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The Swift Report 2005

1. As I sit at my desk, and look out over the year that's been, I am seized by the poet's inevitable desire to boast, strut and advertise - or was it only poets in the 1940s who did this?

Not sure. I suspect the wish to tell others of what one has been up to is as old as Moses - and arguably the need has never been greater. When more than 23 million "blog" each day, it is hardly news for someone to send their signals in to the ether; more specifically, for poets, these are both rich and trying times: while there has never before been more media interest and money thrown at poetry, comparatively-speaking, the public is less concerned with the idea of poetic language than ever before, and even most literary critics and reviewers exhaust their time on prose. As an Internet and print editor of poetry I can attest to the thousands of decent, talented (but not very) people out there interested in wanting to write good poems - sometimes they succeed.

Speaking with Les Murray

In Brief: Three Good Books Of Poetry From 2005

I am one of those who believes that 2005 was a very good year for all sorts of poetry published in the UK and Ireland - just look at the T.S. Eliot Prize short-list - hardly a dud there, and arguably six books that could win without much fuss over any injustice or cronyism. I'd say which book I want to win, but a handful of the poets up for it are, admittedly, friends of mine - and, in fact, I am torn a little.

It does seem odd that Hill's Comus was not selected, along with a few other collections, that might easily have slipped in for notice, but, since this was a bumper year, did not.

Three collections of poetry which I very much enjoyed, and did not, perhaps, receive the accolades or gongs they deserved, include two from Bloodaxe, and one from the smaller Irish press Salmon.

Sally Read gave us her debut collection early in the year. The Point Of Splitting (Bloodaxe)from its edgy title to disturbing cover onwards, is a sexy, dark and actually at times twisted exploration of er…

Future Poetry

Just a little note to say, I was glad to see this week-end's The Guardian (in the shape of Robert Potts) mention some of the more witty and well-written avant-garde books from the UK in his all-too-brief recent round-up, as well as the latest book by G. Hill (Comus) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Of course, one of the major books (republished with new poems) of this year, which gets a mention, is J.H. Prynne'sCollected Poems, from Bloodaxe, a key work for me over the last few years, since I discovered his work late in life.

Key in the sense it is a benchmark for how I like to imagine where poetry and language can extend beyond, a sort of horizon of possible speech and inquiry. I usually tarry well clear on this side of that linguistic border, but am keen to know it is there.

Due to David Wheatley, who kindly quoted a section of a post on this blog a few weeks back, sharing it with a few hundred poets on a well-known list-serve, and rather poor reading skills on the part of a few, wo…

Review: King Kong

Naomi Watts (to the right) endures another "Darrow escape" - or does she? - as the peril-prone Ann in Peter Jackson's three-hour epic, King Kong.

The T.S. Review is reluctant to offer this film - as a sort of jungle-drum sacrifice, bound and heaving - its highest review, Four Quartets (out of four) - but must do so, for reasons to be proffered below, in less robust circumstances, and with fewer blazing torches.

King Kong - the idea and the beast - like cinema itself (and this allegory is one that Jackson belabours like a man attempting to give birth to a Welles) - is a titanic and at times self-defeating thing - compromised by trying to be two things at once: massive (in appeal and profit) and tender. It is hard to hold nuances in an ape's gigantic fist, but a blonde girl's sweet face can sometimes be stroked profitably in such a grip.

All this to say, Jackson nods to the contradictions in his subtext (firstly, by referencing Conrad's Heart of Darkness, hardly a…

What To Do About Barker?

George Barker (pictured here) was one of the major British poets of the brief period sometimes described as "New Romanticism" - roughly late 30s to end of the 40s. I have recently been preparing a lecture on the poetry of this time, and reading work by the Apocalyptic Henry Treece, W.S. Graham, and of course, Dylan Thomas.

What struck me instantly was that, wherease Treece has gifted posterity with no memorable poem (and is thus almost fully neglected now by 21st century readers); and Graham moved on to create his best work in the 50s-70s; and Dylan Thomas wrote perhaps a dozen of the greatest modern lyrics - well, George Barker didn't quite do any of these things.

