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Showing posts from September, 2009

Still Ill

I am doing my best to recover. Find this more challenging than expected. Have a lot to say about new poets and collections, hope to do that when better later this year. Will write more in 4 weeks hopefully. Yours, Todd. ps thanks for the comments.

Eyewear Wide Shut

Until I recover from my illness, I won't be posting here. Hope to return in late October or November. In the meantime, please do enjoy the numerous reviews, features and essays already provided. In its small way, Eyewear has become a resource. I hope to be able to continue adding to this resource in the future, with many good reviews and features in the pipeline. Thanks to all those who have followed this blog over the years.

Dan Brown's Lost Art

Dan Brown's new book, launched at midnight, has sold more books in its first seconds than all the poetry books in the world will sell this month. Or than all the Booker books will sell this year. This is a fact - combined with his relatively artless prose - used to demonise Mr. Brown in certain quarters. But as a film buff and creative writing teacher, I have thought about this. What Brown does is eventing. That's right, a new genre title: eventing. That is, it isn't just writing, or entertainment, but creating an event. It's not just event publishing - the event is the sort of book it is. The use of plot, the style, is pre-cinematic, or post-cinematic, or maybe supra-cinematic - the book-as-movie-as-shared-experience. The popular interest means there is no use in saying it shouldn't be popular - it is popular. We can analyse why and how. But perhaps it is not a bad thing that it happens. I don't think it adds to literacy - people are not reading bu…

Mainstream love hotel launched and update

Thanks to all those who came, or wrote, or called, about last night's launch. It was a resounding success, and very moving. The Calder Bookshop on The Cut was packed, we sold almost all the books we had, and many of my dear friends, and very fine poets, were in attendance - and on a night of monsoon-like rains. I must thank especially Emily Berry, Les Robinson, and my wife, for making the night so special. The book is now on sale at the tall-lighthouse site, for those who couldn't be there. And, thank you to those who have written about my health. I have a painful but treatable condition which can usually be resolved in a few months, without surgery, and there is no current worry it is pre-cancerous (though it can go in that direction). My spirits were raised by the launch. But the weeks ahead will be a challenge. I am juggling teaching, co-editing a Carcanet anthology, finishing my PhD, and the usual writing and organising. I may well have to take it easier. I move…

Belated Review: Only By The Night

I suppose in a year I'll like the new Kasbian, too. On that note, let me admit, I finally fell under the spooky spell of the Kings of Leon, whose 2008 Only By The Night, reveals itself, now that I have listened to it, as 11 dumb, sex and religion fuelled, unbelievably catchy cornpone clearance style American rock songs that together make up a soundtrack that could easily have underscored all the best Miami Vice moments. It's cool music for people who think cool means trailer parks, shot guns, mojo, torn t-shirts, biceps, tats, rattlers, beer, gals, and the darkness of the devil that must be obeyed and resisted in equal cross-roads measure, with a goatee, beard, or one of those beardy things under the lower lip. A great album of its range and aims. Very satisfying to listen to when very ill and on meds, and feeling a swooning menace all around.

Todd Swift For Sale

I cannot hope to compete with The Beatles, who roll out this week their video games and remastered mono tracks. How many fans got mono from the fab four fellers? Anyway, I too am rolling out my latest (sometimes music-themed) collection of love poems, and poems that love poetry (maybe too much). For those abroad, or bored, or all-aboard, they can go here to the mainstream love hotelsite and order a copy. Thanks! Canadian orders will be possible soon, too. I'll suggest they do a US thing too.

