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Showing posts from August, 2007

Poem by Valerie Lynch

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Valerie Lynch (above, reading at the Poetry Cafe) this Friday, especially as she recently turned 80 (on Tuesday of this week - congratulations).

Lynch has been a part of my Poetry School seminar groups for several years now, and I have been much impressed with her determination, and talent. She began writing poetry at 77, after various interesting careers as teacher (Economics), archaeologist (in a City Museum), assistant editor of an encyclopaedia, and finally a psychoanalytical psychotherapist (still practising).

She has quickly developed a sometimes startling, often painfully honest, voice, dealing with themes of palpable interest to her - and all people in due course - ageing, memory, the body, loss, desire, sexuality, love, and time - and how anger and beauty twine around these subjects. I think she has some work well worth reading, and someone in the UK should publish her collection before she turns 100, so a wider audience can benefit from he…

Blogs 10, Publishers 0

Scott Rosenberg has an article in today's Guardianabout how blogging is, in some ways, turning ten this year - and how that relatively impressive anniversary has yet to convince blog-haters of the inherent literary, or other, value of the form. He notes, particularly, how once-countercultural-guru-and-white-dressing Tom Wolfe (now apparently just as bland as the Man from Glad) is dismissive of people who write blogs, and the blogs they write.

As Eyewear has been quick to observe, these last few weeks - and more generally since starting this blog a few years ago - the UK, while innovative in so many cultural and technological ways - has been stuck in a neo-Edwardian moment, poetry-wise, in relation to the web, and blogs. Bluntly stated, poetry on the Internet is still a second-class citizen, in British and Irish literary circles.
Why?
There's a one word answer that fans of the American 60s comedy-action series Get Smart will recognise: Control.
The larger, mainstream publishers of …

Good Riddance

Poem by Alan Buckley

Eyewear is very glad to feature Alan Buckley (pictured) this week.

Buckley was brought up in Merseyside, and now lives in Oxford. His poems have been published in a wide range of magazines since 2005, including Magma, Smiths Knoll and Orbis. I was glad to include a poem of his on the forthcoming Oxfam CD, Life Lines 2.

He is currently one of two poets running the Live Literature Programme at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire, as reported recently in The Guardian.

An English version

So I was there, in the kitchen smashing garlic
and frizzling prawns for my signature dish,
while you sat in the living room, carefully picking
out chords for a song, with your silver-nailed fingers.
Your voice, jellying the flat walls with Arabic,
fracturing scales; so true I could feel the swish
of sand on my feet. I didn't know, but already
I'd fallen in love with you. Then there was history,

but not condensed. In this version, Odysseus
sailed past Sirenum Scopuli hundreds of times, endured
the honeying torment, u…

Book Of Longing, UK

Leonard Cohen's show, Book of Longing, with Philip Glass at the Barbican this October was sold out long ago. And Penguin UK has just published the Book of Longing, Cohen's wonderful new collection of poems, in paperback this August.

Penguin's gain was poetry imprint Cape's loss. Cape was first approached to publish the book, but rather counter-intuitively turned it down. Pity. Book of Longing is now one of Canada's best-selling poetry books of all time.
And Cohen, after all, was one of Jonathan Cape's poets, in 1969. But the tendency in London poetry publishing, to not publish good, popular Canadian and American poets, is a strong one. I'd go so far as to argue that such an insular editorial approach actually weakens general interest in and respect for contemporary poetry in the UK, by falsely regulating the sense of how exciting, dynamic, and even popular North American poetry - indeed, potentially, all poetry - is - or can be.

Smelling the iCoffee

Britain, according to the BBC, is in love with digital media.

