Monday, 19 June 2017

THE WINNER OF THE THIRD FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS RICKY RAY

AN AMERICAN POET OF TALENT
In tough times, Eyewear is continuing to grow and develop this rather special, fast-paced, 14-day turnaround poetry prize.

This time the judge was Ms Rosanna Hildyard, our senior editor at Eyewear, and an Oxford graudate, who has written a new translation of Pere Ubu which we will be publishing shortly. The 4th edition of the contest opens today with our judge being Oliver Jones, a poet, editor, and author of a critical survey of Trump's rhetoric.

The shortlist is


Antony Huen – ‘Ekphrasis’

Brianna Neumann – ‘Heart Murmur’

Chris Hardy – ‘Each Summer’

Danielle Lejeune – ‘Counting Seven Crows’

Ellen Kempler – ‘Elegy At The End Of A Beach Walk’

Greer Gurland – ‘It Is Easy To Forget’

JDA Winslow – ‘text3’

Jose Varghese – ‘Sex In The Time Of Air Raids’

Justin William Evans – ‘Night Prayer 3’

Lenore Hart – ‘Looking Into The Eyes Of A Woman’

Myna Wallin – ‘Blood Lines’

Paola Ferrante – ‘Homing’

Richard Ray – ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’

Roger Sippl – ‘Broken’


And the winner and runner-up are discussed below. Well done to all!

Winner: Ricky/Richard Ray, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’

Runner-up: Danielle Lejeune, ‘Counting Seven Crows’

JUDGE'S COMMENTS:

This fortnight’s shortlisted poems in Eyewear’s ongoing flash-prize were chosen for their spirit and sense of daring. These are the poems, out of those submitted, that felt playful – that were attempting something novel in the form of poetry. Whether it is Antony Huen’s fragmentation of the ancient technique of ekphrasis, for a view seen through the lens of a smartphone, or JDA Williams’ loving, lavish ode to a pot roast sandwich in ‘Night Prayer 3’, each of these authors has found an entirely original voice. It’s reassuring to see a lack of cliché. It’s exciting to read poems which are skilful, sarcastic and innovative. They do not pander to literary fashions or accepted values; they are all truly expressive.
 
My winner, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’ by Ricky Ray, and runner-up, ‘Counting Seven Crows’ by Danielle Lejeune, both invoke the mythic power of the number seven. Both authors use poetry as an almost supernaturally powerful form of language – a chant, curse, or charm.

The winning poem, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’, could be one of Bob Dylan’s folk songs – to the tune of ‘Seven Curses’ or ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’. It is a true American legend, blackly funny, with the laconic narration of a TV Western. The words are well-worn – ‘mangy’, ‘chemo’, ‘out of town’ – but the poem’s deceptively simple, steady rhythm (much more deft than is apparent) and crafted consonance give it a magic of its own.



 
The Seven Hundred Sights in a Horse
A wild horse ran through town.
It was always running.
Gospel was: something had
to be wrong with you to see it.
Everyone had seen it.
Those who said they didn't
saw it in their dreams,
started to stutter when they spoke.
Some saw only an eye,
usually when they were blind
to the bad side of a relationship.
Some saw its mane, a mangy sight,
while they took the bus
home from chemo.
Its tongue meant you should
spit the liquor back into the bottle.
The local bum saw its skeleton
as he burned from the hollows
of his eyes. He took up
the guitar again and bone by song
it disappeared. Its tail told secrets.
Those who heard the swish
knew what it meant
but could never put it into words.
They said it was like a higher
form of balance. A little girl
put out half an apple every evening.
The neighbor's dog ate it
and she took it as a sign
that she and the horse were friends.
Her mother died young
and she's the only one
who ever saw the horse’s heart.
(Or the only one who confessed.)
She married the man
she suspected had seen it too.
He kissed her when she asked.
She and the guitarist became
the resident horse interpreters.
They often disagreed: on its name,
its sex, what color it was,
why it had come to town,
whether it whinnied
when the church bells rang,
what a person ought
to do with what they saw.
Two things they always agreed on:
you only rode it out of town
and by out of town
they meant out of life,
and if you saw its hoof
you better duck.
 
copyright 2017 the author.

 
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue, Concis, One and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic's Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded.
 

