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Showing posts from April, 2011

Visual Pleasures

The June issue of Sight & Sound has selected 75 "mainstream marvels of the last 30 years" - commercial films that deserve more critical appreciation or notice.  I was glad to see a few of my favourites among the list, such as Excalibur, Deep Cover, Unlawful Entry, The Runaways, The Bounty, Breakdown, Femme Fatale, Footloose, Jennifer's Body, and Tombstone.  I have to question the inclusion of The Devil Wears Prada, which seems to me to be an obvious classic already. Several key mainstream marvels could also be added to this list of 75 (for the full list get a copy of the magazine), such as Killing ZoeLooker, Nacho LibreCongo, Don't Say A Word, The Rainmaker, and JFK.

Montreal Prize

Montreal, a 400-year-old-plus city of several million souls, the home of the great wave of Canadian modernist poets of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as legends like Leonard Cohen, has a strong tradition of poetry, and a number of vital small poetry presses.  It also is enriched by its bilingualism, a superb creative writing program at Concordia University, some lively reading events and festivals, and an international vibe at the cultural cross-roads of Europe and America.

Yet it is rarely these days at the forefront of poetic matters in Canada - Toronto tends to hold the keys to the kingdom.  So it comes as a welcome surprise to learn that Andrew Motion will be judging the world's biggest cash prize for best single poem - called The Montreal Prize.  I have some problems with poetry competitions (perhaps the biggest question being, do such occasions ever actually locate the most strange, original or unsettling works, or the ones that rather confirm already-established norms), but n…

New Poem by Greg Bell

Eyewear is pleased to offer a new poem by Canadian poet Greg Bell this last day of April.  He lives in Kingston, Ontario, with his family.  His work appears most recently in a chapbook from Cactus Press, Toronto, Better Locks and Daylight.  Here he is with one of his sons, Graydon.



Pencils Drawn in by the long body and lean lines; the bejewelled ferrule crimped into place, willowy hips, slim fit and grooved glide,  as the fingers wrap around its lacquered slats, hike-up the hem with each slow grind, and the chaff, unclasped, spirals to the ground. I have made mistakes. But you, flipped over, stiletto tip wagging in the dusky air, and a distant word scumbles, then a sentence annulled, until, finally, under the rhythmic rub of that supple, pink nub, whole histories crumble, swept away with a wave. Hard-cored, redeemed, and indelible -- I’ve come to find we’re not lead at all.

The God In The Machine

I've watched the BBC all day, when not following BBC coverage online, and on the radio.  The Royal Wedding was a smashing success: weather, dressmaker, kiss, and cartwheeling verger all being splendid.  People showed up (a million) and were patriotic and happy.  There has been a lot of nonsense from the media, mostly tea-leaves reading regarding the future of the Monarchy.  Apparently, the use of Aston Martins, chocolate cakes, etc., are portents of a renewed modernity in the land.  What hasn't been discussed (until 23:00 on Newsnight, briefly) is the elephant in the room - Anglicanism.  While a Catholic myself, I am a former Anglican, and was deeply impressed by the beauty, seriousness, and moral force of the Christian sacrament of marriage - for most of the key hour of today's wedding took place in a house of God, featured sermons, readings, and hymns, and featured a sacred vow.  This extraordinary showcasing of the English Faith was admirable, impressive, and reassuring…

Just, Married

As everyone in the world knows, today there will be a Royal Wedding, and Kate and William will be the lucky couple.  It would be churlish to not wish them well.  Eyewear is hopelessly romantic about marriage, and believes that it is an institution well worth preserving.  Love, too, needs no encomiums from me - its worth is much appreciated both here in England and abroad.  What then, the problem?  I suppose none, for the time being.  It is better that the couple be married in public, in daylight, rather than elope at midnight.  Their wedding is enchanting, and appealing, and, yes, romantic.  However, the romance which arises naturally from the occasion is an off-shoot of the Fairytale.  All weddings are predicated on magic and ritual - either the magic rituals of the priest who binds them, or the imaginative fancy of the secular participants.  Even if Elvis is the ringmaster and the binder, there is magic.  It is the magic of the Fairytale, and the tale in question ultimately involve…

New Poem by Todd Swift

Destination Spa In Ireland
Slyly misdirected in Monart - lost artifice of sun & glass; white-robed April spa-goers style themselves for July now.
Sun's parish, milk without end. Taking Easter morning they rise make an occasion of tea & toast. No explanation at noon is needed
for lying down among strangers. Worship light blindly as it comes. Stone bridge, pond birds, a cascade – paid for with funds bought for a lie.
Bare-faced white facade turns true when your blue sky breaks through.

