About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is among the most read British poetry blogzines, getting more than 20,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. The views expressed by Canadian-British 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, 22 November 2014

EYWEAR BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2014?

Eyewear receives dozens and dozens of review copies a year; and reads many more and other novels, poetry books, anthologies, and books of criticism, as well.  So, starting in early December, we will select ten or so that we felt were some of the more remarkable published works of the year.  And yes, some of these are by people we know, or admire.  Expect mention of books by Renzetti, and Pick, and Moore. And more!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

BILL COSBY

Bill Cosby's case is not like that of many others in our new century, not even Woody Allen's, or Ghomeshi's.  Unlike recent high profile cases, we are speaking here of multiple allegations of clear-cut rape, conducted serially over many decades, involving the use of rape drugs.

Bill Cosby's apparent crimes - now only alleged but by as many as 13 women - would, if true, require a level of deception, premeditation, compulsion, and violation most often associated with the most evil and sociopathic of sexual predators. These crimes, if proven, could only result in decades, perhaps life, behind bars.

Here is where we have to proceed with caution, and recognise the almost-unique situation this presents.  For Cosby is no "OJ Simpson", some second-rate celebrity caught up in a shocking one-time act of unexpected evil. His case is closer to that of Michael Jackson, but perhaps worse, if such is possible. Cosby is unquestionably one of the five or six best-known and most influential African-American men of all time (one thinks of Dr King, Malcolm X, Ali, President Obama, for instance, as peers). Even without that delicate and arguably race-focused fine point, he is a great American - his genius for comedy on TV and stage and recording matched by an apparently endless supply of wisdom, kindness, geniality and gentle compassion for children. He is simply put one of the most culturally effective, powerful and significant Americans of all time.

So we must tread carefully, because it is rare for truly brilliant, compassionate, generous, and talented people to be profoundly evil.  They may be tormented, self-destructive, haunted, and secretly addicted to sex or substances or both - but that could not account for what seems to be being claimed here - that, since at least the 1960s, Cosby has been grooming young (and older) women he has met, and drugging and raping them, sometimes more than once. It is an almost inexplicable crime, if true - and how is it not true? The witnesses coming forward seem on the whole credible, and hardly motivated by a desire for fame or money. They seem to want justice, for themselves and others.

However, there is a history in the world, and in America especially, almost as disturbing as that of abuse of women, and that is the abuse of the justice system to punish Black men and women by accusing them of crimes they are in fact innocent of; and we cannot forget that in this case.  For there have been too many lynchings and set-ups and framings over time, of African-Americans, for us not to be at least a little wary of taking down and destroying such an icon of integrity, of African-American goodness.

For there is a history, not just of trials of innocent Black men (as described in classic books like To Kill A Mockingbird), but a particular history of white women and men accusing these men of rape.  In fact, the charge of rape against African-American men has been used since and during Slavery days to control, terrify and keep down these "black bucks" - these feared, and desired "male specimens" of "brutal beauty" - all the savage and degrading tropes of animal force and energy that anti-Black and pro-Slave bias has used to control and dominate African-Americans.  We cannot merely ignore these awful tropes even at this stage.

We must pause, before the media lynching begins, and ask, what is more likely - and here we need to weigh up the equal but competing needs to respect the historic bias against women and the historic bias against "uppity" Black men - that a dozen women who met a major star across four or five decades may have formed reasons to lie and hurt this man - or that this man has in fact been hiding a diabolical sexual compulsion behind a smiling face and charitable acts.  And here we need to recall that recent crimes in England with Saville reveal it is possible to be in the public eye and be a sexually evil maniac.  So, then, what to do?

Either we believe these believable victims and seek justice, and in the process destroy one of the great people of our time, or we seek to protect his mighty reputation, perhaps at the cost of justice. This is a terrible thing, and I am unsure what will come next.  But I do hope we proceed calmly, fairly, and with love of truth and people at every stage.




Thursday, 13 November 2014

JOHN ASFOUR HAS DIED, A PERSONAL OBITUARY BY ANN DIAMOND, CANADIAN WRITER

JOHN ASFOUR BY ANN DIAMOND

(Ann Diamond is one of Canada's most innovative and controversial poets and writers of the last 40 years).

