Monday, 30 April 2012

Sexy Crazy CIA Carrie

Episode 11, Carrie is distraught
Yes, that's right, the new telly sexy star of the moment in Blighty is Claire Danes, playing the bipolar CIA intelligence expert who loves Jazz, lives alone, and doesn't want there to be another terror attack on US soil on her watch.  She replaces Ms. Lund, the dour Scandinavian police detective of the infamous jumper.  Poor Carrie, in episode 11 of season 1 of Homeland, has gone all mental without her pills after a bomb-trauma.   This is good for mental health sympathy.  This is good TV.  But is it propaganda?  Who cares.  Bring it on.  Eyewear like Obama loves the show.
Claire Danes in Homeland

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Adrian, Boast, Jordan, Lockwood and Nadin Reading 2 May!

LONDON SE1: Special Edition: Oxfam Young Poets Anthology

2 May 2012
The Saison Poetry Library
Level 5
Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XX
Admission free but space is limited. To book your place
"The official launch of Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon Press, 2012), edited by Kim Lockwood and Todd Swift.  The anthology represents the generation of British poets born since 1970, offering a single poem each by over 150 of the most promising of the period.  Profits go to the charity, and it will be sold across their network of charity shops.  Five poets will read at the launch: Kim Lockwood, Beverley Nadin, Rachael Boast, Paul Adrian, and Meirion Jordan."
Note that Rachael Boast is the 2011 winner of the Forward Prize best first collection; Paul Adrian is winner of 2010 National Poetry Competition; Nadin is the 2009 winner of the Poetry Business poetry pamhlet competition; Lockwood is co-editor of Lung Jazz; and Jordan is one of the best Welsh poets now writing.

Leah Fritz launch

Leah Fritz's new collection Whatever Sends the Music into Time is being launched on Wednesday 9 May 2012 at 7.30pm in the Barbican Library.

The launch event is free, but if you wish to come it is important to reserve a place in advance by phoning the Barbican Library on 020 7638 0569.

"The well known"?

Got this by email:

"The summer Poetry Review will be guest-edited for the first time by George Szirtes and contains excellent poems by the well known, such as Owen Sheers, Philip Gross, Susan Wicks, Matthew Sweeney, Jane Yeh and Maurice Riordan but also exciting new work by Shazea Quraishi, A.B.Jackson, C. Jess-Cooke, Tom Warner and many others, as well as a Centrefold section that serves as introduction to work by important poets not usually in the limelight. Not to mention reviews of the largest books.

Renew now to make sure you get your copy of Poetry Review, and Poetry News, when they come out in June. "

A.B. Jackson is rather well known already, is he not?  Forward prize winner or nominee, if I recall, and one of the best Scottish poets.  Funny phrase that, "the well known" - I suggest they not use it again, it rings a bit funny.

Frogmore Contest!


Sponsored by the Frogmore Press

The winner of the Frogmore Poetry Prize for 2012 will win two hundred guineas and a two-year subscription to The Frogmore Papers. The first and second runners-up will receive seventy-five and fifty guineas respectively and a year’s subscription to The Frogmore Papers. Shortlisted poets will receive copies of selected Frogmore Press publications. Previous winners of the Prize have been David Satherley, Caroline Price, Bill Headdon, John Latham, Diane Brown, Tobias Hill, Mario Petrucci, Gina Wilson, Ross Cogan, Joan Benner, Ann Alexander, Gerald Watts, Katy Darby, David Angel , Howard Wright, Julie-ann Rowell, Arlene Ang, Peter Marshall, Gill Andrews, A K S Shaw and Sharon Black.

Adjudicator:  Janet Sutherland was born in 1957 and grew up on a dairy farm.  She studied at the universities of Cardiff and Essex, and has an MA in American Poetry.  Her first collection Burning The Heartwood was published by Shearsman in 2006.  Her second Hangman’s Acre (also published by Shearsman) appeared in 2009.

Conditions of Entry

1     Poems must be in English, unpublished, and not accepted for future publication.
2     Poems should be typed and no longer than forty lines.
3     Any number of poems may be entered on payment of the appropriate fee of £3 per poem.   Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to The Frogmore Press.
4     The following methods of payment are acceptable: cheque drawn on UK bank; British postal order; sterling.  
5     Each poem should be on a separate sheet, which should not include the name of the author.
6     The author’s name and address should be provided on an accompanying sheet of paper.
7     The winner, runners-up and shortlisted poets will be notified by post. All shortlisted poems will appear in number 80 of The Frogmore Papers (September 2012), which will be available at £5.00 from the address below, and on the Frogmore Press website.          
8     To receive a copy of the results, please enclose an s.a.e. marked ‘Results’.
9     Poems cannot be returned.
10   Closing date for submissions: 31 May 2012.
11   Copyright of all poems submitted will remain with the authors but the Frogmore Press reserves the right to publish all shortlisted poems.
12   The adjudicator’s decision will be final and no correspondence can be entered into.
13   Entries should be sent to: The Frogmore Press, 21 Mildmay Road, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1PJ.
14   The submission of poems for the Prize will be taken as indicating acceptance of the above conditions.

Ripple effect

You are cordially invited to attend the 2012 Ripple launch on:
Sunday, May 6th
7:00 -10:00 p.m.
The Slug and Lettuce-Kingston-Upon-Thames
Charter Quay, 6 Jerome Place, Town Centre KT1 1HT
Established in 2004, this vibrant literary anthology showcases a cross-section of
the high quality work being created by current Kingston University students.
This year's collection of prose, poetry and dramatic pieces are based on the
theme ‘a moment in time.’ Professionally edited and produced by MA and
MFA students of Publishing and Creative Writing, Ripple 2012 is the result of a
great collaboration and a passion for the next generation of the written word.
Copies will be on sale in addition to contributor readings.
Don't miss out on this evening of exceptional readings and networking.
Please R.SV.P. to Lisa Vanterpool at (Your
R.S.V.P. is appreciated yet not required.)
*For media inquires please contact Holly Yamamoto at
A special thank you to Kingston University Press and the Kingston Writing
School for their support.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

100 Best Poetry Books Of The Last 100 Years In English

Eyewear is beginning a new and occasional series of photos - featuring the 100 best poetry books of the last 100 Years, in English (this time around).  So, we are talking 1912-2012.  The books will not be in order - each is a classic in their own right.  Obviously, this is a personal-critical evaluation, and no scientific accuracy is claimed or required for such an offering.  Many readers will own, or know, or have read, these.  If not, do so, please.  And feel free to suggest future candidates.  Number One is Harmonium.

