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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Summer Reading and Summer Wear!

I introduce my three recent books (too many in one year, probably!) here: History or Sleep, Words Out of Time (there's a new review of that one here) and Unfinish (there's a new review of that here).

I also announce there my elegiac pamphlet The Drop.

And Scott Thurston’s surprise tribute volume for my 60th birthday An Educated Desire (that’s why all those books were coming out, I remember now)! This book is also a kind of complement to the Sheppard Symposium to be held at Edge Hill next year, an event I am looking forward to, but which I will be only attending in the evening to read poems (I want the speakers to be able to express themselves freely about the work.) See here.

Then there are the very recent merch, ‘avantgarters’ from Zimzalla (see here), as well as a number of poems appearing in journals and magazines, chiefly (web-accessible), poems in The International Times (see here).

A short story in The Best British Short Stories 2016 (see here) makes me feel I ought to write some more fiction. (As did the payment for publication.). It's actually a part of Words Out Of Time (see here for a new review that quotes part of it).

Coming up soon are my 14 Petrarch variations (see here) and the critical volume The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry (see here for the hub-post for this project, tracing its development). The Portable Poetry Workshop, out in October, contains my chapter on radical and experimental forms. 

There are some other plans, the most concrete being the near-completion of the collaborative ‘European Union of Imaginary Authors’ project, which became so topical (and still is) during the Brexit days. See here for a hub-post.

I try not to blog in August. See you soon...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Robert Sheppard: The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry, 1945-2010 (me, it, and a writing exercise)

As an antidote to the subject of this post, I was pleased to find myself mentioned in dispatches in a new critical volume, edited by critic (and passionate anti-Brixeteer, if you follow Twitter) Edward Larrissy, called The Cambridge Companion to British Poetry, 1945-2010, as a critic (The Poetry of Saying and When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry both get listed, and I'm quoted once, and as an editor (Floating Capital: New Poets from London) but also as the Main Thing, as a Poet. (Capitals mine.) Simon Perril, in his compressed piece ‘High Late-Modernists or Postmodernists? Vanguard and Linguistically Innovative British Poetries since 1960’, mentions both Twentieth Century Blues in terms of the problems of the long poem (a whole paragraph), and Warrant Error (at last) is listed with other works that deal with the Gulf and Terror wars and he concludes that ‘it is a little observed fact that British vanguard poetry since the eighties has offered some of the most insightful and adventurous war poetry’… Thanks Simon. (Read about his creative work here.)

Sweeping the index I found no references to Lee Harwood, which was saddening and Bob Cobbing only gets one mention as bookseller and publisher. But otherwise, the coverage looks wide. As I said, it’s a new book, and it’s only just arrived. But by the evening I'd read half of it. Some great chapters, although Cornelia Gräbner's piece on performance is the one in which Cobbing gets not much of a mention even though he is absolutely crucial to the development of performance and sound poetries (no ABC in Sound!) (despite there being a list of later women poets, like Maggie O'Sullivan, who directly worked with Writers Forum - note no apostrophe). There was no cultural mandarin called Brian Mills. The critic means Barry Miles - and Dave Cunliffe's Poetmeat (I thought Tina Morris was also involved) hailed from Blackburn, not Blackpool... (See Geraldine Monk's Cusp, which Simon mentions.) These are localised irritations in an otherwise great book.

See my takes on Cobbing here and the British Poetry Revival here.

More details on the book here. Odd: it says it was published 2015: my paperback says 2016.

Today's Writing Exercise (I'm gearing up for a bit more fiction-writing)

Even though he'd declared himself the Scott Walker of criticism, the Greta Garbo of reading, the Howard Hughes of literary theory, he couldn't believe his eyes. Barry Miles - the 1960s hustler and diarist - had become Brian Mills in this account of the Indica Bookshop, Dave Cunliffe's Blackburn had become Blackpool, and Bob Cobbing merely ran a press whose name had acquired an apostrophe that had been typographically dispensed with in its earliest years.

He threw the book down. (Actually he didn't; he placed it down gently. There were more precious pages than these in it.)

How many other mistakes did the chapter contain? To not realise the role of Cobbing in 'performance', the ostensive subject, was more than the carelessness suggested by the first two errors - this was a woman who couldn't read her own handwritten notes was his most generous construction of the disaster - it was a dereliction of the duty of the critic.

Had he never made such errors?

He had, but never so egregiously, he hoped, and he'd always noticed in time. 'The role of the critic is a holy office at the altar of books,' he found himself writing on his blog, poking 'Update' with more force than he'd intended.

Come on, he didn't believe that, surely? In fact, seeing his own book, The Forms of Meaning, through the press (somewhere he feared there was a de Bollas' he skimmed doing the index that he couldn't remember correcting in the proofs), he realised that this was the last book of literary criticism he intended to write (excluding collections of fugitive pieces and blog-posts). It was the last book with a thesis and theme. Walker, Garbo, Hughes.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Storm and Golden Sky summer reflections

Storm and Golden Sky last night was a great success: Lauren De Sa Naylor and Nathan Walker.  This reading was part of the 2016 Liverpool Biennial Fringe (though none of us is quite sure how that came about).

This is the last reading of the season. 

 Here's the line-up for Autumn 
·  Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee on 30th September
·  Andrea Brady and Yvonne Riddick on 28th October
                ·  Linda Stupart and Allen Fisher 25th November

I usually delete the posts/adverts for the readings once they have been , but I want to preserve Nathan Jones' excellent image for this gig: 

Another task is to assemble a list of our readers to date. I have false memories of people reading and who haven't and I also think some people haven't read yet and they have. It's to get a sense of history... How long have we been doing them? I'm not even sure.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Wolf 33: EUOIA poem and review of History or Sleep plus other pieces

See here for details of The Wolf 33, which contains a poem by Eua Ionnou, the European Union Of Imaginary Authors poet Kelvin Corcoran and I invented. (Read her biography here.)

There is also another review of History or Sleep: Selected Poems by Nikolai Duffy (which I like a lot). Details here, on the Shearsman site, and an account of the launch here (with links)

And (I haven't finished reading this issue yet) there's Christopher Madden's extended piece on addressibility, 'Lyric Voice and You' (which can be read on The Wolf website here).

So thanks to James and Sandeep and Nikolai and Chris.

I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology.  It will be called Twitters for a Lark and will appear in June or July, in time for the EUOIA evening at The Other Room, Manchester.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Robert Sheppard's Avant Garters on sale in the Zimzalla Avant-objects Series

Robert Sheppard doesn’t often design garters nor does he usually compose monostichs. But he saw a pair of eighteenth century garters in a Lancaster museum with mottos embroidered on them and thought he could produce monostichs (one line poems) for a modern pair. He hadn't thought of them actually being manufactured. Neither had he realised that this ancient garment/moral instrument had endured into the current age in wedding lingerie.

No matter: he offered the erotic poems to Tom Jenks for his Zimzalla series and Tom (ever the resourceful craftsman as he has proved with this varied series) set to work. You can just about read some of the words in the photo above.

This is the result:

Robert Sheppard – Avant Garters poetic hosiery wrapped in gold paper and sealed with wax.

buy here or visit Zimzalla page here.

£6 within UK; £8 elsewhere.

Other recent and, frankly, more orthodox Sheppard publications (books of poems mostly) may be read about here

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Robert Sheppard and Pete Clarke: Images of Exhibition in Duesseldorf

Am Ende ist es Poesie: a recent exhibition of art relating to poetry at BETONBOX in Duesseldorf (deep in the heart of Europe)

Pete Clarke has collaborated with me (I have collaborated with him) on making a number of prints over the last few years and I posted images from our Edge Hill exhibition here and here. A later work for the Print Bienniel in Krakow may be viewed here and Pete's own website is here. One was a runner-up for the Adrian Henri Prize.

In der Betonbox positionieren sich zeitgenössische Standpunkte mit eine Perspektive auf die Poesie. So stellt sich im Rahmen der Düsseldorfer Poesietage auf dem Dach des alten Hochbunkers die Frage, was ein aktuelles Verständnis von Poesie sein kann. Am Anfang der Veranstaltungsreihe steht die These 'Am Ende ist es Poesie'[..]
From Georg's photos these seem to be three exhibited (or versions of them; remember they are prints)

Vernissage: Samstag, 11.06.2016, 20 Uhr
Performance Abend: Montag, 13.06.2016, 19 Uhr
Finissage: Sonntag, 19.06.2016, 11 - 17 Uhr

Pete Clarke submitted some of the pieces he and I worked on and Georg Gartz, a fine Cologne artist with whom Pete also collaborates, kindly took these photos of the prints shown above in situ:

Pete's three exhibits

Other participants (with links) include:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Robert Sheppard 'Untitled' from the sequence 'It's Nothing' published in the International Times

Read the poem, 'Untitled' here.

This sonnet (a domestic poem with a political edge) comes from a series of 14 called 'It's Nothing'. Another poem from the same (the first published poem with the word 'Brexit' in it? Maybe, but not the last, despite its title), 'Last Look', also appeared in The International Times: here. (Here are some other poems that use the word 'Brexit'.)

Thanks to the poetry editor, Rupert Loydell. And to the illustrator Claire Palmer.

See my previous sonnet in International Times here:
(‘Avenge’, another sonnet, a contrafact on Milton’s ‘Avenge O Lord…’, and featuring elements concerning the (female) Yasidi resistance to IS, is not from 'It's Nothing', but belongs to a connected sequence, 'Overdubs'.)

And the one before that, not a sonnet (!) here:
(‘Workless Washday’, a birthday poem for Frances Presley).

Another related sonnet sequence Petrarch 3 is now in print, see here and here.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

BREXIT poetry magazine online now

A new pdf BREXIT magazine, BORDERS KILL, edited by David Grundy and Lisa Jeschke, is now available at the following link. I have a (rushed, unfinished, onlyhadamorningtodoit) poem in it; so do many others.

There's always this, here, for those who missed the EUOIA (European Union of Imaginary Authors) build-up to the vote.

(The interesting crossover with the Chilcot Report on the Gulf War released yesterday and BREXIT is that both were national governmental acts with no plans laid down with a thought to what might occur after: and there are several other links between them, despite the obvious differences.)

It's also 7th July, so here's reminder of so-called 7/7 here, a poem 'Byron James is Okay', that comes from my war on terror book Warrant Error.


Update: BORDERS KILL is reviewed here, in foreign. My poem turned out to be the draft of a 100 word sonnet (a form I'm returning to after 20 years or so to write another sequence of sonnets for an amassing project, not now called Song Nets). 

Friday, July 01, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Further Thoughts on John Seed: Punctum, Sincerity and Objectification

3.00-ish p.m. I almost doze off, but a magpie on the roof opposite keeps me from sinking under, just as at night it’s a particularly friendly fly, or the friendless sound of S. among his wine bottles, and so I lift my nodding head to the task of facing my John Seed essay. The essay is different from the chapter in The Meaning of Form which treats his documentary poetry as a foil to the increasingly teleologically self-serving poetics of conceptualism, and is destined for an edited volume on After Objectivism which is an important project (and one in which I feel it is important to single-handedly (?) hold up the British end of Objectivism).
Seed holding up the British end of Objectivism!
Previous posts have dealt with Seed (here and here and here), and I've covered some of this material on Objectivist poetics and Barthes' 'Punctum' here, but I'd forgotten that before I started work on this! My hub post (with its links to working notes) to the ‘The Meaning of Form’ project may be read here. (That should be published in August 2016.)

I am working on some revisions I have to make. They are not extensive, but they are crucial and involve the interinanimation of some terms, which I feel might be important for poetics (the speculative writerly discipline that I am more loyal to than I am to the essentially predatory discourse of literary criticism, which I wish to – in the words I used to somebody the other day – ‘go all Scott Walker on’ (meaning to renounce for long periods and not think about it, rather than give up altogether). To bounce back and ‘Bump the Beaky’ only when I want to (or the money is right; it never is). My next two non-creative projects are editorial anyway).

The terms are ‘sincerity’ and ‘objectification’, the Objectivist stalwarts, and ‘Punctum’ (and Studium’) from Barthes’ late and aestheticist Camera Lucida.

The fist pair obviously belong to the discourse of Objectivist poetics and in ‘Sincerity and Objectification’, Zukofsky defines the former quality by saying, ‘Writing occurs which is the detail, not mirage, of seeing, of thinking with the things as they exist, and of directing them along a line of melody’, while objectification relates to ‘the appearance of the art form as an object’. Well-known, if still slightly mysterious locutions.

But I quote Altieri also: ‘For Oppen, sincerity is above all an ethical term.’ Which then opens up to Tim Woods’ own redefinition of the two terms, which I also quote: he recasts the objectification and sincerity binary thus: ‘What this Objectivist poetics calls for, on the one hand, is a phenomenological concentration in its insistence that poetry must get at the object, at the thing itself, while on the other hand, it must remain “true” to the object without any interference from the imperialist ego, dismissing any essentialism and calling for the “wisdom” of love or sincerity.’ As Woods explains, the first involves an ‘ontological poetics’ while the second involves an ‘ethical relation to the world’.

None of these quotations occur together in the way I’ve accumulated them here, but they form a skein of association across the essay. BOTH sincerity and objectification are ethical in these interinanimating readings, though sincerity could be ontological as well. But shouldn’t ‘objectification’ (with its sense of seeing a poem as an object) also be ontological? ‘Only objectification can body forth “sincerity”,' I say, as though this were The Meaning of Form and I were discussing form and content. Yet the tone is more like the ethical poetics of The Poetry of Saying. What am I saying?  

Or again, Woods has another go at definition: ‘Sincerity is that aspect of aesthetic action that respects the particulars of an object,’ reminding us that ‘sincerity’ is not detached, in this context, from the text and text-production, while ‘Objectification … is the “formal” aspect, the poem as object-in-the-world.’

Fine, as far as it goes, and these quotations and their embodied ideas may well have been useful for a discussion of Seed’s documentary work, both early (Manchester) and late (The Mayhew Project and Smoke Rising¸ which was published after I’d written this article).

But in the introduction to Manchester, Seed introduces other thinkers, Basil Bernstein (whose contribution about enjambment is suggestive, but not in need of revisiting) and Barthes.

Of Roland Barthes’ distinction between ‘studium’ and ‘punctum’ which he draws in Camera Lucida (1980), Seed only discusses the latter: ‘Through the individual photograph something shoots out at the perceiver like an arrow, pierces and wounds him.’ He then quotes Barthes: ‘A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)’.

For convenience’s sake, the studium is the studious. The culturally acquired. ..

I like this distinction. Who wouldn’t want the quality which Barthes calls ‘punctum’ in a poem that one has written. Rephrase it yourself, myself: ‘Through the individual poem something shoots out at the reader or listener like an arrow, pierces and wounds her.’ Barthes didn’t say: ‘A poem’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)’, though he did liken its photographic effect to a haiku (so there is an element of poeticality in it).

Then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin’ stupid like: ‘Punctum’ is where sincerity meets objectification. 

Door slam: 15.41. Sunny outside, post summer-shower.

What a promise I’ve made to the reader.

Formulation 1: The shockless prick of punctum is where the ‘writing which is the detail … of seeing, of thinking with the things as they exist, and of directing them along a line of melody’ meets ‘the appearance’ (i.e. its showing) ‘of the art form as an object’.

Formulation 2: The shockless prick of punctum is where the ‘phenomenological concentration in its insistence that’ a poem ‘must get at the object, at the thing itself,’ connects with the process by which a poem remains ‘“true” to the object without any interference from the imperialist ego, dismissing any essentialism and calling for the “wisdom” of love or sincerity’.

(‘Meets’: that Lee Harwood word.)

Formulation 1 re-form-ulated: Punctum occurs at the moment where or when the text which ‘think(s) with the things as they exist’ and which is simultaneously musicated in literary form, meets the coming into being of the art work as objective form. The studium would involve a similar meeting, but without the paradoxical sense that it is ‘what I add to the photograph (or poem, in my shameless re-writing) and what is nonetheless already there.

Formulation 2 re-formu-lated: Punctum is where the ontological sense that a poem encapsulates the thing itself, connects with the process by which a poem remains ‘“true” to the object and ‘calls for the “wisdom” of love or sincerity’. And again: The studium would involve a similar meeting, but without the paradoxical sense that it is ‘what I add to the photograph (or poem, in my shameless re-writing) and what is nonetheless already there.

The second reformulation is clumsy, undigested, but I can live with these, although I believe such formulations lie within the realm of poetics (one doesn’t have to prove them as a speculative discourse), rather than literary criticism (though they have their place in literary theory, if that still exists). (Zukofsky’s piece is, of course, from one of the finest of 20th Century poetics.)   

NB: Barthes presents Punctum as a paradox: ‘what I add to the photograph (or poem) and what is nonetheless already there.’ That makes it dually realisable in the act of reading (which, after Derek Attridge, is an act of making form, forming, on the part of the reader). I suspect this latest essay on Seed wouldn’t resist the onslaught of all that material from The Meaning of Form – hence my trying to isolate these single themes. Important enough on their own, without bringing all that in.

4.15: Time for a walk around the lake in Greenbank Park. When I come back, what sense of it will I make? This:

'Punctum’ is where sincerity meets objectification. It occurs at the moment where or when the text which ‘think(s) with the things as they exist’ and which is simultaneously musicated in literary form, where or when the ontological sense that a poem successfully encapsulates the thing itself, is energised by the process of the poem coming into being as objective form (in the formulating act of reading).

Maybe I’ll have to leave that final parenthesis out (for the reasons expressed concerning The Meaning of Form). Or say it separately:

A more complex formulation than the distinction between form and content, objectification as the process of bringing the poem as an object into phenomenological existence (through the active formulating engagement of the reader); Zukofsky’s word ‘appearance’ is suggestive of this eruption of the poem into existence (i.e, ‘appearance’ does not simply refer to the look of the poem on the page, however important that is for Seed and others). 

And here is another way of reading the poems of the ‘Mayhew Project’ as I call it (and write here):

But the poems also assert a triumphant transformation of their materials, as they capture the [historical] particulars with care and attention, and body them forth in objectified formal structures that carry what Tim Woods calls ‘the “wisdom” of love or sincerity’.

About my recent creative work, which engages me much more these days, perhaps always did, see here.