers Karamazov , one of the greatest of 19 th century novels. Only in the UK in the 21st century does it not seem anachronistic to have a donnish G

Killing Kane

Is there a more contradictory play than 4.48 Pyschosis by Sarah Kane ? Firstly, the text isn't shaped remotely like a play - but infamously, like a poem (and sometimes curiously-placed numbers) without characters, or any other description - no clues for set or action. Secondly, the text's consciousness seems not to be suffering from psychosis at all (that is, schizoid or psychotic breakdown) but despair or depression. Thirdly, the play ends on a positive note ("please open the curtains") but is usually played as a descent into darkness, not dawn (which temporally it is); it is always, of course, darkest before the dawn. And no "play" is darker - it seems to build over the edge defined by Plath , extending the tropes of Holocaust, to child sex abuse and the killing fields, by way of Foucault -like observations on the sinister implications of doctors and mental patients. Kane's own suicide confirmed her, at the start of the new millennium, as either over-

When Oscar Met Arthur

Yesterday a plaque went up in my old neighbourhood, Marylebone, at the Langham Hotel, commemorating a most unusual gathering held on August 30, 1889. Joseph Marshall Stoddart , the publisher, introduced two younger writers to each other, who had never before met, and asked them both to create work for his Lippincott's Monthly Magazine . Wilde went away and wrote Dorian Gray , and Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes with the story 'The Sign of Four'. Easily a contender for most interesting literary lunch of all time.

Ai Has Died

Sad news. Ai , the American poet with the striking name, died a week ago, on March 20, of pneumonia brought on by advanced cancer. One of my most-prized poetry gifts is the copy of Ai's Vice that Nicole Blackman gave me, about half a decade back. Her strength was the uncompromising dramatic monologue. She was a major poet, and will be missed.

Brighton Up

I read at one of the best poetry venues I've ever seen, on Thursday - Brighton's Redroaster Coffehouse . The audience was great too. The only challenge in the high-ceilinged old-fashioned coffehouse is that readers/performers face a wall-sized mirror that only the prettiest and most vain of poets will adore when trying to focus on their work and audience. But, once past that distraction, it's a must-go-to space for anyone heading that way. Sadly, Daniel Kane was ill, but happily he was replaced by British-Canadian poet Naomi Foyle , who read brilliantly from her pamphlet, Canada (Echo Room Press, £3). Her poem about the Toronto poet "Jones" (anyone recall him?) was hilarious. And finally, I was able to hear Carrie Etter read from her latest work. She was sensual, witty, and moving, in equal measure - she's a real fusion poet (able to balance the needs of the page and the stage) - and also a hybrid poet (merging the lyric and the experimental). She has a grea


This is the 1,600th post at Eyewear . In the year 1600, the anthologist Allott published Englands Parnassus; or, The Choysest Flowers of our Moderne Poets, with their Poeticall Comparisons . And Sumo wrestling began. Let's hope this blog gets to 2,000. Or at least its 5th anniversary!

Guest Review: Brinton On Swift

If it weren't for the fact it is almost my birthday - or that mirrors and doubles and water-gazing figure prominently in my new collection (which speaks to, almost as an ironic retort, my New and Selected from the previous year) - I might not have succumbed to this narcissistic temptation - really an honour. Ian Brinton , Prynne expert, scholar and critic - has sent in a delightful gift - an unasked-for piece of writing on my new book. I post it to share the gift with you. Ian Brinton on Mainstream Love Hotel The heraldic statement concerning objects which William Carlos Williams included in Book I of Paterson, published in 1946, came from an early piece of his written in 1927: Before the grass is out the people are out and bare twigs still whip the wind— when there is nothing, in the pause between snow and grass in the parks and at the street ends —Say it, no ideas but in things— In these lines there is, of course, more than just ‘things’. There is a sense of time as winter en

