About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 25,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. and ha snow been read by over 2 million The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

DONALD DAVIE: NEW POEM BY TODD SWIFT

DONALD DAVIE, COLLECTED POEMS 1971-1983

A poem after reading a Donald Davie Carcanet collection


Severity to such things: 1971-1983
painfully exact
Donald Davie
by way of tact
So 2015 - July 1.

HOTTEST DAY EVER RECORDED. HEATHROW
now what is moral, what
merely excess in language
has a place in this garden,
this garden in Dial M for Maida Vale.

Hot days crush roses. Here
we have examples of this.
Count four crushed, bruised, defeated
pink rose bushes, beaten as
at Waterloo.

This being time
and history being in time
just as this heat is in this garden;
so we must note Greece
defaulting. Broken by creditors.

IMF LACKIES. BERLIN EUROCRATS.
Pound would have a livid field day.
Usury.
A famous Attic Light.
Reason, drama, art.

We were shaped by a Greece
we now break like ice.
The way we enmesh
ourselves in difficulties,
by custom, by design.

By birth.
Language, financial controls, thought.
Shaped, and shaping, murkily
as if divers in blooded waters
collided; SHARK ATTACKS ON THE RISE.

In years, this will mean very little.
The bloom come off the resonance.
A serious book, the Davie,
but the purple cover image
is of cyclists on amusement rides.

An air of seaside provincialism
comfortingly reflects
poems that 'continue to address
the British readers'. Addresses
don't always reach persons

no longer residing there.
Lost property ensues. Broken
messages. I think of 1971-1983
as a quaint period now
of TV we rarely remember,

or do so with rising panic
finally recognising the illicit behaviour
at the core of British broadcasting culture
paid for by the British viewer.
SEX. DRUGS. ROCK N ROLL.

Time seems a trough between waves.
They batter some port; some beach;
indefinite because unclear the need
to specify that which has no import,
recedes as any rumour, or disproved lie.

It's unclear the past has much value
if it needs protection from being lost;
what no longer adheres or pertains
remains limitless, like air, unloved
too, though, in its blithe evanescence;

the lyric protrudes like a riding accident;
one could record the exact
topographies, where once present;
where clouds gathered; precipitation
came and went, occurrence.

Topographies, values, levels of seabed
to hillside. The light that alters
the day and then again nothing,
as no day has precedence over any other
except for the visitor to that place.

Compare hawk to pigeon
in your outdated guidebook to
THE SHIRES. So many lives still
and quiet at this hour (five to seven
in the evening). Battles, museums

celebrating what barely happened
in retrospect; it all shimmers; is vague;
is a rumour, a whisper, a ghostly trace,
a closure and a moment of rain.
England, has been, going, for

awhile; the rose bush
tempered by the heat. Heat rising
mid-summer like a killing bird
among the quietude. A rustling
never ends, the styles or forms

of tree in leaf; money continues
to go about its vast estates.
In my English words, an I, a lord
no less, or more, of conquest.
A Greek tonight at Piraeus,

feels the disdain of elemental forces;
a combination of crushing power and distant
disdain. At times, Roman, or Chinese,
American, Russian, French, German
even British - out from central command

it rolls, a thunder that is heard
before the violence of the sky is created
to be seen and made sublime.
Politics as natural disaster -
natural disaster

no human nature can alter
or decide. Fate, empire, under the sea
in a tangle of monstrous properties;
red blooms from the wounds
of war, rolling to the shore.

The rose bush withers, regardless,
remotely spoken for,
or to, or by, power, a poetry
of reference, of studied indifference.
Baseless continuation of what will harm

or sow; the gardener's tantrum
or sleep forgotten; the shears in sun
on the lawn, attractive.
REFERENDUM. To decide delays
only the moment, not the full sea's breakage.

Dive, with constraint, lucid
or chaotic and afraid; how one speaks
makes only the words different;
beneath the waves of heat or cold
the petals ruin equally. Force being true.

