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Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Wolf 35 (poem included but also refelctions of this last issue)

I am pleased to say that I have a poem, ‘Hap 2’ in The Wolf 35, one of my takes on the Petrarch translations of Sir Thomas Wyatt.

See here and here and here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater Press. Read a doggie version here. But these, of course, come before the Wyatt poems. I do read the first 8 or so 'Haps' here on video at the Sheppard Symposium, including the poem published in The Wolf, up to and including the ones just then completed.

It’s sad to say this is the last issue of the magazine but it is good to share it with Patricia Farrell, Chris McCabe, John Wilkinson, Robert Hampson, Antony Rowland, Ilya Kaminsky, Geraldine Monk, along with many other writers I’ve not met, AND a large number of students and former students who co-editor James Byrne have taught over the years at Edge Hill: Adam Hampton, Joanne Ashcroft, Jessica Tillings, Brendan Quinn, and Susan Comer (that's her art work on the cover above).

I’m also sad because I’ve appeared in The Wolf a number of times, and it's become a regular shelter, if not a home. I’ve written two reviews, one of Rosmarie Waldrop (not overlapping in any way with the chapter on her work in The Meaning of Form). That may be accessed here

And one of Christopher Middleton (which is a missing chapter from The Meaning of Form – the reader wanted it removed). I wrote about his poetry of the 1970s, and his poetics piece 'Reflections on a Viking Prow', but revised it for The Wolf; that can be accessed here and here

(Oliver Dixon has some nice things to say about it here. An introduction to The Meaning of Form and links to its formative pieces are found here.)

I have had a number of poems published, including the collaborative EUOIA poem written with Kelvin Corcoran,  the work of Eua Ionnou, (read her biography here.) in Issue 33, that also had a review of my History or Sleep: Selected Poems, by Nikolai Duffy. I write about that issue here.

A Wolf interview with me, conducted by Chris Madden still may be read here. In an earlier Wolf Chris had reviewed Berlin Bursts and gave an account of my reading at Bluecoat.This is the best and most searching interview with me!

So, all in all a long association with an even longer-running magazine, ably edited by James Byrne and by Sandeep Parmar, who has a review of Amali Rodrigo in this issue. Best wishes to them both!

James, in his editorial, promises further activity under the sign of THE WOLF, online. Watch that cyberspace!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: more (or less) of the Keynote about Creative Writing for Edge Poetics part 5 (end?)

Blogpost 5

I’m not as stupid I look. I know that many will have to re-visit what I’ve just spoken but, at least, these demonstrably written words are on my blog, Pages. But I find I can’t say it any other way. (I may leave it out: it's too much, probably.) It isn’t poetics exactly, but it’s a teasing document for my poetics which has an important question for myself: what is the relationship between my critical writing, which provoked it, and the poetics which provokes my own creative practice? It’s not one I know how to answer, but there is a ‘bleed’ between the two, quite interesting for myself alone, I’d guess, but it opens up a general question for the subject of Creative Writing: what is the relationship between literary criticism and poetics? For our undergraduate students this becomes: what is the relationship between their ‘reading as a writer’ exercises and their ‘commentaries’ or ‘reflection’? To this (since I am going to conclude not with answers, but questions) I’ll add: How much of a literary critical perspective do we expect postgraduate candidates to have, when they sometimes find themselves examined with the intellectual instruments of a subject they haven’t sometimes studied, i.e. English Literature? Can poetics suffice? 

I interrupted Blogpost 1 some minutes back, because I wanted to delay its transmission until the end, because it transpired to become a list of similar questions. Ones which have washed around my head for some time and in the busy-ness of modern academic life (I am no ‘slow professor’, to be sure) I had no time to ask. I have time to ask them now, at least.

Blogpost 1 resumed: 

Please find the post here and the second part of it where it begins: ‘I was one of the only poets I knew in say 1980 who had studied Creative Writing. But now, it’s almost a given and there are problems I think; are they building individual careers rather than communities of writers? Do they only read each other?’ Etc. See what I mean: it’s a barrage of questions!

Of course, I will tidy this up, refine discriminations, hone the language, en-wave its rhythms and perhaps sharpen its arguments... Or dump the lot and start again. As I've said before.  

