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Showing posts from August, 2008

Seaway: New and Selected Poems

I am exhiliratingly pleased and proud to announce that, after living in Europe for more than a decade, I finally have a poetry collection out with a European publisher. It's Seaway: New and Selected Poems, from dynamic, well-respected, Salmon Publishing, Ireland. It's to be launched November, 2008 (more about that in the goodness of time).
Those who have followed the development of my work since the 1990s will know that my poems had previously appeared in four collections from punchy small Montreal press, DC Books, from 1999-2007. The books sold well in North America, and got some good reviews, but were not widely available in the UK or Ireland, where I most often work, live, and read. So, it was time for a selection that yoked together, from my approximately 200 poems that been published previously (in pamphlet or full collection), a representative clutch - along with several newer poems. As such, the 120 pages or so of poetry includes 80 poems.

Palin Isn't Funny

Michael Palinis funny. Sarah Palinisn't. Yes, she puts another crack in the glass ceiling - but also would set back the cause of reform in America by decades (to paraphrase Kane) if elected Veep (and potentially President - McCain is not a healthy man). Eyewear had predicted, last week, that McCain might select her (or another female running mate). Now that it has happened, it is worse than I thought. Palin is pro-gun, anti-gay, anti-abortion, and pro-drilling in the untouched Alaskan wilderness. She's a Thatcheresque-Lite figure, a villain in drag. To compare her nomination to the profound history that Obama is making is to travesty the Civil Rights Movement, and his subtle, strong eloquence and integrity.

Poem by Pamela Uschuk

Eyewear is very glad to feature the American poet Pamela Uschuk (pictured) this Friday. Uschuk is the author of four books of poems, the award-winning Finding Peaches in the Desert, One Legged Dancer, Scattered Risks(nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) published by Wings Press and Without the Comfort of Stars: New and Selected Poems (2007, Sampark Press). Future publications include Crazy Love, a collection of poems from Wings Press.

Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies worldwide, including Future Cycle, Poetry, Parnassus Review, Agni Review, Calyx, Ploughshares, Pequod and O Taste and See. Uschuk’s literary prizes include the the Struga International Poetry Prize, and the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women.

She has spent many years traveling to teach creative writing to Native American students on the Salish, Sioux, Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui reservations in Montana and Arizona.

Uschuk…

Guest Review: Thompson On Harwood

Nathan Thompson reviews
Selected Poems
By Lee Harwood

Choosing what to include in the Selected Poems of a poet such as Lee Harwood must be nigh-on impossible. His work is allusive and elusive, multi-faceted and open, and often curiously nostalgic for the present – all in all pretty tricky to pin down. I guess for the editors of this volume there were, broadly, two ways of going about it: either simply pick the “best” poems or attempt to follow the trajectory of the work as a whole.

This team of editors, which includes Harwood himself, seem to have adopted the latter approach. As such, people are going to notice the absence of particular, and anthologised, favourites. Personally I missed the lightness of touch of “Central Park Zoo” and the free-wheeling tenderness, exhaustion and absorption of “Love in the Organ Loft”. But these qualities are to be found throughout this book and these poems are available elsewhere if I want to read them.

And this is an important point: as the first selecti…

Breakaway Republics and Barack

The news that Russia has recognised the breakaway republics hitherto within Georgia will be bad news for many people - and perhaps most of all Mr. Obama. With the resurgent rise of The Bear, The West has become more militant and tense than ever, and McCain more than matches Biden when it comes to the foreign policy seriousness the American people seem to require at this time. New polls in American suggest this is already a tied race. It just got less-than-tied, I think - McCain will find rising problems with Russia to his relative advantage.

London Needs New Tropes For 2012

Eyewear is always pleased to hear Jimmy Page play guitar, and to see Beckham kick a football, but feels that there's something rotten in Britain when the tired tropes of umbrellas and red doubledecker buses are hauled out to pass on the visual and symbolic Olympic torch. Worse still, though, for London's handover moment (8 minutes of rock and roll and bland choreography), was the lack of imagination - instead of flights of fancy and wonder, such as China displayed (or Athens before it), we were offered the familiar image of urban celebrity - a jaded air, a fug, of louche backstage pass cynicism hungover the handover - as if the 2012 Olympics were just one more reunion tour for some aging stars. London, and by extension, the UK - can and will do better than this, I am sure. Few other nations possess so much visual and verbal dexterity - Rowling, for one, could offer tips on how to do magic. This sub-Herman's Hermits moment, of bus stop torpor, must be by-passed quickly. Lon…

