Sunday, 24 June 2012

St John the Baptist and Prometheus

Today is the feast of St John the Baptist, one of only three days in the Catholic calendar given over to celebrating the birth of someone.  It also marks the occasion of the national day in Quebec.  St John the Baptist, the last prophet, bridged the Old and New Testaments with his preaching of the coming of Christ, and the full immersion in the river Jordan.  I last night saw Prometheus, a well-made, often terrifying, and sometimes thoughtful, prequel to Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, with enough theology and myth in its subtext to raise Joseph Campbell from the dead.  I note the grim humour in the naming of the infertile Christian heroine, Elizabeth, who is subject to an unwanted and horrific precursor pregnancy.  Of course, the Baptist's mother's name was Elizabeth and she too was barren, until God made her pregnant.  In the inverted, fallen world of the film, where men and robots play god to the destruction of many, the tentacular ur- creature that emerges from Elizabeth's union with the alien seed prefigures the final monstrous birth that arises at the end.  There are intriguing unanswered questions about creation and replication - and what it means to be a maker and a God, as well as a destroyer and a human, in Prometheus - and it is interesting to see them shadowing allegorically the Bible stories, as well as Greek myth, in the writing of this complex picture.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Poems by Mark Boog Translated By Nikki Dekker

Good news.  A very fine young Dutch poet, who also writes and published in English, Nikki Dekker, has translated several of Mark Boog's poems from the Dutch for Eyewear.  Boog is one of the most popular and criticaly appreciated poets currently writing in The Netherlands.  Here they are, published here online for the first time.

      It seems it will rain

It seems it will rain.
In silent anticipation the grey morning,
which just can’t help being dry, little.

Somewhere the relief of expectations
that come true, no matter how bleak. Not to rain
is unacceptable.

The other, accomplished, and the shortcomings,
they complete each other. Illustrations,
nothing but illustrations.

On the bed, in the room that looks colourless, bled to death,
a colourless figure. White, scrawny and forthcoming
the facade and the linens.

What is the bed doing in the living room?
The bed lives in the living room.
It will rain, it is dry.

Nowhere Fish

How can something not exist
of which we harbour a presumption?

Such are the questions that keep us going,
that keep us standing, tenuous as a heron

brooding at that waterside,
feigning, chasing,

the clear water a horrific mirror –
find a fucking fish like that,

we only see ourselves, presume ourselves
in the bewitched wrinkling.

          Concerning Profit

Because profit and loss
are so hard to distinguish,
we do not distinguish.

Then what do we see?
How the same repeats itself?
It does not repeat itself. Even we can see that.

The weather? The weather! Predicted by those better than us
it nonetheless withdraws itself. Overwhelms, overthrows,
overflows. Threatens.

And high, higher than we thought possible, birds.

There is always hope

This is the way in which I wish to waste my life,
not the way in which you wish to waste your life.
No matter how much I value feedback, shut up.

Let the fish question, along the surface search for breath,
give them the bowl they wish for: have. Catch them only
for hunger or by way of gentle pastime. Or just because.

Still unexpected. That they didn’t see it coming,
of course surely saw it coming, that they until the end,
until the early, redeeming, way too early redeeming end,


And gods

And somewhere gods, amount unknown,
who for example hover and stay unruffled.

It lightens the path to the supermarket
barely, to know that the path is unlit.

We lose ourselves in blissful rationalizing,
which is thoughtlessness but then lovelier.

We guard the unsaid bravely, fanatical,
as fuming dogs their prison.

            Behind us the signposts

The fact that decisions have already been made
before we make them, ought to reassure
but does not, as is decreed,

and bearable is merely the knowledge
that we know everything, or at least nearly everything,
in any case enough. We reason ourselves a way

through the raging landscape,
which would immediately be overgrown
with asphalt, if it existed. Still we twist

the pompous signposts behind us. At the loss
of them who follow us. Our example,
after all, can hardly be called exemplary.

            Among the people

Wide spreading himself he goes.
The streets empty, actually empty.

Others? As little as possible.
They hinder the wide, the being.

Nonetheless: the stars, somewhere the stars,
recognized by street lanterns.

In other seasons too, there are problems,
but now they particularly catch the eye.


Teeth bare, hair erect, froth
in the corners of his mouth – facing us,

the Other, who makes us what we are.
It is finally Spring, still a bit chilly,

bright weather. Wasn’t it a long winter?
It was a long winter, which is over.

Sun, birds, coffee, news, no news,
children, body that won’t co-operate.

Hat off. Rolled up sleeves. Deep and
dark growling. Cautious orbit.

To shake the outstretched hand,
the smile and the greeting. The day. The day!