Nations Of Nothing But Poetry

As Philip Hobsbaum writes in the Preface to Tradition and Experiment in English Poetry - tradition being the "native" English (sic) tradition starting with Piers Plowman - and experiment - well, as he puts it: "The mistake, as I see it, has been to imitate, from time to time the style, as well as the subject-matter, of foreign modes; and this is what, in the book, is termed 'experiment'. He goes on to mention how this foreign mistake, this experimental element, has unspooled, through the invidious works of Chaucer , the "Italianising tendencies of Spenser" - Milton, Tennyson, Housman - and then again Imagism - with damage done by Pound and Eliot too. Written in Scotland, in the 70s, this book is about as reactionary, anti-modernist, and invaluable a guide to the current "British and Irish" mainstream ascendancies poetics, as one could ask for. Against foreign, American, and experimental styles and themes and language, is put the ideal Tr

Younger Poets at the Rialto

Good news. Poet, editor and critic Nathan Hamilton , of Eggbox, is editing a special feature for the excellent and respected UK magazine, Rialto . He has a deadline of March 31st, and welcomes poems from poets under the age of 35, from Britain and beyond. Go for it .


Poetry London Spring 2010 No. 65 - among many other interesting things - includes a review of the Oxfam DVD Asking A Shadow To Dance , directed by Jennifer Oey , produced by Martin Penny , with 35 poets selected by yours truly. The reviewer, TS Eliot-prize winner, Philip Gross , says, "the project does good service both to Oxfam and to poetry." Also reviewed is my debut British collection, Mainstream Love Hotel , from tall-lighthouse (2009). Julia Bird , Salt poet and good egg, argues that "Swift's poems become truly spirited and involving" when the experimental and lyric fuse, and spots the "verbal refractions" that either "illuminate or merely dazzle" and notes the "skilled and deliberate" formal structuring of the collection. She singles out the poem 'Green Girl in Vermont' for being "endlessly re-readable". Read it for yourself.

Poem Focus: Great Poems From Identity Parade #03

The third poem in this series of contemporary "British and Irish" classics is by Galway-based poet Kevin Higgins . Higgins can be said to have introduced a paradigm shift in Irish poetry around the turn of the century - away from, on the one hand, Joycean avant-gardism, and, on the other, Heanyesque sincerity. Instead, Higgins returns Irish writing to its third policeman, Satire. Not the po-mo irony of Muldoon , mind you - not the bitter loam of Kavanagh - not the high tone of Yeats - but as down-and-dirty Swift as it gets, with the additional blade-in-the-apple of Aubade-era Larkin . Higgins has turned Galway into a Higginsland - the new Boom-and-Bust Ireland of power lunches, Polish waitresses, and sudden economic collapse - and turned his caustic eye on the country as a whole. With a dash of performance hubris, he is that rare thing - a crowd pleaser with the mirror turned on the audience. 'The Couple Upstairs' is one of Higgins's gentler, more Larkinesque p

New Gold Dream

President Obama has achieved the near-impossible - bringing sensible (and humane) health care to most Americans. A knife-edge and teeth-chattering down-to-the-wire House vote saw the Democrats just managing to do the right thing. Like in a wrestling match, the Republicans wore the ludicrous villain's mask and threw their bluster around like cheap seats. November may either see the good or bad guys thrown out like bums. For now, Obama has secured his place in history for a second time, and redeemed his first term. It's been 50 years coming, but this was worth the wait.

Orange is not the only fruitcake

Oddly, the head judge of the forthcoming Orange Prize, Daisy Goodwin , has claimed that too many books by women involve sexual abuse, rape, and Asian twins. Instead, she would like more humour. Her complaint is that books seem dark, and focus on depressing issues. Where is the light stuff? The dumbing down of British culture continues apace. Where novels, such as Hard Times , or Middlemarch (to name one by a woman), once dealt with the struggle and hardship of human existence, now it appears, contemporary novelists who actually explore themes and concerns that are of relevance to actual women (alas, these include incest, abuse, rape, as well as twins) are in danger of boring readers like Goodwin. Perhaps the problem is such prizes themselves. Asking anyone to read 120 or more novels over a limited period is a marathon a day sort of madness. Instead of savouring, one begins to look for ways out of the tedium. So - a good laff. Ironically, whereas British novels are apparently ever-less

Goldberg Variations

Arguably the most visually-complex and witty real-time pop music video of all time, " This Too Shall Pass" by OK Go is must-watch YouTube viewing. Meanwhile, Americans and friends of America, must surely hope that Obama's health care package shall pass, today, too. If not, a lot more than paint will be spillled. There will be blood and tears, for decades, as well.

