About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 20,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers, and vice versa. Eyewear blog is archived by The British Library. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

POETRY FOCUS: ASHLEY GEORGE WILLIAMS

Eyewear Publishing has a new Intern, and Editorial Assistant, the poet Ashley George Williams.

A.G. Williams
We are pleased to feature his poem below.  He is also the current Poetry Reviews editor for the Eyewear Blog. Williams is a London-based writer who has worked as an archaeologist for several years and has just completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Durham. During his studies he became a founding member of the set known as ‘The Durham Poets’; now largely dispersed across the London area and beyond.  His academic interests include feminism, 20th century art history, atheism, and recent political history.

Lana Del Rey

Beneath the moon’s marred cheek
a model’s leg slips between the folds of envelopes.
 
In the gloom of incandescent matters
she carves sockets in the breasts of men,

the purr of her mother is heard, westwards,
deeper as the night listens.


poem copyright the poet 2014
 



SUCK IT AND SEE

Interesting.  The British poetry blogosphere seems about as divided as Scotland currently.  I'd say it's about 48% Yes and 52% No to the Next Generation list.  Some poets, like Ben Wilkinson, are happily ransacking their career best reviews for prestigious journals, and featuring the listed great and good; Charlotte Runcie in the Daily Telegraph (online and beyond) is questioning the inclusion of famous stars like Daljit Nagra; and then it gets increasingly bitter. Perhaps too obviously, approval breaks down to collegiality - the more people know others on the list, professionally, the less likely they are to set fire to 20 bridges at once.  The excluded marginalised and genuinely cheated, feeling little to lose, are more vocally critical.  The teeny size of the UK scene makes it hard to get an objective response from so close up.  I've weighed in already.  See below.  But I think anyone who applauds the list entirely, and doesn't try to problematize it at all, is probably guilty of a bit of jingoism or curious joy, since there are clearly key figures - a few of genius - left off (James Byrne, Sandeep Parmar, Ahren Warner, Rachael Boast, Jon Stone, James Brookes, Sarah Jackson, Kathryn Simmonds, Sam Riviere, Zoe Brigley, Frances Leviston, etc) whose absence makes the presence of super stars in their late 40s or beyond, who don't need the list's boost, slightly discomfiting.  It seems the Next Gen title is misleading.  But as I said myself, 50% of those on the list deserve to be there, at least. How's that for fence sitting? Okay, here is something more frank: not all 20 on the current list are poetic geniuses. Some named above are.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

WEIRD SCENES INSIDE THE GOLDMINE: 20 POETS MAKE THE PBS GRADE WITH HELP FROM ELIOT MONEY

So, like it or lump it, 20 poets from Britain, first published here between 2004 and 2014, have been singled out for media hype, a book tour, and general praise. A disclaimer, I was not eligible for this prize, though several excellent poets Eyewear publishes were.

The 2014 Next Generation Poets list in full:

Tara Bergin (This is Yarrow, Carcanet)
Emily Berry (Dear Boy, Faber & Faber)
Sean Borodale (Bee Journal, Jonathan Cape)
Adam Foulds (The Broken Word, Jonathan Cape)
Annie Freud (The Mirabelles, Picador)
Alan Gillis (Here Comes the Night, Gallery)
Rebecca Goss (Her Birth, Carcanet)
Jen Hadfield (Nigh-No-Place, Bloodaxe)
Emma Jones (The Striped World, Faber & Faber)
Luke Kennard (The Harbour Beyond the Movie, Salt)
Melissa Lee-Houghton (Beautiful Girls, Penned in the Margins)
Hannah Lowe (Chick, Bloodaxe)
Kei Miller (A Light Song of Light, Carcanet)
Helen Mort (Division Street, Chatto & Windus)
Daljit Nagra (Look We Have Coming to Dover!, Faber & Faber)
Heather Phillipson (Instant-flex 718, Bloodaxe)
Kate Tempest (Brand New Ancients, Picador)
Mark Waldron (The Brand New Dark, Salt)
Sam Willetts (New Light for the Old Dark, Jonathan Cape)
Jane Yeh (The Ninjas, Carcanet)

Now is hardly the time to carp - congratulations to these people, several of whom I have taught in workshops, or taught with, and many I admire and consider friends or colleagues (a few I am less keen on, such is life).

