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Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blog-zine of all time, getting more than 25,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005 and has now been read by over 2.2 million.

The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by contributing poets and reviewers. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed immediately upon request.
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Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected on a platform of doing politics differently, of listening and running a more democratic party, and whose own voting record as an MP over 30 years was more rebellious than ANY OTHER LABOUR BACKBENCHER IN HISTORY, has sougt over the last few days to apply a whip to the vote over Syrian aerial bombardment by the RAF, which he has called "a rush to war".

We have published a book on the man, and broadly welcomed his leadership election.  However, it seems incredible that he would seek to force Labour MPs to vote against their conscience on an issue of armed conflict. Nor is this a rush to war - the RAF is already bombing IS in Iraq; Britain is already at war and has been for over a year now.

Mr Corbyn lost his attempt to determine Labour voting policy on this issue, and over 50 Labour MPs are likely to support the Tories. Many will abstain or vote against the air strikes. This is all to the good - in a democracy, a party leader's personal favour with party members cannot be used to trump or override elected MPs - otherwise one moves to a Maoist system.

Mr Corbyn seems to be living on borrowed time.  How many more times can he leave shadow cabinet meetings ashen faced and cowed, after suffering hour long harangues?

Clearly, he is not doing a good job of managing the leadership of his party.  This is partly his own fault, as he has failed to appoint ruthless and professional controllers around him that know how to win arguments and do some spin; and partly the fault of the shadow cabinet who have been unruly often unfairly.

Labour will need a day of reckoning soon.  Christmastime is no time for a putsch.  But come the Spring, there may be a broom with the name Benn or Burnham on it.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