JULY 1-5, 2015
MAIDA VALE, ENGLAND

@copyright the author

Sunday, 28 June 2015

NEW POEM BY TODD SWIFT

Want: 2; Have: 1

For James Brookes
 
Last year tossed many friends into bin bags...
for all their sins, they were better alive;

thrived in the sun, dirt annoys the skin,
erodes faith. I have never met a dead

believer. We love God most when living.

The dead know the bald mysteries.
You get rich with washboard abs
and blonde curls. 90% of porn

is police handcuffs and suffering
in falconry hoods; fellators paid

to appear illegal but just over the line.
You want to be oriental potentates
with power and slaves to kneel and adore
an engorged sense of self. You crave
being craved. Wish to be Gosling,

or whoever the next Gosling is, will be.

I have been accused of murdering
my love hearts, as if I doodled scum

across my forehead on Wednesdays;
no, I am innocent of all surplus crimes

except grandiosity. Pere of my own
ubiquity, grossly over-privileged;

in the blind and dumb mirror of the networks
where I am bound by gimpy Hephaestus,

who locks up our faces in smart wire

we cannot break out of, no matter how hard

we bleat books, sighing we want to be A-list.
My V-shaped torso rises from a swamp,

triggering salivation in the audience, who’d
crawl over muscles to mouth a tensile sword.

God’s silence is not absence, it is omission.
Purely, he punishes us by not intervening.

Jehovah could come like a solar flare, burst
all the power lines, wipe our screens away.

We could be cleansed as the solar wind is,
rising out of its own circles of eruption to stay.


copyright the author, Todd Swift, 2015

TAT POEM BY TODD SWIFT


POEMS ON UNORIGINAL THEMES ONE: TATTOOS

 

I burn it off to be like me, again.

I took my skin back to being

A baby, more or less.  Spotless,

Milky, not a cast of sin.  Tattoo-less

Was the second new beginning.

She used a laser like in Bond,

I saw the hearts, the dragons,

The names of lovers undo

Their fame.  It was like a pond

Freezing over, going all ice-blank.

I began to forget my body’s

Debts to those I’d once paid

Honour with this pain of inking.

Half-way through her surgery

I got to thinking, this was erasure

Not of the visible, but the unseen.

The daggers and the bloody crucifix,

The Hindenburg date and Germanic

Signs, the beaded tears and sweat,

The badly-drawn porcupine,

Shelley, Medbh and Anne-Marie –

It wasn’t ripping off a simple layer,

But drinking out the dregs of an ID,

So that what I could remember

Would be remapped as pristine.

No good to be so clean, I said.

I broke from that low chair and fled

Fast from her Harley street prison

Hell-bent on getting remade

In the image of all those imagoes,

My spattered insignia to be reapplied

So I could fit into my own job description.

 
 

BAD SEX WRITING

SHE IS A SUBMISSIVE READER OF EL JAMES
In today's Sunday Times Culture section, there is a dismissive review of the latest E.L. James novel, Grey, which as you already know follows the 125 million-selling paperback trilogy about S&M, naïve virgins, haunted billionaires, and contractual sexual punishments and rewards. Rather wittily following on from Freud, it implies that what women "really want" is very badly written prose. On the same page, there is a review of the "traditional" light-verse popular British poet and crime novelist (she did the new Agatha Christie and an anthology of Sex poetry) Sophie Hannah, and it is of course a slim volume of selected and new poems that here is offered, from Carcanet.

One of these books has sold a million copies or so already, the other, in all likelihood (and even given the charm, talent and fame of the poet as prose writer), will sell a few hundred, perhaps a few thousand.  If one believes, as I do, that intelligent poetry represents the deep end of the swimming pool, and pulp paperback best-seller porn the shallow end, then, this summer - as in all seasons - we must reflect on which end is more packed with readers/ bathers, and be sad. 99.9% of books that sell are genre best-sellers. Some, such as those by Lee Child, are well-crafted, but those by James are so far as I can tell, barely literate. Yet they have made this non-entity and no-talent a very rich person, while deeply talented, long-suffering literary artists will mostly live impoverished or financially trying lives for decades if not forever.

