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Showing posts from April, 2006

Poem by Alex Boyd

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Toronto-based poet Alex Boyd to its weekly Friday spot.

Boyd studied at Brock University and graduated with a BA in English. In 2000 he moved to live in Scotland, but now lives and works in Toronto again. While writing, he has worked for Chapters, the City of Toronto, the National Ballet and the federal government.

He is the author of poems, fiction, reviews and essays, and has had work published in magazines and newspapers such as Taddle Creek, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire and on various sites such as The Danforth Review.

In May of 2003 he inherited the well-regarded (and some would say infamous) IV lounge reading series from poet Paul Vermeersch, and as a result is currently booking and hosting the series. Boyd is a member of Greenpeace and PEN Canada.

He is a founder editor of the new online journal, Northern Poetry Review (see Links) which I recommend, even in its infancy.



The Baker Signed Up, 1914

When he stumbles in the trench
his h…

Eye On Abraham Adonduwa

Abraham Adonduwa, pictured here, is a young Nigerian poet and writer, just starting out, who has being communicating with me over the past year.

He has energy, ambition, and an abiding interest in cultivating his craft, and writing poetry in English.

Eyewear notes his new blog, below, and wishes him well on his poetic journey in a fascinating land:

www.saintabadini.blogspot.com

Look Again: Re-Review of Memento

I used to write film reviews for Look in the late 90s and early 00s.

Very occasionally, Eyewear will feature a rearview-mirror glance back at some of the classic, and not-so-classic, films I reviewed then.

Today, a masterwork of looking back, Memento.




Memento
Thriller
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Ann Moss

Rating: Five Specs (out of 5)

Tagline: “Photographic Memory”

MEMENTO is indelibly haunting and agonizingly suspenseful. The plot, despite its never-ending flashbacks, comes down to an elegant high concept, teased to perfection by new director and writer Christopher Nolan.
Leonard is a former insurance adjuster whose wife has been raped and murdered. In the attack, he received a massive head injury. Because of this, he has lost the ability to “make new memories” - everything he can recall is from before the horrific crime.
Imagine a world where you literally forget everything (except your name) every ten minutes. Leonard (played with intensity by Guy Pearce) is co…

Fleur Adcock Awarded Queen's Gold Medal

Eyewear is pleased to note that the Queen - having recently turned 80 - has all her poetry wits about her - and yesterday awarded the 2006 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry to Fleur Adcock (pictured here). Congratulations to her on this splendid occasion.

Adcock's poems are well-known, and loved, and some, such as "Against Coupling" ("I write in praise of the solitary act") have become contemporary English classics of wit and insight.

As an aside, Fleur Adcock is one of the more than 70 poets who recently recorded their poems for the forthcoming Oxfam Poetry CD Project which I edited, and which will be launched June 8.

Report below:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1760226,00.html

For more information on Fleur Adcock, see:

http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth161

Eye On Kenneth Fearing

From time to time, Eyewear will narrow its gaze and consider a poet of the past whose writing should be attended to in the present.

Today, Kenneth Fearing, pictured here.

Fearing was my favourite poet when I was an adolescent one winter, and I recall reading his cynical proletarian broadcasts on the page (from an anthology of "modern verse" my mother had used in college) with a vital thrill - the sky was a dark blue, and it was very cold outside, and this seemed like the world as it was to me then (sometime at the start of the Reagan-Thatcher 80s it must be said). But then, he seemed to slip from view - mine, readers, critics, anthologists - until quite recently.

I suppose what held against him was his life (somewhat shabby and unattended) and his broadly observant, but political poems, that were not in favour for a time; and his mordant, almost accidental Marxism. To one generation, he was the news; to the next, he was old news; and to ours, he seems to be returning as news th…

Zukofsky Selected Poems

The American Poets Project, from the Library of America, is in the process of creating some of the most attractive poetry books ever made for English-language readers. The latest, #22, is Louis Zukofsky (pictured here), Selected Poems, edited by Charles Bernstein.

The collection has been rethought as a meta-text (or what I call meta-anthology) which excerpts the unexcerptable (the long poem A for instance) thereby recontextualizing how these pieces, these words, click together - a sort of one man canon-reshuffle.

