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Showing posts from June, 2008

Reports of Poetry's Health Are Greatly Exaggerated

Truth lies between.

Between extremes, that is. Poetry is not dead - and when the media says it is, they are turning over sod on an old grave. However, irrational exuberance does no one any good, in the marketplace (even of ideas), either. There's a consensus building among some quarters in British poetry that Poetry Is Truly Popular! The argument then goes something like this: if We Only Knew How To Connect With Poetry's Hungry, Tech-Literate Masses, We Could Sell Oodles Of Poetry Items.

As my grandfather Ian Hume used to say - come off the roof! The truth is, there is a groundswell of optimism, and a sense of new possibilities, as a new generation of younger poets takes hold of the various means of production and distribution that the new media afford them - much as the photocopying and lithograph moment of the 60s and 70s allowed for the British Poetry Revival (duly crushed by the big publishers and mainstream critics, so the story goes). However, this undeniably thrilling ris…

Salt: Into The Hands of the People

An interesting post from Curiosa Hamiltona on Salt's Brave New World pronouncements. A lot of Salt's blog post sounds like the sort of thing I (and many other poetry activists) have been saying (and fighting for) for the last ten or more years (i.e., open up a space for more poets, more readers, and use the net do so). My six-year-old essay for Vallum, above, for instance, suggests the idea of a fragmented, diverse, and lifestyle-based audience for poets.

This poetry activisim, on my part, was never done to make money - maybe even to lose money - (I am not a "salesman"). I have shown conviction, by sticking to a long-time policy of supporting various kinds of poetries and poetics (Fusion Poetry), and encouraging free or easy access to poetry, via new media. However, when I say this, some radical critics call me a capitalist or worse (though I advocate mainly free distribution via the Internet) - but when Salt puts it into practice, they are somehow suddenly above repr…

Guest Review: Oey on The Edge of Love

Jennifer Oey reviews
The Edge of Love

Directed by John Maybury and written by Sharman Macdonald, the film was released in the UK on June 20th following a lengthy mess and confusion of misdirected hype that has led reviewers and the public to expect a biopic of Dylan Thomas replete with a good old lesbian romp. This is a crying shame because it does a disservice to all involved in this bold interpretation of a complex relationship.

The film stars Keira Knightly as Dylan Thomas’s first love, Vera Phillips, and Sienna Miller as his wife, Caitlin Thomas, and focuses closely on the relationship these two women developed initiated by their shared love of the Welsh poet played by Cardiff born Matthew Rhys. The two men central to the story, Dylan and William Killick (Cillian Murphy), take a back seat in this case, as many wives and girlfriends have done over the course of film history.

Unfortunately it didn’t take the media long to invent a host of rumours (read: lies) about Knightly and Miller t…

Turner Prized: Simon Armitage Praises Alex Turner's Lyrics

The Guardian's been running a series, all week, of little pamphlet inserts, titled Great Lyricists (of what isn't made clear, but the mainly contemporary scene, apparently). Of the eight, two are Canadian, and one was born near the Canadian border (Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Dylan). Three more are entirely American (Springsteen, Patti Smith and Chuck D). Two are British (which is very international of The Guardian: the bitter genius Morrissey, and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner). One wonders where John Lennon orIan Dury are - and further back, the two undisputed heavyweights of song lyrics of the 20th century (in English) Cole Porter and Noel Coward.

Turner seems a little out of his league. What comes across - and this isn't the first time I have thought of this issue given I have been interested in spoken word poetry for the last 14 years or so - is how bare the lyrics mainly are. Chuck D's and Dylan's and Cohen's are the best, because they bring the music …

Poem by Jenna Butler

Eyewear is happy to welcome Jenna Butler (pictured) this Canada Day Weekend. Butler was born in Norwich, England in 1980, but has spent most of her life on the prairies of Western Canada. The varied landscapes of the prairies and mountains feature prominently in her poetry and fiction. Her work has been awarded a number of prizes and has appeared in print, onstage, and on the air for several years, both at home and abroad. She lives in Edmonton with her husband, where, among other things, she teaches, is finishing up a PhD, and runs a small poetry press, Rubicon.

I got to know her during the year we both did the MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich - at that point she had come full circle.
Jenna's a poet of great gifts, with a brilliant mind and rare ear for the best, least expected word. I expect to hear much more of her work in future.


Keswick

The light here just off-true;
sight blurred by cloud, by distance.

