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21st Century Hamlet?

Eyewear wishes the young Oxford student and party leader all the best at this crucial time for Pakistan. There is something Shakespearean about this sudden rise from anonymity to youthful greatness - with the ringing claim that the best revenge is democracy - surely one of the great quotes of this decade, so far (and most debatable). Let's parse this one: "With his political inexperience, shy demeanour and Armani glasses, Bilawal was not the obvious candidate to lead his mother's party." What does The Guardian have against Armani glasses? One can be a great leader, and also stylishly bespectacled.

Back From Ireland

I spent Christmas in Ireland, with some of my family, and am now back from that wonderful place, renewed. The generosity of spirit, the good humour... it could almost be Canada - except a Canada inflected with greater traditions of faith, and poetry.

Poem by Maxine Chernoff

Maxine Chernoff (pictured above) lives in California, where (among other things) she co-edits New American Writing.

Ms. Chernoff is the author of many books of poems, such as Among The Names, and six collections of fiction including Some of Her Friends That Year, a new and selected stories from Coffee House Press.

I am very happy to welcome her to Eyewear. She is one of the American writers of her generation who one should read, in order to know what contemporary American writing is, and what it will turn out to be.

I especially enjoy poems with the word "gentians" in them, being a fan of D.H. Lawrence, these blasted gentians being altered Bavarian Gentians. I should note that one of her novels is A Boy In Winter, which is a lovely mirroring of Larkin's novel title.


A House in the Country is Not the Same as a Country House

Not wanting to name it,

it stayed in its bed

Until a break

in the weather

uncovered the reason

the restive urge

Until he found a way

over the mountains by elephan…

Assassination By The Coward

I suppose the killing of Kennedy, or Lincoln, was more shocking than the recent, terrible murder in Pakistan of the brave campaigner - since history was not yet fully used to such underminings of democracy - but yesterday's news still had something of the dreadful lightning bolt about it. What next?

Oscar Peterson Is Dead

Sad news. One of the greatest Montrealers, and a towering genius of contemporary Jazz, is dead.

Eve of Reflection

On the eve of Christmas, I reflect on how the two most famous British citizens of the 00s - Tony Blair, and JK Rowling (the best-selling writer in history), are both on spiritual, indeed faith-based journeys - belying the general, media-induced secularism in Britain today. I would like to especially congratulate Mr. Blair, a man who made some rum decisions with regards to war, for picking up some ploughshares and joining the Catholic Church. That's a brave move in these times. The Guardian today noted that most people in the UK have no belief or faith, and yet failed to think through how this would seem to correspond with a near-total collapse of public morals.

With a certain brand of militant atheism comes a void, one that science cannot fill. The best proof of the need for God is what sort of society one gets when such belief vanishes. Dawkins and Co. miss the central point of the mystery of faith - it is the journey towards God - not some zero point of blank factual arrival - th…

The Swift Report 2007

I would like to begin my Swift Report for 2007 by thanking the many loyal readers of Eyewear who have made this blog so popular. Eyewear is maybe one of the leading literary blogs based in the UK, if only judged by readership, it being cited in The Writer's Handbook, and being quoted at length several times recently in The Guardian Review. The vitality of my blog is much improved by the kind donations of poems by poets whose work interests me, regardless of their prize status, publication record, nation of origin, or geographical location. It doesn't take much, these days, to be a fresh pair of eyes in the British poetry world - one simply has to read poetry with sincerity, integrity, and without biases based on ideas of nativist traditions, or univocal styles. It's sometimes suggested I have a radical perspective. I hope not. I simply believe that poetry can be written anywhere, by anyone, anyhow - a critic's job is not to evaluate the poem in terms of taste or practi…

Poem by Annie Freud

Annie Freud (centre) with poets Roisin Tierney and Liane Strauss Eyewear is very glad to revisit this earlier post, and update it for the Friday before the Christmas holidays. Today, I welcome Annie Freud to these pages. As readers of this blog will know, I earlier this year championed her debut collection from Picador, arguing its many strengths. I believe it was one of the best poetry collections published in the UK in 2007, and among the most surprising, inventive, and witty.Freud studied English and European Literature at the University of Warwick and now lives in London. Her poems have been published in Poems for a Better Future (Oxfam), Gobby Deegan's Riposte from Donut Press, Future Welcome, and various magazines like Magma.

