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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.

Succour

The future is now, and it's all going wrong: so sang The Passage, in the early 80s. Succour is a magazine of "new fiction, poetry, and art", and its sixth issue (Autumn/Winter 2007) is themed around The Future. For Succour, it seems to be all going right. It's a very well-made thing, lovely to hold, and read.

Of course, I would say so, I'm in it (five new poems featured), alongside Luke Kennard, Joolz Denby, Rosie Lugosi, Aidan Tynan, and many more. Edited by Anthony Banks, and only £4.99, it's worth subscribing to, and also sending work to. Support Succour. It's one of the brave new little magazines of Britain doing so much to change the future of publishing here.

Modern Is 'Im

Andrew Motion, England's Poet Laureate, is often thought of as something of an anti-modernist - one of those who spools out the nativist English Line movement (from Thomas Hardy, through Edward Thomas, then on via Larkin to the present) - well, maybe - but Motion's sympathies, and intelligence, are wider-ranging than that, and his poetry far more versatile and impressive than is sometimes accepted, especially by hip young next-next-generation types, who should read more, and pose less often.

Anyway, Motion would have been the last person one might have expected to write an enthusiastic review of a new life of Pound, but here it is, in today's Guardian Review. My review of the same book, Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume One, subtitled The Young Genius 1885-1920, will be out in Books in Canada in early 2008. I very much enjoyed Motion's review, but I am not sure he's correct in saying this is the first good study of the poet. I've read several others that, though arguably…

Vernon Scannell Has Died

Sad news. British poet Vernon Scannellhas died, at the age of 85. Death "carries off all the prizes", as he wrote in his poem "Ageing Schoolmaster".

Poetry Reading at Dulwich College Was A Triumph

Last night saw a poetry reading to raise funds for Oxfam, and to celebrate the CD Life Lines 2, featuring Wendy Cope, Blake Morrison, Daljit Nagra, Fiona Sampson, Todd Swift and Jonathan Ward, in The Great Hall, at Dulwich College. The venue was superb, there were more than 260 in attendance, and many books and CDs were sold. The poets all read well, too. It was a great honour to be a part of the night.

Facebook Poetry

Internet history has just been made - the winners of the first-ever Facebook poetry competition, with real cash prizes - have been announced. Drum roll, please.

Facebook Poetry Competion 1.0

The Winners:
#1 Tolu Ogunlesi #2 Janet Vickers #3 Dominic O’Rourke
Go to the group site on Facebook for more, including the poems.
Don't forget Facebook Poetry Competition 2.0
This time the rules are even simpler: a love sonnet - unpublished and your own work.
Post entries on the wall before January 30, 2008.
We'll announce the winners on Valentine's Day 2008. First prize nets you $150. Second place a sweet $75. Third Prize a paltry $25.
Submit now.

Poetry At UEA Tonight!

Alumni Event
Thursday November 15th 2007
The Drama Studio, UEA, 7pm
Free Admission

Leading independent poetry magazine The Wolf and UEA’s Creative Writing programme team up for an exciting event featuring four returning poets who have been published as UEA alumni in The Wolf.

Featuring

Fiona Curran
Sandeep Parmar
Will Stone
& Todd Swift


Hosted by UEA’s Creative Writing Professor George Szirtes and The Wolf Editor James Byrne

To reserve tickets please email
James Byrne thewolfpoetry@hotmail.com
or Alison Rickett: A.Rickett@uea.ac.uk

All writers are graduates of UEA’s Creative Writing MA Programme, with the exception of
Will Stone who studied an MA in Literary Translation

This event is part of a tour to celebrate 5 years of The Wolf. For a full itinerary
or to find out more about the magazine please visit the website http://www.wolfmagazine.co.uk/

Delbert Mann Has Died

Delbert Mann, one of the great directors from The Golden Age of Television, has died. Mann's finest moment was in winning a Best Director Oscar for Marty, the famous small film about two plain people who find each other in the 50s. It was always one of my father's favourite films - it made a great impression on him. As it did on many who saw it.

