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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Robert Sheppard published in Best British Short Stories 2016 (and The Only Life revisited)


Best British Short Stories invites you to judge a book by its cover – or more accurately, by its title. This series aims to reprint the best short stories published in the previous calendar year by British writers, whether based in the UK or elsewhere (that includes Europe). The brief of editor Nicholas Royle (a Belgophile) is wide ranging, covering anthologies, collections, magazines, newspapers and web sites, looking for the best of the bunch to reprint all in one volume. Here it is.

It is the Guardian book of the month. Buy it here.

I'm pleased to say I'm in it. It contains my story 'Arrivals', a short narrative capriccio from my autrebiography Words Out of Time. It works well on its own, I feel, as an allegory about adoption.

This new anthology also includes stories by: Claire-Louise Bennett, Neil Campbell, Crista Ermiya, Stuart Evers, Trevor Fevin, David Gaffney, Janice Galloway, Jessie Greengrass, Kate Hendry, Thomas McMullan, Graham Mort, Ian Parkinson, Tony Peake, Alex Preston, Leone Ross, John Saul, Colette Sensier, DJ Taylor, Greg Thorpe and Mark Valentine.

Words Out of Time may also be obtained here.

The question of my fiction-writing is an interesting one. I have another Knives Forks and Spoons book containing three stories, The Only Life. Edge Hill is famous (through its annual Prize) for its support of the short story form, and something rubbed off a few years ago, and I found myself developing ideas for stories, and some survived. The three stories in The Only Life are about writers: Keats on his 80th birthday, the life of the Esperanto poet Tropp, and a bloke from York who writes poems about the Gulf War (probably the best of the three, though Tropp was a dry-run for A Translated Man). 

The Only Life may be bought here.

I'm hoping that there might be a bit of interest in this on the back of my appearance amid the august company in the Salt book. (And it's great to see former MA student Trevor Fevin (see here) there rubbing shoulders with Gaffney and Galloway and Evers and Mort, to pick out some names.)

There is a sort of fiction in A Translated Man and another fable in Unfinish but these four stories are my first attempts at writing fiction since I walked into Malcolm Bradbury and told him I wanted to enter poems from my MA. (I was the first.) That was 1979. Pre-Thatcher, probably. But that's another story. A guide to other recent publications may be read here. My next publication consist of garters (really!) 



Saturday, June 25, 2016

EUOIA’s Hermes Poised to Take Over : Out is Out ‘Sheppard’ Told

As the EUOIA’s institutions scrambled to respond to the bumbite of Britain’s ‘Shexit’ (as it has been dubbed by Scott Thurston) Europoetiosceptic Estonian ‘bongo poet’ Hermes said uncertainty was “the opposite of what we need”, adding that it was difficult to accept that “a whole anthology is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the British Poetry Party”.

“I doubt it is only in the hands of the poets of the United Kingdom,” he said. “We have to take note of this unilateral declaration that they want to wait until The Sheppard Symposium, but that must not be the last word.”

Hermes’ comments were partially echoed by the president of the European Translation Committee, Matúš Dobeš, who said that there was no reason to wait until next March 8th to begin negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union of Imaginary Authors. “Evoke Particle 50!” he cried, guzzling Diesel.

“Britons decided yesterday that they want to leave the EUOIA, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until The Sheppard Symposium to try to negotiate the terms of their departure,” Dobeš said in an interview with Germany’s WELL ’ARD television station. “I would like to get started immediately.” (He forgets that 48% of voters wanted to stay in. Where can they go? Shouldn’t there be some organisation they can join? A fraternity of the “ashamed” and “embarrassed”, to use words that one can find repeatedly used on social media.)

'What will the EU do for the 48% who wanted to remain? What will the EUOIA do for the 48% that want a refrain?' asked Sheppard, enigmatically. (See here.)  