The above poems were translated from the series Nergens Vis (Nowhere Fish) as published in Het Liegend Konijn (The Lying Rabbit) issue 2, October 2011. They will be included in Boog’s latest collection, Maar zingend (But Singing), is forthcoming from Publisher Cossee in January 2013.

Nikki Dekker (Amersfoort, 1989) writes and translates in Dutch and English.

Poetry Focus On: OLIVER DIXON

Oliver Dixon is a poet and writer based in London whose poems and reviews have appeared in PN Review, London Magazine, The Wolf, Frogmore Papers, Long Poem Magazine, Blackbox Manifold and Gists and Piths. His debut volume is forthcoming February 2013 from Penned in the Margins. He blogs at Ictus.

Cartoon Man

One moment sun, same ochre as the leaves
it’s steeped through, gracing my meander home
from work – the next : this odd attempt at rain,

hardly rain at all but just this gentlest
sprinkling imaginable, sparkling down out of a blue
cloudless except for several oval clumps

like ideas occurring to a cartoon man:
am I him then, caught between two weathers,
clowning through this ticker-tape parade

of glimmers set up for someone worthier
to read a Sign in, some epiphanic
confirmation of faith – for him, perhaps,

the old asylum-seeker, fled from war
and displacement as I’ve fled driving-tests
and over-crowded tubes, but too busy today

spiking leaves one by one into his sack
even as others, other rusted hinges,
twirl unscrewed around him? Is there time,

in the end, or space in our memories
to pause and remember anything
so fugitive, uncatchable, each droplet

a tiny aperture onto a timelier moment,
a vivider world which is nonetheless
this one I have only to live in?

poem by Oliver Dixon; published online with permission of the author.

Haliburton V

Andrew Sarris Has Died

Sad news.  Andrew Sarris, one of the greatest of all film critics, has died.  Sarris was a huge influence on me as a writer of criticism, and a poet, since I have always been very aware of, and influenced, by film and film theory.  Sarris, of course, developed the auteur theory from his reading of Cahiers du Cinema, and elevated Hitchcock and other so-called film noir, B movie and entertainment directors into artists.  Without Sarris, it would have been hard to fully appreciate films like Touch of Evil or Psycho.  He gave us so much.

Turing At 100

Alan Turing is one of Eyewear's great heroes - arguably one of the most important people of the 20th century - and who else can lay claim to shortening World War Two by years and basically inventing the computer as we know it - so, an intellectual superman who was also, tragically, almost unrecognised in his lifetime for wartime secrets reasons, and then forced into chemical castration simply for being gay.  As I have said before, no other genius of the last 100 years was treated so shabbily, making him the scientific equivalent of a Van Gogh - a splendid one-off mind, whose time had no real way of appreciating him fully.  Now on his 100th birthday, the BBC reports he may not have committed suicide after all, but died from a bungled cianide experiment in one of his rooms.  Careless with cianide, or tired with life, Turing gave far more to the world than he received in return, and it is so good to see him iconic, and loved, now.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Love Eyewear? Buy The T-Shirt.

Folks, Eyewear has given you years of daily pleasure for almost a decade.  Time to pay for those cheap, indeed, free, thrills: with a t-shirt that costs less than a movie, or a good Indian take-away.  Yes, that's right, Eyewear now has T-shirts available with our cool logo - in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes.  Be the first kid on your block to wear the ultra-hip, savvy and post-ironic heavy cotton fruit of the loom garment that indicates you are a proud Eyewearer!
We could have used an eye-catching model but asked Martin Penny to wear the shirt instead

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


The greatest living poet in the English language born since 1940, Paul Muldoon, turns 61 today.  Happy Muldoonday!

British Summer

Summer has arrived with today's solstice!  And, oddly, the sun is actually shining, the pale roses are wild and full on the trellis, and Wimbledon is soon to begin.  All seems well.  There is even a great new summer pop song, from Hot Chip, called 'Motion Sickness', which is a wonderful mix of Motown and OMD.  Eyewear wishes you all a great summer.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Great Pumpkins

It is five years, more or less, since Eyewear last reviewed a Smashing Pumpkins album here.  Last time, it was Zeitgeist, and I raved and gushed.  It was a sort of Second Smashing.  Now here comes Mr. Corgan, apparently armed with the same portentous ego and nasal imperatives, and a bunch of new cronies, to give us, this day, Oceania, presumably named after one of the superstates at war in Orwell's novel.  Depending on where you stand, this new LP is either an imposition similar to being boxed about the ears by an immature giant, or a wonderful greatest day ever.