Annie is one of a group of very fine poets based in London, who have, over the years, studied the art and craft of writing with Michael Donaghy, and then John Stammers.A Residential GuinevereEmboldened by green-gowned carnality and a plucked dome, we call…

The Failure of Interest In Poetry In Our Time

Poetry - a literary genre - cannot be said to fail, whether it be conservative (in places) or innovative. I have often wondered how intelligent poets, who espouse an interest in science and medicine, could understand science to pertain to the whole of the world (indeed, to all existence) with its laws, but still accept that "Poetry" could be one thing in, say, America, and another in Scotland, or India. Languages separate poems, even poets, but poetry is an indivisible and complex whole, a concept that contains many different possible options, perspectives, and approaches. Otherwise, how to explain Ashbery and Heaney - both significant figures - writing poems of very different kinds, and orders? Too often, criticism has sought to position various "poetics" or "poetries" at odds (official verse culture, say, or the avant-garde) - when a larger, and more positive, similarity accrued, across the globe, with relation to poetry. So, poetry has not failed in ou…

Guest Review: Flood On Di Prima

Chelsey Flood reviews
Revolutionary Letters
by Diane di Prima

Diane di Prima was writing and publishing controversial work on the subject of rape and incest when it was considered indecent for a young woman to live alone. She was taking drugs and having orgies when the rest of her peers were learning shorthand and awaiting marriage proposals. It comes as no surprise then, that when she was first publishing in the 50s, her work was way ahead of its time.

A contemporary of Beat writers such as Kerouac, Ginsberg and Imanu Amari Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), di Prima’s writing covers similar ground to theirs. She is obsessed with the lies and pains of civilisation and our birth right to freedom, though much more likely to focus on the utopian, futuristic and mystical than her Beat compatriots. Her Revolutionary Letters (beginning in the 60s and progressing through to the 00s) denounce all that puts limits on this freedom: conformity, bureaucracy, decorum, and the majority of them are exciting.

Di…

In Praise of Oscar Williams

Readers of the Dylan Thomas letters will know that no one did more for the heavy-drinking, over-spending poet, in North America, than Oscar Williams, yet sadly, in letters to friends back home, Thomas mocked his supporter, calling him things like "old Captain Oscar Cohen" - a borderline antisemitic jibe (Williams was, in fact, Oscar Kaplan). Thomas, who I think was a great poet and a shit as a human being, probably, wrote things to Oscar like "Little dear Honourable Treasurer of mine, how are you?" - and would then ask for money. Thomas kept Williams hooked with promises of featuring his work on the BBC radio, which I believe never materialised (and not just because of the death in New York). The Thomas-Williams affair exposes a constant of the poetry world - certain successful poets often misuse their closest allies to get ahead, flattering them mercilessly. Thomas wrote (perhaps his last printed words) the following cable, on October 25th, 1953:

DEAR ELLEN OSCAR W…

Ning, Nang, Nong?: article by Helên Thomas

A recent Ofsted report, Poetry In Schools, stated that schools rely too heavily on a limited number of poems as resources for teaching poetry. A survey of schools revealed a top ten of poems which included "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes; "On the Ning, Nang, Nong" by Spike Milligan and "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. Interestingly, all of the poems in the top ten were written by men, most of whom are dead.

Ofsted was especially critical of primary school teachers whose lack of subject knowledge leads to an over-reliance on lightweight poems with little attention being given to classic and multi-cultural poetry. The report concluded that teachers are playing safe by using the same poems again and again while steering clear of anything challenging.

I have a vested interest here. Along with primary school teacher and literacy specialist, Kate McGann, I provide poetry performances and workshops for primary schools. In our performance piece: We Are Poets! we ad…

Faggots Of The World Ignite!

