Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Patron: Andrew Motion
            Friday November 1st 2013     7.00p.m.    (doors open 6.30)
                        Ruth O'Callaghan Presents 
                            Eyewear Publishing Poets
              Penny Boxall
              Sheila Hillier
              Elspeth Smith
             with Todd Swift Eyewear publisher
Poets from the Floor Very Welcome
Please bring a copy of the poem if you wish to be considered for the new anthology.
Trinity United Reform Church, 1 Buck St, Camden Town
1-2 mins. Camden Town tube Entrance £5/£4           Wine 
Camden/Lumen Poetry Competition Judge: Andrew Motion. Prize: 50 free copies of a perfect bound small collection of your poems plus a reading. Poems up to 40 lines. Single poems £2.50,  6 poems £10. Closing date 14 February 2014. Poetry must not be previously published. Proceeds to Homeless Cold Weather Shelters. No entry form is necessary. Please make out cheques to Caris Camden and send Ruth O'Callaghan, 49 Ripley Gardens, Mortlake, London SW14 8HF

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Finally, the country often considered too dull to notice, Canada, has won a Nobel Prize for Literature, not counting Bellow, and the winner is a deserving one - Alice Munro - a modest person who has lived most of her life in semi-rural Ontario (as the BBC put it), and in the process, become universal, without being provincial. Or overtly political.

Canadians will know that we have had other late geniuses who might have been so laurelled - Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence, Gabrielle Roy, Morley Callaghan, AM Klein and PK Page come to mind, as do other expats like Wyndham Lewis or Malcolm LowryLeonard Cohen might have been a lively and surprising choice, but if him, why not Dylan?

Of the living, younger generations, Atwood, Carson, Ondaatje, Martel, and George Elliott Clarke have been developing a considerable and viable international reputation.  Their dream is not to be this day.  This is a day for all Canadian writers and readers to rejoice though - we now have a genuinely world-class author that the world has told us they love as much as "we" do.

The Amazing Mazer - A New Poem by Ben

Starlight by Streetlight

October is tinted green, blue, violet, tan,
to accommodate the pedestrian,
who leaves the starlight of the city's windows,
to wander past the shops that evenings close,
on his way home, beneath the roaring el,
where leaves swirl in the air, this side of hell.
A million visages, a million words,
of advertising copy, conversations
heard in the street, or heard in railway stations,
invade the heart, informing its desire
for privacy, for lying in the dark,
and emanating magically higher,
up through the tinted light, the falling leaves,
high up past violet Venus's lone spark,
where moonlight settles on the snow-white eves
of certain quaint restrictions, four mute walls,
the in between state of the darkened halls:
to say, I'm mine. I am the one I am.
Let Archimedes fall on swift, dull Priam.
Let stars be rockets, stir audible Tyre.
The glittering mastodon is all for hire,
and Jesus speaks, and Franklin, and Rousseau,
illuminated there, with piercing echo.
Spread out across the vagrant orchard trees,
the cellar that the spider only sees,
with apple smells, an Indian Summer breeze,
alerts the senses, lone in supposition
of ecstasy in very high position.
But Dante goes. The orange trees are too real,
to hope exemplify the nuptial peal
of separate strangers, who align in tenses,
past tick tock clocks that time the sleeping senses.
The morning shall stand proud, lit in the hall,
or huddling on street corners, clutching bundles,
a brokerage of lassitude and thrall,
of portraits on a terra cotta wall,
beside the phone that rings and shakes the candy,
the pencils and the paper that are handy.
The day is jubilant, and all are free,
to ice skate in the park, or sit beneath a tree,
although we meet back here for lunch at three.
Never mind that dinner is at seven,
or that each one aspires to his own heaven.
Let darkness gather round the radio;
let each feel all, but tell not what they know.
The world war has begun. Just so. Just so.
poem by Ben Mazer copyright 2013; published with permission of the author.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Patron: Andrew Motion

Tuesday October 15th 2013      (doors open 6.30 for 7p.m.)
Ruth O'Callaghan Presents    
Shoestring Poets
Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Roy Marshall
Poets from the floor very welcome.
Please leave the  poem you read to be considered for the next anthology.
 LUMEN   88 Tavistock Place W.C.1
Tubes: Russell Square , Kings Cross, St Pancras.             Entrance £5/£4        WINE
Camden/Lumen Poetry Competition Judge: Andrew Motion. Prize: 50 free copies plus a reading.Poems up to 40 lines. Single poems £2.50,  6 poems £10.
Closing date 14 February 2014. Poetry must not be previously published. Proceeds to Homeless Cold Weather Shelters. No entry form is necessary. Please make out cheques to Caris Camden and send Ruth O'Callaghan, 49 Ripley Gardens, Mortlake, London SW14 8HF


