Monday, 30 July 2012

F.T. Prince Centenary Symposium - Not to be missed!

F.T. Prince Centenary Symposium, September 20th 2012
0930 Registration and coffee
0945 Welcome

1000-1100 Remembering Prince
Eleanor Crawforth Prince and Carcanet
Alka Nigam Remembering Prince
Anthony Rudolf F.T. Prince and small presses, especially my own

Tea / Coffee

Style and Metrics
Derek Attridge F.T. Prince and syllabics
Gareth Farmer The Intaglio Element in Prince’s Verse
Todd Swift F.T. Prince’s Foppish Style
Michael Molan F.T. Prince and the Modernist Milton


Bodies at work
David Kennedy ‘The completed story incomplete’: F.T. Prince and the Portrayal of National Bodies
Adam Piette ‘My soldiers’: F.T. Prince and the sweetness of command
Peter Robinson Reading ‘Memoirs of Caravaggio’


1500-1600 Lyric and Legacy
Natalie Pollard Lyric Material: Place, Print and Prince
Mark Ford Prince and the Dramatic Monologue
David Herd ‘The gift being passed on’: Reading F.T. Prince through Ken Bolton’s eyes

1600-1730 Exhibition and wine reception, Hartley Library

1730-1830 Poetry Reading, John Hansard Gallery
Chair: Peter Robinson
Mark Ford, John Hall, Lee Harwood, John Haynes, Anthony Howell, Todd Swift, Tom Raworth, Peter Robinson

Friday, 27 July 2012

Janice Fixter Has Died

Sad news.  The British poet Janice Fixter has died, at too early an age, of Burkitt's Lymphoma, on July 24.  She had a D.Phil. in Creative Writing from Sussex University, and was an early member of my Maida Vale Poetry group.  She was a lovely, intelligent, talented person, who bore her health challenges with good humour.  I liked her very much.
Janice Fixter, British Poet, died, July 24 2012

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Guest Review: Begnal On Behrens

The Beholder

Kate Behrens is a poet active in Reading, England, and was runner-up in a contest run by the journal Mslexia.  A slim volume (41 pages), The Beholder (Two Rivers Press, 2012) is her first collection.  Never having read her work before, some of the blurbs on the back cover set alarm bells off in my head.  There were references to “fleeting moments between people”, “celebration”, “the ways children can heal”, and “nature’s capacity to nourish”.  Please, not another poetry collection about “healing” and “nourishing”!, I thought to myself.  Then I actually began reading Behrens’s poetry and was stunned by it.  Thankfully her work is nothing at all like what this sort of promotional copy suggests.

Instead of dull personal narratives about this or that event in the poet’s “life”, intended as direct transposition, Behrens lets the words on the page shimmer forth with their own power and beauty.  Like a painting by Cézanne or van Gogh, the “subjects” of these works are not really the things themselves, but rather the ways in which they are interpreted, felt, rendered through a medium (paint in the former examples, language for Behrens).  The collection’s title, then, is an apt one.  To be fair to the blurb writers, there is a reference to the poet’s “oblique” methods, and Brian Patten notes that “her language is idiosyncratic” — yes, and happily so.  Without knowing a thing about the poet or her “Italian childhood” (another blurb reference), I found the experience of reading The Beholder to be refreshing and fun.

The collection’s title also implies some degree of imagism or that there is a visual aspect to it.  There is that here, and more.  It is not Pound’s pure imagism, where the image is really meant to stand for nothing but itself, unassailed by figurative twists.  Behrens’s imagism is often both visual and metaphorical, as in the poem “Washing-line in Segovia,” which begins with the lines, “A washing-line of blue notes/ excavated from blue ground/ in blue and steepening dusk. . .”  The image here is “presented” immediately and unadorned, yet it is clear that different levels of blue might stand for different moods or modes on different spatial levels (the footnotes, which confirm this, I felt were wholly unecessary).  It is also noteworthy that the dusk is “steepening” (rather than, say, the more obvious “darkening”).

Often, the mode in this collection is abstract, as in the poem “Somebody’s Lilies” (reproduced here in full):

This could be the layered paper
swaddling wasps
or a wood in Norway
or a house of cards

you pass a plump partridge
on a white plate

somebody’s lilies
are extruding a hormone
under night’s tank

I’m forking the meat through her phantom hair

What is “this”?  We don’t know.  Something made of paper, at least, or something white.  But it doesn’t matter if we know, because the poem operates on a logic of its own, which is just as pleasing if not more so than if we were to know.  Then suddenly the reader (“you”) is impelled into the poem.  I the reader don’t really pass a partridge, but the alliteration of the ‘p’ and ‘pl’ words here is pleasant (as were the many sound devices in the previous stanza).  Then, suddenly, lilies.  How does that make any sense?, the literal-minded reader might ask.  Who cares?  Lilies are usually white, though; I know that much.  And the fact that they “are extruding a hormone” — “under night’s tank”, no less! — is an amazing olfactory image.  And “night’s tank” — what a surprising phrase.  Another surprise all of the sudden: “I” (suddenly there’s a speaker bursting into this too) “’m forking the meat through her phantom hair”.  I don’t know that I can sufficiently explicate this line, but I will say that I think it’s brilliant.  Certainly, “Somebody’s Lilies” verges into the surreal, and I mean this in the poetic tradition of André Breton or René Char or Charles Henri Ford, rather than as a shorthand for random weirdness.  This tradition is apparent in other poems as well, such as “Disguised as the Air” and “The Thrush” (which has the line, “a whale burning the oceans’ tubes”).

