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Showing posts from March, 2012

Review: Mentioning The War, the Kevin Higgins book of essays

There are several strands of Irish poetry criticism by practitioners worth reading - one thinks of the serious Heaney essays, the playful, Quixotic Muldoon ones, and then those by a variety of more experimental Irish poets.  And then there is the Kevin Higgins essay.  Unlike any other poet-critic in Ireland, Higgins is now virtually unique, also, in the UK, for his prose style and approach.  Higgins, a very good, and clever, poet, is always lucid, straightforward, honest, to the point of bluntness, and funny; that he is also politically concerned without being (anymore) a fanatic is a plus.  He has modelled himself, clearly, on Orwell - but Orwell was not a poet.   Sean O'Brien comes to mind, or perhaps Randall Jarrell , but Higgins is not as dandyish as the latter, or as partial as the former.   Mentioning The War: Essays & Reviews 1999-2011  from Salmon, is therefore a welcome book, because it gathers together scattered hack work and puts it in the hands, potentially, of

Adrienne Rich Has Died

Sad news.  One of the great 20th century American poets, Adrienne Rich , has died.  Few others matched her integrity, sense of vision and vocation, political concern, and ability as poet, writer and critic.  Her greatest work, for me, remains Diving Into The Wreck , of forty years ago.  As a young poet, that was a touchstone collection for me.  Her essays on poetry and politics were also inspirational.  The world has lost a major figure.

Guest Review: Dekker On Williams

Nikki Dekker reviews ContemporaryPoetry by Nerys Williams Nerys Williams’ Contemporary Poetry is a difficult book to finish. To be fair, textbooks are hardly suited to be ploughed through cover-to-cover, but Contemporary Poetry is an especially demanding read. Every page contains at least two references to a poet (not simple theoretical footnotes, but enthusiastic endorsements of their work). With these frequent mentions and tangents, the reader is likely to leave for the library every other page, effectively being stuck with this book for months. And what a way to be stuck. In six chapters, Williams sketches the scenery of contemporary poetry in great detail. At the end of the book, one will be fit to distinguish between the different directions and underlying poetics of contemporary work – which is, after all, the reason I personally wanted to read it. As a young poet writing in her second language, I am insufficiently schooled in the Anglophonic tradition as well as u

D. Nurkse, American Poet, On Campus At Kingston March 29

D. Nurkse , the respected American poet, whose most recent poetry book was short-listed for the 2011 Forward Prize for Best Collection, is visiting Kingston University on March 29. He will be reading his poems and answering questions about his work, in room JG1004 on Thursday 29th March, 5.00-6.00pm.  This is in the John Galsworthy Building on The Penrhyn Road campus. Admission free - all are welcome to attend D. Nurkse is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including The Rules of Paradise (2001), T he Fall (2003), and The Border Kingdom (2008), from Knopf.  In the UK he is published by CB editions.  His writing has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review and other leading magazines. Nurkse lives in New York and has been named poet laureate of Brooklyn. D. Nurkse has received a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Tanne Foundation Award.

Jay Macpherson Has Died

Sad news.  Jay Macpherson , a poet of eccentric genius, and one of Canada’s greatest writers, has died.  Evan Jones and I quickly agreed she was one of only a handful of poets who definitely had to be included in our 2010 anthology for Carcanet, Modern Canadian Poets .  Born in June 1931 in England, she remained a quasi-reclusive  figure for most of her adult life, albeit a professor at the University of Toronto.  It remains a mystery to me as to why she is not known as one of the last centuries best poets – her  work was as if Stevie Smith had the academic mind of Northrop Frye .  Her style – quirky, mythic, brilliantly lyric and concise, inspired me when I began writing.  She showed it was possible to write intelligent, elegant, sophisticated formal poems in Canada.

Poem by Todd Swift for World Poetry Day

The Ailment What got there, got there Then it stayed.  Like glue A doctor implied.  Like prayer Argued another clad like a father Black as grease.  It stung And stuck inside.  A thorn She cried; a hornet having died The priest complained – unsin Thy side!   It was presented In a finding so I had to decide: Pull out the fervid pin or wasp Away to little else besides lather On a shaved boy’s chin.   Its clasp Was like wax on a ski or an LP’s skin. It slid about, it grooved, it played The length and lines of me, a musicness Unto breath.  A tiny ceaseless death The dentist opined then wanted cash. It felt like wine-slosh in my brainpan. All night I travelled in my bed, a train. Each carriage disgorged an ailment But this main thing only grew in size. It happened finally to emit a claim On my own name.  It wanted out But as me.  I feigned indifference To my external self, retained some Dignity.  Soon though, unguents came A

World Poetry Day Is Coming!

