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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Sunday February 16th 1969:

Did a show in the afternoon.

Reading with Forrest Gander and Rachael Allen on Friday 15th February 2019 (set list)

Tonight (last night now) I read at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University, in Ormskirk, with Forrest Gander and Rachael Allen.

It was good to read with Rachael Allen, who has a first book out from Faber, which she read from well, and I liked the way she got inside bodily desire and despair.

It was great to see Forrest Gander again, who is included in the anthology Atlantic Drift, which this evening's organiser, James Byrne, and I, edited last year. He read from his latest book and from new work about lichen and intimacy.

I briefly launched Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch, which is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons, and read from my most recent work Bad Idea, my versions of Michael Drayton's sonnets Idea.

I read Hap 2, 9, 13. Followed by Bad Idea: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, two that will appear soon in Monitoracism, i.e., 9 and 10; then; 17, 19, 'May Albion Never Learn', 26: Despair, 27, 28, 29:

last words: 'Even in fancy, I've betrayed my European IDEA'.  

Hap may be read about here:

Steve Spence has reviewed it here.

here. Thanks Steve.  And that’s recently been joined by:

Clark Allison: ‘One Side Ripening’, Stride, January 2019:

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my 'Petrarch' obsession.

I shall also be reading at the launch of The Robert Sheppard Companion, a volume of essays on my work, at Bluecoat, Liverpool, on 13th May (a date for the diary). Note: I will be reading different work at that reading. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Today's version of Drayton's 'To the Critics' (and dish-cloth fabrics)

You know, if you’ve seen these temporary posts before, that you can read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: hereThat was 100 poems long. But I didn’t stop there though.

The second book of The English Strain is entitled Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea; that’s 64 poems by the way (with the addition of its ‘Address to the Reader of these Sonnets’). I’ve been at it since July 2018, one a week (more or less). Very nearly half way now.

I write a little on this project here, commenting on the project at about a third of the way in.

As regular returnees to this blog will also know I am posting one sonnet at a time, when they are finished (but only if I feel it appropriate in terms of topicality). And temporarily; so there is only ever one at a time on the blog.

Today I had to do something with Drayton’s ‘To the Critics’, with its very odd imagery, and I thought it might be more of a poetics piece than it turned out to be – and I thought Brexit might not make an appearance. It did.

Last night (after the classical concert) (before the Americana gig) at a dance piece at Bluecoat, we met Helen Tookey, who remarked on Patricia’s dress. P replied that it was made from ‘dish-cloth material’. Somehow that (and Helen’s extemporised lament to the vanishing bugs of our anthropocene obscene world) (see, you can improvise!) entered the poem. It also, of course, makes reference to my practice of temporarily posting these poems, in classic self-referentiality.  

This is just the moment to remind you of Patricia and Helen’s collaboration here (and to remind you that Helen, as well as being a well-known poet, is a Firminista: here.) Anyway, back to my poem!

Patricia and Helen in Sheffield
I've worked on the poem a lot, and I've taken out the reference to dish-cloths (reality is just too good to be true when it comes to Patricia's sartorial inventiveness) and blogging. It's a tighter entity altogether:

XXXI: Critical Mass

Imagine some capering ape trolling Idea,
leering over her profile like a Tory letch (one
safe from censure because they need his packhorse
vote). He scrolls my ‘Bad Idea’ file, texts WTF?!
I don’t give one. I tell him: ‘You’re the interruption
that gives this poem form, your resentment its fuel,
as Drayton sheared his critics of sheer vigour,
weaned his wit with milk of their human unkindness!’
Since these sonnets are an impressive bundle,
though every Britpoet leaves rags to dry upon its frame,
why should my Idea be undraped like a dogger
in a Kentish log-jam with this misanthropic mimic?
Up in the air, I’m beyond measure. Below,
the last bug terminates beneath lorry treads.

14th February 2019

Here's a line about Drayton's own resentments that didn't get into the poem:

'(ignoring his grudge about the ‘esquire’ thing, of course)'.

Poor old Drayton is largely out of print at the moment, though I have found a ‘Poly-Olberon’ project online, (the whole epic is online, which is refreshing), and his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ is available online, including the one I’ve just translated above; have a look at both, the latter being:

Drayton, Michael. ‘Idea.’ in Arundell Esdaile, ed. Daniel’s Delia and Drayton’s Idea.
London: Chatto and Windus: 1908. 67-141; online at Luminarium:

Although I am using

Tuley, Mark. ed. Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: Five Major Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: by Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser. Crescent Moon Publishing, Maidstone: Kent, 2010,

a careless book that even misses one sonnet out! 

There are more excerpts from The English Strain in the current Poetry Wales. There’s another on Smithereens as I outline on this blog. 

The English Strain is complete. The latest instalment of it, Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

Steve Spence has reviewed my new HAP: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch  Knives, Forks and Spoons Press   23 pages   £6.50, December 2018, on Litter.

here. Thanks Steve.  And that’s recently been joined by:

Clark Allison: ‘One Side Ripening’, Stride, January 2019:

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which ‘The English Strain’ project into motion.

 Those links again:

Friday February 14th 1969:

I had the stitches taken out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Robert Sheppard: My 14 years of blogging

The little block of raw links below will take you to the posts I made after merely 10 years of blogging, trying to make lists of the best, my favourites (one for each year), the most neglected, etc., and plans for the (then) future. It was all quite fun, quite a lot of work, and is still fun to look at now. If I reach 15 years I might edit similar lists. 

Here's one of my favourites from the last year: a post about my poem 'Prison Camp Violin', which was the Guardian Poem of the Week, here.

For some years now,  I've been blogging fairly furiously, but I have also started tweeting announcements of my content, and this has increased the number of hits. See www.twitter@microbius. Nevertheless, this year I'm also undergoing the insane task of posting my 1969 diary, 50 years on, more or less each day, and the posts still get a certain number of hits despite being not Tweeted about. They are really going to take over the blog when there's one a day. But I've started it now! And I'll finish!

Probably still the most remarkable thing I have used the blog for was writing the draft of my critical work The Meaning of Form. I showed the ‘working out’ of some of the chapters and parts of chapters (along with digressions, caprices, poetic effusions, poetics, and – frankly – jokes) in numerous posts, and they are arranged, for scholar and lay-person alike, at what I call a ‘hub-post’, i.e., largely a page of links to all the posts pertaining to the chapters of the book in its earliest form: HERE. (I think I invented the phrase 'hub-post'.) I was acutely aware that the lay-person might not get a chance of seeing the final thing.

Another of the changes is the introduction of 'temporary' posts. Initially this was a device for dealing with announcements of upcoming events, particularly about readings. Physically, at Edge Hill, I would remove posters after an event, and I began to do the same online. Most, though, I decided to turn into set lists, indicating what I was reading. Like this post about the Ern Malley Orchestra performance I was involved in:

This then extended into the practice of temporarily posting the latest poems in 'The English Strain' project, in short, the poems about Brexit. It seemed to make sense to 'get them out there' as soon as possible, but also to not 'publish' them, so I could reasonably expect a magazine to publish them subsequently. I also post little skits on Brexit too, which are kinds of thinking with the dreadful things as they exist (if you know your Zukofsky). I particularly enjoyed Michael Go's Brexmas message from the dogging sites of Britain (all that will remain after leaving). That may still be read here:

And I've come across wonderful pictures too: thus:

You can read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: hereThat was 100 poems long.

One temporary post, around Christmas, I turned into a permanent post (by removing the poem). It outlines what I'm doing with the sequence:

Some while back I posted this interview with me about my literary blogging. Read it here.

The pre-history of this blog, as a print magazine, may be read here, on what was my first post (even though I moved it later). However, the first edition of the print magazine is now online, and I post links to Jacket2 where it is hosted here. I also outline the complete run of the second series of Pages before it became a blogzine, and finally this blog.

Do have an exploration of what I have posted in the past. Did you, for example, ever read Bill Griffiths' 'Ghost Stories', six of them. They have never been collected. The first of them is here. (Note to self: I need to do a hub post for all of them.)

Me introducing Bill Griffiths

Monday, February 11, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Four sonnets from Non-Disclosure Agreement published on Stride (links)

One part of the unpublished manuscript ‘The English Strain’ consists of versions (‘overdubs’ is the term I use) of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. I read all of the Brownings' love letters, Woolf’s Flush, as preparation, and wrote them in two halves under the title Non Disclosure Agreement. Like others of these poems tracking politics in and around Brexit, the title (at least) was prophetic, but the speaker of the first half, ‘Brazilian Sonnets’, is the mistress of a Government minister during Brexit. The second half, ‘Cake and Eat It Britain’, has a variety of speakers; finally it’s Petrarch himself, coming back to claim his tradition (though not yet in the ones on display here).  

Four of the ‘Brazilian Sonnets’ appear online in Molly Bloom, Aidan Semmens’ fine  magazine, here.

I write about Non Disclosure Agreement here:

More recently, Rupert Loydell has published two of the ‘Brazilian Sonnets’ and two of the ‘Cake and Eat It Britain’ sonnets, but all from ‘Non-Disclosure Agreement’, this EBB extravaganza.. Here they are:

from Brazilian Sonnets

1. A Heavy Heart…: in which a love of bossa-nova invades his dreams; in which she confesses to have written his speeches for him. A grim ending.

2. I lived with visions ... in which there is an allusion to one of Churchill's most disgusting comments (at the expense of Bessie Braddock, Liverpool MP); in which she temporarily wins out over him. She gets the flat. (But of course there's an NDA (see poems below))

from Cake and Eat It Britain

3. First Time He Kissed Me (a poem which is about sexual assault, I should warn readers, a response both to ‘what’s happening’ in our times, and also to the very strange model in EBB’s sequence, which reads like an account of a sexual assault.) She's only a 'half-sister' to the #me too movement, since she's content with the terms of her NDA. Here:

4. Oh yes! They Love Through All this World of Ours: see here.

The mss of EBB's msot famous sonnet which I didn't overdub, thought it is alluded to

 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 whole thing off, including how to purchase Petrarch 3, the stand-alone first part, from Crater press in its ‘map’ edition.

Sonnets from another earlier part of the 'English Strain' project Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch are now published;

see here:

and is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

I’m currently at work on the Idea sonnets of Michael Drayton for Bad Idea, what I think of as the second part of The English Strain. While I am still writing them I am temporarily posting them on this blog. But see here for an account of what’s going on in that one:

Sunday, February 10, 2019