Tuesday, 31 October 2006

In Search of God

John Humphrys, the BBC broadcaster, is in search of the elusive laurels of ultra-gravitas that descended on David Frost, the greatest media figure from the British isles (along with Malcolm Muggeridge and maybe Alistair Cooke). Last week he broadcast his morning radio reports from Iraq (the safer British zone) and this week his BBC recordings include in-depth discussion with religious leaders from various faiths, on the question of God.

I am always glad to hear intelligent debate on the issue of faith, especially as the UK is a startlingly atheistic (and perhaps not coincidentally often very selfish and materialist) society. However, Humphrys, who entered into dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury this morning, is the pouting answer to his own question.

Rowan Williams, the Anglican who speaks with the media man, is tentative, light of touch, profound, agile, and above all, immensely patient. Humphrys wades in like a ten-ton baby grand crashing down some spiral staircase into a hotel lobby. The approach is the answer to the question: is there a God?

But Humphrys is too thick to see it. Thick not with a lack of intelligence - but thick with himself. The media is such a cruel mistress - it gives so many layers of armour and so many luscious coats of honour to the self, that, despite its thin skin and surface delights, it often makes it difficult for a media personality to go truly naked.

So it is with Humphrys. Citing the usual examples of horror in the world (a child with cancer, Beslan, the Holocaust) he then ultimately asks: why can't I have faith like yours? A more sustained contemplation of the dialogue, one that could step out of the commonplace rituals of doubt, would no doubt note the egoism in the very asking of that question. Nothing wrong with a sincere hunger for faith - but Humphrys trots out tropes that every high school debater confronts (religion brings war, freedom is incompatible with God's power, etc). He is a ghost in the rhetoric.

I have noted a truth about God, one which those who cannot sense Her miss: God is where we least expect, when we least expect, and that is Her proof and value. In the last six months I have lost a grand-father, an uncle, and my father. This year alone, also, a young friend was struck down by a hit and run driver, and another is dying of cancer. My faith in God has not been (entirely) lost by these grim times.

Instead, life has deepened, considerably darkened, but its underlying seriousness and beauty, has, if anything, come into stark relief. To use a metaphor which may sound familiar, a November light has come in the window - at once more faint, at once more pure - and it is this note of faint but still-sustained beauty that is God in the world.

God is the despite, is the still, is the just about, is the almost - may even be simply the perhaps, or it could be. God is the barest sliver of hope, when all hope is gone. As such, it is a via negativa, and one's faith can only be fully sounded when the instrument one plays is beyond need, is denuded of the self - when one mourns not for one's own self, but for a greater love of another.

John Humphrys seems a good, capable, serious man who works in the British media. However, he should respect the sacred nature of the answers he seeks, enough to know, that one cannot find the truth in a shallow vessel, in a loud and brassy instrument. It is how one asks that answers. Ask quietly, and without hope of finding. The asking for God opens the horizon of a possible world where the answer might be -

She may be there.


Friday, 27 October 2006

A Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Review (founded and edited by poet Philip Fried) is one of the best serious little magazines for poetry in America - and one of the only ones to that keep its finger on the pulse of contemporary British poetry.

Its latest issue, Fall/Winter 2006-7 (vol. 12, no. 2) features poems and/or translations by marvellous poets such as Mahmoud Darwish, Marilyn Hacker, Polly Clark, Pascale Petit, W.N. Herbert, Yang Lian, Penelope Shuttle, Ruth Fainlight, Hal Sirowitz, and many more.

It also has a review of the Oxfam CD, Life Lines, which I edited this summer and which has so far sold over five thousand copies since its launch four months ago.

The reviewer, Frank Beck, says: "it is hard to imagine how anyone with an interest in poetry in English could fail to find this recording fascinating."