April 2011

Guest Review: Ian Brinton on Radical Landscape Poetry

Ian Brinton reviews The Ground Aslant, an anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry edited by Harriet Tarlo
This is an absolutely splendid book! Very attractively produced, beautifully laid out, intelligently edited, it is a book to return to time and again. Harriet Tarlo makes her intentions absolutely clear in the introduction when she writes ‘Language is a form in which landscape can come alive’ and the multiplicity of forms presented to the reader within the one hundred and eighty pages of this book is testimony to that world of changing landscape:
I have focused here on poets whose formal techniques are exploratory and experimental enough to be called radical, poets whose ideological pushing of the boundaries is to be found integrated into the forms their poems inhabit.
The editor also makes the essential point about juxtaposition, ‘often through parataxis’, being a fundamental linguistic principle and suggests that some of the anthologised pieces by Wendy Mulford, Peter Larkin, Elizabeth…

Bernstein's Razor

I think that readers of Attack of the Difficult Poems can safely assume that Charles Bernstein does not think that poems are best served by sincerity, description, or traditional craft - he writes as much: "Not being particularly interested in sincerity, description, or traditional craft ..."; all those readers who wonder why film, radio, and TV drama, along with prose, have long surpassed poetry in the affections of common folk, need look no further.  For here, in a nutshell, is Bernstein's Razor.

Poems improve, and hew to the modernist design, when they shave away sincerity, description, and traditional craft.  Indeed, poems are improved by insincerity (or an awareness of artifice), a lack of empirical observation, and new formal procedures.  Readers and poets puzzled by the great divide between the so-called mainstream and the experimental are able to grasp the struggle for poetry here.  And, as Bernstein argues, the constant definition of poetry is part of the poetic…

Malarkey Pills

Charles Bernstein's new book has arrived from Chicago University Press, at my London address, enveloped in several stiff boxes like some kind of rare document.  This book, Attack of the Difficult Poems, is a must-have, must-read, for every practicing poet in Britain and Ireland.  They should buy their copies online today.  This may involve wasting money.  But it will be worth it.  Bernstein's book is a rehash of a lot of stuff he has written or said previously, and a lot of the articles appear elsewhere.  I'd read more than 50% of it.  But I am glad to have 100% of it under one pair of covers.  Bernstein's book is a bee-in-a-bonnet extravaganza, washed down with whiskey and malarkey pills - a variety act of different essays assaying styles and viewpoints, as if Wilde had been a computer programmer with a Woody Allen sense of humour.

Like most important thinkers, it no longer matters whether he is right or wrong - the ideas are sufficiently embedded in the cultural argu…

Giving Birth

It is now official: 25% of Americans are not just stupid, but plain wrong.  When push came to shove, Mr. Obama, born in Hawaii in 1961 (making him 50ish), today produced his full birth certifcate, immediately rendering the "Birther Movement" null and void; it has long been inane.  Where does this leave a quarter of all Americans?  Those too dumb to face facts?  Well, for a start, they can continue to think that Donald Trump is a model of good citizenship.

New Poem by David Lehman

Eyewear is thrilled to feature a new poem by famed American poet, anthologist, and critic David Lehman this Tuesday.  The photo above, by Star Black, features Lehman with John Ashbery, on February 8th of this year.

Sermon on the Mount
Ye spirits that hover above, bear witness to my quest and I shall prove as tall a teller of tales as ever stopped a wedding guest.
If love sometimes fails, does lust never lie? On manna and honeydew fed, the dreamers moan and sigh. The truth is acted out in bed.
Can you divorce the act of love from the fact of death? No, and neither can I, nor tell in what sense the action may differ from the essence.
Bitter constraint, in darkness bred, carves out of the marble of lust a nymph obedient, with upraised head, kneeling before him in whom she trusts, in the chapel where her hormones led.
new poem by David Lehman

AV Yourself A Great Day, Guv

Vote Yes to AV!  Clegg is redeeming himself by admitting that the Tories are a right-wing clique that need to be thrown out.  This is paradoxical, because Clegg is propping them up.  Anyway, AV is not ideal, but better than first past the post.  It will improve democracy in Britain.  Eyewear supports it.

