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Showing posts from June, 2014

WEST COAST EARLY 90S GOTHIC

I was reading a review of Lana del Rey's Ultraviolence the other day, in Q or the NME or somewhere, and I came across the suggestion of a new pop culture genre that had hitherto been vague to me, though one I knew I loved - without naming it - even as I very much lived through it.  In fact, the reviewer doesn't make a claim of a new genre, but mentions that her new album seems to be in the same world as early 90s American artifacts like Twin Peaks, the song 'Wicked Game' and Mazzy Star's heroin-pop music.

There was a deviant, weird twang to that time, basically a twisted 50s vibe, where everything decent and American from the 50s became reinvested with the subtextual sex, subversion and queerness that was always latent in its Sirkian surfaces.  Buried Camp revisited, this time as a darker sultrier post-modern reorganisation - but dreamy, haunted, weird - Ed Wood the movie, as it were. Well, okay, I buy into that - the creepy post-modernity of X-Files (also West Coas…

THE GREAT BELOW

I was recently sent a review copy of Maddy Paxman's The Great Below: A Journey Into Loss. It explores the marriage between her and the revered American-British poet Michael Donaghy, who died at the age of 50, from bleeding on the brain, in London, at the height of his poetic powers. This isn't a very long or helpful review, I am sorry to say, because I found the book too sad to complete.

I did, however, read up to page 83, and I am sure that some comment is better than none. Donaghy, friend to Don Paterson, John Stammers, and other major poets in the UK, and someone I admired and knew a bit (I sat beside him at one of his last birthday parties), is as close to a sainted figure among those British poets who love form and wit as one can get, and there seems no doubt this review copy is a poisoned chalice - how can one truly review such a sorrowful tale, without being accused of insensitivity if one notes any faults?  Well, I respect the author too much not to give it an honest cr…

WANTED: POETRY BUYERS

Too often, the discussion is about poetry readers,  What the UK needs are more poetry buyers. I run a small press that has so far produced 21 poetry titles, all designed by Edwin Smet, and printed by TJ International, in handsome, stylish, hardcover editions.  The books are edited carefully, and have no typos.

The poems range from the Cambridge School (Simon Jarvis) to the American contemporary (Don Share) to the gnomic (Elspeth Smith) to the lyrical and witty (Penny Boxall) to the savagely original (SJ Fowler). A few have been highly commended, listed for prizes, got great reviews, etc, and all have been launched in famous bookshops, and are sold at Amazon, and also in many fine shops across the UK.  Sales, despite this (one was an Observer Book of the Year 2013) are low.  Not very low - just slow low.  Several have sold around 450 copies (good for press less than three years old), a few 250, and a few about 150.  None has sold less than 100, and none more than 500 (yet) at time of wr…

THE POEMS OF VALENTIN IREMONGER

The small Run Press, from Ireland (Cork) is producing a series of intriguing reading - the Selecteds and Collected of overlooked poets from the past half-century or so. The first I have seen is The Poems of Valentin Iremonger, his real name.  Iremonger, a career diplomat who late in life suffered brain damage, is a minor Irish poet who nonetheless writes some crisp, low-key verse, often about girls, the weather, life, with a sometimes satirical bent.

When he was noticed, critically, it was for his use of the non-poetic register.  At his best he had a way with the image ("summer detonate in our heads") but some of the poems feel occasional, slight, and dusty now - he's a poet for an age, not for all time, it often appears.  A few of his poems are marvellous for their spare, clean, modern lyricism that has all of Yeats' Celtic swashbuckling burned away, such as the great 'Cross Guns Bridge' with the opening stanza:

Once too often for my taste I shall cross
That br…

NEW POEM FROM U.S. DHUGA

Belfast Landing

for Erin Elizabeth Horlings

When the plane wobbled in its descent To George Best Belfast City Airport I thought of the Munich Air Disaster
Then what came to mind was the descant I forged between us. Never the sort To cross myself in polyester
Prayer, I crossed myself and thought of what I meant When I asked you “Will you marry me?” Short Of runway, I’m working for our daughter
Whom we don’t have yet. These days I rent A modest basement flat off Dovercourt. I’m better now, if by better
What is meant is no more descents No more roller coaster rides to comport The plane to skid-landing helter-skelter.





