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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Robert Sheppard: My twittersonnet 'Dwarf Planet' is part of the KFS poetry illuminations in Blackpool

My 'twittersonnet', 'dwarf planet' is part of the Knives Forks and Spoons Blackpool Illuminations at the moment and here are two of Alec Newman's photos, one of the whole display, and the one below of the poem itself.
The 'twittersonnet' was invented by Rene Van Valckenborch (though I invented him) and his and mine were both first platformed on our respective Twitter accounts, though his also appear on this blog (see here)

They were commissioned for the ‘life is short: art is shorter’ mini-festival held at bluecoat on november 15th, 2015, curated by professor ailsa cox , as part of the nationwide being human festival. see

They come from a sequence now called ‘Minute Bodies: Twittersonnets’. Some were published online in Noon: here.

the first twittersonnet (and other twitterodes) may be found in the works of rené van valckenborch in robert sheppard’s the translated man (shearsman, 2013) and the second in his petrarch 3 (crater press, 2016). the (then) constraint of 140 characters was distributed across the 14 (8+6) line frame (or minute body) of the sonnet, 10 characters or spaces per line. Here irt is again:

dwarf planet (pluto)

 (30% H20)

by a whale
’s tail/cr
isp bald c
rust faces

 charon su
cking meth

 moons in
the kuiper

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Another 'Bad Idea' Brexit sonnet: Drayton puts in a double appearance.

I have not stopped my weekly interpretive, translational, sonnet-writing, just because I like to think that The English Strain is complete. And I’ve put it in my red spring-back folder. (The first part of it, Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch will be published soon by KFS.) You can read about that, if you like, in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: hereAs the poems became more topical I started to post them temporarily on this blog, usually in a series of drafts.

The second book of The English Strain is entitled (at least at the moment) Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea. With Bad Idea I will post one at a time, when they are finished (but only if I feel it appropriate in terms of topicality; they have been so far).

Here is the tenth, and Drayton makes an appearance (twice) in this one. A shame I couldn’t get the Salzburg EU meeting in, but I write these poems (every) Thursday morning, while Patricia is out volunteering, and I read them to her when she returns (like I used to read the earlier poems after her teaching on Fridays, meeting in The Lion). I expect I shall hear about Salzburg on the news at one.Too late for this week.


Shall I compare thee to a Polish fitter,
sending our sterling home to his wife, who,
feeling frenzied hatred from our racists,
packs up his tools and moves to France? No.
That buggers up Drayton’s sonnet with its
rich son losing his inheritance on
floozies. Perhaps I’m writing a pint-sized
Pound-Shop Post-Brexit Poly-Olbion!
Perhaps. But every national gift they’ll waste,
fields of strawberries rotting on the stem.
They hate you, hate each other, and only
love the country as a false abstraction.
Drayton loved a girl who didn’t exist;
she seemed like a good idea at the time.

20th September 2018

 Drayton is dreadfully underpublished at the moment, but at least his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ is available.

They do say he had a model for ‘Idea’, but I’ve always rather like the idea that the women didn’t really exist in Renaissance sonnets.In one important sense they didn't often, being idealised, in Drayton's case, by name!

I write about the completed 100 sonnets of The English Strain hereAnd about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which set this thing off, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater press in its ‘map’ edition. This is the only part available, until Hap appears. Soon. The cover is designed now: the blurbs are blurbed. And delivered to Alec at KFS.

I have some new 'English Strain' poems online in Molly Bloom, Aidan Semmens' fine  magazine. Here:

He has chosen ones from
NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT: Overdubs of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Updated My Website and added a full bibliography

During the summer I updated my website, by bringing up to date the biography I have online, and by providing a full bibliography that I've put together for the 'Companion' volume on my work that will be out soon. It's here, although the site's home page is here.

Here I muse upon the difficulties of listing every magazine appearance I've made, and show the list that I started to make and then abandoned because it was just getting too long, and which I replaced with a simpler list of every magazine title I'd been published in. Jokingly I call this 'oeuvre management', but I can just about imagine a Creative Writing degree module of that title! 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Pages (first series) reissued entire with an interview on Jacket 2: Complete Index of all 5 series

This blog is called Pages because it was originally a blogzine continuation of the print magazine of that name. It still may be partly that, though it is more of a writer's or literary blog now (and is archived by the British Library as such).

