Friday, 27 March 2015


As we said yesterday here at this blog, it would likely emerge that the co-pilot was hiding an illness, or had been jilted, - as it turns out, both. In this case, which is one of mass-murder/suicide, the underlying illness seems to be depression. As a poetry blog, we are broadly sympathetic to the rights of anyone (including poets) suffering from the disability that is chronic depression - and our chief editor has written eloquently before in poems and posts about depression.

Clearly, most depressed people do not commit murder - though a small but notable minority will go on to take their own lives.  Depression is often linked to a constellation of other personality disorders which might lead to mass murder, but again this is very rare. With treatment (usually medication and some form of therapy), almost all depressive conditions can be put into remission, as it were; but make no mistake, major depressive episodes can be nightmarishly debilitating, and commonly are associated with totally negative thinking and a sense of utter hopelessness.  In the dark absence of any hope or futurity, suicidal ideation can be born.

As such, it is neither impossible, or common, for a depressed person to want to kill 150 strangers when they die; it cannot be ruled out, but neither is it to be expected that a seriously depressed pilot is going to crash his plane. Unfortunately, this raises an issue of insurance, and safety. Can an airline company allow an employee to pilot a plane when there may be even a 1% chance their depression could lead to suicidal thinking? Or is .5% enough? .0015%? The truth is, having a seriously depressed pilot onboard clearly adds levels of risk that are unacceptable for most insurers and passengers.  Would I get into a car with a driver who I knew was considering wanting to die? Weighing disability rights against the rights of passengers to safety (which must be the paramount concern in flying) we need to say that serious depressive episodes, like active alcoholism and drug use, sadly place the pilot in a high-risk category, on the day of the flight.

This does not mean pilots should be removed forever or always from the cockpit, but clearly pilots who are drunk, on drugs, or thinking of suicide need to be kept at home and treated until they are well enough to return. Any company, indeed any institution, has a duty of care, both to its disabled employees, and its other customers and clients.  The right balance is therefore to properly support and enforce sick leave for depressed workers; and to also allow employees back to work when and if their treatment allows them to be well enough to no longer want to die.

The Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2015

The Melita Hume Poetry Prize

THE MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE is an award of £1,500 and a publishing deal with Eyewear Publishing Ltd., for the best first full collection by a young poet writing in the English language, 35 YEARS OR UNDER at the time of entry. The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers. This is open to any one of the requisite age, of any nationality, resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  It is free to enter.
Previous winners are Caleb Klaces for Bottled Air (2012); judge Tim Dooley; Marion McCready for Tree Language (2013); judge Jon Stone; Amy Blakemore for Humbert Summer (2014); judge Emily Berry.

2015 competition

The Judge for the 2015 competition is Toby Martinez de las Rivas.  His poetry collection Terror was published by Faber & Faber in 2014, and he is widely considered one of the best younger poets now writing. Toby Martinez de las Rivas was born in 1978. He grew up in Somerset, then moved to the north-east of England after studying history and archaeology at Durham where he began writing. He first worked as an archaeologist and this, together with the landscape of Northumberland and the work of north-eastern writers such as Barry MacSweeney and Gillian Allnutt have had a significant impact on the development of his own poetry. He won an Eric Gregory award in 2005 and the Andrew Waterhouse award from New Writing North in 2008. His pamphlet was published by Faber as part of the Faber New Poets scheme.

The judge will select the best collection from the shortlist, which will be no more than ten, and no fewer than six poets.  The 2015 competition is now open, and closes at 5pm on April 8th, 2015.  The prize is free to enter, and submissions will be accepted from anyone of the requisite age, of any nationality; the poet must be resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  Manuscripts must be between 50 -100 pages; and the work must be previously unpublished in full book form. Up to half the poems can have appeared before in a pamphlet.

The 2015 shortlist will be announced in by June 2015 and the winner will be announced by July 2015.  The winning collection will be published in 2016.

 Terms and conditions

1.     This contest is open to poets 35 years of age or under at date of entering.

2.     Entrants can be from anywhere in the world.  Entrants must be currently resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland— please note that publication will be in the UK and sold internationally.

3.     The Prize is free to enter.

4.     Work must be in English and unpublished in its full form (up to 50% can have appeared in pamphlet form prior to submission and individual poems may have appeared in magazines).Translations and self-published books are not eligible. The work must be by a single author.