U. S. Dhuga was educated at Harrow, Berkeley, Amherst College, and Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in Classics in 2006. His widely acclaimed book Choral Identity and the Chorus of Elders in Greek Tragedy was published through Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies (Lexington Books, 2011), in the series “Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches”, edited by Gregory Na…

EYEWEAR POETS HIGHLY COMMENDED!

THIS JUST IN....
‘What You Mean to Me’ from Ship of the Line by Penny Boxall & Trepidation’ from The Rottweiler's Guide to the Dog Owner by S.J. Fowler
We are pleased to tell you that Penny Boxall and S. J. Fowler have beenHighly Commended by the judgesfor this year’s Forward Prizes for Poetry. Their poems will therefore be published this autumn in The Forward Book of Poetry 2015. The judging panel was chaired by Jeremy Paxman, and included poets Dannie Abse, Vahni Capildeo and Helen Mort, plus singer/songwriter Cerys Matthews.

THE ISIS CRISIS, AND BLAIR FLARE

The UK media is tending this past week to see the current Iraq-Syria-ISIS crisis, whereby a group of extremist militants is threatening to carve up a Caliphate in the middle of the Middle East, at the expense of Western (and apparently Iranian interests), through the rather myopic lens of the Blair-Bush axis of 2003.  I was a coordinator of the American poets against the war web site, and also edited Salt's major anthology, 100 Poets Against The War - so it is clear I was not precisely a Blair fan back then.  Nor do I find his wild-eyed interventions these days much more welcome; I chuckled when Boris Johnson suggested he put a sock in it.  There is perhaps some anti-Catholicism in this, but if Blair had been a good Catholic he would have known the 2003 war was unjust. His lapses are legion.

Anyway, the current crisis is not entirely Blair's doing.  While it seems true that the sadistic tyranny of the Saddam years kept a lid on the sectarian divisions, if not desires, the main …

ON BRITISHNESS

There has been much debate in the last few weeks in Britain, regarding what constitutes Britishness and British Values.  Ironically, the sort of people who tend who ironically laugh at patriotic, family values-oriented Americans, are now espousing their own jingoistic, nationalistic version of same.  A recent poll, as reported by the BBC, even suggests that most British people think to be British means you have to be born in Britain - holding citizenship or even a passport is merely a technicality.  This blood-Britishness is a disquieting rejoinder to the notion that the UK is a sophisticated, international, and multicultural society, or series of overlapping societies.  Indeed, if a majority of people in Britain really think Britishness is born, not made, then no wonder UKIP is on the rise.  It's an idea profoundly unwelcoming to immigration, in many ways.  Eyewear is a British blog, because it has been based in London, UK, for around ten years, and its editor holds British citiz…

PERSONA NON-GRATEFUL: THE NEW ULTRAVIOLENCE ALBUM BY LANA DEL REY

In what is either a True Detective style creepy sign, or very lo-fi viral marketing, someone has scrawled the name Lana on the pavement today outside my flat in chalk, amid some occult symbols. Meanwhile, the second album from Ms Lana Del Rey, titled Ultraviolence, in a bald reference to A Clockwork Orange (she had already exhausted that other hip transgressing novel Lolita) is upon us. This is not a review - I am still taking in the deadly nightshade that is this aural intoxication - but more of a nod of assent.

Del Rey is a persona - so what? so was Oscar Wilde - and she gives good dark mood.  Her interview in today's Guardian is perhaps more nihilistic than even Detective Rust, though - she claims not to want to be alive, and not to enjoy her enormous success or performing live.  With ennui like that, who needs fiends?  A common criticism is that her soporific melodies are attached to lyrics that are obsessively one-note: that basically they are torch songs about doomed love, an…