Ernest Borgnine's unexpected face, and everyman's physique (and no woman's fantasy), revealed that love, and yearning, did not simply reside in the matinee idols, but in the banal crowd, too. Borgnine, who also won the Oscar for playing the eponymous protagonist, went on to make such classics as The Poseidon Adventure, where his earthy cop's mad love for his wife Linda ends tragically. What in some hands would have been a maudlin role was transformed by the homely actor into a galvanized character study of a man on the edge - his final scream of loss, calling out her name, is in its way, as effective as Brando's Stel…

Marvellous Work and A Wonder

Marvel has placed much of its extraordinary comic book back catalogue online. Can't wait to take a closer look and report back.

Lest We Forget

In The Trenches (1916)

I snatched two poppies
From the parapet’s ledge,
Two bright red poppies
That winked on the ledge.
Behind my ear
I stuck one through,
One blood red poppy
I gave to you.

The sandbags narrowed
And screwed out our jest,
And tore the poppy
You had on your breast ...
Down - a shell - O! Christ,
I am choked ... safe ... dust blind, I
See trench floor poppies
Strewn. Smashed you lie.

poem by Isaac Rosenberg

Modern, Not Ms., Baroque

Edward Burra was one of the great 30s British modernist painters - but has been mainly airbrushed out of the official record. It is good to see Jane Stevenson setting the record straight - perhaps an ironic way of wording it, since Burra was an eccentric, queer figure. Stevenson has identified a different kind of modernist style, "modern baroque", and describes it in the following way: "inclusive, protean, humorous, unafraid of bad taste, entranced by games with perspective; a modernism that finds Harlem dudes in camel overcoats more interesting than all the log piles in the world."

My study of late-modernism in British poetry of the 30s and 40s suggests that such a baroque style also prevailed there, at times, and has been similarly marginalised. It is time to foreground such a style, especially when critics of "good taste" so often manage to ignore or downgrade some of the most thrilling, enjoyable, and provocative works. Art can also be flamboyant witho…

In the news

In a somewhat Ouroboros-like way, Eyewear is glad to note that one its recent posts, on the 2007 TS Eliot Poetry Prize shortlist, has been published in today's Guardian Review section, in its regular roundup of literary blogs. As The Guardian noted, earlier this week, blogging, and the use of social networking, is becoming an increasingly widespread, and respectable, phenomenon in Britain - much like writing letters used to be. Meanwhile, as co-founder of the original Poetry group on Facebook, I'm pleased to mention that the first winners of the first Poetry Facebook contest will be announced later this month.

Poem by Guillermo Castro

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Guillermo Castro (pictured) this Friday. I first met him in New York, about ten years ago, on, I think, February 14. Walking back from a poetry reading together with a few other poets, we saw the Empire State Building, lit up with a vast pink heart. While that was memorable, so too was the man himself - and his poetry. Over the years, I have followed his career, as best I could, and, whenever possible, included him in magazines and anthologies that I have edited. I like his work very much.

Castro is a poet and translator. His work appears in Nthposition, EOAGH, The Recluse, Bloom, Barrow St, Lapetitezine, Frigatezine, Margin, among others, and the anthologies Full Green Hour, Saints of Hysteria, This New Breed, Short Fuse, Poetry Nation, and Two Hearts’ Desire.

His prose is represented in the anthology Latin Lovers. His translations of Argentine poet Olga Orozco, in collaboration with Ron Drummond, are featured in Guernica, Terra Incognita, Visions, an…

Rupert Brooke in Canada

British poets used to come to Canada and comment on it. Oscar Wilde made Niagara Falls a famous marital failure. Less known is that the English War poet, and classically-trained and classically-handsome, Rupert Brooke, spent a year in "North America and the South Seas". His journals were first published in 1916, and are now reprinted by Hesperus Press, in 2007, as Letters from America: Travels in the USA and Canada.

Brooke actually spends much time in Canada. He has precious little good to say about Montreal, which, 90 years ago, to his critical eye, consists of "rather narrow, rather gloomy streets." He noted that Montreal is mainly made of "banks and churches" and has a "double personality" - being half "Scotch" and half French Catholic.

