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E Y E W E A R, THE BLOG



POETRY, POLITICS, PROVOCATION AND POPULAR CULTURE SINCE 2005



Updated: 2018-02-18T13:25:22.742+00:00

 



THE BEVERLY PRIZE SUPER SHORTLIST FINALISED!

2018-02-18T13:25:22.834+00:00

Dr Bruce Meyer, a significant Canadian poet and writer, will be the final judge for this year's Beverly Prize For International Writing - the impressive super shortlist of 18 international poets and writers is announced below.Any original unpublished manuscript, in English, by anyone living anywhere in the world, writing in any genre or on any topic, prose, non-fiction or poetry (even drama) is eligible, making it arguably the world's most eclectic "broad church" literary scouting prize. Last year's debut winner was Sohini Basak (her book is being launched in Bloomsbury July 5th, 2018).SOHINI BASAK,  WINNER OF THE BEVERLY PRIZE FOR INTERNATIONAL WRITING 2017The rules of the prize stipulate that any author chosen for the shortlist agrees to accept publication with Eyewear if judged to be the final winner; and may not be entered into other competitions at this final stage of adjudication.Bruce Meyer is author of more than 60 books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, literary journalism, and portraiture. He was winner of the Gwendolyn MacEwen Prize for Poetry in 2015 and 2016 for best poem, and received the IP Medal for best book of poems published in North American for the sonnet collection, The Seasons.His other works include the national bestsellers The Golden Thread (2000) and Portraits of Canadian Writers (2016). He was the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Barrie. He lives in Barrie, Ontario, and teaches at Georgian College and at Victoria College in the University of Toronto.The winner will be announced by April 15th or sooner, and will be selected solely by the Final Judge, on the basis of literary merit - this is a publishing prize meant to select a truly extraordinary work that will make a wonderful book.Hundreds of submissions were received and the three-person judging panel of Dr Todd Swift, Alexandra Payne and Rosanna Hildyard, managed to discover these remarkable works and talents. The winner will receive publication in 2019 with Eyewear Publishing, and have their book launched in London, UK, as well as a £500 advance.BRUCE MEYERAnatoly Kudryavitsky is a Moscow-born Irish poet and novelist of Polish/Irish descent, the grandson of an Irishman who ended up in Stalin’s Gulag. A holder of a PhD from Moscow Medical Academy, he is the former writer-in-residence for the State Literary Museum of Russia. Having emigrated in 1999, he has since been living in Dublin, Ireland. He is a bilingual author writing in English and Russian, and has published three novels. Kudryavisky edited the anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in English translation entitled A Night in the Nabokov Hotel (Dedalus, 2006), the anthology of contemporary German-language poetry titled Coloured Handprints(Dedalus, 2015), and the anthology of contemporary Ukrainian poetry in English translation, The Frontier, (Glagoslav Publications, London, UK, 2017.) In 2003, he won the Maria Edgeworth Poetry Prize (Ireland), and in 2010 was the recipient of the David Burliuk Award (Russia) for lifelong commitment to experimental poetry. He is nominated for Sky Sailing - Poetry. ANATOLY KUDRYAVITSKYAlan Weadick(Pronounced Weddick) has been publishing poems widely, in print and online, for a number of years, with work most recently in The Irish Times New Irish Writing, Southword, The Honest Ulsterman and Cyphers. He has been shortlisted for competitions including the Strokestown Poetry Festival, Listowel Writer's Week and Red Line Book Festival competitions, Highly Commended in the 2017  iyeats/Hawks Well poetry competition and longlisted for the National Poetry Compettion (UK, 2017). He has also been nominated for a Hennessy Literary Award (Emerging Poetry, 2016) and was a reader at Poetry Ireland's "Introductions" series in the Irish Writer's Centre. He also writes prose fiction and has had short several stories broadcast on RTE Radio 1 (Irish National Broadcaster) and published in The Honest Ulsterman. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children. He is nominated for Hunger's Mother - Poetry. ALAN WEADICKAndrew R. Touhy, a[...]



Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

2018-02-11T14:59:38.681+00:00

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived, creative, exploratory, dressed flamboyantly.In this quest they were successful and by the early 80s had a handful of synth-pop albums the equal of Depeche Mode, OMD, and Ultravox. Unlike U2, often seen as rivals for Celtic stadium rock champions, they were not rock-oriented at this time. They were however pre-Brexit Europhiles ('I Travel' - "Europe has a language problem", indeed), and suspicious of global imperialism - see 'Boys from Brazil' and 'The American'.Their great early radio hit, the squalling, eerie and ultimately exciting 'Love Song', combined politics, religion, and eros, with synth and a harder sound, to become a template and breakthrough. "America's the boyfriend" is a great line. There is no better new wave song from the UK from this period.Around this time, they followed that up with a shimmering, sublime masterwork, New Gold Dream, from 1982, a plaintive, haunting, and deeply religious and poetic album - New Romantic in every possible way - filled with shadows, flames, burning gold memories, and so on. It remains possibly the most deeply theological pop album of the 1980s ("belief is a beauty thing") and arguably the least-appreciated of great new wave LPs.What happened next is called John Hughes' The Breakfast Club - one of the most popular 80s films and now seen as seminal. Someone wrote a song for the band, and they were convinced to take the money, and perform 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' - an apolitical, ludicrously swaggering, teen pop tune, which blended with Jim Kerr's exhortations on vocals, and Charlie Burchill's always stupendous sense of musicality, to establish, astonishingly, an American number one hit - now a staple of nostalgia radio, but still genuinely loved. The next decade became a commercial pile-driver, as hard-driving rock-style hit followed hit, with Gospel-tinged grandeur - 'Alive and Kicking' best representing this period's style. Basically, they adopted the 'Don't You' manner, but inserted their own theological and political bias into the lyrics, establishing a very big sound, and feel.Had wealth, fame, and presumably other temptations, not intervened, we might not have lost the band to decades of increasingly poorly-received albums - seemingly half a dozen, each less heard. By the new century, they seemed destined to be forgotten - were, to most, forgotten. But not quite. Oddly, Simple Minds, perhaps because so many of their songs - arguably ALL their songs - are soaring and optimistic, even joyous, and inspiring - had a fan base that would not forget them.Their tours did well enough, their albums were in fact bought in sufficient numbers by ageing people. Not U2, but not Wang-Chung, either. They were, by this decade, into their 32nd year and more, and viable. They were becoming re-evaluated. Re-energized.Their last few albums have been critically respected - especially Big Music. It was nice to see. But nothing prepared anyone for Walk Between Worlds. It is, simply put, their best album since 1985, and well within the range of being one of their top 5 best ever[...]



BEEN TOO LONG

2018-02-08T18:49:51.492+00:00

I, as editor, have been away too long from this little blog that could... apologies.

Why? The limit to our patience reached its peak for a while... in terms of Trump and other real-world/ fake news outrages.... it became exhausting to express more dismay.

Also, the residency at Pembroke, Cambridge, and Eyewear Publishing work, has been joyously busy.

Anyway, time to return, albeit briefly, with more news, soon.