To order this essential CD online, go to the link below:


To learn more about The Manhattan Review and order it, go to:


Poem by Hal Sirowitz

Eyewear is thrilled and happy (not always a combination you'd expect) to welcome Hal Sirowitz as the Friday poet. Sirowitz (pictured) is the former Poet Laureate of Queens, New York. His latest book, Father Said, was recently translated into Icelandic. He's the most popular translated poet in Norway. He is also one of the greatest of the first wave of American slam poets, whose work arose during the heyday of the Nuyorican readings. His Mother Said poetry collection is a best-selling classic, merging humour and poetry in a new key. Time Magazine has called him "a bit of a cult hero". He's one of the truly unique voices in contemporary American writing today. I've included him in as many of my anthologies as I could, from Poetry Nation, to Short Fuse, to Babylon Burning. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Hal Sirowitz...

Pride Not Deserved

You can't have
a sex life unless
you have sex,
father said. You
can't have a post-sex
life either. All you can
have is a pre-sex life. But
that's nothing to be
proud of. Every one has that.

poem by Hal Sirowitz

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Stobb On Babylon Burning

William E. Stobb is a fine American poet, and a commentator on poetry. The link below leads to his thoughts on the e-book anthology I recently edited for Nthposition.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Snorkel Is Back!

Eyewear thinks you'd enjoy Snorkel, the lively and innovative online magazine that aims to connect Australian, New Zealand and international poets generally. Oh, I have a poem in this issue, too, so an added incentive to check it out.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Saturday, 21 October 2006

So Which Is It?

Only in England would the literate (if not literary) media still be bamboozled about Paul Muldoon (pictured) or rather, flabbergasted or then again puzzled - by his command of word-play, puns and other linguistic paraphernalia in his writing.

How else to explain the contrasting versions of Muldoonland displayed in recent issues of The Economist (October 21st-27th) and The Guardian? The Guardian's Saturday book section (The Review) has rightly selected his latest collection from Faber, Horse Latitudes, as Book of the Week, snatching it from the ghetto of the poetry review demi-page. James Fenton, himself a former Oxford Professor of Poetry, and major English poet, welcomes the book, Muldoon's tenth, as "an event". But over at the (more conservative) Economist, the unidentified reviewer is more economical with their praise of another new Muldoon publication, his Oxford lectures, The End of the Poem.
The reviewer of these 15 lectures seems slightly overwhelmed: "He dives into the etymology of words, and then relates these discoveries to far-flung biographical and historical fact. At times, his insights can be acute, at others far-fetched and almost outrageously fanciful. ... Mr. Muldoon's literary method, for all its delightfully readable questings, seems to add hurdles rather than eliminate them ... undermining the the notion that poetry has a universal appeal."
There is almost nothing insightful in these remarks, and it staggers the imagination to consider this was likely written by a leading (if anonymous) London critic or poet. The first question is 1) what is far-flung about historical context?; 2) when did reference to the etymology of words in a poem become in any way part of a fanciful methodology?; 3) since when was the reading of poetry a race, or rather, a race that was meant to be short of hurdles?; 4) The Economist seems to want as unrestricted access to the "meaning" of a poem as it does to markets; 5) "Poetry" does not - and never had had - a "universal" appeal - and only the worst sort of bumbling Liberal Humanist from 1904 would want it to (say in some proto-Kipling way).
Rather, poetic language has always been separated from the language of commerce, trade and politics (the quotidian) by precisely its recourse to what Veronica Forrest-Thomson famously called poetic artifice. One does not have to go as far as her in excising external expansion to realize that interpretation of poetry is best when it starts with some idea of the poem as a unique construct of signs and strategies, and moves on from there. It is true that this chafes against Muldoon's interest in the fallacy of the author, but only until one stops to recall the reasons why he wants to tie life and times in to the lingo - to show how poets only refer to the world that resonates with the playful, formalist elements their art ultimately relies on to thrive.
So-called "mainstream" British poetry still tends to suspect any poem or poet that does not wear its metaphor on its clear-as-glass sleeve. It would be far more useful to consider that both the concepts of "lyric ego" and "poetic artifice" form part of a spectrum of culturally-established aesthetic options and opinions, and could be just as interestingly conjoined as opposed, in quite the right poetic setting. Indeed, Muldoon's work is a superb example of such a place, where the innovative and the lyric join hands. It is this that puzzles those that want their poems universal, not in the university.
Meanwhile, Eyewear keeps its lemon-coloured Muldoon Collected close at all times, as an Arnoldian touchstone of bon mots, and considers Muldoon one of the great poetic stylists of the last 50 years, along with Ashbery, Charles Bernstein and a few others. Few other poets have so successfully made their eccentric signature tone and rhythm so seemingly inevitable (Dickinson, Auden and Larkin come to mind as precursors) in the process making a world. Of the great Irish word-wits, he seems to have become part of the list that includes Swift, Wilde, Shaw and Joyce.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Poem by George Murray

