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The Lehman Lecture 2011

The 2011 Lehman Lecture
in association with The Kingston Writing School

Professor David Lehman, Distinguished Visiting Writer

"From Parody to Praise: When Poems Talk to Other Poems"

Professor David Lehman was born in New York City in 1948. He graduated from Columbia University and attended Cambridge University in England as a Kellett Fellow. He also received a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. He is the author of several collections of poems, including When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005).  His books of criticism include The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (Doubleday, 1998).  His study of detective novels, The Perfect Murder (1989), was nominated for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.  He is series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988, and is general editor of the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry Series.  Most recently, Lehman edited The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford …

Hearing Voices

I am very glad to appear in the latest Hearing Voices, vol. 4, ed. Jonathan and Maria Taylor (October 2011), ISBN 0-9551800-7-4, 978-0-9551800-7-1, £3.  Other poets included, include David Caddy, Alison Brackenbury, Alan Baker, Jacqui Rowe and Tony Williams.To order , please send a cheque made payable to Crystal Clear Creators to Jonathan Taylor, Crystal Clear Creators, c/o Department of English and Creative Writing, Faculty of Humanities, Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, U.K. Postage and packing is free.A subscription to all three issues ofHearing Voicescosts £8 or £7 to members of Crystal Clear Creators. You can also subscribe to the third and fourth issue, which costs £5.50 for non-members, £5 to members.

Bad Ides

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT.


George Clooney has directed another film.  The Ides of March, based on an American play about the men (and they are men, alas) who run political campaigns, and the grubby deals they do, is by far the most over-rated film of 2011.  Don't get me wrong, it has a dream cast, including my favourite rising star, Ryan Gosling, and the Humpty-Dumpty of character-actor sad-sackdom Oscar royalty, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.  The plot is lacking, for me, valid revelationary power, or any credibility historically.  One recalls the scene in Casablanca, where the astounded police chief feigns surprise at discovering gambling in his favourite den.  On what planet do innocent young men working as "the best media mind in politics" not know that Democratic politicians, especially handsome ones, sleep with women on the campaign trail.  Do the names Kennedy, Clinton, or Edwards not mean anything?

Indeed, so vanilla is the supposed dalliance that the Clooney…

Ireland Has A Poet As President

Michael D. Higgins, a poet, has become president of Ireland for a 7-year-term.  This is good news for Ireland, and the world.  Higgins, by all accounts a personable, cultured, and energetic man, will be something of a late Irish Spring - reminding us that the true magic and value of the Irish people lies in their indomitable, creative spirit, and not sheer grubby mercantilism.

Featured Poet: Richard Deming

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the American poet Richard Deming this week (pictured) as the featured poet.  Deming is a poet, art critic, and a theorist who works on the philosophy of literature and visual culture. His poems have appeared in such places as Sulfur, Field, Indiana Review, and The Nation, as well as Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. He regularly writes for The Boston Review and Artforum. 


The Picture of JB in a Prospect of Ladyboys

(after John Ashbery after Andrew Marvell, for Joshua Brown)

I.
A hand holding a soda trembles as some latent wish casts its lots. The generous arch of a penciled brow brings the gaze up close. Where else do
names choose their changeable places?And the one girl with an impossiblyslim waist faces the camera and smiles,while uneven skirts sway above the knees.
In this picture there’s no nearby gardenand everyone’s eyes are wide open.


II.
Did you? For how much? and how mustthe imagination quickena reality that is and is more necessa…

Canon Law

Canon Dr Giles Fraser, of St Paul's, is resigning, after his welcoming (and Christian) approach to the anti-capitalist encampment outside his door became antithetical to the mercantile needs of those higher up in his church.  Given Christ's infamous attack on the money traders of his time, and capitalism's dehumanising effects, Fraser is both prophetic and right, and the failure in his ecclesiastical community to appreciate his good zeal is timidity amok.

