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Showing posts from May, 2010

I Saw The Figure Five

Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of Eyewear.  That's a lot of blogging.  A lot of looking.  Some crying.  And some glee.  Over the birthday month of June, Eyewear will be high-fiving, with a few lists that come in 5s.  Thanks for the support over the years, Eyewearers.  You've made this humble blog one of the most widely read British blogs written by a poet.

Dennis Hopper Has Died

Sad news.  The rebel with a self-destructive streak, some-time actor and artist and director Dennis Hopper has died of cancer in his 70s.  Notable for directing Easy Rider, the breakthrough Hollywood film of its time, as well as for co-starring with James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, Hopper later put in bizarre and unforgettable performances as a character actor in several off-kilter movies, including Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet.  He had an unexpected return in the big-budget Speed, as the lunatic bomber.  Hopper's role in Lynch's classic will remain his signature performance, perhaps the most vile, upsetting and original portrayal of sexual evil ever put onto US celluloid.  He managed to both fail endlessly in his life and career and remain a freewheeling icon of a somewhat faded ideal of American hedonism and freedom.

Broken Laws

The resignation of David Laws, after he was outed by a newspaper, is a loss for Britain's government, and also a sad comment on how - in some quarters - gay life is still treated as a stigma. I hope he is able to return some day soon.

Featured Poet: James Brookes

Eyewear is pleased to welcome British poet James Brookes (pictured) at the end of a busy week. Brookes, born in 1986, has lived in Sussex for 20 years. He is a graduate from Warwick University, where he read English and Creative Writing, and is currently studying to be a solicitor. His debut pamphlet is from Pighog, The English Sweats.

Brookes is one of the young British poets I most admire. I first saw him read a year ago when - quite young - he won an Eric Gregory. At the time, his work struck me as having some of the rich sonic seriousness of the 60s poets Hill and Hughes. His sense of history, Englishness, and violence, also allies his style to early Gunn. Brookes is his own man, too, of course - which was evident from his fine reading at the Oxfam event the other night in London which I hosted, where he read alongside Philip Gross and others. I include several new unpublished poems of his below.

Gazetteer

‘…with smooth-faced stone still holding back the trees,
nearish to a so…

So who are the Young British Poets?

I call them the YBPs. The decade 2000-2010 has seen a generational shift in UK poetry, as an emerging Internet-linked wave of younger poets has come to the fore, clearly offering a vision of what will follow the New and Next Gen poets of the 90s and early 00s. As Nathan Hamilton observes in his spiky, and wide-ranging feature in the latest (spring 2010) issue of The Rialto, one of the five best UK poetry magazines (Poetry Review, Poetry London, and PN Review would also have to be in that list), in which he offers selections from 300 poets under the age of 35 who answered his editorial call, this has led to a near-mania for pronouncing on this new group. I am partly responsible for the listing and selecting, with my Oxfam DVD, Manhattan Review feature, and blogging at the Best American Poetry Website. Tall-lighthouse, the Faber pamphlets, and Bloodaxe, have also been active in helping to shape a new consensus, as have many other ventures, and small press and online projects, from the s…

Laws Unto Himself

It seems sad, but Lib Dem Treasury chief, David Laws, has had a stroke of bad luck - after securing an impressive coalition position, he's been outed in a rightwing paper as gay, in connection to financial dealings that saw him claiming his friend (who lived with him) as a non-partner - ambiguous terrain no doubt.  It is to be hoped he can clear his name.  To lose a smart hardworking centre-right Lib Dem with such a healthy link to business would be a blow to a government trying to be transparent, if tough.

Forthcoming

2010's second half promises to yield even more poetry books, and books on poetry, that will surely be must-haves for many, including the new Sampson, new Heaney, new Muldoon, new Jo Shapcott, and a new LarkinSelected, from Martin Amis, as well as debuts such as by Adam O'Riordan, and new books from Gillis, Michael Harris, a British Selected for Robert Bringhurst, Bergvall'sNew and Selected Texts, and more.  The more would include the Best American, and Best Canadian, anthologies, and the Forward 2011 book.  Gosh.  Not to mention the Modern Canadian Poets: An Anthology.  Meanwhile, this interview with WS Merwin from PBS was lovely.

