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Showing posts from September, 2011

T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semite

It must be time to drop the idea that there is a genuine "debate", or an "ambiguity" about whether T.S. Eliot was a hater of Jews - a tedious tricksy attempt to deflect any responsibility for such unpleasant, wrong thinking, in and out of the poems.  Great American poet he is.  But he was as Anti-Semitic as they come.  This has been amply demonstrated by the letters of his now published (see review in the New York Time s  from which I quote): 'Eliot’s anti-Semitism is luridly on display. He refers to a “Jew merchant” and allows himself pronouncements like “I am sick of doing business with Jew publishers.” It’s damning that such remarks are made only to those who safely share his prejudice. Yet Eliot relied on his friends Leonard Woolf and Sydney Schiff , and as appalling as his anti-Semitism was, it never matched that of his wife (“horrible Jews in plush coats by the million”) and his mother (“I have an instinctive antipathy to Jews, just as I have to certain

Adopting in The UK

A statistic from the paper the other day.  How many babies were adopted in the UK last year?  60.  That is a jaw-droppingly small number - given the number of children needing to be adopted (the thousands), and the number of loving potential adoptive parents waiting (also thousands).  There are many problems with the system, not the least of which is the excessive care taken in trying to find racially-similar parents - a pity because there is something beautiful about multi-racial families.  On average, a child takes 2 and a half years from entering the system to be adopted in the UK.  That is too long.  I have a radical proposal - cut the wait down to zero.  If someone applies to adopt, let them adopt.  By fast-tracking the initial process, the child gets into a home, and the caseworkers and social workers can then observe the child in situ carefully with the parents (vetted of course for serious criminal records beforehand), rather than carefully observing the prospective parents on

No Laughing Matter

Any reader in Britain, of serious literature, might be disheartened to learn that sales of the recently short-listed Booker novels are, for the most part, in the low thousands (one of them has sold around two thousand copies); meanwhile, most poetry collections sell less than a thousand copies.  However - and this is the funny part - memoirs by comedians sell tens of thousands, making millions of pounds.  Apparently, this year's Christmas season, which began in publishing on September 29, features a number of comedy books, which sellers hope will hit the jackpot.  This may be fun on Christmas Day.  It is not good for culture, however popular.  The truth is, poetry has a particularly hard-sell in a culture, like Britain's, where the default setting is a guffaw, or chortle.  Poetry can never compete with stand-up, for even when it is light and witty, it is not Comedy; nor is poetry sex, drugs or rock and roll - the other obsessions of the marketers who peddle to us.  Comedy is a

Music For Christmas?

Hard to imagine in London's blazing Indian Summer, but the record-releasing end of year season is soon upon us.  Albums come out 24-7 these days (I am over-Spotified with checking out all the new stuff), but there are some unusually thrilling appearances on the horizon: 50 Words of Snow by Kate Bush (any new work of hers is a major event); Florence + The Machine 's second, Ceremonials (she is shaping up to be a major figure, a new Bush); a third woman of musical gifts, Canadian Feist , has her second work out this month.  And of course albums from Coldplay , Radiohead , and Peter Gabriel are also intriguing options.  The Noel Gallagher project has started well, with a fun single, so that's to look for, too.  And, left-fieldish, a new Thomas Dolby double-album in late October.  Meanwhile, some of the best recent albums are Pajama Club , Wilco 's The Whole Love , St. Vincent 's Strange Mercy , and Again Into Eyes by S.C.U.M . not to mention the new Kasabian

Guest Review: Tyrrell On Glenn, Morton and Skeen

Lauren Tyrrell reviews Names We’ve Never Known by  Karla K. Morton  & Never the Whole Story by  Anita Skeen  & Lost Gospels by  Lorri Neilsen Glenn Poets possess that enviable power to evoke images from ineffable subject matter, to offer concrete renderings of complex or ethereal notions. Poets concerned with spiritual matters such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Louise Gl ΓΌ ck have demonstrated this capacity in their verse—they root their study of divinity in the physical world, grounding readers in images and emotions common to the human experience. With this accessible entryway into a poet’s exploration of faith, readers can engage in their own journeys, unraveling, reconsidering, or better appreciating their religious beliefs. Former Texas Laureate Karla K. Morton ( Redefining Beauty ) invites readers on a spiritual journey in Names We’ve Never Known , her newest collection. To include readers, she anchors her moments of transcendence in straightforwa