It's typical of me to talk about me... Adele's great song 'Hello' sums up the Selfie age, perfectly, and also Eyewear's BLOG, which has always been of the digital age - self-important, fluid, ephemeral, fashion-aware, ubiquitous, curious, seeking, innovating, changeable, and deeply trivial.
Tis the season, again, of lists and we love them here but know them to be of course profoundly personal - and so what? Here are the fifteen tracks we played most this year at Eyewear HQ, and loved the most - though a few nearly got through, including songs by Madonna and Lana del Rey.... indeed, you know the year is rich beyond belief when we cannot even fit in critical darlings Julia Holter, Diiv, David Bowie, Ezra Furman, Everything Everything, Petite Meller, Peaches, Sleaford Mods, Grimes, Mark Ronson, Sia, Beck, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, or Deerhunter, to name just a few.
15 for 2015, get it?  Silly but it helps us to cut down the writing. And, if you made this as a list at Spotify, it would run for exactly 60 minutes!
So, here, in alphabetical order by title, are the 15 best popular songs of 2015 according to Eyewear's blog....
1. 'All of Me Wants All of You' - Sufjan Stevens
This is not only alphabetically the first songs, but coincidentally simply the finest song of the year. Chanelling Elliot Smith and Paul Simon, Stevens, himself a lyric genius, has composed a song that is as poetically confessional as Robert Lowell, but as contemporary as the masturbation while his friend checks her phone - melancholy, tender, fragile and a work of art.
2. 'Are You Ready?' - Mercury Rev
An indie band of somewhat mysterious purpose, enigmatic and rarely noticed, Mercury Rev are capable of creating an uncanny sound that skirts the edge of the experimental.  Here they combine their love of strings, echoes, and dreamy vocals, with a pop song about loving "psychedelic rock and blue-eyed soul" that is both sad and exhiliarting.  It may be about getting ready to dance or hit the town, or die, or have a kiss or a hit of something potent.  It is a very lovely moment.
3. 'Bills' - Lunchmoney Lewis
Few songs sound like instant classics. This is one of them - it arrives with its own zany post-Crisis/Crash exuberance and intent. If songs are meant to lift the soul and also tell a truth, few songs of this decade have been as tellingly accurate about Austerity and its personal demands.
4. 'Body Talk' - Foxes
Electro-pop was everywhere this year, and huge hit-making song-writing teams combined on many gigantic albums. Foxes released a clutch of singles, but this is the one that most strikes a chord. As catchy as anything Madonna or Lady Gaga or Robyn, or Taylor Swift have ever managed to produce, the themes of love, heart ache and desire, were as direct as the finest 80s hits - so it ended up speaking for itself.
5. 'California Nights' - Best Coast
Best Coast are a duo with few critical friends. This new track arrived without champions and the album was ignored at year's end by many list-makers.  However, in their attempt to take a Smiths riff and generate their own anthemic dream pop legacy, they have written a masterpiece of guitar indie swoon and jangle. I get high still every time I listen to it.
6. 'Can't Feel My Face' - The Weeknd
Canadians like Justin Bieber, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen and Drake dominated the charts this year. No Canadian song-writer managed better to create a classic, however - this song could be a missing Michael Jackson #1, and made the idea of loss of face oddly meaningful. A master class.
7. 'Cranekiss' - Tamaryn
A number of indie groups sought to revive the best dream pop traditions this year, but only one wrote the finest dream pop song since 'Fade Into You' - perhaps my favourite group now working (aside from The Jezabels). Exquisite, romantic, sad, and proto-gothic, it sets a thousand bedrooms darkly ablaze with passion and sensibility.
8. 'Decided Knowledge' - Dutch Uncles
Sounding like an oddly quirky revision of Tears For Fears, by way of OMD, this came in under the radar, as a deeply insightful and critical discussion of a life beset by the Toad work, and CV-obsession. Few songs discuss work, harmony, opinion, and money without letting on what is at stake, but no song I have ever heard could better soundtrack the ending of a film about an accountant, MP, or civil servant turning whistle-blower.
9. 'Hello' - Adele
No song will say 2015 like this one. Arriving late in the year, at a point when Ronson or Swift were poised to be the artists of the moment, this blew the world away. Simply put, Adele sells like Elvis, the Beatles, Wacko Jacko - she is as popular as any Brit has ever been Stateside, Churchill excepted, and is beloved because of her sincere small-town airs, and great pipes. You can run, but how long can you resist it? The video, brave and ludicrous at once, dared to be as big as the 80s, and won over a world. The anthem of the decade.
10. 'High Enough To Carry You Over' - Cvrches
This track reminds me of another funky 80s synth-pop band from Scotland, Endgames, but that was 35 years ago. Preposterously OTT, danceable, and twee, sung in a breaking male voice of angsty drive, as if Madonna's 'Borderline' had been sung by Joe her cousin, it is hard to let go of. I let it take me.
11. 'J1M1' - Atari Teenage Riot
If you want to hear the sound of angry hacktivism set to dance rock, turn to this German group as perturbed, left-wing, pacifist, and political as it is possible to be without becoming Jeremy Corbyn's campaign manager. An alternative indie anthem for the age of IS. "Don't let them break you" indeed.
12. 'New Americana' - Halsey
Remember Lorde? That was so, like, last year. High on legal marijuana, here comes the hippest singer-songwriter from the States since Lana became sort of well, old hat. Witty, satirical, and infectious to the max, this was the college radio classic of the year.
13. 'Sprinter' - Torres
Few songs are as haunting as a novella, or as serious, but Torres managed to tell a disturbed tale of running in school, a perverted pastor, and how glory, porn, theology and grace merge in a confused maesltrom of adolescence and identity-wonderment. Lyrically striking and fiercely intelligent, she has written a major song, with echoes of PJ Harvey's best work in the background.
14. 'That's Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)' - Kurt Vile
Americana is the gift that keeps on giving. Vile, a brilliant sometime collaborator with The War On Drugs, has written a few of the best songs of the 00s but this may be his most resonant, effective. Blunt as a clawhammer, and homely as a stoop that needs a lick of paint, he sits down and picks a few chords and a few words that manage to sum up the sorrows of the whole of existence. As poetic as the strangest Dylan works. "So sad, so true".

15. 'What Went Down' - The Foals
In many years, the Foals would have been said to have made the album of the year. As loud yet sensitive as Royal Blood fused with Fleet Foxes, or perhaps Nirvana and The War On Drugs, this was the loud-soft rock explosion of 2015 - a weird, driving, angry, leonine, Marlboro-burnt story of falling in love with a "girl with a port-wine stain" - it felt almost as if Lee Child's latest pulp novel had been set to throat-burning roaring lyrics, inflected with all the rage and sadness that only these violent, unsettled times can inflict upon sensitive artists and musicians. Grand, noble, tortured, majestic.


As befits this new age of entertainment excellence, it is possible to declare 2015 one of the best years in the past 50 for TV, film, and popular music.

No list of excellent, popular TV in English would exclude Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Homeland, The Affair, Game of Thrones, Daredevil, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot, Wolf Hall, Humans, The Americans, Manhattan, Jessica Jones, True Detective (even season 2), and some guilty pleasure lists might even include Better Call Saul and the absurdly kitsch T&A throwback, Quantico.

However, in a supremely crowded field, Eyewear wishes to select two mini-series, one from America, and one from the UK, which both exemplify the very best of TV drama, especially when it comes to grips with politics and recent events.