Read all parts of this draft of a keynote (or is it a Key Chord?):

Keynote Part one here:

Keynote Part two here:

Keynote Part three:  

Keynote Part four:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Alan Baker: Not the EUOIA: J.A. Torres Gutierrez (1925-1996)

J.A. Torres Gutierrez (1925-1996)

Gutierrez was overlooked for membership of The European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) in favour of the Catalan poet Cristòfol Subira, and maintained a bitter feud with Subira for the rest of his life. (More on Subira here)

Alan Baker has brought Gutierrez’ poetry to life, and, actually, the man too. Support your unlocal fictional poets! See information on the EUOIA here and here.

Gutierrez Select Bibliography
Canciones / Songs (1947)
Música de cinco / Music at Five (1955)
El legado / The Legacy (1962)
A Las Cinco de la Tarde / At Five O'Clock in the Afternoon (1968)
Medina Ramirez y El Diablo / Medina Ramirez and the Devil (1970)
El árbol marchito / The Withered Tree (1972)
Caminos que andan / Walking Roads (1975)
Rimas y Ritmos / Rhymes and Rhythms (1980)
Vigencia Lejanía / Validity Distance (1983)
Últimos Poemas / Last Poems (1991)

As for the anthology he does not appear in, Twitters for a Lark, my collection of co-authored fictional poets, will be published by Shearsman soon. Another set of proofs have just been read.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Sheppard: More notes towards that keynote at Edge Poetics

I’m now not so sure that I shall simply read these blogposts at the symposium, but I have synthecised a piece on poetics for it, perhaps (I hope, please please please) my last post (ha-ha) on the topic. I need to temper my need to define poetics (but it’s a real need, when we as a practice-led subject have to keep re-inventing the wheel for the powers that be). I’ve nothing to add, really, though I am glad I have co-edited Atlantic Drift as an anthology showcasing poetry and poetics, some of it new, and I would like to present some of that (possibly Zoe Skoulding’s piece) and even my own poetics, but I doubt if that’s entirely possible at the symposium, time-wise, but it might be. What I said I would do is this: speak ‘about why we teach innovative modes of writing’, rather than ‘how’. (I have a piece on how to start writing poems (haiku-imagism-objectivism); and I’ve written a chapter on experimental writing called ‘Taking Form’, but this is really just me writing up my lessons plans, and I hope they have been useful to the profession). Perhaps most teachers of Creative Writing teach what they like (and perhaps find more of what they like through teaching) and it is true that this curious passion (or passionate curiosity) must be the biggest driver in dealing with the basic problem of Creative Writing pedagogy: that our students do not read enough or widely. Our own passions (or our own editing: Atlantic Drift as James Byrne says in the introduction is partly the book we want to teach; and he is) will enhance that. Possibly we’ve never tried to teach reading through writing because we insist that reading should be primary. I’m sure I read most of the poets I first read I did so because I was already writing poetry, but I’ve never said so before. Perhaps there is a virtuous feedback loop encircling reading, writing and poetics that may be initially engaged at any point, should we allow it, even starting with poetics. The important thing is that the energy gets round the entire loop (and then continues). So that’s another potential avenue for this keynote that I can but raise!
            I mentioned earlier that a lot of mainstream poetry writing makes me feel ill, and I mean it viscerally: there are moments in poetry readings when I lose the will to breath, feel a leaden burden upon my genial spirits, as I listen to poetry so rhetorically constricting of its subject matter, so batteringly apposite in its battery of figurative language, so formally consistent and self-confirming, so air-tight as to be suffocating. The lyric tradition, for me, contains enough of such self-regarding artefacts (although they claim not to be artefacts). Yet it is also full of its opposite. As Christopher Middleton wrote decades ago:

To recapture poetic reality in a tottering world, we may have to revise, once more, the idea of a poem as an expression of the “contents” of a subjectivity. Some poems, at least, and some types of poetic language, constitute structures of a singularly radiant kind, where “self-expression” has undergone a profound change of function. We experience these structures, if not as revelations of being, then as apertures upon being. We experience them as we experience nothing else. (Middleton 1990: 283)

Muriel Rukeyser, in her poetics-poem, ‘Poem White Page White Page Poem’ announces that

            something is streaming out of the body in waves
            something is beginning from the fingertips

which asserts poetic rhythm as energy, waves, pulses, surges, which engender life: 

            the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
            something like light stands up and is alive (Rukeyser 1995: 268)

‘Announcing with the poem that we are about to change,’ as she says, might be a way to stay with the feeling of it; its fluidity becomes our fluidity. Its rhythms become our rhythms. (Rukeyser 1995or 4: XXX) The thing is, as Robert Kaufman puts it in an aphorism that I have quoted before in The Meaning of Form: ‘To make thought sing and to make song think,’ (Kaufman 2005: 212) as I believe Maggie O’Sullivan, Allen Fisher, Zoe Skoulding, Sean Bonney, Frances Kruk, Tom Jenks, Geraldine Monk, Peter Hughes, Cathy Weedon and Jeff Hilson, to name ten very different poets do, in their work, some of which I’ve written about critically, others I haven’t. What I’m not doing is identifying the elements of poetic artifice that cause these effects, as I would do, and as I have done, in critical discourse.
My most recent (possibly my last) critical book The Meaning of Form opens with an aphorism of its own. I say: ‘Poetry is the investigation of complex contemporary realities through the means (meanings) of form.’ (Sheppard 2016: ?) I continue:

The pun upon ‘means’ is intended to enact the supposition that if poetry does anything it does it chiefly through its formal power and less through its content, though it also carries the further suggestion that form is a modality of meaning in its own right. If we use the term ‘formally investigative’ of this poetry, we are also suggesting that the investigation of reality and the investigation of, experimentation with, form and forms, are coterminous, equivalent, perhaps not, in the final analysis, to be determined apart. (Sheppard 2016: ?)

I had best not pursue the formalist trajectory of that book as it traces the way forms, and acts of forming (and of losing form) operate in actual poems, following the careful lead of Derek Attridge’s The Singularity of Literature (a book I think all postgraduate students of Creative Writing should read). My identification of poetic forms (technique-spotting!) grounds my apprehension of processes of forming and meaning-formation, as they meet in an aesthetic response which is a material engagement of reader and text, another act of forming which is undertaken by the engaged reader. If there’s minimal engagement it’s not reading (as we might tell our students). 
I am going to read a 500 word statement of intent that may be a statement of poetics, or may be a theory of poetry, I’m not sure. I will display the 200 word version of the statement as I read it.

Read the 200 word version of 'The Formal Splinter' here or here

Read the 500 word version here.

All the thinking of The Meaning of Form may be accessed at the hub-post, one of the most accessed on this blog, HERE.

Read all parts of this draft of a keynote (or is it a Key Chord?):

Keynote Part one here:

Keynote Part two here:

Keynote Part three:  

Keynote Part four:

Keynote Part five:

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Edge Poetics Keynote: a performative encircling of the particulars of poetics

3. I have realised now that these blogposts are my keynote. That my method to get me going, the equivalent of the Creative Writing technique of ‘free writing’, is actually partly the content of my talk, that my keynote is about the process of assembling a keynote. This leads to two thoughts: one, that I have not actually a lot to add to what I have already written about poetics, but that it doesn’t do any harm to repeat myself, and, two, that I have also never said much, because I have never thought much, about the development of the teaching of innovative writing before. So, in the case of poetics, I might as well do, metaphorically, what the blogposts themselves do, which is to link with other posts which have dealt with the subject before. And in terms of the second question, about why we teach innovative modes of writing, rather than how we teach them (interesting questions, true, but essentially a list of things to do in the classroom; remember: I’ve retired from teaching), that question why must also bring us back to poetics, that is, the poetics of the practices of the writing I want to constellate for convenience around the inadequate word, innovative.

So in terms of the first question here are some of the previous writings that I collage to create a performative encircling of the particulars of poetics. But only some...

 The Necessity of Poetics was a text produced over some years, in different editions from Ship of Fools, but it is serialised, in one version, here:

And my Inaugural Lecture here, continues it:

As does my more recent set of definitions, in my piece on Maggie O’Sullivan in When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry. There’s also my piece on the poetics of Pierre Joris and Adrian Clarke which appears here:

And in my thinking for the Introduction to Atlantic Drift here:

Friday, October 06, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Edge Poetics: a Dry Run for a Keynote: a False Start but a True Account

A dry run for a keynote: Edge Poetics: A Symposium on Innovative and Speculative Creative Writing Practices in Higher Education, 04/11/2017 (see here and here)

Apart from a term in 1979 teaching contemporary British poetry at UEA, I began teaching in Higher Education in 1996 at the then Edge Hill College of Higher Education as a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing. I have recently retired from the now Edge Hill University as a Professor of Poetry and Poetics. I have seen a lot of change since 1996, although one constant, except in title, is that I was appointed as tutor of the then MA in Writing Studies, though by the end I was Programme Leader of the MA in Creative Writing. All these changes of nomenclature – a sort of St Petersberg-Petrograd-Leningrad slippage – reveals the unceasing, anxious search for novelty and status, as well as the need for exactitude, in the profession.

I arrived as a linguistically innovative poet and left as one, more or less intact. That name, label, will do, as well as the institutional ones I’ve outlined. Such a term operates with correlatives, such as the British Poetry Revival, Underground Poetry, non-Mainstream Poetry, experimental poetry, concrete poetry, language poetry, performance writing, certain types of eco-poetics, and conceptual poetry (and there are more terms) – I am today happy with them all to roughly denote areas of operation in terms of poetry and poetics. I’ll stay with ‘innovative’ as a shorthand because it is used in the symposium’s title. I won’t have time to shift through these distinctions, which I have dealt with in my work as a literary critic, perhaps more in The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents 1950-2000 than in the recent The Meaning of Form which takes it as a given, and concentrates upon its acts of forming. I no longer define this practice against a perceived centre, or post-Movement Orthodoxy, which operates in the way Althusser says ideology does, though I am not one of those who thinks the divisions between mainstream and its Others have broken down, though they are admittedly more porous. I’ve been less concerned with this issue, because criticism has had to share 21 years with the unbelievable strain of balancing teaching, pedagogy, empty administration, and my own creative writing ‘practice’. I do not have time for poems that, quite literally, make me ill to read or listen to them, when I want to concentrate on my own writing, which I will also mainly leave to one side today. The day will finish with a reading and I hope to give some sense of what I do as a poet by showing it, rather than talking about it.

Let’s stick with names. When I arrived, for my students, I was Rob. Since I was made a Professor – rather too neatly halfway through my employment, in 2006 – my students think of me, initially at least, until they get to know me – as Professor Sheppard. They probably don’t realise that being a professor in a teaching-heavy and administratively-burdened institution doesn’t equate to power, or even influence. Or, in my case, as the institution grew, my diminishing influence, particularly in arguments concerning the nature of practice-led research which I have not been consulted upon for nearly a decade. Perhaps I missed the truth that one has to advocate for the nature of the subject repeatedly, that battles won one year are lost the next. What I call the ‘scribbly ceiling’ – the clear lack of senior managers or heads of department from a Creative Writing background – is probably responsible for….

(The Tesco woman arrived and we unpacked the shopping. Many bananas. Ostrich. Tins of sardines. The Thursday Chicken. The thought that the above won’t do, that it's another cough over the sink. I think I need to get stuck straight in. None of the above is wrong, as such, but it won’t do. As an account of the effects of 21 years at Edge Hill it partly works; as an introduction to my subject, if only I knew what that was, it doesn’t help. I hope somebody will find substance here: it's a true account. The remarks about the ‘scribbly ceiling’ are particularly pertinent. Except where the department only consists of Creative Writing, or of practice-led subjects, I bet there are few HODs from a Writing background if the other subjects are English or History or Film Studies.)

My leaving do: here

Links to Works on Poetics
Below are four very condensed accounts of poetics through the ages:
Part One: Poetics and Proto-Poetics
 Part Two: Through and after Modernism
Part Three: North American Poetics
Part Four: Some British Poetics
And my Inaugural Lecture here, which I seem to be re-tracing in the abandoned piece above.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Atlantic Drift: a second response: Clark Allison

Read here on STRIDE:

On Atlantic Drift, An anthology of Poetry and Poetics,
eds. James Byrne and Robert Sheppard (336pp, Arc/Edge Hill)

A compendium of poetry and poetics with 24 contributors, some US, some European, arranged alphabetically… This collection by Byrne and Sheppard has accumulated a number of statements on poetics, very useful.

And more.

By Clark Allison

The first review by Ian Brinton is here

Here is a hub post to all my other posts about Atlantic Drift: launches and reviews and editorial processes