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Showing posts from February, 2011

The King's Gift

I have a quick question about the bromance at the heart of The King's Speech .  Why did the King not ever grant Lionel Logue the Knighthood within his power to give?  It is true he made Logue a Commander (CVO) - however, the top two rankings include a knighthood of the order.  Perhaps rewarding a friend in this way would have been unseemly - but given that all the failed speech-doctors were knighted (according to the screenplay itself) the dramatic outcome should have been, surely, such public recognition / redemption.  Nor was Logue as poor as in the film (he lived in a large villa with dozens of rooms).  I also have a few continuity questions, particularly relating to chairs/ thrones in the Cathedral scene - at times there is one, at others two, within a few shots.  Finally, is it at all likely that the King would have really kept, for years, the recording of his voice, that finally, in the film, triggers his return to Logue?  And, if he could read perfectly while listening to l

Jay Landesman Has Died

Sad news.  Jay Landesman , writer and publisher, has died.  He is survived by, among others, his wife the poet and songwriter  Fran , and his son the writer and film reviewer Cosmo .

Review: Howl

I saw Howl in Soho (London) tonight - perhaps one of the hippest places to catch such a film.  I went with a friend who is a performance poet, and we felt part of an occasion of sorts - but the response from the audience was muted.  I once read with Lawrence Ferlinghetti , in Paris, at Shakespeare & Co., and Ginsberg was due to stay at my apartment in Montreal just before he died in 1997 - so I feel some affinity to these people (I dedicated Poetry Nation to Ginsberg). Howl was an influence on my writing and way of life when I was growing up, thought not the dominant one - that would have been Harmonium and Life Studies .  Still, it is (pun intended) seminal.  Therefore, I was bound to be either blown away, or let down (puns intended).  I was both, in the eventuality.  Elements of the film deeply moved me - James Franco 's impersonation of the poet is spot on, and his reading of the poem, and interview sequences are flawless recreations.  The period detail, and the sense

Featured Poet: Mary-Jane Newton

Eyewear is very glad to welcome the Hong Kong poet Mary-Jane Newton  (pictured) to its pages this gray London Friday.   Newton was born in Goa in 1983, and spent the first years of her life in India . She subsequently grew up in  Germany and England . Her  work has been published in literary journals and anthologies in  Asia . Of Symbols Misused (Proverse Hong Kong), her first collection of poetry, is forthcoming shortly.  She is an editor at Oxford University Press. Poem No 165 Wants to remain unknown, unwritten. Wants to cry hoarsely that this is not the death it has deserved. Would rather inject its host with poison and turn pale and waxen, than assume shape, become ‘meaningful’, be forced into a pattern strange and peregrine. Would rather age and rot an unborn virgin, be forgotten like an age-old monument. Would rather drown in other stories, tales and poems, or be hanged with rattling emotion. Would rather seek a private battle with its host, than be told, captured wit

Her Life Collected

Eyewear is glad to feature a poem from Sue Guiney 's new collection of poems, Her Life Collected .  It will be reviewed here in the near future. Born and raised in New York, Guiney has lived in London for  twenty years where she writes and teaches fiction, poetry and plays.  Her work has appeared in literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first novel, Tangled Roots , was published in May ‘08. Her second, A Clash of Innocents , was chosen to be the first publication of the new imprint Ward Wood Publishing and was published in September, 2010. Guiney is Artistic Director of the theatre arts charity which she founded in 2005 called CurvingRoad. Vanishing Point Like an old Hitchcock movie, like an exercise in art history, the line of long floorboards draws her eye. At the end of the dining room, a window is filled with trees. The restaurant is empty and she is alone – old enough not to be afraid, old enough to know what to fear. She’s already on dessert, a bottl


