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Showing posts from November, 2011

New Poem By Conor Clooney

Conor Clooney (pictured) is one of Kingston University's Poetry Now students.  Here is a recent sonnet of his, written for my class. I find it very moving, and adept. My Father’s Tattoos I remember looking at your tattoos. When I was a child I’d stare for hours Hoping that one day I’d be just like you; Smelling of ciggys and whisky sours. You’d come home late with swallows on your hands And women on your arms. My name branded On your bicep. I cannot understand Why it is there and you’re not here. Stranded In the flat, I wait for you to come home And kiss me and play with me in the dark, But you don’t and now you’ll never know That I wanted you tattooed on my heart. So now I see that like you they lose their colour And I should’ve tried to be more like my mother. Poem by Conor Clooney

Crashaw Prize Winner Is Worthy

Vesna Goldsworthy won the Crashaw Prize this year from Salt, for her new poetry collection in English - she's already well-known for her prose writing.  She's a professor of creative writing at Kingston University, and a colleague of mine there.  It is being launched tonight.

Bad Canada

Canada has changed.  No longer boring, it is now one of the richest countries in the world, with the largest reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia - alas, it is also becoming more conservative, in a Bush -like way.  The Canadian government has signalled it will not renew its Kyoto obligations.  Indeed, the decision (aided and abetted by the UK) to develop the Alberta Tar Sands, is horrific - if this goes ahead, dangerous global warming will be unstoppable.  I am not sure what to do, as an expat Canadian, except to say there is a new kind of international figure swaggering on the world stage: The Ugly Canadian - the Toxic Canuck.

Andrea True Has Died

Sad news.  One of the great disco singers, Andrea True , has died.  Her key song, 'More More More (How Do You Like It?)' aroused great interest in my high school self and epitomises an era as well as any other song.

Guest Review: Loveday On Gaffield

Mike Loveday reviews Tokaido Road by Nancy Gaffield The latest Murakami novel hits the bookstores, the marketing machine starts a-whirring, and Japanese culture is once again making literary headlines. Nancy Gaffield’s book, inspired by Japanese art, and published by the marvellous CB editions earlier in the summer, has just won the Aldeburgh first collection prize. Hopefully this award will provide additional marketing of sorts to bring yet more readers to what is an excellent book of poetry. It is a fascinating themed sequence, responding to Hiroshige’s woodcut prints (made in 1833-4) which charted the route of Tokaido road, linking Japan’s East and West. It has been said that there is something in Japanese culture which appeals to a British reader – perhaps a shared valorization of reserve and an emphasis on social hierarchy. And one of the great joys of this collection is that its descriptions immerse us in an ancient foreign culture and geography. This is often help


If you want to know what's wrong (or right) with Canadian poetry these days, perhaps start with Killdeer , by Phil Hall , a poet who has ticked a number of CanLit boxes over the years, and now has published a prize-winning work that, depending on where you come down on such things, will doubtless please or repel, you.

Featured Poet: Jacqueline Saphra

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Jacqueline Saphra  (pictured) this crisp and wintry November Saturday.  Saphra has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma was published by Flarestack in 2008. Her first full collection, The Kitchen of LovelyContraptions (flipped eye) was developed with the support of the Arts Council of England and nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2011. It was reviewed recently here.  She lives in London with her partner Robin and four children. Retainer You left a scattering of dark mascara, scent of artificial tropics, no room for negotiation, front door, oddly, still ajar. I remembered too late, called, but you were i-tuned out of it. Your plastic palate with its list of Do’s and Don’ts rattled on inside my bag, a disembodied replicate moulded to force a smile. And you were gone. It all comes back now; I can feel the marvel of your mouth at work