He predicts no French Canadian will ever become Prime Minister again (he was wrong) and detects a tension between the philistine bankers and the more medieval Quebecois. He quickly moves on to Ottawa, …

The Price of Music

The news that most people who downloaded the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows (which Eyewear selected as the best of 2007), paid nothing for it, is a disappointment for all those hoping for a new alignment between artists, writers, musicians, and those who frequent cyberspace. I am not too worried for the Oxford band, since they will soon release the album as a physical item, on a label, and it well sell well - and they would have still made over £2 million digitally, as well. Still, it seems like a somewhat cynical, and short-sighted vote by the overall community of web-users who decided that clicking to pay nothing was a gesture of either goodwill, or even generosity.

Instead, that 2/3s click to download for free was freeloading. Freeloading is, as all flatmates who have had a freeloader know, parasitical - it ultimately kills the host. The net is a space well-suited to free material (I believe poets should share as copyleft more of their work) but it also, if it is to ever develop i…

Robert Allen, Gone A Year

Robert Allen, the major Canadian poet, pictured, died a year ago, today. He is much missed, and loved. I fondly recall us walking through Soho, in 2005, and stopping to have a beer in a dive. We spoke of poetry, love, and science (a love of his). At the time, I hardly sensed how little time he had. Rob being Rob, he was modest in talking of his own living, as well as dying, and kept that mainly to himself. His extravagant verbal genius was then somewhat paradoxically related to his personal modesty, and perhaps made him less famous than he might have been - he rarely banged his own drum or tooted his own horn - instead advising, encouraging, mentoring, and editing, others. More and more it seems likely he is one of the significant Canadian writers of the last few decades, and certainly from Quebec.

Poem by Brooklyn Copeland

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Brooklyn Copeland (pictured) this Friday. I first came to notice her work when I agreed to publish some at Nthposition online magazine. Then I asked to see more of her work. I was very impressed by her stylish, witty, verve-driven poetry, which takes no prisoners, and, to my mind, expresses the best kind of fusion of alternative, and formal, poetic energies.

She is also blessed with a memorable, poetic name - never a bad thing for a poet (one thinks of Wordsworth, of Motion). I believe she is an extremely promising younger poet, and that we will read more of her in future.

Copeland was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 16th, 1984. As she wrote to me, "a Pisces born to two other Pisces; I reckon I'm destined to either write poetry or become a clairvoyant bag lady."

She lived in the suburbs for most of her childhood, with years spent in Turku, Finland, and Canterbury, England. She has lived in Tampa, Florida for the past few years, with pl…

Nthposition's November Poems Now Online

Winter time

Shameless plug time. My latest collection, Winter Tennis, was not published in the UK, and was thus not up for the Eliot Prize. Nor is it likely to be reviewed much, or at all, in Britain, though I live and work here. One of the challenges of being a Canadian poet in London. Anyway, Alberta is the new next big thing, and, fortunately, someone has noticed the book there. This is, as far as I can tell, the first and only review of WT, so far. Maurice Mierau writes that "Winter Tennis is an elegantly crafted book, and Swift is tuned in to the English language as a global inheritance in a way that more Canadian poets should be."

The TS Eliot Prize 2007 shortlist is announced

Eyewear was going to title this post "Mischief Night", "Nagra Falls" or "Judging and the Individual Talent" but decided against such frivolity. The TS Eliot Prize 2007 shortlist has been announced today. Below, the list in full, and remember, all poetry books published this year, in Ireland or the UK, were eligible (if submitted):

Ian Duhig for The Speed of Dark (Picador)
Alan Gillis for Hawks and Doves (Gallery)
Sophie Hannah for Pessimism for Beginners (Carcanet)
Mimi Khalvati for The Meanest Flower (Carcanet)
Frances Leviston for Public Dream (Picador)
Sarah Maguire for The Pomegranates of Kandahar (Chatto)
Edwin Morgan for A Book of Lives (Carcanet)
Sean O'Brien for The Drowned Book (Picador)
Fiona Sampson for Common Prayer (Carcanet)
Matthew Sweeney for Black Moon (Jonathan Cape)

The list, which is a strong one, has thrown up some surprises, some less welcome than others. To my mind, it was a major lost opportunity, not including Daljit Nagra's extraord…