I didn't coin the phrase "psychofascism" - Reynolds in 1974 seems to have - and a few bloggers have used it since.  But I am one of the first to use it to describe the development of a new kind of leader - part-dictator, part-madman, such as we see in Libya, whose sole claim to power is that they claim power - the violent political version of the C-list celebrities famous for being famous.  Libya was of course an Italian colony.  Italo Balbo , afetr a violent pacification, put the Libyans under the jackboot of Il Duce . The original fascist control of Libya was not insane - it was dictated by economics and an imperialist agenda.  However, and sadly, Mussolini's murderous fascism has now transformed - and colonialism does this - the liberator into a menace.  Libya has had an unusually bloody history, even by 20th century standards. There is no likelihood of less blood in the sand any time soon.  Britain should intervene, perhaps with the Americans, and the EU, to

No Logos, or Howl About It

It isn't true that poets, neglected or little read in their own time, will be discovered later, or that poets find other poets, and are able to champion them and bring them to light, - at least as far as a wider general public is concerned.  My doctoral research into poets of the 1940s has shown me the reverse - that good poets tend to oblivion, unless they are thoroughly fortunate, in friends, in connections, and, mainly in media attention.  The new movie Howl confirms the trend - poets known to the public get recycled. In Britain, the poets who usually get mentioned in the media are those who were, even during their lifetime, the media darlings - Ted Hughes, Larkin, Betjeman .  The launch today o f a new book by Professor Greene on the life of Edith Sitwell also shows how tough it is to be remembered or respected - Sitwell was a modernist eccentric and genius, but now is marginal.  I think of Joan Murray (who I recently anthologised in a Carcanet book), selected by WH Auden

Christchurch in his mercy

Readers of Eyewear may cock an eyebrow at the title of this post - I am a struggling Catholic, after all.  However, today seems a bleak day in human history - by no means the worst, but one of those that marks the ways in which human suffering is accidentally and intentionally visited upon people, often innocent.  Exhibit A - the peaceful, decent and civilised city of Christchurch in New Zealand is shattered by an earthquake.  Exhibit B - the brutality in Libya.  Exhibit C - Iranian warships steaming into the Mediterranean for the first time in over 30 years.  Surely, war of some kind is at hand, in the Middle East - chaos looms.  Meanwhile, God, in his infinite wisdom, is apparently impassive as the horrors of history unfold.  It is up to each of us (with our souls) to try to fathom the impossible, the infinite.  Some days I am just, barely, able to glimpse the love of God working in the world.  It is, still, visible, in the kindness and compassion and creativity of so many humans; b

Guest Review: Begnal On Walsh

Michael S. Begnal reviews Optic Verve by Catherine Walsh Catherine Walsh’s 2009 long poem Optic Verve (Shearsman Books) is described in its own text at book’s end as “a commentary” – so what does that mean?   In the past, it has been assumed by some that experimental poets such as Walsh (a blurb on the back cover of the book describes Walsh as “Ireland’s most radical experimental woman poet”) are merely concerned with words as such than with socio-political engagement, but any fair reading of such writers suggests this is far from being the case (I’m thinking of contemporary poets like Caroline Bergvall , Sean Bonney , Susan Howe , and Mark Nowak as a few immediate examples, and the list could go on).   Of course, most readers familiar with these names already know this.   And it is not to say that Walsh is not concerned with words and language – she certainly is – but here it is a case of engagement with language and engagement with socio-political/philosophical concerns merging i

Blood In The Streets

The news from Benghazi is not good .  The West must do more to condemn this massacre, now, and try to persuade its curious ally from continuing down this murderous path.  It seems hard to imagine how BP will be able to justify ongoing business with such a pathological state.

Guest Review: Jones on Byrne

Joshua Jones reviews Blood/Sugar by James Byrne James Byrne’s second collection is intimidatingly vast. It veers between silencing clarity and semi-placeable intellect and image, relishes hinging between ‘mainstream’ and ‘innovative’/ ‘experimental’ stylistics. The intimation of a stable self flickers in and out of an ever-shifting linguistic world, encompassing the obscurely personal and the retroactive incorporation of intellectual/artistic history, constructing and reconstructing a present out of the past, ducking and diving between the two and spanning continents in single poems. Kinsella points out in the blurb that not for a moment does ‘the intellectual rigour [diminish] the vitality of the work... It sparkles with wit and irony’. I half-agree – Byrne can strike the reader with a phrase of image – “let me be able to conjure your best side,//to have some kind of grip on the intactness/of living, the way mirrors do” – yet there are numerous moments when the writing seems to be s

Tax The Banks!