Vortex Sucks In Creative Writing Students

Vortex is a magazine of student work from the University of Winchester which also accepts submissions from other universities. You can email Neil McCaw at neil dot mccaw at winchester dot ac dot uk with your queries or electronic submissions. Deadline is March 31, 2010.

Citizens Kane and Etter

I am reading this coming Thursday in Brighton, with American citizens slash British-based poets, Carrie Etter and Daniel Kane , who are on the avant-garde edge of things. A tall-lighthouse gig. Hope to see you there, for a start time of 8 pm, at Redroaster Coffee House, 1d St James's Street, Brighton. Never been to Brighton before, despite being a big fan of Greene's novel.

Spring Cummings In

To my mind - and many poetry lovers - Spring means ee cummings and his disturbing-delightful poem of piracies, puddles, and the goatfooted balloonman. Here's a version - the least eccentric of the amateur versions I've located online. My mother used to read this to me when I was very young, and I can't help but admit it contributed mightily to my poetry urge. In St. Lambert, where I grew up, the Spring Equinox meant ice breaking up on the great St. Lawrence seaway, and very dramatic floods as foot-high snowbanks melted, as giant icicles plummeted, deadly as daggers, and the sunsets were a brilliant blue-into-vermilion-into-black. The air was so fresh and clean, and I'd run with my huskey dog, Rascal , and write poems in my head. This equinox is equally moving to me. It's been just over half a year since I entered the worst of my private darkness, and I feel a coming out into light, out of the mind's inner-winter. Hope springs eternal. Sometimes, it actually arr

Alex Chilton Has Died

Sad news. Singer-songwriter (and sometimes unsung genius) Alex Chilton has died, at the age of 59. I first heard the name when it was used as the title of a famous song by 80s cult band The Replacements - one of the most ecstatic and erratic rock songs of all time. Chilton happened to be a part of several extraordinary musical moments - first in The Box Tops , a 60s band, where he sounded implausibly old and determined and haunted in the huge hit 'The Letter' (whose 1 minute and 53 seconds tell an eternal story of longing - is it a coincidence that The Replacements take those numbers, 1.53, and make their song, 'Alex Chilton', run for precisely 3.15?). Next, he created some of the finest power pop, in the 70s, with Big Star - the band that famously inspired REM and The Replacements (not least in their song personas as fragile, sensitive, and romantic loners). Finally, in his third incarnation, as simply Alex Chilton , he continued to create his own brand of jittery,

Featured Poet: Abi Curtis

Eyewear has been featuring poets here since 2005, almost since the blog began. The poets eligible for inclusion have been, well - everyone. I've featured famous poets, lesser-known, emerging, young, old, new, and, of course, mid-career, poets. Poets working across a broad digital age spectrum (fusion/hybrid?) - from performance, to lyric, to more experimental. Poets from all over the world, from many different countries. The only thing was that they had to work with the English-language poetic tradition - which, as an internationalist - I believe constitutes one greater poetic nation - and be alive and resident on planet Earth. Perhaps that's why my second anthology was called Poetry Nation . I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Abi Curtis as the 160th poet to be featured at the site. Curtis (pictured above) lectures in creative writing at The University of Sussex, Brighton, where she also completed a PhD on psychoanalysis and literature in 2007. She writes poetry and fiction. Sh


Eyewear currently has 167 followers. It'd be great to get up to 170 by the end of March. Do spread the word among your friends and fellow eyewearers.