Poem by Kelvin Corcoran

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome British poet Kelvin Corcoran (pictured) this Friday. I've been reading his Reality Street collection, Lyric Lyric, of late, and am very interested in how he thinks around and through the "English lyrical tradition" (in Rosmarie Waldrop's words) - sudden brilliance flashing "out against the grain, in the flaws" (Waldrop again). Anyone who wants to understand alternatives to straight-ahead mainstream poetics, and to yet enjoy how thoughtful & musically delightful these other roads can also be, should read Corcoran.

Corcoran’s work came to prominence with his first book Robin Hood in the Dark Ages in 1985. Eight subsequent collections have been enthusiastically received and his work has been anthologised in Britain and the USA. His New and Selected Poemsis now available from Shearsman Books. The sequence Helen Mania was made a Poetry Book Society choice in 2005.

An interview with him is included in Don't Start Me Talkin…

Bolt Too Bold?

Mr. Bolt is now one of the great, and most thrilling, Olympians - so it seems odd that the Olympics boss has chastised him for being too showy on the track. A bit like, yes, trying to keep lightning in a bottle, or accusing Mozart of using too many notes. While the world cheered, apparently, this dour pencil-pusher fumed. Anyway, given the overblown spectacle of the Olympics opening ceremonies, it seems like a Kubrick "war room" paradox to ask the great Jamaican sprinter to slow his antics down to a mediocre pace. So long as he respects the other competitors, he should be allowed to strut his stuff after crossing the finishing line - I suppose what galls the official is that Bolt is the first man in history to actually celebrate while competing, and still win.

Blyton The Landscape

A recent poll has discovered that Britain's best-loved writer is Enid Blyton - ahead of Rowling, Christie, Austen, and Shakespeare - let alone Dickens, Orwell, or Rushdie. I am not sure this says as much about Britain, readers, or books, as it first appears - maybe more about polls.

It does tend to suggest that the books, and authors, people love, are not the ones that our teachers, or critics, would want us to. Surely, for all her evident charms and pleasures, Blyton is not a major literary figure of our times - or is she? Then again, maybe this poll confirms what Eyewear has long-feared - that British reading habits are in decline. Fewer read poets, of course - but also, it seems, if this poll is to be believed, fewer read "the greats".
Why do most people read, most of the time? What do we talk about, when we talk about loving writers? Do we love their style, their content - or their ability to transport us, amusingly, via the imagination, to other realms we'd prefer…

Britain vs. Australia, not Canada

Observers of Olympic coverage today on the BBC and ITV would have noted that one of the main stories - the story in fact - was that Britain is in third place in the medals table (counted in terms of number of golds) - ahead of Australia, in fourth place. Canada, it should be noted, is only in 17th place, at last count. At one point, a news commentator said that "all that mattered" was that Britain be "ahead of Australia".

It is an undeniable truth that the British have several chief rivalries that keep them interested and on their toes: in sport, Australia (not least because of cricket, and rugby), in food and wine, France, and, in soft power, America (both nations vie for cultural-entertainment dominance, in such industries as publishing, film production, music, and the other arts). For Canadians, who are not included in these flattering, amicable and interesting tussles, much is lost.

I have long felt that the lack of a dynamic cultural conversation - let alone a r…

Guest Review: Birchall on Wilkerson

Danny Birchall reviews
Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman
by Cathy Wilkerson

The afterlives of terrorists are a curious cultural fascination. We’re not talking here of Martin Amis’ middle-aged and concupiscent fascination with the reward of virgins, but rather what happens to a state’s most violent internal enemies, those who took up arms against it, once their movement has passed into history.

Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader’s stories went with them when they died in Stammheim; Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer will never tell the tale of their suicide attacks on the London Underground in July 2005. But those who do survive show a remarkable propensity to reflect in public on the meaning of their actions. Bill Ayers, a leader of the Weather Underground has published his memoirs, and ex-RAF member Astrid Proll speaks publicly in the UK. Even fiction concerns itself: Hari Kunzru’s roman à clef of the Angry Brigade, My Revolutions, plots the personal crisis…

Poem by Kathryn Simmonds

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Kathryn Simmonds(pictured) this Friday.