Child Violence

I read a Lee Child recently - he is the best-selling thriller author from the UK based in the US.  His hero is Jack Reacher, loner, ex-military cop, tough guy.  The plots are intricate and ludicrous, but satisfying in a Charles Bronson meets Tom Clancy sort of way.  When younger I enjoyed Alistair MacLean's novels a great deal, published in Fontana editions.  One point though - Reacher is very very ruthless.  He kills, on average, ten to twelve people in each book, I'd reckon, by strangulation, throat-slitting, and brain smashing (usually using powerful guns).  He is usually "justified" because the killers are ultra-sadistic killers or terrorists threatening the American way of life, and people Reacher loves or cares for.  Of course, he takes the law way into his own hands, and squeezes it there until it looks all broken and funny.  Good clean fun?  No.  Red-blooded pulp for boys?  Maybe.  More Spillane than Chandler, Child is a good terse prose writer, with a touch …

Staying Alive

Happy Easter!  Today at Mass the priest reminded us of the classic song 'Staying Alive' - corny but apt.  Easter, for Christians, is about renewal, and the promise of resurrection.  I am personally assaying renewal, but still struggling with the idea of physical resurrection.  I can better get my head around the spirit of the Easter message, while the fine print makes me unsure.  Life and the world seems the place for love, and kindness, and tolerance, first.  What comes after, if and when it does, seems less groundbreaking (pun alert).  Still, the hope and promise of everlasting life is joyous.  For now, I will take family meals, friendship, some apple juice, and sun, and the turn to May, as my slice of rebirth.

Easter Break

Eyewear and Easter both start with E and end with R.  There are other links.  The blog will be on holiday during the holy week, and wishes all its readers a wonderful time with family and friends.  May your spring break be joyous and sunlit.  See you after Easter Monday, folks!  Or should that be yolks?

Guest Review: The New Foo Fighters

James Christopher Sheppard reviews Wasting Light by Foo Fighters
Teaming up with Nirvana’s Nevermind producer and Garbage founder, Butch Vig, the Foo Fighters return with their seventh studio album, Wasting Light. The reunion between Grohl and Vig comes exactly twenty years after they last worked together on what resulted in being one of the biggest and most influential albums of the 1990s, the aforementioned Nevermind. Last studio album, 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, was a UK #1, which furthered the band’s impressive portfolio of Top Ten long-players that currently stands at eight. Following a wait of almost four years, this release is one of the most eagerly awaited of the bands career.
‘Bridge Burning’ Destined to be a new rock classic, second single from the album, ‘Bridge Burning’ is a fast paced soaring lion’s roar of a single. With some great guitar effects on the intro, it progresses into a well-crafted thrashing melodic rock song, with a healthy balance of growlin…

New Poem by André Naffis-Sahely

Eyewear is pleased to publish a new poem by André Naffis-Sahely, a poet, critic and self-styled fabulist. He lives in London.
The Journalist Speaks of The Dictator
I do not like the taste in my mouth. To remonstrate would be better, to keep my mouth shut would be best. I can count – and know how many lost their nerve at the sight of his smile and how many more died in silence sliding down the slick wall of his teeth.
poem by André Naffis-Sahely

Lund Calling

I have post-The Killing blues, after completing the Box Set marathon.  British viewers will know that, recently, a moody 20-hour Danish TV series from 2007 (now being aired in America as a remake with the same name) caught the imagination of the mystery-mad UK.  Combining aspects of The X-Files (the paranoia, the flashlights/torches, the man-woman detective team, the creepy ambiance and techno theme), The Wire (complex examination of politics, the media, and schools, as well as police procedure), and Prime Suspect (enigmatic determined female DCI up against a thick-skulled patriarchy), The Killing is one of the best TV shows Eyewear has ever seen.  Britain wanted the nerdy wool-knit sweaters Sarah Lund, detective, wore.