Poem Focus: Great Poems from Identity Parade #02

Daljit Nagra's poem 'Look We Have Coming to Dover!' is arguably the single most important poem of this younger generation in the past decade. The poem won him many accolades and awards, and led to his being the first "British Asian" poet in decades to be published by a major press like Faber. Furthermore, few poems had been able, up until this one, to bring into their sphere of influence theories of hybridity, cosmopolitanism, post-colonialism and canonicity, with so much wit and flamboyance of linguistic play. It was as if Muldoon and Edward Said had collaborated on a work. The poem itself is in five stanzas, of five lines each, and each stanza presents a visual "steps" form - so that the first line is followed by the next, which is slightly longer, until each of the final lines is rather elongated. The longest lines are fifteen syllables long, more or less. The rhyme scheme is subtle, if there at all. What is immediately noteworthy is the eccentric,

Mineral C

Here's a list, partially courtesy of Wikipedia - that excellent source of always accurate data - of ten famous Canadian-born people , who "made it" in the UK. There are apparently 69,000 Canadian-born people currently residing in Britain. Oh, and Ricky Gervais has a Canadian father! The Office, eh? has less of a ring to it. Admittedly, it's a bit weak as a power list, but it does include several millionaires, pop stars, tennis pros, poets, and a prime minister. 1. Baron Beaverbrook 2. Nicole and Natalie Appleton 3. Conrad Black 4. Owen Hargreaves 5. Lionel Blair 6. Hans Snook 7. Andrew Bonar Law 8. Ian Iqbal Rashid 9. David Wevill 10. Greg Rusedski Eyewear welcomes other names to add to the list.

Poem Focus: Great Poems from Identity Parade #01

In the interests of encouraging readers to check out and buy Identity Parade - the most significant anthology in the UK of its kind for a decade - I will from time time be mentioning particular poems, by particular poets that are both memorable, good poems - and possibly even "great". In my now infamous (and curiously reviled) review of the anthology, I said I thought this book did not include more than a dozen major poems of the lightning-strike variety - by which I meant poems as good and immediately authoritative as, for example, 'Prufrock', 'In Praise of Limestone', or 'Lady Lazarus' - poems with the intelligent command of tradition, and insightful originality of 'Church Going' or poems from Wintering Out . But it does have at least twelve of those, - any generation that does is fortunate - and I will mention them here. Such a poem is Alice Oswald's nature poem, 'woods etc.' The poem opens memorably - "footfall, which i

Memories of Montreal St Patrick's Days

Montreal - with its lively Irish-Quebec traditions - always had huge St Patrick's Day parades. My parents would take me as a kid, and I recall the many red-faced men waving from their rather ordinary flat-bed trucks, touched with a strand of green something. The highlight for me was always the horses, and the horse-s--t, and the musical marchers stepping with the luck of the Irish down the littered streets. It was usually bitterly cold - sometimes zero or below. After the parade my mother would want an Irish coffee, and we'd go and have something green to drink - as I got older, coloured beer. My father, Irish-Canadian (his Mom from Belfast) would sing us Bing Crosby songs from the album Shamrocks and Shillelaghs . Who threw the overalls in Mrs Murphy's chowder... Winter was breaking, the town was festive, - it always seemed like a good omen for the rest of the year. As I got older, Winter Carnival debates would sometimes fall around that time. Debaters from across

Poem by Kevin Higgins On St. Patrick's Day

My very first featured poet at Eyewear was the Irish poet and critic Kevin Higgins , who was then about to marry poet and writer Susan Millar DuMars . This poem is from Kevin's debut collection, The Boy With No Face , from Salmon. The poem was written for Susan. Both of them have new collections out this spring 2010 - they'll be reviewed here in the goodness of time. Meanwhile, it seems like a good idea to welcome St. Patricks Day with a poem by Higgins. The requiem plays, though not for us Let’s never gaze at each other across an unbridgeable space, (even through cold panes of glass may our fingers reach and touch) nor battle, separated, through the mobs of shoppers and the caustic weather of a raw November thoroughfare. May the music we make be a Spanish guitar, let no disconsolate adagio be any creation of ours and if, of an evening, you happen to catch me listening to Mozart’s requiem, it won’t be our union that sombre music will be mourning. poem by Kevin Higgins

New Work in Poetry, or Old Hat?