Harmonium by Wallace Stevens

Friday, 27 April 2012

Eyewear New Look

Eyewear's new pair of specs.  Feast your eyes!

I Love You, It's Cool

Bear In Heaven are yet another one of these "Brooklyn Indie Bands" that are essentially synth-rock outfits, all reverb and as Pitchfork notes, digitization.  Well, I love their new album, just out, I Love You, It's Cool. Fresh as new paint from Tom Sawyer's brush, the songs answer the question, what would happen if Animal Collective went back in time and fused with Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears.  You'd get loping, emotive, ultra-cool synth songs with just a bit more dreampop shiver-shimmer, sung in an American key of boyish yearning.  'Sinful Nature' and 'The Reflection of You' are two of the best indie pop songs you'll hear in 2012, or 1982.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Finalised Line-Up For Goodenough

Readers (one poem each) for May 16th Lung Jazz celebration at Goodenough College, London.... should be a great night.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

White On

Jack White In Eyewear
Jack White has emerged in 2012 as the natural heir to the mantle of Bob Dylan - that is, as the most-American, most-enigmatic, most-talented, most-sexy, and most-witty songwriter-singer of a generation.  Others, we were told, were that good, such as Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, and Bright Eyes.  Yet now, it is clear, with Blunderbuss and the universal critical acclaim it is achieving, and the five-star shows of the last few days in Paris and London - White is in a class of his own.  Rather, he is very much the Dylan/Cobain of the period 1999-2012 and onwards.  If one considers what White has already achieved, with The White Stripes, and in side project bands like The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather, and as a producer, even as a Bond Theme performer - and now with his debut album - is nothing short of remarkable.  White's classics include 'Fell In Love With A Girl', 'Hotel Yorba', 'We're Going To Be Friends', 'Seven Nation Army' and 'Ball & Biscuit' - there are several more.  He has always combined genuine passion, love of traditional methods, and a post-modernity of wit that is reminiscent of Beck - once, surely, a candidate for most brilliant songwriter of his time.  Still, none has De Stijl like White - who I saw a few nights ago, as he was at the same small hotel as I was.  He is a striking rock star, no doubt.  And he is the best we have at the moment.

Eyewear In Talks With....

Eyewear Publishing has some very talented poets lined up in the next few years.  I am currently in talks to publish new or debut collections, with, among others, Kate Noakes, Barbara Marsh, Sheila Hillier, and Geraldine Clarkson!  And excellent collections keep rolling in. Stay tuned.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Zach Tough

Zach Wells
There is a Canadian poet-critic called Zach Wells who fancies himself a man of the people, and he proudly guards the borders of Canadian poetry and letters.  As far as I can tell, Wells is not widely published outside of North America, but he seems, in this recent review for a well-known online American magazine, to have gone out of town, for the bitter-bile sweepstakes.  His review is a model of what, exactly, makes Canadian poetry so small, in the main.  Its outlook is provincial, pinched, and unflinchingly ungenerous.  His main argument is that it is difficult to anthologise Canadian poetry.  He then takes myself and co-editor Evan Jones to task for trying to do just that, when we put together the first British anthology of Canadian poetry in over 50 years.  No imagination is used to conjure with just how improbable, and by extension, challenging, such a project was, to conceive and achieve.

Rather, the focus is unrelentingly trivial - typos, poems and poets excluded, and the general aim ad hominem - an unworthy approach, I would have thought, to a legitimate publication by a fine press.  Firstly, he suggests that David McGimpsey is only included because he is a friend of mine.  This is so crass as to be shocking.  McGimpsey is widely beloved in Canada, a best-selling, hugely influential poet of genius.  It took no special favours to include him, and suggesting thus puts a dark cloud over his work for thousands of online readers, which is unfair to a poet, whose only sin is to be in the book.  Wells further suggests that our introductions are "undergraduate" - which is a funny thing for an autodidact to say of two academics with PhDs; I am not sure how many undergraduates spend five years reading every Canadian poem of the last 100 years, but so be it.

Wells then goes on to accuse us of slapping French Canada in the face, by bothering to include some translations of French poets.  Given that no other major Canadian anthology of poetry edited by English Canadians has bothered to try and at least indicate that French-writing poets exist in Canada, for over 50 years, this seems a rather unfair attack. Some slap, some face. Indeed, most of Wells' comments seem generated by a machine built by a Rottweiler - they bite with monotonous industry.  He clearly has "hatchet job" taped up on the wall in front of his keyboard.  This is a tedious pity.  It is true that a few typos crept in to this anthology, as they do to most books.  They have been noted and will be corrected for the next edition.  However, to complain that we misuse the word "Modern" is absurd.  Wells might have wanted to check the OED.

He would have realised we were using the word in the way it is commonly used in the British context; if the word is ambiguous, so be it.  As poets, that is to be welcomed, not frothed at.  His claim that our selection process was cack-handed is illogical.  By definition, the one thing that editors of anthologies comprehend is who they include - we knew what we were doing.  If Wells wishes to question our selections, so be it.  But to have it both ways, to say our selections are both incompetent, and also mendacious, seems absurd.  There is a glimpse of a different review here, when Wells actually admits that we have included some of the great, often unsung Canadian poems.  However, the tireless editors are not credited with this.  For that would imply that Wells would have to admit the existence of minds greater than his, working at some remove from his little train set - that is, the set of all things that include Wells.  Wells should be ashamed of himself - he has just set back the cause of encouraging Canadian poetry abroad with his shabby little attack.  Meanwhile, here are some quotes about the anthology that are, shall we say, more even-handed.  One final note, the book came out in 2010.  Nice to see it still generating so much interest.  It seems to have hit a nerve.

