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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form published a year ago today

It's a year since my latest critical volume was published. See here. For a full description and for links. Much of the early thinking occurred on this blog, so look out for those posts too; see HERE  

You can also purchase individual chapters in e-format...

 Introduction: Form, Forms and Forming (see here)
1. Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Poetic Artifice and Naturalization in Theory and Practice (see here)
2.  Convention and Constraint: Form in the Innovative Sonnet Sequence (see here)
3. Translation as Transformation: Tim Atkins’ and Peter Hughes’ Petrarch (see here)
4. Meddling the Medieval: Caroline Bergvall and Erín Moure (see here)
5. Translation as Occupation: Simon Perril and Sean Bonney (see here)
6. Rosmarie Waldrop: Poetics, Wild Forms and Palimpsest Prose (see here)
7. The Trace of Poetry and the Non-Poetic: Conceptual Writing and Appropriation in Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanessa Place and John Seed (see here)
8. Stefan Themerson: Iconopoeia and Thought-Experiments in the Theater of Semantic Poetry (here)
9. The Making of the Book: Bill Griffiths and Allen Fisher (see here, where else?)
10. Geraldine Monk’s Poetics and Performance: Catching Form in the Act (see here)
11. Form and the Antagonisms of Reality: Barry MacSweeney’s Sin Signs (see here)

For those who can buy the book, or order it for libraries, here are the places to go to:

Here is some book data:
eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN

If anybody wants to review it, let me know on

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Empty Diary 2016 published in the 50th edition of Erbacce

I have just (actually it appeared a while ago but the copy has only just reached me) been published in the special 50th edition of Erbacce, edited by Andrew Taylor (see here and here) and Alan Corkish. 

They were both students of mine, as were a number of the invited poets for this special celebratory edition: Natasha Borton (who has featured on Pages a couple of times here and here), Rick Lee, Ursula Hurley, and Jacqui Dunne, among many others!

They have published ‘Empty Diary 2016: Send in the Worms’.

Empty Diaries is a long sequence that ran through Twentieth Century Blues and into the current century's poems: 1901-  and ongoing (again after a break of a decade)! The first eight of Wiped Weblogs: ED 2001-14 appeared in The Literateur. Find them here or here.  The final six appeared in a wonderful edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here.

The 2015 one has a touch of the bossa nova about it: see here: Empty Diary 2015

Empty Diary 2016  has a touch of doing the boss a favour about it! It’s a 100 word sonnet (see here for more on that form) but I cheat since the compound word ‘polysexual-Trumptrampled-sissyslut-feminization’, supposedly from the lexis of BDSM, is used at one point, and counts as one. But to read the rest of this exploration of contemporary sexuality, you will have to buy a copy of Erbacce 50.

Individual copies of erbacce (including this one) cost £4.00 or $6.00. The editors produce four editions each year for either £15.00 or $23.00. You may also subscribe for a year post-free.

Editors: Alan Corkish and Andrew Taylor

Cheques payable to Andrew Taylor should be sent to:

                                         Andrew Taylor
                                         5 Farrell Close
                                         L31 1BU

Or visit the website:

I’m currently thinking about writing Empty Diary 2017. Another sequence of 100 word sonnets, 'Breakout' is in preparation. There is one in Robert Hampson's Purge.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Captain Beefheart Poetry reading/performance: 11th November 2017 Bluecoat Liverpool

The Captain has been here before (as can be seen from this picture that is, in Liverpool anyway, pretty iconic), but a whole day is being dedicated to him, and Patricia and I are both reading (she's the big fan; I'm more of a bluesman, quizzical at his cubist appropriations of the tradition) at the kind invitation of the co-organizer, Chris McCabe.I'm pleased to say we've both submitted our poems for the zine that will be produced; now we've got to figure out ways of performing our very different poems. 

The full details are available here

At the event on Saturday 11th November we'll each have a slot of of four minutes to read our poems (it's a megalist of readers but I'm not sure I can reveal it yet) and also to talk about any aspects of the process, or anything we want to say about Beefheart. I might blow a little of dat harp man (I have Strictly Personal as my album and it starts with a version of Son House's 'Death Letter Blues', by sheer coincidence a song I used to sing with Little Albert Fly) but I have nothing to say. Patricia is also on a panel to discuss the Captain's poetry earlier in the day.

Our event will take place between 5-6.30pm, but the day will begin at 11am with the Beefheart symposium and a chance to see an archive display and films that will run at Bluecoat. There is music in the evening. (The Magic Band is playing elsewhere the night before...)