The UK show is London Spy - not even concluded, but already, in its first three hour-long episodes starring Charlotte Rampling, Mark Gattis, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent, startlingly brilliant.  This series manages to combine the stylish and literary elegance and sad beauty of Brideshead Revisited with the violence and pornography of the most shocking art film you have yet to see. Based on a true spy story (a shy maths genius spy was found dead in a BDSM encasement in his locked rooms), it manages to yield scenes of poignancy, horror, romance and genuine disgust almost unparallend in current British drama. The script, cast and direction are all five star. A new benchmark.

Meanwhile, handsome smart rising star Oscar Isaac, in Show Me A Hero, a six-part series based in Yonkers in 1987, becomes a young mayor accidentally embroiled in a national race issue over affordable housing for African-Americans in a mainly White neighbourhood.  What could and should have been a rather dismal local politics miasma becomes as fascinating as if Dickens had written up a show about the Russian Revolution and set it in a small city outside New York city. Hugely rich characters, and tragic human failings, lead to small yet elementally seismic losses and bad decisions, even amongst those with the most ideals to waste.

Both shows reveal the darkest hearts of human behaviour, and of human governance, but offer glimpses of hope, and both, curiously, for such gritty and secular narratives, have a sort of King Arthur mythic template beneath them (both are about a Waste Land, a young hero, a quest for a cleansing grail, and, well, both have mentors and enemies).

Regarding camp choices, I reserve a space in my heart for True Detective 2 whose few episodes became Lynchian and Kubrickian and rather thrilling at times. As well, Quantico, the most popular new US show, was so achingly crap it was very sexily fun trash, a sort of FBI Baywatch.

It is true that Dickensian, the new Luther, and Christmas Sherlock are still to air, but this is it for now, give or take.


According to Time, The Observer, and David Cameron, "we" are at war with IS.

This is debated, but if you consider the murder of 30 British tourists in Tunisia by an IS gunman provocative, and if you believe the news reports that 7 major attacks on British soil were foiled this year alone - and that one is pending any moment - you might think that IS was attacking UK interests.

At any rate, the decision facing the British Parliament this week is likely to be - bomb Raqqa in Syria, or not.

As is widely known, Labour is divided on this issue, and the Lib Dems and SNP are also unsure it is a wise move, as well as a few Tories; Canada and Australia are not currently bombing Syria, it should be noted. Russia, Turkey, and France, however are, along with the USA.

Something of a curate's egg, this debate, since the UK is already bombing IS across the border in Iraq. It is hard to believe that IS would become angrier and more deadly if the bombs began to fall, like rain in a Paul Muldoon poem, suddenly over a false dividing line.

Britain's streets are not safe from IS and terrorism, but bombing Raqqa is unlikely to completely degrade IS' ability to commit random terror massacres, especially since it employs many lone-wolf style cells already in place. Sending boots to the ground in a major offensive might however in a year or two, and with strong Muslim-nation alliances, crush IS in Syria.

The issue it seems is two-fold, for us at this blog.

1. How does one stop a war?
2. Will the bombing do more harm than good?

The first question is simple - you end a war by defeating the enemy, or being defeated, or ending up one way or the other at a peace talks table.

IS is not close to negotiating a settlement since its ideological purpose is to bring about an apocalyptic caliphate.

Nor is Britain close to being defeated, morally or materially.

Hence it seems the best bet is to try to defeat IS or bring them to the table.

Bombing alone will not manage the goal of crushing them, but it is one arrowhead in the quiver.

So, to the second question: to vote to bomb or not?

Clearly, there may be loss of life in Raqqa if the RAF goes in.  It is unclear how much less loss of life would occur otherwise, given that IS kills people in Raqqa themselves.

It is not necessarily a good plan to stop fighting for fear of harming the innocent - surely WW2 would have been stopped if that had been the main goal - but the plan should be to fight only if and when there is a goal that can be achieved, namely, defeating the enemy or seriously weakening them to the point where they cry Uncle.

As the bombing campaign is one strand of a larger strategy, it cannot be ruled out as being needless (it is surely at least fractionally more effective than doing nothing or much less).

As such, we feel that while loss of innocent life must be avoided, we also think the risk is worth it in this instance, in order to seek to combat an enemy of all who live and work in the West; to not go to the aid of France, and our allies, would send the wrong message to our enemy, and also would leave us more open to attack than we currently are.

This is regrettable, but while the West has many moral blemishes, this enemy is even more terrible than we are.  As such, this is a just war.  Just barely.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


The Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has had a complex career in Iran. He was born in 1934 to a wealthy family of pistachio farmers , He studied theology with the Ayatollah Khomenei in Quom. When Khomenei took over the government in 1979 Rafsanjani became the first speaker of parliament. During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war he was the de facto commander of the armed services. Thus he was in a position to know about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Hence he has to be taken seriously when he said recently 'When we first began, we were at war[with Iraq] and we sought to have that possibility [nuclear weapons] for the day that the enemy might use a nuclear weapon. That was the thinking. But it never became real.' He then goes on to add, 'We were at war and Iraq come close to enrichment before Israel destroyed it all. Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path.'