Praise for Modern Canadian Poetry: an anthology:

I can think of no equivalent for what Swift and Jones have attempted: to rebuild a national canon from scratch using the most obscure figures. Is it subversive? Well, factor in that Carcanet is one of the U.K.’s leading poetry presses, that the last foreign-published Canadian poetry anthology appeared half a century ago, and that many British readers will take their first cues about Canadian poetry from this book – then you get a sense of the exhilarating sneak attack that has been perpetrated on our image abroad.
-Carmine Starnino, Quill & Quire

‘I could make a list of all my favourite Canadian poets who are excluded from this volume because of the editors’ high modernist interests. But they have defined the story they want to tell, and they have every right to do so. There is no rule saying that editors have to be democratic or representative in their choices. And, given those choices, I like what they have done. I don’t even have to be British to appreciate it!’
-Robert Lecker, Canadian Literature

‘This is a lovely book; full of poems that really stand up, and to which you will keep returning.’
-Ian Pople, The Manchester Review

‘Swift and Jones…have put together a wonderful anthology.’
-Michael Lista, National Post

‘’The reader...will experience sweet discoveries ranging from the territory of early twentieth century poets W.W.E. Ross and Alfred Bailey to later poets John Thompson and David Wevill, from French-Canadian Anne Hébert to the likes of Robyn Sarah, Don Coles, and Mary Dalton.’
-Ingrid Ruthig, Northern Poetry Review

[T]he most daring reassessment of our country’s canon in years… In a better world, which is to say an alternate reality, this compact and highly readable anthology would be the book your CanLit course makes you buy.’
-Jason Guriel, Maisonneuve

‘Riots broke out in downtown Montreal earlier in the month after the launch of a new anthology of contemporary Canadian verse at the Bloated Behemoth Book Store. That book, it was later discovered by a man who had subjected it to forensic examination, contained shockingly little verse by poets born in Canada. Several hailed from south of the border, and a third is said to have been resident in London (England), earning a meager living as an antiquarian book dealer and 'practising orientalist', for the past several decades. Margaret Atwood was not even represented in the collection…’
-Michael Glover, The Bow-Wow Shop

Friday, 20 April 2012

Best Album Of 2012 So Far? Crybaby.

Much has been said of Crybaby, and all of it is generally obvious, as will be my brief remarks here, no doubt.  The band, comprised of one bearded, bespectacled, balding Bristol-based singer-songwriter, is not seemingly a very promising proposition - the world hardly needs any more hairy singers.  What makes this eponymous album so brilliant, even wonderful (and endlessly rewarding on replay) is how it manages to convey several vital strands of music history to the present, despite and because of its evident elements of pastiche and homage.

Crybaby is an album of 10 slow, and mid-tempo songs - torch-songs, mostly, crooned with precisely the same passionate intensity, glottal warble, and leapfrog inflection as Morrissey - indeed, this is a missing Smiths album, if The Smiths had used more piano, organ and reverb.  Crybaby is as flamboyant and heroic as Gene Pitney, as Orbison - it swoons with heartache, wearing sorrow like its panache.  The lyrics move the songs beyond 50s/80s genuflections, since they are all so perfectly and cleverly crafted that they appear, fully-formed, as new standards.  Imagine ten songs as good and uplifting and melancholy as 'Every Day Is Like Sunday'.  A major musical moment.  I feel a certain kind of English indie pop song has just got its mojo back.

New Poem by Todd Swift

Lord Play

the less
is the more of it
the settle
is the score of it

the paid
is the whore of it
the bored
is the boar of it

the wit
is the stress of it
the knit
is the fettle of it

the crit
is the made of it
the lit
is the poured of it

confess, kettle, said
lord to nitwit
your tilt is pure metal
whereas i sit by noblesse

by Todd Swift, 2012

Guest Review: Ruthen On Moure

Philip Ruthen reviews
O Resplandorby Erin Moure

There are certain certainties to the Erin Moure collection O Resplandor, presented as an experimental text that provided elements of attraction despite its lingering refusal to fully engage, and I with it. Moure, long-respected and seriously award-winning ‘Canadian’ poet, translator, philosopher, politician of the body, offers text that is strangely limited by comparisons with poetry itself.

There are subjects to be beguiled by in movements across public worlds of the confessional, philosophic, historic, mystery and myth-making, as Moure constructs sense and sensibility. If, as the publisher’s cover blurb states ‘the act of reading contains all the experiences of the body itself’, should the reader expect the meta-physical?

No more on this trip will the wall bow down to me
No more a beard of earth stilled in the hand’s palm

…Time comes still, when the plough is
about to cut again

…and every familiar comes wearing your cap
over the rocky trail.

(‘Trying to contact a ghost’)

The book, the image and vision it offers on contact without demanding comprehension of words transcribed in a non-native tongue, the sight and touch recalling an unconscious collective remembrance, gives an opportunity for hoped-for harmony: ‘…yet hearing your glad tongue unties a book/I write – but in cuneiform.*’ (‘Optimal Elegy : Aurora Borealis II’). The accompanying warning is however increasingly valid – there will be ‘no surcease’ from the exercise until the full settlement is achieved – to read the book in its entirety, to join consciousness with it – O Resplandor – a slogan, a siren, a text is present yet be ‘translated’, settled. A work in progress, a false start in the public sphere, a statement to challenge and be challenged – what is contained in the reading of this? Is translation a making-clear, or does it necessarily risk creating too many questions?