Her first full collection Sunday at the Skin Launderettewas published earlier this year and is a Poetry Book Society recommendation; it is also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her work has appeared in a number of journals including Poetry London, The Guardian and The Scotsman. In 2006 she won the Poetry London Competition.
Like many of the leading younger British poets of the moment, she has an MA in Creative Writing - in this instance from the University of East Anglia. Simmonds also writes short stories. She works as an editor and lives in north London.


The World Won’t Miss you for a While

Lie down with me you hillwalkers and rest,
untie your boots and separate your toes,
ignore the compass wavering north/north west.

Quit trailing through the overcrowded streets
with tinkling bells, you child of Hare Krishna.
Hush. Unfurl your saffron robes. How sweet

the grass. And you, photographer of wars,
l…

Poetry Focus: Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore by Kim Roberts

A poet I return to again and again is Marianne Moore. She has an odd, precise, mathematical quality to her poems, many of which are written in syllabics. But she often combines syllabics with rhyme to make nonce forms. For example, "Nevertheless," one of my favorites, is written in three-line stanzas with six syllables to a line, but lines two and three always rhyme.

"The Fish" has an even more complex pattern: five-line stanzas with one syllable in line one, three in line two, nine in line three, six in line four, and nine in line five. The rhyme scheme is AABBC.

Moore loved to create challenges for herself. She also incorporated quotes from books she read, often completely out of context, because she delighted in the flexibility of language and because, as she wrote, "I have not been able to outgrow this hybrid method of composition."

Moore examined the objects of the world closely. I admire her humility. She does not write abo…

America In Georgia: The New Airlift?

It may not be, exactly, the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it has echoes of that moment. It may more closely resemble the Berlin Airlift, of 60 years ago. America's late, but chillingly decisive, entry into the Russian-Georgia war (simmering now, but not entirely over, according to new reports of intransigence, as of time of this post) raises the stakes. If the US navy, air force, and military is actually going to enter Georgia, bringing supplies, the Russians will have to open blocked routes. With US armed forces on the ground in the country, the tripwire for wider war is in place. Obviously, diplomacy should win out, and this matter be temporarily calmed. However, make no mistake, Bush's statement, today, is more determined, and directly confrontational, than many in the EU, and beyond, might have hoped. It shores up Georgia's ruins, reinstates some Western credentials, and offers horse-out-of-the-barn support. Hope it doesn't lead to blowback.

Guest Review: Saunders on Begnal and DuMars

Craig Saunders reviews
Ancestor Worshipby Michael S. Begnal
and
Big Pink Umbrellaby Susan Millar DuMars

Michael S. Begnal and Susan Millar DuMars are both poets, both hail from the United States, and both have set down roots in Ireland. They share a publisher, Salmon, and were born in 1966.

Both collections are relatively concrete in their approach. DuMars’ book, Big Pink Umbrella, paints very clear emotional pictures. Begnal’s Ancestor Worship creates a more challenging set of psychogeographic explorations. All too often, modern poetry fights too hard to be abstract, often for the sake of intellectual posturing. The strength of both of these collections lies in their accessibility.

DuMars has a curious style, particularly in the first part of her collection. Her poems tend to be setups for an emotional punchline at the end. She does this with evident skill, often leading the reader through a discourse on the familiar, wondering what the point is, only to blindside them in the last line or …

A Gertrude Is A Gertrude Is a Gertrude

According to the BBC, there were "no Gertrudes" in 2005 in Britain - that is, the name is simply facing extinction. Pity. If, as seems the case, parents are more and more guided by celebrity status in the selection of monickers, some might reflect on the great Ms. Stein, and try to call back into social use the wonderful "Gertrude".

The Guns of August?

Either this war is going to wind down soon - as cooler heads prevail - or it might escalate. If it does, and the West is pulled in (as Georgia tonight seems to hope) to support a nascent democracy and would-be-NATO member - then all bets are off. This could be the next world war to start in August. At the moment, Russian tanks are still advancing. David Cameron has called for stronger measures, as has the US vice-president (who we know calls the shots). But what can be done, without a tipping point being reached, that is really chilling?

Mahmoud Darwish Has Died

He should have won the Nobel prize for literature - and might have had he lived longer - but as it is, Mahmoud Darwishinspired a generation of readers and poets in the Middle East, and beyond - becoming one of the most admired, loved, outspoken, and sometimes controversial, poets of the age.