I'm listening to Raphael Roginski as I type this up. Somehow right. He's playing Purcell...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Atlantic Drift Launch (a short video)

See here a short video about our launch in Edinburgh. It is obviously aimed at students but it does give a good idea of what the anthology is about and about the processes behind getting it published (at incredible speed), and the hard work of editors, poets and interns, all of whom speak so eloquently about it.

You may see it again here, along with another video about the Edge Hill Short Story prize event: with colleagues and students.  

To purchase a copy of Atlantic Drift follow the link to Arc Publications’ website:

Many thanks to Arc for their partnership. 

This is an anthology of Transatlantic poetry - and poetics: each poet offers his or her own writerly speculative discourse. (See here on poetics.) 

Stay tuned to EHUP with its Twitter and Facebook .

It's nice to have got this splendid anthology out; at the moment, though, I'm working on the EUOIA anthology Twitters for a Lark. (See here for an account of the recent EUOIA night, but read about the odd coincidences of working on both books at once, here. One coincidence not catalogued there is the strange purple light that seemed to creep from the Edinburgh launch into photos of the Manchester night a few days later!) This book may be bought (eventually) here:

NB Here are two more videoes, of  Sean Bonney reading:

Friday, September 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard|: Thoughts on Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics Research Group

The PPRG was formed with the hope that discussion of poetry and poetics would further the practice and  thinking behind innovative poetry. It became more than that with the interaction of the people within it. It became a society of friends of the art of writing poetry, which was gratifying. It unconsciously recruited some local writers to Edge Hill's PhD programme. It is difficult to remember a time before that when there was no sense of vital poetry scenes in Liverpool (or the North West) or a thriving research culture at Edge Hill. The PPRG played its part in developing all of this. When I arrived in Liverpool in 1996 there was literally nobody there: Geoff Ward and Sean Bonney had left the city; somebody mentioned a Cliff Yates in Skem. We corresponded. Its current state again combines postgraduates, staff and poets outside the university. It's a deliberate loose fit.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Behind Blue Eyes: John Ashbery and Lee Harwood

John Ashbery and Lee Harwood in 1965

Lee Harwood’s first book-length publication in Britain was The White Room (1968), published by Fulcrum Books. The section collecting the poems from The Man with Blue Eyes, his award-winning New York publication, which appeared from Lewis Warsh’s and Anne Waldman’s Angel Hair Books in 1966, opens with Harwood’s first mature poem, ‘As Your Eyes are Blue’, dating from 1965; while it is influenced by the New York school of John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, a good many of the salient features of Harwood’s subsequent work are also displayed here. (I analyse it elsewhere.) In a short piece Harwood recalls the US volume from which the poem came, and seamlessly moves from outlining influences, including Ashbery, to outlining his own Ashberyan poetics:

There was Tzara, Dada, shaking language up, piling things up, which I’d never seen done before. And Borges - where he writes stories which pull you in, and then he pulls the rug from under your feet. So you’re continually not sure, and you’re having to think it through yourself, so that you are always involved in these processes.I had all that to feed into, but I couldn’t use it effectively in my own writing. And then in the mid-sixties, meeting John Ashbery, suddenly it clicked into place with his approach to writing: that idea of creating a text which is meant for other people to use, and where the ‘I’ and ‘you’ and all that, were floating and shifting around. As Ashbery said in that 1972 interview in the New York Quarterly: ‘The personal pronouns in my work very often seem to be like variables in an equation. “You” can be myself or it can be another person, someone whom I’m addressing, and so can “he” and “she” for that matter and “we”, sometimes one has to deduce from the rest of the sentence what is being meant and my point is also that it doesn’t really matter very much, that we are somehow all aspects of a consciousness giving rise to the poem and the fact of addressing someone, myself or someone else, is what’s the important thing at that particular moment rather than the particular person involved. I guess I don’t have a very strong sense of my own identity and I find it very easy to move from one person in the sense of a pronoun to another and this again helps to produce a kind of polyphony in my poetry which I again feel is means toward greater naturalism.’