Hard Knox

Excuse me for thinking we are in a different century - one where witches are burnt.   The Italian retrial of Amanda Knox (who may or may not be guilty of a sex murder with a partner or two, or alone) has been facing eyebrow-raising praise and blame the last few days, on the basis of her looks.  Simple as that.  The prosecutor in the case has claimed that she is "diabolical" and that her fresh-faced innocence masks someone dedicated to drugs, drink and "lust", a modern female Dorian Gray.  Meanwhile, the defence claims she is like "Jessica Rabbit" - "not bad, just drawn that way". Medieval, or simply Berlusconian, this may be - but also, in the age of Facebook, it speaks to a disturbing and eternal truth of the human condition: good-looking people are thought of differently.  Unfortunately, sexism comes with this.  Knox's eyebrows, heart-shaped face and full mouth, her clean-cut beauty, speak to certain fantasies surrounding all-American

New Poem by Ben Mazer

Eyewear returns to its tradition of offering poems by the American poet Ben Mazer on certain Sundays. Untitled Their floors and floors of unknown lives conspire to neon, darkness, fog and rain and fire. * * * All lay in bed, and toss in negligees or monogrammed pajamas, have their ways of trimming their hair or doctoring their water. One stares in blankness at the jewels he bought her, goes to the window, braced to see the fog. One fingers old certificates of stock, and ties his tie. Although they all will die, each one looks fabulous in evening dress, and sloughs off the incipient duress. The city is reflected in the sky, has its own taxis, bars, Empire State building. Theirs is a common fate. The monstrous outgrowth of a humble start crushes the spirit, suffocates the heart. poem by Ben Mazer; published with permission of the author

The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize First prize: €2,000 Second prize: €1,000 Third prize: €500 The three winners will also be invited to read at a special award ceremony at Ballymaloe House in Co. Cork, Ireland, in March 2012, and their poems will feature in the spring issue of The Moth . Set in ten acres of organic market gardens, orchards and greenhouses, which are, in turn, surrounded by a hundred acres of organic farm, Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School is just minutes away from the renowned Ballymaloe Country House and Restaurant, run by the Allen family for over 40 years. A creative haven for lovers of food and fresh produce, this family-run business is now the proud sponsor of the inaugural Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, launched in association with The Moth . ‘A little poetry enriches our everyday lives – so I’m delighted to be sponsoring this prize.’ Darina Allen The Prize is open to everyone, as long as the work is original and

Guardian Top 100

The Guardian has listed the top 100 people in the new digital landscape of publishing and reading in Britain.  Several of those at the top, associated with Amazon, and Google, and Apple, are American, as are a few top authors, including James Patterson , and Dan Brown .  Lots of agents and managing directors appear.  A few novelists appear - JK Rowling ,  Ian McEwan , Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie , for instance, as well as Stephen Fry .  We also get a trio of poets, Carol Ann Duffy , Seamus Heaney , and Andrew Motion .  Patronisingly, #100 is "You" - the readers, tweeters, and bloggers.  It is a sort of depressing list.  It shows, to my mind, that whoever compiles these doesn't "get" the real shift that is coming - how radical the shift just may be.  I was surprised not to see Chris Hamilton-Emery , or Neil Astley , or Michael Schmidt , for poetry - each had brilliantly marketed it these past few decades using new ideas and retaining editorial intelligence.

Up In The Air

Forgive me thinking that the NASA satellite threatening to scatter deadly bits and pieces over populated areas of the Earth later today is an apt Damoclesian symbol for our current age - the Age of WTF.  We are currently living in a sort of limbo, or suspended state of emergency - bad stuff, or weird stuff, seems just around the corner.  Our world economy seems on the brink of a second Great Depression; environmental chaos looms; in the UK, universities and hopsitals are in breaking-point flux; societies are unravelling; and even the speed of light seems no longer to obtain.  I confess to being more than a bit anxious about what's to come.

Nevermind the Anniversary

Eyewear is jumping ahead a bit.  On the 24th, Saturday, it'll be the 20 year anniversary, as we all know, of Nevermind , universally regarded (now) as the single most important popular music album of the 1990s, a true generational watershed moment.  I still remember the first time I heard it, in 1991, at an October house party, in Montreal.  It was on in the background.  I was drinking a beer, talking to a guy in an untucked flannel lumberjack-style shirt, and we both stopped and said - hey, this is f***ing good.  Soon, I had bought the CD, and was playing it all day.  I was lifting weights then, at my Verdun apartment, and used to keep it on in the background; and it became the soundtrack to my personal life, for a while.  Sure, the rest of the story gets a little boring, soon enough - the loser club death, the wasted genius.  But Cobain and Co. created a few tracks the aural equivalent of The Beatles .  Truly great stuff, that belonged only to us - people then in their 20s.  Of

I.M. R.E.M.