What opens: flint-riddled hills,
c…

Gordon Brown and Paddington Bear

Paddington, who has turned "50" this week, lived with "The Browns". His childish, sweet, and decent manner fitted in perfectly with this 1950s family (and their awkward bicycle clips). Meanwhile, another Mister Brown, Gordon, turns "1" this year - well, anyway, as Prime Minister.

The jury is still out. Polls are in - he's the least popular of his ilk since John Major, or, some say, ever. Did he get into a spot of bother over some buns and marmalade? More like Northern Rock, a bottled election, and other dithering. The most unlikely supporter, recalling Marilyn Monroe (like Paddington, but less content), has stepped forward, to "sing for" Gordon Brown: none other than significant British poet-critic-publisher, Michael Schmidt.

Eyewear has long felt that Brown has failed to deliver the principled, and left-leaning, direction his originally-exciting ascension promised, last June - however, the Professor of Poetry makes a good case for giving the …

Poetry Focus: Jay Meek

Jay Meek by William Stobb

A great American poet and teacher passed away last fall. After a four-year decline due to Alzheimer's disease, Jay Meek passed away at age 70. From Jay, I learned that men can be calm, speak with reason and proportion, and engage the world with a precise kind of care. And I learned that poetry- this slightest, most fragile form of writing- can fully honor our experience of the world.

Jay published eight collections with Carnegie Mellon University Press. He earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. He read his works by invitation at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Working toward a Master's degree under Jay's instruction, I had one of those rare experiences- a period of time where I knew I was receiving a very special gift, even as it was being given to me. Since then, I have continued to be grateful to Jay's instruction as it comes to me in his poems, and in his remarkable letter…

Review: The New Collection by A.F. Moritz

The Sentinel
by A.F. Moritz

The Sentinel’s title poem emphasises the lonely plight of the one who waits, in the dark, poised between enemy fire ahead and friendly encampment at one’s back. American-born, Canadian-based poet A.F. Moritz, surely mindful of cultural and other borders, implies such a position is even more that of the poet, pressured to “innovate” into the absence ahead, but lapped by the traditional what-has-been always pressing at his ear. Either way, one is somewhat damned – poems thrown too-forward are not deemed reliable reports of future incursions, and if one becomes too comfortable, straining to make out the shadows, the accusation is worse, of sleep or sloth. As such, this collection seems a noble attempt to ride on the sounds of the past (mainly the modern moment of the first half of the 20th century), while gesturing at contemporary diction, and detail, from time to time.

The collection consists of 63 poems, divided into three sections, “Better Days”, “In A Prosper…

Radical Poets

Smokestack Books has organised a British tour of "radical US poets" for the summer.

Rereading Rafferty

This just in - and Eyewear is glad to hear it.

Seán Rafferty: A Revue
Edited by Alistair Noon

Ahead of Seán Rafferty's birth centenary in 2009, this symposium takes a rare and overdue look at a 20th Century British poet whose name and work, despite the efforts of some illustrious supporters and publishers, remains little known.

Beyond early magazine publications in the 1930s, and a small collection in 1973, Rafferty's work didn't resurface till much later, with chapbooks and collections from Poetical Histories, Babel Verlag and Carcanet in the early 90s, shortly before and after his death. The work is currently kept in print by Etruscan Books, with two volumes: Poems and Poems, Revue Sketches and Fragments, corresponding roughly to a Collected and Uncollected.

The contributions this week begin with an appraisal of Rafferty's writing life and impulses, continue with readings of individual poems, and round off with a comparison between Rafferty and a couple of contemporaries.…

Darkness Visible: The Arms Trade

It seems ironic that, on the longest day of the year (with the most light), so much darkness should be made visible. Today, The Guardiancomments on how Britain is currently the world's number one exporter of weapons. Eyewear has long expressed its total opposition to the arms trade. Like the fabled Captain Nemo, it believes that weapons, their manufacture, and sale, are a manmade evil - and one that can be controlled.

Unlike Nemo, Eyewear recommends legal means to restrict this industry. Surely, it is tragic that Britain, which prides itself on being a beacon of "civilisation" and "Western values", allows its economy to be so heavily based on a trade which, bluntly, thrives on death. Since Britain is also (still) associated with the tobacco industry, this is a compounded problem. Whenever one reflects on the financial gloom of the current Western economies, it is wise to also reflect on the sort of unethical products created to oil the wheels of industry. On the…

Poetry Focus: Dylan Thomas

Eyewear is beginning a new occasional guest feature. Its Poetry Focus series of poets will showcase poets writing, in pithy prose on a poet that's meant something to them, and been, in some way, sidelined, undervalued, or even misread. It's an opportunity to correct the way we've been reading, and thinking, about "poet's poets", and other mavericks.