This is not the place for a spoiler alert, but the only problem with the brilliantly twisty show (with its superb silent montage sequences at the end of every episode) is that its dramatic structure was so literate (combining Ibsen and Shakespeare) that the arc was vis…

Featured Poet: William Oxley

Eyewear is very glad to welcome English poet William Oxley (pictured) to our pages this overcast day in London.  Oxley was born in Manchester and at present he divides his time between London and South Devon.  His poems have been widely published throughout the world, in The New York TimesThe Scotsman, New Statesman, The London Magazine, Stand, The Independent, The Spectator and The Observer. Among his books of poetry are Collected Longer Poems (Salzburg University Press, 1994), and Reclaiming the Lyre:  New and Selected Poems (Rockingham Press, 2001). A former member of the General Council of the Poetry Society, he is consultant editor of Acumen magazine, and on the committee of the Torbay Poetry Festival. In 1995 he edited the anthology Completing The Picture for Stride.
He has co-edited the anthology Modern Poets of Europe.In 2004, Hearing Eye published Namaste his Nepal poems, and Bluechrome published his London Visions in Spring 2005.A study of his poetry, The Romantic Imagination…

The Amazing Mazer

A new poem from Ben Mazer!


Monsieur Barbary Brecht
Who shall it fall upon to inspect the comings and goings of Anthony Hecht? The Cummings and Boeings, the strummings and knowings, the summings and flowings of Anthony Hecht? Maybe the Master, the shepherd and pastor, the leopard, lean, faster, that peppered forecaster, the Phoenix and Castor, Monsieur Barbary Brecht! Who will exhume the intelligent wanderings, the diplomat, coup de tat, government squanderings, and furious ponderings also that stem thereof, and fonder things, of the late Howard Nemerov? No one more furious, curious, serious, sometimes delerious, always imperious, mighty ambiguous, slightly conspicuous, Jane Geoffrey Simpleton—Monsieur Barbary Brecht! Who will expose as verbose the rich prose, will deface and erase its slick surface with grace, will unweave what he wove, and enclose what there flows, of the flaws of the prose of Ernest Fellose? No one more hounding, more pounding, more counting, more hunting, or cunting, or brushed up with…

Silkworms Ink: Chapbook 50!

Guest Review: Kirk On Learner

Anna Kirk reviews The Agister’s Experiment by Gill Learner
Gill Learner’s head holds a vast imagination, yet her feet are grounded firmly in earth. Her first collection, The Agister’s Experiment, is coloured with myths, legends, Bible stories and the supernatural. However, these poems are rooted in people, in labour and in the land. A number of her poems are prefixed as being ‘for’ particular individuals, people Learner knows. Her poems are about humanity; how we experience nature and the world we now inhabit. The whole collection is dedicated to the memory of her parents, and a sense of looking back and valuing things past is prevalent throughout. As she writes in ‘The descent from Mount Olympus’: “Let’s begin in the time of cherishing”.
Her father was evidently a great influence on her, a man who carried “the Daily Worker tucked inside his coat” (‘My father sees red’) whilst also reverently remembered as a father who “would have honoured / the artists’ genius if not their god” (‘Through…

Guest Review: Dixon On McOrmond

Oliver Dixon reviews The Good News About Armageddon by Steve McOrmond
In a time where a “Biblical”-scale disaster has razed the world’s third richest nation, killing tens of thousands and precipitating a possible further nuclear catastrophe, where civil war and revolution are flaring across North Africa and where here at home we face a pernicious neo-Thatcherite decimation of public services, arts funding and education, Toronto poet Steve McOrmond’s title seems timely.  Is he of the same mind as Michael Stipe of REM when the latter sang “It’s the end of the world as we know it/and I feel fine”, content (like Birkin in Women in Love) to see our botched human world swept away? Or is McOrmond, rather, exploring what’s left to cling to in this “end of history”, scrabbling for shreds of good news among all the apocalyptic headlines?
If so, even as he dissects the culture that surrounds him McOrmond seems intent on satirizing our contemporary scatterbrained “search for meaning”, oscillating bet…

New Poem by Paul Perry

Eyewear is very glad to reprint this recent poem of Paul Perry's here today.


To The Republic
- after Frank Bidart

imagine they picked themselves up
from the ground
from where they had fallen
dipped their hands into their wounds
and pulled out the fire-wear
which had entered them by decree
imagine they un-strapped the other
from the chair he had rested in
righted him and put their shoulders
beneath his arms and carried him
imagine they walked through our city again
what a parade it would be
we might stand about in disbelief
take pictures or lower our eyes in shame –
poets come back to life

give us our daily bread




poem by Paul Perry; reprinted with permission of the author