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Miles Goes The Extra Spacey

Last night Eyewear attended the Old Vic's new production (directed by Trevor Nunn) of Richard II, with Kevin Spacey as Richard, and Ben Miles as the usurper. It was extraordinary. The modern-dress setting was perhaps too busy with the usual tropes of cameras and cell phones as imagos of a post-modern world, but the stark crisis between godly tradition and naked power was well presented even in contemporary fashion (the play partly being about fashion of course). Kevin Spacey has never been better, and lent Richard a few extra layers of pathos and eloquence, as well as suavity and cattiness, beyond the usual ones of self-pity and preening vanity stripped bare like a winter tree.

Ben Miles was a revelation - a bold modernizer out to capture his country like some former-day Cameron or Fox (or Blair). The play itself, delivered with such passion and seriousness, is newly-minted as one of Shakespeare's greatest and most profound essays on being and identity itself - the soul being …

Review: Playing The Angel

Depeche Mode have a new album out (meaning they now have a 24-year-old career). Bands once mocked now have a quarter of a century under their belts, and serious discographies and histories worth considering.

The new Depeche Mode album, Playing The Angel, is not as good as Violator or Music for the Masses, which arguably have the key songs, and are in fact from the golden middle period (after the early candy-synth and before the portentous slow decline into irrelevance) - but it is a work that coldly, and strongly, references the whole back catalogue with sinister wit.

Depeche Mode are loved by some, and regarded as faintly silly by most others, and for the same reasons: their merger of S&M, biblical allusion, electronic music and ultra-louche posturing (where all behaviour is deontologically challenged) is a brew not all may consume lightly.

I have always considered them natural heirs to the Byronic tradition: there is nothing Byron (or the idea of Byron) didn't do they have done…

Otherwheres In Islington This Wednesday

Otherwheres - "the new anthology from the University of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA course. It showcases the fresh talent of the Class of 2005 across the genres of prose, scriptwriting, poetry and lifewriting. UEA’s course is famous for selecting and nurturing a wide variety of writers and launching the careers of many well-known names in the world of literature, including Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Toby Litt and Trezza Azzopardi. UEA Creative Writing Anthology 2005: Otherwheres is a fabulous collection that ranges from the military courts of Pakistan to a marshland in France, on to the teeming streets of Osaka via a New Jersey airport, stopping at Tuscany and Siberia on the way and serving up burnt porridge to the Brontë sisters." - as the blurb goes.

What makes it meaningful, to me, despite the to-be-expected-hoo-ha is that my poetry colleagues and fellow classmates on the same year are in it; and we have wonderful, insightful and witty introductions from ou…

BBC Notices Poetry

The T.S. Review is happy to note that the BBC reviewed the recent Citizen 32 reading in Manchester, earlier posted here.

They kindly state:

"2004’s Oxfam Poet in Residence Todd Swift was entertaining as he was controversial".

See the link below.

This photo of me is by the Welsh writer Jo Hughes, and was taken in London in 2003.

One of the poems I read was:

The Shape of Things to Come

Resembles a triumphant trump of doom;
Is like a hollow room; a horn of plenty;
A ballerina’s shoe; a house in Hooville,
Like a devil’s mouse; a bang-
Drum, a pirate drunk on deadman’s

Rum; like a broken broom used to brush
Away the webs from day-dreaming boys
In a math exam; like a rack of lamb;
A donut convention; a depleted pension;
Like the sort of position churchmen don’t

Like to mention; is shaped like a poem,
Mute and dumb; like a big bronze bell
Held by a handlebar-moustachioed strongman
Working for Barnum; like a circus tent;
Like the hole rent in just such an umbrella;

Like a sausage and some French mustard;

Craig As Bond Is An Owen Goal

The badly-cropped image to your right is a picture of the Man Who Should Have Been Bond: Clive Owen.

Instead, the Friday 14 annoucnement, in London (a day after the far merrier Pinter Nobel) is bad news for those who want their Bond dark-haired, and good with a croupier.

Owen, by far the better actor, seemed a shoe-in - after all, he actually looks the part, and has played several Bond-like characters. Perhaps Owen did not want the part, now that he is an Oscar-nominated act-tor.

What we have instead is Dalton Mark Two. Warning bells are already ringing, and the volcano HQ is about to self-destruct, along with the franchise. As soon as I read that Craig wishes to "take the part to darker, more serious places, with more emotion" and that the writer of the screenplay wishes to create a sombre character study without Q or gadgets, I realized that the reality principle was about to burst the greatest fantasy bubble in cinema history. Bond is not Hamlet, nor was meant to be. When…

Harold Pinter Deservedly Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

The T.S. Review is very happy, indeed, to report that Harold Pinter has today been awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize In Literature.