That is, his poems are not instantly unmemorable, nor did his best work flower in him later to allow us to ignore or forgive his youthful brilliance, nor did he - and this is the delicate part - ever seem to write a poem that quite works all the way through - that is, Barker seems to have written perhaps a dozen…

Did We Do Enough For Gunn?

Thom Gunn, one of the English world's major poets of the last fifty years, died summer of 2004.

Have I missed something?

There does not seem to have been the promised events celebrating and commemorating his work, here in Britain, which I would have expected - readings, special publications from Faber, talks on Radio 4... or perhaps I was asleep at the time.

If Gunn's passing was not properly marked, this is a pity. And it might not be too late to mark what would have been his 80th birthday, in 2009.

If anyone wants to ask me to help organize such a celebration of the great poet, on any terms, even fighting, please do let me know.

Fry Declines To Debate Swift For Charity

The man pictured to your left is very busy, indeed.

I received a very polite letter from his publisher, at Random House, stating: "Stephen's time is fully booked and I must therefore decline your offer".

My offer was for Stephen Fry, celebrated poetry expert, to come to the soon-to-open flagship Oxfam Bloomsbury bookshop, and debate myself, or another cultural figure of poetic repute, on the question: "Be It Resolved That Modern Poetry is Arse-Dribble" - or something of the sort.

Pity.

I think Fry stood a very good chance of besting me in debate. And we would have raised interest in both his new book, poetry in general, and some money for a major and important charity.

I am glad Fry is fully booked, if not fully bookish.

More Adventures in Sound Recording: Poetry 2

The poetry archive which Charles Bernstein directs is indicated below:

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/

New Adventures In Sound Recording: Poetry

This from The New York Times, online (see below, in a slightly smaller font):

[The T.S. Review recalls a lecture given a few years ago, by the American innovative poet Charles Bernstein, about the coming age of the digital revolution in poetry recording, where he called for all poems to be spoken and recorded and archived, in an accessible universal format. He also praised the pioneering work of Swifty Lazarus in its poetry recording experiments. It is good to see British and Irish poetry also launching such an enterprise, and one hopes it will link to Mr. Bernstein's site.]

A new Web site under the auspices of Andrew Motion, the poet laureate of Britain, will collect recordings of poets reading their own works. The Poetry Archive (www.poetryarchive.co.uk) goes online today with recordings of Margaret Atwood, above right, Harold Pinter, Simon Armitage, U. A. Fanthorpe and Seamus Heaney, who is listed as the organization's president.

The site also has historical recordings by Robe…

Seven Poets For Oxfam Tonight

OXFAM BOOKS & MUSIC POETRY SERIES
YEAR-END FINALE

Tuesday, November 29, 7-10 pm

SEVEN POETS FOR OXFAM

Featuring: Lavinia Greenlaw, pictured here, (author of Minsk, Faber, and Forward Poetry Prize winner); Sinead Morrissey (author The State of the Prisons, Carcanet); Sophie Hannah (Penguin Selected Poems forthcoming); Charles Bennett (author of Wintergreen); Briar Wood (New Zealand-born poet and lecturer); Leah Fritz (London-based American author of The Way To Go); Polly Clark (author of Take Me With You, Bloodaxe, current Poetry Book Society Choice).

This finale will close the official run of the highly succesful two-year 2004-2005 poetry project in Marylebone, and inaugurate new poetry events for 2006. The series has so far raised thousands of pounds for Oxfam.

Oxfam Books & Music
91 Marylebone High Street
London, W1, near Baker Street
Admission free - donations gratefully accepted - all proceeds to Oxfam.

To reserve a ticket, call 020 7487 3570
or email Martin Penny at
oxfammarylebone@h…

Magma, Magma Everywhere

Magma 33 is now out.

It features my interview with Al Alvarez, as well as Philip Gross "on Basho and William Carlos Williams" and many poems by many good poets, such as Moniza Alvi, Michael Symmons Roberts, Tobias Hill, and reviews by David Boll and others.

A very worthwile issue to borrow, or better, own, if you don't mind me saying.