And, as we know, Britain is not quite in love with poetry.
It doesn't take a [insert rocket scientist here] to make the leap and begin to think that perhaps poetry should begin to reconsider its relationship to said digital media.
However - and sadly - despite a few publishers throwing some big bucks at fancy bells and whistles on their sites - and a few innovative places like 57 Productions and the Poetry Archive - the intersection of poetry and the net (and beyond) isn't nearly as busy as it might be. As the poetry editor of one of the only respected, and long-running (half a decade now) British online magazines that actually publishes poetry by good poets regularly (quick, name another nine) - nthposition - I find myself constantly bemused, if not frustrated, by how few "mainstream" poets - young and old - entrust the web with their poems. Even now, blogs and personal sites are somewhat suspect. Much of th…

What Is Prison For?

Imprisonment for criminals has three or four possible, sometimes overlapping goals: a) punishment; b) rehabilitation c) prevention (keeping the perpetrators off the streets) and d. revenge - "Justice" is somewhere to be found between these. Society and citizens of all political stripes tend to confuse these various aims, especially when their own loved ones are victims. Some people think prison is just to punish, others just to improve - but one basic belief has, more or less, been accepted - when the criminal is released back into society, they should be accepted back, having done their time and "paid their dues". Not to do so is simply to turn one's back on the system itself - for if ex-cons are not so reabsorbed, but ostracised completely, what else are they to do, but turn back to their old criminal networks? So it is, we tend to hope the rehab works, and the punishment fits the crime.

Murder, of course, is a problem. Because only the ultimate sanction, payi…

Lynch's Strange Fruit

Eyewear recently saw "the new film from David Lynch" as it was called, Inland Empire. Note how Edward Hopper's painting, above, supplies key elements for the film's mise-en-scene.

Gosling Shot

Continuing the Canadian theme of recent posts, Eyewear wants to briefly celebrate rising Hollywood star, Canadian Ryan Gosling, whose latest turn was opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins (as he is called in American press releases) in a surprise early summer hit, Fracture, co-starring lithe Brit thesp and Bond Girl Rosamund Pike (pictured).

Gosling was not the first actor you'd think to cast as a grasping, smooth and libidinous Southern trial lawyer looking to jump ship from the LA DA's office to a big firm that defends rich creeps, although his earlier roles as a Jewish neo-Nazi and a drug-addicted teacher suggest he is drawn to morally challenged characters (to state the blinking obvious). Gosling was not anyone's idea of a leading man, but all that has changed with Fracture, directed by G. Hoblit, the man who brought us, about a decade back, Primal Fear, another courtroom drama with a twist and a young male lead thereby catapulted to stardom (similarly thin Edward Norton then).

Feist Not Famine

Canada hasn't had much luck getting its many younger, often alternative, poets onto UK radars - but when it comes to Canadian musicians, the 21st century has been a constant green blip blip blip across Britscreens. Arcade Fire and Rufus Wainwright, of course (Wainwright and his sister Martha used to play at my late night literary cabarets in the mid 90s), but now, Feist, too, is becoming phenomenally well-known, and respected.

Leslie Feist's (left) new album, Reminder, is very good, if almost obviously eclectic (veering from alt-country via Lou Reed, to Joni Mitchell, to zippy late 70s Toronto The Spoons, to post-disco sexiness) and sometimes darn plain quirky. What she does is remind listeners that there is more to being a female singer-songwriter than aping Amy Winehouse, K.D. Lang, Bjork, or Tori Amos / Kate Bush - although she clearly rings those stylistic changes across her dazzlingly virtuosic spectrum (to clang metaphors needlessly). What's more impressive, though…

The Best Graduate Creative Writing Programs

Writers write - and get into trouble. Many still have an image of Humphrey Bogart, fists balled for a contre-temps, playing the solitary, heavy-drinking, angry writer in Los Angeles, or perhaps a youthful, beautiful Capote - literary figures who seem to rise, like cream, to the top, with little effort (and then have different, personal, trouble, staying there, on the light surface of things where the glamour of evil - and leisure - resides). It is because writing is - to the onlooker - so mysterious, and troubling - that it seems occult. And, like magic, somehow above pedagogy - though surely Rowling's version of magical education has altered that. At any rate, some people used to think creative writing could not be taught - or ought not to be taught - at university. That idea, at least for Americans, now seems as quaint as thinking we need more horses on our streets, pulling carts. The British were less sure, though the impressive successes of UEA's graduate creative writing …