When it was announced last year that Carol Ann Duffy would be using some or all of her laureate money to create a new prize - The Ted Hughes Prize for New Work in Poetry - it seemed an Obama-like moment of real change was in the air. A year later, Obama is just a politician mired in gridlock, and, well this prize is about as new as a Waste Land gramophone. The shortlist - far from introducing Britain to new, innovative poets, perhaps working with multimedia, digital, or other new forms of technology and arts fusions - is fustian, or generally conservative, and almost totally mainstream - bordering on establishment. Several of the nominated "works" are simply books of poems, however worthy, such as Andrew Motion's rather poorly-received latest. Then again, there is the Collected Poems of Dannie Abse - a great poet, but the opposite of new - will this prize become mired in the latest career-defining final summing ups? Abse deserved the Queen's Gold Medal, not this.

Identity Delayed

To answer the comment about my cheering for Canada at the Olympics... people do have divided loyalties. I have a dual sense of identity - part-Canadian )where born), part British/Irish, where I live. As Morrissey sang, "Irish blood, English heart" (or was it vice versa?). My wife, who is Irish, cheers Canada, since we met there. We both have affection for Hungary and Hungarians, as we lived for a few years in Budapest. Why the need to pin down other people's identity? Dual citizens abound, with multiple passports - and in 19th century and before, as Paul Fussel reminded us, there were no passports (very few before the 1930s) - you just went and travelled. As Sydney Greenstreet once called himself, maybe poets are "citizens of the world". All this to say, be not confused - Eyewear sees double (at least).

Review: Swift on Identity Parade

Todd Swift reviews Identity Parade edited by Roddy Lumsden Poetry anthologies are like beds: the most interesting question is who is and isn’t in them. Roddy Lumsden’s monumental Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) is a long-awaited generational summing up from one of the UK’s most active poet-editor-organisers. Lumsden, a master formalist, and crafty word-player, has mentored many younger poets for over a decade, and knows the mainstream British poetry world like few other practitioners. The anthology features 85 poets – and, in pluralist fashion – they represent a variety of styles and linguistic approaches, from performance poetry to the well-made lyric. There are also a few “experimental” poets included (such as Richard Price ), and the Introduction is more or less unique among such enterprises for being not editorially bellicose but open. It is also notable – and this extends Bloodaxe’s long-term dedication to women poets – that there are more women tha

Gaga in Prison

Speaking of prisons, the latest online sensation is the nine-minute trashy video from Lady Gaga , riffing off of Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction . It is also a knowing wink to girls behind bars movies, and employs a number of porn tropes, too (not least the sadomasochistic outfits and situations). Beyond blue, this sort of thing would have been banned a few years ago, and is surely a new low in terms of exposing young people to mind-poison, and the glamour of evil. That, or it is hyper-cool, po-mo fun. In the digital age, even the identity of genres and their ethical implications are fluid and fastly-shifting. One thing is for sure. Watching and listening to the kooky, sexy Telephone , it is more than ever clear that the Wilde-Madonna template has been lifted and learned exquisitely. Using decadent costumes and witty cultural inversions that shock and expose masks and facades, Lady Gaga is now the 21st century Madonna - a pop culture instigator of artistic purpose and ge

Shutout Island?

There is a scene in Shutter Island where a doctor tells the Federal Marshall hunting a lost mental patient that "once you are called crazy" every protestation of sanity only confirms the diagnosis. Foucault 101 this may be, but it bears recalling. The same is true for any self-description. They are fraught, minefields. The moment "I" reply to someone's label of me, I am implicated in their discourse. Denise Riley has written of this alienating linguistic situation in several of her studies. It occurs to me I am creating the same linguistic vicious circle by asking the question - as I did of Roddy Lumsden recently at Eyewear - am I a British poet? The answer is a resounding no. And, in fact, it explains a lot about my behaviour these past 7 years, doesn't it? Imagine if you think you are a cat, but are a dog. Every catlike thing you do will be met with scorn or derision or confusion from the real cats; and dogs will not recognize you either. You become l

Review: Shutter Island or Not Frisch

Eyewear saw Shutter Island last night - how could I not? Scorsese is one of the best Hollywood directors of our time, and his sense of film history is second to none. Hearing he was doing a genre picture (which Sight & Sound observed is his " The Shining ") from an auteur/ homage angle - referencing Fuller, Lewton , and Hitchock - was thrilling. The film itself is disappointing, if only because expectations were raised it might be a masterwork. Instead, Shutter Island is a slow-moving, at times melodramatic, thinking-person's movie, with disconcertingly various elements - including ultra-violent depictions of Dachau, child murder, suicide, and mutilation; psychoanalysis; film theory; and 50s retro kitsch. Spoiler alert : the main problem is, anyone who knows the sub-genre of sane-men-in insane-asylums is likely to guess the "twist" - hardly a twist and more a foregone conclusion. There is, as a writer, only one binary option when putting a fish into a