Eyewear is very glad to welcome George Murray to its steadily growing pantheon of superb Friday-featured poets. I first met him in Paris three or more years ago, and we chatted at a sidewalk cafe near my flat, on the corner of Cherche Midi and rue St-Placide, a busy afternoon.

I was impressed then with what he had achieved, in terms of writing and publishing, for such a young man. Since then, he's done even more. He was one of the 20 poets in my survey of new Canadian poetry for New American Writing, in 2005.

Murray's books of poetry include The Hunter (McClelland & Stewart, 2003) and The Cottage Builder's Letter (M&S, 2001). His fourth collection is scheduled for publication in spring 2007 with Nightwood Editions.

He has been widely anthologized and has published poems, fiction, and criticism in journals and magazines such as Antigonish Review, Capilano Review, Contemporary Verse, Descant, Fiddlehead, Iowa Review, Jacket, New Quarterly, nthposition, Pequod, Prism International, and Slope. He is also a regular reviewer for several publications, including the Globe and Mail and is the editor of the very successful online lit site, Bookninja.com. See also www.georgemurray.ca

Mostly The World Waits

The vandals here paint with fire, masters
every one. If only that which stands
before us is true, no wonder old men
marshal armies. Mostly the world waits

patiently. Mostly people get on
with things. Mostly they are unaware
of waiting. Mostly they find themselves off
in a desirous space of conscious

hope. Mostly the end arrives and leaves
without notice. The sky is not falling.
It is a suspended canopy,
hung from high-tensile airplane cable rising

into spaces we can only see at night.
Sit still and enjoy the art. Your turn is today.

poem by George Murray

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

The Encantadas

Canada's most illustrious literary prizes are said to be the Governor General's (GGs). This year the poetry list features a few very good collections, including Ken Babstock's Air Stream Land Yacht, which I reviewed for the Globe and Mail this summer. In the review I suggested it was one of, if not the, best books written by a member of this generation of younger Canadian poets. Glad to see the GG jury agreeing with me.

Sadly, the best book of poetry published this year by an older Canadian poet, The Encantadas, by Robert Allen, was not selected.

Allen is one of Anglo-Quebec's greatest writers of the 20th century - as a novelist, essayist, short story writer, and poet his literary contribution to Montreal culture over the last 40 years has been nearly unparalleled, and, when one stops to consider his additional work as creative writing teacher, as editor of Matrix, as series editor for DC Books and as a mentor to several generations of poets that includes Stone, Camlot, Fiorentino and McGimpsey, his whole life's work and career has been little short of extraordinary. He's the natural heir to Dudek, in terms of generosity, and commitment to small press work, but with much more style and linguistic brilliance. Passages in The Encantadas (as well as his novels) approach genius, in the sense that Nabokov is said to have possessed that gift. The Encantadas is published by Conundrum Press. ISBN 1-894994-17-5.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

In Cimarron

Eyewear had a good morning since the morning post brought many delights.

First, copies of my new chapbook from Rubicon Press, Natural Curve. First time I had seen them, smelled the ink, and checked for typos (none) - they look great, and more about that in future.

Secondly, a DVD of an episode of a TV show I wrote a few years back.

Then, and definitely not least, I opened my contributor's copy package from The Cimarron Review - one of America's best literary magazines, full stop.

A writer's self-induced pleasure does not get much better than seeing a poem here, and reader, I was pleased (I confess), to seeing mine on the film The Sun, about Hirohito, war, and memory, in its fine pages. I now look forward to reading the other writers in the Fall 2006 issue.

Look below for more information, and do subscribe:

Monday, 16 October 2006

Portrait as Poets

Eyewear always likes a bit of text with its photography - and poetry most especially.