185

I am glad to now have 185 "followers".  It would be good to have 190 by June 1, when Eyewear turns 5!

TV Eye

I watch too much TV, sometimes. Sometimes not enough. Or none. Recently been hooked on a bunch of series and shows, some bad, some good, some just okay. I don't mind. I like things on TV for different reasons - just like sometimes one wants Plath, other times Kenneth Fearing. Anyway, Luther has become increasingly suspenseful, engaging and ultra-violent with a very sexy serial killer anti-heroine as a good B-plot.
Flashforward is about to come to an end, tomorrow in the US, next Monday in Britain, after a season that, however sloppy, managed to combine the FBI and hospital sub-genres with soap opera and sci-fi, which was ambitious. I think it lacked a clear villain, though the arc has been complex and well-handled, if the key trope of the board was borrowed from The Usual Suspects a bit nakedly.
Better still have been box sets of Glee, Season I (all the way to the Sectionals) - I love the diabolical cheerleader coach especially, and the google-eyed shy staff love-interest; an…

Austerity Brownjohn

I've just picked up the latest Alan Brownjohn novel, his fourth, Windows on the Moon, set in 1947-48 (Austerity) Britain - the period of my doctoral research.  I like Brownjohn as a critic, poet, and person, and think I may like this book, also.  It opens well, and intriguingly.  It comes with blurbs from Margaret Drabble, Jonathan Fuller and David Kynaston (the leading popular historian of this period).

Tickertext

Jason Camlot, the poet and professor at Concordia in Montreal (they have an excellent English and Creative Writing department), has set up a cool project called Tickertext.  Log on to leave your 140 character or less text.

Asian Cha

I am pleased to have a new poem in the May issue of the fine Hong Kong online magazine, Asian Cha.  I recommend readers to submit their work here - the editorial staff are rigorous and engaged.

The Modern Poets' World

In 1957, James Reeves wrote an Introduction for a slim and relatively open-minded anthology of British and American modern poetry, published by Heinemann (London), The Modern Poets' World. Among the poets included are Lynette Roberts, FT Prince, George Barker, Hardy, Dickinson, Lawrence, ee cummings, Gascoyne, Heath-Stubbs, Empson, but also Frost, Eliot and Yeats. Notably, Whitman, Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane are absent, though Ransom makes it in. Lowell is not yet in - nor any of the future confessionals. Dylan Thomas is there, Hopkins and Edith Sitwell, but not WS Graham. The sense of what was modern is jostled, often pleasingly. Blunden gets a large inclusion. He has not aged well, nor has Roy Campbell. Enright is in, but not Larkin. A lot of this might be down to acquiring rights and space limitations. It is still a good and surprising collection, only 100 or so pages of poetry. His Introduction says a lot, that was then no doubt new if perennial - it sure hasn…

Go To The Clinic

Clinic will be launching tomorrow, Wednesday 26 May.  Worth checking out.  Eyewear will review this new publication later this summer.

Guest Review: Brookes On Please

James Brookes reviews
Firestrikes by Keith Please

The title of this overview of Keith Please’s work, Firestrikes, suggests something momentous – literally, a moment of impact and natural force. It might lead a reader to expect something seismic, if not apocalyptic. Yet whilst Please can capture, with an unblinking eye, a moment’s ‘instant and heat’ – to dislocate Ted Hughes’ phrase – this overview of his work does not evidence a poet interested in straight strikes and heavy blows. Please boxes cleverer than that; the poems are altogether more rewarding for it. It soars beyond the momentary.
This selection exhibits a strong visual sensibility throughout, even in its aural constructions. Perspectives, prospects and vistas form both the subject to many of the poems selected here and the manner of their operation – the presented image is often given in the context of its being looked-at, as in the opening of ‘Scolt Head’:
“Not as it is now: trespass of land, rough sky, water giving little. But …