Why why why? It is like being King Lear, and wondering at the human condition. But it is worse, because writers are at least meant to know how to write, about the human condition among other things. I am not a prude, and not a literary moralist in the ordinary sense (like Greene, another Catholic, I understand that writing is most ethical which most engages with all of human life, especially the question of evil). I welcome erotic novels. But need they be so badly-written? The odd thing is, there are about a thousand, no maybe ten thousand, erotic novels out there at the moment, online and so forth, and many must be the equal or better of Grey, but while they may sell a handful, their peer will sell millions.  Who is to blame? The media? Human curiosity?

Has the net's gratuitous promiscuous breaking of borders allowed the lone wolf killer and the lone wolf writer both to thrive? A thousand points of light my arse. We are all now connected to do each other harm, use each other, show off, show feigned interest, and try and sell shit to each other. Bad sex writing is not as bad as bad sex - or perhaps it is. Read more poetry. Even sex poetry. But you already knew that.



Saturday, 27 June 2015

OUTRAGE, ELOQUENCE, GRACE AND GOODNESS

SOME WERE MURDERED ON THE BEACH WHERE THEY READ AND SUNBATHED, BY EVIL MEN
President Obama is a great orator, and he more than rose to the occasion of his eulogy for the nine killed in their bible class in Charleston by a racist youth. He went beyond the call of duty, and gave a speech that is the equal to some of Lincoln's.

It touched on issues of morality, and decency, and in some ways, reminds us that though life can feel meaningless, those who feel touched by God's grace can find healing purpose even in tragedy. Ending with the song 'Amazing Grace,' which he sang, President Obama fittingly, and movingly, brought his eloquence into the form of address most suited to the occasion, a song that all in the great African-American church could sing along with as well.  He exemplified the power of words to move into song, into community, and to spread ideas of communion, and goodness.

It is a matter of record that, meanwhile, the world is being ravaged by a religious murderousness that does not seek community, communion, peace, accord, forgiveness, mercy, or grace.  A virulent and violent form of misinterpreted religion that kills one and all, cruelly, sowing discord. It is perhaps the worst form of terrorism ever spawned in the human heart, and it is by all definitions, evil.

Those of us who love God and religion, as exemplified by the gentle mercy and goodness of a forgiving Jesus, should welcome the goodness of the Black American Church - as good an example of why Atheism seems blind to the plight of millions in history who found refuge there in a pew or pulpit - for God is hope, for those often enslaved, without any otherwise. God is meaning. Reason and science do not provide the healing balm, the uplifting songs, of the Black American Church. Atheism does not forgive, and love - it cannot offer a Grace that forgives murder.

But religion can be cruel - in the wrong hands, in the wrong lands. It can be misused by intolerant, by wicked, human minds.

So too in America, some good Christians cannot forgive the Supreme Court, this week, for permitting Gay marriage - and that is a pity.  Jesus loved and forgave all. The mercy that can forgive a killer must be able to welcome those who love and seek profound union, despite their gender.

What divides us must be overcome. Religion shows the best and worst of us. But God is the best of us, and God is love. Or so we hope, or so we hope.

Friday, 19 June 2015

TEN GREAT SONGS SUMMER 2015

Readers of Eyewear, the blog, know we love to recommend new tracks, as we find them on Spotify.

It's been a good year for pop, rock and indie music, with The Darkness back, and Brandon Flowers, and Carly Rae Jepsen and even Chic and Moroder, but here are the ten key songs of the moment we find essential for summer listening. Put another way, these are the ten best songs of the year, so far, judged solely in terms of the love swoon factor:

1. 'SPRINTER' - TORRES - Torres is a young woman now based in Brooklyn whose second album this title track hails from.  With assistance from persons associated with PJ Harvey, the sound is avant-indie, with intense lyrics, and emotive vocals. I love the lyrics, which explore a young Baptist girl's relationship with her pastor, a good man brought low by pornography - "there's freedom to, and freedom from" - it has several transcendent moments (in the classic soft/loud mode) and a soaring sense of theology and feminism intersecting, in a way that's startling and intelligently bracing.