The superb photographer Madeleine Waller has obliged, by assembling, as part of a special project, many of the UK's leading poets, her portraits alongside (actually superimposed above as well) handwritten or signed poems by the authors. The layering and the colour are striking.

The project is now up on the website http://www.madwaller.co.uk/ under colour/poets. Touch the corners of the book pages to make them turn.

I'm honoured, may I add, to be in such illustrious company.


Saturday, 14 October 2006

The Death of Pontecorvo

In the week that saw Orhan Pamuk win the Nobel for literature - for his melancholy threading of East and West lanes etc., - news comes of the death of arguably the greatest political film-maker yet to live and work: Gillo Pontecorvo (pictured).

His 40-year-old film, The Battle of Algiers (1966), is so real, so fully realized, and so subtle, that one forgets it is a movie - and yet, its superb suspense and dramatic structure, not to mention the cinemotography, acting, and extraordinary score by Ennio Morricone, make it one of the most powerful films ever made, and, as Edward Said has said, one of the two best political films - the other also by Pontecorvo.

Its resonance is especially noteworthy in our times, which once again turn to consider the issues of colonialism, The West in foreign lands, and the clash of religions, of power and weakness, of violence and resistance, of terror and hope.


Eye On The Wolf

Eyewear has long considered The Wolf one of the best places for a poet to appear in print. Founded by Nicholas Cobic and James Byrne in 2002, it is now edited solely by James Byrne. It is a tri-quarterly, and has a website (designed by Matt Williams) which can be found at www.wolfmagazine.co.uk.

As the recent editorial in the Autumn 2006 (13th issue) puts it: "unlike certain magazines there's no inner circle ... Anyone is welcome to submit." And anyone does. The Wolf features a broad, if London-savvy, spectrum of poets, including Wayne Smith, Julia Bird, Sally Read, Niall McDevitt, Valeria Melchioretto - each worth reading. My work also appears in issue 13 (as in a few earlier ones).

The Wolf is mostly fearless, and says and does as it pleases. It bows to no ideological slant, school, or style, though it tends to like well-written poetry. This pleases the iconoclast within me, though it no doubt puts fear into those who wish to run the woods as their own poetry patch. Recently, and refreshingly, it was shortlisted in the Forward prizes for Fiona Sampson's poem, "Trumpeldor Beach". Long live such wolfishness!

In The Diary

Eyewear is please to tell you that The Guardian Diary article by Nicholas Wroe, this Saturday, notes the launch of a new Oxfam reading series, in Bloomsbury, organized by - well, me.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Poem by Dimitris Lyacos

Dimitris Lyacos (pictured) was born in Athens in 1966. Eyewear is very pleased to welcome him this Friday to its pages. His trilogy Poena Damni (Z213: Exit, Nyctivoe, The First Death) has been translated into English, Spanish, Italian and German and has been performed extensively across Europe and the USA. The English version is out from Shoestring Press, UK.

A sound and sculpture installation of Nyctivoe opened in London and toured Europe in 2004-2005. A contemporary dance performance based on the same book is currently showing in Greece.

For more information see www.lyacos.net or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyacos ...

This poem is translated by Shorsha Sullivan, who was born in Dublin in 1932. He studied Classics at Leeds and has spent most of his working life in England. He has a special interest in Modern Greek theatre and poetry.

Z213: Exit (extract)

Tell those who were waiting not to wait none of us will return. The sky is leaving again, the newspapers rot in the corridor, the same trees pass again but darker before us, the people who wrench the doors looking for a place, those who are coming in at the next stop. The light from outside cutting the evening in strips, harsh evenings that fall among strangers, the story shatters within you, fragments, lost in the ebb of this time, that dissolve one into the other before you fall asleep. And the snail hurries to go back on its tracks, a tale you remember unfinished, wrinkles that still hold a colour on memory’s transient seed, birds that awake the dew on their wings and you set off with them into the white frozen sky, but you wake and are baked again. Not the fever, the remembrance of sorrow exhausts you, you don’t know why, before you are well awake and the barren feeling comes back to your hands, the rest suddenly vanishes, you are one recollection a broken box which is emptying, after the tempest this calm, you search for support, get up like an old man, feel cold, remember birds’ wings, magistrates’ sticks decorated with feathers the bones of an angel, sink again images and words monotonous as prayer.

translated from the Greek original by Shorsha Sullivan; poem by Dimitris Lyacos

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

As The World Burns

George W. Bush alert: The American poet Ken Waldman has produced a timely intervention, so close to November: a book, CD and additional materials, As The World Burns:

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Parliamentary poems online

One of my poems was selected by Pauline Michel, Canada's current poet laureate, for her site, which represents Canadian poetry by offering a poem a week.

