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EYEWEAR'S BRITISH POETRY POWER LIST 2013

Eyewear blog today surveys the world of British poetry, and compile a list of the twenty (20) most "powerful" individuals in "British poetry".  Both terms are obviously contentious, and no apology can be made for not parsing them endlessly here.  Critical work requires some jargon.  Anyway, we know what British poetry is, mainly - it is poetry published in Britain, or written by British poets, or both, or how those two sets overlap.  This list notes those figures who most potently shape what contemporary British poetry is - materially, ideologically, editorially, critically, and literally (in the act of creating it).  Notably, there are few academics or critics-only on this list, because British poetry has few extremely well-known and powerful poetry critics or scholars able to shape the canon, or cultural reception of poetry in these isles.  We have no Helen Vendler or Marjorie Perloff, to be exact.

We have no Harold Bloom.  A. Alvarez no longer weighs in, and few…

WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY POETRY?

Several key art books of the last four of five years, such as by Richard Myer (MIT, 2013) have revolved around the question of contemporaneity, and what, precisely, it means, to be a contemporary artist.  In the new global art world, the term "contemporary" has, to a serious extent, replaced the terms conceptual, or post-modern.  It seems the poetry world (to label a thing which may not, yet, exist) has yet to embrace the label contemporary in quite the same way.  Eyewear the blog will be asking, in 2014, just what contemporary poetry is, or was...

A CHRISTMAS POEM FROM TODD SWIFT DECEMBER 25 2013

THE MOTHER OF JESUS GAVE THE FIRST GIFT

The bruise of asking
inside genderless
the more a God demands
spreads angelic paste

the task of bearing
Christ's little weight
tastes a globe of blood
on the toying tongue

clouds boiled elsewhere
prepare their foreignness
like uneven stars
exchange air for dust

rain for a reign
the boy-child's nails
are rust by now
after the Roman taps

caress that blonde grain
the wood bore his skinny
freight well off the ground
that deserved more just

as she Mary-mother lifted
His lusty seedlings
of denatured dominion
in her privacy ruined

her swollen overbearing
flood bursting green
banks to drown
Christmastime in a tide

her fluidity of sense
and giving up, her
blunt loss the main gift
that flourishes brightly

across centuries, a snow
drift his Easter clears
but only first the good
comes, the stain under skin

healing slowly, after
an unalterable imposition
in the dizzy hayloft
among beasts and sultans

bowing to see water break
and a woman open out
to let one black hole emerge
out of fecundity in…

CHRISTMAS DAY POETRY QUIZ FROM EYEWEAR

The first person to post all the correct answers to these questions will win a very nice surprise package of books from Eyewear Publishing.

1. Name the poet, and text, where this line appears: "Tigers mourn Sikandar."

2. Who wrote "If a literary critic happens to be also a poet (un poete manque is the usual taunt) he is liable to suffer from dilemmas which do not trouble the philosophic calm of his more prosaic colleagues."

3. Which poet took their heart in their hand, twice?

4. Who wrote: "Everything is in exile/ everything will return"?

5. Which British modernist poet wrote: "The number of coracles in use is counted by the number of nets."?

6. Which poet writes of "the light of snow falling"?

7. A poet recently titled a book that can be paraphrased as "Big Cat, Bad Choices".  Name the title.

8. A Little Book of Modern Verse, edited by Anne Ridler - the last poem in the book is by -?

9. Which American poet wrote: "Poetry is not …

TRADING PLACES?

For all the whirlwind ambition and hustle of the world, Christmas Eve reminds us of one thing, if we are fortunate enough, as I am, to be at home, in a warm candle-lit kitchen with beloved family members, drinking hot chocolate, playing board games, and eating and drinking merrily - no one who is loved, and loves, and has Christmas in their heart, need ever trade places with kings or celebrities or billionaires, or famous writers, or even Queens... joy is modest and based in the carpenter's world, not the world of bombast and royalty.  Ring the bells within, and enjoy what you have.  The rest is the crashing of meaningless cymbals.  Love to all!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

Eyewear blog and its team of reviewers wishes you a joyous and peaceful time this Christmas, with much love and fun sharing good times with your family and friends.  See you in 2014!

BOOK OF THE YEAR?