I also like Behrens’s use of punctuation and syntax.  In some of her poems there is no punctuation at all, and I think in poetry there often doesn’t need to be (especially not full-stops/periods), though many poets seem to use it unquestioningly.  But poetry is not prose, where such markers are needed in order to signal how a sentence or series of sentences are to be read in narrative sequence.  In this poetry, anyway, narrative is agreeably absent, in favor of brief iterations of vision.  Behrens often lets line breaks do the work of a kind of punctuation, so that her lines act as units of thought or image rather than prose sentences.  Even where she does deploy punctuation, lines are still often enjambed or crushed together, adding a further dimension to the act of reading.

Behrens’s “oblique” and “idiosyncratic” language, coupled with her concern with childbirth (at least that is one of the “subjects” in this collection) also links her, at least to my mind, to the work of Mina Loy.  Perhaps not as polemic or sustained as Loy (none of the pieces in The Beholder exceed a page in length), Behrens nonetheless summons something of the graphic intensity of Loy’s “Parturition” in the collection opener “Mixing Our Metaphors”: “We lay in the sliced shreds/ of my long pink t-shirt/ on the sweat-soaked sheet. . .”  In virtually every poem here, whether or not the event is as intense as this, the art-making itself always is.  “Night Ceiling Gels” (which perhaps vies for best poem title of the collection), despite its ostensibly mundane trigger (I guess it is “about” stains or patterns on a ceiling?), ranges from “long-ago herds” to “unsteady girls disgorged/ into the realms of waiting men” to “the skeleton leaves” to “Ford Cortinas” and beyond.  Be these dreams or paranoias, the astute reader will recognize that a genuinely compelling artist has entered our midst.

Michael S. Begnal’s poetry collections are Ancestor Worship (Salmon Poetry, 2007), Mercury, the Dime (Six Gallery Press, 2005), and The Lakes of Coma (Six Gallery Press, 2003). His new collection, Future Blues, is due from Salmon this year.  His poems, essays and reviews have appeared internationally in numerous journals and anthologies. He was editor of the Galway, Ireland-based literary magazine The Burning Bush as well as the book Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy (Arlen House, 2006).

False Start?

The Olympics has gotten off to a strange start - a few days before the opening ceremony, which actually declares the games open, officially - games have been started - and North Koreans offended with Ali G levels of ignorance.  Inauspicious?  Best to wait for the starter's pistol.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Britain, Bust or Boom?

The Olympics looms - it has always felt central to the Eyewear story, because the blog began just as the Olympics was announced for here, way back in July 2005, 7 years ago (yes, this is our 7th year!).  And there is every chance it will be a great Games, and Team GB will do very well, perhaps coming in fourth in the medal tables.  However, the news today is more grim than that gold lining implies - the UK is in serious recession.  The economy has shrunk 4% in the last few years, and, according to the BBC analysis, this is now the worst financial crisis the UK has faced, outside of the war years, in the last hundred years - that is, worse than the Great Depression, or the 70s.  So, as Eyewear faces forward, it does so chastened, and concerned.  Yes, poetry matters, and yes, it needs to be published.  But the perilous state of the nation is of grave concern also, and overhangs other considerations.  Let us try to enjoy the remarkable hot sun, and move into whatever sunny uplands we can find.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

In Praise of Chubbiness

I have been a member of a gym for about a year now, and see a personal trainer from time to time.  I run, swim, lift weights, and stretch, three to four times a week.  And, due to genes, a love of food, and some medicine I need to take, I am still about ten kilos over the suggested weight for a man my age (46).  Then again, having neither won nor lost Lee Child's lottery of life (I am exactly medium height, at 5-9, neither short nor tall), and being a middle-aged man, most of the excess baggage appears around my midriff.  This has got me so down it was beginning to look up to me, and then the other day - zap! - I had a thought.  Who hates me this way, other than me?  I am loved by wife, and friends.  More vitally, some of the best guys ever, guys I loved, were love-handled or even fat - Orson Welles, Dylan Thomas, and Babe Ruth spring to mind.  Wallace Stevens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Diego Rivera - all had a bad BMI.  If being a chubby hubby was okay for them, why not me?  I feel reborn.  I will still exercise, I will still try to control my poor nutrition, but I will also try to enjoy looking like a southern hick cop chewing a toothpick, hoisting his belt, letting his manly flesh roll over, as it does, as it can and should.

Sally Ride, American Hero

Eyewear loves astronauts, and Sally Ride was one of the greatest - as well as a fine scientist, and, it turns out, gay - though that was private until her obituary.  She will now become an important icon for the LGBT community.  She was an inspiration to us all and a giant leap for women.
Astronaut Ride

Monday, 23 July 2012

Summer Reading

There are dozens of books you no doubt want to read, or should read, from Rexroth's One Hundred Poems From The Japanese to Lee Child's Nothing To Lose.  So be it, that's what summer is for.  Do it your way.  Enjoy the unlimited stretch of the open read.  But if you hanker after something utterly important for an understanding of The British Poetry Revival, as it was called, edited by a brilliant poetry critic, then do get the indispensable Andrew Crozier Reader.  It's something I have been dipping into of late, and will be again. I think it's a book we all need to own and get to know.  Toss into that list of books for the smart beach The Restructure by Chris McCabe, Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets, and Tales of the Buckman Tavern by Ben Mazer, one of the most dizzyingly prolific and flamboyant American stylists of the moment, a dardevil mix of Delmore Schwartz and David Gascoyne.  I have been thoroughly enjoying the new Donald McGrath book, The Port Inventory, one of the finest collections by a Canadian in recent memory, in terms of wit and emotive precision, observed detail and storytelling brio.