‘As Your Eyes are Blue’ is a love lyric, addressed from a shadowy ‘I’ to an insistently addressed ‘you’; gender is unspecified, but certain clues suggest the poem is a covert homoerotic lyric. Hesitancy and textual discontinuity are both evident in broken utterance and syntactic rupture from the start.
The earlier gay lyrics in ‘Early Work’, ‘This morning’, for instance, inaugurate a theme of erotic longing at forced separation that haunts the entire oeuvre: ‘the pain of my leaving/ and my love for you’. This intensifies in ‘The Man with Blue Eyes’, the second section of The White Room, which heralded Harwood’s arrival in New York, thus initiating a transatlantic exchange that continued all of his life. An erotic liaison with John Ashbery (who he met in Paris in 1965), and a more general literary engagement with the New York poetry scene, engendered some of this deeply felt love poetry, including the one I mention above, one of the finest meditations upon clandestine gayness, erotic obsession and separation, ‘As your eyes are blue’, which Jeremy Reed has described as ‘a love poem as important to its time as Shakespeare’s androgynously sexed sonnets were to his’. During ‘its time’ homosexual acts were illegal, of course, something we are aware of in this 50th anniversary of decriminalisation. Note the restraint of the gay poems, not just with their lack of gender markers, but in their focus on detached parts of the body; ‘if only I could touch your naked shoulder’ could easily be read as non-gender specific, or as heterosexual by default, although like Polari (Lee was a great fan of Julian and Sandy on Round the Horne) it signifies to those ‘in the know’.
Harwood’s output of the 1960s is prodigious; 116 pages of the 500 pages of his Collected Poems were produced before he turned 30, in 1969. Exercises in extended New York mode suggest Harwood was in danger of becoming a card-carrying member of an already fading avant-garde. The death of Frank O’Hara in 1966 might be thought emblematic of its demise, despite the rise of the genius of the second generation, Ted Berrigan, and – in the 1970s – Ashbery’s rise to fame. (It’s difficult to remember a time when nobody was interested: but the 1970 Penguin Modern Poets, with Ashbery, Harwood and Tom Raworth rubbing shoulders, was a pariah volume in its day!) Harwood mirrors the insistent jocular name-checking, as well as the casual enjambment, of the school, but utters a longing for a British precursor, F.T. Prince:

Ted Berrigan has met Edwin Denby.
I don’t know anyone who’s met F.T. Prince.
I wish I could meet F.T. Prince.

Ironically, it was Prince – a stylish British poet admired by Ashbery – who issued the warning (when they did meet) that Harwood was ‘pattering on’. Harwood realised the danger: ‘You get a tone of voice going, and it’s very elegant and witty … and then it comes out as yards of material which you just reel off.’ This account is, however, slightly reductive. The best poems in The White Room extend their range beyond standard New York work into fictions about colonial vanity, military and naval disasters, outback life, the Wild West, the Muslim East - Harwood has spoken of these as modern mythologies - and even about the nature of poetry itself. Poets, characteristically for Harwood, ‘only ever fail, miserably –/ some more gracefully than others’, which is at least a better credo than the bitter Beckettian one of failing better, I feel, with the inclusion of that camp ‘grace’.  
One later work, The Sinking Colony, is a poem which offers up those British certainties to a textual disruption so great that they begin to turn into their opposites, into pastoral or romance, while yet the terror still pervades the text, the worse for being undefined. It is almost as although the words are punctuating silence, or scissored page space; it was influenced specifically by Ashbery’s collage ‘Europe’, a text which has tended to embarrass critics who want to turn him into a Wallace Stevens for our time. So in a sense, Lee followed the wrong John Ashbery.
But I also remember Lee Harwood being asked at a reading (somebody must have read an Ashbery poem) why there were narcissi in both poems (from the mid-1960s). Lee answered, ‘We were looking at the same landscape,’ which suggests the immediacy of the writing collaboration.
I only met Ashbery once, and for a brief moment, before a reading was about to begin: I had barely enough time to clock those blue eyes.

Robert Sheppard

PS This piece is a bitzer put together for the occasion but Ollie Hazzard has considered the Ashbery-Harwood (and Prince) nexus in more detail here:

My review of Lee Harwood's Collected Poems in two parts here and here. On later works here; on recent works here. And an earlier gift to him here. A later 'Laugh' with Lee Harwood may be read here.

Access obituaries here. And news of the British Library Harwood Archive here. And a piece i.m. here.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Robert Sheppard: My 'Leaving Rap' for my retirement 'do'

Leaving Rap

As soon as I handed in my notice I seemed to forget instantly why I’d done it. Was it the various petty things that had begun to rile me, in the way that things do, perhaps the longer you’ve stayed somewhere? I wasn’t sure.

I was still in this state when a colleague told me about a survey he had just read: the surveyors had compared the life expectancy of academics who retired at 60 with those who had retired at 65. They found that the latter group contained a higher proportion of people who pegged out at 70 than the former. It was then I remembered a piece of advice given to a colleague from my previous place of employment; his father, who worked in the administration of Guinness’ Brewery in Dublin, said to him, bluntly: ‘It’s the years between 60 and 65 that kill you.’