Lots to choose from, and for a moment, it was going to be the Morrissey biography, which for sheer hubris is hard to beat, or the Hill Collected, which is magisterial and wonderful, but surely the monumental work, for poetry, in these isles, was actually The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English - a thoroughly recalibrated version of the older, grumpier model, which extends the franchise more widely than might have been thought possible were its new editor not a reasonable and engaged reader. No reader of poetry today would not enjoy flipping through this and seeing how canonical reps jostle with the newly-minted ones.  Written by hundreds of hands, it is never less than stimulating, and often informative.  And yes, Todd Swift has an entry.  There is a god of poetry, sometimes, so suddenly.

BOOKS BY THE BED

Every year certain books pile up that I mean to review at this blog, books by friends, or books that mean something to me, but I never get around to writing about, fully and deeply.

Here is a partial list of these important poetry books - I aim to write something about them in the coming months.  They are all, I should add, recommended.

JOHN GOODBY - A TRUE PRIZE
TOM PHILLIPS - RECREATION GROUND
DAVID HERD - ALL JUST
SUSAN MILLAR DUMARS - THE GOD THING
RACHAEL BOAST - PILGRIM'S FLOWER
ROBERT PRIEST - PREVIOUSLY FEARED DARKNESS
ROBIN RICHARDSON - KNIFE THROWING THROUGH SELF HYPNOSIS
&
STEPHEN BURT - BELMONT






THE SWIFT REPORT 2013

Get ready to splutter with outrage and derision.  Here comes Todd Swift again, outlandish and fearless.

In a year where one of the top memes was Jean Claude van Damme doing the splits between two trucks, and another was Miley Cyrus twerking, you might think I'd have been okay.  But 2013 was an odd year, as readers of this blog (and others) may recall, if only for me.  I want to start by saying that the act of writing such a summary is at once a harmless writerly act of sharing, and also an aggressive one of self-advertising, but it is surely not naively narcissistic. I write on the eve of the darkest day of the year, which seems fitting to me, because 2013 was a year that started bad, and gradually moved into the light - with the highlights being when I became British in Marylebone, and then celebrated ten years of marriage, on June 6.

To begin with, my Grandmother, Melita Hume, died late 2012, basically early 2013, in the period just after Christmas - a sort of no man's land on…

20-20 PAMPHLET SERIES FROM EYEWEAR IN 2014-2015

eyewear twenty-twenty poetry series

an exciting new project to publish twenty pamphlets by twenty poets, 
with each pamphlet containing twenty poems. 

The series will be both challenging & thought-provoking, providing a fresh view on contemporary poetry with a primary focus on new work from unpublished poets.

Poets will be selected on merit by Les Robinson & Todd Swift 
as co-editors of the series.

Further details will be announced in the new year with the first twenty-twenty pamphlets due in 2014.

Asperger Syndrome Does Not Belong To Mark Haddon

I have been hearing from critics, editors, and pr people in London, many of whom are astonished that Sumia Sukkar's brilliant, riveting, timely, and very moving novel about a Syrian family who become refugees, has failed to receive more media attention here in the UK - only The Times got the value of the book (and gave it a terrific review). One of the reasons, it seems, is that some people feel that having a character in the novel who has Asperger Syndrome somehow renders it cliche, or overly familiar.  Indeed, someone close to Mark Haddon, author of the best-selling The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (now a smash hit play in the West End), said he declines to endorse any new fiction involving persons with Asperger Syndrome.

Now, let us step back and be clear.  Asperger Syndrome is not a gimmick merely useful for a plot point, or a good novel.  It is a very real condition, that affects millions of families around the world. The fact that Sumia's novel has a char…

EYEWEAR'S PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR: ROB FORD

2013 WAS A YEAR OF GREAT AND PORTENTOUS ANNIVERSARIES, FOR INSTANCE THE DEATH BY RIFLE OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY.  IT ALSO SAW THE PASSING OF POLITICAL LEADERS OF TITANIC STATURE, SUCH AS MARGARET THATCHER, AND NELSON MANDELA.  IN FILM, SANDRA BULLOCK AND ROBERT REDFORD MADE CAREER-BEST MOVIES ABOUT SURVIVAL. IN MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE AND BEYONCE SURPRISED WITH DIGITAL RELEASES.  ON BALCONIES THE WANTED AND JUSTIN BIEBER CAUSED EXCITEMENT. IN TELEVISION, ANTI-HEROES DIED, AND WE FELT THE LOSS AS OF A REAL FRIEND, AS WITH WALTER WHITE OR SGT. N. BRODY.  IN FICTION, BEST-SELLING AUTHORS DAN BROWN AND JK ROWLING CONTINUED TO SELL THEIR BOOKS LIKE BIBLES. AND A CANADIAN WON THE NOBEL PRIZE. MORE WIDELY, PEOPLE OF GREAT MORAL FIBRE, LIKE MALALA, POPE FRANCIS, AND EDWARD SNOWDEN, VARIOUSLY REMINDED US HOW THE HUMAN SPIRIT SOARS BEST WHEN MOST ENGAGED IN BRAVE WORK TO IMPROVE THE WORLD.  HOWEVER, EYEWEAR IS ABOUT TO DISCOUNT ALL THIS, AND MORE, AND INSTEAD NAME A CRASS, OBESE, VULGAR AND DOLTISH CANA…