A New Poem by Todd Swift for a Hot London

The Language Of The Fan

Twirled one way, or pushed to the lips,
It means am engaged or a flirt.
Frail coloured ribbed expanding toys
Feel good in the hand as they grow
Or close across the face, to cool,
Convey, so one’s status displays
By the fluttered discipline of a wrist;
Otherwise, a dauphin might stoop to kiss
A lady-in-waiting not a baroness;
Mother-of-pearl; tusk; celluloid:
The sticks upon which paper furls
Are precious, even flammable –
The whole fan might go up in one’s face –
How you tap your cheek spreads disgrace.

new poem by Todd Swift July 2012

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Trashed Organs In Newcastle

‘Newcastle’s most entertaining literary night out’, Trashed Organ, returns Thursday 26th July. This edition’s line up includes Sarah Corbett and Helen Mort, reading in support of Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon Press, 2012) plus readings from local poets: Simon Moore, Kris Anderson and David Spittle. Music from Meghann Clancy and Fiona's Jazz Express.

And, of course, one lucky person will be crowned TRASHED LAUREATE winning a bottle of port for a fine line of lyrical bliss!

Sarah Corbett
Grew up in North Wales and lives in Yorkshire. Her collections are The Red Wardrobe, 1998, shortlisted for a Forward First Collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize, The Witch Bag, 2002 and Other Beats, 2008 (all published by Seren).

Helen Mort
Born in Sheffield in 1985. Her collection Division Street is forthcoming from Chatto & Windus. She has published two pamphlets with tall-lighthouse press, 'the shape of every box' and 'a pint for the ghost', a Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring 2010. Five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, she received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she was poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere.

Kris Anderson
Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, but has called the North East of England ‘home’ for the past 5 years. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Newcastle University and working on a collection of poems which explore her physical and spiritual connection to the landscape of the American West. Publications include work in The Ravenglass Poetry Press Anthology Volume 1, The Strand Book of International Poets and Pushing Out the Boat Issue 11.

Simon Moore
Simon Moore writes Sonnet Reviews, the world's leading 14-line rhyming review portal. He also researches Restoration prose and poetry at Newcastle University.

David Spittle
Is currently researching John Ashbery and surrealism for a PhD at Newcastle University. He has always had an interest in writing which found an outlet at Cardiff in the form of the Libretto. Studying for his undergrad at Cardiff University, he met a composer (from the RWCMD) and has since written two operas and worked on a project for the Music Theatre Wales. Although he has hugely enjoyed the challenge of the libretto and the thrill of hearing and watching his words performed, it has always been poetry that has inspired his love of writing. David has recently had one poem published in the December issue of The Delinquent; before that he was aso published online for Haggard and Haloo.

Meghann Clancy
An acoustic singer-songwriter originally from North Yorkshire. Her music combines catchy melodies and a pure, haunting vocal that can touch the soul, with songs drawn from stories of life experiences. While predominantly a solo performer, Meghann has most recently been working with a group of musicians to create her first album, ‘Take Flight’, with plans to release at the end of the summer. To hear more, visit

The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Doors open at 7.30pm. Performance 8pm.

Trashed Organ is a Newcastle based literature, theatre and music company directed by writer John Challis and theatre director Melanie Rashbrooke.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Guest Review: George On The Dark Knight

James A. George eyes movies for Eyewear
Eyewear's Film Critic
James A. George
on The Dark Knight Rises (12A)

Christopher Nolan is a rare gem. The last in his Batman trilogy is similar to his previous hits The Dark Knight and Inception, in that he creates entertaining blockbusters that are both art films in disguise and intelligent. Rather than regurgitate the same old Hollywood tricks, Nolan believes his audience are as smart as him, that appreciate complexity and room to contemplate and reach their own conclusions – and with the financial figures from these movies it seems fair to agree with his enlightened vision for Hollywood.

Collaborating with brother, Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacular work and subsequently one of the most sublime end of trilogy ever filmed. Politics, economics, psychology; it all weaves through the plot effortlessly. The scale has been amped up, it needed to be after Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in the predecessor. Although the presence of the Joker is sorely missed, what is lacking in the new villain Bane is almost made up for with a more calculated and physically terrifying rival. Tom Hardy does not tackle this role but becomes it. With merely his voice and his eyes, due to a H. R. Giger like mask strapped to his face, Tom Hardy portrays Bane with a tightrope balance of beast and genius.

Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne. I say Bruce Wayne rather than alter ego Batman since Bale portrays a truly tragic human hero. After the events of the second film in this Batman series, he has been psychologically and physically beaten down. An example of Nolan’s command over the end cut of this film is evident in the sheer amount of time it takes for Bruce Wayne to regain his strength. A real sense of fear surrounds the hero, and unlike other action films one is really left wondering whether Batman will survive this last outing. Hence we are rooting for Batman and not for the $280 million visual spectacle (rather, that is the icing on the cake).