The versifications of these attempts are selected periodically to elicit a poetic holy grail of unification for a coherency of con-joined subject and form, and intrigue. Attempts being the operative descriptor, as too often repetition plays against the method, exposing the scaffolding as well as process; translation remains embedded in an ethical maelstrom. It is the un-poetic-prose that, in narrative performances, leaves poetry itself highlighted. The language chosen to depict the storm sways with a committed but unaware arrogance of the endless, though soon tiresome, cloning in the telling of itself: ‘Yet I can’t suppress a suspicion that these looped scribbles are the same poem.’ (‘CRόNICA SIX’)

The insertion of Jacques Derrida as novelist is at first welcome, then curious - an unintended consequential lead character; a lasting impression is that Derrida would have leapt pages to soak up his own paragraphs, and O Resplandor unwittingly offers repeated springboards to this ambition, until the sequential narrative leading the poetry becomes exposed, and unexpectedly inconsequential. This false, or authoritative commentator (Derrida) leaves little room for doubt, a character who craftily promotes a haughty, raised authority, and shows the mentor/student hierarchy - in this instant – unassailable:

“If the relation to the other presupposes an infinite separation, an infinite interruption where the face appears, what happens when another interruption comes…a rending interruption at the heart of interruption itself?” (J.D., on Emmanuel Levinas, penned on a yellow page in a cramped and angular hand)


Even if intended, even if satire of the Derridean domination of language, culture, and thus occupation, this reversal, and insertion, exists as if to highlight the shallower vision of the author compared to what’s gone, or been seen before, or foretold; and arguably undermines the premise of experiment: ‘Two can play at this game of no messages.’ (‘CRόNICA SEVEN’)

Self-consciousness perceived then can’t escape, and the basis of the book’s and therefore reader’s production is forced into harder relief, assuming the book in progress has not yet, in full reading or periodic passages, conjoined its premise and its subjects. It has formed an incomplete art, detached; and the ground reaches out to pull it back to earth:

”Does it hurt?” I asked.
She opens her mouth. This means thank you, or no.

(or I am in the river)

(wading fiercely)

(there is no shore)

I crossed to her between the high field and the lights of the city.

(‘Map of Calgary’)

Facets of conflict between subject and its search for a true form to settle dispute - the translator’s art - fixing the alchemy of language, do achieve a critical fascination. Moure’s attempt is not the settlement, for the book itself is an attractive artistic book, it invites, and the covers, textual inserts and subject-shifts play, set up and demolish the expected, strike ambiguous, non-real, nonsensical attitudes, and force invitations to exclaim - are the references true? What and who is to be true? Or does Moure’s choice of sub-King James Bible-like sound and rhythmic constructs (that I responded to with growing impatience at their regular inclusion), actually tell that the sublime itself is artifice?

Unlike a Modernist smelt to then forge a new artifact, its palate screaming to the ultimate reach of a syntactic physicality, O Resplandor’s acres of similar rivets and pole-brackets deflate appreciation, dulling the senses. A reader may be content to work with the poetry; in doing so, prose and accompanying genres and linguistic stylistics may fall away:

…Without words. It had to be something they’d already talked about.

I realize the absurdity of what I’ve just said. They didn’t know each other, and could not have met. O. had simply sent it to me, and made some kind of mistake in the name. But it perturbs me so much I can’t swallow my coffee.


A Pirandello-esque association with ‘Six characters in search of an author’ springs into step, characters that for Moure include Paul Celan, who is asked to carry much weight of reference. Though as quickly, like a ritual joke that can’t be avoided or be explained to the uninitiated, the over-doubling palls the exiting, the surprise happening where a burst of powerful purer poetry explodes above the surface, then subsides with a longing to leap away. Before a further sinking, a lift, poetic sequencing does provide both fuse and motion, carrying and bearing-up the weary traveler:

Our single shipwreck, transparent
one floor below us silica
rose wrenching the shoulder light
ash those nights
kissed her incestuous
blaze announce
flood of light creasing the window


If poetry is a manifestation of a sublime communication, if not the settlement itself, does Moure’s attempt at transforming the translators’ arts into a new communication through O Resplandor consider this, offering as it does combinations between the poetic and a prosaic, prose-driven depiction of the author’s deliberations? I am unconvinced it does.

Philip Ruthen is author of the memoir One Hundred Days War (Feather Books, 2010), and the poetry collection Jetty View Holding, Waterloo Press (Hove, 2009). A second volume of poetry Apple Eye Feat will be available from Waterloo Press, spring 2012 and Ruthen recently published his short story collection Feint Ruled Lines as a Kindle E-book Edition. Ruthen is additionally a former Chair of national literature development charity Survivors’ Poetry.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Crypto Poetic

The next Poetry in the Crypt will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday May 26th in the crypt under St Mary's Church, on Upper Street, Islington.

The evening will feature Kingston University's Emerging Poet in Residence, Liz Berry, an exciting new voice from Canada, Jenna Butler, (whose previous invitation to the crypt was thwarted by the Icelandic ash cloud), and Poetry in the Crypt host Nancy Mattson reading from her brand new collection Finns and Amazons. More details of all these excellent readers can be found on the attached flier.

As always, there will also be floor spots, free tea, coffee and cake at the interval and an excellent bookstall. All proceeds will go to Hospice Care Kenya.

Call for Submissions: The Poet's Quest For God

Call for Submissions

The Poet’s Quest for God: 21st Century Poems of Spirituality

Edited by Dr. Oliver V. Brennan and Dr. Todd Swift
For Publication by Eyewear Publishing 2013-14
Deadline for submission: August 1, 2012

Eyewear Publishing is planning to publish an anthology of new, mostly previously-unpublished poems, written in English, concerned with spiritual issues in this secular age, by persons of any faith, or none.  Submissions will be welcomed via email as word documents, containing no more than three poems, and including contact details and a brief 100 word biographical note about the author.
One of the characteristics of our contemporary culture which is generally described as post-modern is the human search for the spiritual.  The advent of post-modernity has been accompanied by the dawn of a new spiritual awakening.  Many spiritual writers say that desire is our fundamental dis-ease and is always stronger than satisfaction.  This desire lies at the centre of our lives, in the deep recesses of the soul.  This unquenchable fire residing in all of us manifests itself at key points in the human life cycle.  Spirituality is ultimately what we do about that desire.  When Plato said that we are on fire because our souls come from beyond and that beyond is trying to draw it back to itself, he is laying out the broad outlines for a spirituality.  Augustine made this explicitly Christian in his universally known phrase: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You’.
This new emphasis on and openness to the spiritual dimension of human existence which is characteristic of contemporary lived culture is accompanied by a new emergence of atheism - ‘The Rage against God’ – as well as a sometimes-aggressive secularism.  Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are the two best-known exemplars of this in Western Europe.  Perhaps the best response to this rage against belief in a Divine Power at work in the universe is a poetic one.  In reply to people such as his brother Christopher and Dawkins, Peter Hitchens believes that passions as strong as theirs are more likely to be countered by ‘the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time’.
Hence we invite poets from around the world who can empathise with the new search for the spiritual to write about their belief, search or struggle with their quest for God (or a God), whether their image of God is what one young person described as ‘a creative energy that exists all around us, a life force’, the female image of God of the Old Testament, or the Abba (Father) image which lay at the core of the spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth, or indeed, some heretofore unimagined apprehension of the divine.   The purpose of this collection is to awaken debate, create an imaginative discourse and generally open a space for religious poetic practices in the contemporary world, while at the same time refusing to delimit the horizon of the possible.
As poetry, and poets, have a long, rich, and no doubt complicated tradition of writing to, and about God (one needs only to think of Dante, Milton, Donne and Dickinson) and other issues surrounding faith, belief, and transcendence, the editors believe there should be no shortage of inspiring, inquiring, intriguing and imaginative poems available for readers at this challenging time in human history.

