Thursday, September 01, 2005

Robert Sheppard: The Poetry of Saying

The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents 1950-2000
The Poetry of Saying presents a history and social development of alternative forms of British poetry, still little examined or dismissed, set against the context of the development of the Movement Orthodoxy, those writers who followed and attenuated the tradition of Philip Larkin, even as Larkin’s cultural capital fell. Ranging from the quiet work of Lee Harwood to the avant-gardism of Bob Cobbing, from the major works of Roy Fisher to the still developing sonic and semantic experiments of Maggie O’Sullivan, from the linguistically innovative work of Allen Fisher to the indeterminate works of Adrian Clarke, and covering a number of other writers in the historical chapters, including Prynne, Sinclair and Bill Griffiths, this work is theorised in terms of a poetry of saying, which aims to keep interpretations maximally open. This theoretical perspective, which is balanced against the historicising element, uses Bakhtin and Levinas as its touchstones, and reaches its highest pitch with relation to the work of Tom Raworth, which it argues is ethically open through its textual strategies. Sheppard himself says of The Poetry of Saying: ‘This book has been many years in the making, the critical counter-word to my development as a poet. It includes nearly everything I want to say about British Poetry in the second half of the twentieth century.’ It is the author’s critical magnum opus.

Introduction: Technique: Dialogue: Saying
Chapter One: The Movement Poets and the Movement Orthodoxy in the 1950s and 1960s
Chapter Two: The British Poetry Revival 1960-1978
Chapter Three: Starting to Make the World: The Poetry of Roy Fisher
Chapter Four: Keeping the Doors Open: The Poetry of Lee Harwood
Chapter Five: The Persistence of the Movement Orthodoxy in the 1980s and 1990s
Chapter Six: Linguistically Innovative Poetry 1978-2000
Chapter Seven: What Was To One Side or Not Real: The Poetry of Tom Raworth
Chapter Eight: Creative Linkage in the Work of Allen Fisher, Adrian Clarke and Ulli Freer
Chapter Nine: The Ballet of the Speech Organs: The Poetry of Bob Cobbing
Chapter Ten: Be come, Be spoke, Be eared: The Poetics of Transformation and Embodied Utterance in the work of Maggie O’Sullivan

Published now by Liverpool University Press at £50 hardback. Unfortunately this is long O/P (2014)

isbn 0853238197

See further details available at:

BUT there is a new (2015) e-version at

Some excerpts from Chapters two and six are serialised as The History of the Other on Pages blogzine already, with more to follow, including passages omitted from the book for reasons of space. They start here.

Read Cliff Yates' review of the book here:

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