Monday, 27 February 2006

Review: Munich

Spielberg's Munich isn't as good as some claim, but it is still a very good film. Rather than read the film in terms of its "deep message" I want to refer to its surface pleasures, in this instance, its visual texture, which, in terms of mise-en-scene, film stock, and lighting, evokes classic early 70s police procedural dramas, like Fred Zinneman's late masterpiece, The Day Of The Jackal.

Spielberg would have many reasons for wanting to pay homage to this director, not least because he made the liberal classic High Noon, which, in terms of burying political comment beneath a Hollywood-genre form, prefigures much of Spielberg's own recent filmography.

The Jackal - arguably the greatest assassination thriller ever made (a riveting sub-genre including The Manchurian Candidate, The Dead Zone, and In The Line of Fire) - features the wonderful sad-faced French actor Michael Lonsdale (also known for being Drax in Bond) as the ever-determined flic Lebel (pictured here). In Munich, he returns, in a bizarre cameo as a patriarch who sells secrets to all non-governmental villains.

One note, Spielberg has filmed mostly on location in Budapest, which is noticeable, especially when Bp. tries to double as London. At first I found this poor form, but after awhile, the shabby subterfuge created a uni-Euro look that captures the right 70s aesthetic.

Saturday, 25 February 2006

Ingratitude, or The Attitude of Ingrates, or Greatness?

Lisa King Has Died

Poet Lisa King, a member of the 1993 National Championship Slam Team and an individual Boston Slam Champion has passed away at her home in Sommerville, MA. She was 45 and will be sadly missed. The performance poetry community is in shock.

The initial report was that she had died from heart failure sometime over the course of the recent blizzard in the Northeast (USA). Lisa had also been coping with a debilitating back injury for several years.

Historic Recording for Oxfam

On Friday, February 24, the largest single gathering of famous and popular British and Irish poets for one recording session occured - with readings for an Oxfam CD, and a Talking Book for the blind. The event was conceived and planned by me, with the support of Martin Penny and Su Lycett of Oxfam, and help on the day from New York writer Thaddeus Rutkowski.

The day was mostly a huge success - from mad-genius John Hegley (pictured here) bringing along his tuba-playing partner, to legends Al Alvarez, Dannie Abse and Alan Brownjohn reuniting after decades, to young rising stars like Nick Laird, Owen Sheers, Annie Freud and Patience Agbabi performing their fresh new work.

The assembled poets agreed it was the most impressive single gathering of poets in one room for a recording in British poetry's history.

The 52 poets in attendance - including Wendy Cope, George Szirtes, Pam Ayres, Eric Ormsby, Jo Shapcott, Jamie McKendrick, Helen Farish, David Harsent, Sophie Hannah, Alan Jenkins, and many many more - who came from across the UK, and some as far as Italy and Galway for the day, spilled out into the usually quiet, calm halls of the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Camden Talking Books state-of-the-art recording studio, and recorded over 100 poems in a frenzied marathon between 10 am-5 pm, in two very busy studios.

One engineer, Dale, said it "was mad" to bring so many talents in on one day. Poet Laureate Andrew Motion read his masterpiece on visiting Anne Frank's House, and Mario Petrucci read a new poem written especially for the day.

Friday, 24 February 2006

Third Anniversary of 100 Poets Against The War

It was on February 24, 2003, that Salt (Cambridge, UK) published the printed version of Nthposition's oft-imitated, never-bettered "100 Poets Against The War" series of electronic anthologies - making it the fastest ever poetry book, in terms of conception, to writing, to editing, to publishing (less than a month). It was described as "the 21st century's most controversial and talked about e-book".

Val Stevenson's pioneered the use of the Internet for copy-left publishing, and political activism, and the whole world took notice, with The Times reporting 250,000 downloads of our e-books in 3 weeks alone. The Guardian described it as "a remarkable anthology" and The Times said it was "a new lease of life for protest poetry".

The books are still available for download at Nthposition, or at from Salt.

Three years later, the illegal war's consequences are still being felt, and Tony Blair's spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, has admitted, in an essay for AOL, that he and Blair are computer-illiterate neanderthals who had never used email or the Internet at that time. No wonder the Labour government so tragically missed the message.

But how did they miss the millions marching in the streets?

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Work of Genius or Rogue K.O. - if New?

So my anagram wasn't very good.

But this electronic book, The Holy Tango of Literature, by Francis Heaney, who may be pictured here to the right (unless this is someone else with the same name) now making its way across the Internet, just may revive interest in poetry, and linguistic wit.

It is certainly, to my mind, the most brilliant light verse written by an American since Ogden Nash.