John Asfour poet (1945-2014)

I met John Asfour only a few times and never quite believed he was really blind. His default mood was always wry, ironic, gentle and dignified. Expansive in his silences, embracing and generous in his speech. At the cable TV station where we first met in the early 90s, he was seated with his white cane and dark glasses when I rushed in, sweating and flustered. "You look beautiful today, Ann!" -- and he grinned, pleased with his little joke.

I didn't know he had died. I hadn't seen him since a reading in 2011 when he lit the hall with poems of family, loss, emigration. By chance I was in the neighbourhood where we'd had lunch. Remembering that day, I realized I no longer had his number. I had a sudden gnawing sense it could be too late.

Coming home, I logged onto Facebook where, surreally, a notice scrolled down my feed.

Memorial Service for Montreal poet John Asfour.
Thursday, November 6, 2014. St Sauveur Cathedral. 11 am.

I searched in vain for an obituary. Someone had thought to update his Wikipedia page:

"John Asfour (born in 1945 in Aitaneat, Lebanon) (died in 2014 in Montreal, Canada) was a Lebanese-Canadian poet, teacher and translator. At the age of 13, a grenade exploded in his face injuring his eyes during the Lebanese crisis of 1958.

He moved to Canada in 1968..."

In 2009 I had visited him at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, where he was writer in residence. We took a walk around the neighbourhood, and went for takeout at a hole in the wall restaurant where he already seemed to be a regular. Later, we went sightseeing at False Creek market. His visiting family cooked Lebanese delicacies and drove him downtown where he was speaking to a class at a college.

Introducing him later, I said a stupid thing. I told the audience that being with John Asfour was like entering a black hole. Lost for words, I struggled to explain. Sharing a space with him was like a journey into one's own heart. One of my favourite poems is his In the Metro: about venturing out in public and feeling surrounded and overwhelmed by human kindness.

The mosque-like Melkite cathedral stood in the distance as the dark-haired woman in a green jacket got off the bus just ahead of me. She wore dark glasses although it was cloudy, and we both crossed the busy street and ran the last hundred meters, thinking we were late. Men in black coats stood on the church steps, talking into cell phones. Inside, mourners had filled half the pews as more were arriving. John came last, in a closed coffin next to a single vase of flowers as Byzantine choral music poured from an amplifier overhead.

Men in robes chanted a liturgy in English, French and Arabic. The priest read from scripture. Then he said: "This is the first day of John's new life." It seemed so obviously true, you wanted to climb in  and share that small dark space with him in blinding light.

John's daughter Mikaela took the mic to read some of his final poems, about approaching death, family, loss, immigration. Novelist Rawi Hage spoke about how it felt to lose this friend, and praised John's commitment to social justice, his great contribution to poetry --

"Everything he did was for others."

He left this world discreetly as he lived in it, vanishing into the vacuum that he once filled with poems. 

Another memorial will be held in Vancouver at Joy Kogawa House where John has many more friends who will also miss him --

Books by John Asfour:

2012: V6A: Writing from Vancouver's Downtown East Side edited by John Mikhail Asfour and Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Arsenal Pulp Press

2011: Blindfold, McGill-Queens Press

2009 Nisan: poesie par John Asfour traduit par Nadine Ltaif editions Le Noroît, 103 pages

1997: Fields of My Blood (poetry), Empyreal Pressà

1992: One Fish From the Rooftop (poetry), Cormorant Books

1988, 1992: When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, Cormorant Books
 
Shortlisted for the League of Poets Award (1990) and John Glassco Award for Translation

1981: Land of Flowers and Guns (poetry), DC Books
 
Three poems by John Asfour

 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

4 WEEKS TO LISTEN TO THE RADIO PLAY OF THE BOY FROM ALEPPO AT THE BBC

Here is the link:


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nqpd0

REVIEW: SIMPLE MINDS BIG MUSIC - THE UNPROMISED MIRACLE

As long time readers of this blog will know, I love Simple Minds, because of, or rather irregardless of, their arch-pomp and poetic mannerisms. The Scottish alt-rockers have had a rocky career, but a fascinating one, of six stages.  From 1979-1982, they were a young new wave synth band, producing albums as beautiful, strange, and artful as any by Joy Division, New Order, OMD, or Depeche Mode - their natural equals. At this stage, they were heavily influenced by German music. Without Kraftwerk, no Simple Minds.