The news that Barclays has paid a 1% tax rate on a massive £6 billion profit, at a time when the poor and middle-class in Britain are being subjected to astonishingly severe ideological cuts is appalling.  Okay - but beyond the editorials - What Is To Be Done?  So long as the people of Britain allow the financial services industries-Tories-capitalism to dictate what's good for us, there is no hope.  We see the future - one with a two-tiered health service; minimal welfare; sold-off forests; little or no cultural funding - a Big Society where the Big own and run and enjoy the society, and the rest of us, underfoot, foot the bills.  I wonder when the British will radicalise sufficiently to speak out against this established unfairness - and topple it.

Ich Bin Ein Bahrainer

The West - in case we didn't know already and had never read Pilger, Chomsky or Said - has been playing a grand game in the Middle East for more than a century - one of divide and conquer and ultimately control.  At stake, as every kid can tell you, is oil and gas, the lifeblood of the capitalist energy-system.  Democracy has never been uppermost in terms of the realpolitik emanating from London and Washington.  Hence the Shah, Mubarak, Saddam, etc.  Real democracy is messy, and may even elect anti-Western (or yes, pro-Arabic, pro-Islam) parties to power. You can't quite control democracies as well as dictatorships.  Hence, Bahrain, now.  This tiny kingdom is a key US ally in an Iranian zone - but is oppressive and brutal.  Its actions over the last few days of protest are equivalent to what happened in Tianenman Square.  This time, the outrage has been muted.  The problem with such state department cold-eyed pragmatism is that it is not invisible.  The world sees that the

Featured Poet: Brian Turner

Eyewear is very glad to welcome American poet Brian Turner  (pictured) to its pages this Friday - aptly enough, perhaps, as revolution continues to stir in the Middle East, the source of much of his most powerful material.  Turner is the author of two collections of poetry: Here, Bullet (Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Bloodaxe Books, 2010).  For the second of these, he was shortlisted for Britain's most prestigious poetry prize, The T.S. Eliot Prize. Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000). His poetry has been published in Poetry Daily , The Georgia Review, and other journals. He's been awarded a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Low

Guest Review: Brinton On Muckle

Ian Brinton reviews London Brakes by John Muckle In the blurb on the back of this extraordinary novel Will Self suggests that one of John Muckle’s achievements as a writer lies in his ability to conjure up ‘this peculiar inter-zone between the behemoth of the city and the hinterland of the country’. That said, rest assured that this world is not that of the simple description however atmospheric and photographically accurate; we are more in a world that combines the moving sense of ‘thereness’ you might expect in the poetry of Charles Reznikoff when mixed with the phantasmagoric creations of Paul Auster and Iain Sinclair . Much of the novel seems to answer that well-worn Larkinesque quandary posed by Mr. Bleaney as he looks out of his window contemplating the extent to which the way we live ‘measures our own nature.’ The mundane repetition of expectations, the patterning of ourselves upon our surroundings, is there from the second paragraph: Gladys and myself never spoke beyond th

Eat Pray Love Spew

I had heard it was bad.  I rented it on DVD.  Hoping for it to be good-bad, as it were.  Not to be.  The film Eat Pray Love is a reason to launch war on America.  The smug, laughing, crying, meditating, utterly self-engrossed Julia Roberts , playing self-engrossed travel journalist Liz Gilbert , is insufferable.  To understand the vast gulf between Hollywood-American sensibility and that of, say, the developing and European worlds, watch this film.  Ms. Gilbert has a great job, handsome, charming husband, great friends, and a house in New York.  What she doesn't have is a sense of "herself".  Instead of reading books, or going to a therapist, or even expanding her horizons locally, she dumps her husband, and takes up with a stud of an actor, before dumping him to travel to Italy to gain weight eating (which she sees as liberating), then off to Asia to try and get some mystic insights.  Roberts never actually puts on weight, and her life lessons are vapid.  I threw shoes