Quick hits of the New British Poetry as they happened

I am pleased to say that the first series, which ran from 1988 to 1990, has been digitalised (by the energetic Manchester poet and critic Joey Francis) and is now available on Jacket 2 here. 

There is also a recent interview with me (again, conducted by Joey), where I talk about the project from the inside, though I stray into defining 'linguistically innovative poetry' and the experience of homelessness. Read that here.

Everything is linked from the Pages Reissues page. Click onto each individual 8 page issue. Thanks to Danny Snelson, the Master of Ceremonies at Jacket2.

When I started this blog I reprinted editorial matter from the second series of Pages and thought of this blog as the third series (see the links below).

But there's enough to keep most poetry-lovers quiet on the re-issue pages of Pages. Thanks to Scott Thurston for initiating this project, to Joey for doing the leg-work and the interviewing, and to Jacket 2 for seeing fit to make it available again, in all its (deliberate) lo-tech glory. 

The Poetry Foundation comments on the reissue, see:

Pages (first series) – index

1-8        Editorial; Allen Fisher; David Miller
9-16        Gilbert Adair; Gad Hollander
17-24        Ken Edwards; Andrew Lawson
25-32        John Seed; Adrian Clarke
33-40        Hanne Bramness; Michael Carlson
41-48        Sheila E. Murphy; Kelvin Corcoran; Harry Gilonis
49-56        ‘Beyond Revival’ editorial; Virginia Firnberg; David Chaloner
57-64        Rupert M Loydell; Lee Harwood; Robert Christian
65-72    ‘Theoretical Practice editorial; Responses: Adrian Clarke, Gilbert Adair, Andrew Lawson, Virginia Firnberg; Wayne Pratt (this is the issue where Adair coins the term 'linguistically innovative poetry'.
73-80    Stephen Oldfield; Valerie Pancucci
81-88    Alan Halsey; Peter Middleton
89-96    R G Hampson; Hazel Smith
97-104    Eviction Collage; Letter from Ken Edwards; Bob Cobbing; Chris Beckett
105-112    Richard Caddel; Catherine Walsh; Aiden Semmens
113-120    Patricia Farrell; Tom Raworth
121-128    Heywood Hadfield; Colin Simms
129-136    Sheppard, Letter to The Independent (which they published); Ralph Hawkins; Maggie O’Sullivan
137-144    James Keery; Peter Riley; Keith Jebb
145-152    Ian Davidson; John Wilkinson
153-160    Johan DeWitt; Michael Ayers
161-168    ‘Poor Fuckers’ editorial; Horst Bienek, trans. Harry Gilonis; Rod Mengham
169-176    Elaine Randell; Lawrence Upton
177-184    Ian Robinson; John Welch
185-192    Ulli Freer; Virginia Firnberg
193-200    Peter Ganick; Dennis Barone
201-208    Sheppard: review of Bob Perelman; Robert Creeley; John Muckle, review of Ian Davidson
209-216    Alex Alfred; David Barton
217-218    Floating Capital advert/apology for absence


resources for the linguistically innovative poetries

Series Two: April 1994-May 1998

Issues – full features by the named poet – short responses to the published work – extras – bibliographies of featured poets

Pages 219-238 Adrian Clarke

General editorial for the Series
Robert Sheppard
Out to Lunch (Ben Watson)

Pages 239-259 Ulli Freer

Scott Thurston
Patricia Farrell                                                                                              

Pages 260-279 Gilbert Adair

Allen Fisher
cris cheek

Pages 280-281 Eric Mottram
Special obit : Recording and Informing a Generation

Pages 282-300 Hazel Smith

Joy Wallace
Peter Manson

Pages 301-321 John Wilkinson

Drew Milne
NH Reeve

Pages 322-341 Cris Cheek

Peter Middleton

Pages 342-361 Peter Middleton

Gavin Selerie
Ira Lightman

Pages 362-380 Rod Mengham/Virginia Firnberg (no poems by either)

