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Showing posts from December, 2009

Swift Report 2009

I'll write my report in early 2010, and, not only survey this year, but a decade of work. In the meantime, may I wish you all a holiday blessed by health, peace, and love. As a veritable UK-style blizzard snows down upon London let me wish you a Very Merry Christmas!

Say A Word

Sad news. Brittany Murphy, pictured, one of my favourite actresses, has died, at the age of 32. Murphy, whose best role was perhaps as the silent insane asylum girl in the Michael Douglas thriller Don't Say A Word, was also great in Girl, Interrupted, Clueless, and 8 Mile. She was infamously sexy and intriguing on screen, and, to her fans, endlessly captivating. However, her career had somehow seemed interrupted, too. Eyewear is in shock at her sudden totally unexpected death. In my third book, Rue du Regard, a collection which deals with scopophilia, desire and film, I have a poem called 'Brittany Murphy Adoration Society', which is not entirely apt to quote here, but which explored her effect on those who loved to watch her act. She will be missed.

Bink Noll

As an anthologist I enjoy the bittersweet experience of reading forgotten anthologies of yesteryear - those charming time-tombs. No point in observing that most art is futile and ends in oblivion for most artists; we are mostly not Horace. Save our souls, but forget our names. Chad Walsh that great Champion of CS Lewis from Beloit College edited thanklessly a long unused Scribners anthology from 1964, Today's Poets. 45 years later it mainly holds up well though we no longer speak of wild man poets. Ginsberg is absent. Walsh predicts great things for Walcott but doesn't particularly enthuse about Larkin. The great Eberhart is given his due. Carl Bode we don't much read now. Nor Gil Orlovitz. Good to have them here. Vassar Miller is an intriguing poet. However I most enjoyed encountering Walsh's Beloit friend, Princeton man, the poet Bink Noll.

Noll, born in 1927, has the best poet name, no? I love the name Bink Noll. Anyway, he is too obscure now, but wrote well, if not …

End of the world or fantastic day?

Last night I was happy for the first time in four months; for a few hours I forgot I have to take six pills a day and am often in pain or discomfort. Friends took me to Cadogan Hall to see Nick Heyward reunite with Haircut 100. This band had only one album, Pelican West, which went to 2 in the UK charts in March 1982 before Heyward quit the next year to make his masterpiece, North of a Miracle, the great upbeat pop album of the early 80s. The show was only slightly marred by Heyward's Mike Myersesque eccentric tween-song ramblings. Actually the band was tight and hearing Love Plus One again and Fantastic Day - as well as A Blue Hat for a Blue Day - was a pure retreat to when we were all teenagers. This was my Buddy Holly - sweet clever love songs and fun clean tunes.

The audience was almost all late 40s and facebook fans. After the show which was too brief Heyward mingled in the bar with several hundred fans, smiling and genuinely bemused by the adoration. I hope for a Pelican East…

Oxfam Young British Poets Launch

On Thursday night, Todd Swift and Martin Penny hosted a Christmas launch at Oxfam Books and Music for a new poetry DVD, ‘Asking a Shadow to Dance.’ This DVD, directed by Jennifer Oey, showcases the work of 35 young British poets selected by Todd Swift. The readings were filmed in various locations in and around London’s Southbank and UEA and they are a delight to watch. All the poets have unique but equally expressive and interesting poetic voices.

The event was low-key, attended by those who braved the snow storms on such a cold December night. The atmosphere inside was however warm and welcoming; it was a great night for the young poets to meet each other, share their ideas and also hear each other read. Those who attended were also lucky enough to hear a song performed by Michael Horovitz, poetry veteran and editor of 1960’s poetry anthology, Children of Albion.