Winehouse Over The Limit

The tragic news, despite what we had been told to expect, is that Amy Winehouse was not "clean" when she died.  Instead, as the coroner told us, she was five times over the legal limit, three days into a vodka binge.  According to her GP, who visited her soon before she died at home, she was "tipsy" but still lucid, and talking of her future.  Alcohol changed that situation quickly enough.  It's a killer, and always has been - and needs to be licensed and consumed with more care than the UK drinks industry allows.  One day, the scandal of our age will be the way in which tobacco and booze were sold over the counter to us, wasting the billions that could bail out the NHS.  I saw my maternal uncle, Edward, drink himself to death - much like Winehouse, one night he went across the street, and bought a bottle from the shop that had promised us never to sell him any liquor - went home, and drank it, dying in bed a few hours later.  Like Winehouse, he was brilliant, …

Devil's Haircut

Europe is on the brink.  When a leader of Germany predicts that potential economic ruin could lead to future lack of peace in Europe, as Merkel did today, it is time to take notice.  Greece, then Italy, and Spain, may default soon, if nothing is done.  It seems an extraordinary failure of nerve and imagination, a bit like the period before World War One, or Two, when leaders dithered, afraid to act, thus ensuring worse was to come.  However, there is another danger, one of too-great union - should the EU become a two or three tier organisation, with some nations fiscally joined at the hip, they may all find it more easy to stumble over the cliff together.  In this way, some British caution makes sense; yet the more sidelined the Tories demand we remain, in the UK, the less control we will have over the deals ahead.  These deals will be trying.  Facing Europe is possible recession, or the meltdown of the Euro, or worse chaos.  One must hope for the best, but hedge bets.

Guest Review: Muckle On Miller

John Muckle reviewsSpiritual Letters: Series 1-5by David Miller
Fragments of memory, remembered fragments of writing – Christian and Jewish religious meditation; letters from friends; dreams; narratives – David Miller’s Spiritual Letters weaves these together into a series of excavated nuggets of unresolved story that walk a borderline between poetry, prose-poetry and various modes of narrative art, yielding a reading experience that is splintered, occasionally frustrating, but memorable and quite literally haunting. Miller hovers in a world of ghosts between the quasi-religion of art and actual religious belief, and addresses fundamental questions: What is the function of memory? Is it a gift of God that enables us to recall friends, lost loves in anticipation of an eventual reunion, in other words, a prefigurative promise of immortality? A means of cultural survival? In which of St Augustine’s two modes of regret is the past made most vitally (or painfully) present: nostalgia or remo…

Lana Del Rey

The most haunting and cinematic song of the autumn is 'Video Games' byLana Del Rey pictured (an alias).  Del Rey, whose name, like Marilyn Manson's, is a California portmanteau, comes from Lana Turner and the car (or pulp publisher).  He music (at the moment, we have two songs only, a double A side, with a debut album out in early 2012) is saturated with the sort of over-ripe LA Confidential-era mood, of twisted Hollywood B-actresses in motels, slumming angels, sun-baked streets, and dipsos and nymphos sporting in shades under palms; the presiding spirit is Mulholland Drive; Del Ray's woozy, yearning voice, and the funereal pace of the song, reimagine Badalementi's Twin Peaks score, via Sunset Boulevard.  Her other song, 'Blue Jeans', channels 'Wicked Game', and offers us glimpses of bruised love, James Dean, and a favourite sweater.  This is decadent dream-pop, a la Mazzy Star.  If she can keep the mystique going, and present another 8 or 9 songs …

Featured Poet: Joanne Limburg

Eyewear is very glad to feature a poem by Joanne Limburg this Friday.
Kaddish for Amy
Let us now magnify and sanctify the name of Him who made and warned us,according to his Will,
who placed in us our soft or hardened hearts, then blessed or punished us for what they made us do
who put an evil spirit into Saul, then gave a song to Davidso he could drive the spirit out.
Let us bless and extol Him, exalt and praise Him,who, beyond the reach of any song performable,commands us still to sing.
Limburg was born in London in 1970, and read Philosophy at Cambridge. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 1998 and published her first collection, Femenismo, with Bloodaxe two years later. She has since published a second collection, Paraphernalia, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about OCD, anxiety and poetry, came out in 2010 and was short-listed for the Mind Book of the Year Award. She is currently working on a historical novel and a book…