Lost Booker, Lost Chance

The excitement and fuss over the announcement that the "Lost Booker" (from 1970) went to Troubles, by the tragically drowned writer JG Farrell, cannot hide a sense of let-down.  After all, Troubles is not a lost masterpiece, and Farrell is widely-read and respected.  There is not much clever in deciding to Booker this classic.  It feels the safe and obvious choice.  The opportunity was squandered to do something exciting and even daring with this alternative prize - to award another JG instead - JG Ballard.  Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition is probably his major work, and is still a shocking and innovative text.  Given Ballard's recent death, and the growing sense of his importance, it is surprising that the mainstream view of his writing is still seemingly a tad belittling.

Nothin' On You

What is the song of the summer as of today, the hottest and sunniest day this year in Ireland or Britain?  Well, Eyewear isn't about to name check some cool indie band, or American folk trio, or other retro throwback (80s, 60s, 70s, anyone?).  No, it's by B.o.B. ft. Bruno Mars and it is called 'Nothin' On You' and it is an effortlessly lovely and catchy love song with teeth, featuring rap and a yearning performance as sweet as mid-career Michael Jackson.  Try to get this one out of your bean this June-August.  You can swim on this song.  Meanwhile, Gabriella Cilmi's 'Hearts Don't Lie' is also a hum-dinger if a little Gloria Gaynor.

Vera Farmiga Appreciation Society

Those who have seen Orphan, The Departed, or Up In The Air, will know that Vera Farmigais both beautiful, and a very gifted actor.  It is now to be hoped this Oscar-nominated star will be allowed to shine in a vehicle all her own.  Meanwhile, Peter Sarsgaard, her Orphan co-star, seems to Eyewear to be the new Kevin Spacey - that is, an actor whose every voice, and presence, represents a nuanced, and often chilling, glimpse into control, or near madness, or both.

The Rest on The Flight

I just got Peter Porter'sThe Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems.  There's my summer gone.  Seriously, this massive collection is inspiring, and indicative.  I look forward to reading it.  Also to be recommended is The First Yeats, edited by Edward Larissy.  It is salutary to have the poems as Yeats first published them.

Lissadell

Few places in Ireland are so evocative of a glorious, if troubled, past, as Lissadell House - made famous by both its storied inhabitants, and especially by Yeats, who visited twice, and appreciated the young kimono-dressed "gazelles".  I was honoured to be asked to read a poem for a private gathering of the intrepid Walsh/Cassidy family this weekend, in the great hall (which so pleased Yeats), beside a harp.  It is a pity this family, which has put a small fortune into restoring the mansion and its grounds, planting new gardens and collecting rare books, letters, papers and paintings relating to the Gore-Booths and the artistic coterie of the time, surrounding Eva Gore-Booth, Yeats, and others dedicated to a Literary Renaissance for Ireland, should be vilified for their cultural foresight and husbandry.  Good to see that Leonard Cohen (the second Canadian poet to perform there) will be playing to a crowd of tens of thousands over several nights there this summer.  This majo…

Strange New Life

What to make of the news that Venter has created artificial life, as reported in Science?  Will these little promethei run wild?  Good to see Joyce quoted in the manmade DNA text.

Philip Gross & Young British Poets At Oxfam

The Oxfam Poetry Series at 91 Marylebone High Street will be featuring a very special poetry guest - this year's winner of the TS Eliot prize, Philip Gross. He will be joined by several of the Young British Poets on the Oxfam DVD, Asking A Shadow To Dance, launched recently: Helen Mort, Kate Potts, James Brookes, Adam Horovitz, Sophie McGrath and Lorraine Mariner.  This is one of the most exciting and lively line-ups we've had.

Please contact Martin Penny at the shop to reserve a seat in advance. The event will be Thursday, 27 May, at 7 pm, starting 7.05 sharp.  Free admission, but all donations going to Oxfam.  This event is in association with Kingston University.  I'll be the compere.

