Saturday, August 13, 2022

Part of 'The Necessity of Poetics' republished with a new introduction on the CREATIVE CRITICAL website

My poetics piece ‘The Necessity of Poetics’ has been through a number of publication channels, including this blog, and a part of it (in some ways, the central part, the even slightly-famous, ‘definitions’) is now available on the new Creative Critical website, with a fresh introduction, as requested by the editor of this ‘blog’ part of the website, Robert Hampson. You may read these two conjoined discourses here:

Creative Critical is edited by Gabriel Flynn and Dr Thomas Karshan (UEA): see

‘The twenty first century’, they say, ‘has seen the erosion of any sharp distinction between the “creative” and the “critical”. Can criticism itself aspire to be creative? Does creative writing have a critical force? Or should we dispense with these terms altogether?

I’m quite happy to regard criticism as criticism (and with its inherent creative elements, as I know from writing it straight), creative writing as creative writing (which has critical elements and even a critical function, as I know and argue elsewhere), and see poetics as the third term between them, as I argued in, my inaugural lecture (which is on this blog, here: ). Just to recap: I have (repeatedly) defined poetics as the ‘product of the process of reflection upon writings, and upon the act of writing, gathering from the past and from others, speculatively casting into the future’. It is a writerly discourse.

Just for the record: ‘The Necessity of Poetics’ first appeared as ‘The Poetics of Writing; The Writing of Poetics’, in Creative Writing Conference 1999, Proceedings, Sheffield Hallam University, 1999. A shorter version, emphasising practical uses for students, was published by Ship of Fools in 1999 solely for distribution amongst Writing Studies MA students at Edge Hill College of Higher Education (later University), Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK. Another – emphasising poetry – was published in Pores (2001). Updated versions were amended, expanded and abridged in various ways – a Ship of Fools booklet was published in 2002 and was re-printed a number of times until 2016 – but the chief addition is the section ‘Poetics as Discourse’ which was written in 2009.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Robert Sheppard: a guide to the updated websites

Every summer I update my website, adding some details and cleaning up the manifold links to internet sites. I have just done so, and I will leave this post to stand during my annual summer break from blogging (and Tweeting, mostly). The website consists of – obviously – a home page

where I welcome all to the site, and put links to my other website (see below) and Twitter, and so on. The ‘Publications’ page is a succinct list with images of book covers:

It deliberately carries no links. It is not a definitive bibliography. In fact, there is a full bibliography at the end of my site, here

This is full indeed, and derives from the one assembled for The Robert Sheppard Companion by Christopher Madden, co-editor of that volume.


Back to the earlier pages (I think of the site as being more accessed at the beginning, as getting more specialized as the pages go on, but I’m not quite sure of that). You can skip the ‘Pages’ page

because you are already on Pages! This page links to this blog.

Every year I update my ‘Biography’, and not just by adding to its latest parts. Last year I had to deal with Coronavirus and this year with medical matters, but it is largely an account of my writing, and I often prune earlier passages which seem to me to be no longer central (you can also see that this writing is a deliberate construct):

The page on Rene Van Valackenborch, the fictional Belgian poet, has blossomed into a website of its own, and this page links you to that:

I think at some point I will delete this page, and simply make do with the European Union of Imaginary Authors website, which I have also updated, and which you may find here:

(There are separate pages on fictional poets, and links to some recent updates, concerning this project that is clearly not exhausted yet.)

Back to ‘my’ website! The ‘Criticism’ page – its title is slightly ambiguous, given my own work as a critic – contains quotes from, and links to, some accounts of my work, and begins with an account of The Robert Sheppard Companion. I’ve checked over all the links:

 Talking of links, the page ‘Online Works’ is probably the most extraordinary (and I know others would simplify this layout). It is a very large page of links to my online poetry, poetics and criticism, video, audio and textual. In effect, it’s a ‘Selected Writings’, only it’s not been ‘selected’. ‘Assembled Writings’ might be a better way of putting it. It’s worth a long dwelling over:

(I’m tempted to include this list somewhere on this blog too!) 