Magma has a website now, www.magmapoetry.com, too.

The launch for 33 is at 8 pm on Monday December 5 2005 in the Coffee-House Poetry series, at the Troubdadour Coffee House, 265 Old Brompton Road, London.

The Queen's English

I was the guest speaker at the Queen's English Society meeting the other night, at The New Cavendish Club.

It was a good mix of people, some very articulate indeed, such as Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Lamb, the Times Crossword expert Roy Dean (who presented me with a copy of his book Mainly In Fun), and the golden-voiced former BBC radio broadcaster Peter Barker, who read poems between the music on BBC 3, along with other clever and oustpoken men and women, including a chap who is a tram driver and a lady who confessed (privately) to being an atheist - her secret is safe with me.

After lecturing on my subject, "Trends in 21st century Poetry" for 45 minutes, I was asked to read my own poems, for about another 25. I read from Cafe Alibi, Rue du Regard, and a few new poems from my UEA MA dissertation.

Then there was a coffee and biscuits break, then we debated the state of contemporary poetry, and finally had sandwiches and port in the library.

Those interested in learning more shoul…

Is Modern Poetry Mostly "Arse-Dribble"? Revisited & Revised In The Light Of New Information

The man to the right of the page is none other than Stephen Fry.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, October 23, 2005 (just brought to my attention today) Mr. Fry has had it up to here with modern poetry which is mostly "arse-dribble".

He is also "sniffy about" the poet laureate Andrew Motion, and thinks that the series of e-books I edited, with Val Stevenson of Nthposition, the 100 Poets Against the War series "pathetic, naive, like small noisy tantrums". He thinks modern poets are lazy: "you cannot work too hard at poetry".

No, you can't. First task on the road of manual labour (after all, Fry once played a witty genius in a film, Oscar Wilde) is to actually read some "modern poetry" which Fry clearly hasn't.

Simply put, Dr. Fry has made the cardinal error of conflating the speed of delivery of poetry in the Internet age (i.e. e-books and poems on web sites and blogs) with the time, or care, taken to actually write said poems. Gi…

George Szirtes T.S. Eliot Lecture

The lecture by George Szirtes is now online, see link: http://www.poetrylibrary.org.uk/news/poetryscene/?id=168

T.S. Eliot Prize Shortlist Announcement

The T.S. Review is pleased to share this announcement with you, below.

I am glad to see so many of the excellent poets who have supported the Oxfam Poetry Series in London over the last few years, by donating their readings, featured on this year's list, such as Polly Clark, Pascale Petit, John Stammers, Sinead Morrissey and David Harsent.

It is also interesting to see the shortlisted poets so evenly spread among the major publishing presses.

It seems a particularly strong list, though, the judges have chosen to not represent any writing by either more experimental UK poets, or those who work in the margins of performance based poetries. It represents the main stream of current British poetry, in its more lucid, lyric, form.

There is a neo-classical tendency at the moment, in the UK,which worships form, wit and order at the expense of the less-controlled aspects of imagination, content and vernacular insight - the diction of the margins, be they multicultural, multimedia, or multiling…

Link Wray Is Dead

There were not many Wrays as famous as Link - though the one in King Kong's clutches must count as a distant second.

The death of Link Wray is the end of an era of sublime trash-noise simplicity whose cultural value will only rise with time. He was a musical genius, and more interestingly, a man with a fascinating personal story.

The fortunes of Quentin Tarantino, and his masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, would have been very different, if Wray had not supplied some of the major musical moments, which, along with Miserlou, are the leitmotifs of the film. It is no puffery to say that Wray had the opportunity to create signature sounds that were iconic in at least two key decades, one of them being the 90s. His influence on garage-punk-surf, both originally and during its revivals, is comparable to that of Ezra Pound on Imagism - which is to say, he almost single-handedly (as it were) strummed the power chords of his genre into existence.

I have long felt that, should the thin walls between …

French Letters

A site with world poetry features a poem of mine translated into French by the fine writer Robert Paquin.

