Saturday, 30 September 2006

TLS Goes for TKO

The TLS (NB, September 29) has weighed in on my recent anthology for nthposition, Babylon Burning: 9/11 five years after.

The commentary opens: "We are puzzled by the notion, current since the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, that people resort to poetry in times of emotional distress. Poets and others of sound mind have suggested this as evidence of poetry's continuing 'relevance'. What happened to reading poetry for pleasure? Nothing could be more relevant than that."

J.C. at NB then goes on to excerpt poems from Joe Ross, Tony Lewis-Jones, Pauline Michel (Canada's poet laureate), Ken Edwards and bill blissett [sic]. I am also described as "Mr Swift, a kindly fellow" for my suggestion to donate to the Red Cross.

It seems an odd approach, both mildly humorous but also quizzical.

Surely the idea that poetry is chiefly intended to give "pleasure" is old hat? Or rather, given that poetry is a complex art form that operates on the same level, as, say, drama, the novel form, or cinema, it is hard to conclude it does not have more than one function, or effect. Is it meaningful to say that King Lear is "for pleasure"? United 93? That In Cold Blood is? What about The Duino Elegies?

Tragedy, and other challenging work, that confronts the human condition, can give great aesthetic satisfaction without ever failing to also operate on a very solemn stage.

Poetry can do more than provide mild, jaunty verses to amuse - it can also provoke and offer inquiry; it can threaten to change one's life. The poems in Babylon Burning seek to use the full palette that literary art offers to approach one of recent history's major turning points. This hardly seems a questionable activity.

In fact, it almsot seems necessary.

Friday, 29 September 2006

Eye on Cohen

I have a review of Leonard Cohen's latest collection of poems, Book of Longing, online at Northern Poetry Review.

Poem by Fortner Anderson

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Fortner Anderson (pictured) to its pages this Friday. Known for the performances of his poems, read a cappella, he has been an active member of the Montreal "spoken word" scene for years prior to the use of the term "spoken-word".

In June of 2002, he was invited to Genoa, Italy to open the 8th edition of the Genoa International Poetry Festival. In February of 2004 he was a featured performer at the Festival Voix D'ameriques in Montreal reading works in English and French. In November of 2004 he was a featured reader at the «10° mondes parallèlles» festival in Lilles, France.

He is a co-founder and a producer with the audio publishing venture Wired On Words (, and participated in the development of the Ultimatum II Urban Poetry Festival of 1985. He is the host of a radio show, Dromostexte, a one-hour show which plays only poems and spoken word recordings, heard each week on CKUT-FM ( His past projects include: The Odyssey, an itinerant software, Montreal's Dial-A-Poem service, and Oralpalooza the Montreal spin-off from the Lollapalooza shows. He has performed his work at "Outloud Live" at the PanCanadian Wordfest in Calgary, Alberta and dozens of poetry readings and festivals. Performance venues have included the Banff Centre (Alberta), Cabaret (Montreal), the Rivoli (Toronto), and St-Mark’s Church (New York).

His poems have been recorded on the Wired On Words compilation (WOW, 1993), Millennium Cabaret (WOW, 1998) and La Vache Enragée (Planète Rebelle, 1998), and have been published in Poetry Nation (Vehicule Press, 1998). His own CD sometimes I think appeared in 2000 (WOW).

His new CD project, Six Silk Purses was released in October of 2005 on the Wiredonwords label and it is distributed via Ambiance Magnetiques (

For more information see

He dreams of wild horses

In the bedroom of the farmer's daughter
are dreams of wild horses
held tight in their stalls
their flesh a lather, and muscles quaking

the little road-side salt-box pulses
and a glow seeps into the summer night

His hands at the wheel
the odometer unravels into hopeless tangles over his ruined shoes

In this heap of years gone soft
He flounders and drowns
thinking he must catch the one taut thread
the single solid piece

His head turns
the false star burns bright
and gathers a swarm from the dark and humid fields
and he feels his hungry specters heave and cluster over the broken pile of all his days

He conjures
the neck of a paper swan
bent and twisted
in a puddle of ash and beer

He remembers and plunges his fingers into the past
between elastic and thigh
into a maze of closely wrought hair
to a summer day
when the buzz of a myriad of wings
held his tongue, his knees buckled
and the dying field grass bloodied his naked palms

His eyes touch the flashing meridian
his hands regain the wheel
and that murderous order
of wings and blood and sun
that picture-perfect
tiny house and barn and shed
held tight in light and black
speed past and fall back
into the dark well of the world

poem by Fortner Anderson; from Six Silk Purses.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Life Lines: 7 Poets for Oxfam reading September 26

Life Lines: 7 Poets for Oxfam

Autumn Poetry Reading
Tuesday 26th September, 7-10 pm
Hosted by Todd Swift & James Byrne

Since 1980 Elaine Feinstein has lived as a full-time writer. In the same year, she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She has written fourteen novels, five biographies and radio plays, television dramas. In 1990, she received a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry, and was given an Honorary D.Litt from the University of Leicester. She has been a Writer in Residence for the British Council in Singapore. Her Collected Poems and Translations (2002) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Her biography of Anna Akhmatova, Anna of All The Russias, was published in July 2005.

James Fenton was Oxford Professor of Poetry for the period 1994-1999. He has won several major awards, including The Whitbread Award for Poetry. He has worked as political journalist, drama critic, book reviewer, war correspondent, foreign correspondent, and is presently a columnist for The Guardian. He is the author several books such as Leonardo’s Nephew – Essays on Art and Artists and An Introduction to English Poetry. He has published several collections of poetry, such as The Memory of War and Out of Danger. In 2006, Penguin published his Selected Poems.

Mark Ford has published two collections of poetry, Landlocked and Soft Sift, and a study of the French writer Raymond Roussel. He has edited The New York Poets anthologies for Carcanet. His most recent book is A Driftwood Altar, a collection of his essays. He is a professor in the English Department at University College London.

Chris Kinsey’s poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies including Reactions 3 & 4. Her first collection Kung Fu Lullabies, published by Ragged Raven Press, came out in 2004. She lives in Mid-Wales. She has read at Ledbury and Hay festivals. Chris is on the board of Ty Newydd, the National Writers’ Centre for Wales.

Daljit Nagra comes from a Sikh Punjabi background although he was born and raised in West London and Sheffield. His pamphlet Oh My Rub! was a Smith/Doorstop winner and was the first ever PBS Pamphlet Choice. His poem "Look We Have Coming to Dover!" won the 2004 Forward Prize for Best Individual poem. His debut collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover! will be published by Faber & Faber on February 1st 2007.

Fiona Sampson has published fourteen books – poetry collections, philosophy of language and books on writing process – of which the most recent are The Distance Between Us (Seren, 2005) and Writing: Self and Reflexivity (Macmillan, 2005). Common Prayer (Carcanet) is forthcoming in June 2007. She is short-listed for the 2006 Forward Prize. She contributes to The Guardian and the Irish Times and is editor of Poetry Review.

Jean Sprackland's second collection, Hard Water (Cape, 2003), was shortlisted for both the T S Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award. CarolAnn Duffy praised the poems for their "exhilarating quality of freshness and truth. captured with relish in a textured and physical language". Jean's third book of poems is to be published by Cape in Autumn 2007.

Don’t forget that Life Lines, Oxfam’s best of British Poetry CD is still available.

Wine and refreshments will be available and all in return for a suggested donation of £8.

Please contact Martin Penny to confirm your places: Telephone: 020 7487 3570
email: oxfammarylebone at

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Review: The Black Dahlia

To say that Brian De Palma's film The Black Dahlia is all style and no substance is like saying water's all wet. The film is a virtual wet dream - whose thematic binary systems of fire and ice, body and no-body (or dismembered corpse), girl and girl, boy and good-girl, boy and bad-girl, cop and cop, voyeur and victim, are seamlessly sutured in to the filmic reverie with premeditated sadistic glee.

De Palma pries from the robbed grave of Hitchcock's body of work what he can - he is a master of the Oedipal drama and the trajectory that fingers the audience - our watching such visual excess is our culpability - we are the doers ourselves. The screeching crow on the cut-up corpse in the final scene of TBD is the spider in the skull at the end of Psycho - the unsaid shock image that is the last nail in the scopophiliac's coffin.

TBD is not a good movie. It may not even be a movie at all - in the traditional sense of having been written and structured to offer comfortable narrative pleasures, including dialogue and charaterization and reasonable climax to the mystery. But neither is it an art house creation - or for that matter a Tarantino grind-house concoction.

De Palma's gift is stranger than these offerings. He has managed to - on a seemingly large-budget - mount a stunningly lavish and rich mise-en-scene to recreate the mid-1940s, the key Film Noir scene (and moment of The Blue Dahlia too) - and then, like Dostoyevsky gambling at Baden-Baden, fritter all the wealth away on a mad spin of the wheel: in this instance, the sado-masochistic wheel of submission to the visual, and the desire to be watched.

