About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 25,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. and ha snow been read by over 2 million The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

UNHOLY WAR

I have been reading the Oxford philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny's lucid, at times startling, and always thought-clarifying book What I Believe (2006) the last few days.  His chapter 'War' is particularly helpful to me in formulating my response to the murder of many schoolchildren the other day in Pakistan. Kenny observes that there are only a few arguments for just war, and that for many centuries Muslim and Christian theologians were mainly on the same page; a just war had limits, and a clear one was (and remains) the rejection of the killing of innocent non-combatants. Holy wars, as Kenny observes, however, conducted by Muslims and especially Christians, have tended to be unjust, in the sense that the killing of civilians was often excused, or encouraged, on religious grounds he (I think rightly) concludes are ill-founded in reason; and few other wars have been "just" through and through.

The decision by "Taliban" fighters to kill a hundred or more children in a school in Pakistan the other day is an atrocity to rival any in human history.  It is, by any but the most cruel and insane standards, an evil act.  Only a belief in a very harsh and extreme kind of holy war could explain the act, which has no moral, sensible, humane or rational excuse.  It is, by almost all ethical, religious, political, and human standards, an act of total depravity, in the sense that those who performed the act have, in the performance of their crime, removed themselves from the common network of reasonable civilised bonds that connect societies, peoples, and even whole nations and faiths. As such, these people should be apprehended and punished, to the full extent of the laws governing war crimes.

However, and further, their actions the other day underline what has, for many people in the West (and beyond) become apparent over the last 15 years - any legitimate grievances harboured by post-colonial peoples due to harsh, unfair and violent treatment by Western nations and their allies have become increasingly beside the point, as more and more terrible atrocities are committed with a ferocity and fanaticism beyond even the normal human range of thought and action - the killing of women and children and innocent captives in cruel ways, and the throwing of homosexuals off roofs are examples. This tone of ever-crueller, more deranged violence, an ultra-terrorism begun with 9/11, is both terrifying and self-defeating.  The terrorists, who never had the moral high ground in the first place, but perhaps had some claim on territory, are now in a sub-basement where they will find few if any allies willing to support their ongoing actions.

As such, they must be defeated, with full use of all force necessary.  It is no longer morally feasible to formulate arguments for appeasement and reconciliation.  Not with sadistic madmen who massacre children on this scale.  This is a just war, and talk of oil and land and control of empire can no longer sweep aside the reality, that the fanatics at work in broad swathes of Asia and the Middle East speak for a brand of religious thinking that, even by Medieval standards, is barbaric and ill-judged.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

IGOR ISAKOVSKI HAS DIED

Igor Isakovski, one of the leading Macedonian poets of the 21st century
Sad tragic news, the energetic poet, novelist, publisher, editor, book designer, translator and friend to many poets globally, Igor Isakovski, has died suddenly of a heart attack, the other day. I include a poem from his recent collection below (translated into English), a photo of the poet, and a recent biographic note.  He had translated my work, and published it in Macedonian.
 
IGOR ISAKOVSKI. Born 19.09.1970, in Skopje, Macedonia. Died 15.12.2014, in Skopje, Macedonia. He took a BA in World and Comparative Literature, Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia. MA in Gender and Culture, CEU, Budapest, Hungary. He was completing doctoral studies at the Sts. Cyril and Methodius University. He was founder and director of the Cultural Institution Blesok where he worked as editor-in-chief since 1998.

Published books: Letters (1991, novel), Black Sun (1992, poetry), Explosions, Pregnant Moon, Eruptions... (1993, short stories), Vulcan – Earth – (1995, poetry), – Sky (1996, 2000, poetry), Engravings, Blues Phone Booth (2001, prose etchings), Sandglass (2002, short stories), Way Down in the Hole (poetry, 2004), Swimming in the Dust (2005, 2010, novel, award Prose Masters 2005), Blues Phone Booth II (2006, prose etchings, awarded 2007 annual prize for best visual-graphic design of a printed book), Interning for a Saint (poetry, 2008), The Night Is Darkest Before the Dawn (poetry, 2009, unique award winner of the 4th Belgrade Poetry and Book Festival in 2010), Vulcan – Earth – Sky (poetry, 2010), Love (poetry, 2011), Death Has Seaweed Hair(poetry, 2013).