Guest Review: Naomi On Robertson

Katrina Naomireviews
The Wrecking Light
by Robin Robertson

This is Robin Robertson’s fourth full collection of poetry and the first after the Forward Prize-winning Swithering (2006). The Wrecking Light is brimming with Robertson’s characteristic, violent, imagery. It is provocative and exciting. Even the title spells destruction. With destruction comes loss, which is one of the biggest themes of this new book.

If this all sounds too dark and dreary, think again. The writing is utterly compelling and one of many highlights is 'At Roane Head', which won the 2010 Forward Prize for best single poem. It tells the story of a selkie, his human lover and their unfortunate offspring. Just listen to the verbs: ‘hirpling‘, ‘chittering’ or ‘relaxing’ (the latter here, meaning ‘murdering’).

Whether writing from mythology or from translations (there are several translated works in this new collection), the language is generally spare, the images extraordinary. I was particularly pleased to see &…

Old Robin Hood

When I was a young guy, I wrote an episode of the Hanna-Barbera / Cinar animated TV series (then wildly popular in the States - the top-rated Saturday morning cartoon show for a season, 1991), Young Robin Hood, with my friend, Thor Bishopric.  Our episode was called "King For A Day" - and one of the key scenes involved Robin intercepting King John's crown in the forest, and the power of that robbery going to his head.  Imagine my delight in seeing that Ridley Scott's new shot at a trilogy reboot epic, Robin Hood, features a similar moment.

When I co-wrote my Robin Hood show, it was okay for Robin to steal from the rich, and use arrows.  In the second season, Disney took over, and banned all reference to distributive justice or sharp pointy stick use.  They also wanted Robin out of the woods, and to stop co-habiting with merry boys.  The series soon tanked.  This new film version - critics claim it is the 100th such movie - isn't quite as morally sound or po-faced…

Marksist Literature

Eyewear often claims there are too many prizes, a little too much hot air in the establishment - but the Marks Awards seem genuinely progressive, supportive, and innovative, and actually do something helpful - support small presses and those most ephemeral of publications, pamphlets of poetry.  Here's an excerpt from the recent press release; especially glad to see Tom's book there, reviewed recently at this blog:

"The British Library today announces the shortlists for the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets in partnership with the Poetry Book Society and with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust. In their second year, the Awards celebrate the importance of the pamphlet form in introducing new poetry to readers in the internet age.


Michael Marks Poetry Award

Poetry pamphlet shortlist

The Terrors, Tom Chivers (Nine Arches Press). Eighteenth century hangman narratives... conducted by email.

The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks

Guest Review: Lehrman on Grubb

Rachel Lehrman reviews
The Man Who Spoke to Owls
by David HW Grubb


What I love about David HW Grubb’s newest book of poems is the refreshing ways in which he offers the world to his reader. That which is familiar; that which we seldom notice; those things we try to describe in new and exciting ways only to find that they remain the experiences we know— childhood, family, war, fear, death and god—are at times, presented in ways that re-sensitise us. It’s not so much that Grubb finds new ways of looking at the world or new aspects of it to examine. Rather, through music, language and silence Grubb creates unique perspectives which reacquaint us with the world we thought we knew. In a sense, we are untaught-- the world becomes more of what it may actually be before it is analysed and contextualised by the mind. We are not only made to see again its joys, wonders, horrors and tragedies—but to feel them.

Though this freshness is not maintained in each poem and while the stirring music and …

The Humpback's Wail

I read yesterday for The Kingston Readers' Festival - a wonderful initiative run by Sandra Williams - with the poet and writer Chrissie Gittins, in a good venue - The Kingston Museum.  Though the audience was not large (around 20 students and older members of the local community) it was attentive and genuinely engaged, and I sold a half-dozen books or so, which, as any poet will know, is not so bad.  Gittins is a very good reader, and she read from her children's and adult collections.  Her latest for kids is The Humpback's Wail, and I recommend it, for its charming illustrations by Paul Bommer, and the poems themselves.  I have suggested to Gittins that she send her work to Mike Kavangh's increasingly impressive magazine of young person's poetry, The Scrumbler.  Worth subscribing to, and writing poems for.