The brief introduction by Bernstein is worth the price of the book alone (especially as most will have A on their shelves already, from the University of California press, all 826 pages of it). He draws attention, especially, to the cultural and linguistic differences in Zukofsky's background (his parents spoke Yiddish) that make him such a clear corrective to Eliot, without tipping the balance. Zukofsky is launched by, even as he writes against the specter of Eliot, in a p…

Hello Americans

Simon Callow's second part of his superb biography of the terrific Orson Welles (pictured here) is coming soon, called Hello Americans. I heard Callow this morning on the BBC radio, and it seems promising. The book will focus on the side-projects that diverted the boy wonder from film, such as politics, journalism and comedy.

Sadly, this is only part two and we have to wait for part three, likely for another semi-decade, which will include later projects such as Touch of Evil. This book ends in 1947, so miles to go on the road past Xanadu before Welles sleeps.

The title derives from the broadcasts Welles made about Brazil. See link below:

http://www.wellesnet.com/helloamericans.htm

No Jacket Required

John Tranter's new book Urban Myths: 210 poems will be published by the University of Queensland Press in May 2006. (322 pages. ISBN-0-7022-3557-1, paperback)

UQP's Internet site: http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/

Publisher's cover blurb:

Urban Myths: 210 Poems brings the best work to date from a poet considered one of the most original of his generation in Australia, together with a generous selection of new work. Smart, wry and very stylish, John Tranter's poems investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to converge life, imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the deepest human mysteries.

Extensive notes to the poems in the book have been posted on the Internet: http://johntranter.com/notes/um.shtml

Airstream

My review of Airstream Land Yacht, the new poetry collection from Ken Babstock, is published today in The Globe & Mail.

I included Babstock in my survey of 20 leading younger contemporary Canadian poets in New American Writing in 2005.

See link below to online version; the image above is of the print version:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060422.BKSCOT22/TPStory/?query=ken+babstock

Poem by Penelope Shuttle

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Penelope Shuttle (pictured here) to its pages. She is one of the best British poets writing, and the long poem sequence contained in her forthcoming collection, recently excerpted in The Poetry Review, is staggeringly beautiful.

She lives in Cornwall and is the widow of poet Peter Redgrove (1932-2003). Together they wrote the ground-breaking feminist studies on menstruation, The Wise Wound, and its sequel, Alchemy for Women.

Shuttle has published many collections of poetry, including Selected Poems (Oxfordpoets/Carcanet) in 1998, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, as were two other of her books.

Her new collection, Redgrove's Wife (Bloodaxe, May 2006) looks back at her life with Peter, and the processes of loss and grief.

She has a grownup daughter, Zoe, who works in the field of rewnewable energy. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, and a Tutor for the Poetry School. Her work is widely anthologized, and can be heard online at The Poetry Archiv…

Hypocrite Ecrivain, Mon Frere, Mon Semblable

David Hill (pictured standing at one of the Bardroom events, which I helped to create with him several years ago) is a Budapest-based poet and journalist, who once agreed to have work up at this "blog". It's still there, as Exhibit A.

Now, he has written a savage attack on all blogs and bloggers, see below (and start about halfway down):

http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php?head=11&issue=84

I think he's wrong, obviously, but more than that, I think he's silly.

Blogs do inform fellow practitioners, and therefore serve some communitarian use. You also don't have to read them if you don't want to. And they are free. Surely three things in their favour.

It strikes me as the height of marvellous hypocrisy to bite the particular blog that "feeds" you as it were.

Go figure.

Freakopoetics #1

The economist Steven D. Levitt, with help from journalist J. Dubner, has helped to create a flashy new form of economics - one with little recourse to theory or even reference to money - but with an emphasis on incentives, and evaluating statistics to determine new ways of looking at curious relationships - inventing new quirky questions - hence, why do Sumo Wrestlers cheat, etc...

Well, their book Freakonomics is good for a flight, and quite imaginative and witty - though it tends to pad things out with repetition and potted histories (say of lynching) that, in the context, appear a bit tacky.

It introduces, however, a new field of econo-aesthetic study, Poetry Freakonomics, or, rather, Freakopoetics.

This is the first in an occasional series of Freakopoetic questions. Answers optional.

Q: HOW IS THAT 156 POETS CAN APPEAR IN AN ANTHOLOGY, AND THE BOOK ONLY SELL 12 COPIES?

