Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2014

EYEWEAR'S TOP FILM AND TV IN 2014

Eyewear can't see everything, even with our x-ray specs.

We loved House of Cards, Homeland, The AmericansHelix, Halt And Catch Fire, Gone Girl, and a bunch of other TV shows and movies, from The Grand Budapest Hotel to The Lego Movie to The Drop, The Equalizer, Deliver Us From Evil and The Giver to Interstellar to Guardians of the Galaxy to Peter Jackson's rip-roaring final Hobbit film; as well as the creepy voyeurism/news satirical thriller Nightcrawler (with a great turn by Rene Russo).  Not to mention the impeccable yet odd homage to 80s erotic thrillers/slasher/actioner films, The Guest, the year's guiltiest pleasure. Another fine film was Belfast-based thriller '71, with an impeccable recreation of a visual and film stock style from 40 years ago. Locke, with Tom Hardy, our favourite new actor, was a brilliant one-hander, a sort of 2001: A Birmingham-London Odyssey. Not to mention The Imitation Game, Birdman, and Whiplash (all good but over-rated).

EYEWEAR BEST ACT…

SOME MOVIES, TV SHOWS, MUSIC AND POETRY BOOKS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2015

Here is a list of 20 of the movies, TV shows, music pop albums, and poetry books that Eyewear, the blog is most looking forward to (we aren't of course hyping our own amazing list of forthcoming poetry books here):

MOVIES

We speak here of UK release dates...

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - what's not to like? The sexiest actor out there today, Tom Hardy, filling in for Gibson, in George Miller's near-silent master-class in silent dusty roads to death.

SPECTRE - Well, it's the next James Bond, and it may have Blofeld in it, and some Alp skiing action. Skyfall was over-rated, and had some odd problems in continuity, but it had intelligent design and acting.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - I would be lying if I didn't say this better be good, and just may be amazing.  The last three films were rubbish, but we have a new start here. Exciting, frankly.

BIRDMAN - Apparently the movie of the year, we enjoy great come-backs, and this one has one of the most startling in Michael Keaton's…

3300

Eyewear, the blog is on the cusp of greatness - it enters its tenth year in 2015 as the longest-running personally-edited British poetry blog.  A decade of posts.  Wow.  This is the 3,300th.  Enjoy.

SAFE TO FLY?

As we know, flying is the safest form of rapidly crossing vast distances (especially oceans, mountain ranges, jungles, forests, deserts, and the poles). Millions of people fly every year, and only a few thousand die in hull losses (crashes). However, as we also know, 2014 was the most deadly in a decade.

Every time a billionaire airline company owner weeps in sorrow, or tweets in joy at a miraculous disaster averted, they avoid the ugly truth - commercial passenger aviation is based on a table of profit and losses, whereby some deaths and accidents are factored in, in advance.  If you don't build and fly airliners, people can't die in them, so obviously, so long as planes are not 100% safe (they are only 99.999% safe), the airlines are culpable, like tobacco companies, for some of the deaths, indirectly, perhaps only ethically. You cannot throw 400 people into the sky ten thousand times a day and then act surprised when some fall down and die.

No, we all accept, rather cruelly, …

DISTANT READING

"Close Reading" is the term for a technique often used to read poems, or poetry that was instigated in the 1920s at Cambridge by several critics; and though it tends to be questioned now, most poetry book reviewers, and even most poetry critics, do, at least sometimes, read poems from a close reading perspective. And that's fine.

But I wish to assay something else, also, now.  Imagine if we only discussed the weather in Britain - the storm fronts, the cloud banks, the gale force winds, the light and heavy rains, even the snow - in terms of individual snowflakes or pellets of rain.  It wouldn't do - instead, we generalise; draw expansive maps, and look at much larger forces.

If one sees each poem as a drop of rain, or perhaps one weather event on one day, then by stepping back, we see a broader picture emerge.  Heaney as a warm summer breeze; Larkin as a squall.  This is not meant to be apt, just a lightness of touch.  But the idea is there - what is the distant reading…

EYEWEAR BEST BOOKS AND POETRY OF 2014!

End of the year best of lists are, as we know, vaguely suspect.  They are riddled with cronyism, laziness, neglect, partiality, bias, improvisation, ego, incompleteness, and general lassitude.  It is literally impossible (that is, I defy you to prove scientifically it is possible) to survey (in short, read) every book of poetry, every poem, every magazine, published in the English-speaking world. However, what is the point in giving up? 