TBD is a canny testing of the limits between cinema, the visible, and male sexual fantasy (the lipstick lesbianism is pseudo-pornographic and aimed mainly at the male gaze, though a curiously unmasked k.d. lang features - one wants to know where r.d laing is) - perhaps De Palma's slickest and most manipulative essay on such subjects so far. As such, it is better than Eyes Wide Shut and 18MM, which treated of similar themes; or, rather, it is worse. For TBD has no moral goal whatsoever - it is amoral, subliminal, polymorphously perverse cinema taken at the flood. Recall the last line, spoken by Scarlet Johannson (aka Kay Lake the blonde ex-working girl): "come inside". The Black Dahlia is a movie explicitly about penetration - about how far the eye can go, as well as other instruments.

The movie pivots on an investigation in to the brutal murder of a young woman (The Dahlia) who is cut in half and disembowelled, all her bodily fluids removed; she was an aspiring actress, and the handsome detectives working the case soon uncover reels that show her auditioning for unseen men. These reels reveal a beautiful young woman so eager to be in real pictures and become a star her submissive auditioning - kneeling, crawling and begging - sublimates her own self into a pure Hegelian struggle between the master and slave. The Dahlia is exposed by De Palma to our cruel gaze as if she is ours to own, to keep, to control - we are put in to the position of being the auditioner, who decides her fate. And, depending on one's tastes and ethics, this director's-chair-position will be repulsive, or a highly desirable, vantage to be in (or both).

Perhaps we should say, director's char - for the director has power over the bodies of the beautiful young men and women that bleed and pout and fornicate in this Hollywoodland of rotten timber and dimestore motives. De Palma locates the primal scene of unheimlich unease in the suburban, vacated and semi-charred remains of a house where stag films (and perhaps worse) were filmed with aspiring starlets and part-time lesbians, by off-duty film people from the Max Sennet sets (thus, comedy to tragedy).

Like a page from The Day of the Locust writ over with semen/blood, the sets once used for disposable silent films began to talk to the detective, whose phallic beam recognizes the same satin sheets, the same drapes, the same places where his victim was bound and used - thus, superimposing a celluloid tissue of unease over the glamorous sheen - the set of a movie is also where harm is done. This observation is not new - Mute Witness more grossly identified a film set as a crime scene as a porn nest - but De Palma here incorporates such images in to a larger canvas, one that includes most of Elroy's obsessions, and manages to work through ideas of corrupted insular families that refers also to The Big Sleep.

Mostly, the protagonist, played by a bland, perfectly handsome Josh Hartnett, is a shuttlecock, proxy to our gaze, who flits between the blond Lake, and the dark, sinewy "rich-bitch" played by Hilary Swank (her name never more glaringly apt). Sweeping aside all impediments to his lust, he eventually becomes pure masculine libido unrepressed by mores or law - able to have and kill the most desirable females in Los Angeles - one bodily-marked by both crime and a criminal (so that a cop and a pimp both have marred her) and the other the lithe souer-semblable of the Dahlia body itself.

Shadow and light, blonde and black, good and less good, branded and killed, and both easily possessed, these women replicate the desire that is unattainable - the madness-inducing desire to penetrate the already emptied vessel of the Dahlia herself - an image now only - and one that drives one cop to an insane verge, and the other to murder, and a corrupt if fecund bed.

One is reminded of the best line from any De Palma film (itself a revenant from the golden age of crime films) about polluted wombs. It is not so much that De Palma's cinema feeds off of a luscious, unacceptable misogyny (it does) as that it identifies (and alas revels in) the inherent bad-faith, the still-born corruption, that festers in the womb of all filmic creation: directors present dead images to desiring eyes, knowing full well where the real bodies are buried.

It is no surprise that the hardest-boiled egg of them all, Hemingway, once wrote Men Without Women - for the hard boiled genre, that Elroy has aimed to make his own, is predicated on just such a predicament: big men undone by women who are, indeed, fatal - in their absense as much as in their presence. But cinema presents the same tension - for the image is fatally absent at its very instant of presentation - so we can never more than behold that which we want to hold.

The audience is told look, don't touch. The touch of evil is that which tries to enter further in, the scopophile that trespasses on the lawn of the necrophile. It is no accident that in The Black Dahlia the murderer's spastic-disfigured-bespectacled (four-eyes, reminding us of the double vision of the film-watcher) accomplice (accomplice twice, please note) is described as a necrophiliac. De Palma has made a film that presents ultimate perversions as the basic cost of going to the movies.

