Friday, 30 November 2007

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 we all must hope) by The NME, then maybe it is still Viva Morrissey!

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 the television are singing
at me. Intensifying my confusion.
No wonder my head is spinning.
I am not drugged or deranged, I merely lost calm
to this distracting grip on my attention
that traps my head.

Sin freely, while my attention
is elsewhere. Go straight over my head
while the bulbs are captivating me in their spinning.
While they create a strange vision of disordered calm.
Spin freely, singing
as you do. I love this confusion.

Listen to the singing.
Watch the spinning.
Non-existent (but still ever-present) calm
has that effect on my head.
Pay no attention
to the strangeness of this song. Embrace confusion.

If the voices, the songs, the bulbs get louder, allow my head
to be over-taken by spinning.
I wish for no singing
of birds, so calm,
that they steal my attention.
Allow us to spin freely in this glorious confusion.

Boundaries in my head
will take a turn. When no simple calm
saves me, I will listen harder to louder singing,
chanting, that causes such spinning
that will not let my attention
go. Causing catastrophe, heightening confusion.

If this confusion
does not rouse volatile spinning
there must be something wrong with my singing.

poem by Kavita Joshi

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
F E A T U R E : Post-Marginal Positions: Women and the UK Experimental/
Avant-Garde Poetry Community, moderated by Catherine Wagner
F E A T U R E : 'Between revelation and persuasion': Eric Mottram and Robert
Duncan: A Compilation by Amy Evans and Shamoon Zamir
F E A T U R E : Lucas Klein: «Stèles» Volumes 1 and 2, by Victor Segalen
F E A T U R E : «About Now», by Joanne Kyger, Introduction by Linda Russo
For decades, Joanne Kyger has played a crucial role in California's poetry
scene. Her poetry has been influenced by her studies in Zen Buddhism and her
connection to the poets of Black Mountain, the San Francisco Renaissance, and
the Beat Generation. In this issue of Jacket:
=== Linda Russo's Introduction to the book,
=== Jane Falk provides a reader's response, and
=== Dale Smith looks at Kyger's developing poetics through her long career, and
=== Robert Adamson presents two poems written for Joanne Kyger.
=== Note: Jacket 11 contains a multi-voiced feature on Joanne Kyger edited by
Linda Russo:
F E A T U R E : Canadian Poetry: Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to
the 21st Century -- Editors: Jason Camlot & Todd Swift
=== Jason Camlot and Todd Swift: Introduction to «Language Acts: Anglo-Québec
Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century»
=== Robert Allen: Seven poems
=== Oana Avasilichioaei: from «Gossip in the Valley»
=== Stephanie Bolster: Six poems
=== Asa Boxer: Four poems
=== Jason Camlot: The Debaucher
=== Angela Carr: Six Poems from the Rose Concordance
=== Leonard Cohen: Three poems
=== Mary di Michele: Four poems
=== Endre Farkas: Four poems
=== Raymond Filip: Three poems
=== Jon Paul Fiorentino: Five poems
=== artie gold: Five Jockey Poems
=== Michael Harris: Five poems
=== D.G. Jones: Six poems
=== Steve Luxton: Four poems
=== David McGimpsey: Four poems
=== Donald McGrath: Five poems
=== Stephen Morrissey: Three poems
=== Erín Moure: Map of Calgary
=== Robyn Sarah: Six poems
=== David Solway: Five poems
=== Carmine Starnino: Five poems
=== Andrew Steinmetz: Five poems
=== Nathalie Stephens: Four poems
=== Todd Swift: Four poems
=== Ruth Taylor: Five poems
=== Peter Van Toorn: Six poems
I N T E R V I E W : From the Hither Side: Innovative Women Poets - Cynthia
Hogue and Elisabeth Frost in conversation with Jane Joritz-Nakagawa
I N T E R V I E W : Jackson Mac Low in conversation: Making Poetry «Otherwise»,
28 January 2001
I N T E R V I E W : Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Vermont Poet: Bob Arnold in
conversation with Gerald Hausman
I N T E R V I E W : Shanxing Wang in conversation with Nathan Brown
A R T I C L E : What's Really Going on in .Persicos Odi.? Art Beck on Horace.
A R T I C L E : Jeff Derksen: «These Things Form Poems When I Allow It»: after
John Newlove
A R T I C L E : Laurie Duggan: On Gael Turnbull's «Collected Poems», with a
digression on his aleatory, kinetic and other off-the-page practices
A R T I C L E : John Felstiner: «It looks just like the Cascades» - Gary
Snyder's Eye for the Real World
A R T I C L E : Thomas Fink: The Poetry of Questions
A R T I C L E : Noah Eli Gordon: Considering Chapbooks: A Brief History of the
Little Book
A R T I C L E : Noah Eli Gordon: Considering Chapbooks: Belladonna* books
A R T I C L E : Philip Metres «d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution», edited by
Larry Smith and Ingrid Swanberg
A R T I C L E : Jonathan Morse: The Startle Reflex: Some Episodes from the
Lives of Ezra Pound's Language
A R T I C L E : Jennifer Moxley: Rimbaud's Foolish Virgin, Wieners's «Feminine