Of these, several are already viewed as essential poets of their generation, such as Luke Kennard, Daljit Nagra, Jane Yeh, Jen Hadfield - and others, like Helen Mort and Emily Berry and Kate Tempest are debut poets of recent vintage that any critic or teacher of new British poetry would include on their syllabus.

Why many people will be unhappy with this list is not new - the tendency for the poets to come from established or long-running presses (even indie Penned in the Margins is ten years old; Salt was venerable already when it stopped single author titles last year); the impression that more innovative poetries are not included - the general lack of multicultural range (though this has been somewhat addressed this time).  Some will regret the absence of any poet from Seren, or Eyewear or Cinnamon, or Arc, or Enitharmon, or Anvil, or Shearsman etc. - and wonder if the cost of submission was an issue.  Eyewear submitted a number of our poets.

The judges are talented and smart and know their stuff, and one has to accept their selection.  My own list would have looked, more or less, 50% like theirs, anyway. It is not a very shocking list, and gets a lot "right". It does miss a lot, though, too, and seems heavily weighted to publications in the last few years (considerably fewer of the poets come from the first half of the decade under examination).

There are some very painful absences - several Salt poets, James Brookes and Jon Stone, seem to me to be as brilliant as any poet now writing in the UK. Perhaps Salt did not submit them?  What of James Byrne? Sandeep Parmar? Zoe BrigleyKathryn Simmonds? All should have been there.

Others one might have expected to find on this list would include in no order: Lorraine Mariner, Rachael Boast, David Briggs, Frances Leviston, Siddhartha Bose, Miriam Gamble, Sarah Jackson, Adam O'Riordan, Kate Potts, Tom Chivers, Niall Campbell, Olli Hazzard, John Clegg, Melanie Challenger, Tishani Doshi, Paul Batchelor, Sam Riviere, Hilary Menos, Katy Evans Bush and Ahren Warner, to name a few of the best of the current UK/Irish poets. And, of course, as mentioned above, excellent experimental or smaller press poets are missing in droves.

Sadly, such a promotion will benefit mostly the larger publishers, who already have more funding and more funds, and while it is a good thing to see these fine poets praised and toured, and while any poetry book selling is always good news, it might have been a refreshing change if 25-50% of the poets had come from the small/indie press world.



September 11th, the 13th time

9/11 now has become to many secular - like other major dates in the Western calendar (Easter and Christmas come to mind) there are true believers and those who seek to simply capitalise on the frisson of its aura, or who, perhaps worse, utterly ignore it, like shopping on Sundays.  Generally speaking this divide is most evident between the British and the Americans.

For some reason, even though many British citizens died that day, it is more or less now seen as an American event, and one that is (I have heard said) exaggerated in import.  Well, not so.  The 13 years since 9/11 (the original) and its uniquely shocking images and events of cruelty have been one long slide into further disasters between the Western powers and Islamic states and militants, between extremists on all sides, and, generally, this has been a far bloodier century than was expected when the Berlin wall fell 25 years ago.

So, we have an odd bonanza today of news stories, including the release of the new U2 album free to 500 million iTunes customers (U2 seem to feel rather grossly they own 9/11, since their album released that day 13 years ago became a touchstone of the time). We have the next Next Generation of Top 20 new British poets in today's Guardian (more on that eventually I am sure here at this blog); and so on.

To be solemn and remember, or rock on, then?

I prefer to be solemn - this is not just another date, the wounds are still raw, the dead still loved by the living, the ideology of hate still active, the war fires still burning.



Monday, 8 September 2014

Eyewear's new Indiegogo campaign

Our last Indiegogo campaign raised over £800 in 60 days.

Here is the new one:

http://igg.me/at/eyewearpoetry2015/x/8130976

Eyewear Publishing is one of the best indie presses in London. Help us publish 10 books in 2015.
Eyewear Publishing, founded in 2012, is already one of the best-known, and most respected, indie British poetry presses.  With over 21 books already published in stylish hardcover editions designed by Dutch artist-poet, Edwin Smet, we have created a very strong list and brand.  Our poets and authors are young and old, British and international, starting out and established, traditional and avant-garde.  We've published professors at Harvard and Cambridge; and a hitherto unknown lady from Hull in her 80s.  Our books have been listed for major prizes, and well-reviewed in the TLS and Times. One of our books has been adapted to appear on BBC Radio 4. We launch our books at shops like Foyle's, Blackwells and The LRB. Superbly edited, eclectic, adventurous, and committed to promoting new poets, Eyewear looks back to an age when hardcover poetry was de rigeur and forward to the digital future.
What We Need & What You Get
 
We want to publish ten poetry collections next year.  Each will cost us £3,000 to edit, design, proofread, and print, in our striking and handsome hardcover in-house design.
 
