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Showing posts from July, 2014

SUMMERTIME GLADNESS

Eyewear is going fishing, and won't be posting here at the blog until end of the summer. Don't cry, dear reader - you have over 20 Eyewear titles to read in the meantime and 3,250 (!) previous posts stretching back over 9 years to peruse, revisit, savour, or discover for the first time. Have a good summer, despite the incipient madness of a violent and often cruel world.  We make our heavens and hells here on earth.

Todd Swift, this blog's editor, despite his human troubles, quirks, and challenges, seeks to promote poetry, publish good writing, and write some things of value himself - why?  Because a world with a new-arrived book or poem in it is always a better world than the moment before (even if the book or poem is itself problematic), because the alternative is far worse - a world where new books and poems do not keep arriving for us.

new poem by todd swift

Ballad of the Non-payment
What we see is burning planes the compost of sad old refrains no song collects human remains.
A poem is what is tossed aside by any reader who aims to glide above rhyme for a novel ride;
I have some wisdom left apart for my children never came to start the acting father in me, so smart
I somehow learned to uncreate the brood I thought would inundate our gardens with their fortunate
water pistols aimed at trees; I've some words to give freely; these are words like shooting sprees:
there is no God but the god you leave; there is no loss but that you grieve; and it is better to love than live;
though living is what love requires; the world dampens love’s true fires; for truth and love are not the spires
on which our global good is built; we rise to worship all that’s gilt; we mourn fewer than get killed;
if I could warn I’d remove all doubt: it is better not to write a lot; and if you do, try not to shout;
they can hear you even though you never speak above a slow mourning whimper, askin…

ZULU FIFTY YEARS ON

I was always afraid to see Zulu, the British war film "introducing" Michael Caine, which was a big hit the summer of 1964 - I thought it might be bloody, jingoistic, and awkwardly racist. And this despite the fact many movie lists feature it as one of the great films. As a film buff, what was I doing, avoiding it.

So, last night, I finally watched it.

Bloody hell, what a movie.  What a complex, haunting, terrifying, beautiful, horrific, great scream it from the roofs movie.  One of the best I've ever seen, easily now in my top ten.

Why?

Well, firstly, politically, it doesn't go far enough, but, for its time, it's remarkably balanced. The "villains" of the film, the Zulus, are really more like antagonists - but never are they depicted as less than noble, brave, brilliant. I have seen critics say they should have been given more of a voice, less of a communal mass identity, but the point of the film is to recreate an actual military battle, which was - despit…

DISSECTING DIRECTING HERBERT WHITE, THE PATIENT ETHERISED ON THE TABLE

It would be too easy to conclude that James Franco's new collection of poetry and prose, from Faber, Directing Herbert White, is the weakest book of poetry they have ever published, though one would have to go back to, arguably de la Mare, to find an equal. Simply put, most of the poetry in the book is so flat that one is forced to conclude that some kind of post-modern hoax is being perpetrated, the kind of thing that, from time to time, Hollywood actors get up to in their vanity project phases.

Dismissing Franco, who is, after all, a good actor, a handsome young man, a rich and famous American, and a student and promoter of poetry, might smack of envy, or sour grapes.  After all, very few humans alive are currently as fortunate as he, in terms of health, wealth, looks, and opportunity. He is, in the secular and gross way of celebrity, blessed - or cursed, as he would like us to think, too.  Using the persona of Lohan, the doomed actress, he is prepared for any mockery in advance,…

OUTRAGE

The downing of a Malaysian passenger jet a few hours ago, over rebel-dominated Ukraine's airspace, is a terrible loss of life - 295 souls, apparently, including a full complement of 15 staff. It is also an act of war, and a moral outrage.  Our prayers go out to the families of those lost, and any survivors, if there are, mercifully any. The possibility of it being a coincidence, in a corridor that has seen military jets downed recently, is slim.  It seems odd that a civilian airliner was routed over such disputed space, but perhaps the assumption was this was a civilised theatre.  It is not, anymore.

America is weak at the moment, horribly so.  Firstly Mr Obama, the weakest American President in memory, refrains from reminding Israel (our democratic partner in the Middle East in many things) of the immediate and lasting need to avoid killing women, children, and innocent men in Gaza in any manner that has impact; he does nothing in Iraq, less in Syria; lets China bully its region; …

RAW POWER IN 1986

One of the best memories of my college years - I was educated at a private college run by nuns - was a summer house party hosted by Adam Frank - we were around 19, and we were drinking gin and tonics, and later Margaritas.  Adam has since become a brilliant professor.  We were into A.J. Ayer, Colin Wilson, Brecht, Kafka, Welles, Freud, Wilde and, Iggy Pop. 

Raw Power was playing - on a turn table I believe - and I had never heard it before.  Adam was wearing a bow tie and his goofy glasses - he was tall, with curly hair, and very funny, and smart.  Also in attendance were our friends the impossibly tall, erudite and charming Misha Glouberman (soon off to Harvard), Marcy Goldberg (so slinky and clever, a secret crush of mine), Douglas Barrett, a slim, blond physical and intellectual comedian, action-packed, manic, sexually exploratory, possibly blood-stained from previous antics, and my boyfriend at the time, sort of - our Cassady.  The poet, at the time an enigmatic petite red-lipped b…

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK 33 YEARS LATER

The first time I sawRaiders of the Lost Ark, I had recently turned 15. I had lined up at 7 am in the morning, outside The Imperial cinema, in Montreal's East End, with my best friend of the time, Timmy. It was June, 1981, and we knew nothing of the movie, its many plot twists, its future classic status.  We only knew it starred Harrison Ford, who we had loved as Hans Solo, and was created by George Lucas and Spielberg.

There was, of course, no Internet back then, no social media, so buzz was from radio and newspapers, and, as we were young teens, from school gossip.  There had been a big pr push, some billboards, but we were rather innocent.  We entered the cinema around noon, about 33 years ago, to see the first showing in Quebec, bought our popcorn and soda pop, and then quickly became amazed.

I watched Raiders again last night on TV, for the first time in maybe ten years - hell, maybe 20.  I've seen the sequels a few times since, as well.  I recalled the film fondly, but a ne…

GREAT REVIEW FOR AN EYEWEAR BOOK AND THE EYEWEAR DESIGN FROM KIRSTEN IRVING!

One of the best of younger British poets, Kirsten Irving, who knows a thing or two about book design as well, ends her fresh review of Tree Language as follows:

"Let’s talk about production. Hardback, elegantly typeset on off-white, tasty shades of chocolate and raspberry (or blood and clotting) with complementary endpapers. There’s clearly a crack crew working on the Eyewear look. Designer Edwin Smet’s clean, expressive style is a fundamental part of the distinctive Eyewear house look. Using only lines and shapes which resemble paper cut-outs, he has for other titles conjured a Rottweiler, moonlight, weather phenomena and the outline of a stranger.

If you’re big on irony and detached cool, it’s most definitely not for you, but if you want poetry that dives in with a small, keen dagger, enjoy. As a collection, Tree Language is so dense, well-meshed and infused with spiced notes there’s almost too much to say. Subverting the kinds of themes that so often garner major prizes, this c…

Mario Götze, Eyewear's Poster Boy 2014

In the end, it was Mario Götze - that German wunderkind - who won the World Cup for the German side, with an elegant, effortless and noble strike.  Well done, young man! You may not wear glasses, but Eyewear loves your charm, style and sporting acumen.

SHIELDS ON ANDERSON'S GRAND FILM ON VIOLENCE AND LUXURY

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel begins with a frame story as elaborate as the movie's sets. In the present, a young woman walks through a graveyard to the gravestone of a famous writer. After adding a key to the many hotel keys already hanging on the gravestone, she begins to read a book called The Grand Budapest Hotel. The scene cuts to 1985 with the author of the book reading it to the camera. The story he tells goes back to 1968, when he visited the Grand Budapest Hotel and heard Zero Moustafa tell the story of how he came to be the hotel's owner. That story, which takes place in 1932, focuses on the hotel's concierge, M. Gustave.             At the end of the film, Zero sums up M. Gustave's life: "To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it—but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace!" M. Gustave's world is that of the luxury hotel; as the hotel's concierge, his job is to cr…

1-7

Some are smug, some are cheering, but within Brazil, it is mostly stunned silence, tears, anger, confusion, emptiness, and a sense of total humiliation. To say it is only a game, to paraphrase the Canadian poet, David McGimpsey, is like saying "it was only a brother, a father".

As we all know, football is Brazil's lifeline, its credo, its sense of value, its ars poetica, its soul - throw in the word of choice, but the meaning is the same: bedrock. Heart.

Imagine your bride being hit by lightning on her wedding day.  The ship hitting the iceberg. The rocket ship exploding. The baby carriage rattling down the steps. Disasters.  Now add that you're nude and being jeered by thousands, children weeping, including your own. And have let down your whole nation.

That's what the Brazilian players felt, as they left the pitch of horror, having been hammered by a cold, ruthless, and cruel German side.