Saturday, 23 September 2006

The Long Hello

Eyewear thinks Noir is the major film genre.

Eyewear thinks Brick has dusted it off for a new generation.

You did good, Rian.

Friday, 22 September 2006

Poetry buys clean water for 14,000 people

Who says poetry doesn't have efficacy in the real world?

Some extraordinary sales figures in today from Oxfam's Su Lycett - Life Lines: Poets for Oxfam, launched just a few months ago, in June 2006, has already sold around 5,000 copies, and made £10,000 in profit (around $20,000 USD) for Oxfam. That translates into clean running water for 14,000 people, or equipment for five schools, or livestock for eight farms.

With National Poetry Month coming this October, and then the Christmas sales season, there is every expectation the CD (which I edited on a volunteer basis) will sell even more. The nearly-70 major and emerging poets involved also donated their time and poems, and publishers donated their rights. The list of contributors reads like a virtual who's who of UK poetry, across a broad spectrum, from mainstream, to performance, to avant-garde. This will surely make it one of the most successful poetry CDs (let alone anthologies) of its kind, ever.

The CD is now available in about 200 places and online at

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Eye On Terence Malick

Terence Malick (pictured) is one of Eyewear's favourite directors in all cinema, and David Gordon Green is his de facto protege - more so even than De Palma (who also extends the work of his master Hitch through homage, pastiche and sheer bravado) becoming a remarkable second-generation director building on a considerable past oeuvre.

Malick is a poet of the cinema, sure, and one with few slim volumes to his name. His two 70s films are immediately unique signatures, that created their own cinescape, their own microcosm, their own language almost: Badlands and Days of Heaven. Fixated (this is the word) on the connections between the natural world, the fallen human domain, innocence, interiority, and the violent liminal stages which break through and defile the thin angelic membrane that is best in us, these two films chart murder, love, desire and death, in striking settings, as no other American films have ever done. I consider Days of Heaven the second most beautuiful movie ever filmed, after Vertigo.

Mirroring these two luminous masterworks, and separated by an unbelievable creative gulf of seemingly decades, have come the second two films: The Thin Red Line and The New World. Again, the films are ravishingly shot, and feature the intersection of undefiled natural environments (in the Pacific isles and pre-European North America), innocents (indigenous peoples now, not children and teens) and even greater acts of violence than individuals can muster by their wild selves (war and total colonisation).

Neither of these films is as good as the first two, but then again, who would not have them exist? We are now grateful for all of Welles. Perhaps Malick's own Touch of Evil moment (his unexpected final masterpiece and resurgence) will come with his next film, the long-expected project that (ominously) seems to promise roles for Mel Gibson and Colin Farrell.

Casting has of late been Mr. Malick's own personal downfall, just as it was once his resoundingly-fecund personal helicon. Regardless of his sex appeal, which is major, Mr. Farrell is not an actor most people can watch without disomfiture, without the suspicion the laddish Dublin-born hunk is more chancer than chanced upon, his paycock satisfactions never letting us forget he's no method Marlon immersed deeply in the seas of deep talent. Farrell pretty much robs The New World of the gravitas and grace it in fact starts with, just as Kubrick's greatest achievement, Barry Lyndon, is somewhow wasted on the charming, callow pretty highwayman, Ryan O'Neal. But Malick likely knows this.

His art is too great to resist the need to play games with the industry that is Hollywood, and he is able to insert more than enough moments of genius into both of his latest pictures to keep most cineastes satisfied. In fact, while The New World could be cruelly re-titled as Virginia Vice, it is not a star vehicle, and its squalid depiction of English explorers, set against the sublime and tranquil perfection of the idealised Indian, is stunningly (and questionably) rendered. The Thin Red Line is also one of my favourite 30 or so films, and is by far one of the top ten of the last ten years or so.

Undertow, now out on DVD, and produced by Malick, is a homage too far - a bizarrely ill-thought out admixture of elements from Night of the Hunter, The Dukes of Hazzard, and yes, Badlands, with curiously weak peformances from the fine actors Jamie Bell and Josh Lucas. And yet, it is uncannily like Malick in enough places to be wonderful some of the time, and deserves to be seen for that reason alone. That and the inexorable Glass score which seems to reprise the best moments from the Thin Blue Line (is this an in-joke?).