Below is the link; browsing will yield many poets and poems of interest, in both official languages:

Monday, 9 October 2006

Reading Tonight

Monday 9th October
7.00pm for a 7.30pm start
Bloomsbury Oxfam Two Writers Series
Oxfam Books
12 Bloomsbury Street
London, WC1B 3QA

Hosted by Todd Swift - Oxfam Poet In Residence

Readings, Questions & Answers, Book Signings

Goran Simic
D M Thomas

D.M. (Don) Thomas is a poet and novelist. After reading English at New College, Oxford, he became a teacher until he became a full-time writer. His third novel, The White Hotel, was an international bestseller, translated into thirty languages and shortlisted for The Booker Prize. He has won a Cholmondeley Award for his poetry, and the Orwell Prize for his biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn He is also a much-praised translator of Russian poetry. His poems appeared in the Penguin series in the 60s. His translations of Anna Akhmatova have been newly published in the Everyman Pocket Poets series. Other collections include Dreaming in Bronze (Secker and Warburg, 1981) and The Puberty Tree (Bloodaxe Books, 1992). Today also marks the launch of a verse collection from Bluechrome, Not Saying Everything. He lives in Cornwall, where he was born and grew up.

Goran Simic was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1952. His poetry, short stories, essays and reviews have appeared in many prominent journals such as the TLS and Independent. In Bosnia before the war (1992-1995) he was the editor of several literary magazines and founder of PEN Bosnia-Hercegovina. He came to Canada as a landed immigrant in 1996 under the auspices of PEN Canada. He has been a recipient of the Helman-Hammet grant and the PEN America award for brave writing. Recently he was granted the position of writer-in-residence by The Banff Centre. His poetry was included in several world anthologies such as Scanning the Century by Penguin (2000), and 101 Poems against War (2003) by Faber and Faber. His collections of poetry include Sprinting from the graveyard (Oxford University Press, England, 1997), translated by David Harsent and his forthcoming Selected poems from Biblioasis.

Admission free, suggested donation £6
Please contact Alison Jackson to reserve seats

Telephone: 020 7637 4610
email: oxfambloomsbury@hotmail.co.uk

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Review: The Departed

As the saying goes, spoiler alert ahead.

Critics have written that The Departed by Martin Scorsese (released in the UK on Friday) is his best film since Goodfellas. I'd go further and argue that The Departed is actually his best film since Raging Bull, and in some ways is his late masterpiece, bettering Taxi Driver - in the same curious way that Welles made Touch of Evil as a pulp genre film whose stylish command of film language exceeds his youthful classics Kane and Ambersons.

A few things need to be noted early on in this review, to establish the signal importance of this great American movie. For The Departed is also, surely, the first great American film of the 21st century. 1) Scorsese is a master historian of American cinema; 2) Violence (in terms of power) is the central theme and trope of American cinema, from Birth of a Nation on; 3) The two great American film genres are The Western and the Gangster picture; 4) Directors of Scorsese's generation began to rethink violence, and the Gangster/Western genres, relating them to current political trends, such as Viet Nam and Watergate - so, we get Bonnie & Clyde, Badlands and Taxi Driver, the three great films that combine the Western and the Gangster film and throughly revised them, in terms of style and relevance. 5) Scorese's key set of films - Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York - represent an unparalleled contemporary development of American cinema, then.

Returning to the present, The Departed is a thrilling advance for Scorsese in his command of cinema. Never before (or at least not since De Niro-Foster) has he been able to present a sexual-romantic chemistry on film between his main characters that fully expands on the themes of the film, and does not seem false or a commerical appendix. Vera Farmiga is wonderful to watch here, as she moves between DiCaprio and Damon, her intelligence and sexual intensity never repressed, and always allied.