The powerhouse combination of Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister shine again. Every shot is both beautiful and tells a story, whether it is non-CGI aeroplane stunt sequence or a close-up. There are too many characters to go through in a review and too many new ones for the final part of a trilogy. The story becomes murky at points and a couple scenes rely on coincidence and superbly convincing acting to carry an occasionally clunky script. Cat Woman is the strongest female we’ve seen from Nolan and superbly played by Anne Hathaway who has shaken off her Disney image. On a side note, it is important that we realize how sexy and powerful her character is and yet never objectified like other Hollywood films. Her attitude, intelligence and wit make her sexy and there is not a single mischievous close up of her tight leather clad body.

As far as film roles are concerned, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to have transformed from boyish charmer to a complex man of ideals without anyone in mainstream cinema realising. It has always been there of course, but with this film hopefully everyone will recognise his greatness. Michael Caine has a few standout scenes as Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father and butler Alfred. There is one short shot of him that really blew me away and is perhaps the most spellbinding single shot, and performance within that shot, of the year.

The Dark Knight Rises is a very long movie yet engaging throughout. It falls short of the masterpiece of The Dark Knight, but is equally as unexpected and expertly conceived. It does bring something new to the table however, perhaps even new to Nolan’s entire catalogue, emotion. The final scenes are incredible if a little overly sentimental, but there was a definite sense of catharsis in the eruption of applause and bittersweet smiles amongst the quivering fans as they left the auditorium simultaneously cheering and tearing up. Not many films can evoke such reaction. Despite its flaws, largely which are forgotten by the time the gripping final act takes place, it is a strong contender for film of the year.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Williams Has Hart(ley)

The jazz singer Natalie Williams is the daughter of poet John Hartley Williams. They have performed jazz and poetry events together in the London area and in Berlin. One Sunday a month Natalie holds a monthly rave-up at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, called Soul Family. Otherwise she is often to be heard fronting the brilliant Ronnie Scott house band (extraordinary James Pearson on piano) and the latest news is that they have just put out a CD called Jazz Classics (it’s on the Ronnie Scott label). There is more vigour and kick in these live performances than you’ll hear almost anywhere else these days. Check it out!

James Harvey Memorial Event, Reported by SJ Fowler

On the evening of July 19th 2012, a large group of friends, family and fellow poets met in the Keynes Library, in Birkbeck college, in London's Bloomsbury to celebrate the life and work of the British innovative poet, James Harvey.

James Harvey (1966--2012) studied biology at UCL before becoming a full-time poet in the thriving experimental and innovative poetry community in London. His interest in science, especially biology, extended into his poetry. He was fascinated by the potential of 'science in poetry to dismantle existing structures, and then put them back together again, build them up "mechanically" while at the same time each level of complexity is acted upon equally through "the forces of nature," questioning the integrity of the structure.'

Here are the videos from last night:

Jeff Hilson & Holly Pester
Antony John & David Miller & Juliet Troy & Keith Jebb

Guest Review: Nathan Roberts on Frank Ocean

A Meditation on Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE
by Nathan Roberts

By choosing to open his album with the reassuring sound of an iPhone text alert and the original Playstation startup, Frank Ocean sets us at ease. He could have stormed in, as is wont-to-do amongst the stars of contemporary R&B, with his incredible voice and nuanced sound, but we are effortlessly ushered in before the orchestral grandeur of “Thinkin Bout You” kicks in.

Ocean sometimes wears eyewear
For a song that has been floating around online for the last year or so, “Thinkin Bout You” sums up the timeless nature of this album, it’s a song that feels as powerful on this listen as it did the first and greater still with the slight rework his major label debut has afforded to provide. Yet the music, though glamorous, never seems overstated or crass; it is full of beauty.

Despite the hyperbole that has surrounded his relatively sudden rise to fame, it would be too much to expect the pinnacle of recorded music fromchannel ORANGE, especially being his first album proper. Yet Ocean has genuinely created something exemplary of his time and place. I adore this album and so should you, regardless of its imperfections.

Throughout the album, the strongest lyrical themes deal starkly with his own life and are empathetically passionate; that love and life, strictly an individual's own experience, are so intrinsic, honest and open on this album is incredible; he has fully shared his experience with us.

Though undoubtedly possessing a voice that is unarguably timeless and soulful, hell, people think he is this generation’s Stevie Wonder, I can’t help but feel that he has also consciously grounded his music to the now; or, more probable, as a reflection of this period of his life, this time. It's personal.

And in these times of all-consuming social media, where reality and verisimilitude collide, it seems all the more important that a figurehead who is, or at least appears to be, as genuine as Frank Ocean stands ahead of the pack. He is a vocal presence on tumblr and twitter; for the cyber generation, he is one of us.

channel ORANGE stands as one of the biggest moments for the music industry this year, without shadow of a doubt. How else can it be summed up? Storming to number 2 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, despite only being available via iTunes, is a massive achievement.

I’d still argue that the moment Radio 1 started playing "Pyramids" in its unashamedly, and brilliantly, long nine minute and fifty six second version during daytime radio, due to listener demand, was the first sign of Frank Ocean’s, now bright, shining star. And if that apathetic outlet can bow down to this masterpiece, I don’t use the term lightly, of progressive R&B, why not you?