 

NO MORE

One is reminded of King Lear, broken on the heath, by the immensity of human loss and suffering. London, and the UK, is reaching a summer breaking point.  As temperatures soar to 31 Celsius, murder, hate and death keeps erupting in weekly events, each unbearable for both victims, and any bystanders with a heart or soul.

Last night, a terror attack on law-abiding, decent, and needless to say, blameless, Muslim British people attending a Mosque, injured many. This is awful, and this blog is not going to state the obvious here. But we did not want this event to pass without comment.

This blog considers the British Muslim population of the UK to be an incredible, enriching, and valuable part of the whole intermixed splendour that is UK culture and society. Far from being a fifth-column, Muslims in the UK are - as we saw after the Grenfell Tower Fire - as compassionate or more compassionate than any other community - and their doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, workers, drivers, artists, musicians, writers, actors, newscasters, and so on - add extraordinarily to this nation. None of this should have to be said - but some hate-filled people clearly think that you have to be white and Christian to be English or British, and any one who does not fit into a very narrow image of Britishness is a threat.

It is so terrible to see what is happening in our streets, we are unravelling. But people of faith, people who care for each other, keep appearing to remind us, that we are human, and deserve to be treated fairly, and with kindness. The other day at a Westminster summer fayre, while bands and choirs sang, a broad and relaxed audience of all faiths, and races, laughed, danced and ate together. It was a paradisal vision of brother and sisterhood.  We are possibly a much better humanity that we sometimes recognise. Time for better angels to stay the course.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Outrage

A week or so after a startling election, which culminated in the collapse of Ms May's hubristic intentions for a hard Brexit, and ushered in a new, smiling, roseate Corbyn, PM in waiting, The Grenfell Towers inferno has struck London, and the UK, into a state of numbed horror. In the richest borough in all of the UK, it seems impossible that a 24-storey building with hundreds of families in it could, after one fridge caught fire, become entirely engulfed in flame like a roman candle within minutes. Anyone who has seen the footage will recognise instantly that this sort of disaster just isn't supposed to happen in a wealthy, industrialised nation anymore, one with fire safety laws - but somehow, cruelly and tellingly, the poorer members of UK society were ignored, their needs shelved, their reports and messages binned, and their homes made into a death-trap. If faulty cladding or improper safety measures are the fault, as appears likely, then this will be a case of manslaughter. In the meantime, it speaks symbolically and actually to all those who try to ignore the unignorable, now - the chasm between the haves and have nots is a matter of life and death. Disgusting, tragic, and entirely preventable.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

20 KEY SONGS OF 2017 SO FAR

SUMMER IS COMIN IN WITH SOME GREAT TUNES

Eyewear likes lists, and loves music. Hence our regular updated best of music lists. 2017 has been a difficult year, and a tragic one, but there is no harm in seeking some solace, some respite, some beauty or expression of concern, in song.

There are many fine artists we love who do not make this list, like Blondie, Goldfrapp, Pile, Paramore, Spoon, Fleet Foxes, Sleaford Mods, Alison Moyet, Drake, Little Dragon, The National, the xx, but here are 20 popular music tracks - all available on Spotify - that have struck us as diverting, compelling, and undeniable this year. These others may well make our final list at year's end. At close to mid-year, and summer's height, however, here is the playlist we have for you, now.

1. 'All Things Pass' - The Jesus and Mary Chain
As good as their best, a classic indie pop song.

2. 'Beehive' - Mark Lanegan
Dark, indie, imagistic, potent, and brilliant - a classic.

3. 'Bon Appetit' - Katy Perry, Magos
Saucy dance pop from a masterful duo.

4. 'Cherry Pop' - Anteros
New Wave rock with a thrilling '77 twang.

5. 'Don't Know Why' - Slowdive
Hauntingly luminous shimmering dream pop.

6. 'Fire' - Beth Ditto
She's great, and this song is hot.

7. 'Howl' - Black Asteroid, Zola Jesus
Want crow-dark indie? Coming right up.

8. 'In Cold Blood' - alt-J
Weirdly catchy drama from quirk-meisters.

9. 'International Space Station' - British Sea Power
Anthemic indie pop in the peppy-OMD mode.

10. 'Junk Food Forever' - The Amazons
Soaring rush to the main stage for snot-nosed youth.

