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Showing posts from November, 2009

Best Of Lists?

In the world of poetry, there is always a fine line between cronyism and advocacy. After all, as I posited in another post, given the relative neglect of poetry books, friendship between poets is a vital part of getting the work "out there". Eyewear itself selects some books and poets to review and mention; logically, this excludes others. However, an issue may arise, when the main newspapers (I am thinking in this context of the British ones, but the point applies more widely I suspect) run their end of year Christmas Books lists. There is sometimes something farcical about the process; though not always. Naomi Klein, for example, used her space in The Guardian to draw attention to a Canadian book little known in England, which seems noble and useful. The poetry book that got mentioned the most (three times) in The Guardian was Rain. Published by Faber and Faber, and written by Don Paterson, it is a strong collection from a major Scottish poet. However, it is not ev…

Enfin, 35 Poets for Oxfam

While I have been on sick leave, Jennifer Oey, Martin Penny and Etienne Gilfillan, have managed to put together a fine film and DVD, for Oxfam, featuring 35 young and youngish British poets, selected by myself earlier in the year. The DVD will be ready for purchase on Dececember 17, when it is being launched in London, at 91 Marylebone High Street, London, W1, at 7 pm. The DVD is called Asking A Shadow To Dance: 35 Young British Poets for Oxfam. It features a number of fine poets, including Luke Kennard, Lorraine Mariner, Emily Berry and Luke Wright. It was filmed at UEA and the Southbank Centre, and also at the Manhattan Review launch of last year. Well worth supporting, for a good cause; it will be ready for online purchase after the 17th.

Strong Medicine

Thanks to friends for asking about me. I am on ever-higher doses of a medicine to help heal my esophagus. I hope to have this process under control within the next few weeks. I have very good doctors. I am not in pain all the time anymore, but still often uncomfortable. It's been a depressing time, becoming ill like this, with what may be a chronic problem. My new diet means I have lost 16 kilos in the past three months. I am now wearing suits from my twenties that I couldn't fit into for decades. That makes me sound like a former Fatty Arbuckle, but all I mean is I am now oddly slim. I hope to be stable or on the road to recovery in early 2010.

Three New Books

I have been reading three new books worth buying for oneself or a friend this Christmas: She Walks Into The Sea by American poet Patricia Clark (Michigan State University press); The Girl with the Cactus Handshake by Katrina Naomi (Templar) and Blood/Sugar by James Byrne (Arc). The last two just launched last few days in England. Naomi is a former student of mine at the Poetry School, and her work is witty, dark and deeply surprising in places. Byrne is one of the key figures in the London scene, as editor and young poet - now also based in New York. This is his second collection, and, as John Kinsella says, "here is a unique mytho-poetic". No one else thinks or writes like Byrne, and how he blends international and British traditions together is fascinating.

Douglas Campbell Has Died

Sad news. The great Scottish-born, Canadian actor who made the Stratford Festival in Ontario a world-class place for the Bard, has died. I remember seeing him several times in productions, in my teens, when my Uncle Jack took me to plays there.

Review: New Moon

Eyewear saw New Moon and, while it was not swoon-inducing, thought it very good. The director lost his Pullman franchise when America balked at the Dark Materials atheism. So, he got a new film franchise to work on (though only one). Curiously, he opted not to keep Carter Burwell's brilliant, witty score, and went with something more traditionally romantic. The new film's key moments are a rotating camera over a quick montage sequence that sums up three months of despair in a teen's lovelife as autumn turns to winter; and a scene where a young werewolf pulls his t-shirt off to reveal Grade A beefcake - every girl and many boys in my cinema howled with lusty delight. New Moon is sweet tender romance. It reminded me of a James Dean film. But with less angst or terror. For a horror film, it is is lightweight. The main struggle is for the heart, not the heart's needle, or blood. I like this tenderness. It is a welcome break from torture and gore. When a main pl…

Review: Spandau Ballet

The 80s seems to have produced an endless supply of clever and often pleasingly
eccentric pop, much of which has been revisiting us this year, twenty years after
that decade ended. There's a new Moyet Best Of just out for instance. And since
the year began new albums from Simple Minds, Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen, to simply name three of the major bands of the time - each of which made it equally big in America as at home. Now comes the reunion album from Spandau Ballet after
almost Smiths-size acrimony. SB were not as big as Duran Duran or Tears for Fears
stateside, but bigger than OMD. They were part of the New Romantic wave at its height. Their unlikely name and likely look were of the moment, and song 'True' is one of the, yes, true classics of the period. While the new Frankie compilation is mainly a rehash of the hits, SB have rerecorded their greatest songs for this album. The results are both disarming and sometimes disappointing. 'True' is given new …