Nathan Roberts is currently studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Kingston University. He also has a prolific music blog and scouts for Columbia Records. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Some comments on Todd's new book from poets you have heard of

Praise for Todd Swift's When All My Disappointments Came At Once

“Poetry that’s too self-consciously smart may leave one cold. We want
feeling; we want to believe that a poet sees life wholly and loves it
fiercely. We want to know that he or she faces the dilemma of our
existence—a temporary sentience before oblivion (save for, perhaps,
spiritual transcendence that we can only obtain through faith). Todd
Swift is such a poet. His voice is powerfully his own, but poetry lovers
will find the grace notes of plainsong T.S. Eliot, but also the verbal
dexterity of Swift’s fine compatriot, Robert Bringhurst. But what’s
most important is what Swift says to us about living—in words
that are indelible because they are written in the heart’s blood. Swift
is a philosophical poet, a metaphysical poet, but he is also a poet
of truths that he shows us anew. He knows that “Desire ages, ages
hardly at all,” and that it can “break / Open; as spring does; as do
flames.” Desire Swift; you’ll have no disappointment. This collection
is compassion in mind, excellence in art.”
George Elliott Clarke, Laureate, 2001 Governor-General’s
Award for Poetry

“These thoughtful introspects marry the most difficult topics to make
new—love, illness—with a contemporary sensibility. Swift is a
descendent of Auden, and some of his lyric moments are joyously
Audenesque. Often, though, there’s a subtly decadent note: roses and
wounds recur alongside the tender avowals. Importantly, the book’s
frank exploration of mid-life crisis is unusual, highly characteristic—
and brave.”
Fiona Sampson, poet and 2005-2012 editor of
Poetry Review

“This is a timely and important addition to Todd Swift’s increasingly
impressive body of work as a poet. One of contemporary English
language poetry’s great cosmopolitans, Swift takes the whole world for
his subject. His words have a rare, and very particular, musicality.
Almost every poem here has at least one line which I’m jealous I
didn’t write myself.”
Kevin Higgins, Irish poet

“This is a book full of difficult things—difficult knowledge, difficult
experience—and yet its effect is strangely redemptive. I think this
has something to do with a slow-motion exuberance in the writing
itself—the almost Jacobean richness of the diction, the surprising
and graceful turns of the syntax.”
Bill Manhire, winner of the New Zealand Book Award for
poetry, and New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate

“These poems think their way through a difficult passage in the
writer’s life, without self indulgence or self pity. Not afraid to be
literary, they show how conversations with the work of other writers
and the disciplines of form can bring us through to moments of
surprising grace.”
Philip Gross, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize

Madchester Big Money ("New Submitted"?)

The Manchester Poetry Prize 2012
First prize: £10,000
Deadline for entries: 31st August 2012
Judges: Ian Duhig, Francis Leviston, Adam O’Riordan

Under the direction of UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University has launched the third Manchester Poetry Prize – a major literary competition celebrating excellence in creative writing.

The Manchester Poetry Prize is open internationally and will award £10,000 to the writer of the best portfolio of three-to-five poems new submitted. The competition is open to both new and established writers aged 16 or over; there is no upper age limit. Work can be in any style, and on any subject, but must be new writing, not previously published elsewhere.

You can find full terms and conditions of entry on the Competition website, where you can also enter online, or download a printable entry pack for postal submission: If you would like to be send a printed entry pack, please email your full name and address to and we’ll send one out to you.

The prize will be awarded at a gala ceremony held as part of the 2012 Manchester Literature Festival.

Message For Simon

Dear Simon, thank you for years of comments at Eyewear.  Would you like to submit a few poems for a Poetry Focus?

James A. George on The Amazing Spider-Man

Bad day at the office?
The Amazing Spider-Man (12A)

Is there anyone who saw the original Spider-Man film at the cinema ten years ago and is now thinking, time for a reboot? Not to forget the two sequels as well. Whether it is necessary or not, at least this time it is more pensive and generally fun. Peter Parker is a school kid who hasn’t had the most fortunate childhood. Our sympathies go to him in a very genuine way, due in part to the fantastic performance from Andrew Garfield.

The wise-cracking hero goes on a journey of discovery in a lovingly created comic book-like world: from the everyday boy overcoming a bully named ‘Flash’, to swinging across New York. We all know how Peter becomes Spider-Man and it is around this part of the film that interest dips with only love interest Gwen Stacey redeeming the plot. We see a lot of Peter Parker without his mask and the confidence he gains from inventing it. This Spider-Man movie is less about the people and the city around him needing a hero and more about what Spider-Man means to our troubled teenager.

Gwen Stacey is one of Peter’s true friends and on a script basis has not a lot going for her. Luckily she’s given a warmth and surprising amount of depth, particularly towards the end, by the always-brilliant Emma Stone. Sally Field and Martin Sheen portray Peter’s aunt and uncle respectively.  Again, prize performances help what is at points a shambles of a plot, and these multi-layered characters really make this a family drama-action film. Unfortunately the villain of the movie portrayed by Rhys Ifans generates neither sympathy or fear. As Dr. Curt Connors we see not nearly enough of him and nor does he really have much affect on the protagonist. When transformed in to a lizard he lacks any real menace until very late on when an ending is hastily constructed.

With fantastical heroes and villains CGI was always going to be a must; here, Marc Webb’s direction is spot on. Webb knows that the action scenes must be carefully composed and special effects just slow enough so that it can be effortlessly followed. It is also important to remember that Webb is responsible on some level for bringing out the performances and thus deserves credit.