Stripped of pride beyond any sense of balance, this was like a Revenger's…

FRANCOPHILIA

POEMS AFTER JAMES FRANCO

Some great poets, like O'Hara, Wallace Stevens, Yeats, and ee cummings, have an inimitable style. Which makes it so fun to parody them.  Shall we explore the style of the new young American poet, major enough for Faber, Dr James Franco?

Your versions welcome.  Here is one of mine.

DOG WITHOUT A BONE

Hollywood has its characters
like a movie.
I mean a moving film
with pictures and mouths
that operate.

I dated a young starlet.
She was casting couch material.
She died of too much fame & sex
and camerawork.

I don't have a part to play.
No bone to pick.
I do it my way.
Show me the next whiskey bar.

Never call your agent back
after midnight.
Just relax and dream of Marlon.
Not the fish, the big man.

The horror, the horror show.
Fame is contagious,
like a disease.
You can't cure Marilyn Monroe.

You just have to dig for her bone.

THE POEMS OF MARTIN SEYMOUR-SMITH

Martin Seymour-Smith? If you haven't heard of him, then be afraid, and ashamed, for dear reader, you are him, one day. Run Press of Ireland has produced a lovely and thick book of all his poems, even the uncollected ones (which includes a very moving late poem to Robert Creeley). As usual, in this important series, the print is too small, but the printing and editorial quality is high.

MS-S (as I shall call him) was a friend of Robert Graves (another Robert) and an opponent of some elements of modernism.  Yet, he was a great editor, critic, when it came to literature, especially the foreign, which he also translated.  In the mid 1970s, in Britain, he would have been a well-known name among those whose reviews mattered.

Of course, like so many (all?) men (and women) of letters, whose main passion is poetry, life is hard, but death is crueler.  Oblivion awaits 99.9% of all poets, and their poems.  Who loves to read MS-S now? And yet, a few of his poems are very fine, such as 'Your…

POEMS FOR TIM HOWARD #2: MICHAEL EGAN

Dear Tim

Dear Tim, I am walking beneath the night and the moonless black and the dog is loose and running towards the railway track and I can still see you, defeated but not defeated. Did I ever tell you my grandfather, the dead one, played for Everton, near lost his left arm to a poisoned Prince Rupert’s Tower tattoo? Your arm is a grand arm.
Dear Tim, I don’t like the Belgians anymore , mainly Fellaini, and when Lukaku scored did you regret that time you gave him a lift home after training. You bought him a Mars Bar. Your beard is glorious and subtle. Your hands are glorious and subtle. I read that soccer is a sign of your nation’s moral decline. Don’t ever decline.
Dear Tim, Where do you live? Is it near me? If I keep walking tonight will I pass your house and see it empty and lightless and cold? As empty as the net you guarded, for a while at least. As lightless as Soldier Field once the believers lost belief. As cold as the ice bath where you plunge your raw hands and try to forget the man-child De …

THE COMING EXTINCTION OF THE POETRY BOOK AND WHAT WE CAN DO

There is a lot of talk about the loss of species, and the loss of indigenous languages, about the loss of old buildings, and the loss of manners. And there should be.  But one of the most pressing cultural issues of our time is sadly overlooked by almost everyone - and it is the endangered status of the literary book as a physical object, especially, the poetry collection.

Poetry books have existed, in the English language, for several hundred years, but, until the time of Wordsworth and Coleridge, it was relatively rare for poets to write in a language most people could relate to, and to have their books published for sale in shops.  Keats, famously, sold only a few hundred of his books - but what books!  Anyone owning one of them now would be fiercely lucky.

Eyewear, the blog, and its editor, Todd Swift, have long been interested in, and supportive of, use of the Internet to promote and extend the reach of, poems, and poets.  All to the good.  But the digital expansion, and rise of th…

POEMS FOR TIM HOWARD #1: WYNN WHELDON

Many who have watched the Greatest World Cup Ever can agree the last-minute battles of underdog teams has yet to be matched by the bold, selfless, and noble derring-do of the USA side in their tragic match against Belgium - tragic, in the sense that Homer's work is, because so often the greatest are the flawed few, who fall before their time.  Especially deserving of praise is Tim Howard, already from this game a national icon in America back home, a goal keeper whose excellence, unnerved and ever-willing to leap and save, epitomises everything worth emulating about the beautiful game.  Beyond those who dive and cheat and bite, there stands the keeper with the stirring record of saves, Tim Howard, previously unsung, unheralded, now seen for what he is on the world stage.  In order to keep the fires of his memory lit, Eyewear welcomes poems inspired by this hero.  The first is by British poet Wynn Wheldon.


ALBERT CAMUS CONSOLES TIM HOWARD
C’est la vie, Tim. It’s ridiculous. Man of the…