Dylan Thomas by Kate Noakes

In the pouring rain I tramp along the boat house lane, press my face against the window in the garage-turned-writing shed and squeeze in between the tongue and groove to breathe the same air, finger the crumpled paper and look out over Dylan’s heron-priested shore. Call it improbable, madness, love.

Disdained by some for his over-loaded language, Dylan is my first poetic hero. I was brought up on his breathless sentences, imaginative collective nouns, tightly observed stories and revelry with words. Language is what’s important, like these kennings:

‘………I, a spinning man,/glory to this star…

Poem by K. Silem Mohammad

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome K. Silem Mohammad (pictured) this Friday. When I was speaking with Charles Bernstein in London a few weeks back, he recommended his work to me, as being among the most interesting, and funniest, contemporary American poetry being created today. His work, which will strike some British poetry readers as merely rebarbative, is precisely so, aimed at taking poetic language out of the realm of a discourse that validates mere craft or the well-made. Instead, here is language writing in uncomfortable zones, disconcertingly able to inscribe the usually unsaid, unwritten. Plus, it's zany.

K. Silem Mohammad is the author of Breathalyzer (Edge Books, 2008), A Thousand Devils (Combo Books, 2004) and Deer Head Nation (Tougher Disguises, 2003).

His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including New American Writing, Fence, Bay Poetics, and The Best American Poetry 2004. He maintains the poetry and poetics blog Lime Treeand the film blog Los…

Winter Tennis Reviewed In Summer Issue Of Poetry London

The summer 2008 issue of Poetry London is now out, featuring Pauline Stainer on the cover, and with reviews by, among others, Nathan Hamilton, Peter Robinson, Kathryn Maris, and Anne-Marie Fyfe. It also features new poems from Emily Berry, Canadian poet-novelist Steven Heighton, Polly Clark, and Chris Beckett - again, among others.

Readers (especially those not based in the UK) would find a subscription to this lively, increasingly wide-ranging magazine would give them a pretty good idea of mainstream British poetry, which is recovering, thanks in no small part to the influx of younger and emerging poets over the last few years who have begun to get the logjams moving again. That being said, readers of Eyewear know, this wouldn't be Eyewear if I didn't mention a certain UK tendency to want monolinear utterance from the lyric, rather than the polysemous (let alone perverse) multiplicity of voices, and options, available.

Winter Tennis (my collection published in Montreal, Canada,…

Language Acts A Finalist For The Gabrielle Roy Prize

The Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures (ACQL) has recently sent out a press release, dated 6 June 2008, announcing the winner, and congratulating the two finalists, for the 2007 Gabrielle Roy Prize, which each year honours "the best work of literary criticism published in English".

One of these was Language Acts: Anglo-Quebec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century, edited by Todd Swift and Jason Camlot, and published by Vehicule Press, in Montreal. The press release says of the work that it is "a thorough and provocative collection of critical essays on English-language poetry in Quebec, since 1976, when the political and cultural repositioning of the Anglophone community engendered new creative and aesthetic directions in its literature."

The other finalist was Sam McKegney's Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community After Residential Schools (University of Manitoba Press). The winner was the magisterial three volume History of the Book in Ca…

Gay Priests Should Be Allowed To Marry In Church

Eyewear's mostly pro-Anglican leanings buckle, but don't break (O my chevalier), on reading the news a good man's been hounded from the priesthood for a gay marriage that's perfectly right and meet. As has been argued here before at these pages, it's a tragic misreading and misuse of Scripture to argue against full tolerance of love that dares to tie the knot. What's sacred are the vows, not the genders, involved.

I'm Reading In Reading

I'm reading in Reading with the hirsute performance poet A.F. Harrold on the 20th of June, 2008, at the Poets' Cafe; come for 8 pm.