Thought you might enjoy reading it.

http://www.poesiedumonde.com/temp/article.php3?id_article=58&id_rubrique=112

Review: The Consequences of Love

The Consequences of Love, the Italian film released in 2004 and now out from Artificial Eye as a DVD, receives Four Quartets from The T.S. Review.

It is one of the most poised, stylish, suspenseful, and under-stated European films of the last five years, with an extraordinary series of final images that reminds one of Pasolini's Christ, if not for the reasons one might expect.

The central roles are cast perfectly, with Olivia Magnani and Toni Servillo, as the Beatrice-waitress-figure and the Dante-middle-aged-business- traveller, respectively.

I welcome haunting films about isolation, desire, the gaze, despair and transgression set in hotels, Death In Venice perhaps being second only to The Night Porter. Now, add a third classic to this genre.

Revillo invests his face, manner, body and stylish dress with an exhaustive but invigorating melancholia; and Magani is utterly astonishing in her long, languid silence, and speech.

Moving, elegantly but with feline-immediacy, from the most subli…

Switch or Fight?: Ever More New Canadian Poetry

It seems 2005 is shaping up to be the "Year of New Canadian Poetry" and canon-revising anthologies - first my own section for New American Writing this spring, then Sina Queyras'Open Field from NYC, and soon, The New Canon from Carmine Starnino, and, altogether less-expected, Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry. As a long-time enthusiast of the anthology, I am particularly pleased to see this series of alternate publications unfolding.

The introduction, by the editors, contains the following by Jason Christie:

"Most introductions include all manner of caveats to anticipate or deflect criticism, to comfort egos that may have been bruised during the selection process, etc. Editors often apologize for what isn't included in the anthology and why it wasn't included. In introductions to anthologies where the editors presume to a project of capturing distinct, new voices, of encapsulating a new generation of writers, or ensconcing an elderly, threatened generat…

A Perfect Night To Go To China

The T.S. Review is pleased to announce that David Gilmour has just won the 2005 (Canadian) Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction for his novel A Perfect Night To Go To China. Gilmour has long been a fixture on Canadian television. He lives in Toronto.

I recently reviewed this novel for Books in Canada, where I said: "This seems one of the most refreshing, moving and supple works of fiction written since the 21st century began; it is lovely to see it achieve so much that is uniquely Canadian by handsomely converting great American and European works, without missing a beat. " I stand by my words. This is a Canadian masterpiece. Bravo to Mr. Gilmour.

Future Welcome Is Coming

The Future isn't what it used to be. No more Buck Rogers. Now it is all nanotechnology and innovative poetry...

Do consider the link below, which leads to information about the new anthology, Future Welcome, which I recently edited for DC Books.

www.dcbooks.ca/futurewelcome.html

Poem by Bernard Lamb

Eyewear is pleased to present a limerick from Dr. Bernard Lamb, Reader in Genetics, Imperial College London (as pictured here).

I met Lamb at a dinner, as part of a literary festival where I was "Poet-at-large" and we sat next to each other, where we struck up a lively conversation, about poetry, and genetics.

Dr. Lamb is a prolific writer of limericks, which combine his interests in science, word-play and edgy humour.


Defective DNA

The mutation ‘hyperkinetic’
Makes fruit flies really phrenetic;
Their legs kick and beat
As if they’re on heat -
The problem’s deeply genetic.

poem by Bernard Lamb

New Writing Ventures Poetry Prize 2005

The winner of the recently-announced New Writing Ventures 2005 £5000 cash prize for poetry is Valeria Melchioretto. The judges were Andrew Motion (pictured to the right), Jacob Polley and Eva Salzman. The competition, out of East Anglia, was national, and had many hundreds of high level entries.

The T.S. Review is very pleased with this news.

Melchioretto has had poems published in various publications including Poetry London, Wolf Magazine and The Salzburg Review - and in anthologies and/or online journals which I have edited.

She attended a number of workshops and courses, including workshops with Pascale Petit, and has worked for years at the Poetry Cafe.