Yuletide faggots set the Christmas mood, as do songs on the radio. A shame then, that one of the greatest popular music songs of the last century, The Pogues single, "Fairytale of New York", has suddenly, and ludicrously, been bowdlerized by the Beeb. Situation normal all fugged up.

Except for Canadians

I thought this recent Guardian article on Facebook funny - especially the awkward phrase: "And Britons do it online more than anyone else in the world, except for Canadians." Actually, no - that should read: "Canadians do it more than anyone else in the world, followed by the British."

Cheerleaders of the world, unite!

Eyewear found Heroes (Season 1 has just ended on terrestrial BBC2, Season 2 airs in 2008, and is delayed post-episode 11 due to the ongoing writer's strike Stateside) eye-catching entertainment. However, its hybrid, multicultural plotlines, more than homage to great 60s TV series like Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, and comic books like the X-Men, and Star Wars, was often as not more a quasi-rip-off of ideas from, say, The Incredibles (where another evil-minded maniac kills superheroes to pilfer their powers). However, originality need not be the benchmark for great TV entertainment, and, starting with the straight man Mr. Bennet (and his mutilated-yet-recoverable post-Lolita daughter, Claire, pictured), on to the semi-dumb yet lovable cop who can read minds, it won hearts. Sylar and his murderous moving finger cemented the show's greatness - or maybe the dumpy Japanese bespectacled guy, Hiro, hopping about time, did it. It was also fun to see the cameos from pseudo-has-bee…

Review: The Golden Compass

I saw The Golden Compass twice in less than 24 hours (the first viewing was on Friday, at the little cinema on Baker Street, truly a terrible place, where seats collapse, screens are tiny, and, in this instance, a badly-marked and inaudible print was run), and the second time, the sound was as it should have been.

I read the novel on which the film was based about nine years ago, in Budapest, and enjoyed it immensely. The introduction of a talking polar bear, and a cowboy balloonist, among other elements, was as quirky as the anti-theology was thoughtful, and the plot was gripping. Lyra seemed a classic character. I didn't expect the film to be this good, simply because I feared the rather English essence of it (based on Exeter College, Oxford, and other very British traditions, like stiff-upper-lip explorers) would be drained away (as was done with The Dark Is Rising film, ruining it).

Instead, the movie is a treat to watch. It is very retro in feel, and texture - a bizarre cross o…

Reunion

This no country for old men. If rock music is demonic - in the best, Bloomian sense - and it seems it is at least Dionysian - then hard rock is more so; and the true fathers of heavy metal are Led Zeppelin, satyrs of swing, starting in '69. It is hard to think of a string of albums (I-IV) that are more intensely thrilling, varied, and yet of a piece - the core quality of these albums is a darker sublime: bluntly, music that mirrors youth's reckless exploration of sexuality, excess, and realms of the spirit angels sometimes fear to tread in. "The Battle of Evermore" still sends shivers down my spine (I first heard it in Berlin). They're a great band - easily better than The Stones or The Doors, The Who or you name it. Put on a Led Zeppelin album, and you are in a sensuous hell of your own making, one that tempts you with the idea that's the best place to be. This power, and this skill, in terms of vocal and performative ability - a striking, unsurpassed pop c…

A Good Book To Buy For The Holidays

Eyewear recommends Lifemarks: Poetry about the Big Events of Life. In this new collection, some of Britain's finest poets write about the great events of our lives. Poems by Ian Duhig, Julia Copus, Paul Farley and others mark these moments in a remarkable and life-affirming anthology. All poems have been freely donated and the proceeds go entirely to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
All orders received by 21st December should have their book for Christmas.
Copies of Lifemarks @ £6.99 each. Add p&p @ £2 for first book, £1 for additional books.
Send your name and address with a cheque payable to the Motor Neurone Disease Association to: Bell Jar, Unit 4.3, Banks' Mill Studios, 71 Bridge Street, Derby DE1 3LB

Hey Kids, Look, More Poetry!