David Gordon Green is not the next Malick. He is his own man. But thankfully, some of what he thinks and feels is Malickian.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Eye On Jack Beeching

John Tranter, the editor of Jacket, recently drew my attention to the curiously-undervalued work of the poet Jack Beeching (pictured, above, with his wife of the time, Catherine, off Ibiza, in the 1960s).

Beeching's poetry is impressive, lovely and often unique, and it is hard to understand how or why it has been allowed to become so marginalised, unless one stops to consider how actually convoluted and concentrated poetry publishing - and more to the point, reviewery - often still is in England.

I'll be seeking out his Modern Penguin Poets 16 selection from 1970.

Here are some links to good articles on Beeching in Jacket, and some of his poems:

4 Poems At Jacket

Jacket continues to be one of the very best places on the internet for poems and poetics so I'm glad to be able to tell you that four of my poems appear in the forthcoming issue.

Take a peek here:

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Canadian Strange

My work is featured along with a bunch of other Canadian poets, including (pictured above) Adeena Karasick


Elizabeth Bachinsky, John Barton, derek beaulieu, Nicole Brossard, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Joelle Hann, Ray Hsu, Jeanette Lynes, Erin Moure, Trish Salah and Nathalie Stephens at:

look under Canadian Strange.

De Palma D'Or, or A Certain Slant of Light

A.O. Scott is someone in The New York Times I enjoyed reading this long summer in North America. Recently, on a trans-Atlantic flight, I caught this article by him:

I've often thought Brian De Palma a cineaste worthy of auteur status - Femme Fatale was one of the best films of the last few years (its visual panache is lurid and Wellesian) and its non-release in UK cinemas was revelatory of the need for the director's status to be reconsidered. No one else does Vertigo-homage like he does, and no one else ever featured Frankie Goes To Hollywood so well. With the release of The Black Dahlia, which I have yet to see, now's as good a time as any for such a re-evaluation to begin.

So, I look forward to reading the articles at Slant, below:

As something of a post scriptum, let me note that Scott writes:

"[...] the movies that secured Mr. De Palma his critical following (which has not, it should be noted, been limited to Ms. Kael’s followers) exhibited many of the attributes of what people would eventually call postmodernism: a cool, ironic affect; the overt pastiche of work from the past; the insouciant mixture of high and low styles."

I note this definition of the postmodern with some pleasure, as it is the one I have long worked with, and the recognition is comforting. Indeed, critics of my own poetry collections would do well to consider it when reading my work in anything but the light of cinema and the postmodern period.

In the UK, such postmodern writing in poetry finds an uneasy audience, since it is neither part of the sublime-sincere manifold but nor is it necessarily accepted by the dominant new-modernist movement - the British schools currently at play, play less than they aim to possess the heights and limits of seriousness. I too dig seriousness, most especially when it is one of several layers at work.
UK poetry tends to cautiously police slippage between levels in tone, diction, theme and styles. Another reason for the indifferent reception of some aspects of the postmodern in British poetry is that recent tensions in poetics tend to emphasise language as the main source of drama, while, however, somewhat overlooking the image. Postmodern use of narrative and image (as in the work of Motion or Duffy) in contemporary British poetry is often sidelined by those who don't know much about film theory or how to read the visual - for them, there is a language of cinema, but no cinema of language.
A little-known UK critic-poet oddly-reviewed my collection Rue du Regard in Poetry London, last year, arguing I had no idea what the postmodern (or poetry) was, for instance, though the collection was informed by multiple references to postmodern film, and postmodern film theory.

Friday, 8 September 2006

Poem by Jenna Cardinale

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Jenna Cardinale (pictured) to its Friday Feature.

Cardinale is the author of Journals (Whole Coconut, 2006). Her sonnets have appeared in Court Green, Blue Mesa Review, Coconut and Dusie, among other journals.

She lives in New York, where she teaches poetry writing at Lehman College and Explorations Academy, an experimental public high school.

She's Only Willing to Remember the War on Her Birthday

I am going on cleaning the weeds
off the terrace
so when the American army gets here
it can sit and then cough comfortably
on it. They will be tan,
the fatigues,
or another shade of tired.

Must we wear ribbons, glue
our thick brown blood
to wallpaper.

Will a baby
be sired
as part of the decorations.

Soft mud over old
mud is preferred.
I'll see it coming
in the house,
down the hall. It's like a city
on a hill that can't hide.
Sit, I'll say and call him by
a name like Mike.