Collaboration has been something I have undertaken with a variety of artists and writers, and I outline that here, while also pointing to where I have written about collaboration as a critic:

Sunday, July 10, 2022

My reading at the English Futures Saturday 9th July 2022 (set list)


 Last night I took part in 

Dali Muru and the Polyphonic Swarm (formerly FITH) + Poetry Special Bill (ie. 3 Poets)

at The Grosvenor Auditorium (G.17), in the Grosvenor East building of Manchester Metropolitan University, on the Oxford Road, at :, part of the English Futures conference. 

This event was open to the general public, not just to delegates of the conference, so there was a mix between some local Manchester poetry people, delegates to what sounded like a positive conference (at a time when English is under attack, as one of the 'low-yielding arts degrees' that one of my poems spoke of), and friends of Grace Atkinson!

Here's what I wrote about my reading last week. Of course, having written 2 and half volumes of sonnets that have tracked political events (as well as transposed our strong sonnet tradition in English) , I know that a week is a long time in writing political poetry, but, boy, I didn't expect to lose Bo quite so quickly. I have been wondering whether there isn't one more poem to write, but the poem I ended the reading with still suffices. This is news that stays history. Still, as long as there is hubris, there's hope! I wrote:

 I shall be reading as part of this Poetry Special Bill: Three poets join forces showcasing what the organisers call the best innovative and experimental poetry, introduced by Nikolai Duffy, poet, critic and lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

I shall be reading briefly from my books published during the Pandemic, and at more length from poems written during that period, in what will be my first solo reading for quite some time. (I am still reading my diaries through and before the Pandemic I was reading somewhere every so often, usually every few weeks. That feels like another world, but one I should like to revisit.) The last reading I did is recorded here, with set list and links, just before it all blew off: Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Broken Spine reading, Southport (set list). 

It was satisfying to find I could still do it! Even with a cough for unwanted punctuation!

Of course, Coronavirus also took over as the main subject of my sequential re-writing of the English Sonnet Tradition, though Boris Johnson (Bo) remains the focus that he gradually became in Book One, The English Strain, and Brexit grew into a theme (it is but mentioned in passing in one of the earlier poems). Bo (and these two twins) has steadily been the poetic focus (the genius, even) throughout Books Two and Three (Bad Idea and the unpublished British Standards). There's loads on this blog about this project. Best starting point is: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (


Selecting what I’m going to read has taught me that Bo is the gift that just keeps on giving! I also wrote last week. 

As I jokily explained before I started reading I'd half lost my voice (a cough, not Covid) and my subject matter. In the time between selecting what to read and the gig, Bo had 'resigned'. How differently the poems sounded. But they still sounded OK to me (despite the croaky voice). These are the notes I spoke from:

For some time I have been obsessed with the innovative sonnet, and more recently making versions, overdubs, unthreadings, or transpositions of traditional English Petrarchan sonnets, and I have found myself working through Petrarch, Milton, Wyatt, Surrey, Charlotte Smith, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and also Michael Drayton. The first group are published in The English Strain, the Drayton versions in Bad Idea. Both books are on sale tonight.

Here’s one from The English Strain. You’ll see that it picked up a theme: Brexit! This is Elizabeth Barrett Browning recast into the voice of a certain politician’s fictional put-upon and unforgiving mistress in 2018: and then I read one of them. (See here for a different one: from Non- Disclosure Agreement: Brazilian Sonnets | Stride magazine)

In Bad Idea I decided to (largely) continue the Brexit theme and the whole book transfigures Drayton’s 1614 sonnet sequence Idea. That’s the name of his dark-lady muse. Bo is my name for you know who. Here’s a 2019 version of the famous anthology piece: ‘Since there’s no help…’ (See here for different ones: Sonnets from Bad Idea | IT (

I want to read from book three, British Standards, where I turn my transformational attentions to the Romantics. There are versions of Mary Robinson, John Keats, John Clare and Shelley in clusters as well as some individual texts by Langdon and Coleridge, Mary Tighe and Horace Smith, and more. BUT I am going to read most of one section, 13 of the 14, my Wordsworth variations, which trace the hubris of Brexit ‘getting done’ colliding with the ill-preparedness for Covid 19. They were written February and March 2020. Wordsworth’s were mainly written 1802-3, and concerned his return to France, which was, and is, it is worth pointing out, in Europe!

