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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Robert Sheppard: The Anti-Orpheus/Rattling the Bones

The following is an update of the introduction to The Anti-Orpheus, delivered at the Great Writing 2005 conference at the University of Portsmouth on 11 June.

Between 1989 and 2000 I worked on a long project of interconnected poems called Twentieth Century Blues that has been published, so far, in parts, but is due to be published in its entirety in September 2006 by Salt . After this long work I undertook what politicians like to call 'a period of reflection'. Indeed, it had been my practice throughout the project to produce – sometimes for publication, sometimes not – works of poetics that are indeed parts of the project itself. So it seemed natural to consciously write poetics towards what I might do next.

At the same time I was completing a long history of alternative British poetries, The Poetry of Saying. Its central thesis is that there is a poetry of saying that opposes itself to a poetry of the said; but that the modes of openness and indeterminacy in the saying have to be embodied finally in the closedness and determinacy of the said. This ethical distinction is derived from the work of the philosopher Levinas, and it was inevitable that this work should influence my poetics.

Also simultaneously with this was my own pedagogic commitment to poetics as a mode of speculation for students of creative writing at Edge Hill. A previous presentation to Great Writing 2002, collected now in the pamphlet The Necessity of Poetics, argues that poetics involves speculatively casting into the future. Poetics is a discipline, though a flexible one, but more importantly: it is a discourse, though an intermittent, mercurial one. It is a way of letting writers question what they think they know, a way of allowing creative writing dialogue with itself, beyond the monologic of commentary or reflection. It often surfaces in hybrid forms or in the creative work itself.

Poetics exists for oneself and for others, to produce, "a permission to continue". Poetics is a speculative discourse, not a descriptive one.

I believe all creative writing students (and more so the higher the level of their work), and not just producers of innovative forms, should be encouraged to produce such work, but rather than arguing this again today, I want to perform one of my pieces of speculation. It is worth noting that, looking back, some of this has been very productive for me, other parts not so. Or not yet.

I offer this work as an example, not as a model.

I then read The Anti-Orpheus: a notebook, which is available as a downloadable e-book from Shearsman Books. Now moved to http://www.shearsman.com/ws-public/uploads/223_Sheppard_anti-orpheus.pdf (2104)

A further piece of hybrid work, Rattling the Bones for Adrian Clarke has recently been published by Softblow. Recnet work by Adrian (and links) may be found on Page 468.

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