I am of the latter camp, more or less.  I am a fan of Corgan.  I don't see through his soaring bluster and corny ambitons, his roaring guitar riffs and drum beats stolen from West point, via Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack.  No, I always bought the semi-camp leap of faith required, the adrenalin buzz, the bloodrush, the nonsensical zoom of Smashing Pumpkins, the stately plumpness of its gall.  For what they stood for was Indie Greatness.  The possibility that adenoidal gangly freaks in their 20s could storm the stage and be majestic.  It was genre trouble, genre as performance.  Now, they broke up, reformed, quasi-regrouped, and basically were last amazing in the last century, around 17 years ago.  That's almost like being Depeche Mode.

But I am naive and loyal and religious when it comes to indie bands I adore.  I still carry a torch for Simple Minds, after all.  So, what to say about this album?  Is the sound oceanic?  Of course.  It sounds just like they should.  It hasn't broken what wasn't fixed.  It keeps the sprawl and fuzz, the grand gestures, and mostly, the underlining message/vision of all the songs, the sexy megalomaniacal demonism central to all great pop/rock: that the frontman is a messiah, and that they are there for you, hold on, they are coming (for/with you).  These lyrics are here again.  Billy is yours, he longs for you, believe in him.  Suffer with him.  Be tall and thin and spookily alternative with him.  Be 90s with him.  Swoon.  I think it's a good album - it may be a classic.  I am not sure yet; I am still listening.  I'll say more later.  But "I'll kiss anyone tonight" is a good line.

Nalbandian On The Run

Almost everyone in the world of tennis has lined up to kick poor David Nalbandian, suddenly the most infamous poor sport in recent memory.  I for one feel some sympathy for him.  Most people have a wee temper - not that they usually kick bits of wood perilously close to people's shins - and we can all imagine being a player, stressed, frustrated, tired, momentarily seeing red, and booting some wood.  It was Nalbandian's bad luck that the wood broke off, and badly cut an official's leg - a most unfortunate accident.  But accident it was.  Yet the look of pompous incredulity on the official's face suggests a certain noblesse oblige at work.  One does not do such things here.  Anyway, Nalbandian was immediately declared the loser, fined a great deal of money, and is even now being investigated by the police, who presumably have no murders or rapes to look into.  What a lot of nonsense.  The match was spoiled, the crowd and players denied a proper final, and a good player has been unduly tarnished over a split-second misjudgement that was hardly malicious.  There is an old-fashioned concept: charity.  It was not shown by anyone with any duty of care, or concern, at this event.

Poetry Focus On: BECKY MAYHEW

Becky Mayhew, Young British Poet
Becky Mayhew lives in Surbiton, Surrey, and has just finished a Masters degree in Creative Writing and Publishing at Kingston University. She has had a book of short stories published by Treehouse Press, and writes humorous articles for local newspapers and websites. She is currently writing a novel inspired by human life and local pubs.

Elocution Lessons

Me Mam had her voice knocked out of her
When they made the move from Up North.
A grand little lass with broad ‘ohh’s’ and ‘aa’s’
Submerged in the South henceforth.

Her mouth spilled air from the fresh green earth
Of Lancashire’s faraway land.
Six year-old lips curling round words
That were seized by a teacher’s firm hand.

It didn’t take long for the North to come out
Like a grass stain lifting in’t wash.
She practised at home, her new southern voice,
Me Granddad said, ‘Eee, you sound posh.’

Soon there was nothing, no trace of the hills,
The cobbles, the spires, or the sea.         
Just good southern vowels, rounded and clipped
That seeped through the years down to me.

poem by Becky Mayhew; published online with permission of the author

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Smith On Lung Jazz and Kingston MA Poets Pamphlet

Barbara Smith reviews
Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam
Edited by Todd Swift and Kim Lockwood
Cinnamon Press/Eyewear Publishing, 2012
The Hallelujah Chorus
Kingston University MA Poetry
Various poets, 2012

Back in autumn of 2008, seventeen young British Poets were selected for inclusion in The Manhattan Review (Fall/Winter 2008-9), as part of a feature on young British poets. Indeed, I went over to London the following March of 2009 and witnessed some of the selected poets read from their work at Oxfam, Marylebone, to a large, very receptive audience. In introducing his selection in The Manhattan Review, Todd Swift described poetry’s “British Empirical tradition” as still having a sense of the “neo-classical, or Romantic, mode”; that language had become the battleground; and that the British avant-garde tended to “disrupt or reconsider the lyric stance, and investigate language from a philosophical position.” He went on to assert that the poets he had selected “may, or may not in complex and creative ways [have] disentangled themselves from this fertile muck”, with the proviso that it was a “provisional report on an unfolding present”.

It was also acknowledged that Roddy Lumsden was completing editing Bloodaxe’s Identity Parade (2010), a much broader anthology in scope and range, which encompassed contemporary British and Irish poets. Swift concluded in his introduction by observing that the original seventeen were “less possessed by the demons that haunted post-war Britain”. Generation Next for poetry indeed. I recall enjoying some of that seventeen entrance the audience with the wide variety of styles and forms as well as their confident communication of their work to the listening public. Most of that original line-up (bar about four poets) found their way into Lung Jazz. The selection criteria being simply that the poets consider themselves part of the British poetry community and had been born in or after 1970.

