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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Janis Raups of the EUOIA: poems on Stride (Me and Simon Perril)

Simon Perril (see a kind of hub post on his work here) and I collaborated on the fascinating figure of the Latvian fictional poet Janis Raups. His work (and a copy of his autobiography appear on Stride magazine here: or:

He likes Scott Walker we think, so here is the album (cover image particularly) referenced. Scott Walker is colour blind.

Thanks to Rupert Loydell, as ever!

Read more on the EUOIA here and here.And on Raups here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Juliet Troy answers questions about her new KFS book MOTHERBOARD

This academic year, I taught Motherboard  by Juliet Troy, a new Knives Forks and Spoons book I’d liked since before publication (I’d been asked to write a blurb for it but I was pushed for time) as the so-called 'Reading as a Writer' text to my ‘Poetry and Landscape’ poetry writing group. Following last year's practice (when I asked Alan Baker to submit to email interrogation about his book, Whether, see here) I asked Juliet if she would answer questions supplied by the class as a whole. Her generous responses to questions are reproduced below. Details of the book here

  1. Why do you ultilise space rather than conventional punctuation in these poems? I’ve used these ‘breathing spaces’ in most of the poems because I was thinking that as endangerment of species, cultures and ecosystems is to a great extent a result of the world’s consumerist culture, rhetoric, languages and the conventional grammatical constrictions utilised, then I should be experimenting with changes in form that could make the work somehow more organic and alive, more connected to and more like nature.

  1. Two questions about the poem ‘And Other Cetaceans’:
    1. Some of us were baffled by some of the jumps within the poem. What has the boy in the rain get to do with the whales ‘and other cetaceans’ later in the poem? Basically all the seemingly disconnected facets of the poem were all flying at me at once. I was in a department store café in Hemel Hempstead on the top floor – large glass windows, torrential rain, a series of massive billboards on the roundabout below, a child running about the café and two newspapers in front of me, one with the picture of dead herring with a story about beaching of Cetaceans. With the noise of the rain, I felt as if I was in a storm at sea. Everything got collaged down onto the page at once. Later when revising the poem, the child, the advertising billboards, the cetaceans, all seemed essential components of the ecosystem of the poem each representing different facets of endangerment of species, culture and climate.
    2. ‘From periphery to periphery’: is the emphasis on impaired vision a reference to human blindness to ecological ‘relational connections’? Yes in a way I was referencing edges of the billboard or the way advertising distorts our ability to see ourselves and our culture as part of the ecosystem.  
  1. Are you pessimistic about the survival of ecosystems? I would like to think that engendering ecological change through an improved connection with nature is not impossible. It may be somewhat optimistic to consider the possibility of an Ecopoem’s ability to change our perceptions of nature, but it is something I think an ecopoetic work should aspire to. Together with input from other disciplines and creative practices, I think culture evolves hopefully in way that our natural environment and ecosystems can be not only sustained, but regenerated. 

4.  We noticed a lot of names of species, for example, lists sometimes of animals and plants we don’t know and of scientific terms which are not familiar. Is the purpose of that to suggest how little we do understand about the ecosystem?

It was not really my aim to suggest how little we know about the ecosystem but rather to  incorporate a linguistic diversity in the landscape of the poem. Not only by including the names of different species but also to include a diversity using words from different languages and disciplines, again, as a kind of escape from the confines of the monolingual strictures imposed by globalisation that result in loss of species and language. In practicality this meant that on occasions when writing, I would prefer the sound of words translated from other languages  to their equivalents in English and so I used them as part of the poems mixed in with other languages.   The use  of ‘Feldlerche’  (German for Field lark)  - in the poem  ‘Rate/ Rhythm of Furrow’ on page 18 is one example.  

5.     Is a poem like an ecosystem? If so, how?
I think a poem or a collection of poems can attempt to in some way echo the multiplicity and connectivity of an ecosystem. Perhaps by including  a diversity of language and by enacting some of the processes of an ecosystem in its construction. In this collection I have tried to enact  the eco-process of recycling by recycling and collaging text from a diversity of sources.  My daily practice for this collection was to fill notebooks with experience of my environment, both my habitat and ranging wider, this included snippets of conversation, interesting or relevant words from exhibitions, significant or resonant news stories and sounds. Text from the notebooks was then re-appropriated and combined with new text on the page to form these poems.  I usually had a specific theme in mind when each poem was written which at times was suggested by a line or a phrase from the notebooks.

6 .We like the cover! Did you choose it/make it and how does it relate to the themes of the book.

I’m glad you like the cover. In my attempt to enact eco processes while writing many of these poems I also made a series of rather peculiar objects with materials recycled from nature. The one on the cover with its feathers  and some what bird-like stance  bounded by wire and with a small chips of computer motherboard at the base seemed to complement the collection as an attempt to remind us of our abuse of nature and the natural, while also being a play on the title ( at least in my mind!) as it has elements that suggest a ‘Motherbird’.

7. We like the title, particularly as it comes from computing. How does that relate to your insistence on the organic (and even, in your last answers, to your sense that the poem is organic).

 The title  came from my feeling that the earth is becoming  like a giant motherboard, You look down a hole in the pavement where repairs are being done and see a confusion of multi-coloured wires. Massive phone towers are appearing everywhere in the countryside everywhere is becoming electric. I suppose that all the electric interconnectivity of our culture in its own way apes the organic interconnectivities of nature. But the installation of so much technology comes at a price for there is with little thought of how it affects the local wildlife and environment and the health of people living nearby.  So my title ‘Motherboard’ very much incorporates my concerns for habitat and environment.

Another inference of the title for me as well as its main eco theme and  play on ‘Motherbird’ was the fact that while I wrote this collection, underlying all of this,  my mother, who died earlier this year, was  very ill in a hospital bed (a kind of Mother-board)with Parkinson’s disease.   This for me tied in with traditional organic resonances of ‘mother nature’ for the title as well the cultural interconnectedness of a vast computer board.

Juliet Troy and the communal voices of WRI 2010 students from Edge

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Review of Rosmarie Waldrop in THE WOLF 34

I have a review of Waldrop's recent Selected Poems, Gap Gardening in The Wolf 34.

Thanks to James and Sandeep for asking me. 

Read an earlier piece on Waldrop's poetics here.

And an account of the chapter it fed into in The Meaning of Form here.

See all the links to The Meaning of Form here.  

Update September 2016: For those who can buy The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry, or order it for libraries, here are the places

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Petrarch 3 published NOW by CRATER Press number 36

'They look fantastic, a great wonderful folding pleasure!' I told the publisher on receiving the package and discovering the unfolding 'map' format.

Crater Press's Richard Parker hits the bullseye: 'Robert Sheppard's spotted a gap in the market—the insatiable need for loads of versions of Petrarch 3!'

Petrarch 3 is Crater 36: buy here

The Complete Petrarchs of our time and poetics are splendid, but what happens if you dig down and realise version after version of just one sonnet (Petrarch’s third in this case), stuttering in repetition, re-staging it for voice and situation, from a Scouse dog at Christmas (see below) to Jimmy Savile beyond the grave; a twittersonnet or a lengthy semantic poetry translation; a French Symbolist version or a Middle English sonnet? Robert Sheppard’s pamphlet is what happens, leaving a performance of humour, excess, variation, and an uncanny undersong courtesy of Petrarch himself.

These poems came about writing a chapter on Peter Hughes’ and Tim Atkins’ Petrarch collecteds.See here (and read my notes on the Petrarch variations by Peter Hughes and Tim Atkins here, ).

Read the 'original' translation (if you see what I mean) and the doggie version here.
There’s even one in the style of Wayne Pratt here. (I also explain who Wayne Pratt was/is!) 

And you can watch me read some of my 'Petrarch' variations during a reading here

BUT you’ll need to buy the new unfolding/folding 'pamphlet' to access the additional delights of the BDSM Petrarch (see below), the mysterious 1401 sonnet (before Wyatt!), a semantic poetry translation in the style of Stefan Themerson, a twittersonnet, ‘Empty Diary 1327’, Jimmy Savile’s last love poem, a sonnet for a Babestation Babe, not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 French Symboliste versions, and even a National Poetry Day poem. Versioning gone mad.

BIG THANKS to Richard Parker. Remember Crater published Tim Atkins’ COMPLETE PETRARCH' so he's the one who spotted a 'gap in the market'. I knew this derivative derive (as I call it) was asking for the very trouble it provides! It's dated 'January 2016' but it's out, now, January 2017!
'Why don't they leave me alone?'
I have a post with some links about my sonnet writing here, both the past and the unpublished (untitled: 'The Song Nets' is not a great title, and 'First Sight; Last Look' is too Ian McEwan).

Monday, January 09, 2017

The North by North West Poetry Tour at Edge Hill Uni Ormskirk 6.00 pm start on 19th January

The North by North West Poetry Tour comprises over sixty poets collaborating in pairs to produce brand new collaborative works for performance, commissioned for each event, over six nights in January and February 2017.

The tour visits Edge Hill University on Thursday 19th January

At the Arts Centre (free): PLEASE NOTE THE TIME: 6.00 pm

Tom Jenks & Tim Allen 
Jessica Tillings & Jazmine Linklater
Adam Hampton & Matt Fallaize
Luke Thurogood & Brendan Quinn
James Byrne & Cathy Butterworth
Mark Greenwood & Johnathan Hartley
Martin Palmer & Laura Tickle
Chris McCabe & Patricia Farrell
Robert Sheppard & Joanne Ashcroft
Amy Cutler & Nathan Walker

More on the tour here.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Roy Bayfield’s new book Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places

Edge Hill colleague Roy Bayfield’s new book Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2016) is a glorious exploration of Nonreal Places. As the publishers say: 'Among the book’s many characters and diversions are Wetherspoons, Capt. Picard, the Navy Cut sailor, the buried ‘Spirit of Brighton’, Wendy Craig, Harrods, Buddhism’s Six Realms of Desire, ‘Things to Do...’ tourist brochures, Argleton redux, the abyss, strip-lynchets, punk residues, Milton Keynes, multiple identities and an inkling of what the future may hold for thoughtful walkers.' - See more here and here.

 He has had a little influence on my EUOIA project of nonreal poets in that his discovery of Argleton (see here) fed into my borrowing his Argleton University as a place for the Frislandic poet Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala to work for a while (Frisland, like Argleton, turned up on maps in the past) and in the name of the nonreal Edge Hill student Jason Argleton. (For the EUIOA, see here).

Roy comes from Portslade (in Sussex on the South Coast). In one bit he quotes me and explains the Southwick/Portslade conflict thus:

‘I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen…’ wrote Robert Sheppard in his chapbook The Given – a moment forgotten by the writer but remembered in a journal entry from an earlier decade. Robert was raised in Southwick, the town next to Portslade, and such dismissal is perhaps to be expected from the rival place, across the border in West Sussex. Admittedly, Portslade may not be on many people’s radars, at least not consciously so. (Bayfield 2016: 25)

Later after explaining that the face on John Player’s cigarettes was a man from Portslade (so what! we in Southwick say, John Cowper Powys lived here; actually they don’t, nobody cares!) he explains further:

As a child, the border between East and West Sussex, Portslade and Southwick, running at the back of our garden, defined by a footpath and a row of electricity pylons, seemed like such a line. Merely by virtue of being on the other side of the line, Southwick seemed slightly uncanny. (28)

Perhaps I could write, ‘As a child I remembered that the East seemed like East Germany because it meant stepping back into an older generation by visiting grandparents as we crossed the border in the bus.’ But I like the idea of Southwick being uncanny. I do my best: here's the full passage Roy quotes from:

I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen, don’t remember the visit to HMS Collingwood. Inside the cupboard there are scribbled weather-charts. I don’t remember writing a list of stories I’d written. I don’t remember being shot at by somebody from a van. I don’t remember the good programme about Lenin on the radio. I don’t remember debating nuclear warfare in English. I don’t remember Kathy getting too close for comfort. I don’t remember the day Frank Sinatra retired. I remember the Ruby wine at the Romans, the way the barman would loll his tongue from the side of his mouth as he poured the soupy chemical liquid into Tony’s bottles. I don’t remember Doll and Arthur’s caravan at Selsey. I don’t remember witnessing Hitler’s last will and testament. I don’t remember arguing about Fats Waller. I don’t remember trying to define a book. I don’t remember writing a history of the avant-garde. I don’t remember recording Son House off the radio. I don’t remember thinking the prints of Blake ugly when I saw them at the British Museum. I don’t remember when I started writing poetry. I don’t remember getting a harmonica with Green Shield stamps. Or sea and sand with nothing familiar, perhaps a tent of evangelists.           
            I don’t remember David’s bottled fish.... 
The Given is reprinted and only available as part of my autrebiography Words Out of Time: see here and here. Read my account of writing The Given here.

Where I write about space, place and ambulation is in my prose piece, 'In Adopted Space' in Unfinish. Details here. Its first review from Steve Waling here

Here's Roy's response

Thursday, January 05, 2017