Soliloquy,» and the Metaphorical Resistance of the Lyric Body
A R T I C L E : Sandeep Parmar: Mina Loy's 'Colossus' and the Myth of Arthur
A R T I C L E : Brian M. Reed: 'Lost Already Walking': Caroline Bergvall's
A R T I C L E : Anthony Stephens: Reflecting tragedy: Nietzsche, Lacan,
A R T I C L E : John Temple: Haven of the Heart: The Poetry of John Wieners
A R T I C L E : John Emil Vincent: Escaping the future: John Ashbery's «Girls
on the run»
R E V I E W S :
Language Poetry by the Bay: James Sherry: «The Grand Piano» Project: ongoing experiment in collective autobiography by ten writers identified
with Language poetry in San Francisco. It takes its name from a coffeehouse at
1607 Haight Street, where from 1976-79 the authors took part in a reading and
performance series. The writing project, begun in 1998, was undertaken as an
online collaboration, first via an interactive web site and later through a
=== «The Grand Piano» Part 3 reviewed
Earlier reviews of the project:
=== «The Grand Piano» Part 1 - in Jacket 32
=== «The Grand Piano» Part 2 - in Jacket 32
=== Li Yun Alvarado: «How Long She'll Last in This World», by María Meléndez
=== Cristiana Baik: «DICTEE» by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
=== Douglas Barbour: «The Goldfinches of Baghdad» by Robert Adamson
=== Christopher Barnes: «Lemon Shark» by Luke Beesley
=== Ben Lyle Bedard: «REAL» by Stephen Ratcliffe
=== Joel Bettridge: «Mirrors for Gold», by Roberto Tejada
=== Lisa Bower: «Erosion's Pull», by Maureen Owen
=== Lisa Bower: «Letter from the Lawn» by Bobbi Lurie
=== Joseph Bradshaw: «Inbox: (A Reverse Memoir) », Noah Eli Gordon
=== Norene Cashen: «Cleavage» by Chris Tysh
=== Matthew Cooperman: «A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow», by Noah
Eli Gordon
=== Eugenia Demuro: «Stet.» by José Kozer. Trans. Mark Weiss.
=== Mark Dickinson: «The Moon Sees the One» by Candice Ward
=== Alexander Dickow: «I'm The Man Who Loves You», by Amy King
=== Sarah Dowling: «The Material of Poetry: Sketches for a Philosophical
Poetics», by Gerald Bruns.
=== Michael Duszat: «An Elemental Thing», by Eliot Weinberger
=== Curtis Faville: Aram Saroyan: «Complete Minimalist Poems», and Robert
Grenier: «100 Sentences / 100 Phrases». Translated from English into French by
Martin Richet with the Author.
=== Forrest Gander: «A Worldly Country» by John Ashbery
=== Alan Gilbert: «How to Read a Poem» by Terry Eagleton
=== Daniel Godston: «Blue Lash» by James Armstrong
=== Daniel Godston: «Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics» Number 5,
2006 (edited by Philip Nikolayev and Katia Kapovich)
=== Piotr Gwiazda: Professing Poetry: a review of «Poetry and Pedagogy: The
challenge of the contemporary», edited by Joan Retallack and Juliana Spahr
=== Tom Hibbard: «Infinity Subsections» by Mark DuCharme
=== Julia Istomina: «Rise Up», by Matthew Rohrer
=== Tim Keane: «The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition», translated with
commentary by Peter Green
=== Astrid Lorange: «The Material Poem» edited by James Stuart
=== Nicole Mauro: «Cornstarch Figurine» by Elizabeth Treadwell
=== Carol Middleton: «About Writing, Seven Essays, Four Letters and Five
Interviews», by Samuel R Delany
=== Micaela Morrissette: «The Open Curtain», by Brian Evenson
=== Micaela Morrissette: «Bornholm Night-Ferry», by Aidan Higgins
=== Micaela Morrissette: «The Exquisite», by Laird Hunt
=== Micaela Morrissette: «North & South», by Martha King
=== Richard Owens: «Black Diamond Golden Boy Takes Bull By Horns» by Geoffrey
=== Craig Santos Perez: «Puerta Del Sol» by Francisco Aragón
=== Peter Robinson: «The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan» edited by Alice
Notley with Anselm Berrigan and Edmund Berrigan, Introduction and Notes by
Alice Notley
=== Larissa Shmailo: «Letters from Aldenderry», by Philip Nikolayev
=== James Stuart: «Mediated», by Carol Mirakove, and «The Arts of Islam:
Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Collection»
P O E M S:
=== Robert Adamson: Two poems (for Joanne Kyger)
=== Louis Armand: Six Parts for a Requiem
=== Jen Crawford: sixteen
=== Laurie Duggan: Two poems from 'The skies over Thanet'
=== Joel Deane: Tuk-tuk
=== Jesse Glass: Two poems
=== Scott Glassman and Sheila E. Murphy: from «Section 2»
=== Philip Hammial: Two poems
=== Ella Holcombe : The magazine
=== Vincent Katz: Three poems
=== Poems by Ko Un, translated from Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé,
Young-moo Kim, and Gary Gach
=== Katy Lederer: In the Hole
=== Philip Metres: The Old Haunts: A Guided Tour
=== Carol Mirakove: Five poems
=== Aryanil Mukherjee: Two Poems
=== John Newlove: Three poems
=== Benjamin Paloff: Four poems
=== Toma. .alamun: Two poems, trans. Brian Henry
=== Peter Dale Scott: Five poems
=== Spencer Selby: Text From My Visual Book
=== Elizabeth Smither: Practising scales
=== Grzegorz Wróblewski: Two poems: Migraine; Jesse Owens and Luz Long