Reply From Sarah Churchwell

Eyewear is glad to live in the digital age where replies can be fairly immediate. Dr. Sarah Churchwell(pictured) has kindly replied to my post on her column on The Bourne series (and agreed it may be reprinted here). Her complete email of today is below:

Dear Todd,
Thank you for your comment, which I read with interest.
I don't disagree with your assessment of the film, for the most part, although I'm not generally leaping onto the 'greatest thriller since le Carré' bandwagon. I think they are enjoyable films, and I have a lot of time for Matt Damon, who I think is a very intelligent and interesting actor. I found this film fun but so deeply silly that it is hard for me to take it seriously as a moral statement of any kind, except in so far as it is about taking responsibility, an idea which it deals with consistently, if rather overtly for my taste. But that's not a criticism, necessarily, it's just not my cup of tea to have things explained so carefully to me.
As…

Bourne, ultimately

Today's Guardian features a rather lame critique of The Bourne Ultimatum, from well-known media pundit and UEA lecturer Sarah Churchwell, whose areas of expertise include American literature and culture. I respect and like Dr. Churchwell, so was somewhat disheartened to read her treatment of this great new American genre film - not least because its use of The Guardian in the film was both respectful and mature. Her basic argument is that the women in the Bourne films "don't do anything useful" and that the three main female characters in the trilogy, played by Julia Stiles (pictured), Joan Allen, and Franka Potente, unlike "male CIA agents" are "hapless". From here, the word misogyny is applied (rather trivialising that term).

As my grandfather used to say: come now. This article is not a genuinely engaged reaction to a serious piece of genre film-making. Nowhere in Churchwell's column is any credit given to directors Doug Liman and Paul Green…

Overlooked poets

The Overlook Hotel, in The Shining, is a place where ghosts return to haunt failed writers. Too often, however, writers don't return, to haunt anyone.

By definition, to be an overlooked writer is to be one that isn't read "anymore" - sometimes, it is possible to imagine, by any eyes at all. So it is good to see Canada's Arc Poetry Magazine feature a group of eclectically-assembled "forgotten poets", from London-based Orwell-expert Paul Potts to Montreal's Avi Boxer (whose son is a good poet too).

The Globe and Mail has an article about the issue. Still, it seems rather ironic to devote just one issue to this subject, since almost all poets are, to a greater or lesser degree, overlooked. For instance, who reads Adrian Stokes now? People should.

Then again, I can rather ruefully think about how few copies my own collections sell - roughly a thousand or so apiece. They get reviewed but are rarely kept in-stock, or widely distributed, like most poetry book…

Of interest

The Guardian (poet Peter McDonald) reviews the new G. Hill(above) today. Eyewear looks forward to reading the great poet's new collection, A Treatise of Civil Power, in due course.

Poem by Carrie Etter

Eyewear is delighted to welcome Carrie Etter (pictured) this Friday. Etter is an American poet resident in England since 2001. She used to live in Normal, Illinois and southern California.

In the UK her poems have appeared in, among others, The Liberal, Poetry Review, PN Review, Shearsman, Stand and TLS, while abroad they've appeared in places such as Aufgabe, Barrow Street, Columbia and The New Republic. Subterfuge for the Unrequitable, a pamphlet, was published by Potes & Poets in 1998.

She is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing for Bath Spa University and a tutor for The Poetry School.


The Honeymoon of Our Attraction

The honeymoon of our attraction subsided abruptly,
as though after a summer in a beach cottage I resumed
the urban and a drinking spout’s arc became the only water
I put my mouth to.

