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Showing posts from September, 2007

Lois Maxwell Is Dead

The great Canadian character actor Lois Maxwellhas died, 80, in Australia.

She made an indelible impression on fourteen Bond films, initiating the series in 1962, as efficent, yearning, slightly-plain Miss Moneypenny (see above), with whom James Bond would harmlessly (?) flirt, from Dr No to 1985's A View To A Kill. Born in Ontario, she won a Golden Globe, and made many film and TV appearances - but she won us over in M's office.

In a Ditch,

Ditch, is a good place to read about poets who might be said to have wandered off the beaten path a little, or who are simply worth reading about. Okay, I am their featured poet at the moment, I admit it.

Poem by Andrew Bailey

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Andrew Bailey this Friday. Bailey (pictured) lives in Chichester and works for the Poetry Archive, among other things.

He has also worked for various literature organisations, including the Poetry Society and Poetry International Web, and a number of theatre companies.

His poetry has appeared in various magazines including Poetry Review, Stand, Stride, Brittle Star and Vallum. A play (co-written) appeared in the Assembly Rooms in the Edinburgh Fringe 2002.

Bailey studied at the universities of Nottingham, where he won the Kirke White Prize for Poetry, and Sheffield, for an MA in Contemporary Poetry. He is the winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize 2005. I've enjoyed publishing his work at Nthposition, and think he's a British poet well worth keeping an eye on.

consume

pinch the petals
from the blossom
wait

and lick the plasma
nectar
seeping sweet;

lift the mushroom
on knife and thumb
clean
from its tilth

subject to steam
eat whole
quick

this your world
your new eyes


Guest Review: Rush on Merton

Philip Rush reviews
Beat Realityby Les Merton and The Moontones

Les Merton, with a Cornish accent smelling of tin and chapel choirs, recites his poems over a laid-back almost ambient backing provided by The Moontones.

I have a soft spot for poems read against music. The largely moribund poetry publishing system in England could be pepped up I think with a little more attention to sound. For years now, many books of new poetry in Spain, for example, have come with accompanying CDs of the poet reading his or her own work. Multimedia in the poetry library? What monster has been let loose?

I love The Blue Aeroplanes. Their guitar-playing is out of sight, for a start, but Gerard Langley’s own poems and his recitals of other people’s - MacNeice’s, notably, and Kenneth Patchen’s - are beautifully voiced and strangely re-invented. And I love the way the guy in Piano Magic - Glen Johnson he’s called I think - recites his understated pieces over avant-garde loops and squeaks. And Adrian Belew’s del…

United We Fall

The recent decision by the Anglican church in America to abide by the terms laid out by Rowan Williams, and desist from blessing the union of same sex couples, and also halt the ordination of gay clergy, is shameful. As Eyewear has argued before, there is no point in sustaining a union that continues to compel open-minded Christians to accept fundamentalist, intolerant doctrines - simply for the sake of a "broad church". At some point, fractures in the structure must force a moral break.

Poets For Oxfam Autumn Reading Last Night

The Autumn Poetry Reading for the Oxfam Poetry series went well last night - about 75 in the audience, we raised over £550. Seven poets read, their bios are below. There's one last reading in the series, on december 6. ---
Chris Beckett grew up in Ethiopia in the days of Haile Selassie. He studied languages at Oxford, then worked in Australia and Japan at various jobs ranging from shipping clerk to prawn-warehouse manager and beef importer. For the last 15 years, he has been living in London and trading sugar on the international market. Chris won first prize in the Poetry London competition in 2001 and his first collection, The Dog Who Thinks He's a Fish was published by Smith Doorstop in 2004.

Mario Petrucci has degrees in optoelectronics and ecology. Now a poet, broadcaster, educator and RLF Fellow, he has created ground-breaking residencies at the Imperial War Museum, BBC Radio 3 and Southwell Workhouse. Heavy Water (2004) won the Arvon Prize and was the basis of an award-wi…

Das Leben der Anderen

The Lives of Others(Das Leben der Anderen, 2006) is recently out, in the UK, on DVD. The film is extraordinary, in any number of ways. Its central heroic figure was the actor himself, one Ulrich Mühe, whose gaunt, sad-beautiful face (as above) captured so many Academy voters' hearts and minds earlier this year, when the film won the best Foreign Language Picture Oscar - not least because the man later died from cancer after flying to Hollywood to be present at the film's success. It emerged that he had known he was dying as he made the film, imbuing his already-haunted performance with an other layer of stoic, even profound, grandeur. And it is a great performance.