There will be another event for this DVD in March, when Todd will hopefully be in better health. Till then, please support …

Robert Earl Stewart

I've been reading the debut collection from Robert Earl Stewart, Something Burned Along The Southern Border. It is from Mansfield Press and is a handsome book. It's an excellent first collection. I'd published his work over the years at Nthposition and in anthologies and so am pleased to see this finally out. As Emily Schulz says, it maps "a seldom-recorded region of Canada, the joint of Windsor-Detroit". From such a potential bleakness the poet has rescued surreal and darkly witty poems. This is one for last-minute Amazon shopping.

Guest Review by Rufo Quintavalle: White Magic and Other Poems by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Rufo Quintavalle reviews
White Magic and Other Poems
by Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski was born in 1921 and died in the Warsaw uprising in 1944 leaving behind him a substantial body of poetry, very little of which, up until now, has been translated into English.This book, a selection of his poems in a bilingual edition seeks to remedy this lack.The book is translated by Bill Johnston,Director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University, and is published by Green Integer.The claims made by Johnston in his introduction that Baczynski should rank alongside Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert and Wislawa Szymborska as one of the giants of 20th Century Polish poetry do him no favours.He is not (at least in translation) on a par with these poets.Better to consider him on his own terms, if we can, or failing that, to grant him the indulgence we would any poet who died at the age of 23.Excesses of religiosity, lyricism, grandiosity and morbidity – all of which Baczynski …

Best Of The Decade

The Sunday Times Culture section ran an intriguing list of the best of the 00s in film, pop, books, last weekend. It was a persuasive list. Best film: In The Mood For Love – which would have been my choice. Best book: Austerity Britain, by David Kynaston – a wonderful choice, and one that makes me particularly pleased because David is a colleague of mine at Kingston University, and also because my doctoral research is in the austerity years of the 40s and British poetry of the period. Best album: Kid A – not a bad choice either. Eyewear’s Top Films of the Decade would include The Lives of Others, The Bourne trilogy, Mulholland Drive, Elephant, The New World, Lost In Translation, Match Point (Woody Allen’s misunderstood film), Before Sunset, Let The Right One In, Casino Royale and The House of Mirth. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a noteworthy achievement of the time. In terms of albums, Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft remains the masterwork of the decade. Other acts that impressed i…

Guest Review by Kayo Chingonyi: ‘The Terrors’ by Tom Chivers

‘The Terrors’ is, by nature, a mysterious book. Even the preface, in
which the sequence is introduced as ‘a series of imagined emails to
inmates at Newgate Prison between […] 1700 and 1760’, is far from
explanatory. However, what might seem an overly complex book is shown
by attentive reading to be an engaging, if not always immediately
understandable, work of linguistic playfulness and incisive satire.

It is, perhaps, the juxtaposition of such a contemporary form of
discourse as the email with the style of the 18th century Newgate
Calendar which throws up the most questions. In some quarters it is
felt that since email has, in many ways, usurped snail mail we might
one day, as Michael Ravitch envisages*, appreciate the email as a
literary form rather than just a means to the end of relaying a
message.

The opening poem ‘A Guide to Email Etiquette’ serves as an orientation
to the world the reader is about to enter as well as an introduction
to the tropes at work in the book as a whole:

Don’t …

Glorious Basterds

A retraction. I finally saw the latest Tarantino film, and think it a work of cinematic genius. While I continue to regret his adolescent violence, this film has at its heart two or three set piece dramatic sequences that, in terms of suspense and wordplay, are among the most brilliant ever presented on screen - most especially the cellar Mexican standoff. As everyone now knows, this is QT's movie about the power of film - to make everything happen. Historically subversive and yet paying knowing homage to Pabst and other classic German film-makers, it is a disquieting guilty pleasure, with superb casting. He even includes a sly reference to the script about Nazi killers I co-wrote, and which his company optioned briefly, A Necessary Evil.