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THE SWIFT REPORT 2017

2018-01-04T18:27:30.257+00:00

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 update it.As the years go on, and this blog seems an interminable waste of time and fuss, and as my ego weakens its grip on me (ever too slowly to be sure) it seems less time is required to indulge my need for self-advertising.However, I do like to briefly report in such posts on things done and experienced.The highlight of the year is the time spent at Christmas with my family. No other part of the year is ever more meaningful, and I am always reminded how love shapes and supports my existence.Professionally, managing to keep my small indie publishing press afloat in a bad time for retail and literary publishing, was a major success for me.We published too many vital and important books to celebrate them all here, but two stood out for me, as being watersheds in our company's fortunes and esteem - The Monkman and Seagull Quiz Book - a good-selling end of year and popular book - and the lyrics pamphlet by the pre-eminent poetic genius Paul Muldoon. Working with the quiz lads, and the brilliant Irish poet were both great intellectual pleasures, and rare treats. It was also wonderful to see Tim Dooley's Weemoed become a PBS selection; and for Maria Apichella's Psalmody to be favoured by Andrew Marr as a New Statesman Book of the Year (and Forward nominee). Rich Goodson's pamphlet Mr Universe was also a PBS Autumn Choice!My editorial team has been superb this year, witty, and smart, and very hard-working. I also enjoyed our numerous launches at the wonderfully indie and friendly Windmill, Brixton, and the more posh and established LRB shop. My old friend Eric Sigler flew in from Miami to launch a book, which was lovely. The Poet's Quest for God launch in Ireland was well-attended by over 100 people, and we sold over 120 books.Personally, as a poet-scholar, the highlight would be the beginning of my residency at Pembroke College, Cambridge - where I have been welcomed in by some very impressive and delightful people, indeed. It ends in July 2018. Also, publishing my Dream-beauty-psycho pamphlet was a fun thing to do.As always, I have (no joke) about 25 ideas for books, plays, novels, and movies I should like to write. I always delay by throwing myself into yet another project.My best non-human friend remains my cat, Suetonius, now a year and a half old. He is so alert, and lithe and leaping, and very affectionate, and he has taught me to prize life above civilization.My wife, as always wishing to anonymous, has asked I leave her out of this report, so I reluctantly shall.In the spring I turned 51. In the summer, I was fortunate to spend a few weeks in Paris and the South of France.In terms of my soul/psyche, it has continued to be a source of great challenge and sorrow to me, that I am not a better person. I try my best to be kind and tolerant, but the pressures of the world sometimes cause me to lose my way, or temper. And God seemed a bit distant this year - my fault not theirs.I need to reign in my urge to escapism, and certainly over-eat less. I have also found TV a far-too-distracting past-time, a narcotic designed to flatter the intellect, but fatten the bottom.My chief aims in 2018 are to write something for my residency, keep the press going, and be a better person.Regarding the wider world of 2017, I think it is obvious that from a Western perspective, the main stories that people will recall in a decade or more, are the offenses of Trump, the idiocies of Brexit, and the ongoing cyber transformation of the world, culminating in the #metoo campaign and downfall of mostly men who unethically abused their power to prey on people for sexual motives. More broadly, we saw a rising China, and a frightening impasse with North Korea.In my darker moods, I expect Trump, when faced with impeachable charges, may try to instigate a war against Iran or "Rocket Man". I worry over a hard Brexit. And I fear for my loved one[...]



MERRY CHRISTMAS... SEE YOU IN 2018

2017-12-23T15:35:58.346+00:00


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THE WINNER OF THE FIRST CHRISTMAS FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...

2017-12-22T19:48:48.927+00:00

well, first, the shortlist... longer than usual because the poems were so impressive... POETS SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPECIAL CHRISTMAS FORTNIGHT PRIZE 1.     Ashish Kumar – ‘Jackfruit’2.     Catherine Edmunds – 'Caney The Clown'3.     Chris Kerr – ‘The Lorelei’4.     Drew Milne – ‘Having A Pepsi With You’5.     James Finnegan – 'Early December walk'6.     Janet Dean – ‘Pin the Night’7.     Jo Burns – 'Christmas Shelter'8.     Jose Varghese –‘The Boy from the Mountains’9.     Linda McKenna – 'Christmas Day on the Lord Sidmouth'10.Marisa Silva-Dunbar –‘Body Parts’11.Meg Eden – ‘Instructions for Speaking in Tongues’12.Megan Pattie – ‘In Blakeney’13.Molly Bess Rector –‘Retail Therapy’14.Shadab Hashmi – ‘Empire Ekphrasis’15.Siobhan Flynn – ‘Christmas baking without my mother’16.Sofia Hafeji (Pen name Sofia Amina) – ‘1947. 2014. 2016.’17.Teresa Godfrey – 'Waiting Game'18.Zachary D’mitri Jackson – ‘Crucible’The first prize is £240.THERE WILL BE A SECOND AND THIRD PLACE PRIZE OF £48 AND £24.The winner is:Jo Burns – 'Christmas Shelter'Second Place goes to:Ashish Kumar – ‘Jackfruit’and Third Place to:Drew Milne – ‘Having A Pepsi With You’Winning poems and poet biographies appear below.Judges' brief comments:Of course, all prizes are inherently preposterous - as Bob Holman famously says, the best poem never wins... and presumably, is not entered, or even written; and what best means is perversely impossible to pin down (which is a good thing). That being said, each moment in time the human mind is called upon to choose one act over another, and, as such, one ethical stance over another - an ethics of engagement with the world, experience, texts, entertainments, histories, ideologies... and since choice seems hard-wired into Being itself, to refuse to choose poems one would prefer to spend time with is vaguely dishonest. Would I repeat-watch Touch of Evil by Welles? Yes. Dukes of Hazzard - probably not... tempting though that may be. Will I re-read Dickinson, or Hill, or Pound? Yes. Will I re-read an already-thumbed Agatha Christie (enjoyed once, albeit)? Maybe not. Aesthetics is a branch of ethics, or perhaps economics, or both, in so far as it requires choice. In that spirit, here we go...As usual, the Fortnight brings out a lot of talent, from all parts of the world where poets write poetry in English, which is everywhere (for good and ill) and this time was no exception. Some poets selected to submit religious, or Christmas, or seasonal poems, or a mix, others, like Milne and Kumar, seemed to focus less on one occasion than the idea of the poem as an occasion, or relating to one.The three winning poems are all momentous, and serious, and very humane, even ethical, though in various ways, and, as Eyewear is eclectic, their commitment to differing poetic strategies is welcomed.Burns' is perhaps the most searing of the three, and too good, and appropriately-times, not to demand attention; its ability to fuse critique and compassion made it deeply vital.Kumar's exuberant work has something of the mouth-music of Heaney; it asks to be tasted. The succulence, and the imagery, is astonishing, and wholly convincing; that it is as much a meditation on its own deliciousness, as a mere simulacrum of such, is all the better.Milne is a significant experimental poet, and critic, and this is a poem that, in the year of the death of Ashbery, refers to the New York School style, but is also very much its own beast. This sort of linguistic play across levels of discourse is impressive, when handled with skill, and Milne delivers the goods here - this is, ahem, the real, fizzing, thing, to ape the rhetoric of mainstream poetry bl[...]



THE BEST OF 2017...