For more information, or to submit, contact Dr Swift at or at Facebook

The Melita Hume Prize To Be Judged By Tim Dooley!

Exciting news.  Eyewear Publishing's significant new prize - £1000 for best debut collection by an English-language poet born in or since 1980 (from anywhere in the world) - is to be judged in 2012 by British poet and editor Tim Dooley.  Tim Dooley is reviews and features editor of Poetry London.  He has reviewed poetry for the TLS and worked as a creative writing tutor for Arvon, Writer's Inc. and The Poetry School.  He was twice won the Poetry Business pamphlet competition, and Tenderness (2004) was a Poetry Book Society choice.  His 2008 collection for Salt, Keeping Time, was PBS recommendation.  Imagined Rooms (Salt, 2010) came out to much acclaim.  Eyewear is very pleased to be associated with Tim Dooley as judge for this competition - his measured approach to differing poetic modes, integrity of vision, and evident poetic talent make him an ideal  scout for the very best of new writing.  There is no entrance fee for the Melita Hume Prize.  Deadline is submission postmarked May 1.  Short-list to be announced June 1.  Winner announced no later than September 1, 2012.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


As everyone on the planet now knows, Titanic sank 100 years ago today, sadly resulting in the loss of hundreds of souls.  Perhaps no cultural response to this modern tragedy is more brilliant (and less discussed, comparatively, these days, at least in comparison to film and television spectacles) than Thomas Hardy's poem 'The Convergence of the Twain'.  The jarring of the two hemispheres, the human, and natural, is eerily fated by The Spinner of Years.  In this blind, process-led world, things happen, but not with any compassion, as the Immanent Will just stirs a sort of sluggish, cruel soup of events.  One of the bleakest poems ever written in English (it makes Larkin seem jolly), it nonetheless captures the curiously disturbing aspects of the disaster - of any event in fact - by mocking the usual positive aspects of a love or marriage poem.  In this case, the consummation is to be greatly not desired.  Yeats was clearly strongly influenced by this poem, when writing 'Leda and The Swan'.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Guest review: Dixon On Parmar's Mirrlees

Oliver Dixon reviews
Hope Mirrlees: Collected Poems
edited by Sandeep Parmar

T.S. Eliot’s assertion, in 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', that genuinely new works of art force us to readjust our sense of the whole tradition that lies behind them, so that “the past (is) altered by the present as much as the present is altered by the past”, is equally true of genuinely innovative editions of non-contemporary poets, jostling our preconceptions about a period or movement and obliging us both to reassess what we assumed we knew of literary history and to question the criteria by which that history has been formulated.  Peter Robinson’s illuminating Complete Poetry and Translations of Bernard Spencer (Bloodaxe) from early last year was one such edition, reshuffling our awareness of mid-century English poetry ( all too often dominated by what might be termed the Auden supremacy) by elevating a figure whom Edward Lucie-Smith once described as “the type of the excellent minor poet” to definite major status.

Sandeep Parmar’s enthralling Hope Mirrlees: Collected Poems(Carcanet) forces a similar re-evaluation of in fact several different areas of critical interest. Mirrlees’ long experimental poem Paris (1920) is perhaps the nearest any English poet has come to negotiating the vortex of continental High Modernism, yet prior to this edition the text has been all but unknown despite its startling, kaleidoscopic brilliance and its presaging of both The Waste Land and Mrs Dalloway. It also jolts us into a reappraisal of the role of female authors in the inception of Modernist advances, contra the well-established tradition of lauding Joyce, Eliot and Pound as heroic, exiled pioneers. Paris may be located within a context of other ‘vers libre’ poets like HD and Mina Loy (on whom Parmar has also written), the non-linear, ‘stream-of-consciousness’ prose of Dorothy Richardson,  Katherine Mansfield and Gertrude Stein and the intellectual endorsement of Mirrlees’ friends Jane Harrison and Virginia Woolf, who with her husband Leonard first published the poem under their Hogarth Press imprint.

The fact that, after Paris, Mirrlees didn’t publish another full-length book of poetry until 1976 - just two years before her death and  written in a far more traditional, formal style - might be seen to point towards the seemingly anomalous nature of her Modernist experiment but equally begs questions about the hostile reception its publication was met with and the poem’s subsequent burial from any sort of readerly access – ironic, when only two years later The Waste Land (also published by Hogarth) found acclaim from within the literary establishment Eliot was already a part of.

Such questions, among others, are amply addressed in Parmar’s lengthy and insightful Introduction. Careful to locate Paris “within the context of (Mirrlees’) wider oeuvre, her life, and her networks of influence”, Parmar examines the biographical backdrop to the poem, detailing her progression from Classics undergraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge, to sometime member of the Bloomsbury set. Indeed, prior to this edition, more readers will be familiar with Mirrlees’ name from footnotes to the Diaries or Letters of Virginia Woolf than as a writer and one wonders if the association with Bloomsbury (often slighted for what has been seen as its dilettantism and snobbery) might be another factor in Mirrlees’ later critical neglect.