Pinter - like Kafka or Beckett - defines the age he finds himself in, through the anxieties of language, and the unease of its uses, misuses and the emptiness (silence is not sufficient) between what is said and unsaid - the dialectic of human speech, and thus, society. In fact, the politics of how we say things and do things to others, surely the core concern of writing.

As a playwright, screenwriter, and antiwar poet, he has fully earned this honour, which is a refreshing surprise, and a bloody nose to both Blair and Thatcher. Coming on her 80th birthday it is a double irony - and a welcome one, given this is also HP's 75th birthday year. There were complaints in the British media not enough was being done at home to fete the great man - now there will be.

Review: Siberia

Eyewear is of the firm opinion that the new album from Echo and The Bunnymen, Siberia, recently released in the UK, confirms their 25-year-career to have been unexpectedly crowned by this superb collection of heartfelt yet well-made songs.

Rather than being just another 80s New Romantic band, Echo (see left) have now made a crafted, mature album that argues for their lasting cultural importance. Contemporary guitar-led new-alternative bands need to watch their backs - song for song (and there are 11 of them) this is as good as the last outings from U2, The Cure, Franz Ferdinand or Coldplay, and far more elegantly generous: it actually shimmers, soars, saddens and soothes, savvy and cerebral and shamanistic. As usual, words and music both twist with surprise and still deliver the goods.

Fans of their significant mid-80s work (which inspired aspects of cult film Donnie Darko) - as lovely and haunting as anything then produced, with a slight Lizard King touch of rock-soaked poetic grandios…

Letter To The Guardian

The Guardian has today published an edited version of my letter, sent in reply to Catherine Gander's recent column.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,1589090,00.html

Please find the full text below.

***

October 7, 2005

To The Editor of The Guardian,

Catherine Gander's article "We need a poetry idol" of Friday October 7, 2005 was ill-informed, unhelpful, and ultimately silly. The choice of The Guardian to publish it reflects a sad truth: while poetry flourishes, at hundreds of festivals, public readings, and in journals and blogs across Britain and, indeed, the world, the media fails to report this correctly, therefore compounding the myth which Gander perpetuates: that poetry is unpopular, and needs to be saved by some outside hand.

Instead, poetry has never been a more popular, democratic, or accessible art form, and continues to reach more people than ever before. I was at the Cambridge poetry reading which Seamus Heaney recently gave on October 5, the 10th a…

The Black Mountain Review Redux

I am pleased to inform you that five (5) poems of mine have appeared in the recent issue (Issue 11 Spring/Summer 2005) of The Black Mountain Review, guest edited by poet Nigel McLoughlin. The editors can be reached at editors@blackmountainreview.com - and base their journal in the North of Ireland.

For this is not the Black Mountain of Black Mountain College fame (see above) but a new incarnation, based in the North of Ireland, and named, one imagines, after the famous Black Mountain there, with echoes of the earlier Black Mountain review and poetry movement.

It is a good looking journal, and long may it thrive.

Essex Poetry Festival

I am just back from the Essex Poetry Festival.

I have much to relate.

In the meantime, please make do with the info below.


7th and 8th October

at The Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road
Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JG
Box office: 01245 606505

On Saturday we are delighted to have Matthew Sweeney who will be reading alongside Chris Beckett and Meryl Pugh in a showcase set for Poetry London magazine. Seam magazine will be presenting Canadian poet Todd Swift, Stephen Duncan and Kevin Higgins. Essex Poets Estill Pollock from Mersea and Philip Wilson from Colchester wrap up the afternoon session.

The evening session starts at 7.15pm with Roddy Lumsden introducing the winners of the Essex Poetry Festival 2005 Open Poetry Competition, and their prize winning poems. Then our very special guests: Daljit Nagra, Forward Prize winner 2004 for Best Individual Poem, Jackie Wills, one of Mslexias top ten new women poets of the decade, and Don Paterson, winner of both the Whitbread Poetry Award and the TS EliotPrize …

Howl 50 Years Later, Fusion Ten Years On

The following report comes from Heidi Benson, of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Fueled by various stimulants, fellowship and a near-mystical belief that the world must change and poetry was the way to do it, this group coalesced and staged a reading on Oct. 7, 1955 -- at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street -- that has gone down in history as the moment of conception of the Beat movement.

No photographs of the evening have turned up, but by all accounts, when 150 to 200 people showed up at this low-ceilinged former auto-body shop in response to hastily printed postcards, the size of the crowd astonished everybody.

Rexroth served as master of ceremonies that Friday night. Kerouac, who had declined to read, brought jugs of burgundy to share.