Featured Poet: Declan Ryan

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the poet Declan Ryan to these pages, this first Friday of the New Politics and/or The Coalition. We'll see. Ryan was born in Mayo, Ireland and recently completed the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway. He organises and hosts a monthly poetry event called Days of Roses which showcases Royal Holloway students alongside established guest poets.

I was fortunate enough to have read at one of these events, and was utterly impressed with the quality of the younger poets being featured in the very cool setting, and Ryan's savvy emceeing - a balance of warmth and discipline. Ryan is currently co-editing an anthology of 12 poets who have read at Days of Roses, which will appear any day now. Ryan, as poet, represents the next wave of recent graduates - a generation entirely 21st century in outlook, and able to pick and choose what of the last century appeals, but also forge their own styles.

Ryan's poems tend to fuse references to music and perso…

Men Without Women

The new Con-Lib cabinet is off to a disappointing start - where are the women?  This is not a diverse group of ministers - four women, and only one "ethnic minority" member.  At the start of the "new politics" we have been promised, it might have been good to see a more balanced and nuanced and representative group.

Chapman On The New Doctor Who

The Monsters Under The Bed: Doctor Who Series Five So Far

by Patrick Chapman

According to Steven Moffat, its new showrunner, Doctor Who isn’t set in outer space, it’s set under your bed. That’s where the monsters are. At least it is if you’re eight. And that age group has always been the show’s core audience. The difference is now that the core audience includes girls. Moffat’s earlier episodes for the show always had a young girl at the heart of the mystery, except Blink, which was adapted from a short story which had. Back in the mists of time, one reviewer called Doctor Who ‘the children’s own programme which adults adore.’ There’s probably never been a truer description of the show, and never has that description been truer than today, as the series, now established in its fifth run of the revival, or the thirty-first overall, shows itself to be a true modern fairytale. In Moffat, it has a lead writer who knows about children and how to deliver the safe scares for which the show i…

Clegg Up

I was initially sorry to hear that the Lib-Lab deal couldn't be brokered; I was also teary-eyed at hearing Gordon Brown resign, on the BBC; but I am, today, curiously revived by the feeling of a fresh, and yes, historic start, for this new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.  Nick Clegg as Deputy PM isn't bad, with Vince Cable overseeing banking.  Some of the fairer tax and voting concerns I voted for may be taken into account.  I remain deeply suspicious of the Tory anti-Europe, pro-Trident positions, and their general indifference to progressive issues, but the first coalition of its kind since World War Two is worth trying, and worth watching.  These aren't strange days, but different days, indeed.  Clegg's up, after all.

Take Your Time, Don't Be Late

It seems talks with Labour have just fallen through - no doubt on fears of claims of illegitimacy from the right wing press, and the inability of the Lib-Dems to work with the SNP.  A pity, because a progressive majority of voters (51%) did not vote to see a Tory government.  Hopefully, talks will cease soon, and Clegg will have something tangible to show for all his shilly-shallying and dilly-dallying.  This has been the most enthralling and yet frustrating few days of British politics I have ever experienced.  And, when he went, Brown left with dignity and tactical guile all at once - his leaving being so much like the best and worst of his time in office.

Featured Poet: Christopher Horton

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Christopher Horton (pictured) this hung-parliament nail-biting Friday. Horton was born in 1978 and grew up in Oxfordshire. He studied English Literature and American Studies at Swansea University. He has lived in the United States and China, where he taught English.

Horton's poetry has been published in City Lighthouse Anthology (Tall-lighthouse) and the New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins) anthology, and in magazines including Poetry London, Ambit,The Wolf and Magma. He has also reviewed for The London Magazine and Horizon (Salt) among others (including Eyewear).