Early on in Prisoners, we see Jake Gyllenhaal eating alone in an empty Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving. This is the only backstory we ever get about the detective he portrays, Loki, throughout the entire film, and yet cue the most enthralling performance of his career. His tattoos, fashion sense, hairstyle. His sweeping movements from raw anger to determined professionalism. His tic and his unconventional mode of wielding a pistol.

            With great actors left, right and centre, Prisoners explores how we deal with extreme tragedy. At one point early on, the camera crawls forward, close to a single tree trunk in front of a house, seemingly focusing on nothing and everything, and it’s extremely creepy – from here on out you’re going to be sitting very stiff on your seat. The tension isn’t the only reason the two and a half hours speed by, the balance of character and plot grapples with the audience’s attention and doesn’t let go – it throttles and throws you about. To mind, the only other American thrillers that pull off this kind of running time are Zodiac and Mystic River, both of which are also artfully developed and crafted. The difference being Prisoners is better.

Roger Deakins’ masterful photography makes this thriller, lacking in shootouts and car chases (and why should it), stunning, stressed, artistic and cinematic. The film is unflinchingly violent, yet mainly the violence is shown in its aftermath or through sound, leaving your mind to imagine the worst. In some cases, the worst you can imagine is probably what’s happening.  The audience I was part of gasped at a static close-up and communally held its breath as one character smashes apart a sink. Filmmaking expertise.

The concept of missing children, a father doing all that he can to find her and a detective mostly sticking by the rules may seem like broad strokes and fable-like, but that is to ignore the symbolism and allegory embedded. If you look for it, there really is a morally complex heart beating away in this metaphor-laden film. The film avoids a political stance; one character isn’t favoured over any other, and the plot chooses to mirror the realities of America rather than go with the particular screenwriter’s disposition. I imagine this is pulled off so effortlessly with thanks to the French director – an outsider.

Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) has put this with the ranks of Psycho and Seven. He isn’t alone with such statements; the five star reviews flood in. My instinct tells me this is hyperbole that won’t live with the passage of time, but I do hope it doesn’t go forgotten and will be given its deserved place in the canon of cinema. - James A. George is Eyewear's chief film critic.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Eyewear recommends that you celebrate National Poetry Day by buying a poetry book from a small British poetry press today - whether that be Penned in the Margins, Shearsman, Salt, Cinnamon, Seren, Nine Arches, KFS, etc - is up to you.  Maybe the book will be one of Eyewear's handsome hardcovers.  Small presses barely scrape by, and their sales tend to be quite low.  They survive hand to mouth, and partially with the comfort of strangers - good readers who are good buyers.  The less poetry that sells, the less poetry gets published.  If and when small presses dry up, so too do opportunities for emerging and new poets of any age to get their debut collections out.  So, please do think of poetry publishers today, without whom many poets would not be available for you, as a reader to enjoy in book form.


It is National Poetry Day in the UK.  To celebrate, I want to offer readers a poem from the significant Canadian poet Robert Priest's new collection, Previously Feared Darkness.  It is a collection I will be reviewing here before long.  For now, enjoy.

Robert Priest, Previously Feared Poet


When Churchill flashed his famous V sign
It wasn’t for victory
As everyone says
It was for vagina
For he knew
What I know
That there is still not enough praise
For the vagina
He knew that if anything is miraculous
The relation between the inside of the vagina
And the outside of the penis
Nixon knew it too

Even as he resigned
Even as he turned to face the music
Of his own destiny
He flashed that last V
But my friends
It was not a sign of peace
It was Nixon’s way of saying
That the inside of the vagina
Is as numinous as it gets

This secret is well known
The vagina is a sign
Without which not a single holy thing
May be written

Excerpt from Previously Feared Darkness by Robert Priest © 2013 by ECW Press. Used with permission from the publisher.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Par Avion

Air-speeded letters sing the light of home.
Lyrical with distance, the blue and red
flecked envelopes become a mother.
Home so far away it turns into myth.
Memory lapses into dream and dreams
are forgotten. The only reality is ink.
Your mother’s handwriting - neat and clean
on blue paper - soon spidered with age.
Her hands tremoring, years passing
like the planes tearing overhead as letters
exchanged over the arc of earth between
a woman and her son, Par Avion.
Faces, half-recalled, revived by pen:
sisters getting married, fathers always busy,
babies getting born, you missing.
Homesickness is an open wound
you may have thrown the letters away, but
I saw the blood through your shirt.
It spoke with a red mouth.
poem by Maria Taylor, copyright 2013.