I will analyze the last two sentences. The first sentence seems to me to be entirely confused. On the 7th of June 1981 eight Israeli planes destroyed to so-called Osirak reactor near Teheran. It had been sold to the Iraqis by the French and they named it. Os for the Osiris class and Irak for its destination.It was a small reactor compared say to a power reactor. It generated 40 megawatts of power whereas a power reactor generates a couple of billion. It was fueled by highly enriched uranium -93%-of the kind you would use in a weapon. At the time of the raid the French had supplied 12.5 kilograms. Not much less then you would need to make a bomb-about 16 kilograms. (The amount actually depends on the type of bomb but this gives the order of magnitude.)The Israelis did not seem to pay any attention to this. They were concerned about the reactor’s capacity to produce plutonium like their own Dimona reactor. But the Osirak reactor was about as poorly designed for making plutonium as one could imagine. To make plutonium you want the least enriched uranium as possible. It is a reaction in which the common isotope U-238 absorbs a neutron which leads to plutonium.

This reactor could produce about .07 kilograms a year.[1] Hence it would take centuries to produce enough to make a bomb which requires about ten kilograms. Thus from the point of view of proliferation the Israeli raid was less than useless.It left the Iraqis with a substantial amount of weapons grade uranium and inspired them to begin a uranium enrichment program. A.Q.Khan tried to sell his centrifuge package to Saddam Hussein but Hussein did not trust him. Rafsanjani discusses an unsuccessful trip to Pakistan to see A.Q.Khan to acquire nuclear technology. He does not give the date of this trip but starting in 1987 and lasting for nearly a decade Khan sold this material to Iran. The Iraqi’s never got far with their enrichment program.
The sentence 'Our basic doctrine was always a peaceful nuclear application, but it never left our mind that if one day we should be threatened and it was imperative, we should be able to go down the other path,' bears a remarkable resemblance to the sorts of things that the Israelis say. But what does it mean? How do you retain the ability “to go down the other path?” The only reasonable meaning I can attach to this is that you retain facilities that work on nuclear weapons. I very much believe that this is the case and that the Iranians have developed plans for nuclear weapons-perhaps plans they bought from A.Q.Khan. It does not take many theoretical physicists to carry out this work.The Iranians have now begun to dismantle their centrifuges. This is a step in the right direction. It will be difficult-perhaps impossible-to learn how far along they are in the conceptual matters. In any event knowledge is a genie which cannot be put back into the bottle.
Jeremy Bernstein is best known for his popular science writing and profiles of scientists. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker from 1961 to 1995 and authored many dozens of articles.[5] He has also written regularly for The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Review of Books, and Scientific American, among others. His books include "Physicists on Wall Street and Other Essays on Science and Society" (2010), "Nuclear Weapons: What You Need to Know" (2010), "Quantum Leaps" (2009), "Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall" (2000), "In the Himalayas: Journeys through Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan" (1996), and others, more than 15 books in all. "The Life It Brings", an autobiographical memoir, was published in 1986. Bernstein's biographical profiles of physicists, including Robert Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, Albert Einstein and others, are able to draw on the experiences of personal acquaintance.[3][4]

[1] I would like to thank Tom Cochran for a discussion. This is an estimate. I do not know the exact parameters for the Osiris reactor.


Good news in tough times. Eyewear Publishing
is mentioned in a new review by poet and critic Rory Waterman in the latest issue of the TLS - it's a round-up following the Michael Marks shortlisting, discussing various pamphlets.

 Here is a brief taste: 

'Eyewear Publishing, founded by Todd Swift in 2012, has quickly risen to prominence for its similarly attractive poetry volumes, and has now launched the stylish pamphlet series Eyewear 2020/ (get it?), which demonstrates much of the rich multifariousness of British poetry in 2015.'
There is mention of Sam Jackson, Matt Howard and Damilola Odelola, among others.  Seek it out.


2015 has been a year of outrages - terrorism - a word which may have its origins, as some rather crass pundits wryly observed, in the rampant and often cruel massacres of the French revolutionary period.  The West - no stranger to cruelty to the Other and others itself at least since its settlers and explorers raped, tortured, and pillaged across the Americas - and in two World Wars the perpetrators of the worst atrocities in human history (the Holocaust, the dropping of nuclear weapons) - has finally met its match.