2. 'DREAMS' - BECK - Beck is back. After a dreamy and slightly laboured recent album, beautiful but also somewhat tiring, this is pure summer camp - a pop song that might be from a boy band, or Timberlake. Only fun, and very catchy, it is almost as if Beck is trying to Out-Ronson Ronson.

3. 'THE ORGINAL HIGH' - ADAM LAMBERT - Speaking of which, "there's no comfort in comfort", as this Hollywood-based pop song claims.  With a "need for speed", it's a curiously poignant, falsetto exploration of addiction, sexual and otherwise, and how medication/dedication lead the singer to seek the rush of the first night. "Summertime stuck on my mind" indeed - this may be the summer hit.

4. 'CALIFORNIA NIGHTS' - BEST COAST - Regarding Hollywood nights, and staying high, here we go. Based subtly on a classic Smiths riff, this echo-laden indie-guitar track lays down a mood of dream-pop, melancholy, opiate-becalmed splendour. Easily one of the best indie songs of the decade so far.

5. 'HOW BIG, HOW BLUE, HOW BEAUTIFUL' - FLORENCE + THE MACHINE - Well, what is it with Hollywood at the moment? Here we are stuck between a crucifix and the Hollywood sign. Florence can be OTT, and her pipes a bit exhausting, but this track breaks free of her stylistic tics, and creates a great song with little touches of The Beatles. Bluntly, beautiful, and soaring, in a good way.

6. 'QUO VADIS' - LOWER DENS - keeping with the theme, California band Lower Dens have crafted an album of late, purely indebted to Siouxsie + The Banshees (also a big influence for Florence, natch), and several tracks are keepers.  This one is propulsive, melodic, melancholy, and another indie guitar-twanging classic. "We don't always get what we want" stays with me.

7. 'LOVE, TEXAS' - MARRIAGES - The gods who love indie moody guitar-twang dream pop are obviously gifting us this summer, because here we are, with a track so drenched in Mazzy Star atmospherics country-goth, you half expect Hope Sandoval to be something they've been shooting up behind the Nashville pool hall. I love it. Buy me a summer dress, a finned red car from the 50s, and I'll slap on some shades and go looking for a soldier boy to smooch in a motel near some dusty Nevada palms.

8. 'BRAVE MAN' - WILL YOUNG - and yes, pop lets us explore our bifurcated, many-sexualled identities. Here is another camp classic, a falsetto pop song so drenched in sentimentality and drama (a brave man, running through the rain) you have to tip your hat.

9. 'REGRET' - EVERYTHING EVERYTHING - "Did you imagine it in a different way" - an ironic question addressed to a British person escaped to Syria to join the fundamentalists there, and the most politically original, piercing and relevant British indie pop song (and ODDLY prescient) since The Specials about 30 years ago - who would have thought you could craft a great song from such tragic and complex choices?

10. 'SAMURAI BOY' - TOVE STYRKE - Move over, divas of pop, from Robyn to Gaga, Tove is on the scene - and this is as smart, adept, rich, witty, and sexy as the best of their work. Taken from an album of gems, this may be the most fun of the lot - with its "anarchy effects" and the camp query, "Oh Lord, can you hear my voice/ keep looking out for my Samurai Boy".

Enjoy.



Thursday, 18 June 2015

DARK DAYS OF SUMMER

Of course, life goes on - there is dancing, and there are joyous occasions, and music and poetry etc - but forgive me for saying the last few days have been bleak, news-wise (leavened by the Trump buffoonery, arguably).

The racist massacre in South Carolina, especially, is horrible. And leads on to inescapable conclusions about the Catch-22 America is in, with regards to its gun laws.

In a lesser way, the doubts now hovering over our British Olympian, and all-around lovely guy, Mo Farah, are also troubling.

And, in general, wars, terrorism, murder, and cruelty rage.

And, my friend, a poet, died.

Yes, yes, we must go on - but are we reaching a tipping point of savagery?