If then I’d painted the seaside town from memory, I’d have chosen
watercolours for the streaks of illumination become impalpable.
Incarnate rode the subway stink, the traffic din, the …

A Bourne Is Star

Eyewear thinks The Bourne Ultimatum- the third film in the Bourne series - starring Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, and directed in its last two-thirds by Paul Greengrass - may be the best "action film" ever made. Director of the first, Doug Liman, also deserves much praise, though, for establishing the initial frenetic pacing and energy of the series.

Lights, Camera, Action! - that familiar rallying cry of helmers everywhere - has always begged the question - what is Action? We know (or think we do) what cameras and lights are.

Film is, despite other definitions, the visual record of bodies moving through space and time, as caught and then again projected by light. As such, it is one of the purest art forms, if made endlessly complex by intervening elements, from market forces, to authorship, to mise-en-scene, to narrative demands made on what is, at its truest, a more beautiful and visual thing than mere story can provide (hence the usual metaphors allying film and poetry).

Movi…

The Nail set

Not a Christian poetry magazine - but "Poetry to the point" - Oxford's performance poetry magazine, The Nail, now has 9 issues under its belt - the latest just out summer 2007.

At £2.50, who could resist this stapled zine of new poems from the likes of Rob Gee, Kat Francois, A.F. Harrold, and Will Holloway (as well as Eyewear's own TS)? Not those of us given contributor's copies, surely - but for you, other readers - do give in to temptation and get down to some home repairs and hammering.

Just Back From Canada

Canada is my home - the true North. It was also very beautiful, often 30 celsius, sunny, and, up in the Laurentians, filled with lakes and fir trees. I canoed, swam, and cooked meals under a great clear sky. Otherwise, I played strategy games with my wife, and my brother and his wife, and my mother; and attended a close friend's wedding.

My mother lost her husband (my father), her father, and her sole brother, in 2006. August last was the last month of my father's life (he was dying of brain cancer in hospital, terribly). So, this August was rife with unspoken and spoken sadness - but also love, and joy, at a family reunited.

Being in London often hurts, as I miss my family, and my more wildly-wooded nation, a great deal. I also miss Canadians - their laid-back humour, their friendliness, their American openness to new forms and projects. I found it cleansing to be in Canada again. It is a beautiful, good country. Below is the poem I have written for my mother, on my re…

Margaret Avison Has Died

One of Canada's major modern poets, Margaret Avison (above), has died.

Avison was latterly a Christian poet - not an easy vocation in a viciously secular world - and visionary (indeed, her name is almost a vision).

The Swimmer's Moment

For everyone
The swimmer's moment at the whirlpool comes,
But many at that moment will not say
"This is the whirlpool, then."
By their refusal they are saved
From the black pit, and also from contesting
The deadly rapids, and emerging in
The mysterious, and more ample, further waters.
And so their bland-blank faces turn and turn
Pale and forever on the rim of suction
They will not recognize.
Of those who dare the knowledge
Many are whirled into the ominous centre
That, gaping vertical, seals up
For them an eternal boon of privacy,
So that we turn away from their defeat
With a despair, not for their deaths, but for
Ourselves, who cannot penetrate their secret
Nor even guess at the anonymous breadth
Where one or two have won:
(The silver reaches of the est…

August Poems Now Online At Nthposition

Want my job?

While back in St-Lambert, Canada, I stumbled across a forgotten old cardboard box of my papers containing over 500 poems, some handwritten, but 200-300 typed, in various stages of completion (many had gone through as many as six or eight drafts), mainly dating from the years 1980-87 (that is, between the ages of 13 and 21) - thrilling juvenalia because most of this writing I had forgotten existed - and in a few instances the use of syntax and diction was interestingly reminiscent of Forties poetry I'm currently studying.