Civilization was once used to contrast the good with the barbaric.  The endless random killing masterminded by half-insane fanatics and fantasists, motivated by a medieval theology of incompatible Jihad, has cast itself as the new normal of barbarism. IS, the current bogeyman, though having never put forth a 9/11 style spectacular, instead went all Digital Age on our asses, chopping off heads for our apps and iPhones, smashing ancient cities for the cameras, and then pulling off a Mumbai-style and curiously pathetic spree of slaughter in Paris, twice, in one year, like a sequel to its own crazed movie.

At time of writing, mourning has become eclectic, and divisive; in what can only be called post-rational society, we now accuse our grieving allies of not caring as much for the fallen of Beirut, Mali or Kenya - and Ukraine is half-ignored. Realpolitik's diktats now mean the UN has rallied its Security Council and the world, including odd-man-out Russia and standalone China, in a bid to obliterate IS, which is both a bastion and a bastardised idea. You cannot kill ideas, but one supposes, you can blow those who hold them to shit, as Trump, panto Nazi Yankee, now says.

Paris II was the threshold of violence across which IS took us - a ritualistic breaking of our taboo-protected soul-hymens. They have helped us to grow up, our liminality now shed.  We are adults at last - face to face with an evil enemy worthy of our own past sins, and our own demons. IS is the perfect foe, because it lacks any empathy or recognisably sane goals. If there is a clash of civilizations between the West and others, there is also a clash of barbarisms, and IS has seen our Nagasaki, and raised us a Bataclan.

Few sober soldiers and terrorists (even terrorists) shoot weeping teenagers at rock concerts, unless they hate the very idea of youth and rock music. As I have said elsewhere, killing people while they laugh, and drink and talk at a Paris café is the secular analogue of killing a person at prayer in a Mosque. But how to grieve the unspeakable and unsayable? The media, never exhausted by spectacle and carnage, has packaged nightly this last week of candles and banners, and wreaths, as if we had a thousand Lady Di's dying each day. Our ability to be moved by our own suffering is, in the Selfie Age, extraordinary. As one poet said recently, we turn from murder to kittens, in one click or swipe. We hold heaven and hell in our hands.

IS is the opposite of kittens, in every way. Hart Crane knew that a kitten cried in the wilderness - kittens are the Western image of helpless lovely cute decency and hope. So long as there is a kitten there is hope.  IS expends and desolates hope with every gay person thrown off a roof, every child shot in the head, every atrocity enacted with definitive aplomb. They like being themselves, just as we like loving kittens. They represent precisely what we are not. We know that so why have we not destroyed them yet?

Ah, we do not want boots on the ground, blowback, and so on. We blame ourselves for our incriminating actions in the Middle East and Latin America and Asia and Nuremberg. We suspect this is our Nemesis.  We hate ourselves like all good narcissists, really, deep down.  We have expected this punishment since Hobbes, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud and Foucault told us we had monsters within - but of course we never really repented or stopped being who we were. We just made movies and pop songs and porn and colas and shoes and cars instead and bought them.

However, despite our evils, IS is not finally about us. Sorry, but even narcissism has limits. Just as metorites and storms and cancer cells are not about us, in the first instance, IS arises alien not from the West but from a perversely dogmatic (but human) misreading of a book that is not of Western origin.

Harold Bloom might appreciate the sinister irony that all the evil in the world seems to come from misprision and misreading, still.  IS wants to generate a divinely-sanctioned Caliphate, underwritten by murder and cleansing sacrifice, smack dab in the centre of the oil fields and temples of the world. Like Superman in one of those films, they want to fly around the planet backwards and return to a time before Americans and post-Christian decadence, and Western power, before Bush and Bach, before Pope and popes, before Swift and Taylor Swift, before Whitman and Chaucer. Before Rousseau, Lincoln, Austen, Sontag, Justin Bieber.

In their sandy severe and devout world, without sex accept on their curious terms, and without love except the love of killing and their God, and without reading except of their select texts, they will build a new order, not so different from Hitler's.  Just as we have learned not to judge or blame the victims in the death camps, we cannot blame the beheaded and callously shot victims of IS. We are blameless because this meteor of hate rides before us, and would do this to anyone, at any time, unless they spoke their endlessly limiting language of focused rage and transformation.

God help us all.  Help us to read properly. And to love more than kill.

Teach me how to mourn properly, without malice or sentimentality.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


The new UK Spy bill being mooted - see here - is unacceptable, and yes, will out people's private browsing habits, which are more personal and potentially embarrassing or damaging than we might care to admit, as a society.