Given these two previous forays (also thinking of The Salt Book of Younger Poets and Voice Recognition, also from Bloodaxe) it could be questioned why we need another anthology of young contemporary poetry. The answer is two-fold: it raises funds and awareness for Oxfam: “allowing poetry to make something happen” as well as showcasing “poems that define a generation.” So, the poems themselves are doing the talking: some as unfussily polished as Princess cut diamonds, such as Emily Berry’s ‘Devil Music’ or Liz Berry’s ‘Horse’; others as wide to the possibilities of language and comprehension, with Tony Williams’ ‘A New Metal’ or Rufo Quintavalle’s ‘Names and the animals’; still more playing with quotidian observance, like Ben Wilkinson’s ‘Open Return’, and of course there is humour, such as the playfulness of Sophie Hannah’s ‘The Dalai Lama on Twitter’. It is a pity that the poems are not organised ‘speaking to each other’, but that is an ordering which creates its own problems; instead the editors have opted for alphabetisation, which enables easy retrieval.

When asked about essential things to do when becoming a poet, one of the things often mentioned is the need to read poetry. Not just the Robert Frosts, or Marianne Moores, or Sylvia Plaths, Elizabeth Bishops, or Eavan Bolands but reading what is new, what is now happening in poetry. That’s why contemporary anthologies serve as a good place to start sipping and supping at emerging poetry, even as they are arbitrated by others. It may be that this taste will lead us, hopefully, to follow, support and keep on reading the poets we have enjoyed and engage with those whose work is more challenging as we move forward, whether as readers or as poets.

The word anthology derives from the Greek, a gathering of flowers, and has been subsumed into literary culture to mean ‘a gathering of flowering verse’ – quite appropriate given the range of work gathered into Lung Jazz. Describing it in floral terms, one could think of the recent trend for seeding wildflower meadows – a variation on old and universal themes but with definite zinging poetry pops of neons and acids and a reworking of formal patterns These poems are for reading now and reading again in decades to come, when we look forward to seeing who will withstand the vagaries of time.

On to an anthology of a different kind: The Hallelujah Chorus from the Kingston University’s MA in Poetry. Here we have twelve poets presenting their work in a stylish pamphlet. How do you describe such a gathering? As a, “heterogeneous, eclectic group of styles and approaches”, according to Dr Swift, their erstwhile poetry tutor and mentor.

Witness the erotic undertow of a Cato Pedder, in the poem that gives its title to the pamphlet, ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ ‘You’re turning over your engine / in the garage of my womb’, giving an old trope a new swing. Or see how one poet looks to the ephemera of passing phases of youth in Robin Thomas’ ‘For the Duration’ “When this lot is over / I’ll rip off this uniform.” How about the menacing intrigue of a poem like Justin White’s ‘Comfort’ whose narrator “can’t sleep / without it” – it being a gun – or is it? This too is an interesting taster – perhaps we will be reading some of these poets in future poetry anthologies.

Barbara Smith is an Irish poet and blogger.

Rodney King Has Died

Sad news.  Rodney King, who shot to unwanted world fame in one of the first examples of mass media exposure of police brutality, has been found dead at the bottom of a pool in Los Angeles, in a cruel real-life echo of Sunset Boulevard, though his streets, as he discovered, were meaner.

Poetry Focus On: PHOEBE POWER

Phoebe Power received one of the 2012 Eric Gregory Awards, just announced last week. She was also a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2009, and her poems have appeared in OrbisPomegranate, Domestic Cherry and FireLast year, she had a poem iced onto cake by Poetry Digest. She is based near Penrith, and is currently studying English at Cambridge. You can read her poems

Mr –

Always in my back room.
Swinging landscape painting,
this woollen, curlsome mass.
Caught in the seams of a shadow or stencil
it’s him, the familiar place.

I would burst past handwriting,
be wrapped in voice and eyes, but
flotsam, sharp stones. A dam.
My head gongs metal, and spins
dizzily away. I have rehearsed this

for five years, killing myself
very slowly. My body
would mature but its new growths 
denature, deform
as I ram and ram against him,
through every second’s pore,

while he smiles at the wall like a buddha
backlighting the studio of my mind.
If he was a god, I could believe in him.

poem by Phoebe Power; published online with permission of the author

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Poetry Focus On: HARRY MAN

Harry Man, young British poet
Harry Man was born in 1982 and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He has performed work at Glastonbury festival, Reading, Latitude and at NextFest in Alberta Canada among others.  Last year he collaborated with Canadian contemporary dancer and choreographer Jennifer Essex on her production for the London College of Fashion in the Cochrane Theatre in Holborn.  He works as a digital editor for an independent publishing house near his home in South London. 