In other terms, this is called THE LAW OF NEGATIVE POETRY SALES, which says that, for every poet included in a poety…

Notes from Ireland

I was in Ireland for Easter, at an auspicious and controversial time - the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

I also had a chance to talk with my friend, Fr. Brennan, who sometimes lectures at Fordham but is also a parish priest. His moving, thoughtful Easter Sunday homily included references to both PatrickKavanagh (pictured) and Howard Nemerov - surely a unique occurence in Christendom this year?

Seamus Heaney's new collection, District and Circle, was ubiquitous, and was book of the month at Hughes & Hughes (the airport book sellers among other things) - and he also received a glowing review in - of all places - The Economist. Will read it more closely in days to come. The poems I did read were satisfyingly tight, crafted and palpable - evoking the real presences of things of this world - it seems a late, valedictory collection.

Andrew Motion, in his Guardian review, noted (I write this from memory) that while it did not surprise with new tactics or strategems, the new Fab…

Emerson

Claudia Emerson, pictured here, has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2006, for her collection Late Wife, published by Dave Smith's imprint.

Smith is, himself, a leading poet - and, indeed, one of the central figures in the (poetry) regionalism debates of the last decade of the last century - a defender of voices from the South.

Those who notice such things - and there are many - will observe that Emerson writes a formal, conservative, even traditional lyric.

If one checks to see who the jurors were, one sees that the names Ted Kooser, Mary Karr and Michael Harper appear. Kooser, apparently contra much that is avante-garde or political in poetry, has written about the need for "lucid", reader-friendly poems.

I haven't read the collection but will try to locate the book here in England in order to do so.

For those interested in finding out more, here's the link to the collection's publisher, the BBC and finally the Pulitzer site with the list of jurors:


http:/…

Easter, 90 Years Ago

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
H…

One To Watch

The results of the CBC Quebec Short Story Competition 2005-2006 were announced at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal last weekend. The competition, now in its seventh year, plays a vital role inthe English language literary community in Quebec. Each year the three winning stories are broadcast on CBC Radio One, and every three years Véhicule Press publishes an anthology of winners and honourable mentions.

Among this year's winners is Montreal-based poet, fiction writer and webartist J. R. Carpenter (pictured above) whose work I have published recently at Nthposition, and also in the anthologies Future Welcome and 100 Poets Against The War. Her winning story, "Air Holes", weighs in at a sparse 921 words, yet, with the help of eight or nine characters somehow manages to be both sad and funny.

Here's the opening paragraph: "The tide will go out at two today. The kids and I will go down to the beach. Between the tidemarks, beneath our feet, tight-lipped…

Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The second album from (the) Yeah Yeah Yeahs (i.e. Karen O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner - pictured left) is one I've been listening to all week, in a state approaching mild euphoria (that famous oxymoronic condition).

Forget Arctic Monkeys or the new The Strokes (oh, yeah, you already had, sorry) - this may be the best commercially-released indie rock album of 2006, so far.

The last time three members of an American band sounded this good was maybe 15 years ago, and that was Nirvana. I am not making claims for greatness here - I don't think the lyric-writing talents are on par with Cobain, who was a strangely genuine genius - but the energy, the style, and the sound are up there.

What's lacking is originality, and I have to say, in this instance: so what?

Karen O practically channels Siouxsie here (particularly of the underated great album from '91, Superstition, at the time blindsided by Nevermind), on the album's best tracks "Dudley" (with OMD chiming start)…

Publishers Weekly Notices Poetry E-Magazines

This just out...

"Poetry books are still far from mass consumer products, but just as the language in which poems are written is ever evolving, poetry's capacity to find its readership is adapting to and flourishing with the new medium."

Well, yeah, okay...

Been saying this since 2002. I am a little surprised this story avoids Nthposition, which has had over 500,000 hits several years before many sites named and whose archive of poems is second-to-none (okay, we don't have Paul Muldoon).

Anyway, I am glad the legit paper press is starting to read the writing on the screen.

Of course podcasting poetry is the future-as-here, beyond even online text.

British poetry publishers, and poets (notoriously net-shy) should prepare for this, and start working with people who have been able to aid and abet the transition from magazine to e-magazine, from book to e-book, so that both books in the hand and books online can thrive in a mutually sustainable way.

http://www.publishersweekly.…

Ruth Taylor Obituary In The Globe & Mail Today

Ruth Taylor has died, February 18, 2006.

She was a friend of mine, and one of the best poets of her generation. I fondly recall reading and talking with her on The Main, at Concordia, and elswehere in Montreal, in the late 80s and early 90s, before I moved to Europe.