Jon Stone's Mustard Poem and Michaela Clarke

Following on from a recent post, I have tasked Kingston undergrads in my Poetry Now class with trying to outdo Jon Stone 's clever Mustard anagram sonnet in Best British Poetry 2011 .  Here's another clever version, from second-year-student poet Michaela Clarke , pictured. Creative What use is it, trying to be creative? It’s as difficult as trying to motivate rice to grow in the famine of your mind. Instead, starve: ice cold in the pit of your imagination. Retire: cave into your wallowing self. Or take no notice: rave your life away. Or say, ‘C’est la vie’. React to this challenge: this destructive race against time to find the perfect words, and with instinctive care. Hope to find peace in that inventive crate in your head. To be creative is to believe: cart away the doubt and be reckless. Take my advice: tear it up. Even though doubt is a bond harder to break than to tie, crave, need, embrace, nurture. Someday, you’ll find the live trace t

Kingdom Cumming: An Eyewear Plug

Forget tales of 2012 & the Mayan control calendar... ...It's time for The Rapture the new poetry book from Tim Cumming Please support independent publishing by ordering direct from Salt and get a 20% discount off the £9.99 price Synopsis We live in an age of terror, literally and metaphorically. Old dependables have been shaken loose and to free us from the terror comes the poetry of "The Rapture" - poetry with a tangible exultance and joy tinged with the dark matter of End Times and the pinching fear of what's up ahead wrestling with the pleasures and shelter of the moment - our internal clocks striking the hours of the age of anxiety in us all. The Rapture is divided into three parts, each exploring sensation, identity, immersion and memory in its own way. Chapel of Carbon includes love poems, lyrics, outrageous metaphors and narratives alongside wide-screen, more open-field works

Resistance Is Not Futile

Good news.  Major Welsh poet Owen Sheers - also a novelist and TV personality - and a UEA alumni - sees the film adaptation of his book Resistance open this weekend across the UK.  For fans of Brighton Rock , this will be another period treat with that pic's star, Andrea Riseborough (great in glasses).  Further, anyone who loves hypotheticals like what if the Nazis took over Wales... well - this is one to see.  I myself can't wait.

Guest Review: Kirk On Saphra

Anna Kirk reviews The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions by JacquelineSaphra I was especially pleased to receive a review copy of a new poetry collection when, on opening the jiffy bag, I discovered that it was Jacqueline Saphra’s first full collection, as I had actually attended the launch of this very book. It had been held in a lovely bookshop in Bermondsey, and I headed there on recommendation from another poet, having never come across Saphra’s work myself. The launch had the most delicious canapés I have ever eaten in a bookshop, and Saphra’s collection has an equally delicious title; a title that whets the appetite and makes the reader want to open the book up and see what fancies lie within, then digest them slowly. Not that one should judge a book by its cover, but The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions is sky blue with pink lettering and bears the image of a kitchen unit with its doors open, revealing a woman’s lipsticked open mouth. This image, in various guises, runs thr

Jon Stone's Mustard Poem and Lydia Bowden

I teach Jon Stone 's recent poem, 'Mustard', a fourteen-line poem which cleverly ends each line with an anagram of mustard.  I found it in Lumsden 's BPP 2011 .  I've encouraged duplication of this form as an exercise for my Year Two undergrads in CW at Kingston University.   Lydia Bowden , pictured, a student poet, tried her hand at a version of this, with a semi-anagrammatic play on the word "daffodils" that I think is rather fun and smart.  Here it is below: Daffodils Putting an effect on something can’t overlook the folds Of a photo let alone that thing you had with a sod Once. Yes, you see flaming daffodils Growing, wilting and stuck in the ground but doff The effect and you’ll see it for what it is; a fad. Because after all, you’re just a foal Waiting to be touched up and turned into old So don’t sit around waiting for something sad Because there’s something beside this odd. Perhaps you should forget daffodils and add

Camden Dear, It's Only Poetry...