It was at Newnham that Mirrlees first met the anthropologist and “first woman intellectual” Jane Harrison, who was originally one of her tutors but who rapidly became the key influence in her development.  Parmar is tactfully circumspect about addressing the nature of their relationship, although by revealing the private codes the couple used when talking about each other (eg. Elder and Younger Wife, both betrothed to a totemistic Bear-figure) she leaves us in little doubt that there was what Virginia Woolf called a “Sapphic” element to their long-standing co-habitation. But equally it was an intensely intellectual partnership, with the two women learning Russian, attending academic conferences and travelling throughout Europe together.

Harrison’s ideas about the primacy of ritual as a bridge between Art and Religion, derived from her study of Ancient Greek culture, powerfully inform the structure and movement of Mirrlees’ long poem from the use of Harrison’s anthropological term “holophrase” in the opening line onwards.  Paris can be read as an improvisatory striving to discover an underlying ritual within the flux of quotidian urban life: “I want a holophrase” (defined by Parmar as “a primitive linguistic structure that expresses a complex concept in a single word or short phrase”, a description which tellingly resonates with Pound’s characterising of “ the image” as “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”) signals an attempt to encapsulate the teeming diversity of a single Paris day into a patterning of imagistic and linguistic flotsam inclusive enough to dismantle poetic hierarchies and find as much value in adverts, street-talk and signs as in the official high culture of the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.

As such, Paris is both marvellously attuned to the cross-currents of pre-1920s Modernist movements – its collage of disparate perspectives and registers seeming to point towards the Cubist principles of Braque and Picasso, its enthusiastic embrace of urban multiplicity holding parallels with Futurism and Vorticism – and also astonishingly prescient of later open-form poetries, particularly the kinds of “process-poems” which attempt to plot unstable ontologies across both a timed duration and the typographic space of the page, from the psychogeographic London-forays of Iain Sinclair right up to the disjunctive Language poetry of Armantrout, Silliman and Howe. Sandeep Parmar and Carcanet Books can only be congratulated for making widely available for the first time this seminal, groundbreaking poem, a suddenly-recovered piece in the Modernist jigsaw.

Based on her research into the Mirlees archive, Parmar does a good job of tracing some of the other, less obvious intertexts for Paris, such as two French poets Hope was acquainted with personally – Madame Duclaux (also known as Mary Robinson) and Anna de Noailles – both salonnieres and interesting re-interpreters of the flaneuse-figure in their poems. Parmar also cites Cocteau and Mayakovsky as plausible influences. Her own persuasive reading of the poem is as an assertion of the individual, female voice – “the breaking down of identity and individual experience in favour of the life of the city that threatens to destroy the ‘I’” – attempting to find itself within the conflicting onrush of modern Paris (both Classical and demotic, filled with symbols of Religion and Art but also the ‘dreck’ of the contemporary) and ultimately – paradoxically - discovering that “Paris liberates the speaker from individual life and experience...The self returns to its private, secret tongue.” (Julia Briggs’ Notes at the end of this edition are also invaluable signposts for elucidating Paris.)

After participating in the exhilarating dérive of Paris, it feels like quite a jump to turn the page onto Hope Mirrlees’ 1976 collection Moods and Tensions, so different in form, tone and subject-matter as to seem written by another poet. While it might be futile to entertain the “If only...” hypothesis of wondering what kind of work Mirrlees might have produced had she built on the style of Paris, there must surely be a sense of loss involved in considering that such an exciting and momentous poetic masterpiece – moreover, by a female English poet – remains a one-off, a youthful tour de force by a writer who later turned to novels, biographies and academic essays, as well as these technically-conservative late poems.

However, Parmar is alert to this kind of denigrating of Paris as a mere flash-in-the-pan period-piece and argues for meaningful links between the early poem, the later ones and the prose-works. She posits that the major turning-point of Mirrlees’ life was the death of Jane Harrison in 1928 and her subsequent conversion to Catholicism, entailing a long-term repudiation of the life she had previously lead, including perhaps the intellectual daring and iconoclasm that had engendered Paris. The late, overtly academic poems – rhymed and metered in most cases, and heavily reliant on literary and Classical allusions – often pivot on the opposition between the resolved stasis of Christian faith (associated with cultural tradition and book-learning) and the enticingly sensuous but less than worthy (or at times “pagan”) appeal of love and desire: an opposition also apparent in a Victorian poet Mirrlees sometimes here resembles, Christina Rossetti. There is a significant passage in ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’- a poem which begins “I have no wish to eat forbidden fruit” – where the strategy of Classical reference seems to encode more worldly sexual temptations :

        “I can watch the droves of little singing maids

         (They are so close, just out of reach!)

         Turning Aeolian lyres upon the Lesbian beach”

Old-fashioned and generic as these poems undoubtedly are, there are enough well-crafted, resonant lines (“Unharrassed by the voracious dead”, for example, reminds me of early Geoffrey Hill) to make their wistfully ironical tone of reminiscence work effectively. 

 Equally, the essays which Parmar places at the end of the book often find Mirrlees both brooding over the past and postulating why she is so drawn to do so – in ‘The Religion of Women’ she concludes that, more than men, “women are the slaves of Time” through being more physically attuned to seasonal cycles. Yet her memories are not necessarily regretful ones: ‘An Earthly Paradise’ is a lively, witty recounting of part of her time in Paris with Jane Harrison and affords a glimpse into the colourful swirl of new experience which fed into Paris the poem. In ‘Listening In to The Past’, again a ludic piece rather than a plaintive one, Mirrlees confesses to being “haunted by the Past” and explores how history can be made to live again through imagination. Her final, brilliant image for this process, of a kind of “ kaleidoscope of sounds” containing one’s own “collection of scraps”, brings us back to the pattern-making ritual of Paris where history and the here-and-now are so strikingly conjoined.

Oliver Dixon is a poet and writer based in London whose poems and reviews have appeared in PN Review, the London Magazine, the Wolf, Frogmore Papers, Long Poem Magazine, Blackbox Manifold, the BowWowShop (forthcoming) and other places. His debut volume is forthcoming from Penned in the Margins. He runs the literary blog Ictus.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Guest Review: Smith On Chase

Barbara Smith reviews
Not Many Love Poems
by Linda Chase

Sometimes it can be refreshing to read a poetry collection without prejudice. By that, meaning that one knows nothing previously about the poet: there is just the poetry to go on. Perhaps that is the way one should read poetry, but sometimes it can be difficult to disengage expectations – Paul Muldoon’s work springs to mind, with his unusual, surprising word choices.