Selections and translations in other languages: – Sky (poetry in English, 1996, 2000), Sejanje smeha (Sowing of Laughter, selected poetry in Serbian and Macedonian, 2003), I & Tom Waits(selected poetry in English and Macedonian, 2003), Sandglass (short stories in English, 2003), I to je život (That's Life Too, new and selected poetry, published in Montenegro, 2007), Iz bliskov in ognja (From Glitters and Fire, new and selected poetry in Slovenian, 2011), Pjesčani sat(Sandglass, short stories in Croatian, 2012), Dlanovi puni srče / Дланки полни срча (new and selected poetry in Serbian and Macedonian, 2013), Светлината ве чека на рецепција / The Light Awaits You at Reception (selected and new poetry in Macedonian and English, 2013).

Isakovski edited four anthologies (the latest is the bilingual Six Macedonian Poets, published by Arc publications, UK, 2011) and two CD-ROMs. He translated poetry, prose, and essays, from and into Macedonian, English, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, and from Slovenian into Macedonian. Into his Macedonian translations, there are more than 60 published books.

His poetry and prose works have been translated into sixteen languages and published in about twenty countries. He was included in a vast number of selections and anthologies in Macedonia and abroad. 

 
 
Lights around Paths
 
   I clean the stains off the table,
   I wipe out prints of liquids,
   ash and gunpowder – I need to set off
   somewhere. I wipe with keen
   precision, I clean up traces.
 
   I’ll step into the snow, I’ll make new
   paths – wide and merry, like lights
   sparkling around the planet, playful
   like my restless steps: I need to set off.
 
   I clean and tidy up, like in the past when I was
   expecting guests – I know that I’m alone, I know
   no one will come: let it be neat and warm.
 
   I’ll set off with my nose in the air, like a hound, searching for
   more gunpowder. If it comes to that, I’ll face the gun.
 
   I clean and tidy up, as if saying farewell to the world.

 
poem by Igor Isakovski.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

250,000 PAGE VIEWS IN 2014!

GREAT NEWS! Eyewear, the Blog, has averaged around a quarter of a million page views in 2014 - as it has done, more or less, since 2005.  That's over 2 million page views over a decade so far!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

POETS WHO HAVE DIED IN 2014

NOTE, THIS HAS BEEN EDITED AFTER THE SUDDEN DEATH OF MY FRIEND AND PUBLISHER, IGOR ISAKOVSKI, THE OTHER DAY.

Below, sadly, are the names of some of the poets - writing in all languages, living around the world - who died in 2014. Most are widely-published, and were beloved figures; a few were more "obscure"; one or two were best known as performance poets. One is a quasi-fictional figure (Mayall).  All were linked to poetry in their obituaries this year.  A few I counted as friends.

Every death is terrible; the death of a poet no more or less than another's, except in how it closes the conversation that poet had with life and the world - from then on, all we have is what they were able to say, to write, to compose, to edit, to erase, to publish, while alive.

Poets are not always the easiest people to love while living - but once they become their words, their books, they become loveable.  Larkin is the best example.  But there are many others.  I wish these poets posthumous readers.  And to their family and friends, students and colleagues, peers and readers, I offer condolences. I also welcome additional entries (though I do not wish for more dead poets) and any information you wish to send me; and of course, corrections.


ALLAN KORNBLUM

ALLEN GROSSMAN

AMIRI BARAKA

ANNE ARDOLINO

CAROLYN KIZER

CLAUDIA EMERSON

DANNIE ABSE


DOUGLAS ISAAC

EMMA LOU THAYNE

GALWAY KINNELL


IGOR ISAKOVSKI


JOHN ASFOUR

 
JOHN HARTLEY WILLIAMS

JON STALLWORTHY

JUAN GELMAN

KENT MAYNARD

KESHAV CHAND

LILLIAN MORRISON

MAGGIE ESTEP

MAMA BRENDA

MARK STRAND

MAXINE KUMIN

MAYA ANGELOU

PHYLISS JANOWITZ

RENE RICARD

RIK MAYALL (THE PEOPLE’S POET)

RYOR BARADULIN

SAID AKL

SAMIH AL-QASIM

SEBASTIAN BARKER

Simin Behbahani

SUSAN GRINDLEY

Tadeusz Różewicz

WENDELL BROWN

ZACCHEUS JACKSON

EYEWEAR BEST BOOKS AND POETRY OF 2014!

End of the year best of lists are, as we know, vaguely suspect.  They are riddled with cronyism, laziness, neglect, partiality, bias, improvisation, ego, incompleteness, and general lassitude.  It is literally impossible (that is, I defy you to prove scientifically it is possible) to survey (in short, read) every book of poetry, every poem, every magazine, published in the English-speaking world. However, what is the point in giving up? 