The reboot of the Batman franchise may be a tired comparison, but it is a fair one. With the Dark Knight, the heroes and villains both symbolise states of the human psyche and explore contemporary themes and issues of western society without diluting what is essentially an action thriller. It is this submerged layer beneath a twisting and turning plot that has captivated audiences. Spider-Man however is far less engaging. It may be ambitious, and a trilogy is planned, but painful plot holes and an unclear target audience prevent Spider-Man from achieving greatness. But perhaps some of these issues can be addressed by the desire for spectacle and huge scale that one comes to expect with superhero movies these days, and not the film itself.

It is ultimately flawed and may not stick with you once leaving the cinema but as a series it shows potential. The highlight for me was a scene in which Spider-Man must save a child from a falling car. The scene itself was great, but the few children in the screening erupting in to cheer at Spidey’s success, were priceless, and proved there are some that will love this.

James A. George is a born and raised Londoner. As an aspiring film writer and director, James is studying creative writing with film studies at Kingston University

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Guest Review: Mayhew On Saunders

By Lesley Saunders

Cloud Camera evokes the capturing of the ephemeral, of foxed and silvered edges. This is exactly what Lesley Saunders achieves in her collection. Using the stimuli of scientific advancement, Saunders explores the realms of human curiosity, as well as an almost dreamlike succession of objects given voice. However, at no point are the poems of Cloud Camera detached or clinical. Saunders excels at drawing out the human dimension of her poems. ‘A Person is Not a Landscape’ chronicles the discovery of imprinted human remains at Pompeii. The speaker of the poem notes how: colleagues prefer to turn the other way
towards the endless renewing of sea and sky, the view over the bay.
(‘A Person is Not a Landscape’)

Despite this misdirection, the camera-like gaze of the poem brings the reader back to the physicality of the victims, “the lipped ceramics of their ears.” The visual is a strong influence on Saunders’ poetry; as she notes in ‘A Sheep, a Duck and a Cockerel,’ “Looking is always an act of desire.” This sensual yearning roots her poetry, always bringing the reader from celestial and scientific thought back to the populated “wind-blown planet.../ its gold-rimmed clouds where the tragic weathers reside.”

            The sense of sight is handled delicately within this collection. Scientific curiosity is touchingly melded with human desire in ‘Astronaut’s Wife,’ in which the protagonist longs to:

See with your eyes the fusewire
of Amazons, lights-out of outbacks and pack-ice.
How small and puzzling our earthworks...
(‘Astronaut’s Wife’)

Here, desire chimes through the internal rhyme and half-rhyme, whilst the sibilance of her words draws the reader to the final line, and the reality of the couple’s separation, “Our bed cold as a field.”  

The gaze of Cloud Camera is also reflected in the fleeting moment of discovery. ‘Experiment’ details the effects of static electricity, and as a result, the poem is almost haunted by the boys who took part:

You’d know the moment you met one by the excitable wings of his collar,
by the folded ailerons of the shoulder blades, the way his uncertain hair
had coiled into wires, and the eyes like skies after lightning’

Here, the longer lines create an atmosphere of dreamlike suspense, in which the boys move from the peripheries of language to the centre and are transformed into a “lark-mirror, a dark chandelier.” Transformations are a key theme within the collection, stretching into the nature of language itself. Saunders’ exploration of the invention of the writing that lead to Braille echoes the process of poetry:

Because, as you put out the lamp, you can feel the words blister
and bud, the seeds of a future where even a blind man can read.
(‘The Invention of Night Writing’)

Some of the poems are obscure, but this isn’t necessarily a criticism as they are beguiling enough to work without explanation. References and scientific content of the poems are detailed in the back of the collection for readers wishing to know the specific histories. However, I feel that the collection should be read blind to begin with, allowing the musicality and the distorting focus of the cloud camera to frame each poem. Cloud Camera is not blinkered to emotion through the focus on the scientific, but rather shaped by it. Each poem captures a very human moment.

Jessica Mayhew is currently a student at the University of Northampton, studying English Literature and Creative Writing. She has had poems published in several magazines including The Seventh Quarry. Jessica has a forthcoming poetry pamphlet entitled Someone Else’s Photograph, to be published by Crystal Clear Creators.  


Janet Rogerson
Janet Rogerson has a pamphlet A Bad Influence Girl with The Rialto, which was published in 2012. Her qualifications include an MA in creative writing and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). At the moment she teaches Creative Writing in the community and is also doing a PhD at the University of Manchester.  The poem below is from this highly-recommended collection, which will be reviewed here in September.

The sun is a guillotine

dropping its blade,
an arbitrary executioner.
It makes us followers of ourselves
and has us emerge around corners before us.

One afternoon, walking down
a parched avenue, you slip
into a bar named Hopper’s.
The trees across the way

are fidgeting on the barroom floor.
You sit in a booth, your glass drips
and shimmers like a cave crystal.
You sit in black and white

as the jukebox plays a song
then the shadow of a song.
The trees do this and that
just leaves on the dance floor.

She wants to lie down in your shadow,
she’s so in love with you
that night-time brings an irrational
fear of what shadows can do.