2017-12-23T15:34:32.536+00:00

Aim High, more oftenYear-end Best of lists are invidious, and, also, these days, ubiquitous, to the point of madness. But we have loved them for years... so...In the spirit of austerity and limiting resource-expenditure, Eyewear, the blog, this year will focus on the TOP ONE of various categories. Note we cannot claim to have seen or read everything, including The Post, or Lady Bird, which may end up winning the Oscar in 2018.So here goes.(we have not included our Eyewear books; nor have we included books of poetry, that may follow in 2018)BEST NOVEL 20171. The Transition - novel by Luke KennardOddly overlooked by some, this brilliant mock-dystopian millennial epic was both brilliantly funny, and insightful, and the debut of one of the UK's best-known younger poets.A great British comic novel, easily comparable in laughs per page to Lucky Jim.BEST FILM 20171. Good Time If this was a longer list, we'd have room for Bladerunner 2049, The Levelling, Girl's Trip, Logan, Get Out and grindhouse thriller Brawl In Cell Block 99 (the best and surely most violent Vince Vaughn film of all time). The Last Jedi was also superb. The much-maligned The Snowman far more intriguing than described.As it is, we have to stick to this gritty, and utterly compelling cinematic tour-de-force by the young Safdie Brothers.Robert Pattinson gives a superb performance as a troubled young New York hoodlum who enlists his brother, with severe learning difficulties, in a botched bank heist. Tense, powerfully humane, comic and tragic, the first five minutes are among the best-edited ever in a film, combining pathos and horror with impeccable skill.BEST TV SHOW 20171. The Good DoctorThere was so much good time-filling TV this year, it wasn't funny, not least the current Howards End.A year that saw Twin Peaks, Star Trek, Stranger Things, and Prison Break return, as well as the bravura work of Taboo, Homeland, House of Cards, Fortitude, Big Little Lies, The Affair, and Halt and Catch Fire, and indeed the movie-worthy season of Game of Thrones, is surely to be considered a new golden-age.Nonetheless, no new show on a major network has been this good since The West Wing - it was funny, thrilling, deeply moving, and powerfully compassionate, and its central character, the neurodivergent savant, Dr Shaun Murphy, played by the loveable and agile Freddie Highmore, is a new benchmark in TV characters. The ensemble cast was also beautifully diverse, and unexpectedly intriguing.BEST ALBUM 20171. Slowdive, by SlowdiveThe music this year was amazing, with brilliant new work from Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem, Perfume Genius, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Holy Holy, Wolf Alice, Fleet Foxes, Depeche Mode, Lana del Rey, SleaFord Mods, The Jesus and Mary Chain, U2, hell, even Cheap Trick had a good new album.But you will not find a better, more hauntingly-beautiful album than this one, by past-masters of the dream-pop show-gaze genre, whose heyday was over 22 years ago. A comeback so generously lovely as to be a true gift.So there you have it - hardly definitive, to be sure. But enough here for any Christmas list.[...]



THE WINNER OF THE 9TH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS...

2017-11-24T11:35:40.773+00:00

Kierstin Bridger!Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal.There are two runners up this time, tied for second place:P.C. Vandall for 'Wintering'andGreer Gurland for 'That tree is empty, my son tells me'All the rest listed below were very good poems also.Bridger is a Colorado writer and author of 20117 Women Writing The West's Willa Award for Demimonde (Lithic Press 2016). Her full collection is All Ember (Urban Farmhouse Press). Winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award, an Anne LaBastille Poetry residency and short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Competition in the UK, Bridger is both editor of Ridgway Alley Poems and Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series. She co-hosts Poetry Voice with poet Uche Ogbuji. Find her current work in December, Prairie Schooner and Painted Bride Quarterly. She earned her MFA at Pacific University. Kierstinbridger.com WINNING POEM:Of ArcStepping across the thresholdI take a long, smoky pullfrom the August dark, try to memorize dirt and waterall that holds me on this blue orb every boy I met at midnight every car I pushed down the road revved like thunderleaned into bend and turnto escape the rearview bridges snappingrope and board peripheral flickers of constellation bigger than the small grip of controlit took to shut out the lightslock the door, secure the privacy settings. In this brittle haze of nostalgia I remember another mad man is in chargebut this time I have a child asleep while I secret this drag. Listen,my curated walls are enflamedmy zip code could be nukedjust like that it could be gone.I have to take off my specs--what you do before a fight--My opponent will blurthe way they did for Artemisiaand for Joan.This is how to stand like a knight only a slim blade against the dragonof this time:Hold my light I'll whisper into the legacy of starsto the wind and crescent moonhandover my glowing ash and lick of flame.Every uprising takes a curve of trajectoryand a practice run.Every revolution starts with one womanturning inward, holding court with herself. copyright Kierstin Bridger, 2017, published with permission of the authorJudges's comments (by Todd Swift)This was an impressive field of poems... I read through over 350 poems to select 16 that stood out. To generalise, never too wise with poetry, the poems were either heartfelt and evocative of a looking back to childhood, or ahead to death; or they were anti-Trump in nature (and good for them); or, zanily surrealist. I would gladly publish any of these poets, based on this quality of writing. McColl and Finnegan, for instance, both presented powerful and moving variations on the theme of childhood remembered.The three that finally emerged as top managed to somehow combine wit, feeling, and some sense of politics, in very human and humane ways, that seemed resonant with the Thanksgiving and wintry mood.Vandall's poem is deliriously bold and feminist, with her celebration of a woman's body, self-reflected upon in a bathtub. In fact it is mostly a celebration of her "beaver" - and one of the funniest poems I have read.  I include it in full below.Gurland's untitled poem seems  perhaps slight, at first... it is certainly traditional, and gentle. She studied with Heaney at Harvard, and it shows.  The poem's crafted subtleties yield to a sense of a deep sense of what poetry's more modest phrasings can achieve, and I found myself returning to its humane depths. I also include it below.The winning poem seemed to me brilliant. It explores nostalgia, revolution, feminism, the current political crisis facing America, but also includes funny, and sometimes lovely, moments and images, as well, and ends with a surprisingly well-turned metaphor, as it were - the arcing po[...]



GUEST REVIEW: PAUL S. ROWE ON BEN MAZER'S SELECTED POEMS

2017-11-14T11:04:32.624+00:00

Possibility Glimpsed Through Windows: A Review of Ben Mazer’s Selected PoemsBen Mazer. Selected Poems. (Ashville, NC: MadHat Press, 2017). 248 pp., with a preface by Philip Nikolayev. A project that has been incubating since his debut collection White Cities (Barbara Matteau Editions, 1995), Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems(MadHat Press, 2017) has arrived. Spanning over twenty years of zealous creative output, this volume begins with three euphonious glimpses of Mazer’s poetic career. To read these early poems is to peer through the ornate window of some far-flung edifice to discover scenery and situations ripe with the allure of intrigue and espionage, as in the poem “The Traveller”:                         In a strange country, there is only one                        Who knows his true name and could turn him in.                         But she, whose father too was charged with murder                         And, innocent, went to the electric chair,                        Believes in him, convinces him to trust.                        It is the tropics where they make their tryst.                        They sip refreshing drinks beside a terraced                        Pool where he is thought to be a tourist.                        To clear his name, and find who killed his pal,                        In a dark passage he finds hope and will.                        What once had seemed exotic now seems near                         Because he wished to be her prisoner. The locale, the narrative intricacy, and the musicality of these lines prophesize the languid cinematic quality of Mazer’s mature poetry. The poem’s secrets are representative of the untold histories of lives: the quiet tragedies and comedies of the human experience. The legacy of romantic quest narrative here mingles with the poem’s nostalgia for a time that may or may not have ever existed, but which manifests the mystery of the most profound human motives and desires. Even this early in Mazer’s career, phonic echo is employed to enhance our sense of the places where life and art’s similarities meet differences. Consider here the “trust” and “tryst” that become conjoined through desire, the fugitive disguised as a “tourist” that becomes “terraced” by his own trauma and passion, at once seeking freedom yet desiring “to be… prisoner.” These impressions of shared history push against Mazer’s sense of selfhood as a poet. Time and ag[...]



WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

2017-11-14T11:10:38.525+00:00

THIS MAN KNEW WHERE ALL THE BODIES WERE BURIED IN HOLLYWOOD....I was sexually harassed by an actor when I was a young teenager, after going to an audition with him, so the recent revelations about the great and the good of Hollywoodland and its outlying tar pits were hardly going to leave me cold.  Like a lot of people online at the moment, each accusation against a star, producer or TV actor, ricochets all over the place. But none of the downfalls has hurt as much as Kevin Spacey's.I have taken flak online the past week for criticising the cynical, and to my mind, Orwellian, decision to reshoot film history and cut Spacey out of the new Ridley Scott Getty film. The Onion had a joke about the whole industry being repopulated with Christopher Plummer clones (some began to misbehave). Even to mention sadness at the news that Kevin Spacey's acting career is over was apparently tantamount to mourning the death of Satan.However, I have a long and complicated relationship with Kevin Spacey - as an artist, not a person (having never met him in the flesh, perhaps a good thing). I do not think it condones molestation or sex crime to say that it is a melancholy and perhaps tragic event, when a great genius is cut off in their prime. And to my mind, Spacey is a genius.I saw him in his first roles, on TV in Long Day's Journey Into Night; then, in his run of classics, which, unless someone buys and erases them, will be among the great films of the last century - Glengarry Glen Ross, Se7en, The Usual Suspects, LA Confidential, American Beauty; and, then playing Lex Luthor, after a decade or more of rather mediocre film work, but brilliant directing and acting at The Old Vic in London; and then in his triumphant return for 5 seasons of the remake of House of Cards, virtually turning Netflix, overnight, into a mainstream player.No one acts like Spacey on film. His acidic, acerbic, diamond-sharp malice and malevolent charisma was built for villains, lowlifes, and creeps - but bad guys with balls and a whip-smart tongue. His machine-gun fire delivery was as fast as the screwball comedians' of yore, but he spewed a rancid dialogue, usually, of repellent, or cruel, or mocking jibes.Spacey was always snakelike and weird onscreen - his almost-handsome features ruined by a sense of danger and menace in whatever he did, which made him a lousy lead actor in happy films and family-aimed comedies, but made him one of the greatest screen heavies of all time. Looking back on his career, it seems he was always really a character actor. Like Philip Seymour Hoffman, almost his contemporary, and also a genius of stage and screen, he battled demons, but often brought his A game to a performance.I found his delivery and confidence riveting. I studied how he spoke and held himself, and used his delivery to help me become a world class debating champion.  Everything I learned about public speaking came from Thor Bishopric, Ted Koppel, Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Spacey.To me, Spacey has been as much a part of my life - films and theatre are about 20% of my life's interest (poetry, politics, art and music filling the rest) - and he was my favourite actor for the past 22 years - so I guess that means he was pretty much representative of 8% or so of what meant something to me, for a long time. If that seems an odd way of saying he was a hero, then yeah, put it that way.Some of my other male heroes have had feet of clay - notably Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther King, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, and Ezra Pound, who each had issues with their psyches, sexuality or politics, of course. My female heroes - Ida Lupino, Plath, Dickinson, Meryl Streep - seem less compromised. Regardless, I have learned to try and separate the personal lives of great saints, artists, actors, from their works.It w[...]



The Winner of the 8th Fortnight Poetry Prize is...

2017-11-02T11:00:13.468+00:00

ANNA DE VAUL FOR ‘Broken Up’Our 8th winner!RUNNER-UP: GLEN WILSON – ‘Mouths To Feed’ THE SHORTLIST1.      DENIS BERNICKY – ‘The Moose And The Coyote’2.      ANNE CASEY – ‘Metaphoric Rise’3.      COLIN DARDIS – ‘Look Out’4.      ANNA DE VAUL – ‘Broken Up’5.      JAMES FINNEGAN – ‘Ghost Effect’6.      SEANIN HUGHES – ‘A Collection Of Small Things’7.      JOE LINES – ‘Crossing Harbour Street’8.      SHEY MARQUE – ‘Unpicking A Bird’9.      JESS NIEBERG – ‘Cherries’10.  ROCHELLE POTKAR – ‘Atonement’11.  CARRIE RADNA – ‘Studded Buddhas’12.  LAURA SEYMOUR – ‘Dry Stone Waller’13.  MADELEINE STEVENS – ‘The English Student’14.  GLEN WILSON – ‘Mouths To Feed’ Anna (A.E.) De Vaul pictured above writes both prose and poetry. Some of her recent work can be found in The Fenland Reed, Under the Radar, The Literateur, Wasafiri, and The New European. She is also an editor of the literary journal Lighthouse. Her chapbook in progress is Cosmonaut. Broken Up   I. And so I stand intestines spilling from my fingers heart long scattered to wind and the beaks of birds who circle now, who see the blood and the absence spilling across the pavement   II.   They've come home to roost feathers sticking to ribs and sternum, wingtips poking liver and spleen talons curled around collarbones when they hang to sleep like bats; some are bats I can hear the rustle in my chest, almost rhythmic I can almost feel the warmth    III.   When I open my mouth to sing mites pour out trickle up my face to my hair find homes, build nests wave their legs in time to the keen of jetplanes and my battered ukulele   IV.  There's a sparrow lodged in my throat She shivers when I drink sparkling water, screeches at Oban and Laphroaig but she likes the peat and sweet of Lagavulin, coos and curls herself into a ball so small I could almost start eating again    V.  It's hard to ride a bike when you've got birds in your lungs I cough up pinfeathers and the hulls of seeds on the bus, try to hide my spattered hands from the grandmothers sitting silent around me     VI.  Pebbled eggs slip down through my esophagus tip and tilt from vertebrae squeeze past my stomach and through the ruins to the cradle of my pelvis I walk with hips held forward to protect the fragile shells     VII.   In this city that lacks the songs of birds they're the last of their kind, refugees bearing witness to a history we’d rather wash clean I can’t help but cling to their tiny bodies can’t help but feel the urge to nurture to never let them gocopyright 2017 A.E. De Vaul  JUDGE'S COMMENTS BY ROSANNA HILDYARD:And still, poets return to Greece. From Sapphic verses and dactyls – the very structure of English poetry – to Ocean Vuong playing Telemachus, so much comes from the Ancient Greek. And the winning poet this week begins with an image of Prometheus, the god who loved humans so much that he gave us fire, and was cast out of heaven for it.  Remaking the classics with originality is not easy. What de Vaul has done, impressively, is to take the idea of Prometheus’ protective love, sacrifice and obsession to create a poem that manages to encompass childbirth, fear of death, and the ecosystem in its exploration of a singular image: that of a body containing birds. The ‘Pebbled eggs’ which:  slip down through my esophagustip and ti[...]



The Winner of the 7th Fortnight Poetry Prize is....