R.F. Langley In His 70th Year

I was in Cambridge on the weekend, browsing for books in Heffers, and came across The Face Of It, the latest (2007) collection of poems from R.F Langley, pictured, now in his 70th year. I'd say Langley was one of contemporary poetry's best kept secrets, though his work is known and loved by many; in some ways, his current reputation is analagous to two other Carcanet poets, C.H. Sisson, and F.T. Prince - both late or neo- modernist in style, poet's poets, and really deserving of a wider readership. I've bought the new Langley, and look forward to reading it this summer. His style is wonderfully cursive, bending around corners, swooping and darting in fresh circumstances.

The Irish For No

The Irish have voted against the Lisbon Treaty for EU enhancement. Pity. They benefited from it for so long, it might have been considerate to continue to support it now.

A Little Too Hollywood?

Eyewear isn't the only Quixote in town. David Davishas been mainly branded a Quixotic loser by the British press, since beginning his one man crusade against 42-day detention. What's curious is to see how such a principled stand is being played out in the UK. British papers often wax lyrical about "American style politics" - but when it emerges in their own backyard, they balk, puzzled, or disconcerted by the "loose canon" in their midst.

British social and political life is still often governed by rigid codes of decorum, and breaking ranks, even to voice something good or necessary, is tantamount to going "mad", or becoming "unreliable". No wonder it is so difficult to voice well-meaning opposition in the UK, without becoming quickly marginalised. One is meant to "work within the system" - even if, as Davis proposes, that system has failed everyone. It's sad to see a brave, decent man so quickly pilloried. The press might h…

Poem by Chris Kinsey

Chris Kinsey (pictured here) is one of the poets Eyewear believes deserves more attention for her unusual and often unexpectedly powerful poems.

She received an Arts Council of Wales writer’s award in 2000. This enabled her to give up her day job and focus on writing and rescuing greyhounds. She derives much inspiration from living a long time in a small town, and from Welsh landscapes.

Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies, such as In the Criminal’s Cabinet & Reactions 3 & 4. Her first collection, Kung Fu Lullabies came out from Ragged Raven Press in 2004.


Sighting

We turn our backs
on window-shopping and sales
walk away from town.

Seven drakes, heads and necks
green from dipping the depths,
scull the slow bend.

A willow leans from pale chippings.
Old saw wounds are a quiver
of amber arrows.

At a gap in the alders
the weir makes water back flip.
We watch stones grow beards.

A whistle shrills us heron-still.
Before we tune to its signal
our eyes see a dart so swift

th…

Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Why is Poetic Artifice So Hard To Find?

No other single poet-critic is arguably as important for post-war British poetry (not even Empson, Alvarez , Hamilton or Heaney) as Veronica Forrest-Thomson, one of the eccentric geniuses that the UK seems to produce every so often. To simplify, she took Wittgenstein's ideas about language and the world, and applied them to the language games within poetic practice. Her influence on the alternative poetic traditions of the British isles is immense - indeed, she also inspired CharlesBernstein and the "Language poets" of America (her Introduction to Poetic Artifice lays the groundwork for his Artifice of Absorption, when she writes, "all norms of other kinds of discourse are changed when absorbed by a poem"). Alison Mark's Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Language Poetry is a good place to start, for those who want to read more.

So, here's the question, how come it is so hard to locate copies of her brilliant, significant masterwork, Poetic Artifice? Does anyo…

The Edge Of The Map Of Love

Posters are all over London, featuring two beautiful young starlets, for the new movie The Edge Of Love, opening in Britain on the 20th of June. Nowhere do the posters suggest that the protagonist, and main theme of the film, is Dylan Thomas. At some point, Eyewear will want to review the film. For now, what's telling is how the people behind the marketing campaign (probably grosser versions of mediocre Lee McQueen) thought it best to hide, rather than share, the poetry at the heart of this romantic biopic.

Ironically, Dylan Thomas may (just barely) be one of the only modern poets the average cinemagoer can still name. And, his life of apparent drink and erotic encounters (or erotic encounters with drink), is hardly of zero interest in the time and place of Amy Winheouse et al. Anyway, this marks another low point in poetry's intersection with mass culture. The fact that a key element of the film, the poet's attempt to get the law to punish a drunken accidental gunman, has …

Mr. Davis Goes To Westminster, Then Home

David Davishas done something new in British politics today. His resignation, on principle, with a plan to refight for his seat as an MP, against the 42-day limit for arrest under new government "anti-Terror" legislation, isn't the usual parliamentary tactic, and seems, further, to have caught even David Cameron off-guard. Davis is in uncharted, and mostly unsupported, waters here. On the one hand, he may be admired for sticking to his guns, or mocked or more for gesture politics. If he wins, he may be better placed to challenge Cameron, at some point, for leadership of his party; a loss could signal oblivion, or some sort of quasi-obscure UKIP identity. What matters, though, is this act is dramatic, and calls attention to the authoritarian heartbeat of Brown's horrific government.