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

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? Maybe not, but decorum was rattled, and some thought was provoked. Blake remains a troubling figure - and one who continues to sponsor the kind of poetry that gets written by Ginsbergs of the new century - often performance poets, or rappers - work that speaks out, expressing radical, sometimes hyper-sexual and/or political feelings.

What I think critics of such writing most deplore is the lack of formal control evidenced by this kind of writing, and a sort of agnostic (Humean) mistrust of the religious inspiration of the work. I'll leave that for another post, but religion, even fervently held to, has instigated the creation of remarkable poetic work, from Herbert to Hopkins, and beyond. In this secular age, what might most trouble people, in fact, is work of deeply-held religious, or political, conviction. This sort of thing resists commodification quite as much as more "avant-garde" strategies.

At bottom of much radical thought are some very basic observations. May I make a few here? No state should profit from the construction of weapons, or sell them to other states. Otherwise, the system of international trade will, by its own internal logic, generate a demand, and supply for such weapons, and lead to greater levels of violence and war. Further, any state leader who claims to want peace, but promotes such a trade in arms, is a hypocrite. Peace is not an ideal to be gestured at with helpless hands. It is very simply a series of practical steps, beginning with the dismantling of the military-industrial complex at the heart of Western capitalism. I am not here advocating that nations not manufacture or equip their own armies, though, in time, the idea of armies, and nations, might need to wither away. Yet, while nations and armies continue, so too will wars.

