Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2010

Here Come The Sixties

The media is anniversary mad, as we know.  This is the 5th anniversary of Eyewear .  2010 is also the 50th anniversary of 1960 - so get ready for a half-century reappraisal, this decade, of everything Sixties related. In terms of literature, here are some classics (well, they are now if we are still talking about them and reading them) whose 50th anniversary 2010 is: Green Eggs and Ham; The Violent Bear It Away; The Country Girls; To Kill A Mockingbird; A Canticle for Leibowitz ; and my favourite children's book, after The Wind in the Willows , The Weirdstone of Brisingamen , a work of genius.  It is also the 50th anniversary of the death of Camus . In terms of poetry, it is now 50 years since some of these major publications: Curnow 's The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse ; AJM Smith 's Oxford Book of Canadian Verse ; The New American Poetry 1945-1960 edited by Donald M Allen (perhaps the most influential anthology of the last half-century); Shapiro 's In Defen

New Poetry Award

Perhaps nothing can make someone cringe more than the phrase "new poetry award" - there are so many awards these days, it sometimes seem there aren't enough days in the week to respond to them all.  However, poetry needs some awards, if only to stir interest, and overcome the obstacles that many smaller presses have in competing with the overwhelming extra authority and clout a few of the largest imprints and houses seem to possess, as if by right.  So it is good news to see that Coffee-House Poetry at The Troubadour has launched a prize for debut collections.  Out of 77 submitted, 15 have been shortlisted - see below.  Congratulations to all, especially Abi Curtis, Carrie Etter, Tom Chivers , and Katrina Naomi , since I have read those collections and appreciated them; but the others no doubt hold promise too.  I am sorry to see that b/w was not selected, or, for that matter, Cinammon Press books seem not to have been submitted - surely, Sheila Hillier 's debut co

Guest Review: Stewart On Dallat and Molloy

Anne Stewart reviews The Year of Not Dancing by CL Dallat & Long-distance Swimmer by Dorothy Molloy The Year of Not Dancing is in hardback with 63 pages of very engaging and memorable poetry and a rather elegant and sophisticated dust jacket which gives an added incentive to keep the book to hand at all times. Dallat’s dedication of this, his second collection, is in memoriam to his mother, who died when he was eleven. The dust-cover tells us that ‘Her death becomes the focus for a poignant but unsentimental exploration of family relationships and legacies across three generations...’ There is an extensive cast-list. Some are identified as family or extended family members, others are unidentified but clearly significant ‘you’s, ‘he’s and ‘she’s:     “including those second cousins / – teenagers with fringes and EPs – ”, 'Dance Lessons'; “to the farm of my once-removed – / source of our one personalised / season’s greeting”, 'County Down'; “First he taugh

Eliot The Dunderhead?

As seen at the blog Harriet - a link to news that the great(est) American poet of the last century, Mr TS Eliot , had trouble at Harvard with his studies - in short, he got far fewer As and Bs than we might have expected.  Instead, the no doubt day-dreaming, perhaps anxious, maybe even sleepy, Mr Eliot, missed classes, got a D, and seemed to be on academic probation.  Mr Eliot, unique in being both a charlatan and a genius, often in the same essay, or sentence, was a master of verbal erudition that displayed more than it actually said - the reverse of subtext - he was the lord of the overtext.  He also abandoned his PhD work, and, famously, went on to work in a bank, edit books at Faber, pen essays, plays, and the most famous difficult poem of the last two centuries in English, and, win the Nobel Prize.  I too was a piss-poor undergrad student who got through on a wing and a prayer, as were (I would guess) several other poets.  Poets have a habit of missing deadlines, over-writing or

Potts and pans

What's with it with book reviews?  Either they are timid, or puffery, or daggers drawn, or umbrellas tipped with poison, or - well. they are rarely subtle, complex, and objective, that's for darn sure.  Anyway, a few have been making the news, or been in the air, these last weeks.  Robert Potts , the critic, scholar and editor, reviewed Don Paterson 's Rain , from Faber, with rigorous glee, in the TLS .  It was a carefully researched rethink that showed the Scotsman obsessed with doppelgangers, twins and the shadow self (a long tradition started by RL Stevenson ) was basically like a member of Spinal Tap .  Perhaps reviewers should drop Spinal Tap references - they have become a little tired.  They tend to turn reviews up to 11 a little too easily.  Still, this Pottsian revisionism was noteworthy for being an openly dissenting view - most sentient reviewers kow-tow to Paterson as if he were a little god fallen from the heavens onto Gilligan's Island. So, refreshing.  

Gunned Down

Free at last! In England, people may be bemoaning the 4-1 loss.  But in America, liberals are faced with a more serious 5-4 decision.   The Supreme Court's conservative decision to throw out all state and local laws aimed at gun control as unconstitutional hands the NRA and gun makers an almost unlimited victory over those who have sought to keep gun violence at bay in the States.  Sadly, according to some estimates, 30,000 (!) people die by gun every year in America - a health risk that is almost totally preventable.  Of course, far fewer people would also die if cars, alcohol, and tobacco were limited or banned.  Is the price of freedom the risk of a bullet?  One thing is for sure, there's never likely to be an army that takes total control of the US.  Or, for that matter, a police force.  Some would want to say, or a government.