Not Fixed His Canon

I have scanned the headlines a hundred times,
and know the perfect way to poach an egg.

My theatrically posed electrical guts
are on display through the roof of my head. 

Here my parts are highly-prized
by the brave or the certified.

My outpourings are the stuff of office legend
and the game is up, it was me all along –

I swallowed the fiscal year final accounts
and the list of fourth floor first aiders to avoid capture.

I've lengthened the lives of your lost pets
and your permits, your pencilled catalogue pages 

your round robin jokes and cautionary notes
the unflattering discs of your buttocks.

But I can’t be the hero forever, I get old
and spill food all over myself,

I drink too much, or overexpose,
or become idle in the middle of instruction.

During operations I need a bypass
or risk losing your history forever. 

And acting as though nothing has happened
isn’t acting anymore, it is how it is

on the tip.

poem by Harry Man; published online with permission of the author.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Bowden on Alt-J

Lydia Bowden

Lydia Bowden, Eyewear's Music Critic, focuses in on Alt-J

Indie? Electro-geek pop? I don’t know, I just made that up. Alt-J don’t want a genre, nor do they want to be labelled or compared to any other band out there- they are completely unique.

I don’t know where to begin if I’m honest. I was looking through my Facebook only a month ago and I came across a link my fellow music obsessive friend had posted on my wall. It was a song called ‘Breezeblocks’ and I thought: oh here we go, another group of guys stamping their feet and whining into the microphone- how very wrong I was. Before I mention what I heard, I need to point out the visual. This is of course the video I’m talking about; A fight between a man and woman rewound so the ending is ultimately the beginning. It’s action packed, it’s fast and it’s like a short drama unfolding in front of you, but then you hear the music- the smooth vocals of front man Joe Newman playing over the top of it, turning the whole package into an unlikely paradox.

Having met as students at Leeds University, the band of four built a small fan base, creating a Sound Cloud account giving away free music downloads and playing small gigs. But people started to notice their individual sound, and now with their debut album An Awesome Wave that got to number one ‘alternative’ album in its first week, they’ve managed to turn heads in the US.

Every song on this album is entirely different from each other. The most talked about ‘Breezeblocks’ entwines soft guitar notes with a load of keys coming from all over the place- there’s even the sound of a bicycle bell in there (which I urge you not to take notice of when walking along a path, it’ll scare you half to death). Then there’s ‘Fitzpleasure’ which has the most unusual harmonies mixed with sudden changes in the music- there’s about three different genre’s in the song and a bass so deep you feel like you’ve eaten it for lunch. It has a jump from one sound to another like a kid who’s had too many E numbers, a deep synth here, a soft whisper there and a sweet guitar riff. ‘Interlude’ is just voice’s saying god knows what, it’s just so peaceful, almost like a speech at church. Finally ‘Matilda’, which is a personal favourite of mine- it has a serene feel to it that comes from the linear tunes of a couple of guitars.

Big things are coming for Alt-J. Go and give them a listen and if you like, join me in watching their career shoot sky high through the music industry’s roof.  

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Tuesday 19th June 2012 (doors open 6.30 for 7p.m.)
Ruth O'Callaghan Presents Readings by
Martyn Crucefix
Frank Dullaghan
Poets from the floor very welcome.

LUMEN 88 Tavistock Place W.C.1
Tubes: Russell Square , Kings Cross, St Pancras.
Entrance £5/£4 Wine
Patron Carol Ann Duffy - Poet Laureate

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Eyewear, despite the many hiccups, has been going now for over 2,750 posts (this is the 2,751st).  Boy are my arms tired.  Thanks for dropping by, from time to time, and taking a peek.  If you really want to help out, please consider checking out  and ordering a copy of our debut poetry collection by Morgan Harlow - it is a book of witty, intelligent American poems in a very elegant hardcover designed by Dutch artist and poet Edwin Smet.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Final Shortlisted Poet: #12 BETHAN TICHBORNE

It has been a very challenging time, attempting to finalise the shortlist, but the 12th and final poet up for the 2012 Melita Hume Poetry Prize is Bethan Tichborne. Tichborne lives in a co-op in East Oxford. She graduated from Oxford University in 2008, where she studied Philosophy and Italian. Since then she has worked as a care assistant and an anti-sweatshop campaigner. She is currently preparing for a trip to Afghanistan to write a book about young peace activists living in Kabul.  She is related to Chidiock Tichborne, whose elegy is one of the classics of English Literature.
Bethan Tichborne, the 12th and final shortlisted poet for the MHPP 2012

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Melita Hume Prize: Who Will The Last Shortlisted Poet Be?