A while back, a metaphor was introduced, that of the "Internet surfer" - it suggested a sort of skilled adroit yet reckless conquest (albeit very brief) of the unconquerable and impossibly vast - we surf the oceanic forces at our peril, but touchingly so, because humans can at times rise above nature's vast impervious strength. That is an artistry of the body and mind, but Internet and more broadly, magpie cultural surfing - that pick and mix mash-up hybridity that has become the default position of most artists these days (think of St Vi…

SOME OF THE POETS WHO HAVE DIED IN 2014

Below, sadly, are the names of some of the poets - writing in all languages, living around the world - who died in 2014.

Most are widely-published, and were beloved figures; a few were more "obscure"; one or two were best known as performance poets. One is a quasi-fictional figure (Mayall).  All were linked to poetry in their obituaries this year.  A few I counted as friends.

Every death is terrible; the death of a poet no more or less than another's, except in how it closes the conversation that poet had with life and the world - from then on, all we have is what they were able to say, to write, to compose, to edit, to erase, to publish, while alive.

Poets are not always the easiest people to love while living - but once they become their words, their books, they become loveable.  Larkin is the best example.

But there are many others.  I wish these poets posthumous readers.  And to their family and friends, students and colleagues, peers and readers, I offer condolences. I …

THE SWIFT REPORT 2014

2014 seems like a very long year, and, like many moments of crisis, it is an event in two halves. My Swift Report is necessarily personal, even, it may appear, egoistic, or egotistical.  This is in the nature of such posts.  I can make no apology for this, the genre I am writing in here is memoir, specifically, a brief summary of "my" year.  It is not, for example, a history of the year from the perspective of murdered young men in America; or victims of the mysterious plane crash; or the horrid Ukraine conflict; or a story of the victims of the Taliban; nor a jocular discussion of the adventures of Hollywood actors. It is not a story of Ebola victims or doctors, Winter Olympians, World Cup losers and victors, the struggles of Man United, or the return of Simple Minds.  It is not a lament for the rise of the right, or the decline of the book.  In short, to reiterate, it is not a story of all of 2014 (if such were even possible), but of whatever the word "me" can me…

MERRY CHRISTMAS POSTER!

ARCHBISHOP JUSTIN WELBY ON DESERT ISLAND DISCS

I was very moved today to listen to Archbishop Justin Welby on BBC Radio 4's famous Desert Island Discs. What comes across - and I cannot say I agree with all of his theological positions - is a highly-intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive person - who reflects upon the mysteries of faith, the afterlife, and injustice (as we might expect) - bringing to bear upon his duties the full weight of a proper 21st century education. Further, his unhappy childhood with an alcoholic father means that he is never merely a happy story, but a complex one.  He knows sorrow, as all of us do.  However, so close to Christmas, the over-arching message is this - it is feasible to be a fully-intelligent, well-rounded human being, and to still believe in the good news of Jesus Christ.  At a time of radical well-organised doubt and antagonism towards religion, this is a welcome gift, from the BBC.

TOLKIEN ABOUT JACKSON

Very little art is pure - most art, as TS Eliot observed in a famous essay - is a response to something of the past - and the relationship between individual talent and tradition is a fascinating, febrile and often festive one. Peter Jackson's film-making talent is obvious, but neither is it startling original (not that it need be). However, the Tolkien estate has openly decried the impurities the filmic adaptations of Tolkien's best-known books seem to have introduced. This is nonsense.

Professor Tolkien was an amiable and brilliant eccentric, who borrowed almost all his best ideas from the ancient and medieval myths and legends of the Germanic, Norse, and Judaeo-Christian cultures (sometimes these overlap). He borrowed a great deal, as well, from Wagner's cycle, The Ring, including the idea of dwarves obsessed with gold. What was new was that Tolkien saw the evil of the Nazi-German powers, and so created an especially English, anglophile response to the foreign legends, i…

UNHOLY WAR

I have been reading the Oxford philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny's lucid, at times startling, and always thought-clarifying book What I Believe (2006) the last few days.  His chapter 'War' is particularly helpful to me in formulating my response to the murder of many schoolchildren the other day in Pakistan. Kenny observes that there are only a few arguments for just war, and that for many centuries Muslim and Christian theologians were mainly on the same page; a just war had limits, and a clear one was (and remains) the rejection of the killing of innocent non-combatants. Holy wars, as Kenny observes, however, conducted by Muslims and especially Christians, have tended to be unjust, in the sense that the killing of civilians was often excused, or encouraged, on religious grounds he (I think rightly) concludes are ill-founded in reason; and few other wars have been "just" through and through.