Further, Scorsese has always before had trouble balancing commercial and artistic imperatives. The Departed is as exciting a commercial film as Pulp Fiction but also a masterclass in film-making of the highest order. Indeed, The Departed does everything Tarantino can do (blending hip music, shock violence, great acting and dialogue, and exteme style) with the important addition of providing a moral subtext that evaluates and questions said violence and style.

I predict The Departed will, in time, be seen as a classic, and a loved film that is returned to, again and again. It works so perfectly on so many levels, it is a treat to watch, and reflect on. The acting is superb and inspired - having Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen as the twin older rivals and mentors in the Manichean struggle means that so many classic 70s films, from Five Easy Pieces to Badlands, to of course, The Shining and Apocalypse Now, are shadowed and present. Then, the tough-talking 80s Mamet element is superbly represented by Alec Baldwin in his greatest cameo. Finally, the three roles of the young turks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon represent the rise of the latest indie cinema. Di Caprio, especially, gives a fine performance, one that, in its method intensity, reminds the viewer of James Dean, if not Brando.

The dialogue is funny, memorable and brilliantly structured (the references to Shakespeare are both telling and ironic). The script is of course a remake of Infernal Affairs - and it works, bettering a great Hong Kong thriller (startlingly) by enriching the colours, themes, and even use of the mobile phone. Suspense never lags, and there are even moments of Beckettian comedy (as in the all beautiful women are cops routine near the final reel). Then, the mise-en-scene is lovely - all the use of blue skies and light especially. The editing is superb - consider the first five minutes before the opening credits that sets up the central binary conflict. But what is best is the powerful critique of American foreign policy in Iraq.

Scorsese, in interviews, admits that Iraq presents the disheartening ground on which the film's strangely terrible anarchy unfolds. It is, in short, Scorsese's Titus Andronicus (the severed hand at one point suggests this) - this is a roman world of pain, of savagery, where the moral order is so compromised as to be absent, except in the potentially empty signs of Christian faith (priests, nuns, etc.). As the threatened priest at one point says, "Pride comes before a fall" - well, we've had the pride, and the fall, and now this is what's left. Indeed, the fall of Sheen is the death-knell of liberal American values of decency and justice. The golden dome of the state house shines in the distance, like Gatsby's green light, but the reflecting sun blinds Damon to the truth - he can never reach it from his penthouse no matter how close it looks - for there is all that dreadful bright blue sky between him and truth.

The central pull of the movie is Nicholson's performance, however. It threatens to dominate and destroy the artistry of the whole, but, except in one slightly ill-judged use of a prosthetic phallus in a porn cinema, never goes entirely OTT. Then again, that's Nicholson's way. From The Shining to his role as The Joker, Jack's been crazed. Here, he is allowed to play a role that is a grotesque parody of ego unbound - a man who "kills and fucks" to avoid facing his own lack of line, his barren bed (and empty ethos). In the movie's weirdest, red-lit and melodramatic moments, Nicholson enters a Faustian world of cocaine-fulled orgies, sandwiched between a black and a white woman of great beauty, signalling that sometimes, neither black or white leads to anything but more bloodlust, establishing the neurotic terror at the film's observant core (there may be no good or bad that works on an Earth bereft of a divinity).

While the script observes that Freud felt the Irish to be immune to the talking cure, this does seem the Oedipal tension in the movie - especially since Nicholson's decadent gang-leader seems to admire, even fear, DiCaprio's (dead) father, the one who worked in the Airport handling baggage and refused to be corrupted. It's a homely but timely image, of the man in the aiport who can be trusted, post-9/11. In one of the film's oddest and most compelling moments of dialogue, DiCaprio and Nicholson discuss progeny and extension of power. DiCaprio tells Nicholson "I could be you - but I don't want to be you" - an inversion of "I could have been a contender" (On The Waterfront being of course the great template for films about corruption and doubles, brothers - i.e. "this man doesn't need a doctor, he needs a priest") - and it is also a thrilling meta-cinematic statement about film careers and choices. Scorsese is annointing Leonardo as the next Jack. He is the new Robert De Niro.

