Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Davy Jones Has Died

Sad news for a leap year.  February 29 2012 sees the announcement of the death of Davy Jones.  The Monkees started in 1966, the same year I was born, and though dubbed The Prefab Four, had a pop genius second to none (well, okay, second to The Beatles). A few of their classics, like 'I'm A Believer', 'Last Train To Clarkesville', 'I'm Not Your Stepping Stone' and the wonderful, zany theme song, are among the Sixties best hits.  Oddly, he has died at the age of 66.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


In the late 1930s, poets and intellectuals in Britain discussed and were concerned with the prospects of war with a tyrannical state known for its regional importance and anti-Semitism; many resisted the terrible implications of the conflict.  Others, such as Churchill, predicted that such a war would have to come, and Britain should be prepared.  In the end, after a phony war, it came, and evil was finally defeated.  Now, in 2012, the West faces a similar shadow over our daily lives: What To Do About Iran?  It is not enough to simply say that all war, especially all wars in the Middle East, are wicked - we know war is dreadful, but some wars are necessary.  Nor is it I think sufficient to take a sort of multicultural-nuclear approach, and accept that, if Israel and indeed Pakistan, as well as India, America, France, Russia, Britain and China, have nukes, then what is the harm of Iran joining this ominous club.  The fact of the matter is, Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, in word and deed.  Iran does not accept that the greatest crime in human history, The Holocaust, happened.  And yes, the slave trade, imperialism, and the potato famine were also forms of genocide.  However, the cruel truth is that Israel came into rebirth with the help of the Allied powers (and their hindrance) because and despite of the Holocaust, and centuries of deplorable European racism and anti-Jewish violence.  Israel learned to protect itself.  Now, that right to protection infringes on a weary world, who do not want an arms race or a war in Iran.  And that is understandable.  Such a war would leave thousands, perhaps millions, of people, dead.  The question now must be - what can the people of Iran do to renounce the direction of their leadership, renounce their nation's Holocaust denial, and denounce the phantasy of a nuclear Iran.  Iran is not Sweden.  It is not a neutral state.  It supports Syrian terror and despotism.  It seeks to destabilise Iraq.  Eyewear does not know what the answer to all this is, but what would like to hear what poets think.  Are they concerned?  I opposed the last war, in Iraq.  This one seems more problematic.  Less clear-cut.  The West must defend itself and its allies from nuclear threat, surely?  And yet, last time, we were told Iraq had the weapons.  And we saw the disaster therein.

Ash Wednesday

Monday, 20 February 2012

Doh! More Simpsons

The news that the 500th Simpsons episode is done and dusted should be a time of global lament, not joy.  The Simpsons was once one of the smartest, sassiest, and yes, most post-modern, TV shows of all time - indeed, it will always be noteworthy for its first few brilliant seasons.  However, it has long become a tedious rehash, cheapening its satire of media and society by becoming that worst sort of bore - the hanger-on at the party with the lampshade on, who doesn't know when to go home.  23 seasons is enough.  The thought of two more is just groan-inducing.  Someone should get a big yellow rubber (eraser) out, and start cutting back...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

£1000 Prize for best debut collection of young poet, free to enter

Eyewear Publishing announces its inaugural (2012) THE MELITA HUME PRIZE FOR POETRY. This will be an award of £1,000 and a publishing deal for the best first full collection (i.e. debut) of a young poet writing in the English language born in 1980 or later. The book will be published in a hard cover format, and launched in early 2013, or sooner, in London.

The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers during difficult economic times, with a quality publication in England and a helpful amount of money which can assist them in their studies, travel or accommodation.

This contest is open to any one of the requisite age, anywhere in the world. The submission must be at least 40 poems long, or 50 pages, whichever comes first.  Maximum 60 poems, and 80 pages  IT IS FREE TO ENTER.  Todd Swift will be the judge.  THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MAY 1ST, 2012.