So, they've split.  The greatest American Indie band of the 1980s (other than Pixies and The Replacements ), and arguably one of the major bands of all time, practically the inventors of College Radio, R.E.M. started lean, incredibly poetic and enigmatic, invigoratingly political and sexy, and sometime in the mid-90s became increasingly bloated, over-familiar and ultimately staid, every one of their originally-brilliant stylistic moves now tics; they began to pastiche themselves. The best way to think of them is in the late 80s.   Stipe 's yearning, haunted lyrics made him arguably the most intriguing young American poet of the time, committed, post-modern, and witty; somehow, coming from The South, they channelled a sense of Whitman , and Poe .  People loved them, fell in love listening to them. I think of masterpieces like 'Swan Swan H', 'Fall On Me', 'The One I Love', 'Half A World Away' and 'Orange Crush', let alone their more

Guest Review: Hirschhorn On Bernstein

NorbertHirschhorn reviews All the Whiskey in Heaven. Selected Poems & Attack of the Difficult Poems By Charles Bernstein Charles Bernstein is one of the leading poets of what is commonly known as the ‘language’ school of poetry, and now serves as Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Theory at Princeton University – all signs of establishment acceptance of what was once considered a fringe movement. Attack of the Difficult Poems is a collection of Bernstein’s essays and presentations that discuss the theory and methods of experimental poetry. Bernstein defines the term ‘difficult poem’ as one with difficult vocabulary and syntax, hard to appreciate on first readings, but affecting the reader’s imagination; all of which makes some readers feel stupid.  More formally, we should say that the difficult poems disrupt syntax; play with the geography

Guest Review: Britton On New Zealand Poetry

Iain Britton on 99Ways into New Zealand Poetry This is a book of some 600 pages or more, divided into 5 major sections, compiled by two university academics, Paula Green and Harry Ricketts , both recognised in New Zealand as accomplished writers, poets and critics in their literary fields. Although it is an anthology, it could also be viewed as a textbook into modern NZ poetry, spanning the years prior to the Second World War up to the present day. The poets represented are among the stirrers, shakers and pathfinders involved in the creative pursuit of establishing a firm identity for New Zealand poetry. 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry offers sections relating to poetic forms, poetic contexts, features and effects, New Zealand poets along with types of poetry - such as visual, confessional, experimental and so on. There are significant samples of poems throughout the book, with photographs of poets, thoughts and comments and biographies near the end. Included ar

Karla What You Ask For: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Eyewear could hardly have asked for a better film.  The Le Carre adaptation, best known as the vintage Alec Guinness slow-burner from television, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy , divides its times (before and after John Hurt as Control) simply by the glasses that Smiley ( Gary Oldman ) wears - the past is more owlish and horn-rimmed, the present (1970s Wimpys-era Britain) Bakelite rims. The director, Tomas Alfredson , is an emerging master of mood and nuance - his masterwork was Let The Right One In , the subtle vampire story.  Perhaps because Oldman has played Dracula, he seemed right for the part.  Smiley is a sort of husk, a prematurely stooped, stiff, pale, bespectacled spook.  Oldman is hidden in the role, a sort of mole inside his own character.  A few flashes of his eyes, a few small gestures.  He barely moves.  He is the spy as spider, waiting for the fly. The film is ravishingly retro, a Larkin -landscape of all that was crummy about the 70s in London.  Britain seems

Michael Hart Has Died

Sad news.  The father of the e-book, Michael Hart , has died, at the age of 64.  Hart's Project Gutenberg put tens of thousands of texts freely out there, for readers wherever they might be.  A true visionary, he will be missed.

Hope Is Back

Dr Sandeep Parmar I was glad to attend the Bloomsbury launch of the Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees , from Carcanet's Fyfield Books, last evening.  The book has been edited by British poet and scholar Sandeep Parmar , currently a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge.  Mirrlees is the little-known modernist who wrote the splendid and astonishing poem 'Paris', published in 1919.  It anticipates many of the elements of The Waste Land , and is one of the most experimental English poems from the period.  It has recently become seen as integral to a reformation of the modernist canon. This rediscovery of Mirrlees is down to a few people, and Parmar is one of them, who have heroically worked these past few years to bring proper attention to bear on this writer.  Mirrlees has a complicated life, in that she was a lesbian who turned against her past life and became a Catholic, moving to South Africa, and writing relatively traditional verse in later years, dying in her