A while back, a metaphor was introduced, that of the "Internet surfer" - it suggested a sort of skilled adroit yet reckless conquest (albeit very brief) of the unconquerable and impossibly vast - we surf the oceanic forces at our peril, but touchingly so, because humans can at times rise above nature's vast impervious strength. That is an artistry of the body and mind, but Internet and more broadly, magpie cultural surfing - that pick and mix mash-up hybridity that has become the default position of most artists these days (think of St Vincent, by many standards creator of album of the year, or Beck, or The War On Drugs, the other contenders - all are mash-ups).

In short, we cannot survey all, we must survey all - we must seek to rise above the ungovernable swells of content, and do our agile and effortful best - we must take on the playful role of surfer, the impossible athlete of ephemeral grace. Such lists, then, become not canonical interventions, not even helpful signposts, but acts, in their own right, of art.  The art of being a cultured person.  What was once called a reader. Readers have never been asked to read everything.  One of the charms of being a reader is that one reads what one wants.

My ideal form of reading is in a place that no longer exists.  It is to my mind the great Valhalla and Heaven of reading.  It is in December, or early January.  It is in Quebec, in the forest.  In My grandmother's large wooden house.  A fireplace roars with huge logs crackling. Outside, snow drifts halfway up the windows.  The snow is about five feet or ten feet deep in places.  Outside are wolves.  It is possibly minus twenty outside.  If you go outside you may well freeze to death.  So you stay inside.  It is 3 pm.  You have a cup of cocoa.  And you sit in a huge comfortable armchair by the fireplace, and you read.  You read what you take down from her shelves.  For Melita Hume is a collector of books.  All sorts, history, criticism, anthologies, Russian, Chinese, French, German, English - and you are fourteen or twelve.  But you can read Nabokov.  You can read Twain.  You can read poetry.  You can read Bloom.  You read Dickinson, Atwood. You read widely, as you wish, you are free, and safe, and yet to take the risks the reader takes.

So, two images - one is of being ensconced, the other of being a sort of flung conch. Both involve perfection of the moment. Joy is central.  Reading without joy is a waste of time, and is not the aim of reading.  What you read may be tragic, informative, funny, or maddening - but the reading must be a joyous act.

So what is my list of the year?  It is a list of books piled by my bed, and piled by where I read.  It is a list of books read, half-read, books I want to read.  It is a wish list, a shopping list, a love list. Friends jostle with strangers, even possibly enemies.  It is not a list of recommendations.  It is a list of what I would dip into again, by the fireplace, in the blizzard. I do not list the books I wrote or have published this year, but all those, it goes without saying, should be here. I am adding 21.  Memoirs, magazines, pamphlets, poetry by the dead and living - young and old. Litcrit. Rescued reputations.  Eccentrics. Bestsellers. Humour. Sex. Bereavement. Mental illness.

You may have many more choices.  Think of this as a desire of reading. A start, a foray, a jumble, an over-reaching.  A relaxed Saturday.  A snowfall.  A bit of fire. A memory jolt.  A mixed bag.  Mixed nuts. Help-yourself. Just some of what might be said. A gentle reminder.:

  1. POETRY MAGAZINE - ANY ISSUE 2014
  2. A POET'S GLOSSARY BY EDWARD HIRSCH
  3. TERROR BY TOBY MARTINEZ DE LAS RIVAS
  4. BLACK COUNTRY BY LIZ BERRY
  5. FABER NEW POETS 12 BY DECLAN RYAN
  6. JOHN GOODBY'S NEW COLLECTED BY DYLAN THOMAS
  7. DAVID WHEATLEY'S STUDY OF BRITISH POETRY
  8. ROSEMARY TONKS' POEMS FROM BLOODAXE
  9. THE SELECTED NICHOLAS MOORE FROM SHEARSMAN
  10. LYRIC SHAME BY GILLIAN WHITE
  11. PILGRIMAGE BY LUCKY PICK
  12. BASED ON A TRUE STORY BY ELIZABETH RENZETTI
  13. ANGER IS AN ENERGY BY JOHN LYDON
  14. H IS FOR HAWK BY HELEN MACDONALD
  15. THE LAND OF GOLD BY SEBASTIAN BARKER
  16. BLOOD WILL OUT BY WALTER KIRN
  17. SUSPENDED SENTENCES BY PATRICK MODIANO
  18. THE GIRL WHO WAS SATURDAY NIGHT BY HEATHER O'NEILL
  19. THE GHOST IN THE LOBBY BY KEVIN HIGGINS
  20. TUPELO'S ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD ANGLOPHONE POETRY
  21. BE THE FIRST TO LIKE IT: NEW SCOTTISH POETRY.
  22. SELECTED POEMS BY MARK FORD




Monday, 8 December 2014

EYEWEAR HAS A NEW POETRY BOOK CLUB - SEE FOR YOURSELF!

Please consider becoming a Poetry Book Club member - a Micro-Patron - join with other members like Wendy Cope, Gary Geddes, and other poets around the world.

Don’t panic yet, we are asking for no more than £10 from you a year, or $20 USD.

Sometimes I feel I am a dentist, since selling poetry books can be like pulling teeth. Anyway, I am trying to make it as painless as possible for you to do something you would probably like to do anyway – get two books of ours in 2015 for the cut-rate price of £10 for both (or $20 USD).

That’s the new book club – short and sweet and affordable to almost all book lovers. You also get 40% off all our 2015 books by joining; and other perks to be announced, including chances to win signed copies of proof copies and running sheets.

Our poetry books next year include (we will be publishing others!) Yale Poetry Prize winner Sean Singer, leading Australian poet Jan Owen, and Melita Hume Prize winner Amy Blakemore; as well as illustrated poems by famous singer-songwriter Keaton Henson, a wonderful debut from Andrew Shields, and a Selected by major Dutch poet and author Benno Barnard; and novels by Mario Bellatin, translated by David Shook.  All will be either paperback or hardcovers expertly designed by Edwin Smet in our stylish mode; and printed by a very good printers in Cornwall to high standards.

Thank you for any support you can give, and all best for the holidays and the new year. You can go directly to our site, where there is a donate button with a PayPal sign, if you wish to become a Club member. Then just email us and we will set you up.  Merry Christmas!

EYEWEAR'S TOP FILM AND TV IN 2014

Gone Man, sadly
Eyewear can't see everything, even with our x-ray specs. We loved House of Cards, Homeland, The Americans, and a bunch of other TV shows and movies, from The Grand Budapest Hotel to The Lego Movie to The Giver to Interstellar to Guardians of the Galaxy to Peter Jackson's bravura final Hobbit film.  However, we have some clear favourites, in the following categories.

EYEWEAR BEST ACTRESS IN A TV SERIES OR MINI-SERIES 2014
Gillian Anderson - The Fall 2. Anderson has not been so riveting since House of Mirth years ago, and makes her British detective a more mature and complex counterpoint to her earlier iconic role as Scully.  This often nasty series is a new Prime Suspect-quality show, that, despite its visual cruelty, yields striking performances.

EYEWEAR BEST ACTOR IN A TV SERIES OR MINI-SERIES 2014
Woody Harrelson - True Detective.  The true believer might opt for the gaunt haunted McConaughey, who is brilliant in this great series (see below) however Harrelson's everyman turn as the Horatio-like foil to Rust's Hamlet is actually the more challenging role, and he gets it so right.

EYEWEAR BEST TV MINI-SERIES 2014
True Detective. There really isn't another option here.  This brief, literate, weird, and profoundly mythic reimagining of American noir through HP Lovecraft and anti-natalist thinking is one of the finest TV shows ever made. It bears comparison with Twin Peaks and the X-Files for astonishment factor, the uncanny and quality.

EYEWEAR BEST TV SERIES 2014
House of Cards, Transparent, Orange Is The New Black, The Americans... all these and others have claim to being great TV - but in the first year since Breaking Bad ended its triumphant run, and became one of the great cultural products of the decade, no show could lay claim to such monumental greatness.  One show, however, received almost no attention or acclaim at all, and this was little-seen Manhattan, a perfectly-realised, brilliantly-acted ensemble drama set in a slightly-fictionalised Manhattan Project microcosm in the Mojave desert. Filmed with the gravitas of Brideshead Revisited, and as intelligent as the best BBC or PBS dramas of yore, it combined intelligent elements of history and science seamlessly with concerns about sexual identity, intellectual purpose, and moral values, and was often erotic and thrilling, at once.

EYEWEAR BEST FILM 2014
Gone Girl. David Fincher's new surprise masterwork, using every one of his stylish tricks to evoke a world as cool, disturbed and sexually compromised as Hitchcock's Pyscho fused with North by Northwest.  A screwball comedy of guilt, suspicion and crafty authorial post-modernism, it's surface pleasures were icy but deep as a knife wound. The soundtrack has its own Vertigo-esque charms as well.

EYEWEAR BEST ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman - A Most Wanted Man.  This is my sentimental favourite.  This was a strange, completely mesmerising, transformative performance, with a ball of rage exploding at the end, which sums up the master's great curtailed career.

EYEWEAR BEST ACTESS IN A MOTION PICTURE 2014
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl. Pike might be seen as a surprise choice in this category, but she was fascinating, hugely poised and watchable, and ultimately shocking, in her complex role within roles of the perfect cool girlfriend gone sour as the bad wife.

EYEWEAR BEST SIDEKICK IN A MOTION PICTURE 2014
Groot.

I am sure there are other great films and roles (Cumberbatch for instance) but these are what struck us the most this year.





Sunday, 7 December 2014

THE 20 BEST TRACKS OF 2014 AT YEAR'S END.

We've had great pop, indie, dance, rock and soul songs in 2014 from the likes of David Bowie, and bombast from U2, and new ideas from Prince, new rare pathos from Stevie Nicks, comebacks from Billy Idol and Echo and the Bunnymen, and mournful Beck... and none of these makes our ultimate top 20 of tracks from 2014 you can locate on Spotify (UK) - sorry Morrissey. Here is our countdown, with three-word reviews. Tell Eyewear what you think.

1. 2: 54 - 'The Monaco' - indie pop heaven.
2. Alvvays - 'Archie, Marry Me' - smartest summer track.
3. Banks - 'Begging For Thread' - dark sexy pop.
4. Charlie XCX - 'Boom Clap' - big breakthrough hit.
5. Childhood - 'Right Beneath Me' - the new Smiths.
6. Dum Dum Girls - 'Rimbaud Eyes' - pitch-perfect 80s retro.
7. Ella Henderson - 'Ghost' - uplifting radio moment.
8. Fat White Family - Touch The Leather' - creepy twisted indie.
9. Foxes - 'Glorious' - as title suggests.
10. Lana del Rey - 'Cruel World' - David Lynch pop.
11. Radiator Hospital - 'Cut Your Bangs' - cute quirky indie.
12. Sam Smith - 'Stay With Me' - song of year.
13. SBTRKT, feat. Ezra Koening - 'NEW DORP, NEW YORK' - cool odd dance.
14. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 'Stranger To My Happiness' - super retro soul.
15. Simple Minds - 'Honest Town' - new gold song.
16. Sleater-Kinney - 'Bury Our Friends' - best indie track.
17. The Smashing Pumpkins - 'Drum + Fife' - implausibly cool return.
18. St Vincent - 'Digital Witness' - new David Byrne.
19. The War on Drugs - 'Red Eye' - great beer rock.
20. Warpaint - 'Keep It Healthy' - best indie album.





NEW POEM BY ZACHARY BOS


On Governor Nixon’s Advice


            Ferguson is the Great Society writ large
                       Roger L. Simon

 

Despite the bitter news we woke up to
   I am determined to maintain my faith
that hate shall subside and peace will prevail.

Be reasonable. That's all folks have to do:
   Stay calm, let America heal. (So saith
this white boy, joking when a man should howl.)

                                           25 xi 14
new poem by Zachary Bos

SUSAN GRINDLEY HAS DIED

Sad news. The British poet Susan Grindley (pictured) has died of cancer, on Thursday. She was the author of New Reader, a pamphlet from Rack Press, and had poems in many magazines, anthologies and online journals, including Nthposition, when I was editor.  Susan was a regular presence for many years on the London poetry scene, where she read, and attended many events in support of others. Susan was born in Essex but lived most of her life in Hackney. She was shortlisted for the Larkin and West Riding Poetry Prize and the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Prize and read at literary festivals including the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Ledbury Poetry Festival. A full collection remains to appear, but I hope that in time one can be compiled and readied for a press. She was a lovely person and will be much missed.

Zonal Pelargoniums

Call them geraniums, everybody does,
these are the ones with round, frilled leaves
marked like targets, creased like fans.
I found them in the bath – easier to water


the house being shut up – and took them home.
When they came into bloom I recognised
the plant that stood in her front porch for years,
two petals balanced above three, on flowers


I would have said that she was like, if asked –
coral, like the lipstick she wore every day.

Next came the Schiaparelli pink
she painted on her door and fingernails,


and on a specimen with leaves the size
of doll’s-house dinner-plates – the pale shell tint
she never knitted for a baby girl.

Dark and bright reds have been the last to flower.

The latest bud to open gave me the shock
of arterial blood –  an ordinary scarlet geranium,
the kind that DH Lawrence thought to be
beyond the imagination of God.


poem by Susan Grindley

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