Britain needs a major poetry prize for innovative writing like the Turner Prize

In architecture, and in plastic arts such as painting and design, Britain leads the world, in innovation - and high-profile, and controversial - prizes, often connected to handsome cash payouts. The Turner Prize is a leading example. Critics of these prizes tend to argue the gongs and nods go to the more experimental, cutting-edge, and contemporary practitioners - and not those who support more traditional, even outdated, modes. Not so in the British poetry world, where the key prizes - TS Eliot, Forward, and Costa spring to mind - are almost always given to good, traditional, mainstream poets. In otherwords, and perhaps paradoxically, it is the innovators who tend to be excluded. Now, I am sure these innovative writers likely don't ask their presses (Barque, say, or Reality Street) to submit their work, all the time - and there is a legitimate oppositional tendency among the experimentalists that would, I think, tend to recommend against the giving of such awards - however, as Th…

Dorm-room touches

Dear me. A Montreal writer has got his hands on my latest collection, and found a whiff of the undergraduate about it. I'd suggest any critic who uses phrases like "dorm-room touches" has a bit of spring break fever themselves. Anyway, it's an interesting, violently mixed review. As the reviewer writes: "The voice which might have knit these elements together into a powerful whole seems, as yet, to lack confidence in what it is attempting to say." Well, yes, except what the poems are saying is that the idea of one voice, and one powerful whole, remains elusive, for poems, for texts - especially in bleak midwinter. However, the "excess" of reference to other authors in the collection (and other figures, in general, from Hirohito, to Brando) was intentional, and valedictory. I happen to think allusion and homage are viable poetic tropes - and excess is also, at times, a literary option. Many conservative Montreal critics tend to want poetry to be au…

Review: Coldplay's Fourth Album, Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends

Since I do like some popular culture, and I understand the need for exuberance and light-hearted joy in life, it feels churlish to review a Coldplay album with too much gravity. However, three things have arisen in connection to the new album, that require comment. The first is the use of the Brian Enocard (genius producer reinventing a band's sound); the second is the general response so far from reviewers, which has tended to suggest the album is so-so (a three star state) but no barn-burner; and the third is the idea that bands like Coldplay are, in any meaningful way, able to finetune, or even transform, their "sound" - raising the critical issue, can style be more than fashion, can style be purposeful? I think it can be (Talking Heads had sonic shifts of note; as did The Beatles; as did Scott Walker).

Well, firstly, Eno's mainly a hack by now. His works such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts are masterful, and significant. His work with U2 was formative. By now, i…

Osprey Up

Osprey, a thriving new Scottish online journal, has a new issue out. Bird lovers everywhere, have a look.

Quixotic tilts

A recent anonymous message to Eyewear reads:

"Todd, enough already with the Quixotic tilts and generalisations aimed at the perceived poetry establishment in the UK. How do you know how well known Blaser is or not here? Are we really expected to know all poets from around the world, even those of waist-deep in this business. How up are you on Filipino poetry, or NZ poetry, for example? How many North American poets have heard of Morgan? Had you before you came here?As for 'a measure of the insularity of Britain's main gate-keepers of poetry', that's camp hyperbole - take it out of eye-scratching code and say what you mean. Do you think he should have been invited here to do readings, that he warrants a Faber edition - let us know rather than bark. Who exactly are these 'gate keepers'? Why exactly are they insular?"

Notice the aggrieved tone. I marvel at how selectively people who read blogs read them - never bothering to trace the history of a blog, or …

Poem by Tim Dooley

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Tim Dooley(pictured) this Friday. Dooley has taught in and near London since 1974. He has reviewed poetry for the TLS, and has worked as a creative writing tutor for Arvon, Writers’ Inc and The Poetry School. His first collection The Interrupted Dream was published by Anvil in 1985. This was followed by The Secret Ministry (2001) and Tenderness (2004), both winners in the Poetry Business pamphlet competition. Tenderness was also a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice.