There are now just two poets to complete co-creating, Ireland’s Sean Eogan (1969-), who is being concocted with Steve MacCaffery; and Hungary’s Ratsky József (1970-), who requires stitching together with Jeff Hilson. “I will continue in the English way, as if nothing has happened,” “Sheppard”, declared, even though the anthology has been re-paginated, with his work firmly in the appendix with the Frislandic and Icelandic contributions. He shrugged off suggestions from Hermes that he might be removed altogether, with the book continuing to be the work of the remaining 27.

This ends the Referendum Bulletins of the EUOIA. (You hope!)

Friday, June 24, 2016

President of the EUOIA (European Union of Imaginary Authors) resigns


'Robert Sheppard' in Brussels
Good afternoon everyone: the EUOIA has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our literary history.

Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Isle of Wight have all had their say.

We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people (who were wrong) for these little decisions, and the poets who sing them.

We not only have a parliamentary democracy (with an unelected upper house and a hereditary monarchy), but on questions about the arrangements for how we've made stanza breaks and enjambements, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves (although they are not sovereign as they are in a country like Ireland) and that is what we have done.

The British people have voted with their poetic feet to leave the European Union of ImaginaryAuthors and their will must be respected. I’m off.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside national differences to poeticize in what they believe was the national interest and let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionately murderous case that they made. (This doesn’t include Hermes, of course, or Matus Thingybobby from Slovakia, who could at least have got out of bed for the vote. More here.)

The will of the British poets is an instruction that must be delivered. And re-delivered at a convenient time, if there’s nobody in.

It was not a decision that was taken slightly, not least because so many rhymes were said by so many different poets about the significance of this decision.

So there can be no doubt about the result. (Hang on, what was the result?)

Across the world people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.

I would reassure those literary markets and editorial investors, publishers and poetry lovers, that Britain's poetry is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure British poets living in European countries and European poets living here there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances (but make sure you have sturdy suitcases and rolls of US dollars in pairs of socks).

There will be no initial change in the way our poets can write, in the way our poems can move, or the way our books can be sold. (Well, you don’t actually sell poetry.)

We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union of ImaginaryAuthors.

This will need to involve the full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland poets to ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced.

But above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership of the EUOIA.

I'm very proud and very honoured to have been president of the EUOIA for six years, since the disappearance of Rene Van Valckenborch (into drift-sands according to the latest theory).

I believe we've made great steps, with more people in work as poets than ever before in our history, with reforms to poetic hygiene and creative writing education, increasing people's life story chances, building a bigger and stronger anthology, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the book and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality or poetic orientation, but above all restoring Britain's poetic strength (while stamping out doggerel and rhyme).

And I'm grateful to everyone who's helped to make that happen.

I have also always believed that we have to decide to confront the big ducks.

That is why we delivered the first collaborative poetic epic in 70 years, to bring our body poetic back from the ceasura.

It's why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland (where the makars voted to stay in; whoops: news just in: they want another referendum).

And it's why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union of Imaginary Authors and to hold the referendum on our membership and have carried those things out. (Maybe that wasn’t my best decision, but there you go.)

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to lisp tuneless numbers directly and passionately about what I think and feel - head, heart and soul. My head is a sponge, my heart is a pump and my soul is the man-made part of a toy cat (as Roy Fisher says somewhere).

I held nothing back, not even my unbent tummy banana: I was absolutely clear about my belief that British poetry is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union of Imaginary Authors and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone - not the future of any single poet including myself (or Hermes).

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the Union requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as President to steady the spaceship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the cosmonaut that flies our poets to their next inter-planetary destination.

This is not a decision I've taken slightly but I do believe it's in the literary interest to have a period of prosodic stability and then the new laureateship is required (please don’t vote for Hermes).

There is no need for a precise timetable today (whoops: news just in from Brussels: they want me to go immediately) but in my view we should aim to have a new president in place by the Robert Sheppard Symposium at Edge Hill illUniversity, on March 8th next year. (That’s not imaginary, by the way: see here.)