Let England Shake

PJ Harvey has often made great indie pop, and great experimental albums - but rarely both at once; a few times neither.   Let England Shake is her masterwork, and an early candidate for Album of 2011.  It is, firstly, strange - uncanny - even - and indeed, her unheimlich take on being at home is the purpose of this song cycle, which seeks to locate the roses and fogs of England amidst the carnage the nation's imperial aims have caused; England, for Harvey is a self-harmer.  Harvey's vocals here are falsetto, tremolo - weird - a bit Mercury Rev , a bit J Newsom .  The off-kilter retro stylings of the songs (including male backing singers that sound positively Lawrence Welk ) lend a timeless, thrilling, unsettling quality - as if the inspiring soundtrack was The Singing Detective . Writing of the bloodbath of World Wars - and using 'Strange Fruit' as a model (according to interviews) - Harvey seeks to work through the paradox of an England that is "drunken beatin

Los Boys

The news that "Los 33" managed their outstanding feats of survival with the help of some Mary Jane, porn, and dreams of inflatable sex dolls, while certainly a bit rock and roll, does rather reduce their moral stature - or does it?  It does raise a troubling question - why do men, locked in darkness a mile below the crust, require depictions of raw sex to keep their spirits alive?  Is love not enough, as Depeche Mode once sang?  I cannot imagine 33 women requiring pornography in such a situation - can you?


Winter Tennis out of stock at!  Thanks Mike.  My sales report for 2011 will now make less soul-destroying reading!

A love poem by Todd Swift, from Mainstream Love Hotel

Ivo, Marianopolis, 1984 Like rain, desiring, the Cocteau Twins return, bringing that cold sadness again: sweet as a bare shoulder, lost pain, an ice flavoured as your skin, which was, summertime, the toast of my tongue, trying to barely possess your black boy-cut bangs as they ran like water in mythic April showers – you and your cherry Docs, alley-dancing, your lips as untouched as the Rhodes I forfeited for high style, laughing gas; A. Alvarez mourns that no one reads I.A. Richard s anymore, but I do, and we did – shivering, music like kisses: recollection. 

"You're making a fool of yourself and a fool of me"

There are many great love stories in literature - among my favourites are The Wind in The Willows, The Great Gatsby, Burmese Days , and The Idiot .  However, perhaps the most troubling, doomed (and realistic?) evocation of unrequited love that I have enjoyed is Maughm's Of Human Bondage .  It was also a great film in the 1930s.

"I have crossed oceans of time to find you..."

In terms of great films about, and of, love, we have Vertigo, In The Mood for Love , and Casablanca , Doctor Zhivago , An Officer and a Gentleman , at the apex; as well as odder, more troubling versions, such as Sophie's Choice and  Silence of the Lambs .  I think my favourite remains Bram Stoker's Dracula , with the great immortal line "I have crossed oceans of time to find you...".

"I'll put us back together at heart..."

Great love songs are also, often, great heart-broken songs - and my favourite, from the 80s, is the Simple Minds classic, 'Don't You Forget About Me'.

Guest Review: Naomi on Fyfe and Shuttle

Katrina Naomi reviews Understudies: New & Selected Poems by Anne-Marie Fyfe & Sandgrain and Hourglass by Penelope Shuttle If   Understudies   were two people, she’d be wearing a floral 50s frock and he’d be wearing a gabardine trench-coat. Both would smoke. She might have a   Wyoming   or Irish accent, he’d be Austrian or German. If I’ve conjured a film set, this is intentional. Anne-Marie Fyfe’s poems both reference cinema and – more importantly – are crammed with scanning shots, giving the reader both close-ups and a wider lens. Fyfe’s poems move back and forth in time and continent, from Britain and Ireland   through central   Europe   to   North America   and beyond. Understudies   opens with a generous selection of new poems, including the filmic ‘Backlit Days’: ‘a woman knits in black and white/shaping a collar in flashback’; a fitting and highly moving homage to Elizabeth Bishop with ‘The Filling Station’; the tidal ‘Meteorology’, in which: ‘a dolls’/found voice-box