2017-10-20T17:41:09.184+01:00

 M. J. Arlett - pictured - for the poem 'Snowfall In Pennsylvania' (below). Congratulations! She wins £140 on this UK National Poetry Day!Arlett was born in the UK, grew up in Spain, and now lives in Texas where she is pursuing her PhD. She is an editor at the Plath Poetry Project and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in B O D Y, The Boiler, Lunch Ticket, Poet Lore, Mud Season Review, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. The runner up is: 'Orlando’ by Eva Griffin.The judge, Alexandra Payne wrote: With the autumn equinox not long behind us, the numerous winter poems among the entries this fortnight really came into their own. None, however, with more delicacy and precision than ‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ by M. J. Arlett.Like an iced-over lake, or a deer that freezes then bolts, this poem exudes a peacefulness with a simultaneous undercurrent of energy. In a time when everything seems to be moving so quickly and with so little meaning, ‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ is a pause to inhabit and relish. The next iteration begins Friday 29 September, runs for 14 days, with a winner announced 7 days after that. The judge this time will be Ms Rosanna Hildyard, our senior editor.  Snowfall in Pennsylvania  Leftover flurries are falling into the hot thick airclimbing up to greet it. The drinkin my hand is fogging and I am snowed inby happiness, mulling in a tubof artificial heat. So this is winter:the weight of water on water, the creaking,a whole landscape come to pause in the greatdepths of what can be accumulatedgiven enough time. Mother, I'm sorryI'm so far away, but -my god- if you could see it.The deer are breaking from the forest, the skyis a suffocation and I have seen nothing before this. - poem by M.J. Arlett, copyright the authorreprinted with permission  The shortlist of 14 was:  ‘Although the birds would mourn’ by Terence Degnan ‘Baby’ by Tania Hershman ‘Blood Rose’ by Carrie Magness Radna ‘Canzone to Labor in a Heatwave’ by Timothy Duffy ‘Classics of the Mask’ by Lou Heron ‘Orlando’ by Eva Griffin ‘Proteus’ by Sameed Sayeed ‘Quantity Surveying Belfast City’ by Suzanne Magee ‘Snowfall in Pennsylvania’ by M. J. Arlett ‘Still Life with You Gone’ by Ellen Girardeau Kempler ‘The credits are always right by the door’ by Kate Noakes ‘The Heron’ by Gareth Writer-Davies ‘The Matter of the Unconscious’ by Robin Richardson ‘Times & Spaces’ by Stephanie Roberts  [...]



HUGH SIGH OF RELIEF - DEATH OF HEFF, PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN MALE WORLD

2017-09-28T10:57:50.369+01:00

HER IMAGE WAS BOUGHT AND USED BY HEFFNER TO CAPITALISE ON HER FAME FOR HIS OWN GAINI do not come to mourn Heffner. He lived to 91, and had what he wanted from life. What he wanted was desperately limited, although hedonistically exciting - he had the devil's bargain, as it were - all the sex, money, fame, and influence he asked for. Why mourn the villain who makes crime pay? His impact on Post-war Western society was akin to that of the atomic bomb, and just as destructive. His "lifestyle" - never harmless boys will be boys fun - for all its purported social-justice elements and literary collusions (with sex-creeps like Sartre), was about radically free access to a certain kind of sexual pleasure - mostly white male middle-class heterosexual freedom (though he did advocate for gay rights at some stage, likely as a cover for his own need for total access to sex objects). What brand is better known, or more sinister, than the bunny ears, other than the swastika? His persuasive Playboy stood for the idea of a male fantasy of never having to grow up, of high-end scotches, cigars; stereo and sports car acquisitions - and mostly, of endless available big-breasted women. Women as sex toys, and never as thinking beings, with hearts or souls. The staple at the heart of his nudes killed so many ways of loving properly. It is hard to claim, though his daughter would, that Heffner's image or idea of women was empowering. It was demeaning.  Heffner's empire of media and clubs established a permissiveness that encouraged men like me to be male babies, craving easy sex, mommy's milk, and no responsibolity - it is the offer of the glamour of evil. It is very tempting. So, TV actors like OJ Simpson, rock gods, and celebrities entered his shadowy man-cave, and never left. But enslaving women - in word, thought, deed, ideology or costume - to serve your every whim is, in fact, criminal, or at least deeply amoral, and the Playboy Mansions should be bull-dozed as scenes of great social wrongs, just as we do with sex-crime murder houses.[...]



BEST RECENT SONGS

2017-09-27T15:59:43.133+01:00

SHE WAS A SPY, NOW SHE LOVES TO LISTEN TO POPEyewear, the blog loves to share news of great popular songs (tracks) so you can hear our playlist. We are on Spotify endlessly as we edit. We favour indie guitar bands, 80 revivalists, synth-pop, dream pop, and George Michael, as well as Ska and The Smiths. We are publishing Sarah Walk, whose work is super - but we won't list her here, as that might be considered cheating... check her out. No National, lcd soundsystem or Fleet Foxes here, or The War on Drugs, sorry.... they would all make a best of year's end Top 100, and may well do....Here are 25 recent tracks that over the summer and last few weeks have wormed their way deep into our psyches.1. 'Persistence' - Albin Lee MeldauHardly a household name, he should be. This is the sort of passionate throwback to CCR guitar rock too many hipsters have aimed for of late. He achieves something classic, catchy, and oddly poignant here.2. 'Royal Highness' - Tom GrennanThis is pure rock pop, with a touch of Hall and Oates in the lyrics, and a little bit of Jake Bugg, and some garage rock swagger. It's a bit silly, but energetic and sort of delirously happy.3. 'In Undertow' - AlvaaysBasically, the best dream pop band of recent time stamp, this is haunting, sad, sweet, and perfect break-up music - "there's no turning back after what was said" - classic Brexit sentiment too.4. 'Spent The Day In Bed' - MorrisseyBritain's favourite UKIP supporter - a tragic misalignment of talent and thinking - starts his new  grumpy yet scarily catchy song with music you'd associate with Supertramp - noodling organ. Oh well - his Trumpian attack on the news that makes "you feel small and alone" is bizarrely linked to a day in bed to "do as I wish" - you can please yourself...5. 'What Have We Done?' - OMDNo one wakes up from their bed and asks for more OMD. Yet they were the smartest of the synth-pop 80s hit-makers, and their new comeback album is very good. This may be a Brexit song, too. It opens with some 'O Superman' Laurie Anderson stuff, and gets haunting and wise.6. 'Someday' - Pale SeasThe sort of song I love. Swooning indie guitar twangs, echo chambers, and gender-neutral vocals, and lyrics that Echo & The Bunymen would consider apt, this is thrillingly melodramatic alternative pop - " your echo leaves a scar" indeed. I want to go to a small seaside town with these lads and get drunk.7. 'Coke ' - BLOXX'She's the greatest at it' - another dream pop song with a wonderful vocalist, who may be a girl, or a boy - love that ambiguity. Like early Cranberries, it is sincere, twisted, sexy - does she do blow or blow do?8. 'Fantasy' - George Michael, Nile RodgersWell, perverse as it is to raid a dead man's back catalogue or in this case, second-rate unrecorded sessions, no one is better, ever, than Nile Rodgers, at producing this stuff - not even Sir George Martin - another GM of genius.9. 'Vin Mariani' - BaioWho are these guys? They sound like ABC married Human League. So 80s you want to sue a decade or something, but really, well done. Just great pastiche.10. 'To The Bone' - Steve WilsonA man who wants to merge Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel rock with 21st century stylings - and includes those noises that sound like zoo animals that Talk Talk did so well - but also uses Rush Prog rock... well, what a song! Like the theme to an 80s cop show set in Cincinatti called Maddoxx.11. 'Shade' - IAMDBB'Uber uber everywhere.... ' compelling hip-hop with an eerie Numan sensibility, this is icy cool and seems to be lamenting a bad world making too much money - and suggesting Trump will lose in 2020...12. 'Bike Dream' - RostamIf you love Vampire Weekend, you will sort of like this song, which c[...]



THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...

2017-11-10T19:43:51.343+00:00

Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. Life Jacket   summer camp shirts                            I couldn’t fit in then are half my size now                           I wanted to wear smaller and smaller                             articles of clothing I shrunk to the size                              that disappeared   of an afterthought                               in a sinking ship body too buoyant to sink                             too waterlogged for land I became                                              a dot of sand silent as dusk                                      becoming night   my first time sailing                            I capsized and almost drowning                          in oversized clothing I sat the captain’s seat                         I couldn’t fit into till I sunburned                                    my entire body   lobster body                                        kids called me with claws showing                            more names than I can recall                                   the skin and the cells the burning only                         &n[...]



JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

2017-09-07T11:42:19.879+01:00

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.(image)



THE WINNER OF THE FIFTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS....

2017-08-21T13:33:31.351+01:00

Bridget Sprouls!Our 5th Fortnight winner! Sprouls' poems have appeared in Field, Map Literary, The New Yorker, The Stinging Fly, and elsewhere. She lives in New Jersey, USA. Her winning poem 'Chatter' - she gets £280 as this was a double-fortnight contest - appears below. The runners up are: Meg Eden, for her poem 'spirit house' and Anders Howerton, for 'An Original Series' In general, this was a very strong field of poets, and poems - over 350 - one of the strengths of this particular prize is that we receive submissions from across North America, but also the UK, Ireland and beyond. Howerton's modern sonnet was contemporary, quirky and compelling in its digital age syntax - an original lyricism emerges here. Eden is clearly a fine poet - her poem - long and discursive, filled with rich questions and surprising imagery, was both clever and profound - not easy to pull off. Either could have won - however, having to choose among my three top poems, it came down to a sense of overall achievement - and by a hair's breadth, on this day, I chose 'Chatter'. This poem's appeal and impressive tonal range is easy to see - it finds a very persuasively contemporary, personal, funny, but poetically savvy voice, and then extends, in quasi-Homeric, or shaggy-dog fashion, an exploration of lyric narrative and self-expression, in a way only the very best contemporary poets can manage. This is fluent, intelligent, skilful, and wonderful writing. A poem to share with friends and fellow poets, as a way to do poetry, thinking on one's verbal feet... and the ending is so lovely, with its knowing echoes of Frost and Ransom.   Chatter  No one has lived here in decades, but now I do,  so I shift the bookshelves when it rains to catch soup from the ceiling, catch punch.  I nail the upstairs blankets so the top one falls loose,  like a focusing hood, letting me under to revel privately in the bareness of the ocean. As temperatures fall,  the dog and I keep bonding, folded up like tacos in comforters and wool. He’s smart enough to stay there while I boil water and crouch in the bath before work, keeping on and steeping my sweater, listening to the plastic on the windows  not do its job, not hold out the outside air. Some kook left a perfectly good— only slightly rusted—fifty-millimetre telescope here,  so the other night as the moon, like an unfelt cut, cropped up, I climbed to the roof of a neighbor’s, a house more abandoned just newer,  and shimmied, scrunch-faced, outside the atmosphere. In the distance,  a humid light swallowed me. Then I swallowed it. But how to show this? In summer, when eyelashes reflect inside your shades, only thick as tree trunks, and you become a river observing  some arid basin it once carved…. This morning the wind has knuckles,  and the knocking sounds urgent. It may be time to nail  more blankets up, say so long to daylight’s stencils on the floor,  exaggerating paned openness, as my friend up the street claims people in this town keep doing to his rear. He sees more than I do and suffers for it, aware that we do not belong by the shore, can’t afford it, simply put, not even at medium wage,  not the way most bosses micromanage. Just floating in the surf,  he gets screamed at by fishermen, their rods rigged  with invisible flags of dominion, flags that can’t but whip a light-footed sloth, an unambitious moss, in the face,  as it g[...]



21 SHORTLISTED POEMS FOR THE LATEST FORTNIGHT PRIZE

2017-08-20T18:01:02.591+01:00

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POETRY IS A KIND OF SUMMER PLAY

Here are the 21 shortlisted poems.  The winner will be announced no later than Monday 21st of August, before midnight GMT. The new contest begins tomorrow.

1. ALISON PALMER –‘Days Fallen Into’
2. AMY SONOUN – ‘The Death of Clive James Has Been Postponed Again’
3. ANDERS HOWERTON – ‘An Original Series’
4. ANNA LENA PHILLIPS BELL – ‘Qualifications for one to be Climbed by a Vine’
5. AUDREY MOLLOY – ‘On the Rocks’
6. BRIDGET SPROULS – ‘Chatter’
7. BURNSIDE SOLEIL – ‘Sundays’
8. COLIN DARDIS – Lost to the Night’
9. DAVID ADAMS – ‘Dominar’
10. EMILY OSBORNE –‘Diacritics’
11. ERIC SIGLER – ‘Celestial Probability’
12. HALEY KARIN – Cover Girl’
13. LOU HERON – ‘The Ant Under The Bar Stool’
14. MAUREEN MILLER – ‘Funeral for my Excuses’
15. MEG EDEN – ‘spirit houses’
16. MEGAN COLEMAN – ‘Licorice and the Underworld’
17. P.C. VANDALL –‘After a Poem by Leonard Cohen’
18. PAMELA JOHNSON PARKER – ‘Months Later, I Stand Here Ironing’
19. TOM DOLAN – ‘Surrounded’
20. WES LEE – ‘You Are The Envoy’
21. YESSICA KLEIN – ‘Let’s Do Some Work Then We’ll Make Love’