11. 'Kinda Bonkers' - Animal Collective
Brooklyn's presiding geniuses of song-surprise are back.

12. 'Lions' Den' - Pumarosa
You thought Siouxsie was intense?

13. 'Love' - Lana del Rey
Pure Lana, pure class. Swoon.

14. 'Nothing Feels Natural' - Priests
Masterful alt-rock response to awful 2016/17.

15. 'No Security' - Skepta
Powerful rap/ hip-hop that speaks to our time.

16. 'Paper Love' - Allie X
J-Pop tune, and oddball bliss.

17. '(Pressure) In Decay' - The New Division
Homage kids reinvent 80s synthpop.

18. 'Say My Name' - Tove Styrke
Dizzyingly wonky dance pop.

19. 'Scum' - Depeche Mode
The best anti-Trump song yet.

20. 'Weak' - AJR, Louisa Johnson
Joyously camp showstopper celebrating cheating.


YO-YO AND THE GNU

HIPSTERS LOVE CORBYN

Eyewear , the blog and company have had a rollercoaster love affair with Mr Jeremy Corbyn, current leader of the British Labour party. Anticipating his leadership win a few years ago, we published the first updated book on his life and ideas - which sold over 3,000 copies; several of our editors either voted for him or supported him. Then he appeared to falter. Our genuine love slackened.

But now he has pulled us back in, slowly, surely, with his principled, if grizzled, brand of authentic populism. His campaign has been masterful, and, mostly, blemish-free. He has appeared strong, confident, funny, and caring. And he has been infuriatingly clear - he does not like nuclear war or killing people.

Ms May, the current PM, has been a disaster.  Her strong, stable slogan is now a cruel albatross, like something the centurions slapped on the dying Christ. She has turned on her own manifesto - a bizarre first - and appeared weak in public debate, when she deigned to appear. Moreover, her 7 years in charge, first at the Home Office, then Number 10, of safety for the public have not lead to more safety. Ms May is not all bad - she is probably a good Christian, for example - whatever that may mean. She obviously cares, but has a genuine inability to express any thing approaching empathy with real suffering people.

The major issue though is that Ms May is, for reasons of her own making, too-closely tied to hard right Tories who want no deal, or a very Hard Brexit. She is also fawning when it comes to Trump - and loathe to criticise the more unpleasant people she toadies up to in the world community. It is a cruel fact that Tories who blame Corbyn for supporting terrorists are the ones who sell them the weapons.

A Labour minority government, or even a very weakened Tory government mandate, are to be preferred to a May in June landslide. But more vitally, Mr Corbyn deserves our vote, because he actually supports more policing, less tuition fees, more fairness in taxation, less violence abroad, and represents the sort of change the post-2008 crash world requires. He is imperfect - as are we all - but he is not just a grey gnu, or whatever Boris J is calling him today. He is decent, and compassionate. It would be splendid if Britain sought to support such a person.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

THE WINNER IS FINN ANDERSON

Montana poet, Finn Anderson
For our second iteration of this already-excitingly successful prize (in terms of getting entries from all levels of experience, and all over the world), we have that most pleasing of winners (arguably - a genuinely new poet, emerging from the wings for the first time, blinking in the footlights, to take their first shy bow). Indeed, this winner entered under an alias, but turns out to be Finn Anderson.  He will be paid his £140 today, almost instantly. Now here is the judge, Alexandra Payne, weighing in:

Judge’s Comments:

Among the poems read in the judging of this prize, many stood out for their starkly imagistic slants on reality, often transmuting somewhere into the magic and music of great poetry. None, however, with more wit, surprise and wistfully elegant tragedy than the sonnet, 'The Trampoline'.
 
Its mastery of form and subtle yet heartbreak-inducing rhymes transform a familiar domestic object into a perfect objective correlative for the everyday tragedies that pockmark all our little lives. Step out from anonymity, Orfinn Ani. This sonnet deserves it.

By contrast, my runner up, Vik Shirley, showed us how comedy can be a delightful element in poetry with her 'My One-Year-Old Niece' which also had me in raptures.