Our poets for 2015 include world-renowned singer-songwriter Keaton Henson, Melita Hume winner Amy Blakemore, American poet Andrew Shields, Yale-prize winner Sean Singer, and leading poets from Australia, Ireland, Sweden, and, of course, Great Britain.

What you get is, for a £20 donation, a signed first edition of one of the 2015 titles.

For £200, you get all ten of the 2015 poetry books we have planned.

For £500 you get dinner with one of our authors in London.

For £1,000 or more, your name is printed at the back of the collection, as a special patron of Eyewear publishing (if you so wish).

The Impact
 
We feel supporting Eyewear matters, because we have an excellent track record already, and have shown that our list is truly democratic and also international in outlook. Publishing poetry books that will last, and have a chance of being seen and read and distributed well makes a huge difference to the poets, to their readers, and to the wider culture of our times, which, more than ever, needs to maintain respect and love of a good well-made book.

Risks & Challenges

We are going to muddle through somehow - our books do sell - though because of our high quality design we mainly break even, and that includes the editor not taking a salary. But with your support, we will have established a long term sustainable model to keep a great new press going.

 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

POETRY FOCUS: 4 POEMS FROM CHLOE STOPA-HUNT

Eyewear's blog is very pleased to be able to feature, this Sunday, four poems by the recent Eric Gregory winner, Chloe Stopa-Hunt.

She grew up in Oxfordshire, Dorset, and Hampshire, and was educated at New College, Oxford. She was twice a Foyle Young Poet of the Year, subsequently winning the University of Oxford’s English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize and the University of Cambridge’s Winchester Reading Prize. In 2014, Stopa-Hunt won an Eric Gregory Award.

Her poems have appeared in a range of journals, including POEM, Oxford Poetry, Envoi, Magma, and Ambit, and I she has also contributed reviews or review-essays to Asymptote, Poetry Matters, The Oxonian Review, Mslexia, and Poetry Review. Some recent poems can be read online at Ink Sweat & Tears and Visual Verse, and her poems have also appeared in several anthologies, including Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam and Best British Poetry 2013.

Chloe Stopa-Hunt
Ms. Stopa-Hunt is currently doing graduate research into Renaissance literature at the University of Cambridge, where her collection of fiction, drama and historiography themed around Camille and Lucile Desmoulins won the 2012-2013 Rose Book-Collecting Prize.




Luxembourg Prison

These hazards end. It’s time to say:
all risk is finished. The room looks
bare again. We don’t need refuges,
they’re obsolete. And so are locks.

Now something has emptied sorrow
out into the streets. Now light laps
the walls. Now the hush that follows
a long-held note stills all our lips.
 

 ***
 

The Miller’s Flowers

Flower-songs are sewn with silver
     On your furious tongue,

I will tolerate your weeping
     If it’s not prolonged.

Are you revenant or flower?
     Slaughterer or toy?

Prairie gentians like to call you
     Summer’s whipping-boy.

 
***
 

My koala child

My koala child
playing in the moon-pool,

O climb up the rocks, swan-winged
infanta, give a blood sample
before nightfall,

give bone-marrow, better things
than that, my

skinned-wheat infanta,
my girl, my bear.

 
***
 

Cold Snap

The poppies were
Spared nothing.

Red piths of love
Shamed afresh.

This cold snap is
No fault of mine.

The poppies were
Spared nothing.

 
all poems copyright Chloe Stopa-Hunt, 2014.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hill Climbing

The major English poet Geoffrey Hill is well-known for arguing that confessional poems of the quotidian fail to reach the immense heights of more imaginative, less-self-centred, poetry. From this position (which I have simplified for the sake of debate) then follows a dismissal of nearly all the poets, poems and poetry since 1945, including Larkin's, Plath's, Lowell's, etc.

It is good for great poets to have their own guiding lights, their own poetics, but is not so good for other readers and poets to believe them when they claim theirs is the chosen path.  Poets do not make good messiahs. The best thing that poets give us (usually) is their poetry, not their criticism - and we are best to go by that.  Empson and Jarrell may be the exceptions here.

