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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Patricia Farrell's A Space Filled Completely with Matter now published

Patricia Farrell’s A Space Completely Filled with Matter, the performance-dance piece she wrote for Jennifer Cobbing (and Veryan Weston) is now out from Veer. Here.

Some images were published on Pages, including here, here and here. They give some idea of the text, which is sumptuous in the Veer edition.

Another of Patricia's projects (as an artist here), her book The Zechstein Sea here, and her website here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Robert Sheppard: a de-selected poem & The Anti-Orpheus online

Voices Within

Otherword is other-                                                    The new wild order: slice
wise, is wise in the face of                                          certain pages from the Book

the world and the                                                        Of Songs; write or rot. I
word. It turns away from                                            keep another book of unsung

the world to let it be: snow                                         notsongs near my hand, to turn
falls on its own melting.                                              to song, thought’s counterpoint.

Tony Fraser asked me to shave 6 pages from my selected poems, which he is publishing later this year. I will post most of them here (excepting a substitution within A Translated Man of one text for another). This text above is taken from my poetics notes/poem/essay The Anti-Orpheus (which is available online on the Shearsman site here. It posits a Levinasian poetics.).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Robert Sheppard and Pete Clarke: latest prints

This piece by Pete Clarke uses elements from my poem 'Excitation for Pete Clarke' that was recently published in English (see here). These prints will be exhibited at the Krakow Print Biennele in September. Pete and I have been inactive for a while, but we had an exhibition at Edge Hill University in 2013. See links here and here. I talk about the work on my research video, accessible here

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form: new title & new order of contents

The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry

Robert Sheppard

That's the new title. Below is the new contents page. You can see how it differs (and how it doesn't, from the description of the project and links to dry-runs, digressions and drafts of the the chapters, HERE. There is nothing new added, but the order of chapters was changed (and a half chapter on Christopher Middleton was dropped, though published it is here).


Introduction: Form, Forms and Forming

1. Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Poetic Artifice and Naturalization in Theory and Practice

2.  Convention and Constraint: Form in the Innovative Sonnet Sequence

3. Translation as Transformation: Tim Atkins’ and Peter Hughes’ Petrarch

4. Meddling the Medieval: Caroline Bergvall and ErĂ­n Moure

5. Translation as Occupation: Simon Perril and Sean Bonney

6. Rosmarie Waldrop: Poetics, Wild Forms and Palimpsest Prose

7. The Trace of Poetry and the Non-Poetic: Conceptual Writing and Appropriation in Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanessa Place and John Seed

8. Stefan Themerson: Iconopoeia and Thought-Experiments in the Theater of Semantic Poetry

9. The Making of the Book: Bill Griffiths and Allen Fisher

10. Geraldine Monk’s Poetics and Performance: Catching Form in the Act

11. Form and the Antagonisms of Reality: Barry MacSweeney’s Sin Signs




For those who can buy The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry, or order it for libraries, here are the places

Here is some book data:

eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN

Friday, June 19, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form: Thought, Song, Poetics

This phrase from the book, in the chapter on Erin Moure, asserts itself (to me) as poetics, not as literary critical or theoretical language. I celebrate its provocation:

‘To make thought sing and to make song think’. (Kaufman 2005: 212)

Kaufman, Robert. ‘Lyric’s Constellation, Poetry’s Radical Privilege’, Modernist Cultures 1:2 (Winter 2005): (accessed 12 August 2013; no longer available)

Poetics: a speculative, writerly discourse... more here...
See links for other parts of The Meaning of Form project here.

For those who can buy The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry, or order it for libraries, here are the places

Here is some book data:

eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form: minilecture

I use this as handout and lecture to try to get students to entertain the notion that all poetry is staged by form (and I have used it both with Literature and Creative Writing students). Of course, it is parallel in some ways to the pedagogic work I've been doing (see here, but also await my 'Taking Form' creative writing chapter), as well as the academic work I've been doing on form, but it is nice to see it expressed in concise and accessible ways (the equally concise but clenched mode of this and even more of this suggests that conciseness is not always clarity for the neophyte). But they are all singing from the same form book. Access all links to The Meaning of Form project may be had through the hub-link here.