Simply put, a large percentage of the British public uses the Internet to do one or more of the following: a) cheat on a spouse or partner; b) look at (legal) porn; c) look at (illegal) porn; d) read up about suicide or mental illness or some other illness they may wish hidden; e) illegally pirate/ download American TV shows; f) pirate music, books, movies; g) explore other odd, eccentric or very personal hobbies or obsessions.

If the government is able to collect the data exhibiting this behaviour, and if it is gathered, and then perhaps hacked, or simply used by their own unscrupulous intelligence agencies, mass harm to the society would ensue.

This is because you could easily blackmail anyone in politics or any position of authority to make them do your bidding in exchange for suppressing a-f above.  Given that almost EVERY young British male between the age of 15-25 does at least b) as do may women, you would quickly be able to embarrass or blackmail many persons in Britain once they reached a position of power - until such time as looking at porn was no longer a social taboo.

If this seems far-fetched, consider the life and story of J. Edgar Hoover, who compiled dossiers on tens of thousands of Americans, via wire-tapping and then blackmailed them for over 40 years, becoming the most powerful man in America, able to make and break Presidents even. This is because of human nature.  Humans sin, and the Internet encourages a variety of legal sins, some of which are socially unacceptable.

Grown married persons who are, say, politicians, priests, generals, doctors, educators, CEOs, and so on, might not want their partners to know they look at legal porn sites that feature young-looking women dressed as schoolgirls, or whatever their particular kink was.  Newspapers would and could topple leaders. We are in a new Victorian Age - but instead of the brothels of Marylebone (that serviced thousands of men every night 130 years ago in London) - we now have the Net.

The question becomes, what are the threats such blanket spying on us all would defeat? Terror attacks - however terrible - usually only kill a few hundred people at a time.  Their impact is awful but containable

Allowing a home-grown spy agency to possess information rendering all our online behaviour transparent is not containable, and would damage the lives not of hundreds of people, but tens of millions. If it stifled expression, exploration, and creative expansion of the Internet, it would also ruin the economy.

It is a Police State charter.

The State can always find an enemy to justify taking our rights away.

It is our duty, as citizens, to oppose this, even if it means putting our lives at some risk by risking we will leave some of our enemies able to communicate without our knowing about it.

So we must oppose this plan, even if it leaves some questionable, even unethical, human behaviour in the shadows.

A society with all its vices exposed at once to public inspection would collapse.


I have discovered the secret to publishing success: print money.

Seriously, the success of a publishing house is directly connected to the following statement: if you publish books people want to own and read, they will buy them from you.  If they buy them from you in large amounts (over a few thousand copies) you make a profit on initial expenses, and can also cover overhead costs, marketing, salaries, design, postage, etc.

In short - if publishing as a business model is to be viable, the publishing company must produce goods/items/units/books that are in demand.

The reason poetry presses fail, struggle, and generally require state or private funding (subventions) to survive, is because they underperform at generating sales revenue.

In ugly words: poetry is something not in demand.

Despite some big selling poetry titles every year, most poetry titles will sell between 50 and 800 copies - usually around 200. Very few sell more than 2000.

A company that only produced books (or any product) that only 200 people wanted would soon face financial crisis, unless the total cost of manufacturing those items was less than the amount you could make from selling 200 copies (the most, after deductions to retailers and distributors is around 50% of cover price for most presses) - so if your unit cost was £10, you would make £5 per book sold - selling 200 would make you £1,000.

Most presses need revenue of at least £20,000 a year, if not triple that or more, to employ staff, and cover expenses - which means you would need to sell 4,000 books a year to break even.  And that would require you to produce around 20 poetry books a year.  And of course, this would not leave room for growth.

This is why almost all the poetry publishers are either supported by larger genres, or grants.


So, any press that is interested in publishing poetry and wishes to survive must

a) publish other kinds of books in greater demand;
b) find patrons;
c) seek arts support from government.

And this is what Eyewear currently is doing.

*This may be a good thing; poetry's resistance to commercialisation is a strength as an art form, but a challenge for anyone wishing to try and run a business based on selling poetry books to people, even excellent poetry books that might raise the consciousness of their readers.


Eyewear - no naïve wanderer in the online world - has become victim of a dreadful scam. A few years ago we bought a number of domain names from a supposedly-reputable company known as 1&1. Sadly, at the time I did not Google their reputation. It turns out they have, at least since 2010, if not earlier, been accused by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of former customers, of running a breath-taking and cynical scam.

Though they have been taken to the Trading Standards people, and often threatened with legal proceedings, this seems to have avoided major media attention - though that may change, because we at Eyewear are outraged at the intimidating way we have been treated by these unprofessionals.