The Departed deserves the Academy Award that has for too long been withheld from Scorsese. It is only the cruellest of ironies that this, his finest stament on American evil, and the subtlest exploration of American society and politics, has appeared in the same year as United 93.



Saturday, 7 October 2006

Get It At Lulu

Babylon Burning

the new global anthology of post-9/11 poetry

will be available from 5 October 2006

National Poetry Day

from print on demand publisher Lulu

Friday, 6 October 2006

October Poetry At nth position

Poem by Carol Jenkins

Carol Jenkins lives in Sydney, concocts images (one of which is above) and writes various fiction, interspersed with facts, some of which are remnants from her former career in chemical regulation and assessment.

Her work has appeared in journals including Heat, Island, Cordite, Quadrant, Snorkel and Otolith, and will soon be broad-and-podcast on Radio Adelaide’s Writers Radio.

Eyewear welcomes her this Friday.

Esters on a Tree Dark Morning

The day starts early, some phantom interloper
firing colour off, lows the clouds
to a weasel wrung morning, a little empty
dust scuds under the table, must be spring
season of slammed plates, some great
para-aldehyde, like nature is an artificial
ester, or was the orange blossom
a gag of unrealized patrimony

if I was better practiced at forgetting
you wouldn’t be so displacingly apparent
I don’t even like the word I, I, I, the whey
of its cheese seepage, the whole remembrance

tulle and corelli work, a needle needed to
re-sew as spinal misalignments
for a some ripe plucked myth-historic figure
to extemporize, patch over plot

all time’s showing off, as if there was a greater
attention to seek, dog-nose like, how hard to
even write the word, sound, image; that seeks
me to attend to

a thousand phrases, the inapparent bliss

way out the back – when I look up
into the miasma of trees, in that giddiness
of leaves, there is everything of you

poem by Carol Jenkins

Thursday, 5 October 2006

A Poem By Todd Swift On National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day 2006

When will poets get over words? They moon
And gloat on them, as if owners of origins, on
Top of the motion that moves the heavens, or
Moans in watershed winter. I tire of tongue-wet
Celebrations of glottals, the click, clip and clop
Of sounds throbbed together like rubbed lamps,
Jostled coins – poems a pocketful of poses. Too,
There’s been a lot of jocularity slash lightness lately –
Many mentions of popular figures, movies, and TV –
Getting overmuch of the world crammed into crawl
Spaces under the text, sometimes even on top of it –
How much hipness can any master muster, then use?
I was savvy before I saw those I love die and cease.
Now I leave my slip, suck, swoon outside for prose.

poem by Todd Swift, copyright 2006

Forward thinking?

The Forward Prize - the so-called Bardic Booker - has been showering poets with cash since 1991 - and in the process, bringing poetry to much wider public attention. It is often called the UK's "most valuable poetry award" though the prizes are tied in value with the T.S. Eliot prize, awarded January each year.

The 2006 winner of the "Best Collection Award" should have been District And Circle, by Seamus Heaney, a collection as impressive as the earlier books that made him world famous. There had been fuss in the English media over the fact that Seamus Heaney had even been short-listed because he is a Nobel laureate. Sadly, the jury seems to have looked into the whites of the Nobel prize, and blinked.

That is a shame, and casts some doubt on the judging panel, whose reading of poetry must be wider than it is deep, to have decided against what may be UK and/or Irish mainstream poetry's finest collection of the 21st century - and one which deals powerfully with 9/11, terrorism, and also the personal, in ways that prove Heaney's grasp of how tradition, the lyric voice, and craft, ring out like struck anvils, like bells, both homely and beautiful. Instead, the prize went to Robin Robertson, the poetry editor at Cape, for his Swithering.

William Sieghart, founder of the prize 15 years ago, said "Robertson is capable of an unabashed seriousness that is rare in contemporary poetry". The very idea of "seriousness" is suspect.