A Wayward Pines style devolution of humanity?

Perhaps not, but news of more nuclear weapons being deployed in Russia is again a symbol of bridges breaking down.

I am not sure poetry is the solution to much or anything, except, in this small (and it may be small gestures that comfort us, now) way - craft, attention, care, creation - are a stay against incivility and chaos.  Even art that explores and displays chaos and evil and darkness, attempts to express and contain, and question - and that may be something, small but a hope.

But poets, too, need to love one another, and die.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hans Van de Waarsenburg HAS DIED

The poet can’t help writing poetry and time can’t help taking him for granted. Rest in peace, dear friend. – Benno Barnard
Terribly sad news. The brilliant Dutch poet Hans Van de Waarsenburg has died. I loved him. He was brilliant, kind, generous, funny, and a great friend to poets world-wide. Dutch poet Hans van de Waarsenburg was born in Helmond in1943, and has died in 2015, June 15. He published his first collection of poems, Gedichten (Poems), 50 years ago, in 1965. His collection De vergrijzing (The graying) was awarded the prestigious Jan Campert Prize for Poetry in 1973. In March 2004 he received the first Municipal Award of the Helmond Town Council for his entire work. Between 1997 and 2000 he was chairman of the PEN Centre of the Netherlands. In 1997 he became chairman of The Maastricht International Poetry Nights - an impressive biannual international poetry festival. In 2013 Eyewear published his Selected Poems in English, translated by Peter Boreas, The Past Is Never Dead. We launched it at a gala event in Bloomsbury at which over 100 people attended.

'Hans van de Waarsenburg is quietly working on an impressive oeuvre. He possesses great technical skills, which he uses to vary and intensify his standard themes and motifs. He is no innovator, nor does he slavishly follow the latest fads. Neither is he a poet who forces himself on our attention in that loud entourage which more and more replaces literature itself. Loyalty is the key to Van de Waarsenburg’s work. His poetry expresses a loyalty to the people around him, loyalty to their motives and desires. He has an eye for their vulnerability, their futility and their restrictions. It is first of all expressed in the earnest and careful way in which he uses language. Thus a careful listener hears an individual and unmistakable voice rising from the poetry.' — Hans Groenewegen

Monday, 8 June 2015

THE WINNER OF THE MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE 2015 IS A TIE: MARIA APICHELLA AND TONY CHAN!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - JUNE 8 2015

THE MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE 2015

WE HAVE TWO WINNERS, TIED FOR FIRST PLACE
MARIA APICHELLA AND TONY CHAN

ONE POET IS BASED IN WALES, THE OTHER, ORIGINALLY AUSTRALIAN, NOW LIVES AND WORKS IN ENGLAND

BOTH WINNING COLLECTIONS MERGE TRADITIONAL FORMS (PSALMS, OR SONNETS) WITH STRIKINGLY CONTEMPORARY CONCERNS, AND CREATIVE PASSION.

CHAN'S WAS COMPOSED IN 78 DAYS OF WALKING ACROSS ALL OF THE UK

APICHELLA'S EXPLORES FAITH AND DOUBT IN THE CONTEXT OF WAR AND LOVE

BOTH POETS WILL HAVE THEIR COLLECTIONS PUBLISHED IN EXACTLY ONE YEAR (JUNE 2016) AND WILL SHARE THE PRIZE MONEY OF £1,500

2015 JUDGE'S CITATION
BY TOBY MARTINEZ DE LAS RIVAS:

'It has been a pleasure – a difficult pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless – to have judged this year’s entries for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize which is beginning to make itself an increasingly important part of the annual literary calendar for poets who are yet to publish a first book. Before I proceed to talk briefly about the some of the entries which so impressed me this year, as well as the winners, I think it very important that we take a moment to acknowledge that: that without the generous advocacy of publishers such as Eyewear, its director Dr Todd Swift, and this prize in particular, the literary landscape we all share would be a significantly poorer one. The Melita Hume Prize has helped give exposure to some excellent poets since its inception, and that tradition is very much carried on this year.