This in from Web of Stories ... "World Poetry Day is on March 21 st and what better way to celebrate than to present your poetry to the world! Web of Stories is an online site which offers viewers the opportunity to watch the video life stories from some of the world’s greatest thinkers and achievers. But it also offers members of the public the chance to tell their stories for future generations to enjoy. There are a number of channels which you can add your video to, including the Poetry channel where you can record a reading of your work to showcase to the world. Why not even include a brief synopsis of your poem and your intentions, thoughts when you wrote it? Web of Stories is open to all kinds of stories. You can talk about virtually anything you like, including how and why you became involved in poetry and how it has affected your life. There are a number of great poets already on the site such as Donald Hall, Julia Hartwig, WD

Hockney's Late Style Flowering

David Hockney - who I long dismissed as a graphic designer slash hedonist with a line in pools and big glasses - has grown into his 70s as a grand old man of painting.  His vast new exhibition in London is movingly brilliant. It confirms him as a genius, as, room by room, the sheer scale of his old-age vision blooms into visually splendid life.  Hockney has become an expert on seeing things with an eye unjaded by the camera, a master of perspective and its lack, and someone who, like Hardy , notices things.  His unabashed rural East Yorkshire empiricism is, to me at least, the best thing to happen in the arts in Britain in decades - it is so fresh, naturalistic, simple, and yet profoundly engaged, with the seasons, with time, with trees - one could hardly ask for a more universal theme.  Hockney, a superb draughtsman, is able to render thistles, twigs, leaves, grass, and shoots, as well as fields and hedges, lanes and blossoming or bare bows, with aplomb, flair, and sometimes Van G

Wolfish grin

The Wolf - a leading international poetry magazine - returns to London to launch issue 26 at the Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, London  on Wednesday, 4th April, 7.30pm An excellent cast of readers featuring: Ruth Padel, Helen Moore, Alfred Corn, Giles Goodland, Sophie Mayer and Michael McKimm . This is a FREE event. Limited seating. Hosted by James Byrne , Editor of The Wolf

Santorum Demonised

Somehow, the definition of mainstream has slipped, via the liberal media, over to the fringes.  As a Catholic with a leaning towards Liberation Theology, I am on the far-left of the Church, and find many of Rick Santorum 's positions unwelcome - he makes Mel Gibson seem like Rowan Williams .  However, whenever the British media like the BBC describe Santorum they call him the "anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage" candidate, as if these positions were utterly alien and horrific in and of themselves.  Not so.  For there to be sensible and credible democratic discourse the liberal media must be willing to acknowledge the large subsection of the American populace (the majority?) for whom abortion is an evil; and so on. Further, the positions that Santorum espouses are mainly those of the mainstream Catholic Church as typified by the current Pope, Benedict .  It is true they are shocking and offensive to feminists, Marxists, and most college professors on the East Coast.  But

Nietzsche Stronger Than Ever?

There are three songs in the March 4 2012 BBC Top 40, I have heard today, that each contain direct reference to the most famous German philosophical maxim of all: 'Whatever does not kill makes me stronger', which as Hitchens has argued, is a load of crock.  Maybe, but it has certainly entered popular culture with a vengeance (one recalls it was promimently in A Fish Called Wanda ).  But what are the odds of Kelly Clarkson 's 'Stronger', Ed Sheeran 's 'Drunk', and No. 2 new arrival, 'Rockstar' by Dappy each taking such grim cheer from this old saw?  Nietzsche must be rolling in his grave.  Or perhaps not.  For the second most famous German sentence is 'God is dead'.  And the same man wrote that.  Surely, FN is the Shakespeare of Germany, not Goethe .  His influence is vast and expanding, in direct exponential relationship to the shrinking of the enchanted, God-filled world. For, in the absence of direct religious consolation availabl

Swift Reviewed In Halifax

Good news for fans of England Is Mine - George Elliott Clarke , a major Canadian poet and critic, has reviewed it in today's Halifax Sunday paper.  This is especially sweet in the sense that some of my family (the Frasers) lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they built ships.

Spring Is Here: 12 Best Songs of 2012 So Far

March 1st, and music marches on.  It's been a major year for great pop songs.  Here are the 12 that have most delighted and instructed  Eyewear: 1. 'National Anthem' - Lana Del Rey (remember her?) mixes hip-hop and David Lynch in this weird homage to the New Pop tunes of the early 80s that also manages to be a superb satire of capitalist America.  When she sings "give me a standing o-vay-shee-un" it is funny and sexy at once. 2. 'We Take Care Of Our Own' - Bruce Springsteen is back and sounds exactly as he always does.  Connecting to the blue collar indignation that makes his best songs moving and relevant, this is an ironically-observed state of the union that is also almost as catchy as 'Born In The USA'. 3. 'Young Man In America' - Anais Mitchell is one of the greatest folk singer-songwriters, and this haunting, moving song tells the story of a ravenous young man on the make in a desperate landscape, at once  The Great Depressi