The decision by "Taliban" fighters to kill a hundred or more child…

IGOR ISAKOVSKI HAS DIED

Sad news, the energetic poet, novelist, publisher, editor, book designer, translator and friend to many poets globally, Igor Isakovski, has died suddenly of a heart attack, the other day. I include a poem from his recent collection below (translated into English), a photo of the poet, and a recent biographic note.  He had translated my work, and published it in Macedonian.

IGOR ISAKOVSKI. Born 19.09.1970, in Skopje, Macedonia. Died 15.12.2014, in Skopje, Macedonia. He took a BA in World and Comparative Literature, Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia. MA in Gender and Culture, CEU, Budapest, Hungary. He was completing doctoral studies at the Sts. Cyril and Methodius University. He was founder and director of the Cultural Institution Blesok where he worked as editor-in-chief since 1998.

Published books: Letters (1991, novel), Black Sun (1992, poetry), Explosions, Pregnant Moon, Eruptions... (1993, short stories), Vulcan – Earth – (1995, poetry), – Sky (1996, 2000, poet…

250,000 PAGE VIEWS IN 2014!

GREAT NEWS! Eyewear, the Blog, has averaged around a quarter of a million page views in 2014 - as it has done, more or less, since 2005.  That's over 2 million page views over a decade so far!

THE 20 BEST TRACKS OF 2014 AT YEAR'S END.

We've had great pop, indie, dance, rock and soul songs in 2014 from the likes of David Bowie, and bombast from U2, and new ideas from Prince, new rare pathos from Stevie Nicks, comebacks from Billy Idol and Echo and the Bunnymen, and mournful Beck... and none of these makes our ultimate top 20 of tracks from 2014 you can locate on Spotify (UK) - sorry Morrissey. Here is our countdown, with three-word reviews. Tell Eyewear what you think.

1. 2: 54 - 'The Monaco' - indie pop heaven.
2. Alvvays - 'Archie, Marry Me' - smartest summer track.
3. Banks - 'Begging For Thread' - dark sexy pop.
4. Charlie XCX - 'Boom Clap' - big breakthrough hit.
5. Childhood - 'Right Beneath Me' - the new Smiths.
6. Dum Dum Girls - 'Rimbaud Eyes' - pitch-perfect 80s retro.
7. Ella Henderson - 'Ghost' - uplifting radio moment.
8. Fat White Family - Touch The Leather' - creepy twisted indie.
9. Foxes - 'Glorious' - as title suggests.
10. Lana del Rey

NEW POEM BY ZACHARY BOS

On Governor Nixon’s Advice


Ferguson is the Great Society writ large
           Roger L. Simon


Despite the bitter news we woke up to
   I am determined to maintain my faith
that hate shall subside and peace will prevail.

Be reasonable. That's all folks have to do:
   Stay calm, let America heal. (So saith
this white boy, joking when a man should howl.)

                         25 xi 14 new poem by Zachary Bos

SUSAN GRINDLEY HAS DIED

Sad news. The British poet Susan Grindley (pictured) has died of cancer, on Thursday. She was the author of New Reader, a pamphlet from Rack Press, and had poems in many magazines, anthologies and online journals, including Nthposition, when I was editor.  Susan was a regular presence for many years on the London poetry scene, where she read, and attended many events in support of others. Susan was born in Essex but lived most of her life in Hackney. She was shortlisted for the Larkin and West Riding Poetry Prize and the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize and read at literary festivals including the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Ledbury Poetry Festival. A full collection remains to appear, but I hope that in time one can be compiled and readied for a press. She was a lovely person and will be much missed.

Zonal PelargoniumsCall them geraniums, everybody does,
these are the ones with round, frilled leaves
marked like targets, creased like fans.
I found them in the bath – easier t…

JOHN ASFOUR HAS DIED, A PERSONAL OBITUARY BY ANN DIAMOND, CANADIAN WRITER

JOHN ASFOUR BY ANN DIAMOND

(Ann Diamond is one of Canada's most innovative and controversial poets and writers of the last 40 years).


I met John Asfour only a few times and never quite believed he was really blind. His default mood was always wry, ironic, gentle and dignified. Expansive in his silences, embracing and generous in his speech. At the cable TV station where we first met in the early 90s, he was seated with his white cane and dark glasses when I rushed in, sweating and flustered. "You look beautiful today, Ann!" -- and he grinned, pleased with his little joke.
I didn't know he had died. I hadn't seen him since a reading in 2011 when he lit the hall with poems of family, loss, emigration. By chance I was in the neighbourhood where we'd had lunch. Remembering that day, I realized I no longer had his number. I had a sudden gnawing sense it could be too late.
Coming home, I logged onto Facebook where, surreally, a notice scrolled down my feed.
Memorial Se…