Over the last few weeks, I have read a great range of different voices – some wilfully avant garde in their play with language as a material in itself, some more focussed on what I guess might be called the traditional themes of poetry. Whatever the background or predilections of the particular poets, I can honestly say that I found much to enjoy in each collection, from Ben Parker’s wry, controlled, surreal and formally adventurous collection Insomnia Postcards to Anna Mace’s innovative, verbally lush submission am. I was also very pleased to see some excellent collections come in from Ireland – particularly Julie Morrissy’s The Foehn Wind with its concise, clean power.
 
I remarked to Todd that, had I also had the remit to produce an anthology of the short-listed writers, I know I could have produced a fascinating artefact. So why have I not chosen the winners from among these, and other, excellent submissions? Well, part of my remit was to find a full collection – a collection which was more or less complete and ready to go, and, while I was very taken with many individual poems and even whole sections of each short-listed writer, I do feel that they were, in many ways, half-collections or three-quarter collections. These poets’ time will come, but in each of their cases, I would advocate a little more work on the collection as a whole. Getting a book ready is a punishing and difficult task, and it requires patience and a kind of courage to overcome setbacks, and I would very much like to encourage all of the shortlisted writers to have faith in the value of their work, which was very plain to me, and to keep refining these collections.

There were, however, two collections which did seem to me ready, now. The first of these that I read was Maria Apichella’s beautiful, unsparing study of love and faith, Psalmody. The collection is broadly about the writer’s developing relationship with a soldier, David, due to be posted to the Middle East, and the conflict this engenders with the poet’s deeply held, but also deeply afflicted, religious faith. As the collection develops, its central character becomes inextricably identified with the Old Testament King and Psalmist, and the poet’s response is a series of 80 free verse – though deeply rhythmical – psalms which transplant all of that form’s tropes – vivid eroticism, praise, questioning, triumph, doubt, a lush naturalism – into modern Wales. Above and beyond the technical skill on display in each poem, what I most admired in this collection was its searingly intelligent intimacy, a deeply constructed symbolism which constantly re-surfaces throughout the book and a powerful, direct, unsettling and, at times, very beautiful and stark lyric.

The second collection for which I held deep admiration was Tony Chan’s Four Points Fourteen Lines which, like Maria’s Psalmody had its own remarkable back-story. In January this year, Tony left his job, and embarked on a 78 day, 1400 mile trek across Britain, incorporating its northern, southern, western and eastern extremities. That in itself is an extraordinary undertaking, but Tony also produced a sonnet at the end of each day – these sonnets constituted the collection, each one unedited and presented entirely as it emerged on the day in question. So, like Maria, Tony has reached into the past and brought us a new way of seeing an old, familiar form, and he has done it with equal skill. Looking back over my notes as I was reading the collection, I find the following: ‘Supremely generous,’ ‘At times, technically brilliant,’ ‘A clever mix of overblown Romantic structures with a self-deprecating tone which is very attractive’. It is undoubtedly not perfect – he often writes in full rhyme, and iambic pentameter, fantastically difficult to control even with forensic editing – but that slight unevenness is all part of the fun, part of the hugely generous vision, the willingness to push on, which makes this collection ultimately so rewarding and enjoyable.

Am I worried about my choices? Yes and no. Yes, because neither of these collections conform in any way to what might be termed ‘fashion.’ There is none of the razor-sharp cynicism, deadpan atonality or playful surrealism which is becoming an increasingly popular mode in current British poetry. There is no pop culture, no obsession with language as language, the internet only gets the briefest of look-ins. But then again, no – because what there is, in both cases, is a strong vision which necessitates a belief in the ability of language to express the world – as one of my notes on Maria’s work puts it ‘Words mean – she doesn’t even question – she has nothing else.’ What I admire above all, in both poets, is this formal skill, this ability to corral, to contain that violently intemperate thing that is the word. I was very, very pleased to read them, and I am equally pleased, thanks to the Melita Hume Poetry Prize, to be able to recommend them now to you.'