As editor, with Val Stevenson, of 100 Poets Against The War, I worked with many global poets. We were thrilled to have his poetry as part of our project - it added so much. The great man will be missed.

Naked Aggression

Those considering "human nature" or "civilisation" (opposed ideas, if not ideals) might note how paper thin good human behaviour can be. The current war between Russia and Georgia seems to point to the obvious: where international law is concerned, power is the ultimate rule.

Eyewear notes, that, despite our best efforts to concoct uplifting sporting, artistic, and religious events and artifacts to the contrary, most of human action is governed by a desire for control, and a fear of those stronger than us - at least on the world stage. How else to explain the way in which nations of the world are perpetually governed by those content to utilise all force necessary, to compel agreement?

It is a depressing thought, but the 00s are beginning to look a lot like the 30s - a decade of bad economies, and aggressively militaristic leaders the "West" is unable, or unwilling, to take on directly. The current war in the Caucasus may end soon - or it could boil over. D…

The Best of Canadian Poetry in English, 2008

Good news - Tightrope Books has started a new series, to celebrate the best poems written by Canadians and published in a magazine - based on the hugely succesful long-running Best American Poetry series. The first incarnation will appear this October, as The Best of Canadian Poetry in English, 2008. The guest editor this time around is Stephanie Bolster, and series editor is Molly Peacock.

The editors have gone through all the leading Canadian magazines, and selected 50 poems. I'm very pleased to say that one of them is mine, "Gentlemen of Nerve", which first appeared in Vallum. I hope that readers of Eyewear, interested in new developments in Canadian poetry, will buy a copy, and support this significant new publishing initiative. Canadian poetry, on the North American continent, is often starved in the shadow of the USA, but has its own histories, communities, and trajectories, worth celebrating, and reading.

The British In Cold Water

Not wanting to be a turncoat (I normally root for Team Canada) but the British team at these Olympics has been showing proverbial grit and determination - and, thankfully for female sport - showcasing the depth and quality of British women athletes. First, there was that gutsy road race the other day (and a long-needed gold medal for Wales, and the UK) from Cooke - and now, an incredible, and mostly unexpected triumph in the water, for women's 400m freestylers, Adlington and Jackson. Their race was so well-paced, and so team-oriented (both supporting the other) it could almost be the bespoke Olympic story - forget Phelps and his drive for massive amounts of gold, here were two unsung hardworking, big-hearted swimmers, who merely pulled excellence out of the bag when it was most needed. Well done!

As an aside, it'd be nice if the BBC showed a few more competititors from other countries from time to time - the focus of all national broadcasters is obviously meant to be on the nat…

PoetCasting

Warning: self-interested plug.
Eyewear recommends PoetCasting, always - and especially this week, when I am its featured poet. Poet Alex Pryce has done a great job building an impressive list of recordings - and, fortuntately, with the support of the Arts Council, intends to keep going for some time. Good news for all those who enjoy hearing, as well as reading, their British-based poets.

Poem by Allison McVety

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome poet Allison McVety(Pictured) to these pages, today - 08.08.08. - auspiciously the start of the Beijing Olympics, and, sadly, war between Russia and Georgia.

Her poems have appeared in the Times and the Forward Book of Poetry and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. In 2007 she completed an MA at Royal Holloway, University of London with Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott as her tutors and where she was awarded the PFD Poetry Prize.
McVety won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition in 2006 and her first collection, The Night Trotsky Came to Staywas published by Smith/Doorstop. This debut collection was recently shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize 2008. The poem below is reprinted from this collection.
She works in IT and teaches at the University of Reading. Eyewear wishes her all the best for the forthcoming Forward.


Boy on the Bus

That school gabardine of mine
with its slip-in, slip-out lining,
quilted for winter use,
invisible bro…

Postmodern Spoken Word and Canadian Fusion

In case you wanted to know more - or anything - about Postmodern Spoken Word - well, this is the place you want to be. Among other things, it kindly suggests I created a new spoken word genre, "Canadian Fusion". Gee, thanks, but: credit should also go to Tom Walsh, the intrepid musician-composer who pioneered the Swifty Lazarusstyle with me, in Montreal, throughout the 1990s.