In the case of Hill, it is hard to locate his idea of the imagination in his work, which is almost never quite as grandly imaginative in the way that say Milton's was.  Hill is a rhetorical poet more like Pope, or Dryden than he might care to admit.  He bases many of his poems on history, theology, and myth, and inter-textually relates his poetry to a certain Tradition of Anglo-centric feeling and thinking.  His poetry about WWII, or the Holocaust, or Anglicanism, for example, are triggered by real events, issues and ideas.  They are perhaps not directly personal, but they are only impersonal on a very basic level.  The choice of theme and subject a poet makes is always a signature, and is a self-revelation.

If a poet writes about being raped or punched, that is no less vital a trigger, than if they write about reading about a German priest dying in the 1940s.  One may be more removed emotionally, but that is hard to prove.  Both subjects are at one remove from the poem which is generated.

The idea that poetry is nowadays quotidian in concern may be the case, but the lofty and distant and unusual are not always the most compelling literary themes.  Much of the greatest poetry, from Chaucer, to Donne to Eliot, is concerned with human circumstances in relation to society - desire, love, fear of death, religious consolation, grief, elation - and emotionality, combined with intellect, is not owned only by those who compose imaginatively and without direct recourse to self.  Coleridge's famous Xanadu is a rare example of a poem seemingly removed from the common realm entirely, but it is hardly removed from Coleridge's drug dreams.

It may be tedious to read about a poet's love affairs, groin operations, drunken sprees, divorces, back injuries and travel; but too much War of the Roses, WWI, Troy and allusion to Comus can also become stale. As Larkin proved, great poems can come from smaller things (though arguably Larkin's major poems are on the major rhetorical themes).

I remain unconvinced that poems written from direct experience and the personal realm are necessarily going to be weaker.  They may be less magisterial.  They may be less theoretical.  And less abstract. And less Marxist. But some very poor and pompous poetry can be made from theory, ideas and ideologies, as well as the classics.

Larkin About

Poetry criticism - that is, writing concerned with poetry, poems, poets and poetics (theory) - seems to have been sent back to the Age of Arnold at the start of the new biography of Philip Larkin, by James Booth, his long-time colleague, and apologist.

Larkin is, I feel, one of the major British poets - and in this I am not alone.  He has influenced, for better and worse, my poetry: his inimitable but seductive diction, syntax and themes tempted my originality.  So I am not attacking Larkin here. But seriously, some of what is written in these first few pages (all I have read, so far) is balderdash.

Booth states that Larkin is the most popular and greatest English poet of the last century - which may be the case, but this is not easily established by merely saying it.  Kipling, Auden and Ted Hughes, let alone Stevie Smith, Betjeman, Hardy and Housman, are all serious contenders, in terms of sales, popular appeal, influence, and critical study. Booth claims - a la Arnold's touchstones - that Larkin has the most memorable lines and phrases - and it is certainly true he has three or four lines that are infamous - but Auden and Stevie Smith, at least, are close, and poets are finally great for whole poems, not snippets that journalists prefer.

Then again, it is suggested that, on the subjects of Love, Death, Age, and even Nature, Larkin has not been since bettered, and, may never be - he has almost shut down future discussion, as it were.  It is true that Larkin's poems on Death and Ageing, especially, are among the greatest in the English canon - but it is hardly sure they are definitive statements.  Poetry is inexhaustible.  Love, and Death, come in many varieties, shapes and sizes, and there are always new ways (one hopes) of thinking and writing about them.  Otherwise, might we say Bach completed music?  Or The Beatles the pop song?

Booth also makes an odd suggestion that Larkin was less nihilistic than Graham Greene, the author, and was less despairing.  Larkin was an atheist or agnostic - Greene a Catholic. It is true Greene played Russian Roulette when young - or claimed to; and tried opium, and had affairs.  But being a sinner does not make one a nihilist or a suicide.  It makes one a complex person.

On the subject of Larkin's apparent dislike of Black people (he famously used the N-word in letters), we are reminded that he also listened to Jazz played by African-Americans, and loved it.  This may be the case, but there are many racists who approve of Black athletes and musicians and actors who still wouldn't want them around for tea.