(I write about the 'Liberties from Wordsworth' sequence here: Pages: The last of my Wordsworth versions in 'British Standards' (Book Three of 'The English Strain') ( and here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Wordsworth’s Sonnets Transposed for the 21st Century appears on Zwiebelfish! And here's a sample video, of a poem from the sequence.)

‘Poems of National Independence – Liberties with Wordsworth’ | IT ( takes you to the texts of a couple more, published by International Times. 

Fast forward to March this year, I told my audience. I almost ran out of sonnets, but events permitted me to venture into European Romanticism, and I completed the book by remoding a non-English sonnet that refers to the area of Europe we now call Ukraine. This is the last poem of the book. My last poem tonight. Thanks for listening… 

And I added: 'Thanks for laughing!' because it was a knowing, attentive, and responsive audience (which I couldn't see from the stage). And I very much enjoyed reading, had no nerves, in fact. Bravo! Back on form, back on stage! I write about that final poem (as I said, despite the political upheavals going on at the moment, it's still the final poem of the book(s)) HERE: 

The rest of the bill (I read first) was:

Grace Atkinsonan award-winning poet from East London. She has had poems most recently published in Stand, Dazed, The North, Poetry Salzburg Review, amongst others. She energetically launched her new Like This Press pamphlet, and demonstrated a variety of modes from lyric to found text.  

Sarah Cave, a writer, academic and editor at Guillemot Press and has published two full-length collections and several pamphlets, artists’ books and collaborations. Sarah performed a fascinating ritual-poem about Jesus' sister (who seemed at certain points to transform into a cat). Fascinating work. I have here Like Fragile Clay still to read. 

Dali Muru and the Polyphonic Swarm sit in the middle of a Venn diagram consisting of medieval inspired troubadour poetry, cinema soundtrack and primordial electronics. Initially known as FITH formed in Berlin by the duo writer/filmmaker/vocalist Dalia Neis, and the composer/producer Enir Da, their project expanded to become a revolving collective of musicians and poets spread out across a Paris/Manchester/Berlin axis. 

The trains back to Liverpool (the one bringing us caught fire on the way and turfed us at at Newton-le-Willows) were erratic, so we managed to catch a very slow train,  and had to miss this last part of the evening. Thanks everyone, particularly Nikolai Duffy for compering (AND for reading his illustrative prose poems between each act!).

This was a fringe event for English: Shared Futures 20022, which aims to celebrate and explore the discipline’s intellectual strength, diversity and creativity and explore its futures in the nations of the UK and across the world. 

Friday, July 08, 2022

Robert Sheppard: Wordsworth’s Sonnets Transposed for the 21st Century appears on Zwiebelfish!

Of course, I know that other people have transposed, overdubbed, ‘translated’ and generally re-fitted poems before me (and I’m pretty convinced they will after, as I now turn away from these procedures). Indeed, the first part of my probably finished ‘English Strain’ project, ‘Petrarch 3’, still available separately in the lovely Crater edition, openly acknowledges both the work with Petrarch that Peter Hughes and Tim Atkins attempted, indeed arose out of my studying them, but it also acknowledged fraternal and influencing models, such as Harry Mathews’ ‘Trial Impressions’ and Nicholas Moore’s Spleen. (See here for a batch of such practices: Pages: Peter Riley on my Petrarch 3 and other 'expanded translations' ( .)