Now I hang tarps of washed love
that are not flags
and bury the fruits
which will soon rot.

poem by Jenna Cardinale

To Boldly Go

Eyewear celebrates the 40th anniversary of Star Trek's first mission, and transmission, on September 8, 1966. Despite the claims from the site below, this televisual classic dramatic series, arguably the Shakespearean-standard by which all other shows must be judged, has not had the deep space impact of "Jesus"; Lennon-sized grandiosity aside, Star Trek is one of the five most significant cultural artifacts of the '60s - along with The Beatles, Mad Magazine, Bob Dylan, and the Viet Nam War.

For purists, all the spin-offs (and there have been more than for any other TV creation) cannot duplicate the magic of the Original Series, with its curiously perfect alchemy of personalities, namely, Spock's, Kirk's and McCoy's. Indeed, despite the jokes (boulders light as cotton; disposable lieutenants and ensigns; collisions that threw the crew about like popcorn on the bridge) what remains of the series is love. These characters, rounded, real, and flawed-but-heroic, ultimately are always made to decide what love is (Kirk kissing another space gal in lingerie, Spock's mind-meld): the love determined their course. In terms of story arc, then, friendship, loyalty, and mercy form the core values, plot the trajectory, and this remains moving - is, in fact, timeless.

Of course, the show was also political (inter-racial snogs; societies that aped fascism and gangsterism; gods that still wanted to be worshipped; federations dedicated to peace and science) - but never utopian, its idealism tempered by the existence of forces always threatening a better vision of things.

Other guiltier pleasures remain, ones that, sadly, the plan to remaster the original episodes will somewhat diminish, for I love the strange orange, and purple, and pink glow; the shoosh of the doors sliding open and shut; the beaming up sound; the implausibly dramatic music, with its bathetic crescendos and suspenseful glockenspiels. It was all of a package - to my mind, as a child then, an adult now, irreducibly great. From the sweat on Kirk's meaty torso, to Spock's ears, the look and feel of Star Trek was weirdly true to itself. Who is not comforted by an episode, beaming the '60s back to us with all their confusion and certainties?

As to the canon, some of the greatest episodes might be Amok Time; Devil In The Dark; and Mirror, Mirror. I have rewatched The Trouble with Tribbles and find it trite and overly-comedic. Star Trek was surely at its best when tragi-comic, not mock-epic. What astounds, in retrospect, is how fine the writing was, episode to episode. As a former TV writer myself, I can attest to the need for a great story editor (or show-runner) - and both Gene Rodenberry and DC Fontana (Sci-Fi's greatest woman creative arguably) were near-geniuses.

40 years ago? Like one of many Star Trek episodes itself, where time is but an anomaly, a different stream to step into, it seems just 45 minutes ago. Beam me up, Scotty.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Palmer's Rich

Michael Palmer has been named the winner of the annual $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets. The accolade recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.

Palmer has lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years and is one of the Language Poets. His work is published by Carcanet in the UK.

He will read from his works at the academy's award ceremony on November 8 at 7pm in the Lang Auditorium at the New School, 55 West 13th Street, in Greenwich Village.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Babylon Burning: 9/11 Five Years On

Nearly 90 poets from around the world have contributed new, unpublished poems to Babylon Burning: 9/11 five years on, an anthology of poems on the Twin Towers atrocity and its consequences. But they aim for more than pious hand-wringing: the anthology will be free, but there will be a request to donate to the Red Cross.

Babylon Burning will rely on readers to spread the word – the site is completely unfunded. A print-on-demand paperback of the anthology will also be available from, with all profits going to the Red Cross.

Contributors to Babylon Burning are:

Ros Barber, Jim Bennett, Rachel Bentham, Charles Bernstein, bill bissett, Yvonne Blomer, Stephanie Bolster, Jenna Butler, Jason Camlot, J R Carpenter, Jared Carter, Patrick Chapman, Sampurna Chattarji, Maxine Chernoff, Tom Chivers, Alfred Corn, Tim Cumming, Margot Douaihy, Ken Edwards, Adam Elgar, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Philip Fried, Leah Fritz, Richard Garcia, Sandra M Gilbert, Nathan Hamilton, Richard Harrison, Kevin Higgins, Will Holloway, Bob Holman, Paul Hoover, Ray Hsu, Halvard Johnson, Chris Jones, Jill Jones, Kavita Joshi, Jonathan Kaplansky, Wednesday Kennedy, Sonnet L’Abbé, Kasandra Larsen, Tony Lewis-Jones, Dave Lordan, Alexis Lykiard, Jeffrey Mackie, Mike Marqusee, Chris McCabe, Nigel McLoughlin, Pauline Michel, Peter Middleton, Adrian Mitchell, John Mole, David Morley, George Murray, Alistair Noon, D Nurkse, John Oughton, Ruth Padel, Richard Peabody, Tom Phillips, David Prater, Lisa Pasold, Victoria Ramsay, Harold Rhenisch, Noel Rooney, Joe Ross, Myra Schneider, Robert Sheppard, Zaid Shlah, Henry Shukman, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Goran Simic, Hal Sirowitz, Heather Grace Stewart, Andrew Steinmetz, John Stiles, William E Stobb, jordan stone, Sean Street, Todd Swift, Joel Tan, Nathaniel Tarn, Mark Terrill, Helên Thomas, Vincent Tinguely, Rodrigo Toscano, John Tranter and John Welch.