This period culminated in arguably the most romantic, visionary and poetic album of the last 35 years - New Gold Dream, which famously promised us a miracle. The second stage of their career followed right on the heels of the massive American success of 'Don't You Forget (About Me)' - a John Hughes film song that has become synonymous with feel-good 80s pop. This led to several LPs - the best of which like Sparkle In The Rain - yielded number one hits that were booming, joyous and uplifting, including 'Alive and Kicking' and 'Speed Your Love To Me' - still keeping the Christian tropes of light and brilliance alive as in 'Book of Brilliant Things'.

Basically, this was up until 1986, and at this stage, Simple Minds were one of the biggest stadium acts in the world, realistically viewed as a Scottish U2. They were millionaires and had big MTV videos. Sadly, the third era, that of slow decline, quickly followed - with a series of lacklustre, but still relatively popular, records and singles, increasingly maudlin - so we got songs about Mandela, Biko, a Belfast Child, etc - up until about 1991. By now, The Joshua Tree had made U2 triumphant, and Simple Minds suddenly felt bloated and out of ideas. But they did not seem about to implode, though they did, from 1991-2005.

Their fourth era, which ended in 2005, were bad wilderness years, of almost total disrespect, small tours, and sickly albums that seemed to utterly lack the magic of the first ten years.  It was a sad time to be a fan.  Finally, the slow resurgence began in 2005, hitting a high note with their 2009 album, Graffiti Soul, that was, say, as good as their Neopolis of the late 90s.

You could imagine you now had a second-rate, not third-rate, band to cherish. However, the 6th, triumphant stage of return, really began post-2009.  In the last five years, a new touring line-up, fighting fit, has seen a return to early albums, a realisation among critics that this is a classic group with genuinely important early discs, and some compilations, all solidified their achievement.  And, just as U2 released a portentous and overblown album free on iPhone, here came the miracle, the splendid Big Music.

Q, Mojo, even the NME, have all agreed Big Music is their best album in 30 years. There is something wonderfully moving in seeing these once-young new romantics, for so long stolid journeymen paying for excessive late 80s nonsense, returning, as in one of their biblical lyrics, resplendent with talent, and actually great new songs.  Caught somewhere between 'I Travel' and 'Waterfront', these 12 tracks are as upbeat, well-crafted, haunting, complex, and ludicrously "big" as the Simple Minds we knew and loved, and, in our secret hearts, never gave up on.  Few artists of any sort get to have a come back a quarter of a century later, so let us welcome this brilliant glittering new phase in the greatest Scottish alt-rock band of all time, the genuine peers of even, yes, say it, U2 and Depeche Mode, their only other credible 80s alt-survivors.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Eyewear Publishing and B7 Media cordially invite you to a post-Broadcast and Paperback launch


Eyewear Publishing and B7 Media cordially invite you to a post-Broadcast and Paperback launch party for

 

THE BOY FROM ALEPPO WHO PAINTED THE WAR

 

Written by Sumia Sukkar

Dramatised for Radio by Richard Kurti & Bev Doyle

 

A B7 Production for BBC Radio 4

 

Saturday, 6-8pm, 8 November 2014

OXFAM SHOP, 91 MARLEYBONE HIGH STREET, LONDON, W1U 4RB

 

The event will include a reading by the Author, Sumia Sukkar, Book Signing and Q&A

 

Guest panellists:

 

Laura Guthrie, LAURA GUTHRIE, PHD RESEACRHER INTO AUTISM AND LITERATURE

Bev Doyle and Richard Kurti, RADIO Dramatists

Imran Ahmad, COMPOSER

Andrew Mark Sewell, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Patrick Chapman, Producer

Fiona McAlpine, Director

 

As well as the following Cast members, who will be in attendance.