Guest review: Parmar On O'Mahony

Sandeep Parmar reviews
In Sight of Home
By Nessa O’Mahony

It would be too simple to evaluate Nessa O’Mahony’s most recent work, In Sight of Home, on the basis of whether or not it succeeds as a ‘verse-novel’. And yet with the current surge of interest in the form (to the great excitement of ever-present forefinger-wagging genreists) each verse-novel sets itself a near impossible task: balancing the presence of often tedious narrative (see Ruth Padel’s Darwin: A Life in Poems) with the exploration of character through lyric. The trouble, in the case of Padel’s book, is the spectre of Charles Darwin, transmuted through the poet-biographer, whose voice clangs over epistolary prose. O’Mahony could have operated via a similar procedure: we know that some of her book is based on what appears to be twenty-two letters from Margaret Butler, a nineteenth-century Irish emigrant to Australia, but thankfully O’Mahony departs from the day-to-day recounting of domestic life to make an implicit inquiry …

America can go to heck

The way many Americans have treated Obama lately - calling him a national socialist, a socialist, or a non-citizen - well, it is just too much to accept. Americans, who somehow briefly contrived to appear brilliant and brave when they elected the radical man, now appear dim-writted and reactionary at their reluctance to support him. Kick the yes-we-can hard as you want, Obama is still great.

Foulds Up, Fry Out

Adam Foulds was a poet. Now he is a Booker nominated novelist who writes about poets - and a poet. Foulds is on a meteoric trajectory. Good luck to him. I think all poets should write novels. They pay better and get more attention. Do more people read them? How many poetry books get optioned? What is writing for in the 21st century of celebrity?

Poor Mr. S. Fry has begun to discover too much occasional tweeting is damaging his rep. A Sunday Times article lambasted him for being so obnoxiously omnipresent. Fry has the Welles status - media type with big brains - but sadly, looks more like Wilde than contains that man's genius. Good luck to him.

My father's anniversary

This is the third anniversary of my father's death from brain cancer. I miss him. I do feel his presence, from time to time. My faith is shaken, I confess. Tested but not lost.

I am currently facing a diagnosis of having a disease of the oesophagus, which, while treatable, can lead to worse things, and has some painful implications. Not a great time to take up throat singing.

There a few new poems for my father in my new collection, to be launched on the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I noted in the weekend papers that religion might be "hardwired" into our brains. The ambiguity continues. Some will see this as proof of God's design, others of the strictly mechanistic explanation of the universe. To my mind, since love, taste, desire, sight, and all other of the things that make existence rich and deep, stem from the brain and its chemistry, it can hardly be a small thing for belief or faith to reside there as well. Since neuro-chemistry is part of the fabri…

Squinting at Eyewear

Readers of Eyewear will have to squint to find my British debut poetry collection mentioned in the PBS (Poetry Book Society) bulletin for this quarter. Too many books get published, and editorial needs are many.

Wuthering Bites

The dumbing down of Britain and America continues, with ITV's broadcast, over the last two nights, of a new version of Wuthering Heights, destined to be aired in America, too, and then let loose on the world in the form of a DVD. That this latest heap of rubbish was masterminded by the creator of Desperate Romantics - a bodice-ripping series that lays waste to the Pre-Raphealites - should surprise no one. The media has discovered - again - that high culture and emotionality and poetry can sell - if commodified and repackaged to be all about sex and violence - which, as Frankie said a while back, were "the new gods". Though Tom Hardy is rather good at being handsome and menacing as Heathcliff, everything else about this adaptation is beyond poor. I don't want to flog a dead horse, but le me briefly explain.

The novel, on which this TV two-parter was based, is, as we know, one of the greatest books in the English language. Its passionate exploration of the psychology of…

Back To School

September's here again. Soon, students and teachers will be back to school. Ah, pencils! Ah, paper! The thrill of the new pencil case. The delight in choosing the right binders. Also, buying all those required texts. As a lecturer, I must confess to a mood-swing as soon as August ends - a swing to a different mode, that of module leader - new seriousness and alertness enters the bloodstream, just as the air turns crisper, and then, yes, leaves begin to yellow and fall. Before then, perhaps, an "Indian summer".

Eyewear, too, has snapped into a new form, and has new, post-summer purpose. Over the next weeks, I will hopefully begin to start featuring poets again on a regular basis. I also have many reviews to roll out. But not too quickly. The next few weeks are very full of other things to do. On the subject of reviewing, let me say this about that: I get many more offers for review copies than I do for reviewers. It is very difficult to persuade people to rev…