She has been, to my mind, consistently under-rated for some time in British poetry, because her complex, verbally rich imagination no doubt worries the more cautious. Now, hopefully, she has begun to receive the recognition she deserves, and her work will begin to reach a wider audience.

To read her work click here.

Review: The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener, directed by the now-great Fernando Meirelles - famed for his co-helming of City of God, is one of the most visually rich, beautiful, and morally challenging ever presented in the context of a "Hollywood" production, and, arguably, some of the textures, colours, and cinematographic palette in general, represent the finest work done since Gregg Toland's reinvention of the style-content balance in Citizen Kane.

That is, as an exercise in an epic revaluation of how rich Western eyes see the "poor" world of Africa, the film is an aesthetic masterpiece - the drained cityscape of a Waste Land-like London contrasting explosively with the stunning, riotous splendour of colour that is the African landscape.

The film is also significant for presenting situations and images which are strikingly alien to the Western gaze, simply because they constantly seek to pull focus from the (mainly) white characters and situate the action in the faces of the "…

Books In Canada Review and other news

My review of the new book by Al Alvarez, The Writer's Voice, is available in the latest (October) issue of Books In Canada, on newstands now.

In other publication news, my poem "The Expedition" has just appeared in the October/November issue of The London Magazine; and several poems in The Manhattan Review.

Fado-Masochist

I confess to being a fado-masochist. Fado, the traditional song of profound, passionate, melancholy expression, born in Lisbon's taverns in the old Mouraria district, has found a new voice to keep its traditions alive: Mariza (pictured above).

In the week where we recollect the 250th anniversary of the terrible devastation (100,000 dead, and a giant tsunami) of the Lisbon Earthquake of November, 1755, which helped inspire Kant's ideas of the sublime, the T.S. Review is glad to report that Lisbon has recovered, if it can produce such vibrancy.

Mariza, who performed last evening at the Barbican in London, is a visually striking, engaging, and fiery entertainer, who literally had her audience begging for more.

Her songs, often reinterpreting the fado form for the 21st century, and using the poems of Pessoa, remind poetry how its best course is to utter out from the self, fully integrating with life, without let or hindrance, and yet keeping the shape tradition allows.

With some of th…

Attention All Typewriters Tonight

The T.S. Review has long considered Jason Camlot a triple threat, as poet, scholar and song-writer/singer - a sort of cleverer Leonard Cohen for the 21st century. His poetry is where whimsy, wit, worldliness and wordplay wrangle, well.

It is for this reason he was inclued in the New American Writing section of younger Canadian poets. His latest collection, which I have been reading with glee (Davids Antin and Trinidad both have good things to say about it too), is just out, and is now to be launched in my hometown, of Montreal - see below for details.

The other book out tonight is written by a brilliant former professor of mine, and anyone who is savvy, hip, well-read or wants to be, will be there, on that infamous boulevard. I would gladly be there, and you who can travel freely, in North America should seek to.

DC Books is pleased to announce the Montreal launch of Attention All Typewriters
by Jason Camlot

With Host David McGimpsey and ‘Live Funk’ dance party after the reading

How to be …

The New Canon Is Coming!

The New Canon - from one of Canada's best young poet-critics, Carmine Starnino - is due out later this month.

Introducing the fifty major new voices in Canada's poetry (poets born between 1955-1975) - it will prove to be most contentious, an invaluable resource, and the one to beat, I suspect.

More when it is out. At the moment, do see the publisher's link, below:

http://www.vehiculepress.com/


[editor's note: I should add my own work is included]

The Envelope Please

The men pictured here are Swifty Lazarus. I am one of them. The other is Tom Walsh, one of Canada's most visionary Jazz musicians and composers.

I met him in rainy London last night, to speak of future grand projets, MacLuhan and Dylan and Hermann.

In the meantime, do check out the review of the first studio album at Adam Fieled's site (see link, then fish around a bit).

Meanwhile, it is a big day for this oft-neglected duo of lonely noir practioners: arriving in the afternoon post, Royal Mail brought more good news for the Men in Shades: a review of their album The Envelope Please, in none other than poet-performer Dave Reeves'Raw Edge Magazine (the new writing magazine for the West Midlands), #21 [autumn/winter 2005] - suitable for these dark-seasoned lads, and it says: "it is well-written, well-produced... probably one of the most consistently pleasing and interesting spoken word albums that I've ever heard".