I have now shortlisted 11 very impressive young poets' debut collections for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2012.  The 12th, and final, poet, will be announced no later than Monday, June 11.  The winner is to be chosen by Tim Dooley and announced August 1.  Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel...

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #11 DAMI AJAYI

'Dami Ajayi, shortlisted for the MHPP 2012

‘Dami Ajayi was born in 1986. His poems have appeared in Mapletree Literary Supplement, Ann Arbor Review, African-Writing Online and elsewhere. He was amongst the “Eight Young Nigerian Poets Whose Poems Delight” on the Sentinel UK Poetry Blog in 2011. He is the co-publisher of international online literary magazine, Saraba. Clinical Blues is his first collection of poems.

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #10 POLLY ATKIN

Polly Atkin, shortlistedf for the MHPP 2012

Polly Atkin was born in Nottingham in 1980, and later lived in East London for seven years before moving to Cumbria in 2006 to conduct doctoral research on literature and place. Her poems have been published in various magazines and journals including Rialto, Orbis, Tellus, and Flax, most recently in Pilot Pocket Book 9 (Toronto), 1110/3 (Nottingham) and Magma 53 (London). Various of her poems have been placed first in the Troubadour (2008) and Kent and Sussex (2011) Competitions, placed third in the Strokestown (2004) and Ashbourne (2011) Poetry Festival Prizes, been commended in the National Sonnet (2007), McLellan (2009), Basil Bunting (2010), Wigtown (2010) and Troubadour (2010) Competitions, and shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize (2011).  Her poem ‘Seven Nights of Uncreation’ was chosen for inclusion in the ACE Abolition! project, commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, 1807, and published in the associated artists’ book, I have found a song (London: Enitharmon, 2010). Her pamphlet bone song (Clitheroe: Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award.  In 2010 her unpublished first collection was shortlisted for an Eric Gregory award. In 2011 she gained ACE funding to complete further work on the collection. She currently teaches English Literature and Creative Writing part-time at the universities of Lancaster and Cumbria.

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #9 BEN PARKER

Ben Parker was born in 1982 and completed a creative writing MA with Distinction at the University of East Anglia in 2008. His work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Popshot, The White Review, Under the Radar and Envoi, as well as Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam. He regularly reviews poetry for a number of online publications. His debut pamphlet will be published by tall-lighthouse in October 2012.
Ben Parker, shortlisted for the MHPP 2012

Ray Bradbury Has Died

Sad news.  America's greatest speculative prose writer since Edgar Poe, the genius of uncanny and strange stories, short and long, Ray Bradbury, has died, at the age of 91, just as the rare transit of Venus began.  Any reader of Playboy knows his stories, which added lustre to those steamy pages.  The Martian Chronicles was much-watch TV in my childhood.  Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man classics.  And then, of course, there is Fahrenheit 451.  If Bradbury never quite became as big as Orwell or Burgess, he is certainly the equal or master of any science fiction/ horror writer of the last century, including Asimov, Clarke, Herbert, King and Heinlein. Perhaps his books were turned into weird, or schlocky screenworks.  Perhaps he wrote too much.  I never minded.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My 9th Wedding Anniversary Is June 6!

June 6, 2003

On His Wedding

Rising early as if for a duel, seconded
By a best man, I wake to sky that’s bleu cĂ©leste,
Rented tails, and fresh anxiety, but bride
And groom do not turn backs to pace.  We
Collide at an altar, as though it was a super-
Conductor.  As old Wagner marches
You up the aisle, my awe wells up at what is
Brought in: veiled, molecular, still flowing out.
Your entrance is an atomic favour, for witnesses
Observe us, met here not to cut, but sew space
Rent in multi-fabrics.  Our cells push and pull,
Mysterious as that new-smashed meson X(3872).
Side-by-side, apart, like shadow and
Direct flame crossing to overlap, as a rosy flower
Sometimes is mistaken for its name.

June 6, 2003

by Todd Swift

CFS: The Poet's Quest for God, reminder

Call for Submissions
The Poet's Quest for God: 21st Century Poems of Spirituality
Edited by Dr.Oliver V. Brennan and Dr. Todd Swift
For Publication by Eyewear Publishing 2013
Deadline for submission: August 1, 2012

Eyewear Publishing is publishing an anthology of new, previously unpublished or recently published, poems, written in English, concerned with spiritual issues in this secular age, by persons of any faith, or none. Submissions will be welcomed via email as word documents, containing no more than three poems, and including contact details and a brief 100 word biographical note about the author.