In Hot Blood

In Britain, a man is currently pleading manslaughter after strangling a woman he alleges screamed after he kissed her.  This is a tragic crime.  In Libya, the streets are gleeful with the death of a man, pulled, terrified and pleading, from a storm drain.  Once a powerful tyrant, he was now weak, humbled.  So they shot him in the head, pulled his body about, and cheered and jeered.  Obama, and Cameron, have claimed this as a great day for that nation.  Actually, it is a barbaric day.  A tragedy.  Each human death is terrible.  Each life should be guarded, and nurtured.  No one is too wicked to deserve a fair trial, or humane treatment.  We deride the law in Iran that calls for cruel punishments that fit the crime, and yet applaud mob justice when it suits our ends.  As in Iraq, this assassination has silenced an inconvenient maverick, who dared to challenge the hegemony of the oil-starved nations of the West.  Is it good he is no longer in power?  Yes.  Is it wrong that he was taken d…

The World's Top Poetry Award?

PRESS RELEASEThursday 20th October 2011

2011 T S Eliot Prize
supported by Aurum Funds and the T S Eliot Estate
This year’s shortlist and new three-year support announced for ‘the world’s top poetry award’

The Poetry Book Society is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2011T S Eliot Prize for Poetry.
Judges Gillian Clarke (Chair), Stephen Knight and Dennis O’Driscoll have chosen six collections from the 104 books submitted by publishers, which join the four PBS Choices to make up the ten collections on the shortlist:
John BurnsideBlack Cat BoneJonathanCape Carol Ann DuffyThe BeesPicador Leontia FlynnProfit and LossJonathanCape David HarsentNightFaber John KinsellaArmourPicador Esther MorganGraceBloodaxe Daljit NagraTippoo Sultan's IncredibleFaberWhite-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!! Sean O’BrienNovemberPicador Bernard O’DonoghueFarmer’s CrossFaber Alice OswaldMemorialFaber

Guest Review: SJ Fowler on The New Nobel Laureate

Steven Johannes Fowler reviewsNew Collected Poems translated by Robin FultonTomas Tranströmer
There is little doubt that Tomas Tranströmer will be remembered as one of the last great figures of 20th century European poetry, and by many, the last of a dying breed – that is a poet whose work and whose persona genuinely and thoroughly resonate in the consciousness of their nation. All the more remarkable perhaps, because he has come to stand for an image of the poet we might perceive as tailored and quaint – a deeply private and modest man, whose output of poetry over the last sixty years has been sparse though clearly momentous enough to command a world audience.
This important volume from Bloodaxe, the second of its kind in under a decade, may not build any new structures for the reception of Tranströmer’s poetry, but in its simple reconstitution of works past, embellished by the short, poignant works Tranströmer has undertaken in the 21st century, the book becomes something of a testam…

Man, Booker

The intervention of Sir Andrew Motion, a fine poet, offering his alternate Booker shortlist, and his scolding of the current panel of judges, along with many other noises off, and the launching of a new prize, is all nonsense.  As everyone who reads in the UK now knows, there is a supposed tension between a "good read" and "literary excellence", and this year's cohort of judges, led by a former spymaster, apparently tipped over in favour of the readability factor.  Perhaps.  But it seems to be a form of backseat-driving, if not a more questionable form of arm-twisting, to so vocally contest the judging panel's decisions.  The judges were, after all, acting in good faith when asked to judge, and have no doubt done their best, according to the rules.

Sir Andrew has not read all the submitted books, has he?  Indeed, there is a form of Establishment fever in this - a panic that several of the books are by "unknown" authors (in fact, Canadians) - and n…

Anti-Capitalism, Pro-What?