All gave their work for free.

Babylon Burning is available now from nthposition.

Sunday, 3 September 2006

Faludy Has Died

Gyorgy Faludy, the Hungarian-Canadian poet, pictured, has died. Eyewear was based in Budapest for some time, and recalls hearing the poet read.
This from the CBC:
Gyorgy Faludy, the Hungarian poet who was an icon of the Nazi and Communist resistance in his native country, has died at the age of 96.
The poet, who became a Canadian citizen, passed away in his Budapest home on Friday, national news agency MTI reported on Saturday."Gyorgy Faludy was considered a master, the last member of Hungary's2 0th-century generation of poets to which all later generations compared and [will] compare themselves," Hungarian Prime MinisterFerenc Gyurcsany said. Known as George Faludy in the West, the poet fled his native country twice. Faludy, who was Jewish, left in 1938 during the rise of Nazism. He returned after the war and then fled a second time in 1956 as Soviet tanks crushed an anti-Communist uprising.
Before returning to Hungary in 1989, Faludy roamed the world, living inFrance, Algeria, the United Kingdom, Italy and then Toronto, where he resided for 20 years. The city was already planning to inaugurate a park bearing his name near his former home on Oct. 3.
Faludy may best be known for his adaptation of François Villon ballads from the medieval period, published just before the rise of fascism inthe late 1930s, and his autobiographical novel My Happy Days in Hell, published in 1962, which related his escape from fascist Hungary and his return and imprisonment during communist rule.I n the book, he details his life after being sent by the country's new Communist government to a concentration camp in 1949 where he spent three years. Many people were tortured or killed at the camp, which had been a state secret until 1,300 prisoners were released in 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Faludy organized literature courses to keep up the spirits of the prisoners, including memorizing literary works to maintain their mental capabilities. He also recounts writing a poem in blood on toilet paper with a straw pulled from a broom.
After fleeing for the second time, Faludy edited a literary journal inLondon, taught at Columbia University in New York and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto. Faludy never stopped writing poetry, publishing a new collection of his works in 2002. His rebellious nature was never reined in. On the heels of his new collection, Faludy allowed the Hungarian edition of Penthouse magazine to photograph him and his new wife, poet Fanny Kovacs, wearing little more than their wedding rings for a featur earticle. More than 70,000 copies of the magazine were scooped up in a few days. He married Kovacs, then only 28 years old, after living for some time with a male lover. His son Andrew, from his marriage with second wife Zsuzsa, lives inBritain. Zsuzsa died in 1963. Faludy will be buried Sept. 9 in Budapest's Fiumei Uti cemetery.
Copyright (C) 2006 CBC. All rights reserved.

Friday, 1 September 2006

Poem by Emily Berry

Emily Berry (pictured above) is twenty-five and lives in London, where she works for a small publishing company.

Her work has been published by Brittle Star and Nthposition, and she has poems forthcoming in Ambit.

Eyewear is very glad to feature this promising emerging poet this first day of September.


That day we didn’t speak and ate sandwiches swiftly.
I have always struggled with the roaring woman within
who might emerge and say her piece, impossible to understand.
I tried to convey this to you:

I have pinned her down with a series of pegs
so she lies flat like a wire against a wall.
This way all her anger is channelled into a phone that rings;
I pick it up: “Hello?”

You said you were peopled with other personalities; I knew them all as one,
like coloured sections of an umbrella that meet at the spike.
Under the shade of your muted colours, I stand in the rain,
talking to myself on the phone.

poem by Emily Berry

Reply To Perloff

Eyewear usually enjoys the work of Marjorie Perloff.

Her 21st-century Modernism is one of the key books in the Eyewear household.