One of the characteristics of our contemporary culture which is generally
described as post-modern is the human search for the spiritual. The advent
of post-modernity has been accompanied by the dawn of a new spiritual
awakening. Many spiritual writers say that desire is our fundamental
dis-ease and is always stronger than satisfaction. This desire lies at the
centre of our lives, in the deep recesses of the soul. This unquenchable
fire residing in all of us manifests itself at key points in the human life
cycle. Spirituality is ultimately what we do about that desire. When Plato
said that we are on fire because our souls come from beyond and that beyond
is trying to draw it back to itself, he is laying out the broad outlines for
a spirituality. Augustine made this explicitly Christian in his universally
known phrase: 'You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are
restless until they rest in You'.
This new emphasis on and openness to the spiritual dimension of human
existence which is characteristic of contemporary lived culture is
accompanied by a new emergence of atheism - 'The Rage against God' - as well
as a sometimes-aggressive secularism. Richard Dawkins and Christopher
Hitchens are the two best-known exemplars of this in Western Europe.
Perhaps the best response to this rage against belief in a Divine Power at
work in the universe is a poetic one. In reply to people such as his
brother Christopher and Dawkins, Peter Hitchens believes that passions as
strong as theirs are more likely to be countered by 'the unexpected force of
poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time'.
Hence we invite poets from around the world who can empathise with the new
search for the spiritual to write about their belief, search or struggle
with their quest for God (or a God), whether their image of God is what one
young person described as 'a creative energy that exists all around us, a
life force', the female image of God of the Old Testament, or the Abba
(Father) image which lay at the core of the spirituality of Jesus of
Nazareth, or indeed, some heretofore unimagined apprehension of the divine.
The purpose of this collection is to awaken debate, create an imaginative
discourse and generally open a space for religious poetic practices in the
contemporary world, while at the same time refusing to delimit the horizon
of the possible.
As poetry, and poets, have a long, rich, and no doubt complicated tradition
of writing to, and about God (one needs only to think of Dante, Milton,
Donne and Dickinson) and other issues surrounding faith, belief, and
transcendence, the editors believe there should be no shortage of inspiring,
inquiring, intriguing and imaginative poems available for readers at this
challenging time in human history.

For more information, or to submit, contact Dr Swift at or at Facebook

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #8 PENNY BOXALL

Penny Boxall was born in 1987 in Surrey. She graduated in 2009 from UEA with an MA with distinction in Creative Writing (Poetry). Her poetry has appeared in The Salt Book of Younger Poets, Mslexia, The Rialto and Tate etc. She has been shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award.  In 2010 she won the Frederick van Eeden poetry competition. Her poems have come third in Segora, highly commended in the Museum of London competition, and runner-up in the 2011 Mslexia competition. Formerly the Literature intern at The Wordsworth Trust, she now works in Oxford.

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #7 KIMBERLY CAMPANELLO

K. Campanello, shortlisted for the MHPP 2012

Kimberly Campanello was born in Elkhart, Indiana. She now lives in Dublin. Her chapbook Spinning Cities was published by Wurm Press in 2011. She was the featured poet in the Summer 2010 issue of The Stinging Fly, and her poems have appeared in several magazines in the US, UK, and Ireland, including The Irish Left Review, The Cream City Review, Burning Bush II, Tears in the Fence, and nthposition. She is an assistant editor of Rowboat, a new international magazine dedicated to poetry in translation. She has an MFA from the University of Alabama and is in the final year of her PhD at Middlesex University, London. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

New Poem by Kevin Higgins: On Poyntz

for JulietPoyntz (1886-1937)

You deliver envelopes
you must under no circumstances open
to men whose names you never ask
in hotel lobbies in Baltimore, Copenhagen,
Shanghai… No one you know has seen
you in three years. On a New York street

you happen upon an old friend, you used to
like to disagree with – those
big opinioned, diner nights
you can’t quite forget – talk over
your new found
disgust: the white-walled cells
into which you’ve seen people
you call ‘comrade’ one by one vanish
to be kept awake all night
and confess
under extreme electric light. Over coffee
you are full of
the book you’re planning to write.

Already evening. Earlier today,
at a chateaux in central France,
Edward married Mrs Simpson.  
You leave your room at
353 West 57th Street
to buy The New York Times
or some Lucky Strike
cigarettes. No luggage
nor extra clothes. Behind you,
everything you own.
A solitary candle
still burning.

Buried in the upstate woods
or smuggled aboard a tanker bound for
Archangel, Leningrad, Vladivostok…
You are never heard of again.              

Friday, 1 June 2012

Melita Hume Poetry Prize Shortlist: #6 CALEB KLACES

Caleb Klaces, shortlisted for the MHPP 2012
Caleb Klaces was born in 1983 in Birmingham, UK. His poetry has been published in journals including Poetry, Poetry London, Horizon Review, Manchester Review and Oxford Poetry; his essays most recently in The Threepenny Review and The White Review. In 2012, he has been named a Granta ‘New Poet' and shortlisted for Salt publishing's Crashaw Prize. His chapbook, All Safe All Well, was published by Flarestack Poets in 2011, and is now in its second run. He is founding editor of online collaborative poetry project Likestarlings. Longer ago, he was twice a Foyle Young Poet and once the Young Poet of Ledbury Poetry Festival. His work appears in Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (2012).