The sun beheaded three men
in the bar that day
and shadows grew
to ridiculous lengths.

poem by Janet Rogerson, online with the author's permission.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Some Canadian Poetry Prizes Announced

Congratulations to the Winners of the Pat Lowther & Gerald Lampert Memorial Awards
The winners of the 2012 Pat Lowther and Gerald Lampert Memorial Awards were announced on Saturday, June 16, at a special event at the LCP Poetry Fest and Conference in Saskatoon, SK. Yi-Mei Tsiang was the winner of the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for her book Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books), and Sue Goyette was the winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for outskirts (Brick Books).

Sweet Devilry by Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan Books)

Judges’ Comments:
This book of fine and graceful poems sweeps the reader toward birth and death with equal grace. “My daughter, on a bed/ of leaves, as if she had fallen/from the sky.” In Visit, she writes of her dead father:

He smelled of apples, an autumn of leaves
for skin. I remember you like this, I said,
a harvest—an orchard of a man.
He opened his shirt, plucked a plum
From his lungs and held it out to me.
Everything, he said, is a way of remembering.

And so Yi-Mei Tsiang helps us remember: her joy, her daughter, her grief, her father.

Bio: Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010) and The Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales (Leaf Press, 2010). She has two forthcoming books for children and her work has been sold and translated internationally. She has published poetry extensively in Canadian journals, and has appeared in several anthologies. She is currently completing UBC’s MFA program, and works as a mentor to aspiring writers through UBC’s Booming Ground and Queen’s University’s Enrichment Studies Department. Yi-Mei lives in Kingston with her husband and young daughter. She drew from her own experiences as a mother in the creation of the poems in Sweet Devilry.

outskirts by Sue Goyette (Brick Books)

Judges Comments:
Sue Goyette’s poems are immediately inviting. She brings to her work a confident voice, fresh conversational language, energetic narrative style and a sure rhythms. Her unflinching attention to both the fraught territory of family life and the wider realm of the natural world garners material rich in tension and vitality. The resulting poems do not harangue, but speak with conviction, intelligence and a compassion so genuine the reader feels awed and implicated. Soaring above the details of description, narrative and imagery, these poems consistently demonstrate the clarity and wisdom of the poet’s vision and her mature craftsmanship.

Bio: Sue Goyette has published two books of poems, The True Names of Birds (Brick Books) and Undone (Brick Books), and has been nominated for the Governor General’s award, the Pat Lowther Award, the Plantos/Acron Award for Poetry and the Dartmouth Book Award. Her novel, Lures (HarperCollins), was short-listed for the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. She teaches creative writing at Dalhousie University. She also participates in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s Mentorship and Writers in Schools programs and has taught at Sage Hill, the Banff Centre Wired Writing Studio and the Blue Heron Workshop.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Lydia On Jessie

Our music critic Lydia Bowden on Jessie Ware

Dubbed the new Katy B, may I introduce to you Jessie Ware - a brand new artist that I think is in a whole league of her own.

It seems Jessie has been floating around for about two years, lending her vocals to other artists like SBTRKT and Jack Peñate; she even released an EP in 2010 that completely flew over my head called Nervous. At that point she was turning heads about 90 degrees, not quite 180 yet, but now our heads have gone full circle.

Jessie has been releasing little tasters for quite a while now, hinting that her first debut album is going to be a work of genius and come at us all with force. Singles ‘Running’ and a personal favourite ‘110%’ are full of soulful and chilled whispers, and it’s clear that from working with DJ Joker, a subtle dub-step beat has slipped its way into her music which gives it a need to be listened to.

She calls Diana Ross and Chaka Khan her inspiration, which explains that 80’s vibe in ‘Running’. Her most recent single ‘Wildest Moments’ really is something special. The song opens with a mixture of ghostly whispers and a tweeting of birds that breaks into a sharp continual beat for the rest of the song. The repetitive line ‘Baby in our wildest moments, we could be the greatest, we could be the greatest’ makes you really think about your own relation to the song, which is something that’s hard to find in most pop music these days.

Her debut album drops on August 20th, so this leaves me no option but to repeat the same three songs over and over again- and I’m fine with that. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Judge Tim Dooley Announces The Winner of The 2012 Melita Hume Poetry Prize for Best Debut Collection

Caleb Klaces

The 2012 International
Melita Hume Poetry Prize
for Best Debut Collection

Judge Tim Dooley’s Comments

Overall, the entire shortlist of twelve was impressive and varied.

Winner - £1,000 and publication by Eyewear 2013.

Bottled Air Caleb Klaces
This is a powerful and original collection, which reveals its riches and depths gradually and rewards repeated reading. Klaces is well-read and does not wear his learning lightly, yet the poetry is not wilfully clever or self-satisfied but fully accessible – its engaging footnotes integrated into the wit and imagination of the whole work.
Bottled Air works as a book not just a collection of poems. It evokes the tragic European past and the global instantaneous present. At its heart is a wounded compassion and an openness to the variousness of experience. What he writes in a poem from the central section (set in a Bulgarian orphanage) is true of much else in the book:
               …this is what being human is really,
            something plain and unbearably alive.

Klaces sets his own agenda as a writer but creates a trust in the reader, which is unusually well rewarded.


Klaces was born in Birmingham, UK, in 1983. He has worked as an environmental sustainability consultant, a freelance writer and editor and a teaching assistant at the University of Texas at Austin. His poetry has  appeared in PoetryGrantaThe Manchester Review, Lung Jazz: Young Poets for Oxfam and Stand magazine.  He is an Eric Gregory winner 2012.