Delivering stability with hemstiches and balanced periods in duple rhythm will be important and I will continue in post as president with my not so-solid crew of literary co-productions for some while. I expect to be removed from the main body of the anthology to the appendix, which, since I am at the end of the book anyway, effectively means simply moving the border (I mean section break) between the main body and the appendix.

The 27 remaining poets (including those deceased) will meet on Monday, the Governor of the Blank Verse of England is making a statement about the steps that the Blank Verse and the Literary Golden Treasury are taking to reassure poetry markets.

We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before the meeting in Malmo of the Imaginary Authors in the European Laureate’s Speech. (That’s SophiePoppmeier, who is also professionally known as Angela Merkin, but that's another story.)

And I have spoken to Ms Poppmeier this morning to advise her of the steps that I am taking.

A negotiation with the European Union of Imaginary Authors will need to begin under a new president and I think it's right that this new poet-shaman takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EUOIA.

I will attend the EUOIA council next week to explain the decision the British people have taken and my own decision, and I shall remind them of the slim margin of victory for the Brexiteers.

The British people have made a choice, that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument - myself included - should help to make it rhyme.

Britain is a ‘special’ country - we have so many great advantages - a parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate, a great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity, respected the world over, and UNPOP testifies to that. (That is: the United Nations Platform of Poetry (UNPOP), which is drawn from the approximately 200 nations (and disputed territories) of the world.)

And while we are not perfect (though we have perfect beauty and perfect pitch) I do believe we can be a model for the multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, that people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their writing talent allows.

Although leaving the EUOIA was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible writerly strengths. It's back to a thin slice of parkin and a slim vol by Larkin! (See here)

I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union of Imaginary Authors and indeed that we could find a sonnet or two to ennoble ourselves.

Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help, so long as Hermes is not elected as my replacement. (Read his effusions here.)

I love this country house and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great anthology we have assembled together to succeed. We are marching forward to the completion of the project very shortly, and nothing Hermes can do will wreck it now. Be assured we stand firm.

Thank you very much for the Aintree Iron. Thank you very much, thank you very very very much.

Robert Sheppard’, president of the European Union of Imaginary Authors. (Read about the other Robert Sheppard's books here.)

Read Hermes' response to this post here.

PS Read Tom Jenks' post-Brexit poem here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

EUOIA: UK's 'Robert Sheppard' sings Bremain!

United Kingdom’s 'Robert Sheppard' (1955-), was co-created by myself, and he sings BREMAIN! (Why should 'Brexit' have the sole neologism?)
Robert Sheppard

If Britain votes to leave the EU (European Union) today, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, may have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; the Rimbaudian initials refer to his European Union of Imaginary Authors (although it was set up - invented - by Rene Van Valckenborch, another of his fictional authors (see here)); at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with fictional island Frisland’s fictional poet Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Icelandic poet Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl).

He hopes exit doesn't happen and all the arguments have been exhausted. He had no idea his caprice of posting these biographies of fictional poets for about a month before the vote would be conducted against a backdrop of a campaign for the EU referendum with so many beliefs and so few facts on display, and one that would involve a murder of a public figure in the Remain camp. (See my thoughts on the death of Jo Cox here.)  

To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then check). See here for his Eastertide realisation of what might be about to happen. Read about all the EUOIA poets here. But just who is this 'Robert Sheppard'? 'Patricia Farrell' tells you:

Robert Sheppard was born in West Sussex, and began to write at the age of nine, inspired by copies of Angry Penguins he found lining a drawer in his grandmother’s house.  His distinctive abilities to extract the semantic potentialities of language –which have uniquely made him Britain’s foremost linguistically-enervative poet – were already evident in Biggles Bombs East Sussex (1965; self-published). This was soon followed by challenging works: Mutton-Shunters!  (Leg it; 1975), There was no Quail-Pipe, though (Raspberry; 1987), Crinkum-crankum (a rare foray into sound poetry after he attended one of Bob Cobbing’s Writers Forum workshops (Sheppard was subsequently barred for drunken behaviour)) (Tallywags; 1994), and Tight as a Boiled Owl (Bags of Mystery; 2001).  Sheppard’s startling resemblance to Rimbaud led in 2002 – by which time Sheppard had developed a resemblance to Jack Nicholson (by way of startling resemblances to Charles Manson and the proprietor of a Surrey fish-and-chip shop) –  to an invitation to collaborate with the Argentinian narco-poet and phonetico-kinetic-tango artist, Seňor Rita de fforrest-Mann on the multi-disciplinary work,  cuidar una banana. The two poets’ production led to a bi-lingual transliteration into Rioplatense and West Sussex dialect of the epic chan fhulaing Seumas cularain by the ancient Gallic female bard Ceit Cailleach, published as all of a glawming dishabill - cuidar una otra banana (Long Plum; 2008). Although critically acclaimed at the time, controversy followed the pair, when it emerged that de fforrest-Mann had been using the family firm of fruit importers as a cover for gun running, and that the works of Cailleach were a literary fraud by the eighteenth century conman and backgammon cheat, James Buggy Park.  Sheppard has since concentrated on solo projects, including a volume of acronymic versions of Tang Dynasty poems, Come Home I’m Naked Already (Spicket; 2011), Working the dumb oracle (Cracksman; 2013), Exercising the Armadillo (Sconce; 2014), and his magnum opus, Cupid’s Kettle-drums (Taturtrap; 2012). His most recent collection is an autobiography, Making Magic with Leftovers (Waxed Giraffe; 2016).  Sheppard is currently Professor of Verse and Vertigo at the online University of Ashgabat, from which platform he has campaigned for Turkmenistan’s entry into the EU.  He lives in Liverpool with his partner, the German opera singer,Bertram Kaninchen, and their Rottweiler, Cecil. (Patricia Farrell)

A guide to his 'other' publications here. Read about all the other EUOIA poets here. But read of his post-Brexit fate here.
Harold Hare: 20:48; 14:11:2015

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sweden’s Kajsa Bergström says Stay in the EUOIA

Sweden’s Kajsa Bergström (1956-), co-created with SJ Fowler, a Nordic man himself, is one of the finest of modern, modest Northern European poets. Born into a gentrified family in Ornskoldsvik, she is one of the last to follow the ecstatic revolution in Scandinavian literature, after the likes of Ibsen, Hamsun, Garborg and Strindberg, and on then from Ekelöf, Martinson, Tranströmer. The outpouring of reflective, burdened personal emotion, of self-analysis, of the destructive power of civilised discourse, marks out the early poetry, as though she were living the works of those who had come before her. Bergstrom is indelibly marked by her father’s death while she was a child. Her mother, a member of the petty nobility, still retained the Bergmanesque protestant hardness of her forebears, and seems to have been indifferent to her daughter and, as had happened with Schopenhauer, this emotional isolation surrounded by wealth produced a superlative gift for the imagination for the young poet. Like Schopenhauer too, this became directed toward the Oriental, the Eastern mode, in her turning away from Christianity and European parochialism.
After brief periods studying in London and Uppsala, Bergstrom became a student of music in Paris and became familiar with the work of the Tel Quel group. She forever maintained their influence on her was limited. Her first collection Flak (1977) was not received with any particular fanfare. She described its writing as suicidal, a process of poetry amidst emotional upheaval, and indeed her use of cryptic linguistic constructions, etymological tracings, repetitions, seems to hark to the best of European experimental movements and yet, almost by design, seem utterly impersonal, impenetrable to the reader.
As her work transformed, she returned to Stockholm, and her esoteric embracing of the poetic medium began to become tempered by more direct images in the text work that appeared to be increasingly offset by the remarkable use of typography, as though she were literally breaking apart the limitations of the Swedish language to express direct thoughts and images. The high experimentation left its trace in her use of materials and the ever present relentlessness of her images. By the time of Songbook (1996) and Noli Me Tangere (2005), when she had moved to Malmø, her oscillation between obtuse mysticism and deeply personal intellectualism had won her great acclaim. She can't help any of this, but she still says Don't Leave the EU or the EUOIA.
SJ Fowler has his own EUOIA post here. And here is a list of all 28 poets and links to biographies and poems.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spain’s Cristòfol Subira says Don't Leave the EUOIA

Spain’s Cristòfol Subira (1957-), co-created with Wales' Alys Conran, says Don't Leave the EUOIA (European Union Of Imaginary Authors)..

Cristòfol Subira was born in 1957 in Barcelona. He worked for many years as a street performer and living statue in the tourist districts of the city. Between 1980 and 2007, Subira produced four collections of poetry, alternately in Catalan and Spanish, but since then, his poetry has not appeared in print except for several unattributed poems inscribed on the paving of cul-de-sacs in Barcelona, recently acknowledged as his work. There was one doubtful sighting in Brussels in the summer of 2010.

Our writing of Cristòfol Subira, part of Gelynion Poetry (Bangor), on May 26th 2015, may be seen below and at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVOfQEMoss4.   

Also see: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/euoia-cristofol-subira-by-alys-conran.html to read about the text as it appears in the latest (Desire) issue of Poetry Wales. 

Here is a link to the biographies of all 28 EUOIA poets. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slovenia’s A.B.C. Remič says Don't Leave the EUOIA and thoughts on the murder of Jo Cox

This daily caper (posting the biographical notes from my collaborative European Union Of Imaginary Authors) was intended as a joky (but ultimately serious) plea to Remain in Europe. (We have many posters in the window in the real world to that effect.) It arose out of the realisation that if the EUOIA were real (it couldn't be), and if Britain votes to leave the EU this Thursday, then 'Robert Sheppard', the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA. Which is quite funny. Or was. But the campaign has turned nasty, and resulted - I use the word deliberately - in the death of Jo Cox MP. Of this I have no doubt. Look at Brendan Cox's twitterfeed. (here) One day he is complaining that the LEAVE flotilla sprayed river water over his children on the Thames, which is unpleasant; two days later Ms Cox is killed by a man shouting the same ugly phrase used by a UKIP campaigner in Wales (though he was suspended).

I have continued to post these daily announcements (new one below) of the 28 poets (all scheduled in advance, and partly unstoppable) and will do so until the campaign is over and the fate of the country decided (or not decided, because, despite all the predictions on all sides, no one knows what will happen). That all this is determined by a power struggle in the Tory party is lamentable. But these 'fictional' poets don't seem so made up, fabricated, as they used to be, in some unexplainable way. The circus animals, far from deserting, are amassing, protesting. Campaigning was been suspended as a mark of respect, and I stopped tweeting about these posts for a bit, but the issue of the political connection I've raised above has not been raised (much) in the mainstream media. 

So in the spirit of democratic debate, carried out by fictional means, here's today's collaborative European poet (and links to the actual poems this time, so you can get a good idea about how it's done or, certainly, what has been achieved):

Slovenia’s A.B.C. Remič (1958-), recently co-created with Alan Baker, says Don't Leave the EUOIA.

Read ABC's poems here on Stride magazine. Thanks for publishing, Rupert, and thanks for the co-creation Alan!

Read a guide to Alan's work here.

ABC Remič was born in Lubljana in 1958 in what was then Yugoslavia. She studied Ancient History in Belgrade, then returned to Lubljana, where she still lives. Remič’s experience of the fall of the Soviet Bloc and the conflict in the Balkans marked her poetry with a cynicism towards nationalism (she'd have no truck with 'Brexit') and authoritarianism, as well as a disenchantment with Western consumerism (no, the EU isn't perfect). She modelled herself on the American Beats in their opposition to war and authority, and translated Ginsberg’s Howl into Slovene. She has worked for many years as a copywriter for the Slovenian tourist industry. The wine is very good and very cheap, she tells me.

To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and here is a list of all 28 poets with links to their biographies and sometimes the poems too.