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CLIVE WILMER'S THOM GUNN SELECTED POEMS IS A MUST-READ

2017-08-19T19:04:08.709+01:00

THAT HANDSOME MAN A PERSONAL BRIEF REVIEW BY TODD SWIFTI could lie and claim Larkin, Yeats, or Dylan Thomas most excited me as a young poet, or even Pound or FT Prince - but the truth be told, it was Thom Gunn I first and most loved when I was young.Precisely, I fell in love with his first two collections, written under a formalist, Elizabethan (Fulke Greville mainly), Yvor Winters triad of influences - uniquely fused with an interest in homerotica, pop culture (Brando, Elvis, motorcycles). His best poem 'On The Move' is oddly presented here without the quote that began it usually - Man, you gotta go - which I loved.Gunn was - and remains - so thrilling, to me at least, because so odd. His elegance, poise, and intelligence is all about display, about surface - but the surface of a panther, who ripples with strength beneath the skin.With Gunn, you dressed to have sex.Or so I thought.  Because I was queer (I maintain the right to lay claim to that identity, regardless of who I sleep with, when or why), was shy, and loved words, loved eloquence, and control, Gunn meant the world to me, and so I always gravitated to a sense of presentation that was formal, smart, and yet also, erotic, and aware of the real world of physical desire, music, actors, and what means something to people.Clive Wilmer's new selection has a useful introduction, insightful notes, but is mainly invaluable in presenting handsomely most of Gunn's finest poems - his best poem was one of his last, about his mother's suicide.Gunn was early associated, perhaps incorrectly, with the Plath generation, by Alvarez, and he made much of not liking that so much - though it did him no damage in terms of early fame.His career had three or four stages - early meteoric success; then a disappearance and lonely years of general indifference; then a great return with the AIDs poems - and a final, valedictory sequence of solemn late poems.  Few poets get to write great poems across a whole lifetime - Gunn's youthful poems are among his best, and so are his last.Like a less vast Yeats, he rang all the changes.When Gunn died I was sad more fuss was not made.  In my world he was a poetic God. In many ways, my name, Todd Swift, was chosen (I dropped my first name in favour of my monosyllabic middle) in homage to Thom. Gunn, as the first and foremost gay poet of my lifetime (other than Ginsberg), moves me so much, allows me to be sane, in my rich imagination. But of course his work is inspiring to everyone who wants to write well, despite their desires.One thing he gives us permission to do is to be elegant, stylish, formal, and traditional, but in non-boring, unsafe, risk-taking and surprising ways.When I come to compile my final selection of the work I want to keep, of my poetry, I hope it will be read on the terms that Gunn's are here - as a folio of sustained excellence in individual, exceptionally-crafted but compassionate, wit-infused, tradition-drenched, body-aware, poems. Control, poise - the armature of poetic rhetoric deployed to keep us safe - is vital to my sanity. As it was to Eliot.Gunn is a great poet, and this is a great book.Here is the poem I wrote on his death, in April 2004: Elegy for Thom Gunn You moved between worlds,As a god does to men, whoPuts on the used-clothes ofA swan, to beat about girls; Crossed channels, a motionIn the very style you took on;Became a pop star of form,Reformed the common, into Something rare.  JacketedMuscle and passion, a uniformUniquely yours.  RevvedEngines, made language A throttle that cou[...]



Charlottesville One Week On - Guest Article by Sarah Burk

2017-08-19T10:40:33.306+01:00

DARKNESS VISIBLE: THE RISING TIDE OF HATE IN MY TIMEBY SARAH BURK, AMERICAN EDITOR AT EYEWEAR PUBLISHING This past Saturday, a week ago (it seems longer) the quiet college town of Charlottesville, VA became the site of violence and vitriol as white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied to “Unite the Right” against the removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, clashing with counter-demonstrators. This scene turned tragic when a man drove a car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 19. He had earlier been seen marching with the symbols of far-right extremist group Vanguard America, though according to the group, he was not an official member. As physical confrontations erupted between protesters, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and law enforcement officers attempted to stop the rally under orders that it was an unlawful assembly. However, the damage had already been done. Indeed, it seems there is a state of emergency in the United States. This is not the first rally of its kind to be held in Charlottesville this summer, and there have been several others across the nation. It remains personally shocking to me that such philosophies remain so rampant, as demonstrated by the near-historic number of far-right groups and individuals that gathered in Charlottesville this past weekend. I first learned of the events in Charlottesville when my phone alerted me that #Charlottesville was trending on Twitter. Without comment or conscience, my phone arbitrarily decided which information would be important to me. Perhaps it is telling that breaking news reached me through a social media site, but it is also important in demonstrating its scale. In this instance, the algorithm for Twitter’s in-app notification accurately identified a story that was relevant not just to me, but to the entirety of our society. As a white American attending university in the South, this incident strikes close to home, both figuratively and literally. I grew up in Virginia, and my university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, bears a striking resemblance to the community in Charlottesville. In fact, a statue of a Confederate soldier remains on my campus, and has been the subject of numerous debates throughout history. It is all too easy to treat my nation’s history as exactly that: history. In our high schools, the American Civil War is discussed as an isolated set of events whose aftershocks contributed to the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, but rarely is history contextualized for the modern era in any meaningful way. However, when I see rallies like the one held in Charlottesville, it is hard to believe over 150 years have passed since the end of the war that these statues commemorate. When I hear alternating cries of “You/Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” it’s hard for me to believe that we have learned anything from the systematic genocide of Hitler’s regime. While Sinclair Lewis’s novel, It Can’t Happen Here, has already been revived in the post-Trump era, the sentiment echoes in my mind. Continually, I am proven wrong. It can happen here, as the violence this weekend has shown. Many of my classmates attend the University of Virginia or live in Charlottesville, and just as easily as they could have been involved in the violence this past weekend, a similar event could have occurred at my own university and might still. But the “Unite the Right” rally isn’t terrifying becaus[...]



A GHOST WITHIN A GHOST: REVIEW OF JEZ BUTTERWORTH'S THE FERRYMAN

2017-08-21T13:13:38.500+01:00

SPOILER WARNING:Almost the last line of the play - in a shocking shit-fan whirlwind - gives it away - "what will we do"? Far from being merely a stereotypically Irish problem play in the shadow of the gunman, or the ploughman and the stars, Jez Butterworth's bizarre post-modern masterplay directed by Bond helmer Sam Mendes, is all about stories, and how they are told - often very badly.This is a play of half-remembered poems, dementia-fuelled fairy stories, and lies and demi-lies, all spoken in the name of attempting to find a strand of sense and narrative in the melee of time and history - we are reminded that even Darius interrupted war to let the harvest come in, so potent was the symbolism of that ritual.There is the harvest story, and the boys' stories, and the story of Jesus on the cross, and the stories of love at the GPO... all the stories in the play end badly, or are told badly. Of course, it is also about feast and famine, sowing what you reap, and ghosts becoming visible...But mainly, it is a pastiche of poetry and poetical tropes. It is astonishing how many references, indeed shaping measures, within the play, take their bearings directly from the great poets of The Troubles.Firstly, the victim found in the bog, perfectly, preserved, is pure Seamus Heaney - and the victim's name is: Seamus. And who is the man who comes after? Why, Mr Muldoon... That's not all - the title is based on a reading from Virgil... which is actually reminiscent of Heaney's poetry and  classical focus on the dead, and burial (such as at Thebes).Even Tom Kettle recites a poem - ironically by Sir Walter Raleigh, a British imperialist. But Kettle's name comes from a mostly-forgotten Irish poet. Moreover, the mother's ghostly presence and absence and name exactly mirrors that figure in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night - whose structure this play emulates, and whose echoes of ghosts and fog and the past heaving into view are endemic here. Yeats' poems and songs are referenced throughout...In fact, watching this play one becomes incredulous, excited or enraged, at the multiple acts of homage/pastiche that riddles the text like bullet-fire.Surely, this is intentional - surely, what is at hand is a rough Ur-text, a big shambling beast with the spoor of the Yeti, screaming - all your stories of empire and Ireland are just that - stories - show me where the bodies are buried, and dispense with the story-telling... words have never solved a thing in Ireland... nor love, nor violence... so - what do we do?[...]



IN PRAISE OF ELISABETH MOSS

2017-08-14T17:51:07.019+01:00


 
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21ST CENTURY TV ICON

Elisabeth Moss - mostly a TV actor so far - is perhaps the televisual equivalent of Kristen Stewart (who she appeared with in On The Road) at this stage in time - the world's most enthralling and important young female icon in their medium - she is acting's Taylor Swift, as it were. Or, this generation's Gillian Anderson, perhaps.

Moss has an impeccable TV resume - as a young person she appeared in two major shows - Picket Fences and The West Wing - both considered key to their periods. More recently, she was central to Mad Men, along with The Wire, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, the most significant TV series of the past two decades.

Meanwhile she is brilliant and again central in two vitally important more recent feminist TV shows - Top of the Lake and The Handmaid's Tale - each superbly-made.