News that Hollywood wants to do an English version remake seems rather gross, in the circumstances, laying a new actor over this beautiful, unique performance, but, worse, redundant. The Lives of Others is a curiously American film - complete with romantic score replete with soaring strings, three-act structure, and …

Bill Griffiths Is Dead

The British poet Bill Griffiths, some of whose work was published by Coach House in Canada, has died. He did a number of things remarkably well, it seems. Griffiths was a member of the British Poetry Revival, which briefly took over the Poetry Society, and the editing of the Poetry Review, before being basically ejected by a more mainstream consensus. This event has become the central mythic moment - the expulsion from Eden, say - in one version of the story of the battle between the Poetry Establishment and the free radicals, as it were ("The Conductors of Chaos") of British poetry. Unfortunately, this Manichean duality masks deeper, more complex, and sometimes even more fruitful differences, and similarities, between various poetic positions available to poets writing in the post-1945 world. It does seem the case, though, that after Griffiths and his cohorts were removed from their astonishing ascendancy in central London - an interregnum period if ever there was one - n…

Poem by Richard Harrison

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Richard Harrison (pictured) to this week's feature. I have known him - and his work - for, I think, twenty years (meeting him first at Concordia's Norris building in 1987), though we long ago moved to different parts of the world, and haven't seen each other, in person, since the early 90s, I'd say.

In '87, Harrison was a passionate, engaged thirty-year-old (he turned a valiant 50 this year) from the ROC (rest of Canada) who had come to Montreal, and surprisingly become the Quebec representative for The League of Canadian Poets.

I was immediately struck by his handsome, tall presence, his mellifluous voice, his energy, and his rigorous approach to poetry. Harrison is one of the significant male poets of Canada, because of the scrupulous way he has researched - no other word will quite do - the ethics of language in relation to sexuality, to gender, to desire, to stereotypes, to roles - in the process, creating poems of alarming tend…

Hill Top

Eyewear believes that the English poet Geoffrey Hill (pictured) is the greatest living poet currently working in the language of Milton, and will rank with Pound and Eliot as one of the major poets writing since 1914 (that is, the last 100 years or so). I have loved his passionate, intelligent, religious poems since I came across "Genesis" by him when I was thirteen or so (he signed last evening my childhood, treasured copy of the Longman's Poetry 1900 to 1975, where I first read his work and swooned). That poem, which he wrote at the age of 20, and is the first (suitably) in his Penguin Selected, is the one that, more than any other, made me want to write poems of my own.

So, it was a treat to see him read, and talk, last night at the London Review of Books bookshop in Bloomsbury. Hill, who claimed to have taken four tranquilizer pills of some kind, was on grand (grand, not good) form. He seemed furious with the shop for having "curtailed" his reading time to 3…

Why Brownlee Stayed

Good news. The New Yorker is going to get a truly world-class poet to be its poetry editor. Paul Muldoon will take over the famous magazine in the world's greatest city, confirming his decision to move there as the right one. Muldoon did a good job editing the Best American Poetry anthology a few years ago, has won a Pulitzer, and his last book, Horse Latitudes, was brilliant. He's the Auden of his generation (with perhaps some different habits) in terms of precocious ability, verbal style, intellectual vigour, and expatriated address. Hopefully he will get the magazine to publish more poems and more poetry reviews. Meanwhile, London, apparently laying claim to New York's fabled status as greatest city, cannot point to one major mainstream general interest magazine of international standing that publishes major poetry, other than the TLS (which is not quite the same thing) - and, while New York poetics, poets and poetry continues to be vibrant, celebrating a variety of sty…

Reviewery

I've been reviewing for Books in Canada over the past three or four years. Now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, those persons not based in Canada, or able to secure a subscription, can access many of the reviews online (by others, as well). The typography is a little off - dashes appear as gobbledygook - but otherwise, it is all coherent. For instance, my review of the controversial Paterson and Simicanthology of British poetry that was published a few years back, or that anthology of Irish poetry, Breaking The Skin. There's also something on a recent collection of essays by Al Alvarez. I am most proud of my review of the Welles book by Simon Callow.