To know poetry is to know poems.
            You cannot have knowledge of poetry until you have generalised your knowledge of many individual poems. I don’t know what the number might be, but I suspect it must be over a hundred. Before then you will only know a few poems and perhaps other people’s ideas of what poetry is (if you listen to them).
            There is no single poem because every poem exists in relation to other poems, between authors, and within one author’s works.
            It is easier to read 10 poems by a writer than to read one on its own because you will gather a more consolidated view of the writer’s works, a more generalised view. For one thing, you won’t have to read myopically, one line at a time, which is a deadly method that threatens to kill the life, the flow, the form, of the whole poem (or section of a longer poem; long poems tend to be shorter ones in series).
            Form. All poems stage their meanings in form. By this I mean: we can only read a poem through its form, the form that made it or the form it makes as we read (whether it uses rhyme and rhythm or is in so-called ‘free verse’). Poems make forms with, and of, sound and meaning – and even shape on the page. All poems make forms, patterns, have boundaries like a skin, that have to be noticed because this is what makes a poem a poem (rather than a speech, a piece of prose, or journalism). You can offer a paraphrase of the poem’s content but unless you pay some attention to the form as you read you are not really encountering its totality, but sneaking round the back of the big difficult thing, like a ring-road around a castle. It doesn’t have hidden meanings or messages: everything you need to notice is formed by form and is in the poem’s form. Actually, you can’t talk about content without talking about form. One is in the other.
            The big difficult thing. Poetry is therefore difficult to grasp in its entirety. Don’t be worried by this. Start your encounter by asking what you don’t understand, what you find difficult, not the opposite. It’s quite liberating to say you don’t (fully) understand something. (I don’t mean difficult content that you can use Google to solve.) One of the reasons that those who treasure poetry do so, is that it is inexhaustible, like a painting you keep finding different things in. Difficult but different.
            The poet Iain Sinclair calls poetry ‘the hard stuff, the toffee of the universe’! None is harder, we are told, than contemporary poetry.
            I have already called reading an encounter. You must enter into the participatory play of reading. The writer creates the hard stuff, leaves it for you to discover, and you must read it actively, picking up on the energy of its form (or the lack of it if it is a bad poem, of course), absorbing and transforming it in your reading.
This implies that you must experience it as a performance. It is best to read out loud, to feel it in the mouth (like that toffee, melting a little) and to make it your own for a little while. You must experience it with a sense of how it unfolds in time, not pausing word by word, but at whatever feels the right speed (out loud or in your head). Don’t stop to ask the difficult questions (yet).
You must learn to experience poems with varying degrees of intensity too, from visceral attraction (or repulsion) to detailed analysis of style, form and meaning, and with different degrees at different times (even with the same poem). You could listen to it being read, and that’s that, or you could spend an hour in an exam writing about it, going over and over it, or parts of it, but still remembering what it felt like to perform it for yourself. To perform its form.                

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Robert Sheppard: How to Produce Conceptual Writing

How to Produce Conceptual Writing

1.      Have a good idea, a good concept to carry forward. Conceptual writing is good only when the idea is good; often, the idea is much more interesting than the resultant texts.’ (Goldsmith)
2.       Work out a procedure.
3.      Carry out the procedure as systematically (even mechanically) as possible
4.      Describe in detail your concept and procedure for your ‘thinkership’. ‘You must insist that the procedure was well articulated and accurately executed’, says Kenny G.
5.      Don’t worry about appropriating other texts. This plagiarism is in inverted commas. It’s ‘plagiarism’ (I.e., it is a recognised strategy of the work.)

Here is a list of ideas you can adapt to your own purposes.