Please post your submissions to the address below:

Eyewear Publishing
Suite 38
19-21 Crawford Street
United Kingdom
Please include a biographical note of 100-250 words, a recent author’s photo, and a covering letter.
For email queries, contact TODDSWIFT AT CLARA DOT CO UK or Todd Swift at Facebook.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Eyewear's Top 14 Songs For Valentine's Day

she is in love

As poets and lovers know, music and and love go together like a tenor and vehicle.  Here are Eyewear's top 14 love songs, or songs about 'love', in no order - and, I should add, some classic break-up songs like 'Wicked Game' or 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' are not included, though they too are about love's wounding force - however, in the spirit of the occasion, I am erring on the side of romance and eros.

1. Bob Dylan - 'Lay, Lady, Lay' - the most improbably delightful Dylan song, for me, this rich cowpoke tune is also seriously sexy.

2. Ella Fitzgerald - 'My Funny Valentine' - well, this is the classic, really, the heart of the matter, and pure wit at that.

3. Bob Marley & The Wailers - 'Could You Be Loved' - the answer is, with this going on, yes.

4. Madonna - 'Dress You Up' - one of the great cross-dressing songs, and exuberantly wackily boy-crazy pop.

5. Simple Minds - 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' - memorable 80s nostalgia trip and indie pop love gem.

6. Bow Wow Wow - 'Aphrodisiac' - this lusty song is nearly insane, and suits the madness of love potions.

7. Depeche Mode - 'I Feel You' - the most stridently romantic of all DM's tunes, and one closest to being a rocker, with sleazy synth thrust they have.

8. Mazzy Star - 'Fade Into You' - possibly the greatest unrequited love song - certainly the best dream pop version.

9. The Romantics - 'One In A Million' - the power pop classic.  Its joyous simplicity never stales.

10. Rihanna, Jay-Z - 'Umbrella' - such a moving, sweet song, with an image as old as Herman's Hermits, and timeless.

11. Massive Attack - 'Girl I Love You' - a throbbing, sinister and deeply powerful expression of passion.

12. Minnie Driver - 'Everything I've Got In My Pocket' - this attempt to cheer up an apparently depressed friend or lover is very moving.

13. The Kinks - 'All Day and All Of The Night' - more primal, more pure, than The Beatles, this is the greatest Sixties expression of utter desire.  "I believe you and me last forever" - what is more poetic than that?

14. Whitney Houston - 'I Will Always Love You' - is there a more beautifully sung pop song?  A more poignant one on this date in time?

Honourable Mentions: 'A Girl Like You', The Smithereens; 'Heart Shaped Box', Nirvana; 'Today', Smashing Pumpkins, and 'There She Goes' by the La's.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Death of Whitney Houston

This is very sad news, and shocking news at that.  Whitney Houston was the Michael Jackson of soul and R and B female singers - that is, one of the world's greatest entertainers - a superstar.  Houston was not to all tastes - her soaring ballads are mawkish at times - but her talents were strikingly superb.  She was an actress, a model, a singer, a performer - in sum, a truly rare combination of beauty and artistry.

Many singers will attest to her being a major influence, and that her vocal skills were second to none.  One of the top-selling recording artists of all time, and the most awarded female singer in history, she easily takes her place in the pantheon.  Her death in a hotel bath reminds us, too, of another drug-doomed genius, Jim Morrison of the The Doors.  Houston was so clean cut and ubiquitous in the 80s and early 90s that her downfall was upsetting and discomfiting.  It was always hoped she would pull out of her death-descent.

This seemed possible, for, unlike Winehouse - a far less important musical figure in comparison - Houston did not seem totally self-destructive; she had friends such as Oprah, and a world of goodwill.  It may be her death was an accident, brought about by an inadvertent overdose.  The African-American Marilyn Monroe, in terms of cultural impact, this great beauty with the huge voice left the world stage too soon.  She needed better bodyguards, perhaps.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Unto Caesar

I write this as a Catholic.  Religious faith is under attack in both England and America this week, from reasonable secular argument that no doubt emanates from enlightened good will.  This does not make it right.  In American, President Obama wishes to enforce by law provision of contraception in health care, even at Catholic institutions (such as hospitals), where such provision explicitly flies in the face of Catholic teaching; though most Catholics turn a blind eye to the contraception ban, such an option is not easily available to an official organ of the Church.

This is an example of two competing claims for good - the state's versus the personal moral rights of persons and churches to follow their own beliefs.  The absence of contraception is a secular evil; its presence, for Catholics, is a sin.  Obama, a politician, is attempting to render unto Caesar what is not his.  In England, a new judgement by the courts has banned the saying of prayers before town council meetings, a common practise in a nation where Her Majesty the Queen is the head of the Church of England.  Here, the state has a religion, unlike in America, but atheist activists are attempting to prune such powers back.  This seems a grubby and sad attack on a harmless, even positive act.  To ban prayer is to begin to delimit what more broadly makes us human - and here, unlike with contraception, is no medical issue.  If anything, prayer is known to be therapeutic.

It would seem that in America, the churches need to be tempered, and in England, bolstered - a paradox, since on paper, England's religion is more secure; but on paper only.  Faith is stronger in America, where 90% of citizens claim to believe in God.  Seen in this light, Obama's liberal attack on faith-based institutions seems bold, and, arguably, foolhardy.  This will play into Santorum's zealous hands.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Eyewear recommends....

Call for Submissions

The Ofi Press is an online magazine based in Mexico City which publishes monthly in English and Spanish. We are looking for poetry, flash-fiction, essays, articles, interviews and reviews for publication.

Please take a look at our submission guidelines before sending your work and we look forward very much to hearing from you!

Jack Little- Editor
The Ofi Press

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Madonna 1982-2012: 30 Years of Pop Genius

Great American Icon Posing
Madonna is one of the great cultural icons of the post-war era, easily as significant as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Brando, or Brad Pitt.  Indeed, given the fact that her first single debuted in 1982, thirty years ago this October, and that her new single is out now (ironically self-referencing), and that she is poised to play the Superbowl, it is time to marvel anew.  I can think of few major recording artists of similar career span, other than Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan (Leonard Cohen, of course).  Springsteen? Elvis, The Beatles - those other touchstones, lasted less long, as did Michael Jackson.  Prince, also a genius, is sporadic, hit-and-miss.  No other singer-songwriter of the 80s remains as relevant - indeed, Lady Gaga, and Lana Del Rey, to name two, make so sense without the context of Madonna.  Typing out on Spotify her best songs, I came up with 50, before stopping - it seemed silly.

All Madonna albums are a little weak, but winnowed out, each yields at least a clutch of classics.  The world of pop music is unthinkable without 'Express Yourself', 'Vogue', 'Like A Virgin', 'Like A Prayer', 'Holiday', or my favourite, 'Dress You Up', which first put me in touch with my inner girl, in a Larkin-lesbian fashion.  Madonna has had some bad marriages and relationships, more silly phases than Yeats, and can't seem to really star in a good film (few other top notch performers have bombed so often onscreen); one thinks of Henry James failing at theatre as an equivalent of an American in London with genius singularly incapable of transferring their gifts from their chosen genre to another they desired to excel in.  However, as she ages, she renews the idea of female beauty and drive and chutzpah, and increasingly threatens to out-Dietrich Dietrich.

There won't ever be another Madonna.  She is still with us, and, if the fates smile, there is no doubt she will be singing fun, zeitgeist songs in 2022, perhaps even 2032.  I have loved her from afar since I was 16, when she first appeared on my horizon, and have wanted her to be my big sister since then.  I went to see her in Montreal with my mother for the True Blue tour in the mid-80s at the height of her first wave.  I hope to meet her one day and write a song with her.  In the meantime, I will simply have to strike a pose on my own.


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...