Critical Essays Issue
RS on Ulli Freer
John Wilkinson on Rod Mengham
Adrian Clarke on Virginia Firnberg
RS: ‘Linking the Unlinkable’ (poetics)

Pages 381-396 Ken Edwards

Kathleen Fraser
Robert Sheppard

Pages 397-420 Alan Halsey

Gavin Selerie
Tim Woods

Pages 421-445 Maggie O’Sullivan

Afterword to Pages, Second Series (re-posted at the end of post, here)
Lawrence Upton


Then, 2005, Pages became this blog. I attempted to carry on numbering the pages and frequently provided an index (for example here). These were superseded by the invention of links. But you see I was continuing to publish poets's works: Tony Trehy, Dee McMahon, Marianne Morris, Ian Davidson, for example.

Here is the editorial to Pages, Third Series. 

Afterword to Pages, Fourth Series, here. This is the 'end' of the Fourth Series: here

The Fifth Series of Pages was planned to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Edge Hill University Poetry and Poetics Group on October 21st 2009, and it did, here, but after that I began to treat this blog as a literary blog and I had long-ceased to attempt to carry on the numbering of the pages of Pages: it's not the digital way. I talk about the blog (as a blog) here in another interview that complements the new one with Joey Francis. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Robert Sheppard: Non Disclosure Agreement sonnets in Molly Bloom 17/another in Cumulus 2

I have some new poems in Molly Bloom, Aidan Semmens' fine online magazine. Here:

He has chosen some of the 'English Strain' sonnets, these ones from

NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT: Overdubs of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. One begins, after its borrowed title from EBB's opening line,

YES, call me by my pet-name!

Pet! Petsy? Petronella? Petrarca! Where Petrarch dwells
there lies Poesy, as he makes for himself a self
in language, however embarrassing his cowpat lyricism,
since he – I – could not hope for imperial laurels....

This sequence seems oddly pertinent at the moment, given the antics of a certain phallocrat just out of government.

Another 'English Strain', is currently published in Cumulus 2 at the same time (so far print only): that one is my version of a poem by the Earl of Surrey. 

I write about the completed 100 sonnets of The English Strain here
My recent contribution to Blackbox Manifold, that other excellent online journal, here

is from Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch, so there is quite a range on show online now.

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which set this thing off, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater press in its 'map' edition. The poem partly quoted above signals the return of Petrarch for the last few poems of the collection.   

My response to Peter Riley agnostic approach to 'expanded translation' here includes a few remarks about the whole 'English Strain' project with links to other parts:

Also in this issue of Molly Bloom, Julia Webb, Sarah James, Gerry Loose, Maria Stadnicka, Jonathan Catherall, Rhea Seren Phillips, Mark Goodwin, Zohar Atkins, Steve Spence, Iain Britton, Melissa Buckheit and Hazel Smith.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Robert Sheppard: 'Between' a poem for Roy Fisher published in Tears in the Fence

My poem 'Between', a kind of elegy for Roy Fisher, appears in Tears in the Fence, now available from . The image below is relevant to the poem.

I say 'a kind of' because the story told in the poem is real. Before setting off for work I looked at Twitter and found a tweet announcing that Roy had died. That was upsetting. But having previously read a Tweet wrongly announcing the death of another poet, I decided to check again. But I couldn't find the tweet again. So I wasn't sure. I set off for work and the adventure in the poem occurred. Which could only occur in that 'between' state of uncertainty. Once I got to work I saw a tweet from Neil Astley, the publisher of Bloodaxe, and realised that the news was true. (None of this is a spoiler for the poem, by the way.) A few weeks later I attended Roy's funeral, by which time it felt all too real. As I write in 'Work' (the 2017 supplement):

We followed the ducks and rabbits to a humanist affair with wild flowers and jazz and – against Roy’s wishes – poems.

Tears in the Fence 68 is now available from and features poetry, prose, creative non-fiction and prose poetry from Ian Seed, Simon Collings, Melisande Fitzsimons, Anna Backman Rogers, Beth Davyson, Robert Sheppard, David Miller, Peter Hughes, Tracey Iceton, Jill Eulalie Dawson, Kate Noakes, Taró Naka Trans. Andrew Houwen and Chikako Nihei, Aidan Semmens, Mark Goodwin, Barbara Bridger, Alexandra Strnad, Daragh Breen, Andrew Darlington, Caroline Heaton, Peter J. King, Amelia Forman, Clive Gresswell, Steve Spence, Rebecca Oet, Sue Burge, Chloe Marie, Lucy Sheerman, Peter Robinson, Michael Henry, Wendy Brandmark, Abeer Ameer, Reuben Woolley, Kareem Tayyar, Sarah Cave, Angela Howarth, Norman Jope, John Freeman, Eoghan Walls, Jennie Byrne, Marcel Labine Trans. John Gilmore and Peter Larkin.

The critical section features Ian Brinton’s editorial, Andrew Duncan on Sean Bonney, Mark Byers on Jasper Bernes and Sean Bonney, Nancy Gaffield on Zoë Skoulding, Frances Spurrier – Poetry, resilience and the power of hope, Simon Collings on Ian Seed, Peter Larkin, Clark Allison on John Hall, Astra Papachristodoulou on Nic Stringer, Greg Bright – What Is Poetry?, Mandy Pannett on Seán Street, David Pollard on Norman Jope, Louise Buchler on New Voices in South African Poetry, Anthony Mellors on Gavin Selerie, Linda Black on Anna Reckin, Jonathan Catherall on Nicki Heinen, Richard Foreman on M. John Harrison, Morag Kiziewicz’s column Electric Blue 4, Notes on Contributors and David Caddy’s Afterword.

Good to see former Edge Hill MA student Jennie Byrne there! As she notes here: 

I have, of course, written about Fisher's work in my book The Poetry of Saying (see here) and elsewhere, but here are links to a number of posts on this blog that you might like to read, before you get a chance to read 'Between' in Tears in the Fence: 

My most recent piece is on Fisher's radicalism here.

I've been published many times in Tears and here is my announcement of a previous appearence, another poem in memoriam, this time for Lee Harwood. I believe they also published my i.m. to Barry MacSweeney.

Thanks to David Caddy for all these appearances and for his publishing tenacity: 68. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

‘Work’ from Words Out of Time: the 2017 Supplement

Astute readers of my autrebiography Words Out of Time will have noticed that the final piece, ‘Work’, the last part of ‘When’ (i.e., the end of the book) finishes not with a full stop but with ellipses. (Seriously, I doubt anybody noticed it!) That’s because its focus, the world of work, acts of, commitments to, actions of labour, wasn’t over for me at that time. (They still aren’t, but I did formally retire, a year ago and I reflect upon that here.)

There was more to write of the piece. Formally, the text distends time (the original idea was 15 words for the diaries when I’m 15, 50 for when I was 50, and thus 61 words for when I was 61, etc, but that broke down to nevertheless leave the general effect). That means that the text covering 2011-17 is as long as that for 1965-2011. (I was thinking of the fact that most conventional (auto)biographies spend more time on the early years, and I wanted this section to ‘do different’.)

I want to post it here (with a little linking clip of the text as it appears in the book (which you may obtain here.) and in its original magazine publication in Blackbox Manifold here: click and scroll). I hope it appeals.

Coincidentally, I’ve also excavated the text of ‘With’, the first conceptual part of ‘When’ in memory of my mother, a re-mix using sentences that refer to her (and plundering an earlier outtake I posted on this blog) here (and here. ).The final eulogy, in which I use a shorter version of this re-mix, may be read here

Perhaps one day the end of 'Work' will be restored to the book itself or to a re-print of ‘When’ on its own. Until then, here it is, in celebration of a year having passed since that retirement into full-time writing.

I wrote in detail about producing the first part of Words Out of Time, ‘The Given’, here. It’s an unusually lengthy exposition of method (practical poetics) for me, based on Adrian Clarke’s adage that ‘materials + procedure =’. 

If you want a conventional biography, I’ve got one here on my website. Up to date until mid August 2018. That it, it does not (at this time) mention my mother’s death in late August 2018. But it might by the time you read it.

The man whose face has died decides for us. Stroke of pencil. Works his way through us. Inserts phrases from lost works, odder than odd, not negative capability or uniform finish. Rainbow weather falls, drops silver light, splashes around her face. Form thinks. Taut shoulder blades delineate. She delivers herself, a working sketch for full invasion, occupation. Weird with work, no one listens. Overruled, they go for unilateral strike, a shifty round the Matisse-Mallarmé. Status and reward: work diary empty. Listening to students’ angst, saved by pork pies. The view from Centre Point. A turtle sunbathing, a procession of Monarchist giants. Shortlist in my other diary. Jeff and I work up our poems, old underwear hanging from a ruin. Messianic interventions against empty time. Think in Hungarian about Turkish atrocities. Work along the Danube to meet Duchamp’s waistcoat. I finish Ulysses (this time) at 4.13 pm on Saturday 2 September 2012. Mother and Father business: rent, chiropody. Fox cockily trots along Bromley, event poised on tip-toe. The Corn Exchange. Working on breathing, Norton 360 runs through the files. Shoes on boards, her steps around, preparing. Raw fingers hold down chords; content breaks through form, releases energy, music in every room, strokes of plectrum. I speak to him and the gasping stops. A dead day, reading The Iliad, slaughters of eminent men. Lee sells his working papers. By the time I arrive home from work, Odysseus is home. Trudging through sludge and sleet. Re-reading Reader’s Block. Inventing my own plagiarist, talking to the dead. Flat language stretches to distant horizons, flurries of snow. He works at words like an anorexic picking at salad. He needs similes like a hole in the head. Awoken by the coroner, to make Dad dead. Why does she throw herself down Steep Hill? Why is the head of George III ‘privetted’? Why does he not remember the scar on the woman’s leg? Why was Stephen rustling in Patricia’s work-room? Why was he fading like a ghost? Why was Scott networking like there was no tomorrow? Tomorrow, Billy Fury festooned with flowers. A brave attempt to maintain the lyric ‘I’ behind the kiosk at the bottom of Bold St, away from the Spectacular Other. Clerical Error. I am a singing, playing, blowing and sucking machine. Jo descends the spiral fire escape like Duchamp’s nude, breathing overtime. Graveyard shift research culture: Shunga dildos. Geeky work, a fully corporeal encounter with metrical weight. We missed The Necks, three vacated bar-stools. Six hands touch time. Different holes for work. On tape, reciting (falling asleep): ‘victims’ for ‘vectors’. Fan-girl backs out of the room. Back to Mum saying Dad refused to work the Berlin Airlift. Burst couplets. Joanne talks through her tree: Cavafy played round the corner. Laboured multi-media, enjoyed his poise, he who instructs her to close her eyes. A gawp at Oriel Chambers. I don’t remember audition. I’m trying to write down the moment as it happens, metered prose, HR admin on the Marie Celeste, the Alisdair Gray murals, views from my window 2015 – exactly those! After a bonus day, I find this alone writing on this page. I don’t remember. Edge of waiting for last year. She mounts the platform, delivered by enforcers. Carys stands on a chair to read. Back to whisky and Jack Bruce. Robots on Strike. Watery sun, low and dripping, Patricia returns from work carrying phials of Tom Jenks’ tears. Why did he only ‘generally’ enjoy the cold, bright weather? Why did he refuse to ‘cart the freeloader’ to his next drink? Wave-bands drift, he’s guzzling straight into my records of his consumption. A four hour meeting about research regulations, a burlesque world, thumbs-up to ceremonial emails. We stand inside the Warhol. Particles of his extrusions. Kelvin phones to say Lee is in hospital. We stand outside the Bender. In her bunny ears and corset, surrealist geography, a scrutiny meeting, she fills the afternoon with dashes, commas, semi-colons. Am I my card-holder’s warden? An orchestra playing thunder? Unaffected by buffering, I stand before the Cornell. Words Out of Time arrives. There is a plaque where the work is buried. Admin polish. Through the biography of Leigh Hunt, inoperative thoughts of Lee Harwood. Black paintings bump into pantomime horses. I tell him his work will be safe. Tom Raworth (smiling). History or Sleep arrives: some matures signed its visitors’ book. Sandeep in The Big Apple: James in the small orchard. Me telephonically tempting him back. Unfinish arrives; I table ‘Poet’ at the MA session, turn tables on the work-in-progress. We crash into Simon’s reading, Archilochus dropping his shield. A meeting at 11.00 am: teaching till 9.00 pm. Work, the sixth day in a row, to ‘deliver’ a ‘taster session’, twice, cheerfully. Remode to overcome the obdurate persistence of materials: a bust of Edwin Morgan, the Spanish Inquisition, Olive’s immobility, the ‘horrible woman with dementia’, the small Matisse room, the astronaut from Southwick. Codeine dreams: terrorists in Liverpool. Or is it just an unfortunate world to co-habit? I spotted a spit. On strike. So out. Stroke of cat. Back to cheese and Matt Munro. Deadline for notice: no Penultimate Helicopter whirring out of Ormskirk. To vote. To work. To hear the word repeated on the news. I spent the morning re-working Fuxit! James and I pass Kamasi in the mizzling Manchester street, home with a pocket full of Jimmy’s Donegal seaweed. Atrocity stirs poetry, a reversed film of a person walking backwards in Liverpool. ‘Art’ writing; ‘proof’ reading. Avantgarters at the avantgarden party flash in episodic sun. A fly lands on my knee, drops frass: politicians creep back onto our radios. Practice-based poetics lacking critical apparatus. I seldom look to the future. As. It. Happens. Off the train, unloading ancestral junk. Was the dream his, in which my biro refused to write the word ‘me’? Damaged artifice: a rash of sonnets. Pub-quiz Scouser for an ear-worm. In a drowsy nimbus I form words, break the spell, get up for paper. Black Friday bargains. Allen reads Gravity, the ‘Burgler’ pages. Crash into fever and sweat. Students well up in nightmares. Clammed to the radiator. Spitting, pushing over the hat-stand, throwing the de-humidifier across the room. Century Rolls; a big, unfolding surprise. Three samples: little pinches. Technique is cognition, but Ian is smaller than he looks on the radio. Limps off into the snow, sad. Posted off passport and picked up drugs. Culling and cutting. He’s no poet when he walks out on his voice. She used to work flowers through her handlebars and sing. Stuttery conversionettes. We followed the ducks and rabbits to a humanist affair with wild flowers and jazz and – against Roy’s wishes – poems. Flip that: wasn’t reacting to the world by logic, association. To view Trev’s ‘Trios’. Came away with a memory. Listen with Mother, Carys’s story, broken by a policewoman on the step. All day marking, the Liverpool Mass: mad monks chanting electro-acoustic Cobbing. Tendered my resignation. Hell broke loose. I am nothing, lyric subjectivity, plural motives hoisted from us and dumped in the skip. We didn’t fit the bill, terror attack in London on the Coventry bar TV. Schadenfreude at May’s hubris. Up Hepstonstall to visit Asa: foolish enough to have been. Dreams of Scott playing drums on the Downs. Moves in response to another body. Working up. Down the hill, you find yourself at bridge height, level with people crossing before you (I’m on the step of The Brewery Tap in Chester at 3.00 pm on Monday 7 August 2017, a workday) but as you sink towards the river, you lose that specious equality, until you, too, climb the steps and stand on the city walls, overlooking the wide river, with its weir guarded by cormorants and gulls patiently waiting for flailing fish panicked by the weir’s rush – sumos, courtesans, firemen, samurai and actors. Legwork. Time clawed back, sitting at my desk thumbing old poems, working up to release at my fingertips. He screams in his sleep and reception calls his room. I take deep leave. Labour of Love. Her hard-won lips. Lispy neologism ‘poethics’ a metaphor for aesthetic justice, deep listening that happens after Saying, after saying my list of thanks, a litany prefaced with treadmill and grindstone. Pencil me in (and out).

2012-2013/November-December 2017