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Showing posts from December, 2008

A Death In The Family

Yesterday, one of my closest and most beloved family members died. I will write more, in the fullness of time, here, and elsewhere, but not yet.

Eartha Kitt Has Died

Holy Moly Batman! What a week... yet another fabled anti-war protester has died - this time, beloved camp cabaret act, Eartha Kitt, famed for her feline fling as Catwoman. Sad news. Kitt, as singer, actor, and kitsch heroine charmed millions. There is a slight irony in her dying on Christmas day (yesterday) as one of her most famous songs was Santa Baby.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7799852.stm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOMmSbxB_Sg

Adrian Mitchell Has Died

Sad news. The great British poet Adrian Mitchellhas died - the "shadow poet laureate". Mitchell was a commited anti-war activist, a brilliant poet and performer, and an exceptionally warm and generous man. He donated his work to both my 100 Poets Against The War anthology, and also Oxfam CD project. I was very sad to learn of his death when I turned on BBC radio this morning. I had thought to stop blogging until January - as per my last post - but the death of such a poet demanded I return. He wrote a final poem a few days back - not knowing its mischievous title would be so oddly apt - and it is delightful - ending so movingly, so playfully. The British poetry world is poorer now that its leading moral compass is gone - though his work remains, to inspire.

And To All A Goodnight

What a year. Eyewear, for one, is glad to take some time off with family and friends, sit by the yuletide fire, and listen to some sleigh bells - or some such version available in these isles. It's been a time-wasting pleasure to continue this ephemeral blog, and thanks to you, my readers, it makes sense to keep on keeping on doing it. For now. But not anymore, in 2008. The next few weeks belong to deeper magic, the time-tested recourse to seasonal contemplation, festivity, joy, and celebration, that is Christmas. At the peak of the year, at its darkest moments, in its wintry chill - light and warmth and fellow-feeling is both right and good. Then comes a new year. And that too, brings its needful ceremonies. See you then, and there! To paraphrase Les Murray, I wish you God this holiday season. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Love, for a start. And health. Wealth? Bah-humbug! That's proven even more ephemeral, hasn't it?, than blogs.

Conor Cruise O'Brien Has Died

Sad news. Conor Cruise O'Brien- writer, historian, public intellectual, and politician, has died. In some ways, it seems fitting (if nonetheless unwelcome) that his death should coincide with the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth, for O'Brien loved Milton, particularly Paradise Lost.

I have a great memory of spending New Year's Day morning with him, about a decade ago, at a lovely castle in Ireland, reading from that epic poem, with him, his wife the poet, and one of his sons. It remains one of the highlights of my life, to have been welcomed in to his circle of celebration.

A decade before, I had enjoyed his essays, especially on Yeats. His controversial literary opinions included a critique of Yeats as nationalist which profoundly questioned that poet's (quasi-fascist) role as Irish public man. Ireland has lost a troubling, problematic, great figure.

Poem by Katy Evans-Bush

A special Salt Cyclone event today on Katy Evans-Bush'stour of the world wide web. Eyewear is thrilled to be a part of this vivacious poet and blogger's whirlwind virtual voyage.

Katy Evans-Bush (pictured) was born in New York City and has lived in London since she was 19. Her poetry and essays have been published on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a regular contributor to the Contemporary Poetry Review and writes one of the most important British literary blogs, the very popular and always entertaining, Baroque in Hackney. Her debut poetry collection, which Eyewear recommends as one of its books of 2008, is Me and the Dead. Called "stylish, vivacious and darkly hilarious" by the Poetry Book Society, it is published by Salt, one of the significant poetry presses in the UK.

Evans-Bush has always struck me as a true original, one foot in New York, one in London (metaphorically), bestriding the pond with a wonky, warm charisma that has made her loved, and respected, by…

Eyewear's Albums of the Year

Long gone is the idea that any one critic can survey the entire mediascape, and determine what is truly "the best" of a period, in a genre. Instead, one can, at best, suggest what one encountered, and how its impact was received - still, an evaluation, but one admittedly provisional and problematic. I no longer even know why I try to put together such lists, but, since I find myself buying a lot of pop / rock / indie albums (I like such music, though less and less), and enjoy sharing the best of these with friends, I thought I'd put forward my not-definitive list of the albums of Eyewear's 2008.

In descending order, here are the ten albums that most delighted, moved, inspired, or thrilled me - as popular recorded music by a band or singer:

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Portishead - Third
Joe Jackson - Rain
The Verve - Forth
Keane - Perfect Symmetry
Foals - Antidotes
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III
Madonna - Hard Candy

---

A few …

Dorothy Porter Has Died

Sad news. The Australian performance poet Dorothy Porterhas died. The Guardian ran a good obituary on her the other day. I first came across her work when co-editing Short Fusewith Phil Norton, back in '01-02 (the good old days) - we included some of her work in the anthology. She was a major force on the Australian poetry landscape.