New Poem by Todd Swift

Having been sick for months, it's been a slow time coming up for air. My mind was fogged, or so I thought. Poems have been slow, too. Here's one of the first in weeks - feels like forever. Thank god the poetry is coming back. Start again In a key of slow Then again stop and go. Are trees made of pianos Or the other way? March plays the bare bones Like it was evening In a dive, solo. Beneath the poverty A billionaire lies Domiciled in the soil And about to pay out glowing Light and growth. Recovery is what the ill Try to do, and succeed Or die. Health is a portfolio We all want into. I am putting these together Not as if my life depended On the assembly, that’s bomb Disposal. Or disassembly, Critical. Wires cross As leaves revive cool green And April steps out Into the sun after a year On the town, run down, has-been. Nothing cyclical gets lost: Time spins and so is redeemed; Spins because planetary, so Laws define the poetic sense That hope is eternal; poetry Makes lawyers of u

Featured Poet: Meryl Pugh

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Meryl Pugh (pictured) this Friday. Pugh was born in 1968, and grew up in Wales, New Zealand, East Anglia and the Forest of Dean. She was educated at Queens' College, University of Cambridge and the Institute of Education, University of London. In 2003, she was selected as a Jerwood/Arvon Young Poet and left teaching soon afterwards, in order to spend more time writing. She was shortlisted for the 2005 New Writing Ventures poetry prize, and awarded a Hawthornden Residential Fellowship that same year. Pugh has reviewed for Poetry London and Poetry Review , and poems have appeared in various publications, including Entering the Tapestry (edited by Graham Fawcett and Mimi Khalvati , Enitharmon, 2003) and Reactions 5 (edited by Clare Pollard , Pen and Ink Press, 2005). A pamphlet, Relinquish (Arrowhead Press), was published in 2007. Pugh lives in East London, and works as a library assistant. Last year she was awarded a Distinction in the MA in Crea

R's Boat

Lisa Robertson's latest collection, R's Boat , is recently out from the University of California Press. Looking forward to reading it. Reviews welcome.

Mark Linkous Has Died

Sad news. Mark Linkous , who suffered from depression, and was Sparklehorse , has killed himself. This follows the recent suicide of his friend, Vic Chesnutt . Linkous, who some critics felt possessed near-genius, famously wrote spectral, eerie, fragile songs, in a low key, that sometimes remind one of Mercury Rev . Or Elliot Smith . But they have a texture all their own.

Adventureland Revisited

Eyewear saw a little-heralded "stoner" indie movie that came and went last summer (2009) after a Sundance debut - Adventureland . Starring Kristen Stewart of Twilight infamy, and Jessie Eisenberg , of cult classic The Squid and The Whale , the film (on DVD) is actually a very sweet (and hilarious) coming of age story (with discussions of theology), set at the fag end of the Reagan 80s, in the dead-end summer job Purgatorio that is Adventureland: a sagging lo-fi amusement park that employs kids too broke to go to Europe, and divides them into a Games and a Rides cohort. Playing on the Schindler List trope that saw Schindler's quick rise through the fascist ranks due to his copious baskets of champagne, the main character is gifted with a magic stash of weed at the start of the film, and manages to ingratiate himself quickly with the theme park wastrels. Of these, the most touching is the loser Russian lit student, a beanpole four-eyes with alternative hair and a stunne

Utter Difference, Infinite Etter?