Nicolas Hayek Has Died

Sad news.   Nicolas Hayek , the founder of Swatch, has died suddenly at work.  Swatch is Eyewear 's favourite timepiece manufacturer.  I currently alternate between one that is all red, and one with an orange band.  However, my Swatch collection numbers four or five.  Not vast, but respectfully growing, with love.  One of the great pleasures in life is buying a Swatch watch in an airport.  Well, it has passed the time.

Guest Review: Chingonyi On Phethean

Kayo Chingonyi reviews Breath by Ellen Phethean The blurb on the back cover says that the poems in this collection ‘chart the course’ of the years following major bereavement. As a result of this I came to the book with some assumptions. I expected poems of lament exploring the theme of loss and expressing pain. While such poems are represented in the collection there is also work ranging from musings on childhood, the importance of geographical location, the disparities between the past and present as well as a number of poems on parenthood. To Phethean’s credit, the elegies do attempt to avoid sentimentality and convey something other than the sadness of loss. The poem ‘An Ancient Calling’, for example, functions as a praise song for those who ‘move us on’ when we are faced with the death of a loved one. This provides a surprising take on the elegy since it serves both to describe the helplessness of grief but also the process by which people rebuild their lives aft

Guest Review: Curtis On Price

Abi Curtis reviews Rays by Richard Price Last year a talented poet friend of mine was short-listed for the Michael Marks pamphlet award and I went along to hear her and the other contenders read. Richard Price gave a wonderful speech about the importance of the pamphlet as a form for poetry, its great tradition of showcasing a poet’s work, the fact that the pamphlet has a sense of limitation, distilment, condensation that makes it quite distinctive. Price is a champion of the form and some of the nine sections in Rays began their lives as limited edition pamphlets. Though the sections have subtle, echoing relationships between one another, there is a sense of each as a particular poetic space. This is a particular strength of the collection, allowing it to feel startlingly fresh and alive, but also because the reader gets the sense of a poet that is interested in poetry as a collaborative endeavour. Pamphlets are lovingly created and this is a collective process, they are often the

Guest Review: Side On Kaye

Jeffrey Side reviews What Hands Can Hold by Ami Kaye What Hands Can Hold is a collection of poems, many of which are narratives, yet not mired in the intense descriptiveness that such a form has usually comprised. They leave room (as all good poetry should) for the reader’s interaction with the text. For instance, the poem ‘Diya’ (“Diya” is a Hindi word meaning “votive”) recounts a Hindu ritual whereby a wick made of cotton and oil is placed in an earthenware dish, lit, then put in (usually) the river Ganges to mark purity during a religious ceremony, but the poem has a resonance which belies its effortless account of this ritual: In the gold light of dusk she cupped her hands holding flame in a leaf-boat she set it afloat on the pond next to a water-lily breathing magic then she followed suit first the sandals then the silk then the wind loosened long hair she had so carefully tied back with a ribbon torn from the sky In the first stanza, we see how the candle in its container

Abject England

The BBC commentary said it all - abject.  Hammered.  Individuals not a team .  What went wrong?  Top English players went out to the worst English result in a World Cup.  Ever.  Yes, the second England goal was stolen.  That was an outrage.  But there was no defence.  Precious little offence.  Germany outclassed England when it mattered in South Africa.  In four years time, hopefully, lessons will have been learned.  This great nation deserves players worthy of the world-class heart of its fans.  Germany, meanwhile, could go all the way.

Experimental Sex Hospital

I am glad to alert Eyewear readers to the (to me) exciting fact that I have a new collection out, a full-length ebook of poems about desire and devotion, from the new Argotist series run by poet-editor Jeffrey Side , titled Experimental Sex Hospital .  As such, it is a companion, or sequel, to 2009's Mainstream Love Hotel .  It is free to download so do take a peek. The cover is a treat, so I won't use its image here but keep it a surprise.

Ronald Neame Has Died

I have always enjoyed genre movies, and B-movies, and disaster movies.   Ronald Neame directed the greatest of these, The Poseidon Adventure , a classic Hollywood kitsch-fest that has made the idea of a fat lady swimming underwater en route to "The Holy Land" both deeply moving and faintly comic.  Nor can we forget the pathos of the tough NYC cop played by Borgnine losing his wife to a sudden jolt, fall and fireball ("Linda!!!"), or Gene Hackman' s tormented Vatican II priest dying to save his unlikely comrades on the cross of an inverted door-wheel.  Remakes have done much to prove the commercial genius of the original, whose humour, humanity and sense of adventure (indeed) have yet to be recaptured in any such flick since.  Neame made other films, but my other 70s favourite by him is The Odessa File , which manages to capture the gritty feel of the period, with a superb performance by a young Jon Voight .  The scene where he avoids being crushed by a Berlin m

Tom Phillips on Violent Femmes

“I forget what eight was for...” Like a dusty snapshot of 1986, I’ve still got the shoebox of cassettes that I brought home from university. All the usual suspects are there: T he Smiths, The Cure, Orange Juice, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, The Fall . This was the era of ‘Rain Dogs’, ‘Stop Making Sense’ and ‘Meat is Murder’, after all, the kind of literate pop that was obligatory listening for students who surfed the tail-end of punk at school, made self-conscious forays into poetry and lay down on pavements to protest against grant cuts, cruise missiles and sundry other Thatcherite atrocities. In the same shoebox, though, are three albums by another band who, despite having been likened to leftfield icons like the Velvet Underground and Jonathan Richman at the time, rarely seem to get mentioned nowadays. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because they came from Milwaukee. Or admitted to busking. Or eschewed an overproduced 1980s sheen in favour of songs which pieced country,