The Internet, far from being "inane", is allowing younger, emerging poets to reach an audience, and generate a community of readers. In short, the web is allowing poetry to pass on to the next generations, with verve. Check out this new project, Pomegranate, for example.

Stockhausen Is Dead

Sad news. K-H Stockhausen is dead.

Hard Lessing

It is one of the paradoxes of our age that, even as the Internet - comparable in scope and range to aviation or the phone, perhaps combined - alters our imaginative landscape, and permits extraordinary freedom of expression and transmission of information - certain vested interests, and older literary figures seek to cancel out its achievements. Latest to protest too much is Nobel laureate Doris Lessing. Her new anti-net diatribe is not new, but stale invective. It is a retread of that old canard that books will be killed off by digital enjoyments. Blogging is singled out for its addictive, time-wasting effects, a new opium. Sadly, Lessing ignores the fact that blogging encourages writing, and reading - and is a new genre of creative writing. Just as comics were once seen as the ultimate foe of literacy, and are now revered as a new kind of classic, so too may be certain works of the Internet-era, in future. At the very least, the enemy of great writing is not the web. It may, instead…

Poem By Sarah Lang

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the Canadian poet Sarah Lang(pictured) to its pages this Friday. Lang (one wants to say "out on parole"), according to Wikipedia, shares her name with "a game show winner" and was born in 1980. In the spring of 2004, she completed her MFA at Brown University. She began work on her PhD in Chicago in the fall of 2005.

Her work, which includes poetry, prose, personal, critical and medical esssays, has been published in Canada, Great Britian, and the United States. She has translated work from Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Ukrainian, Japanese, and Mandarin. Her first poetry collection (recently out), from which the text below is an excerpt, is The Work Of Days, from Coach House Books. She's one of the future directions of contemporary Canadian poetry.

fromVideos in Montreal
Admittedly, there are ends. I no longer wanted. There are ways
to sign season, home; a body is not tender. I knew change; no,

things grow where they will. To wh…

12 Poets for December Now Online At Nthposition

The Last One

The Oxfam Poetry Series, hosted by the Oxfam Books & Music Shop in Marylebone, is in its fourth and final year. Since it began, it has helped to raise over £30,000 for the charity, as well as spearheaded the Life Lines poetry CDs series, which has raised an additional £50,000 so far. Many of the leading British poets have read for the series, or for the CDs.

Come celebrate with me, and our last group of guest poets, as this extraordinary reading series comes to an end, with one of its most exciting and surprising line-ups yet, including guest readers from afar. The American film and TV director, and poet, Stephen Gyllenhaal, is in from Los Angeles, especially for the night, and Alistair Noon is in from Berlin.

Oxfam Poetry series
Winter Poetry Reading - The Last One
Thursday, 6 December, 2007, 7 pm
Hosted by Todd Swift> featuring poets:

Alan Buckley
Claire Crowther
Anne-Marie Fyfe
Susan Grindley
Stephen Gyllenhaal
Luke Kennard
Tim Liardet
Barbara Marsh
David Morley
Alistair Noon

Oxfam Books &a…

Ash of Himself?

It is always fun when The Economist reviews poetry. Who is their anonymous reviewer, I wonder? Someone rather dry, serious, even-handed, and a little conservative, perhaps. They were recently a little baffled by Muldoon. Now they seem slightly puzzled by Ashbery. The good thing is, their review of 384-page Notes From The Air: Selected Later Poems (Ecco, or in the UK, Carcanet) actually engages with the poet's language, rather than entirely recoiling from it, as some British critics do. Here are some of the things they say: "beguilingly casual"; "delicately playful"; "perpetual shifting of tones"; his tone can be "alarmingly inconsequential"; "endlessly digressive". His manner is "free-flowing, conversational" - lines often "untrammeled by any concern about whether or not they scan". And, finally, "Mr. Ashbery likes using similes in his poetry" - that last not so surprising, as most poets do. Reading th…

One In Ten

I recently made a list, for fun, of the most popular 20th century (deceased) British poets. These had to be ones whose work had truly entered the public imagination, and language, and were almost universally famous. The list was Kipling, Owen, Eliot, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Larkin, and Hughes. I then noticed that they corresponded more or less directly with decades (that is 00-10, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s). I suppose Hardy, Brooke and Betjeman might wreck this, but who else? I don't think this list represents the most innovative, or even enjoyable, poets - but it did suggest to me what I had long suspected - the public cannot endure too much poetry. For them, one (or so) poet every decade is just about right. The Americans tend to get two in each decade...