5.     Only electronic manuscripts are admissible. No printed paper entries will be accepted. Documents must be titled with the name of the poet.

6.     Manuscripts must include a standard covering sheet that includes your name, address and contact details, your date of birth, the title of the work, a biography of between 150 and 250 words and a statement that you have read and accepted these terms and conditions. Covering sheets are available as a Word document upon request from us at .

7.     Manuscripts must include a table of contents and a list of acknowledgments for poems previously published.

8.     Electronic manuscripts must be typed in Microsoft Word or supplied as a PDF file, paginated, single spaced and between 50–100 pages in length.  The page size must be A4 (297 × 210 mm).  The page count does not include the covering sheet, list of contents or acknowledgements of previous publication.

9.     No alterations to the manuscript will be accepted after submission. No correspondence can be entered into for entries once they are made.

10.            Submissions must be sent via email to by 5pm on April 8th, 2015.

11.            Late submissions will not be accepted.  Eyewear Publishing takes no responsibilities for technical difficulties. 

12.            Confirmation of receipt of entries will be sent by email within ten working days of submission.

13.            The winner will receive a £1,500 prize, including publication within 18 months by Eyewear under their standard contractual terms, and a launch in London.

14.            The shortlist will be no fewer than six and no more than ten poets. 

15.            All poets must agree to send promotional material if requested (photo and extended biography), and grant permission to be listed as shortlisted for the prize in press releases and online.

16.            Poets agree to abide by all the rules, and must accept the prize if selected as the winner.

17.            We cannnot offer feedback on individual entries. 

18.            Eyewear Publishing Ltd. retains the right to cancel the Melita Hume Poetry Prize without prior notice.


1.     I have included a completed covering sheet with my submission.

2.     I have emailed my submission.

3.     I have read and understood the terms and conditions above.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Eyewear the blog has long considered the aviation industry less safe than it could be. Of course the safest plane is one that stays on the ground, and some risk is always involved in lifting a ton of tin 36,000 feet into the sky. However, one thing has clearly become obvious today - one of the oldest myths about flying is now outmoded and needs to be replaced.

Given that we now know the German plane was intentionally crashed into a mountainside by the young co-pilot, after he had locked the pilot out, and then gradually eased the plane into a gentle if fatal descent, we have to face a fact that is ugly: we are no longer safe to assume that pilots have our best interests at heart when we fly.

It was once said that since no pilot wanted to die, every pilot who flew us up and down was obviously reassured of the safety of the plane and route being flown. Though accidents will and do happen, we counted on the expertise and glamour of the pilots to keep us aloft.

But that is a feeble 20th century idea now.  In the starker, more nakedly cruel and insane 21st century, in many ways a 15th century world of crusade and fanaticism, persons seek to kill themselves and others more often, more violently, for more delusional reasons. In the absence of a God, or in the presence of a cruel one, some persons derive some measure of strange delight in destroying themselves and others by piloting aircraft into the ground or buildings.

We must now expect from airlines far more stringent testing on their pilots and their backgrounds; their private obsessions and ideologies; and we must of course work out a system to allow manual over-ride of a rogue pilot bent on destruction. This is one of the most sickening and senseless mass murders of recent times - they are all horrific, but the utter randomness (seemingly) is all the more chilling, even existential.

We can only assume the killer was bound to fail his next medical in June 2015, and needed to act fast.  Was this always a pathological obsession from youth? Or a revenge against employers or a steward or stewardess (or both) who had jilted him? Paranoia? Or even terrorism by another name?

All we know is, stranger danger now applies to pilots as much as anyone else. We live in a world where some priests, politicians, police officers, surgeons, doctors, pilots, teachers have recently all been shown to abuse their power to abuse, kill or hurt others. No profession is untouched, no one is genuinely to be trusted.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Lesley Saunders reviews
by Janet Sutherland

Like HughesCrow, Sutherland’s Bone Monkey (from Shearsman) is elemental, brutal, amoral, part Jungian shadow, part Freudian id, a trickster and shape-shifter nightmarishly familiar from the old dark tales – yet wholly original, authentically uncanny, in the forms and voices he takes on between the covers of this book.  On the front cover is a reproduction of an 18th century mezzotint of an écorché, a human figure stripped of skin and flesh to reveal, in this case, how the major muscles are attached to the skeleton: an apt image for the psychic flaying that the poetry enacts and exacts.