This box of poems reminded me of how long and anonymous the poet's journey often is, from young person who loves poetry, to the poet of mid-career, and beyond. There's an article on me in today's Independent newspaper, out of the UK, about the "job" of the poet.
Below is the first poem I wrote - at least bothered to type - composed in 1980.

Icicles
They dripped in unison, drip, drop, drip like stalactites they were - but small, and clear, except wher…

August

The semi-mythic month of August has arrived. April may be cruel, but August is vast, vacant, quiet, deserted, even slightly dusty. August is an empty Paris of the mind, where one can wander shuttered streets at noon, and meet no one. August is when parliament is out, and the fish are jumping onto the banks of the river. August is when you realise you have wasted your life, then turn over in the hammock for another forty winks. August has no therapy, August is closed for business, August is no thank you ma'am, I don't need to work, not today. August is not about greed, acquisitions, or mergers. August is downstream, downhill, or out back, sprawled. August is sleep whenever, books on tap, and somewhere water shining, and mountains. August is a cafe where the waiter has a sombrero at permanent eye-tilt. August is where you are never served, and you never care. August does not want, or expect, to be toasted. August is like a sleeping lion, after the feast. August rarely blogs, and…

Stiles Council

Eyewear watched the new doc on Canadian poet John Stileslast night. Scouts Are Cancelled (pleasingly coincidental as today is the centenary of the founding of the Scouts) is one of the best filmed poetry books ever, in some ways reminiscent of Bob Holman's brilliant Emmy-winning The United States of Poetry - but here, covering many poems from one poet, and one collection. And, what a poet, what a collection. Stiles will not be to all tastes - which is exactly the point of the film, and the man. Stiles, seemingly without effort, or much say in the matter, has become a persona that marries the more admirable qualities of a Kerouac to those of an Abe Lincoln: he is a small-town fella right out of Depression-era Canada, genuine as all get out, and shucks, he means what he says, and means to say it. Stiles spent his youth in an Apple Orchard, in the Annapolis valley, in Nova Scotia, and this Edenic place becomes his metaphor for all that is lost, all that is lovely, in the world. Stile…

Support International Independent Poetry Publishing

Nthposition's global headquarters is a minuscule eyrie in North London, and now that In The Criminal's Cabinethas been in print for nearly three years, publisher and chief editor Val Stevenson is keen to get a few boxes of unsold copies out of her bedroom, though not nearly as keen as her long-suffering husband... If you would like one, please email Val.

Copies will be sent out on a 'first come, first served' basis, and when they are gone, ITCC will be officially out-of-print.

Copies will be a staggeringly reasonable £2.00 plus postage and packing (for airmail outside the UK) per copy as follows:

USA: £6.72;
Canada, Australia, India, EU: £4.88;
UK: £2.98

Please pay Val via PayPal or send a sterling cheque, made out to: Val Stevenson, to 38 Allcroft Road, London NW5 4NE, UK. And don't forget to include your full postal address.

Contributors to ITCC are: Robert Allen, Tammy Armstrong, Louise Bak, Carole Baldock, Simon Barraclough, Jim Bennett, Caroline Bergvall, Charles Ber…

Because The Truth About Poetry Is Not Being Told, The Truth Of Poetry Is Not Being Appreciated

The media in the UK - and elsewhere - often reports on the claim that "poetry is dead". And, it is true that poetry is not widely read or appreciated by most people in the West - not, in brief, a part of their daily lives.

It doesn't have to be this way - though I myself am not in a position to effect a system-change on my own, of course.
Poetry is not currently well served, in Britain, and beyond, by a number of developments that, over the years, have managed to quell the actual thriving potential of poetry, its dissemination, and its appreciation.
Bluntly, poetry, rather than being seen as a process and a procedure, like "science", that has thousands of practitioners engaged in ongoing mutually-related work (a communal, progressive, and even Utopian model), is defined as an exclusive, minority exercise. This limits the sense of discovery and excitement actually connected to the art form that is poetry, and also minimises its daily relevance to most people.
For in…