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Showing posts from January, 2011

Milton Babbitt Has Died

Sad news.  One of America's leading avant-garde composers, Milton Babbitt, has died.

John Barry Has Died

Sad news.  My favourite film composer (along with Bernard Hermann), John Barry, has died at the age of 77.  Barry was the genius behind the best of the James Bond scores, as well as Born Free, Dances with Wolves, Midnight Cowboy, and many others.  His lush and romantic harmonies and melodies helped to establish the unique soundscape of the 60s and 70s.  His sound style will live forever.

Poetry Renaissance?

The Renaissance will be facebooked - or rather, media-led, anyway.  Ho-hum.  When newspapers are not proclaiming the death of poetry, they are constantly rediscovering it.  Since poets know poetry is always there, like the sun or the nose on one's face, this hokum from both sides is a little tiresome.  Poetry is that which simply endures.  It isn't like herpes, a flare-up from time to time.  So it is the latest article in Saturday's Guardian celebrates the renaissance of poetry - without, this time, the sombre face of Don Paterson glowering out at us.

The best thing about this article is that it mentions the small presses that have done so much to help younger poets find a footing.  The fact that a prize has gone to poets two years in a row is a coincidence, not a sign of the times.  The truth is, poetry in the UK is embedded, too-much, in prize culture, and marketing.  Too often, a simple truth is obscured: poetry is beyond publication or acclaim - it persists despite tha…

Featured Poet: Christian Campbell

Eyewear is very glad to welcome poet Christian Campbell (pictured) this rather crisp London Friday.  Campbell is a writer of Bahamian and Trinidadian heritage.A professor at the University of Toronto, he studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received a PhD at Duke.
He is the author of Running the Dusk, which was a finalist for the Cave Canem Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the Best First Book in the UK and is the winner of the 2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.  Running the Dusk is his first book.
It is to be hoped that we can see a lot more of this fine poet over in the UK in the near future, hopefully reading for Oxfam, among other places.  He exemplifies the best in truly international writing.

Oregon Elegy
for I. H.
I once told a friend, who was goingto Oregon for Christmas with his girlfriend,
he’d be the only black person thereand, in fact, if you shuffle Oregon,
like a seasoned minstrel, it spells Negrobut with an extra O as if to make
a groan, nearly a shout, perhaps a…

Guest Review: Van-Hagen on Ttoouli

Steve Van-Hagen reviewsStatic Exileby George Ttoouli
In Static Exile, George Ttoouli, who will be known to some as the co-editor (with Simon Turner) of Gists and Piths, produces a debut collection of thirty-three poems that is an exciting, energetic fusion of myth, legend, satire, dark comedy and sheer surrealism. Often esoteric and always eclectic, Ttoouli’s is a collection and an aesthetic in which a B-movie, jobseeking Godzilla who is being hounded by the immigration authorities, the M.O.D. and the tabloid press can (and does) rub shoulders with (no) Oedipus, (no) Spartans, Atlantis, New Orleans, Gomorrah, Poseidon, minotaurs, Crete’s White Mountains, Venus, the Gorgon’s reflection, Aphrodite, Sleepwalkers, Mnemosyne and the bay of Tarsos (indeed all of these appear in just one poem, in the selection from “Parchment, Scalpel, Rock”). Ghosts (of many varied descriptions), dryads, an AEginan, Athena, and Minerva also make their appearances while, at their more provincial, exoteric opp…

Tradition and the Individual Prize

In The Guardian, on Saturday, Don Paterson wrote about how older poet-editors need to speak with poets in their 20s, to keep up with the new poetic styles - agreed.  He also discussed the roots of the new Picador Poetry Prize.  He was careful to position the prize in the lineage of the Yale series of poets.  While it is in that lineage, there are far more recent and obvious precedents, and it is telling that these were rather notably overlooked.  The first is the Crashaw Prize, which Salt has successfully run the last few years.  But, more to the point, there is the general American experience of publishing, where almost every debut collection at every credible poetry publisher is adjudicated on in a prize setting.  I just wanted to mention this, because while the nascent Picador Prize may wish to bask in the glow of the Yale series, it really is the nothing new.  A fine venture from one of the major places to find mainstream, excellent BILP - British-Irish Lyric Poetry - but not an o…

Guest Review: Woodward on Larbey, Farmer, Foyle, Noon and Lehrman

Catherine Woodward reads five recent pamphlets
There is a strain of poets I call lexiphiles whose joy of language has at some point become completely subsistent on itself. They are a strange bunch, very passionate, particularly about phonemes and sibilance and glottal stops and I’ve read a lot of their poetry which is, suffice to say, heavy. It’s often hard to find the exact image that is being smothered by the exotic, word-horny enthusiasm that is meant to evoke it. Lexiphiles are important to a review of Ruth Larbey’s Funglish because it is a pamphlet that walks the line between lexiphilia and excellence, and with a fantastic display of skill, manages to remain consistently on the side of excellence. A clever, creative, intuitive lexiphile can indeed be excellent and I believe that’s exactly what Larbey is. Clearly her masterful understanding and control of language are only surpassed by her love of it.
Larbey has recreated Babel as an exact science, her poems are about liminal spaces…

Of Mutability

The good news is that a poet has won the Costa Book of the Year prize two years in a row - for the best popular book of the year, beating out impressive novels and non-fiction.  The poet this year is Jo Shapcott - a brilliant and likeable figure who is widely admired in British poetry circles - for her first collection in a decade, Of Mutability, which, among other things, explores surviving breast cancer.  An important subject, a fine poet, and superb poems.  So, hats off to Shapcott.  The only question is - why wasn't such a loved and admired book on the ten-strong TS Eliot shortlist?  The answer, I suppose, is that the judging of poetry remains an art, not a science - so it is good that poetry prizes are as various as the poets they seek to support.  Are they as numerous as poets, too?  Almost.

Picador Prize Winner

Congratulations to London-based poet Richard Meier for winning the first Picador Prize for Poetry.  Meier beat out other highly-touted (and many better known) poets to achieve the honour of having his debut collection come out from this important press.  His book will be widely anticipated.

Eyewear At The Eliots

Spending time among firs and mountains in sub-zero Nordic conditions puts poetry competitions blessedly out of mind, and in touch with what makes poetry sing originally - the elements confronted by the human body. Returning to London, I attended the TS Eliot awards tonight, and was pleased to hear that my favourite poetry collection of 2010,White Egrets, won. It is to be hoped The Guardian fixes its link soon, as there was no poet Brian Roberston up for an award, but rather Robin Robertson.

Three Days Is A Long Time In Politics

I left Thursday night to go cross-country skiing in the mountains of Central Norway, along the Peer Gynt Trail, following in the footsteps of Scott, who trained at Fefor Hotel for his polar expedition (it is near enough the Arctic circle to afford the requisite extreme conditions).  Returning this morning on the 7.40 flight from Oslo (seated near Jeremy Clarkson, thereby putting me in a bind - should I not want the plane to crash?) I found that the Irish government farcical, Alan Johnson cuckolded and replaced by Ed Balls (the phallic puns just roll off the tip of the uhm tongue), and Mr Cameron mired in his own Watergate scandal of sorts (his spokesman resigning, he partying with Murdoch), Obama back up in the polls, and Palin down.  Gosh.

So which is it Mr. Cameron?

This past week, David Cameron has been talking up his "grenade" being thrown at the NHS, as if it were the kindest cut of all.  He has spoken of his respect for the doctors and nurses, and love of what the great institution does, while also pushing for a massive change of direction, so big "it can be seen from space".  Indeed, the NHS has never been remade so completely in its 60+ year history.  At heart, along with allowing private health providers much more access to the market, is the demanagementising of the system, with groups of GPs replacing managers to run the NHS in local clots.  Never mind that GPs are doctors, not public planners.  Mr Cameron has been evangelical about the ability of the GPs to handle this big ask.  So, what to make of today's news, that GPs bungled their ordering of flu jabs so badly this year, it is being recommended that the government resume running the yearly influenza vaccination programme itself.  This seems a warning sign, at…

Guest Review: Sensier On Rumens

Colette Sensier reviewsDe Chirico's Threadsby Carol Rumens
Carol Rumens’ fifteenth book of poetry, De Chirico’s Threads, is wide-ranging, deeply intelligent, and surprising. Unlike most poetry collections, it has a central character running alongside the authorial voice: Giorgio de Chirico, the early Greek Surrealist whose painting, The Uncertainty of the Poet (featuring a disembodied classical white torso and a bunch of bananas) has become a keystone image of surrealism. The artwork has already inspired one humorous poem by Wendy Cope, but Rumens’ play with the painting is extended across a miniature verse play and a whole collection.
Although de Chirico’s story does not really begin till part three of the book (entitled, like the book, ‘De Chirico’s Threads,’ and described as ‘a verse-drama, with soundscape’), he or his influence can be seen in many poems in the first two sections (‘Ice and Fire; Sonnets for Late-Elizabethan Lovers,’ and ‘Itinerary Through a Photograph Album’). De…

New Poem by Michael Egan

Eyewear is pleased to feature a new poem by Michael Egan today.  Egan is from Liverpool.  A pamphlet, The River Swam, was published in 2005 by Paula Brown Publishing and a second, Folklores, in 2010 by The Knives Forks and Spoons Press.  His first full length collection Steak & Stations was published by Penned in the Margins in December 2010.  Two further pamphlets are due out in early 2011 (I Went to the Ship, Erbacce; After Stikklestad, The Knives Forks and Spoons Press).  He is currently working on an anthology of poetry in his Motivist form and a second full collection, Monsieur Dassonville and His Duck.

He Never Got To Caen
Pratt was his Norman name and Ramavath his wished for Indian grandmother’s.His true name he kept hidden in hollows beside rivers or down the crevices of pub couches.When he was done with raking dunes so they sloped at the right angles down to the Irish Seahe’d cross flat sprout sprouting fields to Burscough and his corrugated hut, his flotsam bed.I me…

Guest Review: Oswald On Boss

Helen Oswald reviewsYellowrocketby Todd Boss
Todd Boss comes from Midwestern farming stock; he plants his words carefully, judiciously spaced, with no wastage, like precious seed, and his lines grow up lean and tall through the centre of the page. The first two sections of the debut collection Yellowrocket, deal with the poet’s early years. The title poem tells the story of a family engaged in a bleakly biblical struggle with stubborn soil, trying to make the best of bad land but not without some Job-like grumbling:
The work was clay deep, the debt wasnorth slope steep…
We were the unsung angels of our portion
of the plat. And for all that, on Sundays the Lord gave us halos of hat hair and gnats…
Boss’s talent for internal rhyme gives his often very short lines a pleasing musicality and the literal poverty of the setting is wittily contradicted by lyrical riches: “Had holes been coins,/ our gloves and boots/ would’ve jangled.”
Many of the lines display the tough wisdom and bone dry humour…

New Poem by Tamar Yoseloff

Good news.  Eyewear has a new poem today from Tamar Yoseloff's forthcoming fourth collection, The City with Horns, published by Salt in May 2011.
Yoseloff is also the author of Marks, with the artist Linda Karshan (Pratt Contemporary Art, 2007) and the editor of A Room to Live In: A Kettle's Yard Anthology (Salt, 2007). She lives in London where she teaches for the Poetry School.


The poem below is from a sequence about the American painter Jackson Pollock.
Connected

I wanted people to sit still for one goddamn minute but theyflash through your life –
                        portraits are for the dead.
Trees construct themselves into a solid massas the horse picks up speed
see, everything's knotted                                                 together the way notes on a staff spell music, a factory churns out things, each thing itself, but also a component.
How easy it is when density unlaces, and you find holes you can crawl through –             light, a parting:
      …

New Poem by Todd Swift

It’s not a poem unless it’s seen

It’s not a machine if it’s home-grown.It’s not a phone if it types by horse.It’s not a hearse if you get out born.It’s not a horn if it never blows.
It’s not a rose if it smells like glass.It’s not a pass if you fail to kiss.It’s not a miss if you hit it park-out.It’s not a parka if it’s sprayed on.
It’s not a tan if you wash it off.It’s not a cough if you want it to be.It’s not a bee if it floats like a bag.It’s not a nag if there’s no dream.
It’s not a scream if you smile.It’s not a mile if seven leagues.It’s not cigs if you’re running rings.It’s not sings if it speaks.
It’s not weak if it is song.It’s not wrong if you write it down.It’s not clown if you can’t mime.It’s not rhyme if you can’t recall.
It’s not small if it fits in your head.It’s not dead if it stands up to pee.It’s not me if you dream it instead.It’s not lead if it’s gold in them hills.
It’s not pills if you don’t feel better.It’s not a sweater if it’s a garter snake.It’s not cake if there’s …