Larkin's use of pornography is softened up by suggesting the images (aside from some light bondage) are mostly of pretty girl-next-door types, and somehow reflect a wholesomeness of desire.  It may be, but it is true he still looked at these sort of images, and they inflected his way of looking at women in his poems.

We are reminded - correctly - that Larkin wanted to be a woman at some stage early on - and it may be he hid a desire to dress like one too - he certainly enjoyed writing in their voices (young women's voices) in stories and poems, often while they faced rape, or deflowering, loss of status, or some other peril, and he had complicated sexual ideas and emotions - nothing wrong there, but why airbrush it?

We are even consoled with the claim he was successful, mostly happy, and very friendly, to women, children, animals - it sounds like an apology for Hitler (who his father incidentally adored).

Apparently, Larkin's grumpy bachelor persona was a façade.  He was fun, hard-working, dated numerous ladies, and genuinely content with life, and his variously crude and angry letters were just a sort of game with pens.

I am looking forward to reading on, but something tells me this is not a hard-hitting analysis that will cut very deep.  It seems mostly a rear-guard attack, meant to re-establish a canonical, pleasant Larkin, a genuine and generous man, a sort of English Heaney - healthy, life-affirming, helpful - but he wasn't, really.  He was, and this is what makes his work astonishing and impressive, a narrow personality, whose focused, neurotic poems startle with their high, narrow effects.

A great poet, but about as healthy as Baudelaire.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

EYEWEAR WILL BE THERE!


POETRY FOCUS: POEM BY PRIYA SARUKKAI CHABRIA

Eyewear is very pleased to feature a poem by the Indian poet Priya Sarukkai Chabria today.



At The Great Wall*

1.

 

Beneath a wind-blown sky

white spring flowers flutter

like prayer flags against the stone

 

wall which serpentines up and down

the hills, its dark density

serrations thrusting from the dragon’s

 

spine --which sleeps beneath the earth

wallowing in  its waste: molten

lament and power. It sighs 

 

as late light’s honey licks

the wall’s charcoal pores and sucks

darkness up its throat.
 

*From the sequence of poems titled China Suite



Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a poet, novelist, essayist and translator with five published books.  Awarded by the Indian Government for her Outstanding Contribution to Literature her works’ translated into six languages & is published or forthcoming in Adelphiana, Soundings ,  South Asian Review, Caravan ,Post Road, The British Journal of Literary Translation , Drunken Boat,  Pratilipi,  Language for a New Century, The Literary Review,  IQ, Another English: Anglophone Poems from Around the World among others. Forthcoming in 2015 are translations of Tamil mystic poet Aandaal (Zubaan) with poet Ravi Shankar, and a short story collection(Niyogi Book). She edits Poetry at Sangam.

Friday, 22 August 2014

On Learning His Godson Has The “Language Gene” Defect FoxP2 - new poem by Todd Swift


On Learning His Godson Has The “Language Gene” Defect FoxP2

 

Unsinging songbird, love’s signals

talon you no tune. The little ring

 

inside your heart never breaks,

won’t know to start. Small wing,

 

refrain-robbed, your language genes

are a muted branching; unheard, seen –

 

bright bird, tongueless, young and wild.

Confusion of syllables, lack of spring

 

upon a surprising note, tender

or offering, means no reason

 

to hear, as no care extends,

hems you in, away from flight

 

of singing, that breaks day’s stems

when we are woken outright

 

from dreaming by fowl stylistics,

their unparliamentary delight

 

in knocking sleep with a beak’s baton,

a symphonic rapping of night’s lectern.

 

O my songbird, I will sing for you,

I have this sprightly chance, Alex,

 

to be the line that runs from your

winged injury to my uncle’s tongue.

 

I’ll swoop and dive, roar the glad

sound we wish all songbirds had,

 

and in your silence key

a dumb way to play your defect

 

to perfection, as if my lyric vocals

shared across the sky to nephew –

 

given as love spreads its feathering.

So our duet is true, even if only

 

unsolo by mechanical virtue;

we break anatomy’s musical bonds

 

unfiring links of dopamine or mind,

to find where upfiring sound can lie

 

beyond its locked places, song-flight

swanning up as kissing makes union

 

and larks bend the sky in a risen two

so notes over notes fall out to ascend.
 
 
Todd Swift, summer 2014
copyright.