In 2008, he was commended in the National Poetry Competition and in 2009 he was a runner-up in the prestigious Bridport Prize. Horton currently lives in South East London. He co-ordinates literature events for the Museum of London Docklands. He'll be reading for the Oxfam Bookfest this coming July 8th, alongside Declan Ryan, Sam Riviere, Christopher Reid, and others.

Horton strike…

The Kingston Readers' Festival

I will be reading as part of the Kingston Readers' Festival a week from now, on Friday, 14 May, 1 pm, at the Kingston Museum, with fellow poet Chrissie Gittins, for an event called Salmon with Salt. The festival is also featuring writers and speakers such as AS Byatt, Zach Goldsmith, Vince Cable, Iain Sinclair, Sadie Jones, Libby Purves, Bonnie Greer, Dame Joan Bakewell, William Fiennes and Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

Can't Get No Satisfaction

The British election of 2010 has been, from a progressive point of view, an almost abysmal failure - a disappointment so staggeringly at odds with the Obama-like energy of the debates and campaigning - and it raises a question - is Britain too broken, too destabilised or demoralised, civically - to even be able to mount a rebellion or radical break with its outmoded electoral system and corrupt parliamentary structure? It seems so.

In the end, the Clegg revolution was only televised, but never materialised - actually losing seats and barely raising above their normal low-20s limit of support. What happened to change, to a new way, to bolting past the two old parties? The voters bottled this one. In the end, they seemed to panic, from London, Dundee, Carlyle, to Humberside - everywhere.
No pattern has emerged, but drift and lack of consensus. And, though the Lib Dems should have supported the larger progressive majority, and shored up Labour, it appears they will let Cameron form some so…

Democracy In Action!

I went down to the polling station this morning and was glad to see a lot of my neighbours queuing up.  With healthy voter turn-out, the election seems as wide open as ever.  I look forward to seeing what transpires over the next few days.

Flambard Is 20

The British small press Flambard turns 20 this year and is having a celebratory evening at the famous Troubadour venue in London this May 10, featuring readings by Nancy Mattson, Rebecca Goss and Kelley Swain, among others.

Published Poet, Small Press

The BBC premiered a new six-part crime series last night: Luther, starring Wire star Idris Elba (who should be the first Black Bond) as the eponymous DCI. Elba has extraordinary charisma, and his star power can keep even the flimsiest vehicle afloat, such as Obsession, but this is actually a good show, though not quite as smart as it wants to think it is. Starting with the Hitchcock trope of a man falling - this time a serial killer of small children dressed in a retro suit that makes him look like Attenborough from a noir - Luther has a breakdown and goes away for 7 months to deal with the fact he let the killer fall. Returning to applause, his first case involves the murder of a husband, wife and family dog - the father is summed up (slumped at his desk) as "published poet, small press" - which got a laugh in my household.

The villain (Ruth Wilson) is a sexy Oxbridge physics researcher with genius-level IQ (goodness!), icily promiscuous and apparently so narcissistic she do…

A Poem On The Eve of the Election

Eyewear is very pleased, on the eve of election day, to offer readers an occasional light verse poem by a creative writing student of mine - a poem on being undecided in the UK that has a particular resonance with me, for one. Thomas Hewson is a 21-year old Kingston University student. He lives in South Yorkshire and will be voting in the Sheffield-Hallam constituency on May 6th. Sheffield Hallam’s current MP, and prospective MP, is the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg - whom will be expecting to win the seat with a comfortable majority.

Voting on May 6th

Gordon Brown wants substance over style,
Cameron thinks Labour should be put on trial.
But the Lib Dems are definitely affirmative -
Cleggy boy offers a brand new alternative.
As for the other parties, UKIP and Green,
they have no real policies I think it would seem,
and then there is Griffin, who for power does hunt,
- I’ll say just this – he’s an ignorant…

Cameron, you’ll spend our money without any waste -
well if that’s true we’ll elect y…