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Showing posts from September, 2005

Make Poetry History!

You've seen it here first: the new Oxfam National Poetry poster.

I helped commission and create it, working with Oxfam's Business Development Team, as the Oxfam-poet-in-residence.

This is part of the "Make Poverty History" campaign, and starts the next phase of Oxfam-poetry projects we're developing for 06-07.

The poster goes up in the 100 or so used books shops that make Oxfam the biggest such retailer in Europe.

More to the point, it features a donated poem from the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion (a great honour).

It also presents cover images from some of the collections that pass through our doors and into the hands of poetry-lovers everywhere. Careful observation will yield a pleasant surprise in the top left corner.

Make Poetry History!

Kennys Is Going, Now The Waste Land

Kennys Bookstore (to the right) is perhaps the most famous and eccentric independent book shop in Ireland - Brendam Behan read there, along with many other legends (every Irish author worth their salt has read there and some Yanks too) - and now the Galway institution is closing; or what may be worse, going all virtual.

I read at Kennys for the launch of one of my recent collections (the pints after blur the memory) - actually, it was, oddly, the day after my wedding. Flushed and well-dressed, I read for a good crowd.

Mr. Kenny himself sat there puffed up in a three-pice suit at a huge desk in the middle of one of the rooms where books were on sale - slitting open letters with a pen-knife and gruffly answering the old black phone as browsers shifted around him, like some Kubla Kane of Books.

I found a copy of Map-Maker's Colours, the first anthology I co-edited, when I was 19-20, with the Belfast poet Martin Mooney. The reading was fun - read with Kevin Higgins.

My photo was taken for…

Interview With Al Alvarez

I am interviewing Al Alvarez tomorrow (he is pictured here beside me, at the Oxfam poetry event I organized to feature him earlier this year) at his home.

Al Alvarez - poet, anthologist, critic, and great friend to poets - has long been one of my favourite literary figures and an inspiration - so I am quite honoured that one of London's most respected literary magazines, Magma, invited me to conduct the interview for their latest issue, out this December.

In October, Books In Canada will be running my long review of Alvarez's latest book of criticism, The Writer's Voice.

Eratio Now Up

I can now report that my work is included in

eratio postmodern poetry issue six, fall 2005

http://www.eratiopostmodernpoetry.com

reader and writer do look this one up -

it is edited by the fine poet Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino

New American Writing Needs You

NEW AMERICAN WRITING / 369 Molino Avenue / Mill Valley, CA 94941

Dear Friend of New American Writing:

Because we are currently receiving less than $1 per issue of the magazine’s “sell-through” at Barnes & Noble and Borders, which unfortunately dominate the bookstore trade and use a heavy hand with small providers such as literary magazines, it’s urgent that we reduce our reliance on income from those chains and thus also our distributor, Ingram Periodicals. If we are not able to do so, we will be forced financially to cease publication of a magazine that has existed since 1971.

Therefore, we ask you to order the magazine directly from us using the following methods:

(1) Purchasing a three-issue subscription for $27, a savings of $1 per annual issue. To do so, send a check to the address above. If you wish to use a credit card, order through our website:
http://newamericanwriting.com.

(2) Purchasing individual issues as they appear from the same address, by check or by credit card throug…

The Like Of It

Another day - another anthology. So sighs the world-weary professional poetry editor (I am currently trying to meet a deadline for my sixth anthology, due next week at the publishers in Canada).

And yet, they serve a purpose - they serve notice. They demand that certain poets are noticed.

In Britain, where debut collections are cruelly limited, both by perhaps overly conservative standards, and rigorous market concerns (with less arts funding than, say, in Canada), very few good poets get their own books out, and the battle is always on to draw attention to those who should be so published.

So, this anthology, The Like Of It, promises to highlight with a very strong marker some exceptionally gifted younger poets who - in a just, stylish, poetry-smart and less po-faced society - would all already have first or second books. It is thus a needed as well as superb offering. I should add I know most of these poets, having met them over my last few years in London. I am glad to have met them.

H…

Forgetting About Simple Minds

The T.S. Review is likely to exhaust some of its critical goodwill by revealing that one of its absurd guilty pleasures is that it uncritically loves Simple Minds. The aformentioned band had its greatest moment exactly 20 years ago (1985), when its uncharacteristic anthem to teenage love, Don't You (Forget About Me) was America's number one song for what seemed that entire summer. It had been featured in the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club.

There tend to be snickers and ironic winks in the U.K., but it is possible to argue that Simple Minds were, simply, the biggest UK alternative rock band of the 80s in the U.S. (discounting Depeche Mode which is a different and somewhat later story) which is no mean achievement (U2 is excluded for being Irish, of course), especially when one considers how difficult Oasis and Robbie Williams have found the search for a U.S. top ten position, let alone number one with a bullet.

At any rate, the song from the Hughes film has entered the s…

Sustainable Politics and the United Nations

There is a reason the United Nations exists. It was born from the ashes of Nazi Germany, and the war to defeat that power and its allies.

This week, pundits and other media types have been, along with sly politicos, crowing about the failure of the U.N. to reform itself, to get its act together.

The T.S. Review finds the claim that the United Nations is a failure a short-sighted, simplistic and ultimately defeatist position, which is, from a global perspective, also false.