PHILIP MARLOWE’S POETICS – A BRIEF ESSAY IN CRITICISM


PHILIP MARLOWE’S POETICS – A BRIEF ESSAY IN CRITICISM

I walked into the office and he looked up like he’d been expecting the Nobel Prize committee, but all that had wandered in was little old me. Marlowe, the spoil sport.

“You aren’t Miss Stein,” he snorted, and I had to acknowledge that.

“Sorry professor, I’m just the detective, come to ask a question or two”.  I showed him my Photostat, and, because he had such thick glasses, followed that with my card.

Universities were obviously doing a big business.  The panelled walls, the rich leather, the mahogany desk, would not have looked out of place in the office of a company fat cat or Louisiana politico.  The only difference was, instead of cigars and wads of cash, there were books piled everywhere.

“Porlock,” he sniffed.  Professor Langwallner seemed to have some sort of deviated septum.

“Oh sure,” I nodded, lazily picking up a book by someone called Adorno, “Coleridge’s unwelcome guest. I read poetry myself. Did I stop your chain of thought?” I expected a snort, but instead, I got an eye-gleam.

“Now that you ask, Marlowe, I was working on this –“ he held up a sheet of paper. In the middle of it was a single word, framed by a small box.  Someone had been very clever with a typewriter to get it all just so. The word was LANGUAGE, except each letter was spaced out, and the typist – probably Miss Stein – had gone to a lot of trouble to keep them apart with equal signs, like somehow a mathematician had gotten drunk at a poetry reading.

“What’s that, a poem,” I sort of chuckled.  It was not exactly T.S. Eliot.

“Well spotted, yes.”

“I see I barged in very early, sorry to have ruined your fun.”

“Not at all, Marlowe.  This here is a finished text. The whole kit and caboodle.” He handed it to me gingerly, like maybe it was made with thin radioactive linen. Professor Langwallner didn’t look like a killer.  He didn’t even look old enough to shave without help from his psychotherapist, or nanny, or valet, whatever rich kids from Stanford used as help these days. No, he was young enough to be in a high chair, but he was also hallucinating if he thought this was poetry.

“It doesn’t look like a poem to me, Doc. Sorry.”

“Ah, but you’re expecting something else, more genteel, and romantic, aren’t you, Marlowe?  Something sincere and self-confessional.”

“Sure that’s me all around, sincere and genteel.  Not an ironic bone in my body.”

“Irony is old hat, Marlowe, we go way past that.  What they’re doing in art now – abstract, conceptual, focused on the materiality of the process – that’s what the language poets do now. You should understand – we inquire, like you do, into things.  Poems open out mysteries though, for poets, we don’t close things down with solutions or pat answers.”

I studied him like he was any other lucky stiff I had to come across in the line of work – not quite a duty, not fully noble, but a vocation that didn’t settle for much guff.

“Sure, and you also have some land in Florida to sell me, size of a postage stamp, and only a thousand times the price. Look, when are you academics going to settle down, roll up your sleeves and actually do something for a change? What do you want, a medal pinned on your chest for dreaming up yet another way to confuse the common man?”

“But this is work, Marlowe.  I had to read every French and German text on aesthetics to get this right.  This took months of planning.  You don’t just spill the beans, you know – you don’t just actually express feelings onto paper.  This was as planned and executed as a cold blooded murder.”

This got me interested, so I started on my pipe.  This felt like a pipe place.

“Now we’re talking.”

He gave me a withering glance that might work on a bobby-soxer doing a BA in Arthurian Legend, but it wouldn’t knock me down.  My socks had dials on them, and came all the way from England.

“No, Marlowe, not a real murder. An idea.  Poetry is conceptual now – it’s about the theory behind the language as much as what the poem says or sounds like.  You don’t come to poetry looking for beauty anymore!”

I paused, puffed the pipe, shrugged, and turned to go.  Langwallner was maybe a good teacher, but he was a nutcase, and I wanted back up before I tackled him.

“Professor, it’s a good thing you work here in this ivy tower.  Because where I come from, when you order a cup of Joe, it better look, taste and cost like coffee.  And when you order a whiskey and soda, it better have a kick like a mule.  And when you take a dame out dancing under the stars, she better be Lana Turner, not Mr Peabody the janitor from down the lane. In other words, pal, I stand for a world where men try to be decent, women try their level best to keep up appearances and we all shave and wash our hair once a week.  A place were angels don’t fly off of church windows, and dragons are fat men who run the rackets and the goodtime gals; and life is cheap because life always has been. A place where a good man only has his word.  And it better mean something.  In that world, of slums, and cheap dives, and sawdust whorehouses, poems are things that make people feel better, that they memorise because maybe their mother or Irish granny once whispered it to them, and those poems have a music in them that’s half Armstrong and half Bach. I’m sure what you are doing here is something.  It may even be art. But it’s not a poem if the hair on the back of my neck doesn’t stand up when I hear it.”