Far Flung

In The Player, one of the great Hollywood films about itself, a suit trying to imagine a writerless future for their studio picks up the paper, and pitches movies from the headlines. British film could get like that, and do no harm - too many of its films are set in a tough-guy world of the banal. Consider this just in. Who knew that the most remote island community in the whole world was British, and lived on a volcano? Not Eyewear. In the meantime, this is also reality, and let us hope the disease is cured soon, and medical supplies reach sooner.

Christianophobia?

The word of the day is: Christianophobia. A British MP has called for a debate on the decline of Christianity in the UK. He has a point: most schools aren't having Nativity plays this Yuletide season, to avoid stepping on the toes of those of little, no, or other, faith(s). More pressingly, a very aggressive, cynical form of Dogmatic Atheism has become the default mechanism for many average Brits. It's cool to kick Christ, especially when he's down. Leaving aside the dangers of fanaticism (which are legion), religious faith can be a great balm and boon to society. It leavens culture, charity, and community. It is also, historically, a key element in the story of Britain.

Evel Crosses Over

Like Stretch Armstrong, or G.I. Joe, but for real, Evel Knievelbecame an action figure that no boy or girl in North America, and beyond, could ignore - he was the daredevil of our time, and his monicker itself is worthy of acclaim, requiring a P.T. Barnumesque genius for public appeal to conjure up. Snake River Canyon is not the greatest leap into the unknown - death is - and we all make that jump, some not wearing such entertaining armour. Somehow, in his own showbiz, corny way, he made such stoic confrontations with death (he was, after all, the living embodiment of "death defying") more than a stunt - almost a credo.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

Perhaps England's greatest living lyric genius, comparable, in his strange ways, to Bob Dylan, but far more contemporary, is Morrissey, of The Smiths, who were the greatest band of the 1980s, anywhere. Like millions of my generation, I loved him - and still love his songs. It therefore comes as something of a major disappointment to read that the man allegedly believes England has been "flooded" by immigrants, and that the UK's multicultural dynamism has swept away a whole way of "English" life. Move over, Larkin (another great miserabilist), is there still room in Little England for another grumpy old fart? What is is with the British? All their best male wits are essentially conservatives, at least traditionalists - including the irascible Mr. Fry, who thinks modern poetry is mainly rubbish. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear of a male British genius wildly open to the new, the exotic and the foreign? Then again, if the songsmith has been misquoted (as…

Poem by Kavita Joshi

I met Kavita Joshi (pictured above) as part of the East-Side Educational Trust mentoring program - she was selected (after winning a competition) to be the London school poet I worked with over the spring and summer of 2005. She has since become an undergraduate student at Leicester.

Although still only in her early 20s, she represents one possible future way forward for poetry in the 21st century, as her work combines interest in philosophy, alternative (often grunge) music, wit, enviornmental and urban concerns, religion, with a cultural background that avoids easy recourse to the usual tropes. Her poems have been published at Nthposition, and in Future Welcome, the anthology from DC Books. Eyewear is pleased to showcase her work here this Friday.

Spin freely

Stop the birds singing.
They distract me from voices in my head.
They subtract the melody of confusion.
The bulbs in the television demand attention.
The bulbs won’t dance in such calm.
Do not stop my head from spinning.