Her characters Peggy Olson, Offred and Robin Griffin are as important to this century as any we can think of. That's what being an icon is. And she inspires more than young women. She is a stunning actor, and only the fact she espouses an eccentric religious view gives one pause at all.

However, putting that aside, since we are not the arbiters of the soul, she is a great cultural figure of our moment, and we must wish her well and hope Moss keeps applying her intelligence and emotional complexity to more excellent projects in the years ahead.





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ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE

2017-08-14T17:33:39.668+01:00

NOT ONE OF THESE BESPECTACLED MEN WOULD APPROVE OF TRUMPAugust was once (still is?) called the Silly Season, because less news happened then. Indeed, Malcolm Bradbury's classic novel of the 70s, The History Man, opens with a page on the subject. Ironic, because more than one war has started in August - no month is ahistorical, apolitical. Even the name August refers to an imperial figure. Our editor went away for a fortnight to relax, and like the rest of the world, has witnessed one of the least pleasant August's in living memory, in terms at any rate, of the news.No point in rehearsing the obvious: Donald Trump and his administration are the worst since Nixon's, and may well be worse. Nixon himself toyed with using nukes in Asia, and harboured hard-hatted rednecks as allies. But the refusal over the weekend to properly condemn extreme-right actions is breathtakingly un-American and unsettling. America has not been as unwelcoming to non-whites since Reagan - probably since the end of Jim Crow.A tweet the other day was shocking, and informative - from a conservative poet, who must be right-wing, given his comment, it said - "why should I mourn the death of a left-wing protester?" - trying to be clever with the allusion to the Dylan Thomas poem, presumably. But again, where did this permission come from, if not Trump, to be so heartless, cruel and sharp in public statements?My God. Any death is to be mourned, but more to the point the young woman killed in the car attack was murdered by a terrorising figure - she was innocent - and brave - and good. The person who could not imagine shedding a tear for such a person must be very supremacist, indeed.America is riven, as it has been before, during the Nam protests, and before then in the Civil War. Some surrounding Trump crave a truly apoplectic apocalyptic schism between Before Trump and After Trump - they are as celebratory of violence and fascism as the Futurists of 100 years ago. This is a horrible time in America. The whole world is seeing a relative decline in good governance, not very good even at the best of times.There will likely not be nuclear war before the summer ends. But already there is an awful sense that the worst is coming with regards to the Trump world view.[...]



DUNKIRK MORE SPOCK - review of Nolan's new major film

2017-07-25T20:25:50.993+01:00

SPOILER ALERTSOLDIERS NOT BATHINGDunkirk by Christopher Nolan (not the 1958 film with John Mills and Richard Attenborough) may well be the summer movie event of 2017, just as Saving Private Ryan was the autumn event of roughly 20 years ago (the same year Nolan's Following debuted). However, whereas the earlier WW2 classic featured a bravura beach invasion of Europe scene unrivalled in contemporary film, and was directed by the leading blockbuster film-maker of our time, Spielberg, this new movie features death on a beach where the soldiery are seeking to escape the beachhead and the seabed, equally, and exit Europe (at least mainland). It was the first Brexit, as it were, and as endless pundits are muttering, and that forsaken politics does shade some of the gung-ho little England flag-waving at the end.More pointedly, the new film is an attempt to outdo Spielberg, but also Kubrick, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott, potential rivals to Nolan, whose immaculate, precise, and intelligent space, comic book, and fantasy thrillers, share many elements with these other masters of the film arts. Christopher Nolan, famously, divides most fans and critics, though more are on than against his side. I remain agnostic. I think Memento is a great film, and Inception nearly is; and the three Batman films extraordinarily competent, with genuinely eccentric performances; The Prestige is deeply haunting. Interstellar is a failure of considerable interest with moments of greatness. Dunkirk has been positioned as his most serious, large-canvas work to date, a truly prestige vehicle, that should win him many Oscars. It is a bridge too far.I dislike critics calling ambitious works failures. Hamlet and The Bridge by Crane are often called failures, but they have too much genius not to be successes as well. Dunkirk is like this sort of failure. It is riddled with the style and vision of the achieved auteur - Nolan is that sort of film-maker. However, since the film is mounted and presented as a major human experience, it cannot but fall a bit on the portentousness of its presentation, form, plot and ideas.The key decision is to remove the "enemy" from view. They are not called Germans in the opening title card, and are faceless throughout. We only see the effects of their torpedoes, bombs, and bullets. We only see their planes. And, at the very end, a few faceless shadows. We are presented instead with a God's eye view of various aspects of the escape - a small civilian vessel captained by Mark Rylance, the best thing in the film; the soldiers on the beach waiting to escape, officer and lower rank; and Spitfire pilots chasing German planes seeking to inflict damage on the ships coming to rescue the over 300,000 stranded Brits. This is a terrible error, because the menace demanding escape is rendered far too philsopsophical and abstract - there is an idea of doom, but far too little sense of the guiding hand of real generals and officers, and fighting men, on the other side, driving the British into the sea.At times, this faceless nemesis is awesome and strange, as when the choreographed masses of men huddled and bereft on the piers bow and fly as bombs loom, like cruel gods playing with flies. The attempt to establish that war is indifferent, cruel and random is successful, but given the humanity of the British characters, it is a bit rich to pretend the enemy is of another order.More problematic is the impressively alienating s[...]



THE WINNER OF THE FOURTH FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS....

2017-07-07T11:07:31.035+01:00

Dominic LeonardRunner-up, Meg EdenDominic Leonard is an undergraduate studying English at Christ Church, Oxford. His poems have appeared in IRIS, the Oxford Review of Books, The Kindling and the Poetry Business Book of New Poets (forthcoming), and in 2017 he won the Poetry Live competition. He is the President of Oxford University Poetry Society for 2017-18. a new poet with a futureJudge's Citation (by Oliver Jones) This fortnight's raft of submissions contained many poems remarkable in their willingness to push their poet's expressive range to the very edge of non-sequitur.  None did so with such superb panache as Dominic Leonard's winning submission, which stretched personification to its logical limit  - as did our runner up, Meg Eden in the highly effective 'Alzheimers, In Which My Grandmother Is A Blueberry Bush'. Dominic's gift for accelerating his abstractions up to an impressive tempo is typical of a cluster of emerging British poets - Daisy Lafarge springs to mind, as does Andrew Fentham. His dislocated narration, simultaneously anatomical and cosmic,  gives his poems a freedom and freshness that rewards multiple readings.Choosing among such strong pieces was no easy feat, but ultimately it was the pleasing prosody of 'No God Is Like A Vapour' - Dominic's paean to the deep sea jellyfish - that set it apart. The words in this poem seem to drift apart on the page, scattered and disarticulated; a mood that's belied by the piece as a whole, which shows exemplary concision and focus. Like a Bartok variation, it turns sharply around its key image without ever allowing the reader to face it full-on, and reaches far beyond its subject matter towards something equally diffuse and ungraspable. A young poet to watch out for, certainly. No god is like a vapour *Stygiomedusa Gigantea no  god  is  like  a  vapour           gods are   as oil   & sponge   as this      here  are  my   droplets  :   here  are   my tendrils   &  their           galactic  melting           here    :  i am   a dish   of  brine  &  pink  water          watch :   i will  show  my face  to  death       except   do  not watch          i can  only    perform           down here          here    under  a  thousand   atmospheres in   dreams   i was  not   licked into this   salt existence        down in      these   murky  whirlpools       not  licked  into  this almost-life           in   dreams  i am shocking  everything   with   [...]