The first consideration must be - who else, and how else - to discuss, negotiate and ultimately achieve truly international consensus on key issues? The only alternative to the U.N. (and one which Mr. Bolton is aware of) is, indeed, an alternate coalition, perhaps, in a post-modern sense constantly shifting, formed and lead by the dominant hyper-power of the day, in this case America. The idea that such random, open-ended alliances are in any true sense an equivalent to a body consisting of approximately 200 member na…

Les Murray, Isobel Dixon, Lachlan Mackinnon reading

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
7-9 pm
Oxfam Books & Music
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4RB
Four Poets for Oxfam:

Isobel Dixon - award-winning South African poet; author of Weather Eye;

Lachlan Mackinnon - author of The Jupiter Collisions (Faber & Faber);

Les Murray - Australia's leading poet; winner of the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry.

and Todd Swift.

Admission free - suggested £8 donation - all proceeds to Oxfam.
To reserve a ticket
call 020 7487 3570
or email oxfammarylebone@hotmail.com

Guest Review by Alexis Lykiard

LOST DAYS by Stephanos Papadopoulos. (76 pp, Leviathan & Rattapallax, 2001). £8.00.
A WORLD PERHAPS: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2001 by John Lucas.
(158 pp, Sow’s Ear Press, 2002). £8.99.
BLUES FOR BIRD by Martin Gray. (286 pp, Santa Monica Press, USA, 2001). $16.95.
TAKE IT EASY by Jim Burns (40 pp, Redbeck Press, 2003). £5.95.

A quartet of unusually enjoyable books from a tyro and three veterans. Lost Days is the attractive first collection from a 27 year old American-Greek, and includes a CD of the author reading most of the poems from his book. The CD, though a nice touch, doesn’t actually add much, for Stephanos Papadopoulos reads in what seems to be the prevailing American style – brusque and rather deadpan, if not altogether passionless. However, hearing poets read their own work is invariably instructive: strengths are underlined, weaknesses exposed, stresses and obscurities clarified.

Papadopoulos has a gift for phrase-making and the vivid detail, but unfortunately tends al…

Publishing vs. Literature from Winston to Zadie

Zadie Smith, pictured here, recently enjoyed two privileges rarely afforded a poet (Margaret Atwood perhaps being the exception): she was nominated for a Booker Prize; and almost simultaneously was misquoted at length across the length and breadth of the British media as saying that, to paraphrase, (living in) London is now crap, and writing isn't a very intellectually demanding craft, unlike, say, philosophy where one has to actually think fully new thoughts.

Poets, of course, have their own prizes, but few arrest the attention like those dedicated to prose; and few poets finds their alleged complaints recorded and broadcast like rolling news from Iraq.

Why is this?

There are complicated, aesthetic answers, some of which can be traced back to Longinus. But a simple point can be made here.

We now live in a world of "publishing" not "literature". By literature, I mean, a literate interest in the written word, and by extension, the best words written down in the best…

Poem by Nathan Hamilton

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Nathan Hamilton (pictured here). He recently studied in the UEA MA Creative Writing program - where I was very glad to have met him.

He is a very fine young poet.

His poem, below, is very welcome here, as well as being a fitting fin-d'ete offering.

South of France, 2005

Attempting distractions at roadsides,
As a journey sidetracks upward
Through mountains, I jot:
Pale pink and yellow houses
Tessellate above rusted earth,
Green vines, spice markets of soil.
Your thin hairline is recalled
In sparse fronds by the next peak.

Fields are more staved
Than those behind me,
Words more fresh – oublier;
The bark of plane trees impressionist;
Cypresses more defiant
Than the boughs of willows
Drooped with the low cello note
That feeds the earth.

Intermittent thumps of wind
In sails almost articulate.
Unpacked and garden wandering,I
'm busy with the blossom
Of white snails, the lumber
Of fat, ink-stain bees,
And note the chitter-chatter
Of cicadas, traded for traffic noise.

A slow hand…

Paranoia Agent

If you have to see one Japanese Anime TV series this year (and you know you do) then let me recommend director / creator Satoshi Kon's curious audiovisual guilty pleasure, the cult Paranoia Agent (Vol. 1) - the rest of the series is out later this month.

"Paranoia" may be a bit of a 90s theory thing for those of us in the West (see Panic, and the X-Files as sub-sets) but it has naturally made a come-back thanks to events like September 11th, whose latest anniversary is fast approaching.

Kon's series, which is expertly animated, escalates, each episode building from the previous one, in terms of levels of violence, sexual perversion, and indeed menace, so that, in fact, the viewer participates in a spiralling level of unease, and paranoia.

It starts innocently enough - a kid's cartoon designer (pictured above) begins to crack under corporate-life pressure before being apparently hit on the head in a random attack by L'IL SLUGGER - a weird boy with golden in-line…

Ways of Looking at Poets

The image above says it all.

Derek Adams, poet and photographer, has put together a striking show of images of poets - and I am honoured to be among them, along with some of the finest practitioners now in the UK. Very much an exhibition worth going to see. Runs until September 30.

Open Air Cymbeline Now and 55 Years Ago

I have just seen the final night of the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park performance of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, which was very good, and made more delightful by the surroundings, complete with summer Christmas lights in the rustling trees. The only distractions were random planes and preposterusly inappropriate fireworks in the third act, but that is half the fun of such stages - they are vunerable to the world.

The play itself, often thought to be complex to the point of (willful?) absurdity, under the nuanced direction of Rachel Kavanaugh, revealed itself to be a profound unveiling of layers of reconciliation - all things pardoned.

The young, good cast yielded several star turns, among them a lithe, swarthy, over-determinedly strutting Malkovichian Iachimo, played by Simon Day, and an exuberant, under-sized and comical Cloten, from James Loye.

The play, seen by some as a footnote, strikes me as one of the greatest from the master - and, as one of his last - a profound redressin…