The voices on …

In A Garrett

Australia has a new government. This could be good news for the world, since the last one seemed to be in Bush's pocket. Meanwhile, the tall, bald, gaunt, herky-jerky lead singer of Midnight Oil- Peter Garrett (above) - is the new Environment Minister (except for global warming). I have fond memories of Midnight Oil. I was first given a mixed tape of their work in 1986 or '87, I think it was, by some Australian debaters travelling through Montreal on their way from the Worlds that had just happened (Lindy and friends). The early Midnight Oil sound. Angry, haunting, very left-wing, and propulsive, it was, to me, a fresh way of thinking, and a new way to hear music, and I loved them. Somehow, they were eclipsed, as Simple Minds were, also, by U2, as the committed stadium band de jour, but, at the start of the 1990s, they were internationally huge. As they once sang, "short memory..."

Language Acts in Jacket

Eyewear is proud to replicate, below, the latest Jacket magazine announcement (slightly edited), for its new issue. As you know, Jacket is usually thought of as the world's leading English-language online magazine dedicated to poets, poetry and poetics. And, among oher features (it is a very rich and expansive issue) is the one I co-edited with Jason Camlot, on contemporary Anglo-Quebec poets, including, among others, Leonard Cohen and Stephanie Bolster. Read on!

========================================

Announcing Jacket 34 -- Late 2007 -- special stocking-stuffer issue!
Editor: John Tranter - Associate Editor: Pam Brown
========================================
F E A T U R E : Contemporary Turkish Poetry
A selection of poems and essays drawn from «Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary
Turkish Poetry» edited by Murat Nemet-Nejat, published by Talisman House, New
Jersey, and available through Small Press Distribution. With thanks to Talisman
House.
F E A T U R E : Post-Marginal Positions: Women a…

Eagleton On Blake

This is the 250th birthday of William Blake. Terry Eagleton, so good at spotting literary bigots, is also good at noticing literary visionaries. His Guardian article is worth reading, though I am not sure why he's selected Craig Raine as the contemporary exemplar of the sort of apolitical poet who wouldn't trouble the current state. As a matter of fact, poets in 2003, and beyond, wrote a number of poems which "troubled" the state of affairs, literary and political. Don Paterson chose the platform of his Introduction to his anthology of new British poetry to criticise the "poets against the war" poetry as mostly badly-written, and useless; and Stephen Fry apparently criticised it, too, as did David Wheatley, among other supporters of belles lettres.

And, then, of course, the Nobel went to sometime-poet Harold Pinter, a troublesome enough figure. Did any of this shake Blair, Bush, Brown, or other political figures? Did the nation states of the West tremble? Ma…

Brown Knows

Does Mr. Brown, on the ropes as never before, have fingerprints on the mis-donated cash? Time may tell. In the meantime, he looks increasingly like "Mr. Bean" as one MP has put it in heated debate. Except Mr. Bean speaks better, and has a better haircut.

Telegram, Sermon, or Movie?

Philip Pullman, the successful British children's author has claimed it is "absolute rubbish" to say that the new big budget film based on his The Dark Materials trilogy in anyway promotes an anti-religious perspective. He further argues that, if he had wanted to send a message, he would have "written a sermon" instead.

Pullman, perhaps, denigrates sermons with this statement, by implying they are merely messages. Instead, as John Donne's sermons (among others) show, the sermon is a genre of writing with its own artfully wrought pleasures. At any rate, Pullman didn't write a sermon, but an allegory - another literary form that also has veiled and multiple meanings. Indeed, one would have to be simpler and more naive than any child, let alone adult, reader, to think that books, even vastly entertaining ones, do not, and cannot, contain coded, ulterior messages. One thinks of all fairy tales, most nursery rhymes, and Jonathan Swift'sTravels.

I think Pul…

Parliament Afoul

The Oxford (Debating) Union is world famous. When I was president of Canda's national university debating society (CUSID) and Canada's top-ranked intervarsity debater (around 1997, 20 years ago) that place was the Valhalla of student parliamentary eloquence, its holiest shrine of rhetoric. Tonight, it has been stormed from without, as stormtroopers of a different sort wait within, to speak, perchance to growl. The basic question that England is fumbling with at this late hour is: should a democracy allow a man like AH to speak his mind? No point in lessening the point, that's the thing taken to its ad absurdist limit. Of course, the question then spins out of control - what was such a man like, etc. - thus, the dangers of free thought are, one might actually think, or say, the unthinkable. Language, as Judith Butler has observed, in works like Excitable Speech, has consequences. Saying things can hurt. Is a debating society a bear pit where such pain is to be tolerated, a …

Thinking of my father today

My father, Thomas Swift, pictured, who died just over 14 months ago, was born on this day in 1939. He'd have been 68 today. Thinking of him, I offer this poem, about him and my mother, first published in Winter Tennis (DC Books, 2007).