NYUL Reading Poems

I recently read with some undergraduate students at New York University in London, based in Bloomsbury, and was taken by their talent, energy and performance ability.  Here are four poems by four of the five poets who I read with that night.  The fifth is currently reworking the poems they read.  Maybe later.


ANDREW KARPAN
Andrew Karpan is in his second year at New York University.

London

Waiting in the cue in Pentonville. Hearing me, begins: “You’re not from here, are you?” Genuine gut post-colonial interest; can’t help asking
“No, no, you got to go to south London.” She’s been here a while: wants to help, Breasts diligently seeming to pop right out of her shirt. She’s a humanitarian; I listen attentively. The same voice teaches elementary school kids in Croydon. “That’s the real London.”
Drinks: tequila shots, and a pint of the cheapest beer I can find for her. Upstairs: I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor. I try to impress her, screaming sets of clever words. But they spill out, all across Dir…

EYEWEAR'S PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST

Ephemeralistswill want to know who Eyewear blog felt was the "Personality of the Year".  To be shortlisted HERE, the person(s) must have been a meme or near-meme, and in some other way made a huge impact on the cultural, and pop cultural, mediascape, either by achieving or enduring something, killing people, or dying.

Think thousands of tweets, jokes, comments, headlines, and even poems, generated, by these people, some fictional. So, we are mainly thinking here of actors, musicians, political figures, spies, trend-setters, and, of course, writers. Recourse was made to the BBC, to Time magazine, NME, Q, The Guardian, the FT, The Sunday Times, and various other news and culture sources online and off.  Poets, by their nature under the radar, did not make it onto this list, sadly, except in the person of James Franco.


ANDY MURRAY
ALICE MUNRO ARCTIC MONKEYS
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
CARLOS DANGER COREY MONTEITH
DAN BROWN DAVID BOWIE DONNA TARTT
DR WHO EDWARD SNOWDEN HAIM
HUGO CHAVEZ IDRIS ELBA
IRO…

TEN KEY MOMENTS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE POETRY IN 2013

2013 was a very good year for poetry, and also, in some ways, a sad year.



Here are Eyewear's ten key events, publications, or poets, of the year, from an English-language - AND British blog - perspective.  I offer the headlines alone.  You can fill in the blanks.

1. GEOFFREY HILL PUBLISHES HIS COLLECTED POEMS.

2. SEAMUS HEANEY DIES.

3. HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN INVITES HUNDREDS OF POETS TO BUCKINGHAM PALACE.

4. POETRY MAGAZINE IN AMERICA GETS A NEW EDITOR DON SHARE.

5. CHARLES BERNSTEIN PUBLISHES RECALCULATING.

6. HELEN MORT SHORTLISTED FOR TS ELIOT PRIZE AND THE COSTA.

7. PATRICIA SMITH WINS THE LENORE MARSHALL POETRY PRIZE.

8. MATTHEW DICKMAN ARRIVES IN UK ON TWO LEADING MAGAZINE COVERS IN ONE MONTH.

9. DAVID SHOOK TRIES TO GET A POETRY DRONE OFF THE GROUND.

10. EMILY BERRY DEBUTS WITH FABER, WINS FORWARD.

note: other events that would have made a possible top 15 would include SALT STOPS PUBLISHING POETRY LIST; STARNINO COVER STORY IN CV2 IGNITES CONTROVERSY; DANIEL HOFFMAN DIES; STAG'S LEA…

THE EYEWEAR MICRO-CANON

V Clay wrote to us recently here at the blog: 'It doesn't help with the critical  terms and tools, but something can be done about the canon - at least on a micro scale. For example, what would be Eyewear's five "genuinely useful to have read" collections between 2001-2010? Selection would not imply endorsement of quality or taste necessarily, but would provide people with the opportunity to shape their own opinions on a manageable number of writers... And whilst an attempt to define any sort of a canon by one blogger might run the risk of egotism, there may also be readers who are looking to be able to have the common reference points that the article above makes clear the lack of.'