To summarise, the scam works like this: when you first order the domain name and web hosting, you have to give them your credit card or PayPal details; you also, unbeknownst to yourself (because it is in illegally dense and opaque terms and conditions) agree to pay them in perpetuity - unless you can cancel. In short, you sign up for renewal every year or two, forever.

When Eyewear cancelled its contracts with 1&1 this August, because we no longer wanted to use them, we ticked the cancellation boxes, and removed our credit card details. We then received an email saying it was cancelled.  Which is where, ethically, it should stay.

However, a few weeks ago, a so-called collection agency named Arvato sent me emails, letters, and then began daily phone calls, asking for over £900! It appears that 1&1 "renewed" all my cancelled domains, and seek payment for them anyway - though I clearly told them I did not want them.

When I contacted Arvato I was told there was nothing I could do. I had to pay before my "account could be unlocked" to further discuss matters. In otherwords, I am locked into a running contract in perpetuity, and every week I do not pay this agency, the fees mount.

It turns out, you CANNOT ACTUALLY CANCEL your 1&1 contracts by email or online, but have to also send them a passport photo and signed special letter "proving" you wanted to cancel - this information buried deep where no one ever sees it until it is too late.

Since I have been billed for now over £1,500 of web-hosting stuff I do not want, starting less than two months ago, I have tried to speak to a human being at the company, but it is all designed to defer you endlessly back to a website that never seems to work when you get to the cancellation pages.

I always pay my debts. I believe if you want and use a service, you should pay for it. It is unethical to tie people down to service payments that people say they do not want, and are not using - and then pass them on to a collection agency within a fortnight.

The sinister aspect is, when I Googled this subject, I found out that hundreds, possibly thousands of people, have this experience every year. And some people, when they try to transfer or sell their domains registered at 1&1 discover they never really owned the domains anyway.

Most disturbing, Arvato is a company owned by 1&1 - an arm of the company, designed only to chase these bogus bills, and threaten escalating costs and fees. They also use other companies of their own devising to chase these debts.

The unethical aspect of this is that they claim that 1&1 cannot discuss the billing now that the matter is placed with the debt collectors - but they are based in the same company, and according to dozens of online reports from ripped-off customers, this is part of the structure of the scam - some people find they get bills years after they cancelled.  Once they have you, they try to scare the weak, the old, the nervous, the ill-informed, or the honest, into paying up - paying for a falsely-incurred, contrived debt. They threaten court, but never actually - apparently go that far, since they know what they are doing is against trading standards in the UK.

It is a web of lies, and I regret the day I ever went into any form of commercial dealings with 1&1. Avoid them at all costs.



Like many courses and degrees offered by one of the 115 or so British universities, Creative Writing comes in many shapes and sizes. Prospective students are often faced with bewildering choices, if even between local or regional options. This is a brief guide to the perplexed - a simple checklist. Here's how it works - for every yes score 10 points.  This will give you a score of between 0 and 100.  Clearly, you will want to attend a university that scores above 50%.

There are several ranking systems you can locate easily online with Google, updated every year. The question here is, is the university you are considering ranked in the Top 50? If it isn't, the likelihood is, for all its potential benefits, it won't be able to offer many of the advantages of a more prestigious, better-funded campus, that can attract (often) brighter students.

Many students who wish to study for a BA in Creative Writing (or a joint honours course) tend to ignore the depth of the creative writing subject area and the provision at their prospective universities. Without an MA or MFA or PHD option for students, it is relatively clear that the university commitment to CW is rather skin deep - and you won't get the benefits of a fully-enriched study environment, with student writers at all levels of experience.

Student writers need to be exposed to published, talented writers across every year of their study, and the best way to arrange this is to have a guest reading series that brings in poets, novelists, and life writers to read for the CW students and to offer advice.

Universities may want to save money by trying to put a student magazine solely online (and the digital aspect is crucial of course) but the better UK universities tend to also publish physical student-edited literary magazines, that feature student work alongside well-known authors. This becomes a useful calling card, for agents and readers, and a lovely thing for your friends and family.

Writers need to have lots of books to read close to hand. An excellent library is essential.

It is all very well to profess writing, on a theoretical basis, but your teachers at university level should be world-class writers and poets, or at the very least, have publications from recognisable presses. Forget prizes - these are often acquired via cronyism. And many brilliant avant-garde writers avoid prizes and go with smaller presses. However, when you Google your teachers, go to Amazon and other book retailers online.  They should have published one or more books within the last 3 years. Ideally you should then order the books and read to decide if you like their poetics, or style, or themes. Study with writers you admire.