Guest Review: Baban on the Best New Music of 2008 (So Far)

Alan Baban writes on new music for Eyewear

This year I studied the ear and briefly decided that music sucks. Obviously I was wrong (maybe I still am), and maybe this is just one long big extended metaphor for you to think I’m all bats, and oh but he’s about to say Garden State is really the best movie, and it is (it really isn’t) but, no matter, it’s true, I promise. I caught a cold "demand for literalness". I rescinded all critical duties. I stopped listening, pretty much, to music.

Like all parboiled ascetics, what this actually amounted to was a set of rules. The first being that all music was off limits [Raffi doesn’t count]. The second, sure enough, that I couldn’t play an instrument. A nd the third: vinyl! I worked on my stacks. I harboured a ridiculous amount, mountains of cases, some cassettes, lots of stuff you’d never need. I spent time listening to Raffi. I broke the cassettes, and bought new ones. My room became dusty, but exclusive: no noise, just new records, rar…

Pauline Baynes Has Died

Pauline Baynesis one ofthe greatest of 20th century illustrators for children's literature - and one of the most loved. Sadly, she has died.

Her drawings for the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, literally added another dimension to that work, investing its imaginative reaches with new levels of intrigue and pathos. I loved her illustrations in the Narnia series, and for some of the Tolkien books, too.
Other great illustrators of this kind would include Garth Williams, who transformed Stuart Little, and Jules Feiffer'sThe Magic Tollbooth. Peggy Fortnum's Paddington Bear is also delightful. And one also recalls work for The Wind in the Willows, by numerous hands. Eyewear welcomes reader's comments on their best-beloved illustrated children's works.

August Poems Now Up At Nthposition

Review: The Dark Knight, or, Ledger Domain

The Dark Knight, in a very short time, has moved from being a much-anticipated sequel in an ongoing graphic novel franchise, rebooted by clever director Christopher Nolan, to becoming one of the most impressively-received film products of the last twenty years. Already, it is on track to become one of the most profitable movies ever. But that's just money (as the Joker might say) - and this movie has also, already, received critical plaudits galore. There is talk of the deceased Heath Ledger getting a posthumous Oscar; and The Dark Knight is greeted, in some circles, as the actioner equivalent of Citizen Kane - perhaps the "finest" ever entertainment film.

Turning to Ledger, and his Joker - how good is he? Well, Nolan's curious mix of sterile and shaky mis-en-scene, recalling Kubrick, Mann, as well as The French Connection (and of course the recent gleaming Asian cop thrillers like Infernal Affairs), creates a refreshingly all-too-human villainy. Ledger's Joker is…

Forward Poetry Prize 2008 shortlist announced

The Forward Poetry Prize 2008 list has been announced. Congratulations to all those listed. It's a pleasingly open field, this year, with a few fresh faces and unexpected discoveries.

There are a number of categories, including Best Collection, and Best First Collection.

Poets (in no order) Mick Imlah (The Lost Leader), Sujata Bhatt (PureLizard), Jen Hadfield (Nigh-No-Place), Catherine Smith (Lip), Jane Griffiths (Another Country) and Jamie McKendrick (Crocodiles and Obelisks) are up for Best Collection. None of these is a clear winner - they're all inventive and worthy - but Eyewear predicts that Imlah will probably win for his major work.

Hadfield, as a fun aside, stayed with my parents for a few days when travelling across Canada to write her collection - a visit still warmly recalled by my family. Bhatt, Smith and McKendrick have all read for the Oxfam Poetry Series, and their work can be found on either Life Lines or Life Lines 2.

The Best First Collection list includes emerg…

Poem by Sarah Corbett

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Sarah Corbett (pictured) this Friday.

Corbett's first collection of poems, The Red Wardrobe, (Seren, 1998) was shortlisted for The Forward First Collection and the T.S. Eliot prize. Her second book from Seren was The Witch Bag (2002), and her third, Other Beasts, has just been published, this July.

She is currently writing a verse novel as part of a PhD at The University of Manchester. She lives in West Yorkshire with her son and writes full time.

I first met her when she read for an event I co-organized, a few years back, to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of Imagism in London. It's good to see new work of hers out in the world; the poem below was, until now, unpublished.

Rainbow

In the hotel room we saw the beauty of home,
too far out to touch still, and effervescently moving,
played the ‘being home’ game, until it felt too real,
as if I’d stepped back and left you, watering the roses.

We read until dark and Pluto winked its blue eye
behin…