Runner Up - £100.

Frogs and Gods Colette Sensier
Colette Sensier is a genuine and resourceful writer, whose poems display emotional intelligence and imaginative strength. There is breadth in subject matter, control of form and in her best poems a mysterious, almost magical quality.

Highly Commended - £50.

Beds in the East Jason Eng Hun Lee
The first section of this collection is very impressive with precisely observed scenes of life growing up between cultures and a real command of form.

Somniloquy Bethan Tichborne
Bethan Tichbourne is a vivid writer who creates some memorable images and has a highly original approach to language and subject.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Amazing Mazer: New Poem by Ben Mazer

Ben Mazer is an American poet, editor and scholar.  His most recent collection is Tales of the Buckman Tavern (Poetrywala, 2012).

Crisping the Comedian C

And with my sword cane I rapped the dog on its head.
To its master I said:
"The soul's expanding to make room for you
among the piles of rusted bric a brac
that make men grimace, revile themselves in church. . .
I felt the ground beneath begin to lurch,
increased my laughter with its rolling waves
laughter increase. . .
as he lunged forward trying to save himself. . .
I was an honest man. What could I do?
I pushed him forward where the great vacuum grew
and marvelled as he fell. . .
into the silence of the pits of hell.
"That's one less editorial to write,"
I thought, and blinkered to recall the light,
and blinkered to recall the blight. . .
the scourge of man. . .
I like to help them any way I can.
In my emotions not a thought of man. . .
but that his docile sudden-widowed wife
might serve the lord. . .
replace, with some improvements in accord
with justice and increase, a missing life. . .
I dyed my hair.
A most enticing shade of emerald green,
and knowing the precise dimensions of her lair,
(and its location)
I took me there. . .
in search of satisfaction, and a queen.
She was the best damned thing I'd ever seen.
I smiled to mechanize my spotless luck.
As we proceeded. . .
no human call we heeded. . .
I do not think that men will speak to me.
But wider, wider, like a churning sea
of foaming lavender and sapphire green
I met my match. . .
How can the blameless blame me for my snatch?
I laughed to see
that God had spread his vistas out for me,
his servant lord,
no matter how much I murdered or I whored. . .
I was quite sane.
And turned to mark my profile in a pane
of ice that served my child-bride for a heart. . .
She promised a new start. . .
and I was wondrous, seeing how I'd changed;
the souls of men were cobbled there and ranged
across the germ of my experiment. . .
But at the crack of dawn these visions went,
and I was back among the human race;
answering servants in my modern palace. . .
though one thought, ordinary, flamed and flitted
of how my research proofed that I had fitted. . .
and I was not incognizant of place. . .
answering letters in unbridled solace. . .
an evening like a fortnight had them piled
and crumpled on my desk. . .
Although I cannot, I afford a smile. . .
and set out half a mile. . .
My soul was stirred, and hungered to be reviled,
revived and furnished. . .
where the creature's dignity was burnished
on all she touched. . .
I bowed my head. My emerald locks she brushed. . .
grew wiry and strange...
yes, in that glass I recognized a change
of heart. She wept and promised a new start. . .
But how can I begin. . .
A child sees vistas in the hammering rain,
and does not ask if everything's the same. . .
one night I fell. . .
and nothing shall restore me to His Grace.
Yet in its infancy the new-born face
is pocked and filed. . .
and strangely familiar. Something in me smiled.
It's hard to find a perfect spot of shade. . .
Life is the best thing that I ever made. . .

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Poetry Focus On: TAMMY HO LAI-MING

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a Hong Kong-born writer currently based in London. She is a co-founder of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of Victorian Network and the poetry editor of Fleeting Magazine. She edited Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology in 2006 and co-edited Love and Lust in 2008. Her own work has been widely published in print and online and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and the Forward Prize. She is finishing her PhD thesis on Neo-Victorian fiction at King's College London. 

Covert Plagiarisms

When do I know you've made up a pseudo-affair?
Well, when you can't remember accurately
the person's name. Last month it's Christine Owen,
today it's Olivier Chris. Make up your mind already.

I recommend that you write down a believable name
(good news: both Christine Owen and Olivier Chris seem real)
and stick to it. Consistency feeds authenticity.
If you do not have a notebook (actually, I know you don't),
perhaps etch it on your iPhone.

Also, please do not use LOL when talking about her.
You never use that acronym (and I love you for that)
so why would you use it if not to give the false impression
of casualness? Trust me: LOL and you do not match. In fact,
you don't go well with any short forms, except the one
you carry with you always, like a false modesty.

The other day I caught you talking on the phone
with that stupid colleague of yours, who you repeatedly say
is a 'half retard', who cannot tell the difference
between inspired designs and covert plagiarisms.
But when you finished, you told me
'It's that lover, the best kisser.' Give me a break.
If I were zero years old I would believe your lies.
As it happens I am twenty-seven and am very shrewd.

Why is it that you've concocted this non-existent chick?
To make me feel jealous? To counteract my imaginative poetry?
To tell me that you are attractive not just to me but a hoard
of beastly girls looking for temporary romance, hot and salty?
You succeed. Please hold me, now. And give me a kiss.
Errata lists contain further errors and let me correct this.


A WORK IN PROGRESS... I am writing this first part on the eve of New Year's Eve day - and as new remembrances come to me, I may well...