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.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

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's Travels.

I think Pullman's books are brilliant, and rather fun. But let no one be fooled: they are also opposed to the idea of a hierarchical church system, let alone a God, in the Christian sense. However, those who seek to ban the film do so foolishly. Existential literature has expressed deep anguish at the seeming loss of God throughout the last 120 years or so - and the Church has not crumbled, nor has faith diminished. God's absence, and presence, may be in the mind of the beholder. But a movie isn't going to accomplish what Philosophy With A Hammer could not. Relax, and pass the popcorn.

Monday, 26 November 2007

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 surgery where boils are lanced, or a place to avoid such dangers of the spoken? I am, like all true debaters, of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, WWII was fought - and won - so that England would be free from the sort of government of the tongue that would control what people can say, openly. On the other, WWII was fought against men who had perverted precisely such a democracy, by using its own freedoms against it. Again, the dangers of speech are Hydra-headed, and devil-forked. Debaters know that what they say is a game - a playful romp with words - but a game that, like all symbols and allegories and tropes, carries weight and implication. They also know that, by taking sides in an argument, the truth reveals itself, not from what is said on either side, but, hovering somewhere above, and in-between, the galvanized opposites. Truth is dialectical, a thought that might have alarmed AH himself. Should men and women who think bad things about some people, and who we disagree with, be allowed in to the sacred space of robust verbal jousting? It depends on whether or not you think the resolution is about freedom to speak, or freedom from, some speaking. Or, put another way - doesn't the UK need to have a larger conversation about these beliefs, that grow and multiply in the margins? Perhaps - but where best to have this conversation, and are callow young students the best arbiters of a nation's soul? When I was a debater, it wasn't entirely sure the house of language so used had one. But then again, the absence of a soul is itself a free state.

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.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

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 his own poems in public, has a wonderful manner, and his poems were witty and well-observed. Helen Lovelock-Burke's poetry was the revelation of the evening for me - how has such a fine poet remained so relatively unknown? I enjoyed the others, as well.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Cyclone Appeal

The DEC Bangladesh Cyclone Appeal has been launched today. Please give if you can.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

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 generation's Auden, say, or Dylan Thomas, or Hughes - in terms of initial impact. So - age versus youth, craft versus verve, deep seriousness versus fizzing play. We shall see.

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.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Sunday, 18 November 2007


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.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

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 flawed in places, were worth reading.

Motion is very good at noting Pound's radical frustrations with the London scene (his rise was not triumphant or total) which I understand personally, since not much has changed in London's poetry circles since 1920, or rather, the changes that swept in with the spirit of '22, were mainly broomed out of Bloomsbury by the Possum himself before his death.

Vernon Scannell Has Died

Sad news. British poet Vernon Scannell has 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.

Friday, 16 November 2007

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.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

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.


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
or Alison Rickett:

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

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

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 Stella!

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.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

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

Saturday, 10 November 2007

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 without being flim-flam.

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.

Friday, 9 November 2007

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, and the U.S. Latino Review. He’s also collaborated in a musical with composer Doug Geers, How I Learned To Draw A Sheep, providing book and lyrics. Castro is the author of a chapbook, Toy Storm. He lives in New York City and is a native of Argentina.


I know of
the solitude he savors
in cafés,
reading a book.

Here I too
do the same,
seeking solace
in the verse
of others.

It’s my way
to keep him
as I blow
steam off
this cup of coffee,

a dispersed
to a ghost
amid strangers.

poem by Guillermo Castro
This poem first appeared in La Petite Zine.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

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, which he prefers - perhaps the first, and last, foreign visitor to record such a preference. Brooke fails to mention Montreal's extraordinary setting on the St. Lawrence, one of the world's greatest rivers, or emphasise the mountain in the middle. Nor does he comment - as one would expect - too much on the light, the weather.