Bone Monkey is a manifest apparition, a conjured entity, both primitive and contemporary.  I heard Sutherland read from the work at Lauderdale House in spring 2014, not having come across her work previously, and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled animal-like to the stalking presence she invoked.  I might add that we’d had supper together in a café (with the evening’s host Shanta Acharya) before the readings and I’d noticed nothing in the least shamanic, let alone demonic, about this grey-haired and softly-spoken woman (whose true likeness appears on the book’s back cover).  Sutherland introduced her reading by saying that an elderly relative of hers who’d been suffering from dementia had spoken about the monkey who sat on her shoulder, no doubt a personification of the condition, the profound disturbance it produced in her.  This information certainly helps to account for the sustained and malevolent energy of the work but is not necessary for an appreciation of how Bone Monkey operates as an archetype, an unwelcome companion from the underworld, one who insists on recognition – very much like Crow.

Bone Monkey is articulate and resourceful, well-read and well-travelled, yet in the telling of his story the creature has given away almost none of that capacity for visceral shock with which he first arrived in Sutherland’s world.  Some of the narrative incidents may seem to have been scooped from the heap of mythic material to which many poets have recourse (‘Emblems from the Wolves’; ‘Apollo, Marsyas, Bone Monkey’; ‘The Blacksmith made me’), but this poet knows exactly what she’s doing with such matter, tonally as well as formally, in the mastery of line as well as of diction.  Here’s the opening section of ‘Apollo, Marsyas, Bone Monkey’, which places the precision of plain speaking in the service of rococo horror:

Intricate work; those long ears,

the pocks on his bulbous nose,

took patience and a steady hand.


The intimate folds and crevices

were tender and whitened with yeast.

He was thorough and took his time.

Yet Bone Monkey, also like Crow, leaks ambivalence.  The purpose of the poetry is to call him out, to expose him as forlorn, needy as a babe, an outsider who craves a share in humanity, even though he confuses sex with violence, love with war.  When Bone Monkey falls in love,

he rocks her    rocks her    riding

all her dreams     he loves her

loves her not

 and when this lover becomes pregnant,

It might be his

Can he shake her

like a rattle?

 Even so, at the end of ‘Lullaby’ (the third poem in the sequence), Bone Monkey is encountered by the unflinching gaze of the other – his own infant – as he:

offers his teat to its searching mouth,

and feels it tug and worry for the truth.


Who’d want a daddy like me? he croons

to the eyes that open to stare him out.

 The sixth and final poem in this sequence ‘Bone Monkey in Love’, called ‘Desire Lines’ (quoted in full just below), drags the reader to this place of psychological exposure, then makes him/her complicit in the remorseless stripping-off of layers:

The dark breaks open a long scar

from heart to groin.  The skin is peeled


to the tenderest flesh, peeled and peeled


though your finger drawing down the line

finds that path of least resistance.

It’s worth saying that the striking quality of the poetry is well served by the book’s production, in an unadorned legible font sitting in plenty of white space on good quality paper.  These things matter, especially when the work is this good.

What’s impressive about the collection is on the one hand its refusal to step too far away from Monkey in order to take or to give comfort where none is to be had, and on the other the capacity to riff apparently endlessly on situations and occasions for Bone Monkey to display his prowess, his protean identities – as in the sequence ‘Bone Monkey in Illyria: an English Gentleman Abroad 1846’, which is ironically witty and beguiling by turns, and brilliantly realised:


I found a good specimen of a Serbian woman,

alone in the woods on her way to market,


her hair dyed black and twisted to one side;

she wore, like the Greeks, a tight under vest,

a purple velvet jacket, embroidered in gold and silver,

a treble row of ducats around her neck


and a silk petticoat which slipped through my fingers

like the river Morava. [...]

