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Showing posts from April, 2010

Hill or Horovitz?

The race has heated up - for the position of Oxford Professor of Poetry.  Geoffrey Hill, England's greatest living lyric poet, seemed a shoe-in, facing pint-sized opposition, until, the contest was revitalised and refreshed by the news that another poetic elder statesman, Michael Horovitz, had entered.  Horovitz has several times read for my Oxfam series.  I think he is a brilliant man - a superb poet-of-the-people - who has done more for the Beat strain of poetry in the UK than any other single human being (I mean, as opposed to organisations or groups).  He loves to encourage others.  He has a big warm heart.  And he knows his poetry.  He's right to challenge the other lesser figures running, and right, to, like Clegg, give the leading horse a run for the money.  This isn't, now, a race I'd want to call.  Hill is the master elitist of English letters, and Horovitz the ultimate English maverick, the advocate of almost everything Hill is against.  As a fusion poet, I&#…

New Order

I've just received my review copy of New Order: Hungarian Poets of the Post 1989 Generation, edited and introduced by George Szirtes, from Arc Publications.  I lived in Budapest for almost five years, and met several of these poets.  It is a very good-looking book.  I look forward to writing on it for Eyewear this summer.

Hoxton Fizz

I had one of the best poetry experiences of my life last night when I attended Declan Ryan's cutting-edge poetry series in Hoxton, East London, Days of Roses.  Set currently in a hyper-cool if-small basement bar (With Lee Scratch Perry posters, red walls, a cavernous series of little snug rooms, and a great DJ), the series is pulling in the elite of the younger set of British poets.  I read with Sam Riviere, Jon Stone, Kate Potts, and Katrina Naomi last night (among others) - a very good line-up, indeed.  Ryan is himself a fine serious younger poet, and a personable host.  The audience, jampacked in, stood attentively over the two hour event (with breaks of course) and really got into the poems.  The vibe was very friendly, cultured but also hip.  If this is the coming generation, it is a great sign indeed.  Riviere has a forthcoming pamphlet, Faber New Poets 7; Stone's new pamphlet is SCAREcrows; and Naomi's is Charlotte Bronte's Corset (she was the writer-in-res at t…

Brown and the Bigot: A Susan Boyle Moment In Reverse

Poor Gordon Brown - he has been caught on microphone, calling a 65-year-old woman he had met on a meet-and-greet, a "bigot".  The media has played it up, and Brown has apologised on BBC radio (filmed doing so, head in hands), and also has called her to apologise in person - and then emailed his party to apologise too.  The BBC is calling it the worst moment for the Labour party so far in the election - an election that already sees them likely to come third behind the Tories and Lib-Dems.  However, this may garner sympathy.  If the woman did want to restrict immigration to keep out Eastern Europeans, she is, by definition, a bit of a bigot.  Brown actually does seem to care, and actually does have integrity.  His fault seems to be that he called it like it is.  Perhaps he was too quick to say he was sorry.  Still, the BBC news is emphasising the Janus-faced nature of the comments - that Brown would speak to a Labour supporter one way in person, and then fulminate against the…

Summer of 2006

The Poetry Library recently digitalised and put online the summer 2006 issue of the excellent London poetry magazine, Magma.  If you want to see what was being written in Britain five years ago, by some of the best new and established poets, here's one way to start finding out...

Protestant Too Much

It being Sunday, this story is particularly resonant - and also demanding of forgiveness.  But the news that a junior British civil servant in the Foreign Office prepared an official memo planning for the Pope's autumn visit - a memo distributed widely to politicians and officials, and called a serious brainstorming document - which recommended the Pope variously open an abortion clinic, and start a new brand of condoms - seems willfully disrespectful, even sacrilegious.  People who wish to suggest I take a chill pill, and see the humour of the document may miss the point: visiting world leaders shouldn't ever be treated to such official government mockery, no matter how ludicrous their beliefs may be.  When their beliefs are a religion practiced by more than 20% of the world, and by a significant minority of one's own nation, even less reason is given for such a Monty Python treatment.  Of course, in pubs and private, let the Protestant (and secular) people of Britain moc…

Alan Sillitoe Has Died

It has been a bad last few days for brilliant octogenarian writers and poets of Britain - first Peter Porter, now the legendary Alan Sillitoe, has died.  I find this very sad news indeed.  Sillitoe is one of the truly iconic voices of British writing of the post-war period, and his books and screenplays, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, are classics of the Kitchen Sink manner.  I had a most memorable dinner and drinks with Mr. Sillitoe at the Groucho Club a few years ago, and he was charming, funny, smart and slightly grouchy.  He had lots to say and great stories to tell.  He'd lived in Morocco with Tennessee Williams and knew Sylvia Plath.  He was a smoking advocate.  He was an Angry Young Man who didn't like the term.  He was a famous novelist for more than fifty years, and a good poet whose prose overshadowed that side of his writing.  Sillitoe is survived by his wife, the important American-British poet, Ruth Fainlight.  He…

Guest Review: Horton On Sutherland

Christopher Horton reviews
Things To Do Before You Leave Town
by Ross Sutherland

Even for those with only the faintest interest in performance poetry, Ross Sutherland will probably need little introduction. A member of performance collective Aisle 16 and omnipotent download provocateur, Sutherland has, more recently, even found time to write and perform his own plays. What will surprise some, perhaps, is the range and depth evident in his first book, Things To Do Before You Leave Town. I say ‘surprise’ here only because Sutherland is, for the most part, better known for his grandstanding readings and recitals at performance venues across the UK than he is for his page poetry. As someone who has tracked Sutherland’s poetry career over the last few years – in small magazines such as Tears in the Fence and Rising – there is, in fact, from this reader at least, little surprise that this is a book of wit, linguistic endeavour and intellectual merit.

The problematic tag ‘performance poet’ does …

History Boy

Orlando Figes, a highly-respected academic in Britain, has been caught writing very negative reviews of his colleagues, and very positive reviews of his own works, on Amazon.  When caught, he denied this, and his wife, for a time, took the rap.  As often happens, this all came to a head because - like Wilde - he instigated a legal case against his accuser; unfortunately (and perhaps again like Oscar) he actually was what he looked to be.  It's been in the TLS and is now in the papers and on the BBC.

Figes - who is now on sick leave - is clearly under great stress, and the potential decline and fall of his career - trumpeted in the media - cannot be helping him.  I wish him well.  Meanwhile, this sad case reminds us all of the seductive dangers of the Digital Age - how seeming anonymity, and the instant pleasures and powers of the Internet, offer many opportunities for self-destruction, as well as destruction of rivals.  Intellectuals and poets are not immune.

Indeed, isolated, in …

Guest Review: Almond On Ruthen and Dullaghan

Liz Almond reviews
Jetty View Holding
by Philip Ruthen
&;
On the Back of the Wind
by Frank Dullaghan

These collections introduce me to two writers new to me – Philip Ruthen and Frank Dullaghan – and they’re as different as dark from light. Philip Ruthen’s (from Waterloo Press) has a nervous energy that moves with a heightened speed around the globe. Frank Dullaghan’s is more quietly contemplative, taking time to notice every small detail that adds to the whole effect. The syntax of each title gives you a sense of what is to come in terms of use of poetic language.

Philip Ruthen’s debut collection Jetty View Holding demonstrates that “there is more than one way to write” The past is the letter rack. From the calm centre of his love poems, with their moment suspended in time, there are ripples out to other places, times, contexts, so that from poem to poem there is always a tension or ambivalence between speaker and the world of which he speaks. The most powerful and memorable of the…

Salt and Bank

Salt is an important British publisher of poetry and poetics - and Eyewear has reviewed some of their books, happily (more pending).  So, what's going on with this rumour, circulated on blogs the other day, that it has been "defrauded"?  What could that possibly mean?  This appeared at Canadian blog, Bookninja:

Aussie indy publishing sensation Salt has just posted this message via editor Chris Hamilton-Emory’s Facebook status:

"We’ve just had terrible news: Salt has been the victim of a fraud and our entire bank account has been emptied. We’ve not a bean left. The bank is now investigating. Please bear with us while we try and stay afloat."

What seemed odd was that Chris Emery's name was spelled incorrectly - and the fact the story was being broken in Canada, not the UK.  Can anyone confirm this to be true?  I have been removed (for reasons that remain unclear) from Emery's Facebook circle, so can't check for myself.

[editor's note at 18:39: havin…

A Poem For Peter Porter

Peter Porter was, I have written below, a master craftsman, and particularly good at writing of loss and the temporal. This poem is very humbly offered to him, and his memory.

In Memoriam, Peter Porter

Your death happened on the BBC
At six, on Radio 4. A sunny
Day, and my listening to Kate Nash
Now, which I know, Peter, smashes

Any sense of decorum this might
Have had. Then again, literary nights
We met by accident with white wine
You always spoke of music; fine

Talk, and warm, as well. I replied
That I liked popular things. Died,
Porter? Impossible. He lived across
Canvasses, or scores; in a note’s loss,

In colour’s fading, also. He wrote of
The world, as if to form is to love,
As if to hold a word true to its place
Was to rise in a chapel, kiss high grace.

23 April 2010, London

Peter Porter Has Died

Sad news.  The major poet Peter Porter has died at the age of 81, in London.  Just heard this on the six o'clock BBC news.  The BBC report (a brief obituary notice) noted his "tragic life" - death of his mother at 9, and the suicide of his first wife, which led to his most-acclaimed book, The Cost of Seriousness.  It also noted that, while he has born Australian, he had long ago become one of England's most admired poets (he moved to London in 1951, half a century ago).  It noted his formal similarities to Auden, and his satirical edge.  It also noted his love of music and painting - constant themes in his poems.  Finally, it noted his many awards, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and the Forward Prize.  I met Peter Porter soon after I moved to London in 2003.  While I cannot claim him as a friend, he was always an exceptionally courteous and lively interlocutor, at numerous literary events and parties, where my wife and I would often stroll over to h…

Featured Poet: Sheila Hillier

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Sheila Hillier to its storied pages this post-ash Friday. Hillier trained at the London School of Economics and The London Hospital Medical College, where she gained a Ph.D in 1986. She was appointed Professor of Medical Sociology in 1992, the first sociologist to be appointed to a Chair in a UK Medical School. She has undertaken research in the UK, Trinidad and the People's Republic of China, where she has been involved for over thirty years.

Her research interests include health care organisation and the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and beyond. She has also undertaken research on the health of ethnic minority groups in the UK. She was Visiting Professor at Shanghai No 2 Medical College and is currently Visiting Professor at the Chinese University Hong Kong and Professor Emeritus at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

As a poet, Hillier has studied with the late Julia Casterton, and at The Poetry School, and is now…

Tied Tongues

Last night's leader's debate - aired on the dastardly Sky News channel - yielded no clear winner.  Indeed, the earlier Cleggmania has faded somewhat, as the new dog with the new tricks became old hat.  He used names looked into the camera, and basically made the same claims about being different.  Ho hum.  But Clegg did have clear and different policies on Europe, Trident, and immigration - all left-field and quite brave.  Brown was better than I have ever seen him: angry, principled, and informative; he seemed to have a fire in his belly at last.  He claimed Nick was anti-American and bad for security, and David anti-Europe and bad for the economy.  Cameron - to my mind - was the weakest - though his calm upper-crust "Gap Yah" delivery was at least less shaky than first time out, and he seemed to score points about the campaign literature scare tactics that Brown may or may not have authorised.  Eyewear is now on the fence, between Labour and the Lib Dems.  I wait t…

Cabin Fever

There is something grotesque about the way the airlines have begun to bully and browbeat the Civil Aviation Authority, and governments, who (rightly, it seems to me) threw wind to caution, and grounded planes due to scientific concerns about the damage volcanic ash can due to jet engines.  Yes, it is true the industry lost a billion dollars or so - though clearly they should recoup much of these losses as they fly people home eventually.  But to claim that economic interests might trump public safety seems odious, and wrong-headed.  The aviation industry is already too strong a lobby.  Flying should be pruned back.  Despite the travel headaches, everyone on the ground noted the bucolic blue skies above with some degree of approval.  Less planes would do more for the planet.  And, until science establishes a different set of facts, it stands as given that volcanic ash can cause catastrophic engine failure and result in hull losses.  It was right to be prudent about the plume.  Fly the …

Nominations Are In For Oxford Professor of Poetry

Not only will Britain have a new government sometime soon after 6 May - in June, it will have a new Oxford Professor of Poetry, to fill the shoes of the retired professor, Ruth Padel.  So far, this has been a rather arcane campaign - plans to provide for online voting seem at odds with the decidedly low-key (and byzantine) system - as nominees must be put forward by Oxford students with degrees (and some apparently never bother to officially "take" such degrees). At any rate, the flood of popular, sunny, Clegg-like figures has yet to sweep us the people away.  Only three poets have been so far confirmed, and of those, the less said the better about two of them - or rather, the more said, because I had, frankly, never heard of them until today.

It seems odd and a little ludicrous, if not vain, to allow oneself to be put forward for such a position, when one is, obviously, not of the first, or even second, rank.  The third nominee is the great genius of the English language, G…

Stock Still Bond

The news that Bond 23 has been delayed "indefinitely" while MGM gets its financial house in order (or not) is both good and bad news, Eyewear thinks.  On the one hand, the culturally significant British franchise is now (for better and worse - it glamorises evil; but also sends up evil and glamour) a part of the calendar, and to see it just peter out would be sad (it needs to go out with an exploding oil rig, underwater domed HQ, or erupting volcano).  On the other, the Craig series has run out of steam, and needs retooling anyway.  The Bourne trilogy demanded a response, and Bond answered, with a similar aesthetic - but an angry, avenging Bond - very Old Testament, to Brosnan's smiling New Testament Bond.

This back to fundamentals was intriguing, but quickly lost fuel, in its second installment, with a bizarrely underwhelming climax in an eco-friendly hotel.  It seems time for a new Bond - one either younger (like the new Doctor Who) and more 21st century; or a more ret…

Flood

I've received a flood of new books to read and put up for review at Eyewear, such as, as it happens, Flood, by AF Harrold, Sunflowers in Your Eyes: Four Zimbabwean Poets, and Arlene Lang'sSeeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu.  Also been sent the latest Peter Finch, from Seren, which I am pleased to have supplied a blurb for, on the back.  And much more.  Will try and get these looked at over the summer or sooner.

The New Kate Nash Album: My Best Friend Is You

Kate Nash's new album, out today, My Best Friend Is You, has received some mixed reviews. The main concern was that this upbeat pop singer had perhaps suddenly become too eclectic, complex, or ambitious (whereas, perhaps in sexist form, critics have saluted Paul Weller for being just that with his own new major album, Wake Up The Nation). Stuff and nonsense. This is one of the most fun, charming, and even thrilling, pop albums of the last few years, and easily better than her debut, Made of Bricks, which made Nash a star in Britain. If you want to know what meeting a cheeky, smart, sassy, fun-loving and ironic young British woman is like, in today's Broken Britain of 2010, play this record. Nash has effortlessly, but stylishly, used many classic pop song tropes, from riot grrrl, to Bow Wow Wow, to Pixies, to wall of sound, to jangly indie, to power pop - to forge a new and contemporary voice for her generation - a magpie generation to be sure. In the process, she's assembl…

Barbara Smith

Eyewear has read on the Irish poet Barbara Smith's blog that she has recently had surgery following pneumonia and a collapsed lung. I wish her a full and speedy recovery.

Sunny Uplands

One could be forgiven for waking up in England today thinking one had been transplanted to the set of The Prisoner (the remake at least) - a sunny utopia where the impossible rises like giant balloons. Today it is very warm and sunny here, and people are strolling, with perambulators, lovers, friends, out to recreation grounds and public places, wearing shorts and shades like it was Florida.

And we woke, the people of Britain, to at least two impossible things before brunch: the news that Nick Clegg is now, according to The Sunday Times "the most popular leader since Churchill" (with 72% approval) and that volcanic ash may keep belching out over the next year, intermittently keeping planes on the ground for the foreseeable. It's all happening. Britain seems like a different, alternative reality version of itself, one with coalition governments and a quiet Heathrow. Meanwhile, Eyewear's partner is slowly making her way home across Europe - a four-day trek to catch a bo…

It's Blitz

This was billed as the "first classic episode" of the new Doctor Who series.  It wasn't quite.  I am not sure the jazzed up logo and modified theme make the show more, or less, contemporary - something about the colours and tone sound too of the moment.  Sometimes retro is actually cooler, and more classic.  The new Doctor is an improvement on the last one, frankly, who I found a little insufferable.  This time around his manic eccentricity has an edge of uncertainty, bordering on insanity, that is fun.  The new assistant is even odder.  Unfeasibly tall, with a curious open face and big eyes, this pale Scottish lass is quirky, spaced out, and sometimes compellingly smart, all at once, while also looking like she's just bonked for an hour (or is that wishful thinking?).  I think she's a good character twist.

Tonight's episode was classic BBC twaddle, that convinces itself it is genius - remember the hype when they put Titanic in space?  So, this time, it was s…

C Change

The latest polls suggesting that Nick Clegg's brilliant and engaging manner and message won over the TV audience of Britain in Thursday's debate is a truly new moment in UK politics - finally, the media is not just (a la Murdoch) dictating to the masses, but letting them see for themselves what is really at stake.  Finally allowed to be seen and heard, the Lib Dems (who are supported by 25% of national voters as is) appear credible, and even ready to rule.  It is too early to see if Clegg is the "new Obama" as some are saying, or if his mass appeal will fade - he has two more debates to go, and some of his rhetorical tricks (remembering the names of audience members) will be less impressive second time around.  And, the other two leaders will now know they have a force to be reckoned with.  But, here the strategy gets tricky- for a rise in Lib Dem popularity damages the Tory chances of forming a majority government - so Labour may not bring down its mighty fist.  It …

Featured Poet: Claire Potter

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the Australian poet Claire Potter (pictured) to its pages this ash-plumed Friday. Potter grew up in Perth, Western Australia and moved to Sydney when she was twenty. There she completed an Honors degree in English Literature, before being awarded a French Embassy Scholarship to complete a Masters in Paris, concerned with psychoanalysis and tragedy.

In 2006 she was awarded an Australian Young Poet Fellowship from the Poet’s Union and the Australian Council for the Arts. Her first chapbook, In front of a comma, was published and launched at the 2006 Sydney Poetry Festival. In 2007, her second chapbook of poetry, N’ombre, was published by Vagabond Press. Potter is currently reading a joint doctorate at the University of Western Australia and the Universit√© de Paris VII, where she is writing about Thomas Hardy. Potter’s first full-length poetry collection, Swallow, will be published by Five Islands Press in October 2010.

Robert Adamson has written of her w…

Eat The Plumes

WCW had his plumbs.  Britain, and Northern Europe, continues to have volcanic plumes.  This is getting more Day of the Triffids every hour.  Over 100,000 Brits are stranded in the near abroad.  Was it just me, or did the streets seem deserted in London today?  Anyway, no one is panicking, yet.  If this is prolonged, of course, the economy would collapse, and people would go mad.  But not yet.  My partner is one of those stranded.  Eyewear is a bit at sea with all this compromised sky.

Clegg Up

It seems to be universally held that Nick Clegg, beforehand something of the Invisible Man of British politics (in league with his henchman, Vince Cable, the self-styled Elephant Man, so an extraordinary leage of gents, then) has won, hands down, the first-ever leaders debate in a modern British election.  Televised (that barbarous word!) and radio'd out to a vast audience of over ten million, it was almost as if three new Dr Whos were being rolled out.  Gordon Brown started very badly, and never stopped being stiff and grimace-wracked, often smiling oddly - but his level tones, and fact-filled answers impressed; he knows the names of the helicopters everyone else wants more of.  David Cameron (perhaps rattled by meeeting me) forgot to mention his Big Society - as if his manifesto had evaporated in the bright lights of the studio.  Instead, he appeared normal enough, but not exactly over-impressive.  Clegg, though, was positively Clintonian - using questioner's names, and play…

Ash Thursday

I was going to title this post 'Poor Visibility" - an Eyewear title if ever there was one - but went for the more theologically resonant one instead.  Odd times over the European skies today - ash is general over England, and beyond.  There was a large volcanic eruption in Iceland on Wednesday.  Due to the weather conditions, a plume of volcanic ash has now spread southwards towards northern Europe and is severely affecting all airlines' flight activity in the area. For safety reasons and on the direction from Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) a decision has been made to cancel a number of flights and close all London airports.  All British Airways domestic services have been cancelled on Thursday 15 April. On the BBC, they are talking about maybe no flights until Saturday, unless the ash plume, now pretty immobile, moves on.  This seems relatively unprecedented, and more than a little sci-fi slash disconcerting.  No eye in the sky, indeed.  Iceland's revenge on Brit…

Poem Focus: Great Poems from Identity Parade #04

Patience Agbabi has been an exceptionally important figure for "British" poetry over the last decade or so, both as practitioner, and exemplar, of a mode of composition I have termed "fusion poetry" - that is, a style of writing that is equally adept on the page, and in performance (on the stage). Agbabi's work has been marked by formal intelligence, humour, sociopolitical engagement, and humanity. Without stretching comparisons out of context, she is the UK's Patricia Smith(without the scandal) - a universally-admired performance poet, but also a distinguished published poet, as well.

This is important, because, for a long time, black British poetry was somewhat sidelined, or marginalised, it seemed, by mainstream (and avant-garde) circles, of publication, and critical, reception (though Bloodaxe was always open to this poetry) - perhaps because the explosive diversity and range of the works challenged received notions of what "British" poetry (…

Guest Review: Brinton On Hughes

Ian Brinton reviews
Behoven
by Peter Hughes

editor's note: due to html restrictions, some of the text quoted may be differently presented on the page in the published collection to how it appears on the reader's screen.

The first thing to be said about Peter Hughes’s adroit lyrics, registrations of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, is how hauntingly beautiful they are.

we suddenly lost interest
in such impossible pasts
lifting our heads towards
the river elsewhere
a new jetty stood beside
the old beyond repair
time mends an idea
slips its moorings
swings out into the current
& a kneeling figure
works on
pausing only to reach
for three more nails
& place them gently
between her lips

In his 1997 autobiographical sketches George Steiner suggested that almost everything said about musicalcompositions by poets or by music critics is inevitably just ‘verbiage’:  It is talk which enlists metaphor, simile, analogy in a more or less impressionistic, wholly subjective magma.

Music,…

Guest Review: Walsh On Swift

The Irish poet and writer, Niall Walsh, currently based in Hungary, has sent in his reading of Mainstream Love Hotel.  With transparency (I wrote the book) let me offer it here to those who might find it of interest:

Niall Walsh reviews
Mainstream Love Hotel
by Todd Swift

The first theme that emerged for me was one concerning water. The opening poem 'Mirror' presents us with the platonic question of reality: which is real, the shadow or the substance? Are we to believe in the paddlers in the boat, or their shadows reflected in the water? The answer comes in the final line of the poem, "the sister of knowing is making". This reflects Yeats's resolution of the dilemma of body and soul in 'Among School Children' "how can we know the dancer from the dance?". In 'Seaway Park' the act of swimming becomes a form of delving into one's past, to retrieve the unresolved issues of our childhood. The final line of the poem "light in water is …

Animation Free For All!

The Labour party in Britain has just unleashed a series of free animated manifestos from the land of chalk drawings.  They're awfully cute, and even rather funny.  Will they tip the swing voters back?  Meanwhile, Gordon Brown now claims to be a fan of Lady Gaga.  I am trying to square that one with his circle, or rather, circle that with his squareness.  On another bat channel, Cameron and Co. are offering a government we can all join (without the smell of the sedan leather, as one BBC pundit put it this morning) - which means WE get to set up the schools, run the fire departments, clean the wards, and fire bad cops - making Britain the first fully-functioning Fisher-Price kingdom.  Very juvenile all this.  What is Clegg offering - free candy-flavoured unmentionables?

Holroyd Through It

Sad news.  As Tony Lewis-Jones wrote via his Various Artists communique: "Poetry Monthly International, one of the mainstays of the British Small Press since 1996, is to close. Poetry Monthly has been at the forefront of the millennial Poetry Boom, a cutting edge leading provider of Poetry solutions which has gone thru over 150 editions, numerous books and booklets, and a state of the art graphics business, and will leave a truly cavernous hole in the middle-ground of British Poetry Publishing when Martin Holroyd produces his final issue in June 2010."

Haiku Master From Bristol

Tony Lewis-Jones, a fine British poet from Bristol who actively supports the small press world of poetry alternative to the London scene, has placed highly (one star, third prize) in perhaps the world's most prestigious Haiku thingamajig.  The Mainichi Haiku website out of Tokyo Japan has, after all, some claim to be the number one poetry website in the world, with 15 million readers.  Hats off to the syllabic master of these isles.

Jim Dixon Wrote A Lot of Larkin

Been reading Lucky Jim - at last! - while on vac; I know, I know - but I always preferred to come at Amis Senior via his under-rated poems, which are rather good, really. Aside from noting being a lecturer hasn't changed all that much in 56 years, it is striking (and this is a rather expectable observation, the kind I like to make) how many tropes, themes, phrases, and exact words, seem directly influential on the poems of Larkin, who was, of course, privy to early drafts of the work. Fear and boredom dominate the life of eponymous hero Jim Dixon, as does an interest in pretty "girls" beyond reach. It's a surprisingly romantic, even touching book, as well as being pretty darn funny at times. Required reading, indeed.

Random Quote Out Of Context

As seen in yesterday's Sunday Times: "The way the Establishment deals with people like me is to ignore them. When you become unignorable, they smear you" - Heather Brooke, journalist who helped to expose the MP expenses scandal.

Wheatley In New Anthology!

David Wheatley, a leading Irish critic-poet of his generation (those born in the 70s), is one of the poets selected to appear in the latest - and from the looks of it, invaluable (or at least intriguingly copious) - anthology of "modern" Irish poetry to appear.  Cynics might say these anthologies are as regular as "bloody buses" - but then again, if anthologies usefully update and revise canonical thinking, each one subtly or not so subtly, shifting the relations between poems, then, the more the merrier.  Eyewear looks forward to reading this one, edited by Wes Davis.

Entertainment Finally?

Strangeness alert: a paradox threshold, or is that irony watershed, or is that ambiguity tipping point, or is that satire level, or is that hypocrisy overload? - has been reached this week, with the unlikely, but nevertheless deserved news, as posted on Charles Bernstein'sown worthwhile blog, that his latest, All The Whiskey In Heaven (a selected of 30 years poetry from FSG), has received an -A from Entertainment Weekly.

This is rich odd good news for Eyewear - since Eyewear modelled itself, in some ways, on a possible-world EW where poetry was as well-observed and perkily and glossily treated, as movies and music - in short, as if poetry could and did entertain a mass audience - though Eyewear has always operated on the understanding such a thing, if at all desirable, is barely possible in a capitalist secular world where celebrity is king - the Adorno problematic that the Language poets did so much to bring to our notice these last 30 or so years.

So how is it, then, that Bernstei…

Report Abuse

Pope or Pilate? Washing one's hands may be a Christian trope, but it shouldn't be a guiding principle. The latest revelations concerning the former Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to prosecute or defrock child-molesting priests, for the claimed sake of a larger purpose (presumably protecting the name of the Church) is chilling, and more Machiavellian than even we might have expected emanating from an Italian city-state with subtle leanings.

The Pope is leader of a Church with about a billion followers (communicants) and he shouldn't be collared like a common criminal when he visits the UK soon, as Dr Dawkins and Mr Hitchens now propose; but he is an uncommon figure, and if found responsible, or irresponsible, in such serious matters, his judgement, and moral fibre will have been called into more than just question - they may be dragged into the mire, and sullied beyond normal repair. Forgiveness for sins is a major aspect of Christianity.

But so is obedience to Caesar…

Posh Boy Sighting

A curious incident this morning: as Eyewear came home from Heathrow by cab, around 7 am, I spotted a handsome youngish man in a dark designer suit bicycling alone in North Kensington.  It was the Leader of the Opposition and likely future PM Mr David Cameron.  Not wasting a moment, I asked the driver to stop, stepped out and briefly chatted with the somewhat startled cyclist.  I wished him a sporting good luck, and he thanked me, and sped off.  Oddly, and impressively, he seemed genuinely unattended by ostentatious security of any kind.  Sometimes the UK is impressive for its eccentric and open ways - suggestive that Britain is not all that broken.  Note, thought, he was not wearing a helmet!  And, on top of Sam Cam's lack of a seat belt the other day, that's a security risk too far.  Safety first, lady and gentleman, please!

Man, Oman

I am just back from a very fine week in the Sultanate of Oman, trekking in the mountains, desert, and spending time by the sea reading. Oman is an exceptionally interesting country, a small nation on the Arabian peninsula connected by its historical, cultural, religious, and sea-faring ties, as much to Africa, Asia, as to the Middle East. A predominantly (moderate) Islamic country, it is not as oil rich as its neighbours, so it has had to diversify its economy. For the past 40 years it has been ruled, benevolently and intelligently, by Sultan Qaboos, who has won international awards for his far-seeing commitment to environmentalism. Oman is also a leader, in the region, in education, health, and eco-tourism. Oman is mainly a gravel desert, and mountainous, country, very hot and humid most of the year (it is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer), with some monsoons in the summer in the south, and a cooler breeze along its long coast (the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman).

Politically, …

175!

Eyewear is thrilled to note that we now have "175 followers".  It'd be swell to get up to 180 by May.  I am aiming to have 200 for our 5th anniversary in June.  Wishful thinking?

White Egrets

I have been reading Walcott's 14th - White Egrets - published in his 80th year by Faber. This may be the finest late work in the English high modern lyric tradition since Yeats. Heaney will be set an example to follow by this well-wrought confession. The symbolic resonance of an old man's lusty, deteriorating memories and regrets (the egrets of the title) act as leitmotifs, along with the white horses of the sea, painting, palms, European and Carribean cities and ports, light, time, and poets and poetry - and death shadowing all. This book is a lofty collection whose each poem interlocks and interleaves with its neighbours, offering a particularly fragrant, emotive and sensuous experience of mood, place, and purpose. Both profoundly sad and inspiring, it is canonical writing of the highest level. An etude of loss, disease, desire, and post-colonialism. Do search it out.

Malcolm McLaren Has Died

One of the greater Western cultural impresarios of the last 40 years died on my 44th birthday the other day: Malcolm McLaren.  He will be missed.  I met him once in a Moroccan restaurant in Paris.  Certain of his provocations, bands (not least Bow Wow Wow) and songs ('Madame Butterfly') are an indelible part of my earlier life, and his work in some ways influenced Tom Walsh and I when we worked on the Swifty Lazarus project a decade ago.

Bad Child

I just completed my first real pulp thriller best-seller in years (I used to love Fontana paperbacks featuring parka'd men scrambling on ice floes with ice picks) - the penultimate Lee Child.  It is, at times, shockingly misogynistic, violent, and even borderline racist (or at least the main character is).  Edward Said would not have been amused, in the least.  Child is not the new Chandler, as some have claimed, but he might be a new sort of Spillane.  Jack Reacher has some intriguing characteristics.  A pity he seems to hold dimestore views about le monde Arabe - a far more complex and valuable cultural space than his post-911 worldview (or the one his creator cynically adopts to sell books to the airport everyreader) seems to admit.  I am breaking my promise not to blog over the Spring break - okay, will try to keep my mitts off this blog for a few days.

Judt Land and Identity Parades

Tony Judt would be a fascinating reader of Identity Parade.  Perhaps he should be shown a copy, though the great American writer and thinker is sadly very ill with a debilitating disease.  Nontheless he has been dictating essays, and some of his recent writing has appeared in the latest The New York Review of Books.  There he discusses the identity of the edge ('Edge People', March 25, 2010), a cosmpolitan and fragmented identity that he advises intellectuals and academics to adopt, against what he decries as a very dictatorial attempt to define and delimit what is British identity (his own example), among others.  This essay is well worth checking out, to see a well-argued defense of what is basically my position - that strictly nationalist definitions of identity can be dangerous and even demagogic.  It has some wonderful quotes: '"Identity" is a dangerous word.  It has no respectable contemporary uses.'  Or, the conlduing paragraph:

Being Danish" or &q…

Blond Ambition

Eyewear is currently reading Blond's Red Tory, this new book that may or may not be Cameron's Third Way. In the meanwhile, let me say it is a pity the author doesn't seem to acknowledge he has not coined the phrase Red Tory at all - such progressive conservatism was de rigeur in Canada, for the PC party, for decades, and many great Canadian politicians have been called red Tories in their time. Blond does make a compelling case, as Eyewear often does, for a new space for values in British society, and calls the current State-Market nexus flattening - in the sense it leaves no community space for what used to be social good (as in Church groups, caring neighbours, genuine virtue, etc.). Blond is also good on the Broken Britain of young sex, young knives, and young drinking, where youth is bought and sold and marketed, cheapening everything.

Rowan, Gently

Dr Rowan Williams has had a busy Easter.  The other day he appeared in The Guardian as the even-handed, cheek-turning Christian reviewer, who subtly and gently turned the tables on atheist-turned-author P. Pullman, by suggesting the many ironies of the four gospels - four types of ambiguity then?  But the other Archbishop's face seemed turned the other way, to menace.  There he was, quoted on a yet-to-be broadcast BBC interview, scathing on the Irish Catholic Church, for its moral bankruptcy - forgetting, apparently, that the Church is all the people, as well as the steeple, and not just a so-called sinister Pope and the criminals who attacked children (though no less than the shaven-headed ululator of yore has also come out to attack).  It seems an odd display of virtuoso critical and moral authority, but it confirms Williams as a fascinating mind.  This Easter, all of Britain should be proud to have such a curious fellow in their midst.

Good Friday

I was born on Good Friday, 44 years ago - and just barely survived, being exceptionally tiny, three months premature, the smallest baby on the ward, and one of the youngest at my size to ever survive in Canada - a "miracle baby" as they were called then - perhaps still are.  It was a fraught time for my parents, and of course, for me - and I am grateful to have struggled through.  Today, at a celebration of the Lord's Passion, I could not help but reflect on my good fortune, to have lived, at all.

Eyewear will be back on April 12. In the meantime, fellow eyewearers, enjoy the various religious holidays with your families, the returning light, and the sense of renewal in the land. May you achieve physical and spiritual health. Or, if that is too much, enjoy some chocolate bunnies. Nothing like a good egg hunt.

What's to look forward to in April at this blog?

A few superb new poet features; reviews by Christopher Horton, Ian Brinton, Abigail Curtis, and others.  And the…

Guest Review: Ironmonger On Porter

Tom Ironmongerreviews Better than God
by Peter Porter
If you consider Peter Porter's contribution to poetry you might well be forgiven for assuming that the title of his latest work Better Than God is self-congratulatory. This would be understandable considering that, during half a century of residence in this country, his writings have been of such a prolificacy and quality to warrant this lofty comparison. However there is nothing bumptious about the poet or poems in this collection, Porter's subjects might be grandiose but his treatment is not. His stable themes (art and religion) are viewed with a wry Porterean reverence which is at odds to distinguish the fallible from the sublime. Those expecting a commemoration will find footage of candid behind-the-scenes action, a perspective which often seeks to portray the existence of his fellow worshipers: 'We are/ philosophers and drainmakers,/ prospectus-holders, vainly gripping/ the under-edge of a minor star.'

In a recent…

Orbis Is 150

Congratulations to Editor Carole Baldock, who has pioneered the intrepid quarterly international literray journal Orbis, in a difficult financial and cultural climate, to the remarkable milestone of its 150th issue (Winter/Spring 2010) - just out now. The issues features poems by Robert Nazarene, Nessa O'Mahony, William Oxley, Rupert M Loydell, and many others, new, unknown, and widely-respected, alike; Orbis is open and fair, welcomes all, from wherever. It also features good reviews of many collections, and mentions contests and magazines poets need to know about. It is a classic current little magazine, and we should thank Baldock for her work on its, and our, behalf. Orbis is the sort of magazine by which poetry thrives, despite the bigger boys and girls. One way to thank would be to order a subscription, or even a copy of Carole's latest poetry collection. Money where mouth is are words sweet to the poet-editor's ear.

Belgian awful

Belgium has just banned all wearing of clothing which obscures or semi-obscures the face - in a clear attempt to stop certain religious clothing most often associated with women of a certain faith - on the absurd grounds that no one should be allowed to "see but not be seen" in public. Are bans on tinted car windows and sunglasses to follow? Bans on security cameras? We in the West live in a pan-optical society, and the right to look extends far beyond the right to be seen. Otherwise x-ray specs would be enforced. We have a right, surely, to protect our dignity, modesty, person - and even privacy. More to the point, is religion such a threat to the secular powers that be (namely so-called democracy and capitalism) that it must be basically cleared from the market place and the public squares, as a contagion, like second-hand smoke? Religion threatens humanist mastery, and especially the aims of instrumentalism. It gestures to realms and spaces less visible, and less scientif…

Featured Poet: Teddy Sloe

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Teddy ("Ted") Sloe (pictured) the antipodean poet, this special day before the Good Friday pause. Sloe is one of the leading poet-editors of his generation, a New Zealander by birth, who has lived in various exotic and far-flung places, like French Polynesia, Panama, Wisconsin, and parts of Russia, but now is semi-firmly based in Paris, where he lives with his fiancee, the successful stockbroker Myrna Malone. As such, Sloe considers himself a "Franco-Kiwi". Though he often chunnels over to the vibrant London scene.

Sloe has published six collections, starting with his celebration of all things 80s - Ultravox (1999) from Gold Key Publishing, in Manitoba. This was followed by three more Gold Key books, in rapid succession - European Eatery (2002); Sesame Street Revisited (2004) and perhaps his masterpiece, Summer Snowballs (2007), which explores the harrowing death by tuberculosis of his step-mother, Tamara Sloe, the New Zealand caba…