Action Comics

Tom Swift sold Action Comics
Outside the Amazing Gladstone’s
Theatrical Acts of Illusion

To men and women in Forties hats
Who’d pay a nickel for diversion,
Some men stooping for Blackhawk,

Women reaching for Plastic Man.
Far beyond the magician’s curtains,
A fighter pilot was sawn in half

By a German’s ack-ack, or some "Jap"
With a sneer would make the heroine
Disappear with rope and a blackjack.

All this action without applause,
In the theatre of war, that long winter
Sometime just after ‘44, when

My mother was born, in Quebec,
Unaware my father would sneak
Up on ice skates and blind her eyes

With mittens like the fold
Gladstone tied round his assistant’s
Pretty face, but not as cold.


poem by Todd Swift

Labour Pains

Is Britain's labour party in freefall? Too early to tell, but it seems that the wheels are coming off its little red wheelbarrow. The broader issue is, of course, the system of government in the UK, which is far less transparent than it could be.

In Aesthetica

Ahoy! I have a poem ("The BBQ") in the latest issue of Aesthetica (Issue 20). This issue has features on Jack Mapanje, The Pigeon Detectives, and Nick Broomfield, among others. At £4.50, "The Cultural Arts Magazine" is a bargain. To subscribe or for more info, check it out here.

Reading In St Albans Last Night

A reading was held on November 24th at St Michael's Church, St Michael's Street, St Albans to celebrate the Life Lines 2 Poetry CD. Readers included John Mole, Todd Swift, Mary Blake, Martin Eggleton, Katy Evans-Bush, Helen Lovelock-Burke, Daphne Schiller, and the Rt. Rev. Christopher Herbert, Lord Bishop of St Albans. It was hosted by Anna Avebury, and was a joint venture between Oxfam and Ver Poets. The evening was a success, I thought - there were about 75 or 80 people in attendance, aside from the organisers and readers - and the venue could hardly have been improved on - the church is very old, and lovely. I was impressed by the quality and seriousness of the Ver Poets - many prize-winning writers, who have honed their craft for decades. John Mole, of course, is on the CD, and I was familiar with his work. His poem on Steinbeck in Somerset (and his schoolboy visit to the great writer) was exceptionally moving. Katy read well, too. The Lord Bishop, who has rarely read hi…

Costa Living

The Costa poetry prize is for "the most enjoyable book" of poetry by a writer based in the UK or Ireland. This year's four collection shortlist of poems features Daljit Nagra (curiously ignored by the TS Eliot judging panel), John Fuller, Jean Sprackland, and Ian Duhig. Three of the four poets are on the new Oxfam poetry CD Life Lines 2, and all four have read for the Oxfam Poetry Series, based in Marylebone. Only Duhig is up for the TS Eliot, announced mid-January - the Costa gets announced early January. I am not sure these are the four most enjoyable books of poetry out this year, but they are surely very well-written ones, and each is deserving of its place on the list. Of the four on the list, I am torn between Fuller and Nagra for this one, I think. Fuller's book is an extraordinary sustained, musical achievement, of great seriousness and lovely tone. Nagra's collection is simply the stunning debut, perhaps, of this decade - he's potentially this genera…

Brown Time

The Brown government seems to be on the way down. The current missing data crisis is bad news - for the 25 million parents, and for the one and only British PM. Eyewear can't imagine how he'll ever win an election now - first he bottles it, then he lets all his digitised info-marbles roll away.

Snorkel Six

I have a poem in Snorkel #6, as do many others. Well worth diving in.