Guest Review: Loveday On Robinson

Mike Loveday reviews Days and Nights in W12 by Jack Robinson Days and Nights in W12 is a sequence of 110 prose pieces, inspired by London’s W12 district. It is written by more than one writer. Not that you’d know. The cover tells you the author is Jack Robinson. But before you can say Jack Robinson, as the phrase goes, you should be alert enough to note that Robinson is indeed a pen name – in fact a pen name for a poet using Robinson as an alter-ego while presenting a prose version of himself.  As well as there being more than one writer here, there is more than one book, in many respects. There is the travel journal which conjures modern day Shepherd’s Bush, its public face and its shadowy hidden self; there is the book of prose poems, where phrase and sentence replace line break and stanza, written with a tough and supple musicality. There is the book of witty and diverting miniature short stories about fictitious characters populating W12. There is the local history

A Prize Worth Having

Eyewear recommends entering the Troubadour poetry prize .  Details also below: Announcing the £2,500 Fifth Annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize Judged by Susan Wicks & David Harsent (with both judges reading all poems) Sponsored by Cegin Productions Prizes: 1st £2,500, 2nd £500, 3rd £250 & 20 prizes of £20 each Plus a Spring 2012 Coffee-House-Poetry season-ticket and  a prizewinners' Coffee-House Poetry reading with Susan Wicks & David Harsent on Mon 28th Nov 2011 for all prize-winning poets Submissions: by Mon 17th Oct 2011 Judges: - Susan Wicks has lived and worked in France, Ireland and America and has taught at University College Dublin and University of Kent; she is the author of five collections of poetry including 'Singing Underwater' (1992), which won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize, and 'The Clever Daughter' (1996), which was shortlisted for both T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes, and she was a Poetry Society 'New Gen

Richard Hamilton Has Died

Sad news.  One of the greats of British art, Richard Hamilton , has died.

Poems On 9/11

Eyewear asked poets to send their poems for this grim anniversary.  Here are a few below. The Nowhere Inn   Boycott, I think it was, scored a century and secured England from defeat. We lost the trail of celebration in The Nowhere Inn. Two boys, underage, necking lager and playing, over and over, 'Geno' on the jukebox. Falklands-bound, Devonport sailors puked on the lino. Then so did we. On 9/11, Edward missed his usual train. - Tom Phillips When Freedom Stands Babies are born and lovers lie; We’ll make plans, when Freedom stands. Do not let their stories die. We teach the how, perhaps the why; Teach to repeat, to ace exams; Heart and truth would make them cry. He stayed inside, in search of his brother. The second plane hit, lens on his mother. They put on their fire suits, knowing the worst. They stormed the pilot; called home first. Some got relief. Some got the wall. Nine-thousand remains: nothing at all. He

The Day

There are several faces of the most famous day in American history - and the defining moment of the 21st century.  There are the faces of the valiant rescue workers, caked in soot and sweat.  There are the astonished faces of the shocked and bereaved, fleeing, simply staring, or returning to help.  And there is the clueless face of the worst American president ever, on hearing the news of the attack.  Ten years later, it is clear that 9/11 ended the so-called "post-modern" era. Instead, the terrifying event immediately stamped the age with its defining images, and its defining conflict - between The West, and a newly-resurgent variant of fundamentalist Islamic ideology.  Depending on who you talk to - Tony Blair for instance - the West's reaction - wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - did, or did not, act as bellows to the coals.  The question which remains unanswered is -  was there anything "we" could have done differently, before or after?  Nothing justifies

Oxfam's Back To School Poetry Event October 12!

BACK TO SCHOOL – FIVE POETS FOR OXFAM! SPONSORED BY THE KINGSTON WRITING SCHOOL HOSTED BY TODD SWIFT OXFAM BOOKS AND MUSIC 91 MARYLEBONE HIGH STREET LONDON W1 CLOSEST TUBES BAKER STREET, BOND STREET WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12 th , 2011 7PM START TIME ADMISSION £5/ £3 CONCESSION ALL PROCEEDS TO OXFAM, REGISTERED CHARITY KHIN AUNG AYE – BURMA (Translated by JAMES BYRNE ) TODD COLBY – USA ANNIE FREUD - UK ILYA KAMINSKY – USA MIKE LOVEDAY – UK (Launching his debut pamphlet) Khin Aung Aye is one of the leading Burmese poets of his generation.   His work is translated into English by poet and editor James Byrne. Todd Colby has published four books of poetry: Ripsnort , Cush ,  Riot in the Charm Factory: New and Selected Writings , and Tremble & Shine, all published by Soft Skull Press.  He was also the editor of the poetry anthology Heights of the Marvelous: A New York Anthology (St. Martin’s Press).   He   was the lead singer for the cri