One thing may not have changed. At the start of the chapter titled "Montreal and Ottawa" he writes: "My American friends were full of kindly scorn when I announced that I was going to Canada."

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

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 into the main portal of cultural dialogue which in some ways it already is, should keep in mind that in the term social networking is also the word social. Too often, anti-social networking is done, instead. One hopes this experiment on the part of Radiohead will not turn out to, ironically, discourage other bands from trying something similar (even as the pint-sized Prince seeks to penalise those online who seek to form his fanbase).

Saturday, 3 November 2007

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.

Friday, 2 November 2007

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 plans to return to England at the beginning of 2008.

Her blog, Alsace-Lorraine, includes links to her most recent publications.


She was cat-eyed
and turtlenecked, flicking
her kretek over a pop
can, shale bangles
jangling like so many
airport tambourines.
She was fur-tongued
and blurry-worded,
wobbly on her ankles,
top-heavy and moue-
mouthed, powder-nosed
and sloppy, bursting
from her barstool
like a weasel
from a mulberry bush.
Her teeth were rows
of ice in a tray; her poems
Rorschach blots
on a page. And the
stick-fig-faux-scoliosis pose?
Stage-wise, she had one
of those and she worked it
like any blank-faced waif
in shredded runway clothes.
In crowds she laughed alone.
Her soul was lost
but her cry had heart, and when
she asked we fell apart
and spotted her the dough.
Which she probably blew
on blow. And that's
the last we knew of Kate.

poem by Brooklyn Copeland.
It appeared, in a different version, in Burnside Review 3.2.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

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 extraordinary debut collection. I realise that there is give-and-take on the judging panel, so it'd be interesting to listen in on why they felt Nagra's brilliant collection was not worthy of inclusion.

I know some poets hold a bias against poetry whose diction is "impure" in its use of English (see Hobsbaum's writing on this subject), and also a bias against poetry which engages with popular culture, and humour. Nagra's dexterous cultural handling of post-colonial issues, linguistic hybridity, and lyrical wit, is Muldoonian in its promise (as is the work of Gillis, thus seeming to confuse the issue). His absence from the list is shocking to me. Consider the following: "From 2006 the T S Eliot Prize, set up in memory of one of our greatest poets, will reflect Eliot's commitment to encouraging young people to read and enjoy poetry. The Poetry Book Society, which runs the Prize, is delighted to announce the launch of the School Shadowing Scheme." How can the PBS encourage young people, when its prize doesn't list or award precisely the exciting younger poets that do engage young - and old - readers?

At any rate, there is much to celebrate on this list. Fiona Sampson, Matthew Sweeney, and Mimi Khalvati, especially, are very good poets, well-deserving of being there. Frances Leviston, too, is a very good up-and-coming poet - from the poems I have seen from her new collection (in Ten Hallam Poets and published in magazines) - her debut will be one of the strongest of the decade - as strong, in some ways, as Kennard's or Nagra's. It is good to see the superb Irish press, Gallery, noted. It is also very good to see the great Edwin Morgan honoured here. I am not mentioning the four previously-listed poets, as we knew they'd be here, and we knew their books were strong contenders.

It is unfortunate that there was no room for Margaret Atwood, John Ashbery, Leonard Cohen, or Geoffrey Hill - each had a collection up for the prize, this year. And, there were few poets representing the other traditions in British poetry; and no Salt poets. I am sure someone somewhere is wishing Atwood and Ashbery had been selected - what a pre-award reading that would have been! And, doesn't it make the British poetry world seem a little parochial, and small, when they can't manage to recognise that (and this is ironic in the present context) Ashbery is the most significant, and canonically-influential American poet since, arguably, TS Eliot? His absence is also to be mourned for that reason.

Anyway, congratulations to all those on the list. May be the best poet win. ...

Who will win, now? With Nagra gone, the field is relatively wide open. I won't hazard a guess just yet, but will write more in early January before the final announcement of the winner.

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