 

Adam > Farshid Rokey

Yasmine > Jalleh Alizadeh

Tariq > Amir El-Masry

Wasim > Adam El Hagar

Nabil > Ashraf Ejjbair      

Miss Basma > Abla George

 

 

Come hear how a novel by a young British woman, about an autistic teenager and his family in war-torn Syria, became a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation.  We will discuss radio plays, adaptation, direction, and, of course, the great novel that started the whole thing.

 


 

 

Dr Todd Swift

 

Director

Eyewear Publishing Ltd

Suite 38, 19-21 Crawford Street

Marylebone, London W1H 1PJ

United Kingdom

Saturday, 25 October 2014

14 Top Tracks of 2014 So Far

We are now well into the end game - very few major new LPs will be out after November before the Christmas rush - and with new albums (hence tracks) from Leonard CohenMichael Jackson, U2, Prince, Lana del Rey, Coldplay, Johnny Marr, Billy Idol, Morrissey, Neil Diamond, and Stevie Nicks - to name but a few - it has been a year of heavy-hitters and comebacks. I promise no Scott Walker appears below...

1. SIMPLE MINDS - 'Blindfolded'
Simple Minds have been trying to produce a single as compelling as their mid-80s work of genius for 30 years. This time, they seem to have succeeded.

2. MORRISSEY - 'Staircase at the University'
This has all the earnest hallmarks of impassioned yet steely late Smiths, and is easily his best song in a decade.

3. LANA DEL REY - 'Cruel World'
Haunting, post-modern, witty, moody, a great song.

4. MARK LANEGAN BAND - 'Harvest Home'
It's hard to imagine that there's a vocalist with more bourbon-inflected menace than anyone from Metallica or Queens of the Stone Age.  But Lanegan is the real deal - and this song has the nous of suicide-day Cobain for noirish-grunge rock kudos.

5. WE WERE EVERGREEN - 'False Start'
If you thought that insufferably fey wordplay and falsetto vocals were owned by Vampire Weekend, think again.  This witty extended mixed metaphor on track meets, cold war history, and a love affair is quite charming, in a year of lots of charming pop songs that have faded from view. I believe they mention the Marshall Plan.

6. SBTRKT, feat. Ezra Koenig - 'NEW DORP, NEW YORK'
Speaking of which, here comes Mr. Koenig himself, in a very bouncy, amazingly fun song, with a few very satisfying puns, and the phrases "baseball bats that never hit a home run" and "My girl got a city to run" - each rather haunting when juxtaposed with "gargoyles gargling oil".

7. THE WAR ON DRUGS - 'Red Eyes'
Likely to be on every critic's list of top ten LPs of the year, this is a masterpiece, and this track is arguably the most beautiful and uplifting of the lot.  It's hard to be lazy and soaring at once, but this effortless eagle swoop in azure air achieves that natural American grace.

8. ELLA HENDERSON - 'Ghost'
We have probably had enough of blue-eyed R & B retro tracks to last another century, but this one came along and seemed to out-Adele Adele.  Really great on the radio, and in the club. "I need something to wash out the pain". Yes, the tropes of giving up ghosts and haunting are as old as the New Testament, but it sounded fresh somehow.

9. SAM SMITH - 'Stay With Me'
Unless you are a heard-hearted kill-joy, you will at some stage have to succumb to this pop hit heroin shot.  It's clearly one of the singles of the year, and, with its emotional, curiously ambiguous examination of the needs of one night stands, hard to resist.

10. STEVIE NICKS - 'Twisted'
Who knew she had this in her?  The great-voiced one, who thinks "we are the demons in this place where the images are born" - channeling TS Eliot perhaps - has released an album of the year. It's a thrill to hear her sing this theological love song.

11. WILD BEASTS - 'Mecca'
Speaking of which, it doesn't get more religious love song than this one - a fragile, lyrical, and very intelligent examination of how "we move in desire" - "where the body goes the mind will follow soon after" - or is that the other way around? Very fine, complex, a great song. "We are lovers, cartwheeling" - almost has a Kate Bush rush there.

12. BANKS - 'Thread'
She has itches that scratch, and no filter. But she also has the hippest, coolest, grooviest way with a dark night of the soul pop track - dipped in sex, poetry and black velvet. "My words can come like a pistol". You go girl.

13. COUNTING CROWS - 'Possibility Days'
I hate myself for selecting this song (and thus leaving off Cohen and others) but let's face it, it is their best song in 20 years, and it really works, doing that epic overwrought piano ballad tumbling wordplay thing that no one does better. Corny but so are heartbreaks. "The worst part of a good day is knowing it's slipping away". A movie in 4 minutes, with about twenty memorable lines.

14. BAXTER DURY - 'Police'
A bizarre mix of jaunty Serge Gainsbourg Euro pop and cockney attitude, this foul-mouthed, hugely earworming tune evokes a whole world of boyfriends, trouble, and has a weird sublime moment at 2:10 where Baxter starts singing "ooh-la-ha-ha" and everything changes and becomes sweet, abstract, and odd.



Friday, 24 October 2014

THE DEAN SWIFT PRIZE FOR INDEPENDENT POETRY

 " We all behold with envious eyes
Our equal rais'd above our size.
Who would not at a crowded show
Stand high himself, keep others low?
I love my friend as well as you
But would not have him stop my view.
Then let him have the higher post:
I ask but for an inch at most. " - DEAN SWIFT


Eyewear Publishing Ltd is today announcing a new prize for the best POETRY BOOK COLLECTION PUBLISHED IN IRELAND OR THE UK IN ANY GIVEN YEAR.

This prize is to be judged by one sole INCORRUPTIBLE PERSON EACH YEAR - and, THAT BEING LIKELY HARD TO FIND - the NEXT BEST THING, DR TODD SWIFT, a relation of DEAN SWIFT COLLATERALLY.

DR SWIFT AND DEAN SWIFT share SEVERAL THINGS IN COMMON - they both are mad; they both possess genius; they both understand disappointment; they both have round faces; they both love Ireland more than the UK; they both write polemics; and both share the same last name.

HOW TO ENTER: POST ONE COPY OF ANY BOOK YOU WISH TO BE CONSIDERED to Dr Swift at the postal address YOU CAN LOCATE IF YOU CONTACT DR SWIFT BY EMAIL. SAID EMAIL IS info at eyewearpublishing dot com

 IT MUST ARRIVE NO LATER THAN December 1, 2014.

NO ENTRY FEE IS REQUIRED.

ALL BOOKS PUBLISHED IN 2014 ARE ELIGIBLE, IF PUBLISHED BY IRISH OR UK PRESSES.

POETS OR PUBLISHERS CAN ENTER.

The press MUST BE SMALL, INDEPENDENT AND/OR EXPERIMENTAL IN NATURE and design.

As it is IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL A PERSON WHETHER THEY ARE SMALL without their permission, ALL PUBLISHERS ARE WELCOME to enter.

A SHORTLIST will be made.  OF UP TO TEN BOOKS OF POETRY.

There will be  GREAT FUSS MADE OVER THIS LIST AT THIS BLOG.

The Award will be made in 2015, some time after DR SWIFT HAS RECOVERED FROM THE FESTIVITIES.

NO BRIBES, CRONYISM, FAVOURS, INDUCEMENTS, REWARDS, PROMISORY NOTES, SUAVE ADVANCES, HELTER-SKELTER SHENANIGANS, SWEATING PUFFERY, VENALITY, BESTIAL INTENT, LOATHSOME SELF-REGARD, HATRED OF WOMEN, HATRED OF PYGMIES, BLOODLUST, CANKEROUS MUTINEERING, OR other nonsense is permitted.

THIS PRIZE IS TO CONSIST OF FAME IN THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PRIZE BEING ACCORDED.  THE PRIZE IS performative.  NO MONEY IS REQUIRED FOR THIS PRIZE.

Instead, give generously to the MAD and those WITH EYE PROBLEMS.