My congratulations to all the short-listed poets, and indeed all who entered. It was a delight to read all your work, especially from those who are as yet not published, yet show enormous sensitivity and talent. Please keep writing! - AP
 
The Trampoline
The trampoline is old and broken now.
Around its ambit absent springs, like teeth,
show gaps; we find them rusted underneath.
The sagging tarp is pocked, the metal bowed
and pinched from weight, and rain. The laminate
warning label's faded, its yellow ink run
brown to a shade of puke, or cigarette stain.
Of two divorces, two surgeries, you'd think
our father would've scrapped it long ago,
or given it to some kid down the road,
not left it, skeletal and mean, for his sons
to pallbear in his pickup to the dump.
He must have watched it patiently erode.
I wonder if he ever tried to jump.
 
@2017 Finn Anderson, the author

Finn Anderson (pictured above)  is a young American poet from Missoula, Montana, age of 25. He writes: 'I've worked in restaurants, bars, done construction, been a white water rafting guide, a ski instructor, a student. I've always loved reading. I love Leonard Cohen. I love skateboarding. I love my parents, and the summer.'
 



 

 








JUDGE PAYNE BRINGS SOME RELIEF.... THE NEW FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE SHORTLIST

SPECS PLEASE, EVERY FORTNIGHT
 
Every 14 days, the Fortnight Prize throws wide the net and offers up 14 shortlisted poems, one of which wins £140... here is this fortnight's shortlist... winner to be announced tomorrow... congratulations to all the many poets from around the world who entered, and especially the 14 poets here (at least one alias, I suspect).... this list judged by our managing editor, Alexandra Payne...
1. ‘Back to the Earth’ by Amy Lundquist
2. ‘Banal Apocalypse’ by David Braziel
3. ‘Dead Dog’ by Lynda Tavakoli
4. ‘Euclid Refuted’ by Daniel Cowper
5. ‘Follow You’ by Colin Dardis
6. ‘For a Catfish’ by Ellen Kempler
7. ‘Helen Keller Meets Charlie Chaplin on a Hollywood Film Set 1919’ by Jane Lovell
8. ‘Help of the Helpless’ by Ken Evans
9. ‘Love Song for Marcello Alfredo’ by Daniela Buccilli
10. ‘My One-Year Old Niece’ by Vik Shirley
11. ‘Q&A’ by Michelle Peñaloza
12. ‘Reading a Novel’ by Samuel Son
13. ‘Take Today’ by Wes Lee
14. ‘The Trampoline’ by Orfinn Ani

A SUMMER OF MAY? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT

Eyewear's spokesperson
As the now tired adage goes, a week is a long time in politics. A week ago we did not know Trump's secret weird word... and more seriously, much more seriously, the Manchester tragedy had not yet happened. But now, after several debate appearances on TV from Corbyn, the Labour leader, and astonishingly poor appearances and non-appearances from the PM May, the polls have begun to converge, like an iceberg and a stable ship. Nik Nanos, Canada's leading polling expert, predicted this a month ago. As in some ways does our Eyewear book Tactical Reading, published a week ago. Though still too early to tell - and given the ferocity and mendacity of the right-wing media here in Britain - it appears May is losing her landslide. Here are Eyewear's predictions on the possible outcomes in a week, 8th June, when the UK votes to elect a new government.

MAY'S TORIES WIN A SLIM MAJORITY/MINORITY GOVERNMENT - 30% CHANCE
MAY'S TORIES WIN A MAJORITY OF 50-80 SEATS - 25%
MAY'S TORIES WIN A LANDSLIDE OF 80-100 SEATS - 20%
HUNG PARLIAMENT, COALITION OF LABOUR/SNP - 15%
CORBYN'S LABOUR WINS A SLIM MAJORITY - 10%

As will be seen here, Eyewear (which accurately predicted a Trump victory) believes there is still a 75% chance that Ms May will be PM in a week - but there is now a 25% chance she will not be... sufficiently disconcerting, I would imagine, for her team.

It should be added, we are not impartial. Eyewear supported Remain, and opposes a hard Brexit, supports immigration, and is, broadly-speaking, in favour of Scottish nationalism, and a Lab-Lib coalition with the SNP.

Vote tactically. Keep The Nasty Party out of landslide territory. Give them a difficult time at the ballot box...

THE BEST OF 2017...

Aim High, more often Year-end Best of lists are invidious, and, also, these days, ubiquitous, to the point of madness. But we have love...