Breaking Bad's claim to be the best TV series ever is perhaps weak - there have, after all, been many zeitgeist shows like M*A*S*H, All In The Family, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Get Smart, Star Trek, X-Files, Twin Peaks, Brideshead Revisited, Columbo, Prime Suspect, House of Cards, Prison Break, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Inspector Morse, The Killing, Mad Men, The Wire, Homeland, The Sopranos, etc, to vie for such an accolade.  However, if the category is changed to best American drama series of the contemporary era (post-80s), then the list narrows - and one is left with perhaps a shortlist of Mad Men, The Wire, and The Sopranos, to seriously contest its supremacy; and then it becomes clear just how good these 62 episodes, as a whole are.

It is a very Aristotelian tragedy - for the most part, it centres on an extended family, in one general location, over a limited time span of two or so years, from cancer diagnosis, to cancer remission, to cancer return, to death by machine gun wound.  The main character starts good, and due to a tragic flaw best summed up as hubris (he discovers he is good at cooking Meth, and organising criminal activity, and enjoys it too much to stop), ends up very bad.  The writing is consistent across all episodes, the acting always excellent, and most episodes begin well and end on a stunning twist.  Each season advanced the plot, increased the moral tension, and also always ended on a high note.

At times, the machinations of the lead character, Walter White/ Heisenberg (a Whitmanesque everyman) astonished the most clever prognosticators among the fanbase - the series was always one step ahead, and, in the last eight or so episodes, reached a sublime state (except for episode 61, the weakest) of expectation and fulfilment that seemed like the crowds waiting for the latest Dickens instalment by the ports.  It is unlikely, as other critics have said, that we will experience such a seamlessly-crafted, morally driven, visionary, original, and concise show again in our lifetime.  It never strayed.  It always knew what it was doing.

For instance, there is no sexism and little sexual violence in any of the episodes - it was never exploitative.  Instead, the series relentlessly asked a good question - what happens to a man's soul if he does whatever he can, and keeps getting away with it?  What happens next?  Well, he ends up with dead friends and family, traumatised loved ones, and millions of dollars in barrels stolen by neo-Nazis. He ends up dead.  Crime did not pay.  Some will complain that White offed the gang at the end too easily, and that the contraption he devised was not chemistry.  He was an engineer of his own human soul's descent, he could build a toy gun if he wanted to.  I will miss this show deeply.  It is classic.


The Daily Mail's attack on Labour leader Ed Milliband's dead Marxist academic father is almost unprecedented in recent British media history for its virulence and lack of, well, Britishness.  To call a Jewish refugee from Nazism evil takes some gall, and to call one who fought for the British against Nazis evil is even worse.  Perhaps the most obscene aspect of this tirade, which reeks of anti-Semitism, is the photograph of the grave of Ed's father, that was put online as part of the original story.  Given that graves of Jews are often desecrated by fascists, it is rather unsettling to have done so.  It is also unseemly and cruel.

Imagine if your own deceased loved one was so vilified?  Moreover, it is not "unBritish" to be a left-wing academic.  Britain's greatest poet and prose writer of the last century, WH Auden and George Orwell, were, at one time or another, rather socialist in bent, to put it mildly.  England's greatest indie band, The Smiths, is openly anti-monarchist.  Is one unBritish for questioning the status quo?  Quite the reverse - Britishness has a healthy streak of non-conformity, and many great Britons have been socialists, and Marxists.

Meanwhile, as Kevin Higgins the ex-radical socialist Irish poet reminded me, it was the Daily Mail who hailed the election of Herr H****r as a good thing all those years ago.  If they can be forgiven their premature fascism, why does Prof Milliband have to bear the brunt of history's later judgements?  The paper should retracts its editorial and apologise.


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...