The anti-capitalists have been occupying London in their Fawkes-off masks, railing against banking and "usury", in sympathy with other such gatherings around the world - a glocalist rallying of the usual anarchists, left-leaners, and rabble-rousers.  So far so good, you might say - except what are they protesting against, precisely?  The global financial system?  Clearly, the GFS has problems.  We are seeing that now, with the turbulent, sometimes rather faltering, markets, and Western economies of Europe and America.  But - and this I think is key: what should we replace it with?  Sudden removal of the GFS, like oxygen for a patient, would kill us all.  The utter chaos of a world without banking, or commerce, or indeed, money, is almost unthinkable.  It is true that we may need to gradually move to a less-growth-intensive model, or a feudal-agrarian model, or an anarcho-syndicalist one; whatever.  It has to be gradual, and it has to be well-founded and argued for.  I don&#…

Guest Review: Parker On S/S/Y/K 4

Bobby ParkerreviewsStop/Sharpening/Your/Knives (4)
It has taken me a while to write this review. The book swallowed me. I found myself in a beautiful, haunting and obsessively quirky world that I just didn’t want to leave.Writing this review almost bursts a magic bubble. I must be careful. And I must begin by saying that this is the best contemporary anthology of poetry I have read. Honest. After a lull in my own poetic output, S/S/Y/K (4) has filled me with the urgency to surround my own dark, silly and surreal ideas with fresh words, vibrant words, words that, far from desperate, know they are bright enough to lure us into a powerful dream. There are 28 poets in the book, with black and white illustrations between the poems. The artwork doesn’t just complement the poets; it stands side by side with the poems. It gives you that moment, after a final line that has just snatched your breath, to feel the genuine playfulness of this place just as much as the dark humour and the absurd ab…

Todd Out And About

I am pleased to note that I'm reading at several excellent reading venues in October.  Thursday, October 13th, I will be at Lauderdale House at 8 pm, reading with poets including Susan Wicks.  Then, on Monday, October 17th, I'll be joining a large cast of Irish poets for the 30th birthday party of Salmon Press, 8 pm at the Troubadour.  Poets reading there will include the wonderful Nessa O'Mahony.  At the end of the month, I'll be reading for Rhythm & Muse, a Kingston Writing School event, out in Kingston, on Friday, October 28th, again at 8 pm, at The Space, Penrhyn Road campus, with fellow KU poets such as Liz Berry.  Finally, for this year 9I think), November 9th, I read with Denise Riley and David Lehman at Oxfam Books & Music.

Ingratitude For You

Last night Sir Paul, the most famous popular musician in the world alongside Bob Dylan (arguably) was married in London to an American heiress, and celebrated at his home in St John's Wood, with Mark Ronson DJing.  Rather incredibly, when the party (which featured among others Twiggy) ran on past 1 am, neighbours called the noise inspectors, who came and (one presumes politely) asked one of The Fab Four to turn it down.  Given that he is a Beatle, and gave the world such joy for decades with his music, it seems utterly petty to complain.  The last song was 'Hey Jude', and the music stopped at 2 am.  So much for Swinging London.

The Great English Play

I saw Jerusalem last night at the Apollo Theatre in London, just as it returns to London after its triumphant Broadway reincarnation, where lead Mark Rylance won the Tony for Best Actor, and where it was nominated for Best Play (War Horse won by a nose).  The sense of excitement in the audience was palpable - Keira Knightly was in the row ahead of me, cuddling up to a handsome young man - it was that sort of vibe.  I came to the play without any sense of how good it was meant to be.  I was in fact a bit put off by the subject - a drunken Romany squatter - and thought it might be an angry State of England Play.  Instead, the last ten minutes are the most purely dramatic and moving I have ever experienced in the theatre, and I have seen hundreds of plays since I was a kid, in New York, Toronto, London, and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Butting up against an extremely raw, ugly and authentic sense of a broken Britain of promiscuous, foul-mouthed, drug-addled youth, and angry, violent thuggish adu…

Montreal's Writers Chapel Grows

This from Brian Busby:


This coming Thursday, 13 October, will see the dedication of a plaque in memory of (great Canadian modernist and lawyer) F.R. Scott at the chapel of Montreal's St James the Apostle Anglican Church. Scott's will be the third in a cortege of writers' plaques that began two years ago when a small group gathered to remember John Glassco. A plaque to A.J.M. Smith followed, installed on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of his passing.

This year's service, which will see formal recognition of 'The Writers' Chapel', will include two speakers from McGill university, the institution forever tied to Scott: Desmond Morton (Hiram Mills Emeritus Professor) and Roderick A. Macdonald (F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional and Public Law).
All are welcome.
Thursday, 13 October 2011 Evensong, 6 p.m. Church of St James the Apostle 1439 St Catherine Street West, Montreal
A reception with wine and cheese will follow.

Featured Poet: Marianne Burton

Eyewear is pleased to feature, this National Poetry Day in Britain, the poet Marianne Burton.


Burton trained as a lawyer and worked in corporate finance in the City. She was awarded a year’s mentorship by Smiths Knoll and the resulting pamphlet, The Devil’s Cut, was a Poetry Book Society Choice.  Her poems have been published in places such as Agenda, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, CSM, New Contrast, New Plains Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Rialto, The North and The Times Literary Supplement. She has won prizes in the Bridport, Cardiff, Edwin Morgan, Mslexia, and TLS poetry competitions.  Her first full collection is forthcoming from Seren.  She lives in the Welland Valley and London.

The Army Cook in Pevensey
I am worn out dreaming of limbsI lost at Thermopylae at Gallipoliin Helmand Province in Al-Zubayr near Basra;limbs that were not mine but hurtwhen they were ripped away.
I fed them all, carved melons for them,baked little cakes in the…

The American Century 2.0

The news today on my Blackberry BBC app was totally dominated by America - reminding us that, even now, with the supposed upsurge of the so-called BRIC countries, no other nation on Earth still manages to hold such cultural sway (at least in the UK): the death of Steve Jobs, the stepping aside of Sarah Palin, the ranking of CalTech as the world's top university, riots on Wall Street, and American university human cloning advances - here is a nation in ferment, capable of creating great personalities and institutions, that further human genius.  Why?  Because, cynicism aside, no other nation is as free, or expansive imaginatively.  As Jobs said, famously, we should never settle.  Find a true calling and go for it.  This is a lesson other nations, who continue to suppress their people, might heed.  For now, America remains the indispensible country, for good and ill, as the twin poles of Jobs and Palin remind us.

Steve Jobs Has Died

Sad news.  The industrial genius of our age - hence, a digital kind - has died -Steve Jobs, as famous now as Edison or Ford were to their times, and as influential.  His works changed the way we work, and play, and ushered in the current climate where hand-held devices, and small bits of information, define our daily habits.  He recreated recreation.  His death is also salutary for a grimmer reason - it shows the need to keep working to find cures for the various cancers that still ravage humankind.  To die a billionaire at 56 from cancer reveals that nothing is currently available to inevitably halt this terrible scourge.  It is to be hoped that some of Job's own money can now go to this work.


Nobel Goes To?

Tomorrow, another Nobel for a writer.  The buzz is for Franzen.  If a poet (in English, to be parochial for a minute), the following have a shot: Les Murray, Bill Manhire, Paul Muldoon, Anne Carson, Geoffrey Hill, and John Ashbery - each is a major figure, and is worthy.  I can only guess at the many other-languaged poets out there.  Again, prose writers in English who are deserving include Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, and John Banville.  It probably should go to Murakami.  We shall see...

Guest Review: Taylor On Kingsnorth

Maria Taylor reviewsKidland and other PoemsBy Paul Kingsnorth
Paul Kingsnorth’s debut collection Kidland and other Poems is nature poetry with teeth. These poems eschew sentimentality or mere description and instead are characterised by radicalism. ‘It is often that I hate my Humanity,’ writes Kingsnorth, yearning for a natural world which is unspoilt by human destruction. In this respect, his poetry is underpinned with a sense of loss as well as anger.
Ecopoetry is, arguably, relatively new and marked by presenting ‘distinctly contemporary problems and issues’, as J. Scott Bryson has noted in his introduction to the genre. Kingsnorth’s poetry could be deemed as ‘anti-humanist,’ as well as ecological. Kidland longs for a return to a pre-human history, calling upon ‘dark gods’ to re-establish the order of nature:There is a heavy, heartless beauty anchored in the black soils of Europe,silent and uncaring, overlookedby its busy patrons, waiting as the Earth turns toward the dark.
There’s a …