Camden Poetry Series Patron: Carol Ann Duffy - Poet Laureate 2nd December 7.00p.m. (doors open 6.30) Ruth O'Callaghan Presents Rosie Bailey Tim Dooley Joelle Taylor Entrance £5/£4 Free Raffle and Nibbles WINE Poets from the Floor Welcome Trinity United Reform Church, 1 Buck St, Camden Town 1-2 mins. Camden Town tube

King Is Right And In The Crowd

PhD student and poet Henry King has written an intelligent comment on his blog about the Swift-Bonney fracas of late.  He makes an extremely important point about my trying to keep a space open for poetries, poetics, and styles, that resist the full demands of one kind of late modernist avant-gardism, practiced by a small group of mainly British Marxist poets.  Almost any other sort of broad-minded person would recognise my work as falling, on the broad spectrum, closer to Donald Allen than Allen Tate - my recent book launch was supported by a third gen New York School Poet, David Lehman , and arguably the UK's leading British avant-garde poet, Denise Riley , my friend and mentor. My own work combines an interest in the disrupted lyric and abstract lyricism.  In America, I have edited a section for New American Writing, and also been published several times in Jacket.  In short, I am hardly a "mainstream" poet in the sense that, say, Sean O'Brien is. Indeed, my

Todd Swift Compared to Police Brutality By Bonney?

If you think I started this, think again, folks - in the delusional world of Sean Bonney , I am some sort of corporate insider, close to the beating heart of British fascism - I quote from his blog, dated August 30 this year; this is weird, and offensive.  It is also entirely misguided.  I am a Catholic university lecturer who volunteers for Oxfam in my spare time, and edits poetry projects; I am published by a small press in the UK, Canada, and Ireland.  In what world am I part of "official poetry"?  Does this relate to Bernstein 's "official verse culture"?  I have published positive reviews of Bernstein here at Eyewear .  Where did Bonney form this radical opinion of me, that I am some sort of whack of a police club? What if all it can do is transform into the endless whacks of police clubs - certainly you get that in official poetry, be it Kenny Goldsmith or Todd Swift. Their conformist yelps go further than that, actually, as the police whacks in their

Melvin B. Tolson Is Better Than Wallace Stevens Says Rita Dove

A recent review of Rita Dove 's new anthology of 20th century American Poetry, for Penguin, by Helen Vendler , really takes exception to a multicultural Keith Tuma -style approach to the anthology.  Vendler is clearly on the side of a canon of well-made poems, versus Dove's attention to identity poetry, and poetry of the often marginalised.  Both sides can become entrenched.  I welcome diversity, but Vendler, in this case, seems to have a firmer grasp of history and quality.  Surely it must be wrong in a Kantian sense to include twice as much of Melvin B. Tolson as Wallace Stevens ?  Stevens is one of the pillars of American modernist and post-modernist poetics.  Tolson is an important outrider of the Harlem Renaissance, and a key African-American modernist.  If this decision gets more Tolson readers, that's fine.  But such large-scale anthologies do also need to keep some sense of balance.  I look forward to reading it myself.

Featured Poet: Isabel Galleymore

Eyewear is very glad to welcome poet Isabel Galleymore (pictured) this sunny day in late-autumnal London. Galleymore has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews where she pursued her interest in writing with an ecological focus. She is planning to become writer-in-residence for a "green" poetry project based in London next year, and hopes to continue her studies towards a PhD in the near future. Her poems have been performed at The Royal Festival Hall, Somerset House and published in  The Guardian and Agenda and online. Her poem 'Turn Of Phrase' is featured in the current issue of Poetry Review .  A Drama Class     When James was cast as the mouse from the town after I'd been made the country mouse our schoolroom love was confirmed – we were a couple stepping from Noah's sea-house. I saw our futures laid out before us I’d leave the dark fields for James’ invite and go to the metropolis: a treasure isla