Below please find a brief biographical sketch:

Ruth Taylor was born in 1961, in Lachine, Quebec. She received a BA from McGill University and an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. She published two major poetry collections, The Drawing Board and The Dragon Papers. She was the editor of the anthology Muse On! which selected work from authors published by the small, but influential press The Muses Company. She taught for many years at John Abbot College, on The West Island. She was a significant part of the Anglo poetry scene in Montreal since 1979, when she burst on to it as a prodigy.

rob mclennan has more at his blog here:

http://robmclennan.blogspot.com/

Here is the latest, an obituary published in The Montreal…

Portrait Of Poet As Young Man

A dear friend gave me this old photo of myself on my birthday.

It was taken 15 or so years ago, on or near Baile Street in Montreal. I look younger now than I did then...

New From Charles Bernstein

The master of innovative American poetry and poetics, Charles Bernstein,has some new works worth investigating....

Shadowtime: the CD

NMC, a British label specializing in new music, has just released a CD of Shadowtime. Recorded in July 2005, in collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and the English National Opera (ENO).

Music samples from all 22 tracks, links to related texts, and ordering information
Green Integer book of the libretto
Shadowtime web site

Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems edited and introduced by Charles Bernstein
Library of America's American Poets Project
(See also David Kaufman's review in the Forward.)

Review: Creamsickle Stick Shivs

John Stiles, pictured here, whose work I included in my recent survey of the best Canadian poets under the age of 40 in New American Writing, has come out with his second collection of poems from Insomniac Press lately - Creamsickle Stick Shivs.

The title refers to the evil lurking in the hearts of choirboys everywhere, and the third section chronicles the darkest thoughts of a poet working in a Church Charity Office, who masks his despair and disgust with Richard III's eloquence.

This is a very strong collection. Anyone who wants to know where Canadian poetry is going to go in the next decade should read it. More to the point, it is an exceptionally honest, bracing, funny, angry and raw book - and anyone who is tired of reading poetry that is bloodless or constrained should turn to Stiles to have their socks blown off - the man writes like we sometimes imagine The Beats did - only better - he has a sort of Henry Miller swagger, and tenderness. What I say about Higgins holds true fo…

Todd Swift Is 40

Readers of Eyewear have commented on the transition from the original name of this blog, to the new one.

I offer this image as one possible clue to the shift in title.

Orson Welles, one of my heroes, knew the shock value in modernism's willingness to project the artist's project.

However, his brand of modernism's constant willingness to put himself, and his auteur status, front and centre, remains a dramatic challenge to his radical other, T.S. Eliot, the objective impersonal author (supposedly) - the only other American of the age equal to him in terms of genius-as-cultural-influence - and remains a radical challenge to post-structuralism's death-of-author.

As film-maker and magician, Welles knew that some hand had to hide, and guide, the forces behind the camera eye - it might as well be his, or said to be so.

So it is, I have always loved the moment, in one of his creations, when he intones the thrilling words - I am Orson Welles, and I directed this picture - or some s…

Poem By Dominic McLoughlin

I'm very glad to welcome Dominic McLoughlin to the Friday Poem feature here at Eyewear, especially at a time when he has had such recent good news: having a poem place second in the very competitive National Poetry Competition 2005 (UK). To read that poem, go here:

www.poetrysociety.org.uk/comp/comp05.htm

His poems have appeared in the anthology Entering the Tapestry edited by Mimi Khalvati and Graham Fawcett (Enitharmon, 2003), and in magazines including The Rialto, The Shop (from which the poem below is taken) and The Oxford Magazine, and at nthposition. He lives in London, England.


The Asking Price

What am I bid for the crocked, the broken-backed
the well-past-its-sell-by-date, the tear-stained and pain-wracked?
Who’ll give me a starting price
on this lonely parcel that meant something once?

I, for one will bid you the moon and the stars and the sun.
I’ll give heaven and earth and all I am worth,
God and the angels, looney tunes,
all the half-remembered lyrics from my youth.


Well if nobody…

My Last Day Of Being 39

I was born on Good Friday, April 8, 1966.

I turn 40 tomorrow.

As most everyone I know has said, "40 is the new 30" - and, since 30 is the new 20, and 20 the new 10, I feel pretty young.

I actually thought this would be a moment of profound stock-taking. And it is, except, my first decision was to defer despair until 45, which is the new 40. 50 is now where middle-age, to me, kicks in. But I did make a list. See below...