A Bridge Too Far

The body of the church - and the body of Christ - were both (symbolically, at least) - broken on the cross. Both survived, and that is the good news. The bad news is that, to preserve a union of 77 million in the Anglican communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury (a poet as well as a prelate) is determined to compromise with hardliners, who wish to demonise gay members of the clergy. What is the point of that? Either the church believes in something, or it doesn't, and, to my mind, the sticking point - that many fundamentalists consider homosexuality a sin according to The Bible - is simply unacceptable. Firstly, there is no coherent argument against homosexuality in the canonical record, and, secondly, and more significantly, the actual example of Christ - to be open to all, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high - would seem to set a standard of tolerance, indeed, forgiveness, that no compassionate Christian would be wise to abandon. Eyewear hopes that either the Ep…

Borderline offensive

Canada's great Seaway
The Economist dated September 15th 2007 is offensive to the democratic principles that Canadians hold dear, and is borderline racist, as well as far to the right of most readers of their own magazine.

The unsigned article, on page 68 of The Americas section, is headlined "A haven for villains" and beneath that, "The political reasons behind Canada's controversial asylum policy."

Controversial to who(m), exactly?, as a linguistic analyst might ask of the above phrase. The CIA? For immediately, we are told that "America has been criticising Canada for lax border controls" - but not America, surely, but, really, the Bush government.

The main concern is that the Canadian border is "porous" and lets criminals and madmen drift across into America, to try and blow it up. However, this alarmist critique masks discomfort with Canada's tolerant, generous, and, indeed, open-minded, immigration policy. As The Economist states, …

Horizontal Position In An Age of Anxiety

Eyewear was flipping through an issue of Horizon the other day - Vol. XIX from May 1949 - and came across a review by one Mr. Patrick Dickinson. The shameful notice by Dickinson of Auden's The Age of Anxiety was not seemingly sympathetic to his kind of writing.

He writes that "a general kind of obscurity suits best the superficially oracular as it also suits best any literary period dominated by homosexual taste which causes the expression of the emotions to be obscure, or symbolic, or dishonest, Such taste prefers a precocious adolescent kind of literature and criticism - it is a taste which has perforce certain gaps in experience, violent prejudices, and whose critical judgements are formed for other than literary reasons."
This example of its own kind of violent prejudice would be startling, if not sadly quite a common position, then (and now) with regards to certain tendencies in Modern British (and American) poetry of the 1940s (and beyond). It's curious that the …

Kane enabled

There's a new blog, A Year In The Dark, all about film from 1941. As Eyewear knows, and you do too, that's one of the very best years for cinema, ever. Worth a look. Not only was Citizen Kane released then, but other major classics, such as Dumbo, Meet John Doe, The Wolf Man and Suspicion.

Poem by Angela Hibbs

Eyewear is delighted to welcome Angela Hibbs this Friday, and not just because, as you can see, she is wearing glasses. Her first collection of poetry, Passport, came out in 2006, from Montreal's DC Books New Writers Series. It's an impressive debut. As major Canadian poet David McGimpsey said, she writes "with tender insight and passionate care."

Hibbs has been published in good magazines: Exile, Matrix, Fireweed, and Antigonish Review. She is a graduate of Concordia University's Creative Writing Master of Arts Degree. Born in Newfoundland, she has lived in most Canadian provinces and now in Quebec. Aware both of Sexton's wry confessional urgency, and De Lillo's ordered, pop-savvy postmodernity, she is one of the best emerging Canadian poets, tossing the salad of the style of what's said. Look out for her next collection.

Steve's Monologue

slip and snivel
spine & knees; scabs
abound like knots
in wood. Sydney nibbled
her scabs. Smooth,
even on feet &…

American Poets In The 21st Century: The New Poetics

According to the editors of this new book (Wesleyan, 2007), Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell, there are new poetries emerging from the "turf wars" between mainstream and avant-garde, of the 90s - between, say, the new formalism and the Language positions. I hope so.

This book just arrived on my doorstep the other day, and I look forward to seeing how its thirteen poets look at poetry and poetics. Now, I'm a well-read kinda guy, and what took me aback, pleasantly, was how few of these names were known to me - yet they are representative American figures, which began to get me worried. Not about them, about me. I must be slipping. A few names I knew - Karen Volkman, D.A. Powell, Kevin Young and Tracie Morris, especially. It looks very promising, indeed. I'd welcome such a British or Canadian book of post-division-era poets.
I'm working on a PhD that looks at the way second-generation modernism may be the way forward. More about all of this, hopefully, much later.