If you wish to hear it yourself, please go the re…

Miles Goes The Extra Spacey

Last night Eyewear attended the Old Vic's new production (directed by Trevor Nunn) of Richard II, with Kevin Spacey as Richard, and Ben Miles as the usurper. It was extraordinary. The modern-dress setting was perhaps too busy with the usual tropes of cameras and cell phones as imagos of a post-modern world, but the stark crisis between godly tradition and naked power was well presented even in contemporary fashion (the play partly being about fashion of course). Kevin Spacey has never been better, and lent Richard a few extra layers of pathos and eloquence, as well as suavity and cattiness, beyond the usual ones of self-pity and preening vanity stripped bare like a winter tree.

Ben Miles was a revelation - a bold modernizer out to capture his country like some former-day Cameron or Fox (or Blair). The play itself, delivered with such passion and seriousness, is newly-minted as one of Shakespeare's greatest and most profound essays on being and identity itself - the soul being …

Review: Playing The Angel

Depeche Mode have a new album out (meaning they now have a 24-year-old career). Bands once mocked now have a quarter of a century under their belts, and serious discographies and histories worth considering.

The new Depeche Mode album, Playing The Angel, is not as good as Violator or Music for the Masses, which arguably have the key songs, and are in fact from the golden middle period (after the early candy-synth and before the portentous slow decline into irrelevance) - but it is a work that coldly, and strongly, references the whole back catalogue with sinister wit.

Depeche Mode are loved by some, and regarded as faintly silly by most others, and for the same reasons: their merger of S&M, biblical allusion, electronic music and ultra-louche posturing (where all behaviour is deontologically challenged) is a brew not all may consume lightly.

I have always considered them natural heirs to the Byronic tradition: there is nothing Byron (or the idea of Byron) didn't do they have done…

Otherwheres In Islington This Wednesday

Otherwheres - "the new anthology from the University of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA course. It showcases the fresh talent of the Class of 2005 across the genres of prose, scriptwriting, poetry and lifewriting. UEA’s course is famous for selecting and nurturing a wide variety of writers and launching the careers of many well-known names in the world of literature, including Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Toby Litt and Trezza Azzopardi. UEA Creative Writing Anthology 2005: Otherwheres is a fabulous collection that ranges from the military courts of Pakistan to a marshland in France, on to the teeming streets of Osaka via a New Jersey airport, stopping at Tuscany and Siberia on the way and serving up burnt porridge to the Brontë sisters." - as the blurb goes.

What makes it meaningful, to me, despite the to-be-expected-hoo-ha is that my poetry colleagues and fellow classmates on the same year are in it; and we have wonderful, insightful and witty introductions from ou…

BBC Notices Poetry

The T.S. Review is happy to note that the BBC reviewed the recent Citizen 32 reading in Manchester, earlier posted here.

They kindly state:

"2004’s Oxfam Poet in Residence Todd Swift was entertaining as he was controversial".

See the link below.

This photo of me is by the Welsh writer Jo Hughes, and was taken in London in 2003.

One of the poems I read was:

The Shape of Things to Come

Resembles a triumphant trump of doom;
Is like a hollow room; a horn of plenty;
A ballerina’s shoe; a house in Hooville,
Like a devil’s mouse; a bang-
Drum, a pirate drunk on deadman’s

Rum; like a broken broom used to brush
Away the webs from day-dreaming boys
In a math exam; like a rack of lamb;
A donut convention; a depleted pension;
Like the sort of position churchmen don’t

Like to mention; is shaped like a poem,
Mute and dumb; like a big bronze bell
Held by a handlebar-moustachioed strongman
Working for Barnum; like a circus tent;
Like the hole rent in just such an umbrella;

Like a sausage and some French mustard;

Craig As Bond Is An Owen Goal

The badly-cropped image to your right is a picture of the Man Who Should Have Been Bond: Clive Owen.

Instead, the Friday 14 annoucnement, in London (a day after the far merrier Pinter Nobel) is bad news for those who want their Bond dark-haired, and good with a croupier.

Owen, by far the better actor, seemed a shoe-in - after all, he actually looks the part, and has played several Bond-like characters. Perhaps Owen did not want the part, now that he is an Oscar-nominated act-tor.

What we have instead is Dalton Mark Two. Warning bells are already ringing, and the volcano HQ is about to self-destruct, along with the franchise. As soon as I read that Craig wishes to "take the part to darker, more serious places, with more emotion" and that the writer of the screenplay wishes to create a sombre character study without Q or gadgets, I realized that the reality principle was about to burst the greatest fantasy bubble in cinema history. Bond is not Hamlet, nor was meant to be. When…

Harold Pinter Deservedly Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

The T.S. Review is very happy, indeed, to report that Harold Pinter has today been awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize In Literature.

Pinter - like Kafka or Beckett - defines the age he finds himself in, through the anxieties of language, and the unease of its uses, misuses and the emptiness (silence is not sufficient) between what is said and unsaid - the dialectic of human speech, and thus, society. In fact, the politics of how we say things and do things to others, surely the core concern of writing.

As a playwright, screenwriter, and antiwar poet, he has fully earned this honour, which is a refreshing surprise, and a bloody nose to both Blair and Thatcher. Coming on her 80th birthday it is a double irony - and a welcome one, given this is also HP's 75th birthday year. There were complaints in the British media not enough was being done at home to fete the great man - now there will be.

Review: Siberia

Eyewear is of the firm opinion that the new album from Echo and The Bunnymen, Siberia, recently released in the UK, confirms their 25-year-career to have been unexpectedly crowned by this superb collection of heartfelt yet well-made songs.

Rather than being just another 80s New Romantic band, Echo (see left) have now made a crafted, mature album that argues for their lasting cultural importance. Contemporary guitar-led new-alternative bands need to watch their backs - song for song (and there are 11 of them) this is as good as the last outings from U2, The Cure, Franz Ferdinand or Coldplay, and far more elegantly generous: it actually shimmers, soars, saddens and soothes, savvy and cerebral and shamanistic. As usual, words and music both twist with surprise and still deliver the goods.

Fans of their significant mid-80s work (which inspired aspects of cult film Donnie Darko) - as lovely and haunting as anything then produced, with a slight Lizard King touch of rock-soaked poetic grandios…

Letter To The Guardian

The Guardian has today published an edited version of my letter, sent in reply to Catherine Gander's recent column.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,1589090,00.html

Please find the full text below.

***

October 7, 2005

To The Editor of The Guardian,

Catherine Gander's article "We need a poetry idol" of Friday October 7, 2005 was ill-informed, unhelpful, and ultimately silly. The choice of The Guardian to publish it reflects a sad truth: while poetry flourishes, at hundreds of festivals, public readings, and in journals and blogs across Britain and, indeed, the world, the media fails to report this correctly, therefore compounding the myth which Gander perpetuates: that poetry is unpopular, and needs to be saved by some outside hand.

Instead, poetry has never been a more popular, democratic, or accessible art form, and continues to reach more people than ever before. I was at the Cambridge poetry reading which Seamus Heaney recently gave on October 5, the 10th a…

The Black Mountain Review Redux

I am pleased to inform you that five (5) poems of mine have appeared in the recent issue (Issue 11 Spring/Summer 2005) of The Black Mountain Review, guest edited by poet Nigel McLoughlin. The editors can be reached at editors@blackmountainreview.com - and base their journal in the North of Ireland.

For this is not the Black Mountain of Black Mountain College fame (see above) but a new incarnation, based in the North of Ireland, and named, one imagines, after the famous Black Mountain there, with echoes of the earlier Black Mountain review and poetry movement.

It is a good looking journal, and long may it thrive.

Essex Poetry Festival

I am just back from the Essex Poetry Festival.

I have much to relate.

In the meantime, please make do with the info below.