12 THINGS I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE ACHIEVED BY 40 BUT DIDN'T

Won an Academy Award
Made a Million Dollars
Six-pack Stomach
Grown Taller
Able to Speak Chinese Fluently
Been a Regular Guest on the Tonight Show
Drive
Successful Deployment of Goatee
Became Madonna's Close Friend
Paid Off Student Loans, etc.
Read War and Peace, Remembrance Of Things Past & Middlemarch
Lived In Tangiers

12 THINGS I HAVE ACHIEVED BY 40 BUT DIDN'T EXPECT

Married To A Wonderful Person
Gainful Employ
Poet-in-residence, Oxfam
Published a Bunch of Books (A Few Quite Good)
Got To Write Poem For A…

Penned In The Margins, So To Speak

A new London initiative to represent (let alone present) good younger poets spearheaded by bright thing Tom Chivers (see picture above):

http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.html

Irish Poet Kevin Higgins Turns 39 Today

Let's all cheer for the jolly good fellow Kevin Higgins, (see left) whose 39th birthday coincides with today - April 6.

Higgins is one of the best Irish poets currently writing, under the age of 40 (he still qualifies) - for reasons that are starkly plain to the eye and ear when one opens his debut Salmon collection, which has sold very well indeed over the past year.

No one else in Ireland, in the race to outdo Heaney or Muldoon, has thought to reconsider Patrick Kavanagh's path - that is, the jaded, satirical voice of the countryman faced with city realities.

Moreover, Higgins writes with something of the satirical savagery of a Yeats (himself wrestling with Swift's vicious if ghostly tongue) - but, and here's the showstopper - he does so in a style all his own. In an age when most poets would arm wrestle over a scorpion to get their own signature voice, Higgins just has it.

It isn't always the prettiest singing voice, but it gets the job done, and well. Once you'…

The Sun and The Last Mitterand

The idea of a political double bill isn't bad, especially if you throw in the additional shared themes of bodily decrepitude and power (i.e. politics by another name). These two films, now available on DVD, are both superb examinations of "great" men in decline - one, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, a shy, eccentric man with a terrible facial tic, who would rather study cetaceans in a lab than negotiate surrender to the Allies - the other, the carnivorous leftist French leader whose shady past in Vichy during WW2 interrupts his dying days as caught by his official biographer. In each film, the study of character is exquisite - one becomes Hirohito in an extraordinary act of cinematic phenomenology - and Mitterand, though always the other, is so exuberantly portrayed he is larger than most actual lives - his literary interventions and monologues on food and women, make him a kind of French Orson Welles. I highly recommend both films, two of the finest of the last few years…

Awesome, Totally Awesome

David McGimspey, arguably Canada's funniest (ever) poet (but he's more than that, too) has edited an issue of Matrix (#73), arguably Canada's hippest literary journal - featuring, arguably (okay, okay, let's just agree to disagree) many of the leading thrilling cool writers / poets out there today, in Canadaland - such as: Arjun Basu, Jason Camlot, Mary Crosbie, Nick LoLordo, Jennifer LoveGrove, Eva Moran, Paul Vermeersch, Alessandro Porco and Ali Riley (and me, too) - some of them familiar to readers of Eyewear aka TS Review.

McGimpsey has titled the issue the Awesome issue - and why not? It is.

For more online info go to http://alcor.concordia.ca/~matrix

[the image here is of the great Japanese Olympic gold skater Shizuka Arakawa and is also awesome]

Review: Waiting For Godot

The Barbican is putting on a festival to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beckett's birth on Good Friday, April 13, 1906. See link below.

I saw the opening night event, Waiting For Godot, and will review it here, in the fullness of time...

http://www.barbican.org.uk/beckett

[photo credit: Richard Avedon]

Gene Pitney Found Dead In Hotel

My favourite singer-songwriter, Gene Pitney, of the uncanny vocal range and chameleon style, has died in Cardiff, Wales, more than 24 hours from Tulsa.

He is pictured here, a much younger man, signing his autograph for fans.

Link here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/4878926.stm

Nemo No More

The American movie director Richard Fleischer has died recently.

He had an extraordinarily eclectic career, managing to helm several of my favourite films, in oddly-varied genres (thriller, fantasy, sci-fi) including: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (pictured here), Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green and Mr. Majestyk (arguably Charles Bronson's greatest film).