Shearsman's 2010 Reading Series continues with an important launch tomorrow night, (Wednesday, 10 March at 7:30 pm) of the anthology Infinite Difference . The venue is Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A. Admission free. This event will be emceed by the wide-ranging poet-editor, Carrie Etter , and will feature short readings by Sascha Akhtar, Isobel Armstrong, Caroline Bergvall, Andrea Brady, Emily Critchley, Claire Crowther, Catherine Hales, Frances Kruk, Rachel Lehrman, Wendy Mulford, Redell Olson, Frances Presley, Sophie Robinson, Zoƫ Skoulding , and Harriet Tarlo . Shearsman is one of the significant poetry presses in the UK. I look forward to getting this reviewed for Eyewear .


I saw this over at Shanna Compton's blog (Compton is a New York poet, poetry editor, publisher and DIY free-thinker who studied Joan Murray's poetry) - a new series of Hypothetical book covers . My novel is, so far, hypothetical, but coming along nicely. Speaking of which, my old site needs a redesign - know a good webguy/gal?

Little Episodes, Big Idea

Mental illness - especially depression - is far more common than some people accept - and remains a stigma, when other diseases (such as cancer) no longer seem a mark of Cain (despite what Sontag wrote on the subject). Recently, Little Episodes , a platform for artists, musicians, writers and other creatives, was put online, to establish an interface between mental health concerns and creative endeavours. It is an impressive project, and I am proud to say students from Kingston University are involved with the work.

International Women's Day

Eyewear salutes women this International Women's Day (IWD). Most particularly, Kathryn Bigelow , whose powerful Oscar-winning war film, The Hurt Locker , reconfigures the male-dominated Western genre in such a way that is able to be both existential, pacifist, and true to the actualities of conflict. Her Best Director Oscar is an historical achievement, and much-deserved.

E-book Week

Read an E-book Week (7-13 March 2010) is upon us. When Val Stevenson of Nthposition and I began thinking of poetry e-books back in March 2003 (seven years ago now!), at the start of the Iraq war, they were basically PDFs you could download, share, swap, email, host and so forth - not the more elaborate platforms in place now, to use with tablet-shaped readers. I had thought e-books would catch on sooner than they in fact did. Their rapidity of circulation on the Internet, potential lack of expense, and democratic editing and publishing options, made them possibly a wildfire phenomenon - but much resisted their ubiquity, or the rise of the e-writer and e-reader as dominant in the marketplace. Why? 1) resistance from the literary establishment, which remains the gatekeeping presence, determining editorial, review and marketing hegemony; 2) lack of grass-roots support for a real bottom-up revolution in the production of literary products; and 3) an uncertain technological interface, co

Over The Top

Thanks to Eyewear 's readers for coming through. We now have over 150 regular followers. That's as many as read many or most little magazines. It's a strong small community and I am very pleased to be a part of it.

Mulligan New

The Oscar for Best Actress tomorrow night should go to Ms. C. Mulligan , pictured, whose meteoric breakthrough in An Education , is nothing less than revelatory. Mulligan has a jejeune star quality that sparkles like Audrey Tatou , or Audrey Hepburn . She's arguably the most exciting new English actress since Julie Christie , and she brings a genuinely fresh air to the screen. Baby-faced, pleasingly slim, and able to be sultry or pouty, wise or silly, at will, her performance in this fine, troubling and very sad, moving film (which constantly asks the viewer to question what love, what desire, and what ambition are worth) is striking. She becomes the Sixties ingenue par excellence. Ms. Mulligan makes the film a classic. She deserves the statue. Meanwhile, she is to appear, this year, in three of the most-anticipated films: Brighton Rock (with Sam Riley ), a Kaz Ishiguro adaptation (with Keira Knightley ), and Wall Street's sequel.

Be the 150th

Eyewear has 149 "followers". That's a wonderful number for a plucky little blog - but it'd be swell to have 150. Won't you be that one?

Longley Way To Go

There are too many poetry competitions. There are not enough poetry competitions. Both statements are half-true. Until a poet has won one, it is worth going on. Or not bothering. So many of my poet friends and colleagues see-saw between the self-hate that is entering, the self-love that is entering, such black holes, that suck up our money, our hopes, and hold onto our best unpublished poems for months and months. And yet, and yet. Some poetry competitions are more equal than others. One of the UK's best is the Poetry London one. Closing date this year is 31 May. And the judge? Michael Longley . That elicits a wow from Eyewear . Longley is a master lyricist, and one of the finest Irish poets since Yeats . It'd be an honour to be selected by such a poet. Speaking of Poetry London , it launches its latest issue on St Patrick's Day March 17, at Foyles, Soho.