For the sake of clarity, here are SIX genuinely useful to read poetry collections published between 2001-2010 that any self-respecting poetry editor, poetry critic, or poetry reader interested in British poetry would want to be familiar with and wouldn't want to do wit…

GUEST REVIEW: OLDHAM ON NI CHONCHUIR

Andrew Oldham reviews Nuala Ni Chonchuir The Juno Charm
Many authors and poets have dealt with dissolution of a marriage; it is territory that asks one to tread carefully and honestly. However, couple this with pregnancy loss – ‘I will visit the rag tree at Clonfert,/pin a baby’s soother to its trunk,’ (taken from ‘An Unlucky Woman’) and fertility struggles – ‘then, after three months,/the heartsick, two-letter slip,/from foetal to fatal’ (taken from ‘Foetal’) and you have something born from pain and loss that is both honest, beautiful and with a sense of gestation. This is how The Juno Charm reads, it is not an exploration of the cerebral, it is demise and growth of one woman’s body, emotions and marriages. It would be deplorable to say that any marriage is purely based on thought, there is a distinct lack of thought in many marriages, ‘You say I am more/canal than river’ (taken from ‘Airwaves’). That the truth of how many relationships collapse can come from the most mundane moments i…

THE GREAT COLIN WILSON HAS DIED

Colin Wilson, the strange English writer, novelist, researcher and intellectual, whose early life was marked by a meteoric rise to fame, had to endure a very long and serious decline in reputation - basically 60 years of critical neglect, even mockery. In death, he was equally unlucky, from the viewpoint of posterity - his death was December 5, 2013 ironically - the same day that Nelson Mandela died. Ironic, because Wilson was fascinated by human greatness, and how it could be achieved by optimism and strong will - surely hallmarks of Mandela's life.

As such, almost no British media, TV, radio, or papers, reported his death in the period just after his death (it is now several days without even news online covering it).  It will be interesting to see if the nationals eventually run mocking obituaries, or if some sort of decency will prevail.  I wrote many years back at Nthposition THE CASE FOR COLIN WILSON, and I stand by it.  I corresponded with him by email, and sent him this lin…

NELSON MANDELA

Eyewear is just a wee blog, and its editor is not a political scientist.  When we weigh in, here, on world matters, we do so as amateurs.  I have no insider knowledge of Nelson Mandela, the great political visionary who has sadly died.  I can only listen, read, watch, reflect, on what the media tells me.  I first heard of Mandela in the 1980s, via songs by the likes of Simple Minds.  The idea then was to free the man.  Then, when he was freed, there was great joy, and expectation.  The expectation was warranted.  The prisoner, famously became the president, and he was, by all accounts a merciful and kind leader, refusing revenge on his former captors.  Indeed, listening to Dr Rowan Williams today on Radio 4, BBC, it struck me that Mandela, in a quiet way, was the greatest Christian of our era - the person who best embodied Christ's near-impossible dictum, to turn the other cheek.  If only.  So few of us can do it on a crowded tube journey, in our marriages, at work, let alone on t…

IQ AND THE POETS - ARE YOU SMART?

When you open your mouth to speak, are you smart?  A funny question from a great song, but also, a good one, when it comes to poets, and poetry. We tend to have a very ambiguous view of intelligence in poetry, one that I'd say is dysfunctional.  Basically, it goes like this: once you are safely dead, it no longer matters how smart you were.  For instance, Auden was smarter than Yeats, but most would still say Yeats is the finer poet; Eliot is clearly highly intelligent, but how much of Larkin's work required a high IQ?  Meanwhile, poets while alive tend to be celebrated if they are deemed intelligent: Anne Carson, Geoffrey Hill, and Jorie Graham, are all, clearly, very intelligent people, aside from their work as poets.  But who reads Marianne Moore now, or Robert Lowell, smart poets? Or, Pound?  How smart could Pound be with his madcap views?

Less intelligent poets are often more popular.  John Betjeman was not a very smart poet, per se.  What do I mean by smart?  Well, I supp…