1.      Write down all your dreams and juxtapose with somebody else’s account of dreams or dreaming (maybe a friend or from a book or even Google the word ‘dream’ and collect language). (Peter Jaeger)
2.      Re-write a story or book or TV programme from memory. (Emma Kay) Re-write with the thing in front of you. (One or two exercises)
3.      Fill the syntax of one piece of writing with the language of another. ‘In the beginning was the word’ becomes ‘In the airlock was the alien.’
4.      Take the first page/sentence/word of a text and combine with the second page/sentence/word of another text and so on... (Which texts? Random or not?) (Joseph Kossuth)
5.      Take all news items on one day (or other text). Re-arrange sentences alphabetically (Word can do that). Stop there or: use another technique from this list to complicate it. (Leevi Lehto)
6.      List every book you see (and maybe the time you see it). It’s a bibliography of contact. (Tan Lin)
7.      Amass every document about yourself or another (school reports, dental records, anything that records YOU from the outside). Offer the dossier.
8.      Secretly record a conversation. Transcribe it. (Trisha Low: she recorded confession. Warhol: he called it a novel).
9.      Alphabetalise a text word by word (your own perhaps? De-regulate yourself). (Rory Macbeth)
10. Use a name and pick out words beginning with the letters in a text written by that name. Damn Inn Colchester Kiss England  Never  Scrooge and so on.
11. Each word in a text must begin with the same letter sequence that concludes the previous word. i.e, ‘last staff affect ectomorph orphan’. (Donata Mancini).
12. Read each page or paragraph or your diary/essay/short story in turn and write something else, a detached commentary (Sheppard; that's the basic technique of Words Out of Time, see here and here).
13. Write hundreds of sentences and re-order them by selective or random means. (Manson/Sheppard; many prose texts, as in 12, but also throughout.)
14. Take somebody else’s poem and write your name under it. (Stephen McLaughlin and Jim Carpenter). Take somebody else’s book and put your name on it. Keep the title and write a new blurb. (You’d need to explain this one: what happens if we read Great Expectations as written by a contemporary person in Ormskirk?) (Kent Johnson/Borges)
15. Translate a text from a language you don’t understand: by sound (homophonic) or word similarity, and any means you can contrive. (Zukofsky/Melnick)
16. Write a text using the first and last sentences of every book you possess (or some other useable batch). (Christof Migone) Or in the middles if you like (Antin) Or make a ‘Cento’, a very old technique dating back to Roman times, making a poem using the first lines of another poet’s works. (Hint: use the index of first lines in a Collected Poems)
17. Anagram texts. Use an online anagram machine to re-write a text line by line, phrase by phrase, whatever unit you choose. See K. Silem Mohammad’s brilliant ‘Sonograms’ based on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Compare with Philip Terry. Write many texts with the same letters. (Betts)
18. Retype a famous text ignoring chapter and paragraph divisions; or put on a blog bit by bit, or use Twitter to narrate in 140 characters per day/hour/minute. (Morris/Place)
19. List everything you own, (Bernstein), every trade mark you see in one day (Nemerov)
20. Collect personal ads and rearrange in terms of interest, time, etc.
21.  Arrange all the names of people or places or trademarks or other selected proper nouns, in a (famous?) text on the page where they are approximately in the original. (Parasitic Ventures) Or just the punctuation, or speech marks, whatever works.
22. A list of everything you ate and/or drank over a day/week/month/year. Or some other form of consumption. (Perec)
23. Take lines on one subject from another not about that subject. (All the references to music in a Rebus novel, all the descriptions of countryside in thriller, e.g.) (Rosenfield/Cendrars) Use romance novels to write fake love poems. (Alatalo)
24. Use Google to amass all the similar statements about one place (‘Afghanistan is great’) (Shirinyan). Use Google to find texts to manipulate for many of the exercises here.
25. A text consisting entirely of questions: from sources, or made up or ones you hear on the TV. (Silliman/Sheppard) Arrange the words of somebody notorious as a poem: a killer, a dictator, a monster ...
26. Mash up and sample as many different sources as you can. Assimilate and arrange. (Stefans)
27. Combine the statements of two very different people (like 26 above, only with a second voice). (Sullivan)
28. Devise as many conceptual experiments as you can think of. Don’t DO any of them: make a list of them as the conceptual work itself.
29. Describe an imaginary journey from where you are to the centre of the worst thing that is happening on the news.
30. Replace all the letters in a text (except say ‘t’) with ‘t’. Leave gaps where the t s are.Now explain WHY you did this?
31. Write a long story consisting entirely of paragraph quotations. (Abish)
32. Take a technical or scientific text and extract things that sound ‘poetic’ and make poems out of them. (Antin) Ignore your ignorance.
33. Replace one word that repeats in a text. (e.g. A history book: replace ‘Hitler’ with ‘Dad’ or ‘Bertie Bunny’.)
34. Use excerpts from interviews and attribute the Qs and As to other well-known people. Did they really say that!? (Berrigan)
35. Pick out the words from a famous text and make a new one (Bervin, Philips (cover of Rothenberg-Joris)
36. Lipograms. (Look it up: Bok’s Eunoia).
37. Employ a private detective to follow you and publish the report. Follow a friend and do it to them. (Or, maybe, better not.)
38. Make sonnets (or whatever) out of a famous popular text. (Coolidge’s ‘Bond Sonnets’ from Bond, James Bond!)
39. Collect slogans and catchlines from adverts at great length.
40. Collect the life stories of other people with your name. (Google Whack yourself and your others.) Who are you now?
41. Use word lists to write poems (children’s language, foreign language learning texts, etc)
42. Put the results of any of these exercises into alphabetical order.
43. Write out a novel but only repeat the sentences beginning with ‘I’ or a proper noun, one of the characters. (Fitterman)
44. Take out all the words beginning with ‘un’ – or find something better. (Goldman)
45. Record every work you speak or Record every movement you make or every weather forecast or traffic report you hear. (all Kenneth Goldsmith).
46. List the remarks of somebody stupid. Arrange in stanzas.
47. CHEAT!