It is one of those weasel-words that more and more frequently pop up on the backs of books, and in prize citations, but that mean less than nothing. Mr. Robertson uses myth, forms, rhyme and metre, in his work - is, in otherwords, a traditonal British formalist. Nothing wrong with that. But to suggest that such seriousness is rare is simply misguided - and misguiding for the media, who often soak up prize announcement press releases with little or no sense of how to parse the spin from the chaff.

I can name forty British or Irish poets who are equally as serious as Mr. Robertson - indeed, could Mr. Sieghart name one leading mainstream poet published by Faber & Faber (say) who is not serious in just the same way as Roberston? I thought not. It hardly makes critical sense to call Andrew Motion, Lavinia Greenlaw, David Harsent, Nick Laird, Maurice Riordan, Don Paterson - the list goes on - frivolous. They're as serious as it gets, in terms of their commitment to the art and craft of formal verse in the British mainstream tradition.



Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom and this year's theme is "Identity".

There will be various events througout the day and evening:

note: photo is of poet and performer Nicole Blackman

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Review: Sam's Town

The Killers (pictured) have grown beards and grown tired of their wildly succesful early sound, captured on Hot Fuss, one of the most delightful resurrections of goofy 80's indie ever put on CD. That's a good album.

Eyewear has had an earful of their second album, just out in the UK yesterday, Sam's Town, and concludes that, while Wild West barbering is one thing, such a sonic-shift in mid-flight is akin to that old cowboy trick of jumping from one pony to another, mid-stream - in this case, no Lone Rangers, they have slipped in the saddle, somewhat.

The Killers have aimed for a truly odd husbandry, breeding new pop out of dry lands, by attempting to fuse early Springsteen and recent Arcade Fire. Both acts are worthy genetic templates - The Boss is great Americana - and Arcade Fire is currently David Bowie's favourite band for a reason - but both have a slight fault that melded makes something good something bad: they're OTT. Killer's frontman Brandon Flowers does not quite have the grace of young Bruce, or the pipes, to carry the frenetic panic of Arcade Fire as they rise in spiritual ecstasy and midly-controlled euphoria and cacophony. His voice, when it reaches for the circles of heaven, sometimes thins out, like a speed-test pilot without the oxygen or the right stuff.

That being said, there are four exceptionally strong, exciting tracks here - the strongest being the weird, utterly catchy, swaggering Uncle Jonny: "when everyone else refrained / my Uncle Jonny did cocaine" .... which, as other critics have also noted, is the best Neil Young song he never sang. Also strong are tracks 1, 3 and 4, especially the title track, and Bling, which is almost transcendant ("higher and higher" being the Acme Anthem Moment surely). The "enterlude" and "exitlude" is sweet too, but so Wilson-meets-Lennon it's Mr. Kite Lite.

In some ways the problem is that gospel choirs, soaring vocals, references to glittering circuses and punch-drunk arrangements are meant to find their objective correlative in Las Vegas and the deserts that surround it, and contain the manic gamble on life that is American freedom (so long as its not online!) while also containing trace elements of absurd confidence and idiocy. The last song, Why do I keep counting, actually annuls most of the goodwill established by the first half, with its urgent protestant prostrations and uber-hymn mannerisms (not to mention nutty kettle-drums). Still, one repeated listens, it is possible to love this album.

Four Specs out of 5.

Cable Street 70 Years Later

Eyewear salutes the brave women and men of Cable Street ("premature anti-fascists" one and all) who banded together to defeat the rise of hatred in England.

Had such courage been shown against Hitler in his homeland, history would be different, to say the least.

May our brothers and sisters have the courage to stand against such infamy in future, when we are called on. May we be blessed with the Cable Street spirit!


Monday, 2 October 2006


iota is edited by Bob Mee and Janet Murch of Ragged Raven Press.

I'm glad to have a poem in its latest issue (No. 75) along with poets like Nigel McLoughlin, Gill McEvoy and Cath Nichols. It's only £3.

To support small press poetry in Britain, why not start by ordering an issue?

Address is 1 Lodge Farm, Snitterfield, Warwickshire CV37 0LR, UK.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Natural Curve

I'm pleased to report that I have a chapbook of new poems, Natural Curve, now out from Alberta's Rubicon Press, edited by poets Yvonne Blomer and Jenna Butler.



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...