The Inane

I've been getting some eye-opening comments, from readers like Paul Sutton , who find Eyewear inane.  Perhaps.  But another way to read it is as an ephemeral grab-bag of posts featuring poetry reviews, pop culture, and random musings, that, every so often, takes risks, and does good work.  I agree - some of the posts are blog-worthy only (it is a blog).  However, there are numerous featured poets, and reviewers, who share their work on here as well.  I admit to having fun, sometimes, by being banal.  Like everyone else, I live in a media-saturated world, of scandalous trials, dead movie stars, and James Bond.  Between the inanity, I hope, readers can squint enough to catch a glimmer, if even rarely, of more valid, and valuable work.  Not all of it self-directed.  Though, as Mr. Sutton et al. should be aware, almost all writers now keep blogs, or web sites, where they inform readers of their doing  - with the decline of marketing budgets, and the rise of small presses, few writers

Costa Living

This year's Costa Prize is remarkable for the poets who are spread across the genres - not least, Matthew Hollis for his excellent biography of Edward Thomas , the key poet of the English Line.  But then there's John Burnside , up for a novel, or Patrick McGuinness , for best first novel.  Pretty impressive stuff.  However, the four poetry collections raise eyebrows.  They are all by eminent British poets, to be sure - David Harsent, Sean O'Brien, Jackie Kay , and Carol Ann Duffy .  But the claim is that the awards go to the most "enjoyable" books of the year.  This doesn't compute.  Clare Pollard and Roddy Lumsden , to name just two world-class poets, had thrillingly readable books this year.  Indeed, Eyewear received dozens of imaginative, playful, fun, and delightful collections in 2011, including Wendy Cope 's superb Family Values , that are more enjoyable than the four selected.  Daljit Nagra ?  I fear that poets will never reach a wider audience a

Comment Degree Zero

Eyewear gets around 3,000 pageviews a day, on a good day.  On a bad one, closer to 1,500.  Okay - so, here's a question for you - why does almost no one leave their comments?  This absence is depleting the value of the blog, I feel, and leading me to, again, think of shutting shop, or eye, as it were.  COMMENT PLEASE!  There, I've shouted it.  Cheers.

How's This For An Idea: Eyewear Press?

they want Eyewear Books for Crimbo! I am raising a trial balloon - shall we call it a trial lunette? If I was to start a small press for full poetry collections would any of you out there be interested in submitting your manuscripts?  I'd appreciate queries, or tentative offers of collections to consider - send them to me at toddswift at clara dot co uk, with the subject line reading EYEWEAR PRESS HYPOTHETICAL QUERY LETTER. If anyone wants to volunteer their talents to help such a start-up, especially with design, lay-out, marketing, web design, and proof-reading, also contact me. For now, this may just be a mirage.  But I am keen to see what sort of interest there might be.

Looking For Birds

The Rialto magazine begins a call for entries to a new national poetry competition run in partnership with the RSPB, and judged by former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion , and prize-winning nature writer, Mark Cocker . The poetry magazine and Europe’s largest conservation charity are encouraging poets to submit work in response to the competition theme, ‘Nature Poetry’. The Rialto ’s editor Michael Mackmin said “The judges will give a very wide interpretation to our theme of 'nature poetry'. The competition will help raise funds to support the vital work of both The Rialto and RSPB.” A small entry fee of £6 for the first poem and £3 for each subsequent poem will be charged. The closing date for entries is 30 April 2012 . For rules and to enter visit or contact Matt Howard on 01603 697515 or

Guest Review: Brinton On Duggan

Ian Brinton reviews Allotments by Laurie Duggan In an 1851 lecture on ‘Walking’ Thoreau suggested that he had met with ‘but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking…who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering’. Thoreau considers two derivations of the verb to saunter: there are those who ask for charity under the pretence of going to ‘la Sainte Terre’, the Holy Landers, and there are those without land or a home, sans terre , ‘no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea’. Laurie Duggan’s latest collection of 29 ‘Allotment’ poems possesses that marvellous quality of sauntering which allows the poet and the reader to recognise the small details which accumulate to provide a whole picture. In the opening poem, sitting in his local pub, Duggan’s range of meditative reflection moves him from Ken Bol ton to Paul Blackburn , Australia to New American Poetry, whilst