John Glassco Born 99 Years Ago Today

One of the most intriguing and cosmopolitan of all Canadian poets is John Glassco - Montreal-born, Paris-forged, and Eastern Townships-retired - whose 99th birthday this would be today (15th December) if he had not died in January, 1981. Lately, some of his prose has come back into the limelight. His centenary will be quickly followed by a biography from Brian Busbythat I, for one, cannot wait to read.

This excerpt from "Brummel at Calais" is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because English-French aestheticism and stylishness have always been a part of modern Montreal poetics, much more so than in the rest of Canada. I am surprised that John Ashbery has not written about John Glassco, since in some ways Glassco is a precursor of his, in francophile interest.

An art of being, nothing but being, the grace
Of perfect self-assertion based on nothing,
As in our vanity's cause against the void
He strikes his elegant blow, the solemn report of those
Who have done nothi…

Ghosts in some machines

The latest Poetry Review is out (Vol. 98:4). There are reviews of Rowan Williams and others by Evan Jones, poems by Alfred Corn and Leah Fritz (among others), and my review of four collections, too. Plus much more, including a new interview by Ben Hickman with John Ashbery where, asked who some of his fave British poets are, he mentions Mark Ford, Jackie Kay, and Peter Robinson; he also observes that being MTV laureate has not increased poetry sales one bit.

Also just in the post, a beautiful-looking issue (#2) of Paxamericana, featuring poems by yours truly, David McGimpsey, Paul Vermeersch and other Canadians. I was also recently in the latest London Magazine, with other poets asked to write about famous British art works. I selected Stand Up! by Sir Terry Frost (2003), the year he died. The new design of the magazine is sort of Beardsley-inspired.

Then there's the latest, stunning Wolf #19, in which my poem "Myth" appears. This Winter 2008 issue is rich with reviews, an…

Bettie Page Has Died

Sad news. Bettie Page, The Queen of the Pin Ups, and later born-again Christian, has died.

Poem by Rufo Quintavalle

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Rufo Quintavalle (pictured) to these pages this Friday - especially as I have been publishing his work at Nthposition now for several years, always happily. He was born in London in 1978, studied English at Oxford and the University of Iowa and lives in Paris with his girlfriend, Agn├Ęs and daughter, Edda. His poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The Wolf, The London Magazine, Smiths Knoll, Upstairs at Duroc, MiPOesias, and elimae. A chapbook, Make nothing happen, will be published by Oystercatcher Press in 2009.

There is no other contemporary English poet quite like Quintavalle: from his extraordinary name (perhaps the most inherently exciting since "Ezra Pound") to his exotically-imagined, deeply-thoughtful, ruefully witty, and sometimes very brief, poems, to his slightly marginalised location across the Channel, he represents a different current - one that, should he continue to write as well over the next few years, will establish him,…

Indian Poetry Now

Jeet Thayil, the Indian poet, has edited an important new anthology of Indian poetry (in the English tradition), just out from Bloodaxe, a book Eyewear will review in time. Before then, it needs to be said that The Guardian ran a hugely blundering (and borderline offensive) review of the book - a dismissal by other means - on Saturday, an odd act since the UK has been in need of such a collection for more than a decade. I have long believed that the best of Indian English-language contemporary poetry, from the likes of Ranjit Hoskote, Vivek Narayanan, and Sudeep Sen, is among the best of contemporary poetry from anywhere - and its lack of availability, until now, was almost silly, if not sad. So, Thayil should have been thanked first, criticised, if at all, later. Anyway, he's responded.

Guest Review: Paine on S/S/Y/K

Vicky Paine reviews
Stop Sharpening Your Knives (2) – Nine New Poets

The second anthology from the Stop Sharpening Your Knives collective is an attractive, glossy paperback with contributions from nine poets and three artists. A glowing foreword from Lavinia Greenlaw describing the anthology as a 'remarkable gathering of emerging poets', together with admiring back cover blurbs from Hugo Williams and George Szirtes, make this an impressively packaged anthology.

This is all to the good since the point of anthologies of new writers is exposure, a way of building up a poet's profile. A new poet may not be ready for a full-length collection but that isn't to say she's not deserving of a readership. Equally, a poet may be writing to a publishable standard but it is notoriously difficult to convince a reputable publisher to take on a first collection. Poets usually have to complete a sort of informal apprenticeship, publishing in magazines and perhaps in pamphlet form. Anth…

Quebec Liberal Again

Good news, Charest wins again.

The Wolf 19 Launched Tonight

The Wolf #19 launches at The Poetry Studio (upstairs from Poetry Cafe) on Monday 8th December at 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden. 8.30pm sharp.

Readers on the night to include Ruth Padel, Todd Swift, Clare Pollard, Sandeep Parmar, Evan Jones and Michael McKimm.

The launch of Zeppelins

Those in the know in London and beyond will want to be at the Zeppelins launch Tuesday 9th December, 7-10pm at The Rose, 35 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL. Chris McCabe's new collection, from Salt, promises to be one of the better books by a new poet of this decade. I've included McCabe in my Manhattan Review section on The Young British Poets, as I believe in his writing. The launch will also feature readings from fellow Salters and excellent poets Simon Barraclough and Luke Kennard - so much to enjoy.