The link is here:

The idea is simple, take an anagram of a poet or playwright's name, and turn it in to the title of a work they never wrote, and then write one in their style. In terms of constraints and wordplay-complexity, it renders all former forms of literary spoof tame dull stuff.

For instance, Heaney gives us:


Call the roll for the majority whip,
The wispy one, and bid him vote
On autumn leaves' numismatic worth.
Let committees dawdle in the glen
As they are wont to do, and let their aides
Weave flowers through broken lute strings.
Let vetos float amid the spheres.
The only senator is the senator of pointy ears.

Take from the closet of lark,
Lacking a three-piece suit, the vest
On which are embroidered fairy songs
To while away the hours of debate.
If a porcine clause appear, a spell
Will make a rider say farewell.
Let the world keep its frontiers.
The only senator is the senator of pointy ears.

(please note, this is presented as a sample of the book, which I encourage you to buy at )

Monday, 20 February 2006

Poets For Oxfam Winter Reading Tomorrow


Peter Porter
Liane Strauss
Esther Morgan
Owen Sheers
Jane Yeh
Thaddeus Rutkowski
Myra Schneider

91 Marylebone High Street, London W1 (near Baker Street tube)
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
7-10 pm

Admission free - all donations gratefully accepted
All proceeds to Oxfam

Review: Good Night, And Good Luck

Let me say a few things about Clooney's fine grave depiction of CBS TV News and Edward R. Murrow.

1. I finally get the X-Files inversion with "The Smoking Man" - since Murrow was the original anti-conspiratorial government chain-smoking good guy.

2. Many of the scenes pay gentle homage to Kane. Especially the scene where Murrow types his "Shakesperean" riposte to McCarthy, which mirrors the Jedidiah is too drunk to write a glowing review scene.

3. How old is Frank Langella? He is superb at this stage of his careeer.

4. Murrow's tragedy is reflected in his smoking. Just as the man at the heart of TV condemns its cancerous corruption by tocix corporate control, he chain-smokes the Kents he peddles to stay on the (polluted) air. His insight, that TV is just wires and lights without ethics and social concern, fails to get to the heart of the problem: TV is just a delivery system for commodities and commodification. Murrow, who knew what communism was and avoided its solutions, ironically misdiagnosed his own condition - TV can never be improved so long as the capitalist society that directs its broadcasts remains a system for maximixing profit at the expense of the social good.

Friday, 17 February 2006

Poem by Andrew Steinmetz

Eyewear welcomes fellow-Montreal-born Andrew Steinmetz to its glossy pages this Friday, especially as his poem furthers our "barber" theme from last week's feature (and also happily echoes the conceit of an early poem of mine).

Steinmetz was born in Montreal in 1965. He is the author of a memoir, Wardlife: The Apprenticeship of a Young Writer as a Hospital Clerk (Véhicule Press, 1999) and two collections of poetry, Histories (Signal Editions, Véhicule Press, 2001) and Hurt Thyself (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005).

Wardlife was short listed for the 2000 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction as well as for the 2000 Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) First Book Award and Mavis Gallant Prize for non-fiction. Histories was short-listed for the 2001 QWF A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

As a singer-songwriter, he performed and recorded with Weather Permitting and Good Cookies, two indie rock bands.

Presently he is the editor of Esplanade Books, the fiction imprint at Véhicule Press. He lives in Ottawa.

Only The Barber

Only the barber
is amused
by these roots of free verse.
Because we are birds
of the same feather.
Laughing, he splits hairs.
Comb in lips, he squeezes my bangs
so I look like some school girl in barrettes.

Our eyes migrate out the window,
they meet, then dive
into the mirror.
Scissors up his sleeve,
he flutters into rhyme.
In the salon, he knows what to cut
and what to leave
in quatrains on the floor.

poem by Andrew Steinmetz
reprinted with permission of McGill-Queen's University Press

The Eva That Is Done Under The Sun

The James Bond franchise seems to have finally got their act together. They've done what they used to do so well: talent scout on the continent for lesser-known, compelling character actors with magnificent faces and sterling resumes.

After scurrying to try and cast leading ladies like Mulholland-to-Kong starlet du jour Naomi Watts (on the QT, a favoured figure at Eyewear), they have snatched up perhaps the best of all possible Bond Girls (following on from the Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ) - French stunner Eva Green, pictured here, known for slightly-implausible Bertolucci flick The Dreamers and ill-attended (though good) Kingdom of Heaven actioner where she was ravishing in Jerusalem. Green will play Vesper Lynd, to craggy Daniel Craig's jury's-still-out Bond.