In the case of Not Many Love Poems, by Linda Chase, reading blind pays off handsomely. Here is a collection of strong work, well crafted that reels us in and shows us songs of experience and innocence and every poem encountered is a layer within the whole, making the collection a bittersweet delight: more on the bittersweet later.

This collection is split three ways: I Many Love Poems, II Kisses and Harps and III Our Lives. The first section’s poems look back to an earlier time: songs of innocence layered with the benefit of experience: or is it? Somehow, Chase manages to capture the emotions of the times. For example, on the cusp of attaining adolescence, of obtaining the experiences that build forward into adulthood, she subtly explores these gradual changes in form, as the end of ‘One Summer Night’ shows:

Our holding hands
was not the start of more elaborate plans.
It was the only thing we wanted then,
connecting worlds of women and men.

Chase is really good at getting inside the emotion of the past and expressing it in the present, without preloading the present’s cynicism or jaundice. She almost fulfils that idea of recollecting emotion in tranquillity – thinking back to how strongly one begins to feel emotions when entering adolescent-hood, wanting to be ‘cool,’ but wanting to be one’s own person.

Her subtlety comes across again, in the ‘The Word for It’ where in the heat of rising desire the climax cleaves away from expression:
she has no idea about anything
which could be said in any words she knows
or in any words she used to know.

This idea that language has a cut-off point at which it cannot convey emotional and sensual overload or intensity is an interesting one, explored by many poets. But rather than leave the reader with an ellipsis or use some clichéd received expression for climax, or the aftermath of sex, Chase pushes language forward until she obtains this nugget:

all she wants to do is hide her shotgun face
in the crook of his arm forever.

That image of a fired shotgun, smoke from the barrel caught in a millisecond, overlaid as metaphor works better than any/all descriptions of facial grimaces the human face is capable of making, or indeed, ever could.

These poems of past link to each other nicely, each speaking forwards and backwards to each other, with hints of history brought from one to another: ‘Airstream Bubble Trailer’ speaks to ‘The Tao tells me to go on loving you’ (not as cloying as the title might suggest). This gives us a real sense of depth, which makes the next section, ‘Kisses and Harps’ very effective, almost heart-breaking when we begin to realise what is happening to Chase.

‘Kisses and Harps’ changes tone completely, moving into an exploration of diagnosis and a future sentence. This part of the collection really calls to mind Marin Sorescu’s farewell to life, ‘The Bridge’. Sub-divided, the ‘Kisses’ section documents the process of cancer as a series of medical procedures, and reactions to them. These are never self-pitying, rather they seem pragmatic as in ‘Primary Colours’:

so she resigned herself to let her body
stain its every process in the hope
of outwitting it, getting there first.

Like Sorescu, Chase can be wry and yet wrangle humour from the situation as an imagined market survey in ‘Ticks and Kisses’ shows:

‘Amputation’ is not a good subject
for poetry. That’s what most people think
who were surveyed at a seaside resort last week.

But Chase then moves the mood on to sombre and reflects loss without resorting to haranguing: she goes on to let the objects, or lack of in the poem, do the talking:

The place on the chest where a breast
once was is not a topic which attracted
any ticks at all. Nor kisses, nor caresses.

From her medical experiences, Chase gets some of her most choice expressions, and she is aware of the irony. In ‘Non-Poetics’ she again explores the notion of anti-poetry:

Moist desquamation
is not sexy as it sounds
The skin has thinned
and begun to weep.
I admire its honesty,
restraint from simile.

‘Harps’ one could take to mean the time after treatment and before dying, when you are getting on with things in as much as you can: how you can still relate to life, even though life is leaving you. Having seen a recent documentary on the life and death of Irish writer, Nuala O’Faolain (who died very rapidly in 2008 from cancer), I am struck by how Chase really wants to enjoy and not number her final days, as ‘Candour’ shows:

Time makes all the days too real
and no one wants to count them
numberless, glorious, blessed.

When O’Faolain found out in early 2008 just how little time she had left she commented that she felt as though all the good had been taken out of life – a brave statement to make public – but a controversial one. She undertook a radio interview that explored how she felt about dying; one that proved to open many doors into this most private of experiences. O’Faolain decided to make the most of her final weeks and rather than fight a battle that could not be won, she wanted to enjoy what she could. Chase makes the same commitment through her work but refers back in other poems to previous experiences of another’s death, which seems to have helped prepared her for what is to come. ‘Dying’, or death is someone known, if not a friend, in this haunting first line from the same titled poem: “Dying wakes you up quietly, wafting / into your nostrils...”

Still Chase’s wryness doesn’t leave her. In ‘Harp in the Sick Room’, for which this section is named, she tells us how

‘the Harpist just gets on with it –
letting the music come to her
out of thin air into her fingers
as the rest of us wonder about

chickens and eggs and cause
and effect and rushing in
like fools to grab paradise
by the balls for our beloved.

The last section ‘Our Lives’ can seem almost colourless after the mid-section, precisely because of its harrowing trajectory. However there are many more gems in here, such as the evocation of a former teacher in ‘Winter on Long Island’, with the repetition of ‘when’ opening each spare stanza until the final ‘then’ of the last stanza:

When my brother died, you lifted the night sky
with rumblings of verse, blue-knuckled and shattering.

Then the headlong moon bundled me down the street
till all I could hear was the ringing of bells inside me.

The closing short poem ‘Better’ evokes a dawn where the ‘sun /cracks the whole day/ onto a plate, / yoke stunning itself / in a rich clear mass / of promises. This is as rich a dish of plenty to end the book on as any.

So it was that I discovered while reading this collection that Linda Chase had endured the same type of death as O’Faolain, from cancer. It is a hard thing for the living to write about the largest elephant in any room, death, because we normally never see it coming from the close range that Sorescu, O’Faolain and Chase have. I am honoured to have known Linda Chase through her work. I only wish I had known her in life.