Mainstream Love Hotel

Todd launched his new collection Mainstream Love Hotel this September. Unfortunately, he has had to cancel his remaining public events in 2009 due to illness. For those who would like to support his book, it would make a particularly festive gift this Noel, not least because it’s jolly, red and all about love. Please order a copy direct from the tall-lighthouse website. KJ

Atheism For Kids

The latest atheist stunt is an unrolling of UK-wide billboards decrying the fact that children get labelled by their family faith before they can choose themselves. Philosophically this is facile and poorly considered. How else are adults to arrange the lives of children? Parents decide the names, schools, diets and doctors of children; what books they do or don't read; what bedtime stories they are told. Parents and other adults help shape childhood's imagination. Atheist parents are free to raise their kids sans God. It hardly makes sense for a Catholic family to do so. The atheist campaigners argue children should not have to decide a belief system until they are adults. That is rather like saying children should not have to go to school or eat greens until they are 18. Adulthood is precisely the moment for questioning childhood beliefs: not the moment for adopting them. Further, the soul is present at the start and cannot be left unsupported for so long. If adults choose …

"Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art"

Ben Wishaw and Abbie Cornish give stellar performances in ‘Bright Star’ as John Keats and his muse, Fanny Brawne. The film is directed by Jane Campion, who also directed Oscar-winning film, ‘The Piano,’ and it is adapted from Andrew Motion’s biography of the poet. Slender with a sensitive face and shabby clothes, Keats is a great contrast to his brash friend and flatmate, Brown, played by Paul Schneider. He is also a contrast to Fanny- who is vivacious and always dressed beautifully in clothes of her own making. Fanny and Brown’s banter is a source of humour in this tragic story of a great young poet burning out. Love thrives between Keats and Fanny in a world which recognises the physical, temperamental and monetary differences between them. Nevertheless, they are always surrounded by great natural beauty. The film is set in Hampstead, home of some of Keats’ loveliest poetry. This film is beautifully made and captures the Romantic ideals without being clichéd. As Shelley says in his …

Byrne and Brookes Have Forthcoming Books

Eyewear is looking forward to the new Arc press collection from James Byrne, Blood/Sugar. Byrne is one of the best of the younger British poets and also an important editor and organiser; he currently spends much time in NYC. Also out with a book soon is James Brookes whose pamphlet will be available before Christmas; Brookes won an Eric Gregory this year and is Hill-like in his qualities. More on that pamphlet later. Both young men were filmed for the Oxfam DVD project, also out at year's end.

Beating in the void

Poets are sensitive creatures...

Matthew Arnold described Shelley as 'a beautiful and ineffectual archangel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.' A poet too delicate for this world - as Jay-Z says, for this 'hard knock life.' As Eliot's recent letters - just-published - remind us, even the most classical minds have romantic agonies. KJ

Heavy Weighs In Crown

Sarah Crown of the Guardian has weighed in on the new Bloodaxe anthology, Voice Recognition, edited by James Byrne and Clare Pollard. Following on from Sean O'Brien's recent review of the new Faber pamphlet series for younger poets (including Heather Phillipson), which ends with his bracing reminder that the hard part is the next "40 years" of a poet's career, it is intriguing and informative to see how key critics of the British poetry establishment are beginning to welcome and receive this sudden generational bounty of new poets.

I for one selected - before falling ill - about 30 young UK poets for an Oxfam DVD, directed by Jennifer Oey, to be launched around Christmas. I was spoiled for choice, and hope there is a sequel, as there are many other superb poets I was unable to reach, some of them featured here in the past. My modus operandi is well known: to affirm, encourage, support and announce new talent. I much believe, to paraphrase Bono, that the sweetest s…

1, 450

This is the 1, 450th post at Eyewear. Not bad, all things considered. Just wanted to briefly recommend a few books I've been sent lately. First, A Tiara for the Twentieth Century, the collected poems of Suzanne Richardson Harvey. I published her work often at Nthposition, and think she's a fine American poet well worth reading.

Next, Dream Catcher issue 23, is the Canadian Issue. While I find the poets included in that section a little pell-mell, it's still a good thing to read if you're interested in Canadian poetry; what the issue does confirm is the fact that most people in the UK haven't a clue as to what the central line or lines of Canadian post-war poetry are - and neither do most Canadians. The situation is quite dire - a very weak tradition of poor critical evaluation has meant the ten thousand Canadian poets are at a loss to see the forest for the trees.

Finally, the Scrumbler, edited by Canadian-in-England, Mike Kavanagh, is a new children's poetry mag…