 (AND I shall be reading them tomorrow in Manchester: see here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Reading in Manchester on 9th July 2022 : details and musings)

Here is another: Refuge from the Ravens: New Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century, which takes for ‘inspiration’, if that’s not too passive a word for such re-functioning (it is too passive a word for this), Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads. It is not the work of a single individual, but comes from Zweibelfish, ‘a new arts organisation set up in 2021 to work in collaboration with marginalised people, especially people affected by homelessness.’ Their website is here: Home page – Zwiebelfish.

Phillip Davenport (one of the three directors), an old friend from Manchester and Bury connections, and one of the poets to read at our curtailed front room reading series, Collected Works, became aware that I was ‘doing’ Wordsworth (some might say ‘doing Wordsworth in’!) in the British Standards part of the ‘English Strain’ project. (I’ve written about that a lot on this blog, but here’s a handful of links specific to the 14 sonnets from 1803 by Wordsworth that got the Sheppard treatment, some of them with videos of the poems: 

Pages: Poem from 'Poems of National Independence' talking to the dead (Wordsworth) on STRIDE today (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: Two transpositions of Wordsworth from British Standards published on International Times

Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote my final transposition of a sonnet by Wordsworth (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: my recent 'Wordsworth' transposition is published by New Boots and Pantiscracies

Pages: Real beginning of new series of 'liberties' taken with Wordsworth's sonnets (temporary post of The English Strain' series) ( Not all of these have been linked to much before and they are different from the ones on Zweibelfish!)

Phil sent me some materials from his workshops and writing sessions with his homeless writers and asked me for a sample poem (and video) and to say a little about my project, and to compare to his. The poem is my version of England! The time is come when thou shouldst wean, which begins ‘Britain, the time is now to wean yourself from’, which indicates a little of how I overdub.

My piece is entitled Wordsworth’s Sonnets Transposed for the 21st Century, (probably soon a book) which borrows from the Zwibelfish title, and I express my ‘awe’ at their giving voice to the marginalised of the new homeless of the Wordsworth’s beloved North West, as well as outlining what I was up to.

You may now read that HERE: Transposed! Robert Sheppard – Zwiebelfish

Thanks to Phil for asking me and for posting me! If I’ve done anything, I hope I call attention to his project, and to the myriad ways that transposition can work, including with groups – and groups of marginalised people. They produced art and song too in response to Wordsworth.

‘The English Strain’ is in three books, two of them published so far, The English Strain (Shearsman, 2021) and Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2021). I talk about thinking I’ve finished the project (I had a few more poems to add, in fact, but don’t worry about that here:

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Refractive Pool Exhibition at the Walker Gallery (and my text from Micro Event Space)

 I was blogging about my upcoming reading on Saturday the 9th (see updates to my last post), relieved that my radiotherapy won't begin until after that date, and I lost all sense of time. We had to rush to the Walker Gallery to see the current painting exhibition (again), Refractive Pool. This time to hear David Jacques’ excellent talk on his work, all monstrous pipes and evil oil, and intimidatingly huge. Pete Clarke was there, as was Mary Prestige, and as was Louis Jeck Prestidge, another contributor. Pete confirmed that some of the words on his four paintings, four versions of one ‘deconstructivating’ building are mine (unacknowledged). Here's an earlier piece of his using that poem, 'Arena Area':


Here are two sections that I recognised. (Famously, I arrived one day at Pete's house to face a painting upon which that I failed to recognise my own words!)



parked in the park forever


a darkness that darkens the lungs

concentrated pitch









          blistered skin where windows

never blink


See here for this poem, as it appears in other paintings by Pete, and in my Red Ceilings publication Micro Event Space. Pete also provided the front cover image:

 There’s more about Pete here: Pages: Pete Clarke's new catalogue and our on-going collaborations ( and here:

Refractive Pool is a project that was established by Josie Jenkins and Brendan Lyons to document and celebrate contemporary painting in Liverpool. The exhibition, features a number of painters I know: Pete Clarke, David Jacques, Louis Prestidge Jeck, and Bernadette O’Toole, (who I met up with to discuss Mallarme, in what seems another world, pre-Covid). Even being in an exhibition space seems strangely fresh. Another return trip will enable me to concentrate on those many others. Rather splendidly, the exhibition is on until January 2023.


