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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Hi Zero Reading: Brighton Launch of Words Out of Time (Set list)

Tuesday 28th April: Words Out of Time arrived from KFS. Re-crafted my reading. Patricia’s Space Filled Entirely with Matter arrived from Veer. A double private launch. See here.

Wednesday 29th April: A journey to Brighton, desperately reading Derek Attridge’s new The Work of Literature for The Meaning of Form, an odd prelude to my Hi Zero reading. (See here on that book.)To Southwick to see my mother. My leg not behaving, back in Brighton I walked slowly to the Hope and Ruin which was, as I’d guessed, the old Hope and Anchor near the Clock Tower (which I checked on for my mother to be able to report its continued good health; ghost of the second Virgin Records shop forever on that corner: dark interior, black cushions, headphones). I recognised Joe Luna from his photograph in The Wire and met Francesca Lisette, who read good work well (as did Chloe Lancaster). Lee Harwood arrived, Adrian Clarke, my old school-friend Michael Foy, and sister and brother in law, Vicky and John. But other than a couple of other faces from The Wire, and a poet DJ, who was identified after he thanked me for the reading, I knew none of the predominantly young, vibrant, and responsive audience. Response included laughter, cheering, clapping and whooping. I read the following ‘set’:


  1. As warm up: the ‘Berlin Bursts’ sequence (minus 'Friedhof' poem at the end, a de-selection for/from my ‘Selected’). Read them here.

  1. A selection of texts from Words Out of Time, which I told the audience I was delighted to read since it referenced Brighton, ‘where I come from’, I explained simply.

    1. from The Given part 1 (The ‘I Don’t Remember’ passages); from : ‘I don’t remember David’s bottled fish. I don’t remember Emerson Lake and Palmer playing a tribute to Hendrix, a week after his death,’ through to ‘I don’t remember jumbling the verses of “Travelling Riverside Blues”, our first gig. I don’t remember that Bob Cobbing still wore knitted ties. I don’t remember Jeff Nuttall saying, “This place is death!” as we cabbed it through Norwich. I don’t remember that William Empson had wind.’ At least Michael could remember what I didn’t remember (‘a girl called Annie flashing her tits on Toby’s houseboat’, though he didn’t), and ‘I don’t remember laughing at the statue of the past Mayor of Brighton, with Tony, Tony Lopez and Lee Harwood,’ refers to one day in the 1970s that Lee might remember. But the text is really about the vagaries of memory (I think, also it does build up an (inaccurate) picture of my self. Autre-biogrphy. Read my piece on The Given here.

    1. from Arrival. I examined the background and read one of the two introductory poems:

you limp towards the matinee idol who
mimes my part waiting by the War Memorial
with his flashlight and his notebook


(The following day, visiting my mother again, I read the poem aloud by the War Memorial on Southwick Green, thus giving the book its Southwick launch, to (appropriately) no-one. The poem may be read at the end of this excerpt from Arrival here.)


I read one passage of the prose: ‘ “I’ll forget them not,” he promised, things like Hendrix’s The Cry of Love. I showed him patterns for my needlework. “Stuff the hall,” he said, “we could always dance in the streets.” He sniffed me as I laid a hot water bottle on his wound,’ through to the terrifying (at least for me): ‘After her death I brought a terrible silence with me into every room and I carried her expression like a scar.’

I read the poems, ‘the flickering carriages of the London train’ (a partial translation of Pasternak and a partial allusion to Henry Vaughan) and the final poem down to:

‘His little green men can zip back to his childhood
Zap him Abduct him Adopt him
I want to suck fossils with my dead gums
And speak in a language as slow as geology

So slow you’ll only hear a low o-o-o-o!’

  1. By contrast I read the two versions from Ovid’s Tristia that Van Valckenborch wrote in A Translated Man. This rather tarty reading ended with the appropriate plea:


dear naso

i’ve a scriptorium


scratching out scrolls

by the lisping adriatic i wonder if you’d care

to send me a skinful a bit more a-


more please do it like dean martin does

artificial effortless

and with whinging and whining off stage


I did it like dean martin did

artificial effortless slightly tarty

and with whinging and wineing off stage

(actually there was no whinging!)


Read all about the venue and the regular poets, organisers and associates in April’s issue of The Wire: NOISE POETS. See here: http://www.thewire.co.uk/issues/374, and hear here: