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Showing posts from August, 2011

The End Of Summer

British Summer (if not British Summer Time) ends tomorrow, as Autumn begins.  According to the latest BBC news on radio 4, the week ahead will actually warm up to mid-20s Celsius - so, an Indian Summer, then.  The last fortnight has been generally miserable, weatherwise - a wash-out of rainy days and unsunny skies.  Meanwhile, the world has been gloomy economically, and otherwise.  One small silver lining - there appears to have been no major air disaster in August - which, given the fact this is the busiest month for flying - is an achievement.  Eyewear looks forward to the start of the new term.  Sharp new pencils.  Clean new Silvine Excercise books.  Poetry readings.  Launches.  Crisper air.  Pumpkins.  Poppies on lapels.  Christmas parties.  And then a new year.  It all starts tomorrow.  Today, grab that BBQ and ball cap and have yourself a last fling of summer.

JCS On The New Will Young Album

Will Young Echoes review
Written by James Christopher Sheppard
The original Pop Idol returns, Will Youngreleases his fifth studio album, Echoes, at the end of August. Young hasn’t made big waves since his second album Friday’s Child when it reached five times platinum status and provided him with the massive single ‘Leave Right Now’ and ‘Your Game’. However, all of his album releases have gone Top Ten in the UK and been certified platinum. The openly gay popstar clearly has a devoted and loyal fan base, but can Echoes propel him back to the success of his early days? The entire album is produced by electronic and synthpop producer Richard X, so the collection should be more attention-grabbing than Young’s last rather unmemorable effort, Let It Go.
‘Jealousy’First single, ‘Jealousy’, has already created some excitement amongst the Young fan-base, perhaps due to the upbeat feel of the song. It’s a simple, breezy, emotional tinged synth pop with an 80s feel. The song does have a certain cha…

Guest Review: Brinton On Ragg's Stevens

Ian Brinton reviewsWallace Stevens and the Aesthetics of Abstractionby Edward Ragg
In this highly persuasive and readable account of the later poetry of Wallace Stevens Edward Ragg examines the world of abstraction and the practice of ‘the aesthetics of abstraction’ in the poet’s work. The introduction, itself a model of clarity, looks at ‘how abstract reflections conjure commonality, ordinariness and “the normal” without promulgating hollow generalizations.’ One point of reference here is the attitude adopted by Charles Tomlinson to Stevens’ early work. Looking at a 1964 interview with Ian Hamilton it is easy to see why the young English poet and artist should feel some disquiet about the American whose work he had first come across via his mentor Donald Davie whilst studying at Cambridge:
It was a case of being haunted by Stevens rather than of cold imitation. I was also a painter and this meant that I had far more interest in the particulars of a landscape or an object than Stevens. …

Guest Review: Begnal On Clifford

Michael S. BegnalreviewsWelcome Back to the Countryby Graham Clifford
Graham Clifford’s pamphlet Welcome Back to the Country, published by Seren Books, is the winner of the Poetry Wales Purple Moose Prize for 2010.  It’s nice to see that a beer brewery (Purple Moose) somewhere in the world sponsors poetry publications – others ought to do so too; it would be a great help to poets everywhere.  Clifford, the winner of this contest, has also been successful in a number of other contests, and his poetry seems well-suited for the contest milieu.  It is accessible, straightforward, with craftsmanship apparent so that it is capable of appealing to both the general reader and the poet-judge.  This could either be a good thing or a dissatisfying thing, depending on the individual who chooses to engage with his work (if, for example, he or she falls into something other than the “general reader” category).
ZoĆ« Skoulding, one of the two judges, provides a blurb arguing that “these poems locate the…

Byron's BMI

According to today's Guardian, Lord Byron was actually "overweight and unattractive".  This seems like nonsense.  The evidence is his weight.  He is described as five eight (a handsome size at that time), and weighing in at 76 kg, described as "borderline obese".  Not so.  According to the NHS site which calculates such things, Byron's BMI would have been 25.48, or, very borderline overweight - not the same as obese, and close to a healthy weight.  Byron may have had a slight paunch, but he was no Arbuckle.  If he was in fact 13 stone (another figure mentioned) he would have been 29 on the BMI scale; 30 is obese - but this might have been with his heavy medical boots on.  At 23, he weighed around 63 kg, which would have made him a very slim weight.  This seems like a story without much weight to it.

Portrait of Todd Swift by Derek Adams

Derek Adams is a poet and photographer based in London.  Here is his recent portrait of me.

azul

I am very honoured to appear in the debut edition of the new international literary E-zine: azul.  azul will be published twice a year and is available for free from the dynamic international Azul Press, in Holland.

Noon's Version

Eyewear is pleased to publish a new translation of a great poem by Mandelstam, by Alistair Noon in Berlin. This is probably one of the first poems on the cinema.  Vachel Lindsay, of course, had written on the subject.


Cinema

Three benches. A projector.
The fever of sentimentality.
An heiress who's been trapped
in her evil rival's nets.

Hands off this love's true flight,
our heroine's done nothing wrong!
So pure it's almost platonic
is her love for a lieutenant of the fleet,

collaterally conceived by a grey count
and now wandering the desert wastes.
This, for the pretty countess, is the way
her picture-adventure leaves the ground.

She starts to wring her hands
like a gypsy gone insane.
The lovers split. The demonic sounds
now follow of a hounded piano.

Her trust's not hard to abuse.
She possesses sufficient bravery
to swoop on some crucial papers
of interest to an enemy HQ.

Along an avenue of chestnuts,
a black motor car lumbers.
The film reel rattles. A thump
of alarm thrill…

JCS Reviews Charlie Simpson

Charlie Simpson’s Young PilgrimReviewed by James Christopher Sheppard
Charlie Simpson is a name many will know. Some from his days as a third of teen bopping band Busted and some will know him as front man of alternative rock band Fightstar. Either way, Simpson has been known since 2002 and has been a part of five studio albums. At the age of 26, Charlie is releasing his first full-length solo release and it sounds pretty distanced from anything the singer/songwriter has been involved in before.
‘Down Down Down’First single from the album is a good indication of what is to come. The song is entirely acoustic driven, with thick as treacle vocals, laden with emotional depth. The folk-rock ballad is stacked with multi-layered harmonies and builds to a gentle climax. 10/10
‘Parachutes’‘Parachutes’, also the second single, picks up the pace and builds on what ‘Down, Down’ has already established. This is possibly the most radio-friendly and mature that Simpson has ever sounded. Brilliant. 10…

Jack Layton Has Died

Sad news.  The Leader of the Opposition in Canada, Jack Layton, has died, in his early 60s.  Layton was a popular, remarkable political figure, who managed to do the near-impossible, bring the NDP close to victory.  He will be much missed.

August August

August is the coolest month.  Or rather, it seems, despite its reputation for quietude, to have a lot happen in it.  However, one needs to look back, probably to 1947 and thecreation of India and Pakistan, to find another August quite as historic, on the world stage, and at home in Britain, as this one, in 2011.  Indeed, it would seem likely to say that, more or less, since August 1945, 2011 is the most fraught.  That's 64-66 years ago.  This August is seeing the apparent liberation of Tripoli and hence Libya, at last.  It has seen the riots in the UK that shocked the world (it was daily news in France where I have been this last fortnight).  And it has seen global economic turbulence that seemingly foretells the "decline and fall of the West" as Time put it on their cover.  With over a week to go, what else will this most august of months have to offer the world?

Gone Fishin'

slow  The dog days of summer are coming.  Eyewear is taking a break, and will be back to regular duties whenever he sees fit.  In the meantime, don't expect many updates, but there may be a trickle, now and then.  Lazy ways, lazy days.  Have yourself a good 'ol time!

JCS On The Spice Girls 15 Years On

15 Years of the SPICE GIRLS
by James Christopher Sheppard
It’s exactly 15 years since the Spice Girls burst onto the British music scene with ‘Wannabe’ and stormed to number one. In July 1996 an unknown all-girl pop group were suddenly all over television and radio promoting a song more pop than pop itself, about really really wanting a zig-a-zig-ah and friendship never ending. The sentiment was fresh and girl power was born. The group were hard to miss, with each girl having their own individual style, which at the time was practically unheard of in the pop world. Prior to Ginger, Baby, Sporty, Scary and Posh, the commercial music industry, particularly in the UK, was dominated by indie pop bands like Oasis, Blur and Radiohead, the super divas Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and boybands that dressed the same like Take That and Boyzone. Despite their beginnings as a manufactured group, Geri, Melanie C, Emma, Melanie B and Victoria broke away, wrote their own songs, got themselves signed…

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive 75 Years Ago

It seems almost like a different age, but it was only 75 years ago today, August 3, that Jesse Owens - my hero and candidate for greatest American - won the 100 m sprint at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, shaming the racism inherent in that most evil and grandiose of settings.  Owens, whose own life was not a bed of roses after his triumph in Germany, returned to an America unable or unwilling to accept African-American excellence, poise and achievement - and, these days, that sounds sadly familiar (I watch from afar as another great man, President Obama, is under-appreciated by too many Americans).  I read about Owens when I was a kid.  Although Canadian, we were taught to read using the Lippincott Readers, which emphasised American history; well, so be it.  I was brainwashed.  But I learned much about my neighbours to the South, not all of it bad.  Anyway, throughout my life, whenever facing hurdles, I have thought of the great Owens.  Of course, Owens was human, not an angel.  He smoked…

Sophie Mayer Reviews Kangurashi No Arrietty

A Little (Less Than) Kin but More Than Kind:Kangurashi No Arrietty (Arrietty and the Borrowers)

reviewed by Sophie Mayer
“I left my childhood in the garden green”: the haunting refrain of Cecile Corbel’s ‘Arrietty’s Song’ is first heard in the opening minutes of Studio Ghibli’s film adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, when the voiceover narration aligns the viewer with Sho, a young boy with a heart defect who is being sent to spend the summer with his Aunty, in the house where she and his mother grew up. From the opening, the film has a sense of melancholy loss similar to The Virgin Suicides, an unusual mood for a children’s film. The mood is borne out by the story: Sho’s illness is left unresolved at the end, and Arrietty – the Borrower whom he meets in the house – is leaving with her family. Leaving the house, and leaving Sho.
In many ways, the film does everything it can to induce the viewer to want another ending: one in which Sho’s friendship with Arrietty, his courage in t…

Guest Review: Woodward On Potts

Catherine Woodward reviewsPure HustleBy Kate Potts
Pure Hustle is Kate Potts’ first full length book of poetry.  It is a collection about imagination, a theme which she explores from multiple angles, but her predominant theme would appear to be the role that imagination plays in the process of memory making and understanding human experience.Making memories and understanding events involves some creative effort on our part, we use imagination to transform experience into recognisable, meaningful narrative sequences; in Pure Hustle Potts tunes in to that portion of the mind that creates as it thinks and explores miscellaneous events in terms of how they are imagined. The findings are quite exciting. Reading Pure Hustle is a strange, Through the Looking Glass sort of experience, the imagined landscapes of many poems are metaphorised versions of our own world, the world turned image to greater or lesser degrees, the same but different. Potts has us looking at the world under the laws of i…

MTV 30

Want to feel old?  Generation X the book is 20 years old - reading it yesterday on the tube it might have been from the Great Depression.  Hard to remember a young adulthood without the social networking of now.  MTV is now a dinosaur, of course, turning 30 yesterday.  Music Videos are on YouTube.  Not the Telly.  But When I was 15, at the dawn of MTV, it was great to be alive, and to see songs acted out so wildly and imaginatively.  My favourite - the quintessential MTV video - with all the silly excess that entails is Animotion's 'Obsession'. 'Flesh For Fantasy', 'Relax', 'Like A Virgin', 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World', 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), 'Addicted To Love', 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me', 'Maneater', 'With or Without You', 'I Get Weak', 'Electric Avenue', 'C'est La Vie', and 'Take My Breath Away' are some of the other greats. How to celebrate?  S…