Now to her recent review in the TLS of September 1, 2006, which arrived today in the post - her review of David Lehman's The Oxford Book Of American Poetry; printed beside three new poems by John Ashbery, the preminent American poet of the present age. Eyewear's own review can be read as an earlier post.

Perloff's review itself is critical, but perceptive, noting, particularly, Lehman's twin faults of favouring powerful contemporaries, and giving short shrift to major innovative figures like Stein and Pound (and in the process fetishizing the lyric form, and witty poems by "clever, well-educated" people - Silliman's School of Quietude by another name).

A few things. The TLS (and by the way Eyewear) exist primarily for clever, well-educated people; very few dull, uneducated people read literary theory and modern poetry - and, elitism be darned - Pound and Stein had no time for them - so why should Lehman be any different? Perloff throws the baby out with the bathwater here, too, in that her wry dismissal of the very fine (and innovative) poet Aaron Fogel misses Lehman's point, in rescuing marginal, eccentric and undervalued voices by presenting their poems beside more established figures - Fogel, if Perloff had bothered to read him carefully, is the kind of poet her writing usually champions - instead, here, she reads his brilliant "The Printer's Error" (which out-Muldoons Muldoon) as just another luxury of a middle-class mind.

Perloff is unduly harsh in her final judgement: "no, the Oxford Book is merely tedious in a corporate way". As an editor and poet, I find such statements deeply unfair. Whatever else Lehman may be (he certainly appears well-educated) he is surely no slouch. Years of serious attention must have gone in to the selection of this book, and, while it is a flawed canon, its unusual, eclectic, and often surprising choices are hardly tedious. Perhaps the tedium is based partly on Perloff's over-familiarity with the material (she is after all an expert on modern and postmodern American poetries) and should not be blamed on the chef serving the same expert salad one more time - if one dines at the Waldorf, there may be nuts.

No, what Eyewear finds most interesting is the final paragraph of the review, which must be quoted almost in full:

"... [M]aking my way through this heavy tome - too heavy to hold on one's lap or carry from room to room, much less on a train or plane - I wondered whether, in the digital age, it isn't perhaps time to put a moratorium (ten years?) on the production of blockbuster anthologies. To paraphrase O'Hara, the internet is good too - more fluid, flexible, and much more accomodating, both to tradition, and to our changing perception of the individual talent."
There are so many things wrong with this, I must put them in some sort of alphabetic order, in order to reply:
a) what is wrong with a heavy book? - are slim, lightweight ones better? - is Moby Dick, or Remembrance of Things Past, a light book or series of books?; how is this a meaningful evaluative statement?;
b) why would one want a poetry book that one can "carry from room to room" - or onto planes and trains - is this critic on the move? - why not sit still and read?; is the poetry book the new liquid bomb?;
c) more oddly, how does the internet answer the requirement to have a lighter, more transportable book - unless one is thinking of that clever device, the lap-top? - in which case the medium is being confused with the text;
d) so, in the digital age, moratoriums should be put on big, heavy books of poetry - in favour, one imagines, of unbearably light e-books;
e) in this uncomfortable moment of American fascism, why should anyone take seriously an American request to stamp down on any editing or publishing of poetry (that most radical of forms) - and why should canon-formation ever be arrested for ten years? - an eternity in a poetry school or movement - unless Perloff agrees with Lehman that the "last avant-garde" is among us;
f) turning to the internet, which Eyewear favours, yes, Perloff is correct - the internet is good too; but it is also only an instrument for editors and poets. The same nerve, skill, eye, ear, openness to the new, and fondness for the old, must be owned and operated by editors of digital anthologies, sites, blogs and so on;
g) more seriously, internet anthologies are not yet accepted by the critical apparatus that Perloff supports and endorses; the TLS has not reviewed, for example, nthposition's ground-breaking - and world-famous - internet anthology, 100 poets against the war, which spawned countless print copy-cat versions;
h) the mainstream poetic community has still to fully embrace the fluidity of the internet which Perloff rightly celebrates - partly because order, rigidity, and control form the basis for most poet-editor's social identity - and the internet threatens the order it promises to replace with a newer version.
I will be chairing a panel on the internet and literature on November 23rd at Norwich for a conference, more about that soon. In the meantime, for blockbuster anthologies on the net, look to September for a new one from Nthposition - Babylon Burning.


A WORK IN PROGRESS... I am writing this first part on the eve of New Year's Eve day - and as new remembrances come to me, I may well...