 Here are two videos about the exhibition (and about the book, deliberately not a catalogue, accompanying it, with a painterly poem by Paul Farley). The first is a sweep across the images; the second has the curators talking about the exhibition and painting in Liverpool.


Monday, May 16, 2022

My transposition of a sonnet by John Clare, from British Standards, is published on Beir Bua

I’m pleased to say another poem from British Standards, a ‘transposition’ of the poems of John Clare, the first of that set to appear, as text, I think, is published in Beir Bua. 

here: I love to see the old heath’s withered brake by Robert Sheppard – Beir Bua Press

Thanks to the noble editors involved. And you can check out the rest of the contents: journal – Beir Bua Press

Unthreading John Clare’s poems once or twice turned me into a bona fide animal poet (as the lockdown turned me, and everyone, into a bird watcher (and listener: the (possible) song thrush that appeared at 4.00 each afternoon finds his or her way into another Clare transposition, as do more common blackbirds, into another, with their ‘chup-chup’!)).

Here I am with a ‘flash of yellow-green’ in my borrowed hat reading the poem I love to see the old heath’s withered brake (or its draft) on the day I wrote it, 16th December 2020, looking daft for my draft, as it were:


It was my habit (ritual is a better word) to make one of these little videos and post them on this blog temporarily for a few days to signal the progression of the work. (And, it strikes me now, it was a way of dealing with the lack of public poetry readings during that period, though I would have done it anyway.)

 A few words on the reference to Audubon's robin: 

On the fallen ash stump, a

robin poses, without sharp

trill, all life in its eye –


out of the generation that

love-struck Audubon


sketched here, snatched

in a line’s quick fling.


Here’s a different robin (I think, though it could be the one he sketched at Greenbank) painted by Audubon:


Although the Victoria Gallery was closed to the public when I wrote the poem, I remembered seeing in an exhibition there that Audubon had stayed in Greenbank House, which is just a few minutes’ walk from where we live, with the Rathbone family, and that he was love sick while there, AND that he had drawn a robin. I couldn’t re-visit the gallery, but I could have found it all online here (but used my memory of earlier visits instead):

Audubon Gallery - Victoria Gallery & Museum - University of Liverpool

The story of Audubon in Liverpool is told here:

John James Audubon - Victoria Gallery & Museum - University of Liverpool

(He’d also turned up in my reading of Denise Gigante’s The Keats Brothers. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 2011, where he diddles George Keats out of all the money he and brother John had tried to extract from their ‘benefactor’. So he fluttered across two of my poets in British Standards).

The dedication to Christopher Middleton benefits from explanation. Often thought of as one of our great experimentalists (correctly!) he was also a great writer of animal poems, and I was thinking of his poem ‘How to Listen to Birds’, with its terrific, and suggestive, ending:

It modifies the whole


Machine of being: this

Is not unpolitical.


(Neither is my poem, I'd like to hint.) I have written about Middleton a number of times on this blog, and off it too, and this link will take you to one of those with spiders’ web links to other posts: Pages: Christopher Middleton (1926-2015) i.m. ( Here’s my take on his poetics, on ‘measuring experience’: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Inaugural Lecture PART 2: Measuring Experience (on Christopher Middleton).

 ‘British Standards’ is best described here:Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (  where you will find links to other magazine appearances of parts of the unpublished 'book'. I transpose sonnets by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Mary Robinson, Shelley, Keats and others, as well as Clare.

 ‘British Standards’ is also Book Three of a longer project of refunctioning traditional English sonnets, called ‘The English Strain’.


Book One of ‘The English Strain’, and Book Two, Bad Idea, are reviewed here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (