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The Swift Report 2011

I'll keep this short.  The Swift Report is my looking back on the highs and lows of my personal life - not the great perturbations of the times.  As news retrospectives will attest, 2011 was an extraordinary year of deaths, collapses, uprisings, and economic shifts.

This was the year I completed my PhD at the University of East Anglia; published my 7th collection, England Is Mine; and edited, with Kim Lockwood, an anthology for Oxfam of young British poets, due out spring 2012.  I also launched a small press, Eyewear Publishing.  I hosted some wonderful visiting poets, including David Lehman, Don Share, Jacquelyn Pope, and Ilya Kaminsky.  I saw my old friend Fabio Bagnara again, after several decades.  I hosted several readings for the Oxfam series.  And, at the end of the year, my brother, his wife, and my wee Godson, Alex, came to stay for Christmas.  We had a wonderful time.

This was also the year I co-judged the Gerald Lampert Awards, which was eventually won by Anna Swanson.  A…

Featured Poet: Nikki Dekker

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Nikki Dekker (pictured) this last Friday of 2011.  Dekker  is a bilingual poet from the Netherlands. She has studied Literary Theory and Gender Studies in Amsterdam and Utrecht, and is currently undertaking a Creative Writing MA at Kingston University. Her poetry will be featured in the upcoming winter podcast of Cursive Script.




New York City artist reads the cards
Her room is draped with shawls. The magic any 24yearold24hourpartyperson emits brightens a staircase room and cupboard bed. Grown up
drinks like whisky without cola, and tonic with gin, she thins out every day, adjusting the alignments. ‘I don’t know,’ she says, the other end of a question,
‘She goes to bed at     eleven.’ Classified under          early. E: a rake pushing sideward stands single on the divide, stuck on that prole vertical line. If it bites, it’s only because the balloon’s face is not rubber or plastic or even                                       stone – the carelessness of p…

Guest Review: Lockton On Morgan

Katherine Lockton reviews
Grace By Esther Morgan
Sometimes it is the simplest of words in the simplest of orders that allows the subject of the poem “to become itself.” This is particularly true of Esther Morgan’s Grace, where the poetry is deceptively simple on the first reading. It is only after subsequent readings that a maze of hidden links between the poems is uncovered. These links come together to create alternative meanings to Morgan’s words. Morgan successfully conceals the seams in her tapestry of images, which if shown would break the spell that engulfs us as we read.
One of Morgan’s main preoccupations in her third collection is to look at what Wordsworth called “spots of time.” It is in this way that different moments are distilled to reveal the essence behind them. In the opening poem, ‘Grace’ it is the “the moment the house empties like a city in August/so completely/it forgets you exist” that is explored through simple yet amazing images:
                                   …

Li'l Bastard: Canadian Poetry Book of 2011

A little Christmas Eve cheer - I'd like to recommend to all you Boxing day shoppers David McGimpsey's book of hilarious, pop-savvy, literate yet modestly-colloquial chubby sonnets (his term), Li'l Bastard.  This is one of the key directions Canadian poetry and poetics has taken, thanks to Dr McGimpsey, in the last decade - and if you want to hear what Canada sounds like now when it is being smartly funny, here you go.

Merry Christmas To You

Gay Kiss

Wonderful.

Guest Review: Harlow On Yoseloff

Morgan Harlow reviews
The City with Horns by Tamar Yoseloff
We must embrace the gift of the street, The glare of chaos, of things being various. The frail instant needs us to record it; The mute made audible, still life animated. (‘Mannequins on 7th Street’ for Robert Vas Dias, after Anthony Eyton) Tamar Yoseloff’s The City with Horns is a timely collection, communicating “The mute made audible, still life animated” of the abstract expressionist avant-garde art movement during the last century alongside the buildup to the current global economic crisis which has brought the world as we know it to the brink of chaos. With its echo of George Oppen’s ‘Of Being Numerous’, the poem ‘Mannequins on 7th Street’ rings with particular acuity at a time when people “embrace the gift of the street” in cities around the world to come together in protest against oppressive regimes and to voice humanitarian concerns and demands. It is one of many references throughout The City with Horns which draw inspirati…

Is Minchin's Song Offensive?

Tim Minchin has had his Jonathan Ross Christmas Show song cut, by nervous ITV execs.  The song, which purports to compare Jesus to Woody Allen, because both are "Jewish" - was deemed religiously sensitive to Christians - but in fact, it seems apparently offensive on racist, grounds, instead.  The yoking together of Allen, and Jesus, simply because they share a cultural identity would be outrageous in any other context.  For instance, if I claimed that Mike Tyson and President Obama were actually one and the same because they were "both Black" you'd quickly sense this was not even comical, but simply ignorant, and offensive.  Christmas in the UK is a minefield - it brings out the Scrooges in great numbers - and seemingly gives them permission to throw snowballs with razor blades in them - at all God's children.  Get it over it, and grow up - religion is a holy time for people, and if you cannot share in the joy, then at least don't set out to spoil it fo…

Guest Review: Brinton On Smith

Ian Brinton reviews Gravesend by Simon Smith
Simon Smith’s remarkable sequence of poems written whilst travelling by train between Charing Cross and Chatham opens with a desire for permanence within a shifting landscape, a narrative that contains ‘whatever occurred at that particular moment at the carriage window, or on the train.’
            I want my life to be a story once Upon a time a four-legged now a three-legged rose Wood table smashed along the railway cutting, It central leaf missing As my eight-year-old collects climate-change transfers Hungry for permanent structure, A Boost bar and We Love You magazine.
The child’s hunger for permanence and for some sense of stability in a fast-moving world (a ‘collection’ is dear to any child’s heart as providing a cumulative sense of security) is undermined by the subject material of potential catastrophe. This hunger is juxtaposed with his father’s accumulation of literary and musical references, another form of ‘collection’. Within these poems …

Poem by Kaylin Brennan

Eyewear is happy to present another poem from one of my BA students in CW at Kingston University.  Kaylin Brennan (pictured)is an American exchange student studying in the UK for the year.  This is her sestina on the sinking of Titanic.

Never Feel It, Never Know

Swirling around each other, first class girls and boys dance.
One such Tom slides his hand down her back “It’s strange, you’re the only one I see.”
A heated chill drives up her spine, bursting in her eyes from centerpoint touch.
Mom can see you. Her mind settling as her heart screams.
It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok. You don’t love him. Yet. You need a break.
“I’m sorry, could you say that again? I didn’t hear.”

In the lounge there is a sign: ONLY MEN IN HERE.
Suiting the requirements, a group enters, telling their wives “No we’re giving you a break!”
Their voices become louder, laughter rumbling from fat bellies. Door and frame touch.
Can I get a fucking word in? Anger swells in the loudest man. You could see.
He is offset.…

Architecture and Morality

Patrick Chapman, Irish poet, has brought this to my attention: a very good online discussion and interview surrounding the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest of the 80s albums - synth-pop/avant-garde hybrid, Architecture & Morality, by OMD.  OMD have fascinated me since, well, at least 1980 or so, when I was 14.  I'd never heard music like this - it had the pop nous of The Beatles, but was cerebral, solemn, eerie, and profoundly serious, as well as being emotive.  Perhaps my PhD research into British poetic styles of the 1940s started here - for OMD certainly manage to fuse melodrama and the rational, in a romantic-classical mix that would have pleased a young Nicholas Moore.  The album's opening track, 'The New Stone Age' remains one of my all-time favourite songs - Misha Glouberman first played it for me in Westmount on a snowy Sunday morning, after waking up in his home after a party.  It felt like a revelation.  "Oh my God, what have I done this time?…

Is Britain A Christian Country?

It is, I think, a wonderful coincidence, that, just as Britain's PM, David Cameron, announces in Oxford that Britain is a Christian country (tolerant, however, of other faiths), one of the leading UK artists, Banksy, has unveiled a pixillated priest, representing the worst crimes of the church.  What this shows is that, above all else, the UK is a land of liberty of expression - and this can only be a good thing, so long as the atheist, the agnostic, and the believer, are each permitted to have their say.

Montreal Poetry Prize a bit of a dud

Well, the ho-hum news is in.  After apparently scouring the globe for the 50 best poems of the year, and with a super star list of judges, here is the shortlist.  There are not really many well-known or established Irish or British poets here, and, frankly, few if any major Canadian or American poets either.  Comparing this list to the Best American, Canadian or British anthologies, the level of quality and relevance is startling.  The Montreal Poetry Prize needs to do a lot better in encouraging established, talented poets from across the English-speaking world to submit - and they probably need a better system of feeding poems to their main judge.  It is a good idea, and hopefully, in time, will amount to something noteworthy.

George Whitman Has Died; An Era Has Ended

Sad news.  The world's greatest bookshop owner, and one of the great expats of all time, big-hearted, eccentric George Whitman, of kilometre zero's Shakespeare & Company, has died, at the lovely age of 98.  I lived in Paris for a few years (2001-2003) and, like thousands of other young writers, knew his generosity.  My Whitman anecdote gives the measure of the man.  One day I came in and introduced myself, in 2002 or so, as a young poet.  Whitman invited me to "a small reading" later that afternoon.  Instead, imagine my surprise when I was asked to open (with a generous ten minutes or so) for Lawrence Ferlinghetti, to an audience of hundreds outside the shop, crowding the pavements.  In the audience was none other than George Plimpton, who I spoke with after.  One of the great memories of my life, and entirely thanks to the splendid wide decency and helpfullness of Whitman, who embodied some of the spirit of his namesake, and enacted all that was best, and least…

Eyewear's Best Film of 2011

Eyewear should probably vote with its higher purposes, and recommend The Tree of Life, which is one of the great American films of all time - however, as readers of this blog will know, no film moved or thrilled me so much this year as Drive, whose ultra-stylish 80s take on Shane made it an instant classic, in its own right, and turned slim-hipped, toothpick-toting, six-packed Ryan Gosling, Canadian, into a Paul Newmanlike icon for the new decade. So, Drive it is.  Please note, The Artist has not opened in the UK yet, as of time of writing.  Honourable mention must go to gross-out chucklefest Bridesmaids, a clever genre-busting buddy movie meets chick-flick that also had heart.

Other comedies I enjoyed this year include Mr. Popper's Penguins (slight but zany), Cedar Rapids, Bad Teacher, and Horrible Bosses.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, an early favourite, has, in memory, paled somewhat, as beautifully filmed, but slow and ponderous, with little character development or mystery, …

THE MELITA HUME PRIZE FOR POETRY

Eyewear Publishing announces its inaugural (2012) THE MELITA HUME PRIZE FOR POETRY.   This will be an award of £1,000 and a publishing deal for the best first full collection (i.e. debut) of a young poet writing in the English language born in 1980 or later.  The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers during difficult economic times, with a quality publication in England and a helpful amount of money which can assist them in their studies, travel or accomodation, for example.  This is open to any one of the requisite age, anywhere in the world.  More details will be announced in January on eyewearpublishing.com on how to submit.  Melita Hume is a Canadian book collector, and compiler of poems and information about Canadian authors, who lived most of her life in St. Lambert and the Eastern Townships.

New Poem By Jacob Sanders

Jacob Sanders is another talented BA student in CW at Kingston University.  Here is his villanelle from my Poetry Now module.


Mrs Jones’ Jungle Boogie
It turns out the show's only just started when the fat lady's sang. But mum had told me it'd be over when Mrs Jones came on, So imagine my surprise when she burst into Kool & the Gang.
It was at this talent show; I'd come to see this smoking Orang-utan. I'd seen the mediocre 'Mystico', the lacklustre 'Lassie' and a midget called Ron. It turns out the show's only just started when the fat lady's sang.
The final act was to be signalled with a gong and a bang, Then out came Mrs Jones, the size of the entire Yukon. So imagine my surprise when she burst into Kool & the Gang.
I guess it was a perfect example of yin and yang And since it happened Mrs Jones is quite the local icon. It turns out the show's only just started when the fat lady's sang.
It'd seemed like she'd be bett…

Eyewear's British Poetry Book of 2011

There are many contenders for the British poetry book of 2011 - certainly, Roddy Lumsden's Terrific Melancholy is a runner-up - however, the collection I keep returning to, in my mind, is Clare Pollard's Changeling, from Bloodaxe.  The poems are startling, formally inventive, the diction never less than astonishingly varied - it is a passionate, angry, moving, alarming, splendid book.  Reading it inspired me to think of new things poetry could say and do; in this collection Pollard moves into the front rank of British poets.

Guest Review: Wong On Horovitz

Jennifer Wong reviews Collected Poems by Frances Horovitz
The inner eye
Described by Anne Stevenson as having a voice ‘’not of the ‘age’ but of the earth’’, Frances Horovitz’s poems are imbued with honesty and clarity. In this new collection by Bloodaxe edited by poet Roger Garfitt, whom she married shortly before she died of cancer in 1983, one finds an effortless grace in her poems. Quiet, romantic and restless, they are dark delvings of the mind that portray a sentient, evocative natural world: ‘the pellucid skin of light’; ‘angles and arabesques of darkness’ in the wood; ‘the unquiet reeds’.
Her poetry captures not just beauty but meaning in places and people. Highly visual, imaginative and mostly personal, her poems question one’s place and the natural order of the world. In ‘Irthing Valley’, one of the poems from Snow Light, Water Light (1983), Horovitz writes:
Each stone in its place
can a star be lost or a stone? (p.98)
Horovitz was plagued by illness in prime years – it is unsurprisi…

Books of 2011: The Chairs Are Where The People Go

My old friend, Misha Glouberman, from Montreal, was a wit and philosopher in his precocious teens, and he went off to Harvard quite young, and then we lost touch, more or less, until Facebook intervened, though I saw him fitfully across my twenties, at a few parties that my brother, or I, or our mutual friend, Adam Frank, would hold - these were strange mixes of Wittgenstein and Iggy Pop.

He is the first of my close teenage friends (as opposed to acquaintances, peers and colleagues - I suppose I should count Daljit Nagra or Wendy Cope here as the first, really) to be published by Faber & Faber (another is forthcoming but my lips are sealed for now), and his book, The Chairs Are Where The People Go, is infuriating, smart, useful, and often truly original, in a way that can almost be disquieting.  How did he think that?  It is in an odd form - a sort of Studs Terkel thing - another writer, Sheila Heti - interviews him and transcribes his monologues, into brief chapters.  These chapt…

Salt makes things interesting

2012 is already a year of poetry to look forward to, if only because of Salt Publishing... new collections, from Kirsten Irving, Jon Stone, Luke Kennard, and others, have me chafing at the bit.

Gilbert Adair Has Died

Sad news, the British francophile writer, film critic and wit, Gilbert Adair, has died.  The Bertolucci film The Dreamers, was based on his novel.

Syd Cain Has Died

Sad news.  Syd Cain, the art designer behind Q's gadgets for the Bond films, and Blofeld's alpine HQ in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (one of the best of the series), has died.  He also worked with Kubrick and Hitchcock, among others.

This Stranger Island

The UK is an island, in name, and attitude - at least according to one man, David Cameron, who returns, raising his empty hand like a salute.  While the Eurozone struggles with an epoch-defining crisis that could yet plunge the world (including the UK) into deep recession, or worse, our PM fiddles with party politics.  As one French wag put it today, the Tories are acting like a man going to a wife-swapping party, without his wife.  Indeed.  It is time for the voters of Britain to decide, whether they see a future inside Europe.  Eyewear does, but also thinks a referendum makes sense - it will force the hand of all sides, and get the best arguments out there.

Oswald vs. Aurum

Well, now.  This is big.  Several major poets shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, the UK's equivalent of the Pulitzer in terms of prestige, have asked to be removed, in protest at the sponsorship by a hedge fund, Aurum.  This seems like very bad news for The Poetry Book Society.  I wonder how come no one noticed until now that in an age of austerity, poets might not want to be associated with capitalist institutions?  I am not sure the protest entirely makes sense - is Alice Oswald against all capitalism?  Her publisher markets and sells her books, and no doubt has a business account with a bank, and investments.  It seems a staggering gesture, but one that in some ways seems self-defeating.  Poets can appear aloof.  Now they appear begrudging of a potential major prize, when many people would work a year for £15,000.

Eyewear Publishing CFS

Eyewear PublishingIs now reading full poetry collections of between 40 and 80 poems in the English language by living poets, for publication in 2012/2013 in London, England. In first instance send query emails with brief bio note, introductory letter, and sample of 5-10 poems in body of the email or PDF to toddswift at clara dot co dot uk. Usually expect a reply in 6-8 weeks or less. Multiple submissions welcome. If your work is of interest the editor will contact you and request a full submission.

Ted Hughes To Be Commemorated Tonight With A Stone In Poet's Corner

Sir Andrew Motion, on BBC radio 4 this morning, explained his support for the campaign to place a stone for Ted Hughes in Poet's Corner, which culminates tonight in a ceremony, overseen by Seamus Heaney: powerful advocates indeed.  Motion claims that "Hughes is one of the two or three greatest poets of the twentieth century" - which is a staggering claim, not easily substantiated.  Yeats, Eliot, Stevens, Hardy, Thomas, Larkin, Auden, and indeed Plath, would be jostling for a place in that league table, I am sure (among others).  But that is to carp, perhaps.  Despite the fact that Hughes apparently led a destructive personal life it appears the final reward for "major" male poets in England is to be eternally lauded.  Hughes is a large presence, and a strong influence on many younger poets, still - particularly due to the violence of his diction and syntax, and his unusual perspective on nature and animal life.  In England, at least, it is now safe to say that …

Guest Review: Kaye On Owens

Ami Kaye reviews Something knows the Moment ByScott Owens
Something Knows the Momentis by far the largest canvas Scott Owens has worked on. This time around he ventures into sacrosanct territory as he tackles our very foundations of belief. This poetry collection articulates our innermost conflicts about the subject. Owens plies his talent with a heightened sense of language and examines what he embraces as well as what he repudiates. He understands the disconnect between religious texts and their imperfect interpretations, and the limitations of theology as a whole which he explores with honesty and compassion, characteristic traits of Owens as a writer.  Early in the book (from “Having His Hands Before Him”) we feel the emotional impact of “God had a son,” “…so with his silence/he nailed him to a tree/so with the shadow of his hand/he took him back/and with his long spine/he lay down beside him/and wept deep/into the hands before him.”The book’s title comes from the poem “Common Groun…