Meanhwile, they dumped their Bollywood villain to go with one of Euro-cinema's most-respected young thesps, the typographically-challenged great Dane, Mads Mikkelsen, seen here above brooding like a bad-Hamlet, who has made a real mark in Denmark's art-houses. His work in Pusher put him on the map, and his uber-male look will easily match Mr. Craig's. May the best man win.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Barbara Guest Has Died

Sad news. One of America's significant poets of the last century has died.

For more information on her life, see the link below, and also Jacket.

Poem by Guest:

Rain Taxi review of a book by Guest:

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Larkin Attic

Philip Larkin, pictured above, one of England's greatest poets since Hardy, and arguably, after Empson, the least in terms of actual output, has come back from the grave - just in time for a new ban (this time not on Lady Chatterley but cigarettes in pubs) - in the form of voice recordings found in a desolate attic. I have an image of someone bursting in.

At any rate, this is jolly good news, and I can't wait to hear them. I have always had a Larkin fetish (I say fetish because it is slightly seedy to adore Larkin's work as much as I do. I like the fact he published collections spaced about a decade apart - '45, '55, '64, '74, and each one of them was arguably the most exciting book of their decade).

I'll have to figure out a way to get one for Oxfam, too, come to think of it...

In the meantime, here's the article from The Telegraph:

Unknown Larkin tapes found in attic
By Chris Hastings (Filed: 12/02/2006)

Unheard tapes of Philip Larkin reading some of his most famous works have been found in the attic of one of his closest friends.

The discovery of the recordings, made by Larkin in a makeshift studio in 1980, are being hailed as one of the most significant literary finds in recent years.

On the tapes, Larkin, who refused the title of poet laureate, reads 25 of his favourite poems, including three from his first important collection The North Ship, which was published in 1945.
It had been thought that the poet, who died of throat cancer aged 63 in 1985, never recorded any of the works from this collection.

Larkin also reads selections from The Less Deceived, published in 1955, The Whitsun Weddings, 1964, and High Windows, 1974.

The tapes, which have been authenticated by both the Society of Authors and The Philip Larkin Society, were produced in the converted garage of John Weeks, a former BBC sound engineer who met the poet while they were working at the University of Hull.

Mr Weeks, who died in 1995, made hundreds of tapes about life in the seaside town of Hornsea, near Hull, where he lived.

The Larkin recordings were found after Mr Week's widow Molly asked her son Peter to catalogue the collection. "I knew my father knew Larkin but I had no idea about the tapes. I am sure they have never been heard outside the garage," he said.

Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, who is one of Larkin's literary executors, welcomed the discovery. He said: "I didn't realise he had made any recordings from The North Ship so this is a significant find."

Friday, 10 February 2006

Poem By Ros Barber

Eyewear has always liked barbers, with their scissors and brio. But not just the kind from Seville. Some of the best are poets (see "Albanese Barber Shop"). Therefore, it is a pleasure to welcome Ros Barber (see photo) this Friday.

Barber is a prize-winning poet (Writers Inc Poet of the Year 2000, runner up in the National Poetry Competition 1987, 1997, 1999) and short story writer (Independent on Sunday Short Story Comp 1997, Asham Award 1999).

Her first collection of poetry, How Things Are On Thursday (Anvil) was hailed as "beautifully crafted" (Orbis) and "an enjoyable and satisfying read" (The North). Ian McMillan, of Radio 3's The Verb, recently dubbed her "the Poet Laureate of the South Coast".

She has been poet in residence in Herne Bay, on the Isle of Sheppey, in a dilapidated block of flats, at a barber shop, and at Arts Council England. Having also published "Not the Usual Grasses Singing" from her Sheppey residency, she is currently working on her second collection for Anvil.

Her site and witty blog, Shallowland, can be found at: &

The following is the pivotal poem in the sequence of seven sonnets she wrote about Embassy Court, in Brighton, where the building's fate was compared to that of a once-beautiful woman:

What Happens To Women

It’s what happens to women, no matter who you are.
Divine inside? They’ll only see the face.
It’s coming, despite your warmth, your grit, your heart –
the sudden shift from beauty, to disgrace.
A light snapped off, and you’re gone. You’re in the dark.
No-one can see you now. You are unglued,
for while you slept, the world took you softly apart.
Now man after man walks through the ghost of you.