Hardie Fare

Graham Hardie has alerted me to the rise of the new iteration of The Scottish Poetry Review - an online rattle-bag of poems, reviews, and other stuff about the burgeoning Scottish poetry world (which is arguably more impressive than its countrparts in Northern Ireland, Wales and England, these days). The review of Rain is particularly bold.

Brown Is Wrong

Gordon Brown has today confirmed that he believes the Iraq war was "right". Eyewear is of the opinion that Mr. Brown is wrong, and that said war was illegal, under international law, and an act of aggression; at the very least, it was deeply problematic and complex. The certainty that Blair and Brown brought and bring to this subject is troubling. Mr. Brown should be voted out of office at the coming election, if for no other reason than his position with regards to the 2003 invasion.

Featured Poet: Jeffrey Side

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Jeffrey Side (pictured) this Friday. Side, as polemicist and instigator, is a controversial figure in some circles, for his online championing of views and positions that, to say the least, question "establishment" and mainstream critical perspectives (for instance whether Heaney is a significant poet). He is sympathetic to the British innovative and New York poetry schools ( Ashbery is a big influence), and his own work explores the lyric, and language, with a passionate interest in the traditional canon as well (such as Blake ). Side has had poetry published in various magazines and sites including Poetry Salzburg Review, Underground Window, A Little Poetry, Poethia, Nthposition , Eratio, Shadowtrain, Blazevox, Jacket, P.F.S. Post, Great Works, Hutt , and Dusie . His poetry publications include Carrier of the Seed (Blazevox Books) and Slimvol (cPress). From 1996 to 2000 he was the assistant editor of The Argotist magazine. He now edits T

Foot Soldier

Sad news. The death of Old Labour seems confirmed with the death of the great Michael Foot , an idealist and Labour leader whose "longest suicide note in history" was none other than a long list of ethically valid and visionary demands. Foot falls into the category of those "peace mongers" and gadflys who sometimes get into positions of genuine power (one thinks of Jimmy Carter , perhaps Obama ) and are then accused of weakness when their integrity and goodwill is thwarted by wicked and small-minded men and women, who argue that what is actually needed is electability and pragmatism. Stuff and nonsense. AH was electable, so was Bush . A lot of very evil people have been practical - see Arendt . In fact, what the world has always needed are idealists, dreamers, and far-seers - and those are the ones that too often get defeated, by the likes of Thatcher and co. Sadly, too, Tony Blair came along and sleeked and slicked the Foot vision, in the process getting

Lehman Back In New York

David Lehman is back in New York after his whirlwind reading tour of London. Stacey Harwood blogs about his London trip at Best American Poetry . His Oxfam reading with Mark Ford and younger poets was a resounding success - one of our best audiences ever. Photo by Harwood, after the event.

Wilbur Force

Richard Wilbur turned 89 at the start of this week, March 1. He's one of the finest American poets, and it's good to know he is still at it. Happy birthday!

Poetry Is...

Sina Queyras - a significant Canadian poet, anthologist and blogger - is a guest over at the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet . She recently asked a bunch of poets to complete the sentence Poetry is - with these results . My favourite is McGimpsey's.

Guest Review: Brinton On Thompson

Ian Brinton reviews Holes in the Map by Nathan Thompson editor's note: due to html restrictions, some of the text quoted may be differently presented on the page in the published collection to how it appears on the reader's screen. It must be disconcerting at the very least for the mundane traveller to discover that his map has holes in it whilst for the more imaginative explorer the very nature of those holes can provide both challenges and opportunities: openings through which the mind can fall. Nathan Thompson’s twenty lyric pieces which make up this attractive addition to the fast-growing Oystercatcher canon echo hauntingly across the page, a geographical and historical map where the reader is guided by literary references and poignant accumulation of detail. This poetry is as obscure as music and it brought to my mind immediately the words offered by Peter Riley in a letter to the editor of the Cambridge Literary Review which will appear in its entirety in the fort