First to take the orange-crate podium was San Francisco-born Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, who read poems by John Hoffman, a friend who had just died.

Next up was McClure, reading "Point Lobos: Animism" and "For the Death of 100 Whale…

Legion Wins Forward

David Harsent, pictured here, has just won this year's Forward Prize for best collection of poetry. The T.S. Review heartily congratulates him for his most-deserved win, and all other winners (as well as those on the short-list).

The book is called Legion - a poem from which appeared in 100 Poets Against The War, which David Harsent kindly supported - he has also read for the Oxfam series I organize.

The Forward poetry prizes are "the most vaulable" in the UK and are widely respected among poets.

The prize for best poem of the year (published in a UK journal) goes to Paul Farley (who recently read for Oxfam as well in a brilliant show of mind over wine and codeine).

Please see the poem below.

Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second

Shorter than the blink inside a blink
the National Grid will sometimes make, when you'll
turn to a room and say: Was that just me?

People sitting down for dinner don't feel
their chairs taken away/put back again
much faster than that tr…

Magdalene

I had the most extraordinary evening last night.

My friend, the distinguished poet and writer, Tamar Yoseloff, is currently writer-in-residence at Magdalene college, Cambridge. She kindly invited me to Seamus Heaney's reading, which coincided with the tenth anniversary of his Nobel prize being announced, and began the year-long Literary Festival.

We sat at Head Table near the Master, and dined with the Fellows of the college, and then enjoyed candle-lit conversation over claret, regarding theology, the history of Christianity, and poetry, including Eamon Duffy, John Mole, Jane Hughes, Goethe's biographer Nicholas Boyle, and the former Bishop of Coventry, Simon Barrington-Ward, whose book on The Jesus Prayer I look forward ro reading shortly. It was especially moving to meet someone so interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's work.

It was a superb evening, and I am very grateful to those who welcomed me with such grace and warmth.

I Read in Manchester Last Night

I read with Aoife Mannix, Chloe Poems and Helen Clare last night at the Manchester Poetry Festival, for the Citizen 32 magazine launch at Matt & Phreds Jazz Club - a trendy place with friendly staff and very good pizzas.

The magazine, edited by Dave Toomer and John Hall, is a crucial vehicle for bringing poems concerned with politics, social justice and progressive ideas, to readers, locally and globally.

It was a great event - filled with perhaps 150-200 people, seated at round tables - and the stage and sound was good. Aoife was particularly impressive. My own 25-minute set was very well received, and one of my most openly political and performance-oriented in some time, which brought back memories of my work in cabaret poetry in the summer of 1995, ten years ago.

Portrait of the Artist in Budapest

The artist (writer and photographer) Tony Kostadinov (as he was known to me then) took this photo of me presumably praying in Budapest sometime around the summer of 1999.

One of his portraits (in a similar vein) of me was used in my first collection, Budavox: poems 1990-1999, and his cover image graced the, well, cover. Fans of the Budavox sign will be glad it was captured for such a publication.

Below, find a poem from that rather gloomy and lascivious book (and both things are possible at once, especially in Bp.).

My math is poor, but I suspect I was about 34 then, I should add. I am now still in my 30s, but you know how time is about such things.

You may wish to check out the artist's website at www.antonius.atw.hu and read his thoughts on the artist and creative health, as well as take a peek at his other portraits, some of very fascinating and beautiful people.


Endangered Species

Under inspection by a group
of anti-ghosts, they stopped me half-through
the fade routine, at infrared…

Interview With The Poet

The American poet Adam Fieled has interviewed me and the text can be found by going to www.artrecess.blogspot.com for the Philly Free School- then clicking on his name.

The man to the left (if you will) is Ezra Pound, who is mentioned in the interview.

I am neither Adam nor Ezra. I think biblical names for poets rather a good idea, don't you?

Get Sad

If 60s and early 70s TV was a formative part of my childhood - and it was - and if this has somehow affected my poetry - and it has - then no single show was a greater influence than Get Smart.

I loved Max(well) Smart, and his eventual wife, 99 in the way one does when one yearns to become the object of desire. Beyond the comedy of their relationship, I saw the erotic humours that made it work - he bumbling, but good, she sexy but competent - and I think this has shaped my onw private life to this day.

It is therefore with much sadness that I learn of the recent death of Don Adams, who portrayed Max.

Adams himself never amounted to much after this one great role, somehow unable to escape the watertight chamber of his own curious blend of daily suavity and screwball voice - as if KAOS itself had designed some far-fetched trap his life and career could never extricate themselves from - a giant magnet holding him back.

Those who collect my early chapbooks will know that my second pamphlet,