On a morning like any other, she wakes to find
her lover moved out, and all her admirers gone
from her steps, as if with one breath, one mind,
they abandoned their roses there like skeletons.
A half-penned love note stutters towards the sea,
embarrassed, undoing its ‘love’, and ‘dear’, and ‘we’.

poem by Ros Barber

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

In Praise Of Older Movies

American Gigolo, directed by Paul Schrader, who had earlier written the screenplay for seminal 70s film, Taxi Driver, initiates the 80s, and, 26 years later, looks (and screens) better than ever. With a hyper-cool Moroder/ Blondie soundtrack, Armani fashion, Scarfiotti's lush design (he'd done Last Tango In Paris) and the best-looking actors of the era (Gere and Hutton) it is a lost or at least undervalued classic.

I'd argue several things to contextualize the film, and reassert its value as more than pop culture curio, or naff guilty pleasure:

1. Schrader's script brilliantly (and clearly) inverts Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, to explore his central characters (a whore, a nihilistic rich person, a detective) and discuss ideas of overcoming morality, admitting sin (or "kink" as it is called here) or ultimately accepting grace, forgiveness, love;

2. The mise-en-scene mirrors and revises both the film noir aesthetic (now in lurid neon greens and pinks and turqoises, retaining the slats of venetian blind lighting - as in Blade Runner) and its antecedents, up to and including Chinatown, and prefigures and makes formally redundant Less Than Zero, beginning the 80s genre of the erotic thriller.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Review: Hidden

Hidden (Cache) by Haneke, is a great film.

However, in this time of great debate - conflict - between West and Islam, over visual depiction, the film takes on a sombre, further reflective surface, a layer, as its forensic examination of the idea of what is an image, what a memory, and what a history - in terms of pain, regret, and finally, repressed desire - is further determined by the political mistreatment of Algerians at the hands of not just French police, or policy, but French society as a whole.

Hidden is very much what would happen if Alfred met Edward (Hitch and Said) - a hybrid genre-piece that plays with voyeurism and visual dread, as much as with the idea of the orientalized other - indeed, terror here is figured explicitly as the other (not fear of the other, but the other itself, just as, for Sartre, hell was other people).

Seeing is terror, then - and so is being seen, observed. Therefore, the most shocking scenes of violence, of violation, which occur in this hyper-real film (and when, where, how are they seen is key) - on many textured levels (and they are up there with the tromped on eye of Chien Andalou in terms of cutting and editing) - to reiterate, the most shocking scenes - are from an other, to an other.

Terror is what is done to us by someone else, or is it what we do to someone else - or the uncanny film between.

Mediating between a literary culture, and a visual one (see image above), between man and woman, son and mother, and friend or foe, this is one of the most hurtful and enigmatic essays on the re-run of the repressed (not a typo) - the unconsicous as a video, a TV show, the mind a tape that can unwind, rewind, unravel, and wound.

Friday, 3 February 2006

End Of An Era

Smash Hits is no more.

The greatest pop music mag for teens ever, and the one that introduced me to handsome crooner Rick Astley (see above) - a perennial favourite guilty pleasure - has ceased printing.

It'll reappear online, in a new form more friendly to a digital age. Never gonna give you up... not true, today.

Internet killed the video star, indeed.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

My Great Great Great Grandfather's Obituary

From The Gentleman's Magazine (1829, p. 373).


1828 - In India, aged 46, Lieut-Colonel William Dickson, commanding the 7th regiment of Bengal Cavalry at Kernaul in the Upper Provinces.

This gentleman was the eldest son of the late Thomas Dickson, esq. of Southampton and by his mother descended from Col. Gardiner, who was killed at the head of his regiment at Preston Pans in 1745 and whose "Confessions" are well known.

Col. Dickson entered the Army of the East Indies in 1802; he was particularly noticed by General Lake in the general orders of 24 Oct, 1804, for his gallant conduct at the seige of Delhi where he was present as a Lieutenant in the 2nd battle of the 14th regiment, as well as on other occassions; and he was twice severely wounded.

For several years afterwards, the management of one of the principal stud departments was entrusted to his superintendence. His merits as a cavalry officer were well known and appreciated by the government; and a very few months before his death, the highest eulogians were passed on his meritious conduct and the discipline of his regiment by Lord Combermore. Col Dickson was moreover a man of considerable literary attainments; he was of cheerful disposition, temperate in his habits, a strict disciplinarian but conciliatory, and kind to those under his command, a warm and zealous friend, and an indulgent and affectionate husband and father.

Having nearly completed his period of service, Col. Dickson was on the eve of returning to England, when his life was suddenly terminated by a violent fever. His remains were interred the day after his death, with the highest military honours, the General commanding the station and all the troops attending. The Colonel is the third brother who has fallen in the military service of the East India Company; one survives, the present Peter Dickson, esq. of Southampton. Their mother is still living, at an advanced age. Col. Dickson was married early, and has left a widow and several children.


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...