The names in brackets refer to originators of the concept groups, mostly drawn from Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing  ed. Dworkin, C, and Goldsmith, K., Evanston: Northwestern Uni, 2011.) There is one reference to Rothenberg, Jerome, and Pierre Joris (eds.) (1998) Poems for the Millennium: Volume Two (Berkeley: University of California Press).

None of the above addresses the question of why one might write this way. My critical account of conceptual writing may be read here and here and here.

See my two most recent poetry books here and here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form; the first footnote and the Last Word

These notes bring together the work on form that I am finishing and the thesis of The Poetry of Saying (and work in previous book and articles, and on this blog) in a subterranian thread.

Introduction, footnote one: In Far Language, my adoption of the otherwise historicising term ‘linguistically innovative’ to encapsulate the poetry I studied throughout may be seen in the context of the poetics expressed in ‘Linking the Unlinkable’: 54-55. The Poetry of Saying offers a tripartite model of levels of analysis of the text: the technical, the sociolinguistic and the ethical (the last of which uses Levinas’ distinction between the saying and the said as ethical discrimination within technical and linguistic poetic practice.): 2-19. In those pages I make use of some earlier thoughts of Derek Attridge, which might be thought of as the lynchpin between that book and this. (See chapter 11, footnote 9.) When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry offers lightly theorised historical readings of ‘episodes’ in British poetry which I hope respect both the nature of poetry and poetics, while using Bourdieu’s sociological schema of fields of literary production, to outline a history of British poetry. For poetics, see most episodes of When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry; my Poetics as Conjecture and Provocation: an inaugural lecture delivered on 13 March 2007 at Edge Hill University’, New Writing. Vol 5: 1 (2008): 3-26; and my blogzine Pages (, which carries a serial catalogue of poetics under the title ‘The History of Poetics’, posted August-November 2009. (See links below.)

Chapter 11, the last footnote: See footnote 1 of my ‘Introduction’. In The Poetry of the Saying (2005) the ‘saying’ is contrasted to the ‘said’ as a positive quality of eternal utterance as against the fixity of saidness, not in a simple and judgmental binary, but in the full acknowledgment that a formally investigative poem (though I did not then use that term) would need to concretise its eternality in fixed readings (which could range from the simple need to print a poem in a definitive form through to the sense that interpretation of necessity involves an act of violence to settle a reading long enough to re-articulate it). Reading for form rather neatly works to allow the saying to sound ever on while any particular forming of the text for an occasion is necessarily acknowledged as a provisional realisation, a product of the process, a said. 

The History of Poetics posts: ‘Part One: Poetics and Proto-Poetics’
(; ‘Part Two: Through and after Modernism’
Part Three: North American Poetics’
(; ‘Part Four: Some British Poetics’

See the rest of The Meaning of Form project here. I shall be posting chapters from Far Language in the autumn and winter of 2015. See here

For those who can buy The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry, or order it for libraries, here are the places

Here is some book data:

eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Bryan Eccleshall's 'Gone':, Bank Street Arts, The Mona Lisa and My Part in Her Downfall

At Bank Street Arts the other day, I suddenly remembered that I'd had brief associations with the place, once to collaborate with a video artist called Jeffery Baker, for whom I produced the poem 'On the Buses', for the 'In Their Own Words' project in 2009, which is now in my book Berlin Bursts, and I also contributed to 'Gone' by Bryan Eccleshall, a project which only exists (now) as the plaque above, which was a response to the photograph of the space where the stolen Mona Lisa once stood, taken in 1911. The poem was probably re-drawn and projected against the wall (in the room where Patricia and Helen exhibited) and the sounds of the inscription broadcast via amplifiers. (I thank Angelina Ayres for describing his process to me.) It is published as part of 'The Motivist Suite' here, on Shadowtrain,but remains uncollected. 
Bryan Eccleshall

from The Motivist Suite

a charcoal moustache floats before the wall

the day swelters the crowds sweat the jardin
beckons with dry air brown grass and water bottles
all the fountains are stop-cocked
the most photographed photograph in history
shies away from our flashes knowing
what we shall never know as it bleaches to a fossil

 the blond moustache twitches above a melting lip

                                                (Da Vinci/Bryan Eccleshall)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Patricia Farrell Storm Reading/ Helen Tookey (poems) and Patricia (images) at Bank Street Arts

Last Saturday morning, 30th May, after Patricia's Storm and Golden Sky reading on Friday (where she read more of her 'Logic for Little Girls' text, and collaborated once more with Joanne Ashcroft) we were off to Bank Street Arts, in Sheffield, so the artists could speak about their work in the current exhibition, we could look at it, and they could dismantle it! It was good to talk to Helen Tookey (Patricia's collaborator in '25 Views of Japan') , Harriet Tarlo and to Angelina Ayres, poet in residence. It was good to get to Bank Street too, since I have been involved with a couple of low-key explorations of poetry and image, which I'll deal with soon in my next post, here.

Bank Street Arts. The work included the pairings
  • Brian Lewis and Andrew Hirst
  • Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker
  • Helen Tookey and Patricia Farrell
  • Angelina Ayres and Beverly (lost the surname)
as well as this year's instalment of the Postcard Poems project. 

Here are images of the collaboration and the talk and reading Patricia and Helen conducted.

Title and thumbnail of all the images

Patricia before the work

Patricia before the work
A page of the work
Patricia and Helen talking about the collaboration
Helen reading the text from the limited edition book

Patricia the Artist

Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker talking about their collaboration (behind them)
A slice of Harriet's text
Patricia dismantling the show
Helen dismantling the show
Helen Tookey lives in Liverpool, teaches at JMU, collaborates with Patricia, publishes with Carcanet, and is one of those dreadful Firminists (the Malcolm Lowry lot) from Liverpool!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry: Bill Griffiths Special Issue now out!

No sooner have I said my farewells to the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, (see here) than I remember there is my last issue, as it were, to come, and it just has, and it's a corker: a special Bill Griffiths issue, with contributions from guest editor Ian Davidson, Bill Lancaster, John Muckle, Alan Halsey, Allen Fisher, Jeff Hilson, Juha Virtanen, and William Rowe (see here for a brief touching upon Rowe's piece, which, of course, I'd read in draft, as a footnote to my work on form, for which see here).

Here you may read about the future of the journal. A big hello from me to Gareth Farmer and Vicky Sparrow, who will work with Scott Thurston from now on. The present and the past remains available from Gylphi, our fine publisher, in the shape of all the previous issues (the special Cobbing one is good as a package too), and you can also buy an online version , and you can even buy individual essays by authors.

That's all here. And will stay here.

I write about Bill Griffiths and form here. Bill also appeared on Pages as a ghost story writer, and his contributions may be accessed from a hub post here. Videos of the launch of the latest volume of his Collected Poems may be viewed here.