The Separate Ways

In an exchange of comments yesterday, at Eyewear, David Wheatley and I discussed the nature of poetry and reviewing. It wasn't a comprehensive discussion, of course, but it did yield a very significant statement from Wheatley, who is, after all, one of the best of this generation of Irish poets. He wrote: " [....] I don’t see poetry as a community of ‘shared goals’, because I don’t have your goals or anyone else’s, I only have my own. The only ways in poetry are separate ways."

I think this is, and fair play to him, one of the most lucid expressions yet, of this kind of perspective, or opinion, about the nature of poetry. It's revealing, and also useful.
And I don't think he's entirely wrong, either. But, there's a confusion of terms here, which I'd like to help clear up.
"The only ways in poetry are separate ways" may be a credo, or ars poetica, or some kind of lone-wolf private self-description, and is, for many poets - simply because poetry …

War, poetry

While doing research yesterday, I came across the recently-published The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry(Oxford, 2007), edited by scholar-poet Tim Kendall. It is a hefty tome - likely to stop a bullet on the front if held close to the heart - and one that presents itself like an academic survey of the field.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when I came across the essay by David Wheatley(UK-based younger Irish poet-critic), which basically takes a sten gun to an anthology I edited in 2003, and mows it down with the frenzied precision of Violette Szabo. But Wheatley does not merit a medal, nor does this particular critical effort on his part mean his name will be carved with pride.

Mr. Wheatley says this about 100 Poets Against The War(Salt, 2003) - perhaps the most infamous UK poetry book to come out of the post-9/11 landscape (to be current), one of the most widely discussed and read, and surely the most derided - and he says it with the same definitive, indeed, authoria…

Seam No Evil, Tonight!

Seam 27
will be launched tonight at 6.30 pm
at Foyles 113-119 Charing Cross Road
London

Their special guest reader is Sheenagh Pugh
and there will be short readings from other contributors, including moi.

So far confirmed: Gill Andrews, Mike Barlow, Pat Borthwick, Ken Champion, John Clegg, Chrissie Gittins, Allison McVety, Caroline Natzler, Sue Rose, Julian Stannard, Todd Swift and Kearan Williams


Entry is free.

Ideas In Poetry?

Much has been made, in the 21st century, in Britain, of the intersection of
"Science" and "Poetry".Any number of known mainstream British poets are interested in science, the environment, and rational thought. Images and ideas gleaned from physics, math, and genetic science are interwoven into the writing of some of the best poems of respected, serious poets. Poets are expressively engaged with the dialogue between the varied fields of art, and science. Anthologies, books and collections of essays have begun to be published, studying, or at least discussing, how it may be that poetry can fruitfully interlink with the rational, intelligent progress of human "civilisation".

What, then, is the link, if any, between an idea, and a poem? In economic terms, what is the value added, by an idea, to a poem?

There is a rude fascinating paradox at the heart of these genuine questions - on the one hand, without a governing idea, or set of ideas, a poem (or text for some…

September 9

My father, who is seen seated here in the corner of my family home where the poetry books are kept, with a young friend of our family, died a year ago today.

I pause to think of him today, in all his anguished complexity - a shy, sensitive and clever young man born into a working-class Irish-Canadian family with no history of education, who went on to be the Director of Admissions of two (ultimately merged) universities, for more than thirty years. During his time at Concordia, he was widely known, and loved, for his compassionate interest in students and their concerns. My father, who remains the standard by which I compare kindness and generosity, would literally do anything for someone, if he thought they needed assistance. The world as it is, with its indifference, and cruelty, pained him much. It is one of life's near-inevitably cruel ironies, then, that his death was a slow one, and dehumanising, in that he died in hospital, being poorly-cared for, of a very terrible form of…

An Incomplete Concordance

Amazon.com are becoming interesting, for writers, in a new way.

They provide concordances on some of the books they sell. For example, my first collection of poems, Budavox: poems 1990-1999 (DC Books, 1999), yields the following results - the hundred most frequently used words in the collection being:

acrossagainairalwaysanotherawaybedblackbloodbluebodyboyclosecoldcolourcomedarkdaydeaddeathdoesdonedoordownenougheverythingeyesfacefeelfingersfloorfourgetgirlglassgogonegoodgreengroundhairhandsheadhourshousekeepknowleftletlifelightlonglooklovemanmaymen