And with that, I left him gaping like a guppy in a fish tank without any water.  It only looked like a fish tank, anyway, but was probably a metaphor. Then I went home, poured myself a drink, and never actually wrote this down.

hIStory and evil

Few wars, and few historical moments, present clear cut choices. Especially in the Middle East, a ruined region raped by successive Great Game imperial machinations for over 100 years, whose borders are debatable and often fictively imposed with force, it is unlikely any conflict will present the armchair general and seething metropolitan pundit a black and white cause for just war.  The last Good War was, it seems, WW2 - for though the motives for fighting Germany and Japan might have been imperialistic at core (protection of markets and colonies and borders; and petrol) - the Nazi regime was markedly evil, in ideology, intent, and constant deed. Never mind that Canada was anti-Semitic in the 1940s, and Churchill had mooted winnowing the weak; or that the British invented concentration camps in the Boer War; or that it was the Allies who dropped the doomsday bomb and burned Dresden - even so, the Nazi plan and the Nazi way was - and is - almost the definition of inhumanity.  It had to be stopped, and any killing done to stop Hitler's soldiers was, on balance, sadly justified.

Since then, many politicos and tub-thumpers have claimed new enemies are as validly evil (and hence subject to mass destruction) as the Nazis.  We now know that the Chinese, Koreans, Viet Cong, and even Taliban, let alone the Iraqis, are not, were not, that Great Enemy.  Communism, even radical Islamic thinking, is not quite as profoundly horrid as Nazism - for all their faults, these ideologies retain, normally, some hope for the good.

Not so, however, this new scourge - for, from the rubble of Syria and Iraq has arisen a dedicated, highly-trained, ruthless, wealthy, sadistic, and evil enemy to the West - an army so wicked even the perpetrators of 9/11 have scorned their tactics.  This group is sweeping across a vast arc of territory in the Middle East, carving out a new homeland for a form of belief so cruel, intolerant, and brutal, it staggers the imagination.  They slaughter villages; they behead innocents; they will, if they gain atomic weapons, deploy them. Their hatred of women, the Westerner, the Christian, even their fellow Muslim, is harrowing. They recruit freely from the disaffected youth of a half-dozen of our own nations. They move among us. They speak English even as they murder with a savagery of adroit ease.

They must be stopped.  Air attack will not be enough, nor advisors.  We may need boots on the ground, to save Syria, Iraq, Turkey, the Kurds, Israel, and all our friends (even foes) in the region.  To save ourselves.

This seems like the next clear cut war.  I have sought nuance here, have sought talking room.  These people make the Taliban look like Mickey Mouse.  We need to arm ourselves, and plan for a struggle that may define our age.  Or am I mad? Merely fearful.  A silly man grown long in the tooth?

SCOTTISH POET MARION MCCREADY WILL BE VOTING YES FOR AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND - HERE'S WHY


"I will be voting Yes in the Scottish Independence referendum for a variety of well publicised reasons – to kick back against the dismantling of the welfare state by successive Labour and Tory governments; to put an end to being ruled by governments that don’t reflect the Scottish vote; the disarmament of nuclear weapons (as the crow flies, Faslane is around seven miles from where I live).

However the most fundamentally important reason for me as to why I’ll be voting Yes is the hope that the depressing sense of political disenfranchisement I currently feel, and have done for some time, will end with the establishment of a Scottish government invested with the powers essential to listen and ability to act upon the voice of the Scottish people.

As a former politics student and former active member of a political party it is not in my nature to be politically apathetic but the sense that my voice has not been heard, is not heard and, crucially, will never be heard by the Westminster parliament goes straight to the heart of liberal democracy and my right to have a say and influence on the governance of the society I live in.

Also, and undeniably, the rare opportunity to be part of the peaceful birth of a sovereign nation is both exciting and invigorating; the writer in me wouldn’t miss it for the world." - Marion McCready, award-winning Scottish poet.