Guest Review: Williamson On Morley

Heidi Williamson reviews
Snow Child
by Abegail Morley

Abegail Morley’s second poetry collection comes with a classy pedigree. Her debut, How to pour madness into a teacup was short-listed for the 2010 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Although it’s only two years since her first collection, where other poets might have rushed together new material into a less coherent book, Morley’s work is well-developed, keenly edited, and arranged to give the maximum power to each poem, as well as the narrative arc of the collection as a whole.

The subject-matter is familiar – charting the development of a relationship, loss and betrayal, as well as emotional break-down. But the power, honesty, and at times stunning rawness of Morley’s voice set these pieces apart. From ‘Unstable’ beginnings to ‘The last moment’, it’s clear we’re in the hands of a writer in total control of her (extremely emotionally volatile) material.

There is humour here too, in unexpected places. Morley knows how to give the reader a breather after a punch to the heart.

Morley is a spare writer who focuses down to details with a clear eye. Light is a key motif and a key tool for dramatically spotlighting occurrences: ’your halo is only the end of light/ passing into tomorrow’  (‘Visitor’); ‘only a squat of light/ hunches at the far side’ (‘Angler’). She also has an astute ear for everyday sounds: leaves ‘witter in the wind’ (‘Mud’).

The title poem in particular deserves a mention for its candid portrayal of loss that the narrator doesn’t feel permitted to feel as loss. It begins:

‘I didn’t think you
would exist this much’

(‘Snow Child’)

and has at its core a shocking image of the physicality of grief:

‘I retch.
There are teeth in it.’

Key themes in the collection coalesce in this piece: the boundaries of the mind, body, and other; self-actualisation and disintegration; and the difficulty of holding on to any kind of anchorage in life.

Relationships provide support, growth, and light: ‘Be good to each other then surrender’ as well as dissatisfaction: ‘I think he’ll put his thumb/ in the dimple on my chin, but he doesn’t’ (‘I learn this from him’). The humour is dark and very down to earth: ‘Now he’s here, he’s pissing me off’ (‘Moved in’).

From the outset, she exposes the power struggle in the couple’s developing relationship: ‘I will close my mouth on yours./ That’ll be the end of it.’ (‘Your best side’); ‘My bones…arranged how he likes them’ (‘Flash photography’); ‘my breath was his not mine’ (‘Flash photography’).

Given the narrator’s delicate state of mind from recent episodes of mental illness, self-protection and self-harm start to intermingle:

‘[She] smothers her face in a towel
to hold her name safely in her mouth’


The descriptions of experiencing manic and depressive states have an impressive lucidity:

‘the air remembers you. It shifts its weight,
waits by the door to be freed.’

            (‘After depression’)

In ‘Manic episode’, Morley’s description of the loss of the narrator’s sense of self touchingly echoes Norman MacCaig at his most elegiac: ‘Everywhere I go I’ve died.’

When the relationship ends in betrayal (‘He steals the sense from her sentence’, ‘Breaking up’), the speaker is movingly child-like in her denial it is over:

‘I want your footprint. Just one.
You can’t go anywhere with one.’


Morley shows how we fail to truly connect to the world, and at times our own selves, as well as each other.

It’s interesting to compare this collection to Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture – another book charting a developing and eventually failing relationship. While Duffy’s work is obviously expertly handled, even the sadder poems have an in-built vitality that I find undercuts the pain experienced by the narrator. Morley’s narrative has more baggage attached to it – loss of a child, a fragile hold on the narrator’s sense of self – and in poems like ‘Daffodils’, ‘Visitor’, ‘Room’, and ‘Against the rain’, she effectively demonstrates how loss permeates every object, experience, and future path. As the narrator says in another poem: ‘There is urgency in my loss’ (‘Family album’). And it feels the more real to me for that.

The collection ends on a precarious but hopeful note where the narrator desires stability but recognises life isn’t finished with her yet. She ‘want[s] to come home to stillness’ but instead finds herself ‘skidding along the road, trying to catch myself before/ I disappear from view’ (‘The last moment’). This is a book about how we try to be open to love, pain, and all the world has to offer, and keep our heads above water, even if only just, and if at times slipping under.

It’s also worth saying something about the production values of this book. The striking cover illustration (it made me look up the artist’s website) immediately appealed to me and it suited the material perfectly. And it’s beautifully produced – a book you want to hold in your hand and read. I’d recommend doing just that. 

Heidi Williamson’s first collection Electric Shadow (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. 


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...