The Life and Death of Henry Reed

The very fine British poet, Henry Reed, author of A Map of Verona, died 22 years ago today, 8 December, 1986. He has yet to entirely get his due, since he is one of those poets whose work was mainly done in the 1940s, something of a Sargasso Sea when it comes to wrecked reputations. Still, his poetry is beginning to come out of the despond, and Carcanet does a Collected Poems now. Reed is intriguing for any number of reasons, but fans of codes and cyphers may want to know he worked at Bletchley Park during WWII.

12 Poets of December Now Online at Nthposition

Milton and Morrisons

The Guardian has a timely leader today reminding England that one of its greatest poets, Milton, is about to have a 400th "birthday" this December - and is in danger of becoming unread, untaught, and underappreciated.

At first, this might seem an improbable complaint, yet, reading the latest issue of The London Magazine (celebrating 276 years), I came across the following from poet-novelist Tobias Hill on the subject of poetic diction: "Ian MacMillan has a good line on this: don't put any word into a poem you wouldn't use in Morrisons [a store]; to do otherwise is as odd as popping out to the corner shop in a Shakespearean ruff".

Eyewear likes a bit of ruff. All of British poetry's current problems can be traced to such an attitude (one even more crudely anti-modernist, and anti-Renaissance, than anything Larkin ever came up with). MacMillan's offhand poetics of normalcy contains so many blandly buried assumptions it is startling: because, depending o…

Poem by Jenny Pagdin

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome the poet Jenny Pagdin (pictured) to its pages this Friday. I first met Pagdin when she was studying at The Poetry School (well, before then, we were introduced to each other by the American-Canadian poet Eric Ormsby). Since then, I have followed the development of her work with some interest.

Her earlier poems, of three or four years ago, were small, complex works, combining near-scientific observation with sensuous, sometimes erotic, emotionality - all wound tight with brilliant diction. Her new work, it appears to me, is opening up, and growing in stature as it assays traditional forms, in surprising ways, sometimes employing more colloquial, and directly sexual, or personal, themes.
Pagdin is completing the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. In between times, she works as a charity fundraiser in Norwich. Her poetry has appeared in magazines including Nthposition, Agenda, Dream Catcher and The Frogmore Papers. Do expect a very f…

Boomslang

Boomslang two is out, edited by poet Kate Noakes. She's looking for submissions for #3: email her at kate dot noakes at googlemail dot com. I am sure she will gladly sell you a copy via that contact address too. I have four new poems in the issue, happily. It's a very little magazine, just starting out, so do support it.

New Styles of Architecture

What's wrong with Britain? Prince Charles? Modern buildings? Modernism and modernity tend to be associated with things people like to be associated with, in most Western countries - indeed, modern art, modern love, and modern poetry inspire great affection. Not in England, at least where the Prince and his allies are concerned.

Canada In Crisis

You wouldn't know it from the BBC, or the British media, but, Canada is undergoing its gravest (and most intriguing) political crisis since its foundation, in 1867. In a nutshell, the very recently elected (rightwing) Conservatives face a no-confidence vote that will see them replaced by a grand coalition of all the other three main parties in the House, led by the Liberals - a major switcheroo that is all the harder to stomach, for many, since one of the parties is the Canada-despising Bloc Quebecois. However, there is a long tradition of such Upper / Lower Canada shenanigans. The Governor General will decide next week, or sooner, whether this can go ahead.

December Oxfam Poetry Fundraiser Tonight!

DECEMBER 2, 2008, OXFAM Reading
7-9 pm
8 poets in 80 Minutes
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1

1ST HALF

Niall McDevitt performed in various Ken Campbell productions including the 24-hour play THE WARP, a sex education play for children WE DON'T TALK ABOUT IT, and a Melanesian version of Shakespeare PIDGIN MACBETH. His poems have been published in Poetry Ireland, The Wolf, The London Magazine, and broadcast on Radio 3, Radio 4, RTE1 and Resonance FM. His poem 'Off-Duty' was winner of BBC Radio 3's THE VERB Urban Poetry Competition in 2005. He leads Blake/Rimbaud/Yeats and other poetry walks in London.

David Prater's publications include The Happy Farang (2000), We Will Disappear (2007) and Morgenland (2007). He is the editor of online poetry journal Cordite (http://www.cordite.org.au/) and also maintains an Internet home page (http://www.daveydreamnation.com/). He has performed at various Australian and international poetry festivals and currently lives in The Hague.

Juli…

Auteur Dreary?

News that the world's most French, most prestigious, and most pretentious film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema, has neglected to list a single "British" film in its top 100 has put the British critics and pundits into apoplexies of Blimp-like consternation. What?!!! No Powell and Pressburger? No Lean? No Reed? How dare they? In fact, there are several British auteurs in the list - Hitchcock and Laughton make the top ten; Chaplin is also there. Given that the magazine's perspective is on director, not nation of production, this should limit the insult. Still, Carol Reed's The Third Man is, frankly, one of the greatest films, and should be there. So too, I think, should Black Narcissus. Still, it is good to see "Kane" still at number one, 67 years on. Given how Welles died thinking himself a failure, that's a moving tribute.