There’s a breathtaking relish in the evocation of images, personages, scenarios, throughout the book;  in ‘In the beginning’ Bone Monkey has to undergo a metamorphosis or moulting in order to regain his youth:  the virtuosic performance of slitting his own throat in order to walk out of his old skin is accomplished in front of our eyes by the confidence and poise of the verse.  The poet’s vivacity of line and lexis is how and where her emotional work is done, the work of invoking, accommodating and challenging disintegration, death of the spirit as well as the flesh.  Inside several poems nestle scenes of the implacable fate that dementia wrought on Sutherland’s relative – the surprise is that in ‘Vespula Vulgaris’, for example, Bone Monkey momentarily assumes the role of carer rather than perpetrator: 

when she wakes

he soft-boils an egg

and parts her lips with a spoon


yolk lines a lip crease

he loosens the edges with his nail

picks at the oily flakes


he puts three spoons of sugar in her tea

clips on the beaker lid

and offers her the straw

 And in ‘Bone Monkey at the Allotment’ it’s in the guise of gardener that:

His nail has dipped and bitten into flesh

that so often happens he mutters

as he rubs the peapods    one against the other

Later on – in ‘The pond in summer’, the last, impressionistic poem – it becomes clear that not even Bone Monkey, having partaken of human life, can ultimately escape bodily decline and degradation: 

his urine finds its way by dribs and drabs

from slackened penis to transparent bag




He floats    he calls her     but she won’t come

At this point the collection stands revealed as neither narration nor curriculum vitae;  there is no sense of development or progression, only of organic processes following their inescapable logic.  It seems to me that it takes great poetic as well as personal courage not to look away, not to escape into sentimentality or philosophic consolation:  the suffering is unbearable but it is nonetheless borne.

This is a book that, in times to come, I fear I shan’t be able to do without.
Lesley Saunders is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Walls Have Angels (Mulfran Press 2014). Lesley also leads poetry workshops, and undertakes editing work as well as book reviews.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


I have gone further out of myself

Than music allows

Setting words to music

Is a barbarism

You do not plate gold

On gold

The sheen overdoes


This voice exceeds time

Which does end

Despite oceanic claims.

I am beyond myself

In brightness

Of suntime and daynight.

Overcrowd this lucid vault

For a choir is born

Without fault

For Christ to listen to

On his return.

Which cannot happen

While time loiters

In the antechambers

Of the moon. I am a style

Happening to you

Despite your refusals

As if a god took you for

His own enjoyments

In a feathering triggerpoint

Of lit rage. Stage set

We die of plague to rise

With buboes drained

Pretty as the babe

Who all ovations bow to

In choral nazarenes of flow.

I raise a vocal range

Mountainous as Mars

To say you need no addition

When a lyric full throat

Takes on the freight

Of stars and plains and seas.

There is no green greener than

The sung span of your own

Boygirl tongue of fiery peace.
March 2015, London
Todd Swift

Saturday, 7 March 2015



Everything must be said

Without permission

Even what isn't

So bringing that too

Into being.

Prayer makes only prayer

Happen until it stops

And angry words

Step up instead.

God is anger after speaking

In the growl of despair.

Look past love for love

In the underbrush on fire.

Animals copulating

Oscillating creatures

Gargantuan, oily, febrile,

Muscousities vibrant on floors

That mud recoils from.

The beastly replacement

For ourselves lolls

In the doorway like a pimp

Expecting flushed payments

Tonight in an hour.

Go past the manger and tree.

Spit on the tarpaulin,

The scrawny torso insolently

Naked like an erection.

Proceed to an action

Unexpected and exact.

Take only the clothes

You will be buried in.

Say precisely how you came

To this precision and

Everything else. Exposit

Until the gods come begging

For your mouth to heal.
poem by Todd Swift, 2015

Thursday, 5 March 2015


Eyewear Publishing has a major patron for 2015, who will be giving us £2,400 pounds over the year in monthly payments of £200. For that he is recognised for his generosity in each 2015 title, which he also receives free. We seek 19 more such patrons, to form the Eyewear 20/200 team. For some of you this will appear like a small fortune, but for many of you with professional careers, this could be a way of becoming actively part of a major new poetry and literary bridge between America and the UK (and beyond). Please do share this with those you think might be interested.

Our first brave and brilliant patron is Jonathan Wonham - and we are very grateful to his support. We aim to publish 15 books this year, of poetry, prose, and criticism, from emerging and well-known writers, from Australia, Holland, Mexico, Greece, the US, and many other places. No other UK small press is any more international than we are, and few can claim to now be publishing better or more intriguing poets. Based in West-end London, Eyewear is one of the best and best-designed and distributed small indie presses in Great Britain in 2015 - and occupies the same sort of transitional, trans-Atlantic, transformative role as the work of Ezra Pound did 100 years ago in London.
A potential 20/200 patron?
Our forthcoming poets and authors include Jacquelyn Pope, Sean Singer, Jan Owen, David Musgrave, Benno Barnard, Fady Joudah, Andrew Shields, Ruth Stacey, AK Blakemore, Elizabeth Stefanidi, Mario Bellatin, David Shook and more!