Barbara Smith was a recent reader at the Oxfam Spring into Poetry series last year in London. A first collection, Kairos, was published in 2007. Her work has been shortlisted and awarded prizes, such as at Scotland’s Wigtown Poetry Competition 2009 and the Basil Bunting Award 2009. She is busy proofing a second collection, The Angel's Share, due in May.

Canadian poetry shortlists

Announcing the Gerald Lampert & Pat Lowther Award Shortlists

April 2, 2012, Toronto: The League of Canadian Poets (LCP) is pleased to announce the shortlist for its 2012 Pat Lowther and Gerald Lampert Memorial Awards. Congratulations to the authors for their fine work and many thanks to the jurors for their hard work on this year’s awards.
Winners of these awards will be announced during a special ceremony at the annual LCP Poetry Fest and Conference to be held at the Park Town Hotel in downtown Saskatoon (924 Spadina Crescent East, Saskatoon, SK) on June 16, 2012.

Gerald Lampert Award Shortlist:
The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award is given in the memory of Gerald Lampert, an arts administrator who organized authors' tours and took a particular interest in the work of new writers. The award recognizes the best first book of poetry published by a Canadian in the preceding year. The award carries a $1,000 prize.
True by Kirsty Elliot (Leaf Press)
Yes. by Rosemary Griebel (Frontenac House Media Ltd.)
Paramita, Little Black by Suzanne Robertson (Guernica Editions)
Do Not Call Me By My Name by Lisa Shatzky (Black Moss Press)
Sweet Devilry by Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan Books)
Gulf by Leslie Vryenhoek (Oolichan Books)
2012 Jury: Ronnie R. Brown, Dennis Cooley, Wendy Morton

Pat Lowther Award Shortlist:
The Pat Lowther Memorial Award is given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman published in the preceding year, and is in memory of the late Pat Lowther, whose career was cut short by her untimely death in 1975. The award carries a $1,000 prize.
A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth by Stephanie Bolster (Brick Books)
Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier (McClelland & Stewart Ltd.)
outskirts by Sue Goyette (Brick Books)
Yes. by Rosemary Griebel (Frontenac House Media Ltd.)
Groundwork by Amanda Jernigan (Biblioasis)
Forge by Jan Zwicky (Gaspereau Press)
2012 Jury: Katherine Bitney, Sarah Klassen, Nela Rio
(See for complete author bios and book descriptions)

Kingston MA Poets Launch Poster

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Adventures In Form

Tom Chiver's increasingly impressive publishing adventure, Penned In The Margins, has now published his edited collection of new and remoded poetic forms, Adventures In Form.  As far as UK poetry publishing goes, at least, this has got to be one of the most eye-opening books of the decade.  It is most noteworthy for two things, I think - cementing Roddy Lumsden as the presiding genius of new poetic forms that he is, and also signalling the mainstreaming of Oulipo constraints among youngish British poets.  Before making a few critical comments, I should say that as a creative writing teacher at university level, this is one book I will certainly encourage my students to beg, borrow or steal (actually not steal) - in fact, I can see myself making it required reading on at least one module.

Supplementing the great Norton anthology of forms, from Boland & Strand, this offers a series of modish and newish formal strategies - as well as some that are not so original (like found poems).  I say modish, because the over-reliance on txt speak and facebook, tweeting etc. is likely to date more quickly than poems about Model Ts did.  As an anthology, it brings many new ways of composing poems to readers, and that is a full frontal good.

However, I have a few comments on the introduction by Chivers, a savvy critic and poet who has won an Eric Gregory recently.  He should know that such an introduction should probably make reference to Angela Leighton's major study of poetic form, On Form.  He should probably mention the idea of organic form.  And he might want to mention words like truth, sincerity, and artifice.  That is because, for all the mentioning of crosswords and puzzles, this book misses a point, or rather, embraces the heartless Tin Man before he gets to Oz.  Poems are written and read by poets, but also by non-poets.

In the gap, I think, is the true nature of poetry, that between space where critics needs to consider the needs of both groups, which may be different.  Bored, jaded young poets always seek new or newly-found styles and modes and forms, to resay the already-said verities of living.  What makes this new turn to form-as-fun intriguing and alarming in equal measure is that it somehow sidesteps the other things that poems can and need to do - that is, to move, inspire, perhaps even instruct.  Formal play delights and amuses, to be sure.  It rarely, if ever, moves. There is no reason why formal play cannot be emotive, of course - but as evidenced in this compendium, formal games tend to emphasise the novelty of discovery and surprise, over any form of moral or personal expression.

To become new critical for a moment (and Chivers ignores these critics completely), form could be said to be an integrating aspect of content itself.  In these poems collected here, there is no fallacy of union between form and content, of course - if anything, the form exceeds content or meaning, or becomes a new meta-meaning, the subject of the poem being the way in which poems can be made, frankly, any which way but loose (and even that way).  I myself am no fan of organic form.  I suspect poems that use their alliterative slaps and gurgles to sound out on the tongue the bogs and mud.

But I equally wonder about some kinds of math constraints that, unlike Houdini's straight jacket made famous by Muldoon, are not so much designed to get out of, as to become the trick itself.  But the trick was not the manufacture of chains and elaborate cabinets filled with water, it was the escapology.  To use the trope of puzzles for poetry misses the point that puzzles are more fun for the makers than the puzzlers-out, at least in the poetic context - and that in fact what has killed poems for most people is the fact they seem like math homework.  Oulipo strategies are likely to make poems seem ever-more artificial, removed, and even inhuman - which can be their innovative buzz-factor.  They release poets from the jacket of emotion, empathy, and even compassion.

But that is surely one adventure not worth risking all for.  Indeed, the British hardly need excuses to forgo emotionality in verse - they invented irony to do that for them.  Behind this impressive book lurks a rather worrying possibility - that we face another generation of poems unable, or unwilling, to concern themselves, in the best possible language, with the full depths of human, and spiritual, experience, what, in a different context, Bloodaxe has called "being alive".  The key of course, is balance.  Poets must push language as far as it will go - but form is not language, only.  To paraphrase Depeche Mode, Form Is Not Enough In Itself.


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...