Most universities in the UK are situated near at least a small local city or town, and most are therefore near some form of cultural opportunity (cinemas, art galleries, museums) but here we mean can you really say the university is near, say, a major city, or major cultural attraction, or area of outstanding natural beauty - or is it in some form of backwater? A rule of thumb - it should never be more than 90 minutes by train or bus from a city of over 250,000 people.

Some UK universities have been offering creative writing for decades; other for mere months. With judicious online research, you can quickly discover which universities are leaders in the field, in terms of time and care taken developing a serious CW pedagogy. UEA, for instance, was the first in the UK to offer CW courses at MA level.

You will want to make sure there are enough CW teachers and tutors to go around. If you have a BA cohort of 50 or 100 students, and only one or two teachers, this ratio is likely to be rather poor. Does your prospective university offer a good ratio?

All universities are going to claim they are innovative, and imaginative, but when you read about the different courses on offer, carefully consider what genres are taught - and if the subjects are siloed or de-siloed. Clearly, if you are an undergrad CW student, you will want to take courses in various writing genres, and forms, like screenwriting, short stories, life writing, digital writing, poetry, etc. You may also want to write erotic or fan fiction, or perhaps thrillers, or fantasy novels. Does your university seem welcoming to practical issues relating to advice about future publication, also?

It isn't just about taking a place near a uni near to your parents, or far from them. It isn't about being close to London (maybe). But it has to be about going to the university that offers the best possible teaching experience, and for creative writing nothing beats well-funded, serious universities that respect their students and staff, and want to develop an ambitious environment. The table here can help.

I offer below a rough list of 20 of the better-known and recognised British creative writing unis (in alphabetical order) - but apply the above measuring-stick for yourself.

1.      BATH SPA


3.      CARDIFF

4.      DURHAM

5.      EDGEHILL

6.      GLASGOW


8.      KINGSTON











19.  UEA


Monday, 2 November 2015


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Shaker Aamer is home; one of the many people who ended up at Guantanamo after being sold for a bounty to the US forces. He is the last UK resident to be released. He was never charged. He had been living in Afghanistan working at a school for girls and digging wells as a charity worker. Among those who are rejoicing is author Victoria Brittain.

Her book Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror, brought the struggle of his wife Zinnira into poignant focus. www.facebook.com/ShadowLives

ROBIN LUCE MARTIN: Victoria, in your book you present the letter that Shaker wrote his wife in 2006 when he felt certain he would die on hunger strike. You imagine what it means to receive such a letter.
"I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. This is happening to all of us. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for years. Rather than humiliate myself, having to beg for water, I would rather hurry up the process that is going to happen anyway. I would like to die quietly, by myself. I was once 250 pounds. I dropped to 150 pounds in the first hunger strike. I want to make it easy on everyone. I want no feeding, no forced tubes, no 'help', no 'intensive assisted feeding'. This is my legal right. The British government refuses to help me. What is the point of my wife being British? I thought Britain stood for justice, but they abandoned us, people who have lived in Britain for years, and who have British wives and children. I hold the British government responsible for my death, as I do the Americans."

Later you include a poem that she writes him for Valentine’s. We get such a strong sense of her devotion and sweetness. Can you put into words what this homecoming means for Zinnira?

VB: At first she could not believe it was true, then she was apprehensive about whether she could manage such a dramatic change in her life. Then she just blossomed with happy anticipation.
RLM: This is also the first time he will meet his youngest son, now 14. Can you speak to that reunion?

VB: For Faris meeting his father for the first time is overwhelming, but in the few Skype calls of recent months Shaker has put him at ease - he is a man with a huge heart and all his children can feel that now as they never could when he was a remote unknown being for so very long.
RLM: What does it mean to you? Did you ever imagine such an ending? 

VB: For me, it has been a brilliant day I feared would never come. These years have been such a harsh lesson for so many of us in American ruthlessness and utter contempt for the law. To have Zinnira and the children now so happy is a wonderful gift for me. They have lived more sadness and loneliness than anyone can bear to know. 

But I am haunted by others still in Guantanamo so unjustly - Mohamed Ould Slahi in particular whose wonderful humane book, Guantanamo Diary, tells this story of grotesque injustice, and of holding onto humanity, as no outsider could.
RLM: Will the question ever be answered: why was his release so delayed?

VB: I hope, as do so many others, that the outrageously delayed return of Shaker and all of them, will not be allowed to just disappear down a memory hole. The American men who kept him, knowing he was innocent, the American men who tortured him, the British men complicit in this utter scandal, should all have to answer for what they did. I believe lawyers will pursue them until this happens. Justice demands accountability - we all owe it to these families, and to the next generation who should know such evil must never happen again.