7th and 8th October

at The Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road
Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JG
Box office: 01245 606505

On Saturday we are delighted to have Matthew Sweeney who will be reading alongside Chris Beckett and Meryl Pugh in a showcase set for Poetry London magazine. Seam magazine will be presenting Canadian poet Todd Swift, Stephen Duncan and Kevin Higgins. Essex Poets Estill Pollock from Mersea and Philip Wilson from Colchester wrap up the afternoon session.

The evening session starts at 7.15pm with Roddy Lumsden introducing the winners of the Essex Poetry Festival 2005 Open Poetry Competition, and their prize winning poems. Then our very special guests: Daljit Nagra, Forward Prize winner 2004 for Best Individual Poem, Jackie Wills, one of Mslexias top ten new women poets of the decade, and Don Paterson, winner of both the Whitbread Poetry Award and the TS EliotPrize …

Howl 50 Years Later, Fusion Ten Years On

The following report comes from Heidi Benson, of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Fueled by various stimulants, fellowship and a near-mystical belief that the world must change and poetry was the way to do it, this group coalesced and staged a reading on Oct. 7, 1955 -- at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street -- that has gone down in history as the moment of conception of the Beat movement.

No photographs of the evening have turned up, but by all accounts, when 150 to 200 people showed up at this low-ceilinged former auto-body shop in response to hastily printed postcards, the size of the crowd astonished everybody.

Rexroth served as master of ceremonies that Friday night. Kerouac, who had declined to read, brought jugs of burgundy to share.

First to take the orange-crate podium was San Francisco-born Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, who read poems by John Hoffman, a friend who had just died.

Next up was McClure, reading "Point Lobos: Animism" and "For the Death of 100 Whale…

Legion Wins Forward

David Harsent, pictured here, has just won this year's Forward Prize for best collection of poetry. The T.S. Review heartily congratulates him for his most-deserved win, and all other winners (as well as those on the short-list).

The book is called Legion - a poem from which appeared in 100 Poets Against The War, which David Harsent kindly supported - he has also read for the Oxfam series I organize.

The Forward poetry prizes are "the most vaulable" in the UK and are widely respected among poets.

The prize for best poem of the year (published in a UK journal) goes to Paul Farley (who recently read for Oxfam as well in a brilliant show of mind over wine and codeine).

Please see the poem below.

Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second

Shorter than the blink inside a blink
the National Grid will sometimes make, when you'll
turn to a room and say: Was that just me?

People sitting down for dinner don't feel
their chairs taken away/put back again
much faster than that tr…

Magdalene

I had the most extraordinary evening last night.

My friend, the distinguished poet and writer, Tamar Yoseloff, is currently writer-in-residence at Magdalene college, Cambridge. She kindly invited me to Seamus Heaney's reading, which coincided with the tenth anniversary of his Nobel prize being announced, and began the year-long Literary Festival.

We sat at Head Table near the Master, and dined with the Fellows of the college, and then enjoyed candle-lit conversation over claret, regarding theology, the history of Christianity, and poetry, including Eamon Duffy, John Mole, Jane Hughes, Goethe's biographer Nicholas Boyle, and the former Bishop of Coventry, Simon Barrington-Ward, whose book on The Jesus Prayer I look forward ro reading shortly. It was especially moving to meet someone so interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's work.

It was a superb evening, and I am very grateful to those who welcomed me with such grace and warmth.

I Read in Manchester Last Night

I read with Aoife Mannix, Chloe Poems and Helen Clare last night at the Manchester Poetry Festival, for the Citizen 32 magazine launch at Matt & Phreds Jazz Club - a trendy place with friendly staff and very good pizzas.

The magazine, edited by Dave Toomer and John Hall, is a crucial vehicle for bringing poems concerned with politics, social justice and progressive ideas, to readers, locally and globally.

It was a great event - filled with perhaps 150-200 people, seated at round tables - and the stage and sound was good. Aoife was particularly impressive. My own 25-minute set was very well received, and one of my most openly political and performance-oriented in some time, which brought back memories of my work in cabaret poetry in the summer of 1995, ten years ago.