The sort of thing Riviere's poetry reminds us is central to much human experience in this digital age of dumbed down desire
Recently Faber published a colourful collection by the young British poet and academic, Sam Riviere. It was his second with them, and almost as oddly titled as his first. This time, it was Kim Kardashian's Marriage. Note by the way not Wedding.  That's because Wedding is a more American phrase, and one that, if googled, would bury this title forever.

Reading the poetry book, my first response was annoyance.  Not because the book is derivative, or non-poetry, or tediously banal, etc - as some critics might claim - but because it made me wonder why they hadn't published James Franco's equally post-modern and challengingly poptastic book under their poetry imprint after all. Riviere's book, let us be clear, will divide readers in a way so predictable it is almost boring to consider.

So I won't.  Suffice it to say, the poems/ texts are intertextual discourse-borrowings from the blogs, reports, tweets, media in short, relating to Kardashian's famous wedding of late.  In short, it is what Kenneth Goldsmith, the American master of this sort of conceptual found poetry to the max, calls Uncreative Writing. Poets in America, and Canada, like David McGimpsey, David Trinidad, hell, even David Lehman, have been writing about TV and film and cartoon characters for decades now; and borrowing from found works is not new either.  The audacity of this project is almost entirely related to its vessel - never before has Faber published such a brazenly experimental text as poetry - or rather not since the days when they were the keepers of the modernist edge in the 20s, 30s and 40s.

At first I hated the book, then I rather took to it, because like Franco's, it is funny, of the moment, and relevant.  You can't read it like a book of Heaney or Frost (it is not lyric or confessional, as the jacket proudly informs us, a little too obviously), but neither is this Hill, or Prynne, let alone Muldoon or Paterson.  It isn't even Lumsden or Farley.  It's not even Berry or Underwood, not even is it - goodness - Kennard. By this I mean, the poems are more flat, found, estranged, unyieldingly artificial and resistant to common poetic pleasures, even ironic ones - than almost any usual British benchmark; yet nor is the conceit, or the restraints, as complex or intensive as with Oulipo or Bok.

It is sort of an odd book, that creates its own repeating chorus of inanities, a squall of delirious idiocy, like a Groundhog Day in pop culture hell. This is all intended, which makes it less clever, because, unlike McGimpsey, for instance, Riviere relishes a bit but does not entirely yield to, embrace and worship, his subject. Kardashian is snarked, in effect, not a Muse. Or at least I read it like that.

The repeated Patersonian titles/ headings (surely this cliché strategy of repeated titles must end soon?) aside, most of what is in the book is plain borrowed, twisted, dumbspeak from an empty celebrity world of vacuous blah. It is twisted in a musical, playful, smart, way, however, and some intriguing leitmotifs and curled on themselves phrasings re-emerge.  The book has a narcotic effect, like too much porn, or opium, or gin, or tobacco, or hooker sex, or video game violence, or - in effect - anything we use to escape deeper dimensions. Like Franco's book, it is a benchmark of how the benchmarks, the goals, the watersheds, all those things, are shifting in British poetry. Basically, what was cool and edgy in Canada and the States in 1999, is now cool and edgy here.  They are about 15 years behind, but catching up*.

Riviere's book is dully iconic, rudely disruptive of the usual discourse here in these shuttered isles, and worth a read - it is a slap and tickle of the mind perhaps, and inane on repeat on repeat and not as clever or learned as it would like to think - but it may be even more indicative of change, and thus more valuable, than even its own author intended. A book of the year not for the poetry per se, but because it empties, reverses the polarity of, and returns as fucked-up, what most Brits think poetry books are.

*As I predicted, in essays written in the late 90s, the Internet is levelling cultural and stylistic fields, and leading to a new "lifestyle poetry". Of course, few read my books, but Budavox (1999), which Geist called a book of the year, all the way back then, is still more subversively engaged with celebrity, sex, violence, and cultural idiocy, than Franco or Riviere's current work - and my Café Alibi is chillingly relevant also.  However, those are from small presses - but if British poetry ever actually bothers to understand what I am doing to their mainstream styles in Mainstream Love Hotel, for instance, they may be on to something as disruptive as Riviere is intriguingly becoming (to standard norms of textual appearance and behaviour).


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...