Sweeping all before it

As if to confirm my recent posts, The Guardian's poetry round up this Saturday featured a photo of Don Paterson and a statement from Sarah Crown that his collection Rain "swept all before it" this year. I find such triumphalist language of very limited value, especially as it plays into a marketing-branding-prize-giving perspective that has badly damaged the poetry world over the last decade. It is truly amazing to me to see all the Internet-based poetry initiatives of this decade - most which empowered thousands of poets - continuously ignored or downgraded in the mainstream media's summaries of the decade. Main reason: you can't buy and sell free poetry. Anyway, how did Rain sweep all before it this year? I think, rather, that 2009 was a richly varied year, with many books worth reading. A pity that critics in positions of authority and with wide public reach continue to try to establish a star system for British poets reminiscent of the BBC's interna…

Eyewear's Albums of 2009

In no order, the following ten albums were the ones that Eyewear found themselves returning to most often, in the pop/rock category. The Priests have a new album that's worth checking out, for those inclined that way. The Pope does as well. Both rise above schmaltz to be genuinely moving at times, if obviously not for all. Anyway, here are the ten:

Fever Ray, eponymous;
Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest;
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz!;
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion;
The xx; eponymous;
Lady Gaga, The Fame;
Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions, Through the Devil Softly;
Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fountain;
U2, No Line on the Horizon;
White Lies, To Lose My Life.

Others were close, but no cigar. A few were strictly guilty pleasures, like the latest Ah-ha, or Depeche Mode, or Simple Minds. The new La Roux, and the new Little Boots etc., the synth pop gals, were good but really rather limited. On another front, the best film of the year was Let The Right One In - but then I didn…

Noon Time

Two new pamphlets from the indefatigable Alistair Noon, based in Berlin! In People's Park, from Penumbra editions, is only £4.00 and is beautifully put together, both as a physical object, and a series of texts. This is excellent poetry. Someone should give Mr. Noon a full collection soon - Salt? I love the last line: "Around the toppled reptiles ran the gnawing rats". He has also translated Sixteen Poems by Monika Rinck, from Barque. "Absolute romantic zero" indeed! Excellent writing from a German into English. These are both stocking stuffers for the poetry buff in your linguistically-innovative home.

TS Eliot Shortlist

The TS Eliot list this year is impressive. While there are (as always) unfortunate omissions (Lumsden's book was his best) it does feature fine collections from Szirtes, Gross, D'Aguiar, Oswald - perhaps the front-runners - as well as Williams and Olds - and others. It's an intelligent list. There were funnier, more experimental books this year, maybe, but whoever wins this will have competed among some of the very best.

Frank Lists

The Guardian Review has frankly ceased to represent its papers' own social or editorial values. Of late, it has toed an increasingly establishment line. In its recent "50 Books of the Decade" - which featured English-language books from America, the UK, and beyond, only one poetry collection was mentioned: Don Paterson'sLanding Light, from Faber. Now, given that Paterson was the only poet selected the week before, for the Christmas list, it is becoming tedious. But what is problematic is not Paterson's being listed - this collection is one of the major Scottish books of the decade, certainly - it is the utter absence of any other poetry books. Where is Alice Oswald? Carson? Muldoon? Something from a smaller press maybe? Some Giles Goodland? Or, .the utterly funny and experimental and daring Girly Man, by Charles Bernstein? Or, for that matter, the most politically inclusive poetry book of the decade, 100 Poets Against The War? Instead, by selecting a collectio…

Guest Review : Zoë Brigley on 'Language for a New Century'

A New Hybrid MuseLanguage for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, ed. Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, New York and London: Norton, 2008. ISBN: 9780393332384. Pbk, 734pp.Language for a New Century begins with a question about the meaning and value of poetry. Yet in this anthology, the question of value acquires all the more meaning, because the poetry comes out of postcolonial and diasporic settings. In their preface, the editors suggest that ‘Where the opportunities for fatal destruction, between people and between nations, are intensified, the same age-old questions still exist: What is the role of poetry? What can it do? Can poetry still matter?’. What this anthology offers is a poetry attuned to needs of particular cultures. It is a poetry that works for these needs, by reinventing form, syntax, the lyric mode and themes such as childhood, identity, politics, war, homeland, spirituality and the body. The writers included originate…