Dooley read for the Oxfam poetry series, and appears on Life Lines 2. As a critic, and reviewer, Dooley has long had an eye and ear open to possibilities in poetry and music from across the pond (writing on Ashbery, for instance, as long ago as 1982, in an issue of Poetry Review, and following Bob Dylan's work closely) but he is also aware of British lyric traditions - and this is how the tenderness enters his work - which is often humane, and subtly attentive to linguistic nuance and i…

Ashbery In Canada

The Canadian Griffin Prize for poetry has recently been awarded to two very deserving poets: Robin Blaser won the Canadian prize, and the international prize (both for best book of the year in their respective categories) went to John Ashbery. Both poets are (wonderfully) octogenarians, inspiration to all poets of all ages. Ashbery noted that he'd listened happily to CBC radio as a boy (as did I) which was a lovely aside. It is a measure of the insularity of Britain's main gate-keepers of poetry that Blaser is little known in the UK, if at all, except by a few, and Ashbery continues to be something of a guilty pleasure. Just last year, for instance, the TS Eliot panel passed up the opportunity to shortlist his latest Carcanet collection (the same panel failed to award genius Edwin Morgan the top prize). Well, Ashbery's one of the two or three finest living poets, whose music is hard to shake once heard. Glad Canada's on the ball.

Action Stations!

The Guardianonline has noticed Eyewear had a literary debate with Sean Bonney, recently, and mentions it within the context of literary feuds. It's a fun article, and good to see.

However, the criticism in the post, that I sometimes write on this blog in a sort of postgraduate-speak misses the point: sometimes I do, sometimes I don't - and the flexibility not to have to speak like a mouthpiece for Comrade Stalin, or Adorno trashing Jazz, is the difference in the world between those who think Goethe was a rebel or a philistine. He, was, of course, both. Hence, complicated, and neither.

Eyewear believes poetry can be, variously, fun, engaged, and postmodern in its reference to pop culture - but it doesn't have to be. Poet-critics like Bonney have a bee in their bonnet about what Poetry Has To Be. Such diktats don't do poets, or poems, any good.

Poetry should be ethically engaged, indeterminate, linguistically innovative, or lyric - as it wants. Style is the key. Better to r…

Brain Cancer

Brain cancer has been in the news a lot lately. My father had the fastest-acting kind, and it killed him within two years of diagnosis, after his initial seizures. He had, as most people do, near-immediate surgery, followed by chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and then more surgery.

This form of cancer is meant to be rare (1 in 300,000 or fewer get it) but it is increasing, due to "environmental factors", that I believe will one day be traced, if not to mobile telephony, then other aspects of our contemporary techno-saturated world. This week, fashion genius Yves Saint Laurent died of brain cancer, and Ted Kennedy went in for surgery to remove his tumour, which is apparently of the more aggressive variety.

Researchers now suggest they have discovered a virus that may cause the disease, and have developed a vaccine that could halt the spread of brain cancer - and already extends life by another year or more. 33% more life, faced with brain cancer, is the sort of near-miracle t…

Guest Review: Noon on Corcoran

Alistair Noonreviews
Backward Turning Sea
by Kelvin Corcoran

The seedlings of Kelvin Corcoran’s latest full-length collection are the poems "Helen" and "Helen Mania" from his New and Selected Poems (Shearsman, 2004), a book praised in the Guardian for the "simple magnificence" of its lines. The two Helen poems have subsequently grown into the extended version of Helen Mania published as a pamphlet in Peter Riley’sPoetical Histories, and made Poetry Book Society Choice in 2005.

The growth of this book seems to have been engineered using a genome mapped out by Basil Bunting, whose stint as a spy in Persia is the subject of one of the poems here. In Bunting’s magnum opus Briggflatts, sonata form is applied to the mid-length poem: themes of home and travel, age and youth are developed and recapitulated, and “something different” – the dream of Alexander the Great – interposed in the middle of five movements.

Corcoran applies a similar kind of structuring not to a …

Sweet, Obama

Eyewear would like to congratulate Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for the 2008 presidential race in America, for finally reaching the "magic number" that will, hopefully, lead him to The White House within half a year or so. He's charismatic, and inspiring, and reminiscent of Kennedy (contra Nixon).

Now, he needs to articulate a foreign policy that is strong enough to offset his Republican rival, but broadminded enough to bury the Bush doctrines of imbecilic go-it-alonism. Role for Clinton? Hard to say - she's both liability and helpmate - much like a ship's anchor (much depends on the weather, for the need). Sail on, ship of state, sail on!

Eyewear Turns 3 Today!