(I improvised around that theme up to this point, and then said) I’m 61! (and began to read)

Those working till 68 will be experiencing a soft genocide against which you must fight, as life expectancy rolls back.

It is time to look back over the 21 years I’ve been here. Despite the tension between the practice of teaching and the practice of research, which can’t really be resolved unless Edge Hill has a sabbatical system, and which means that teaching impedes research and (it is often forgotten) that research impedes teaching under such conditions, I’ve done all my best work while at Edge Hill:

the poetry, the literary criticism, the poetry organising and editing; the supervision of PhDs, the (too) long Programme Leadership of the MA, the development of BA poetry writing classes, the pedagogy of poetics and creative writing, the external examining and all of that:

much of which I will continue as an Emeritus Professor at Edge Hill (but at my own pace) and I will be around for continuing supervisions and events.

But of course, none of this is possible without some marvellous individual students, many of whom have gone on to do good work themselves,

and to students generally, who have never been exclusively the consumerist monadic egos that they have been taught to pretend to be, by various agencies.

Generally depressed by the Brexit result which has left many of them bereft of a cleanly conceptualisable future, young people have discovered that they are not just individual consumers but that they form an electorate, surprisingly left-leaning, that wishes to scrap tuition fees and loans and even to erase standing student debt. They’ve even been gifted two elections to try this power out, and they’ve got a taste for it.

That makes this moment a potentially interesting one that could stall the growing pitting of student against staff and suggests a more collaborative future for HE

As I put it in a recent poem about ‘one of those days in sovereign global Britain’

(you didn’t think you were going to get away without this, did you?)

There are no students in this poem yet their standing debt
Has nurtured a collective electorate that forms beyond
The ‘envies’ of petit bourgeois consumerism
This semantic field is manured with usurers’ tears

but today I want to thank all of you for coming

for gifts

and I want to say that it is the people that makes work work

and I want to perform a little semi-poetic litany


Thanks, thanks to

A for appointing me in 1996 as Course Tutor of the MA in Writing Studies, suspecting that a migrant from FE would know how to teach, and that a UEA MA might suffice, and for her calm leadership in interesting times

B for his sardonic humour and his ability to win numerous New Statesman competitions

C for his 'wheezes' and our shared love of Frank Sinatra (Sinatra knew how to retire), and for the rational approach to our two-person Creative Writing show

D for being the Man with the News, the spindoctor of those Education lit classes I taught for many years (but also the man who started the MA in 1989)

E for sharing and showing the ropes of the MA, even if she did lead me by the ear across the room in front of the students to demonstrate Peter Brooks’ Empty Space

F for being a fine theoretically-minded colleague, and for possessing the only pair of human legs to be featured on the Antiques Roadshow and who used to stand in her retro 1960s mini-skirt in front of the first years to lecture on semiotics and demand, What do I Signify?

G for a fund of rich lunchtime anecdotes on any subject from animal rights (but I recall his ‘hat of shame’, his animal fur hat) to trains frozen to the tracks in winter near Southport, and for the axiom: There’s no virtue in hard work, which I have taken to heart (as did he)

H for suggesting where we should move to in Liverpool: a hundred yards from her house! And her continuing neighbourly friendship

I for continually popping hilarious cartoons in my pigeonhole and for his vigilant trade-unionist eye

J for sharing hysterical high-kicks before teaching the first years, and for continued (but far too distant) support and friendship

K for sharing hysterical high-kicks before teaching the first years, and for being our first PhD candidate last century

L for sharing hysterical high-kicks before teaching the first years, and for spreading poetics as a pedagogy (and for lots more as a close friend of many years, and one link between this post I am now leaving and my previous one in FE, at the college where he was a student)

M for continuing the two-person show during ongoing understaffing of Creative Writing, and as a close friend with whom I share a lot of bewilderment and laughs, particularly in teaching the MA, and supervising PhDs, together

N with whom I ‘took the engagements’ frequently and occasionally to excess, who is greatly missed, and with whom I shared my literary criticism when we were meant to be rehearsing some songs

O for his maniacal laughter, his fragrant hair, his frequent goading of me, and for his incisively crafted poems

P with whom I’ve shared the supervision of the longest running PhD in the world, with tremendous humour, and for co-organising the one conference I dared to, on the anthology, in 1999

Q for hosting my talk for GenSex which had such an obscene title that it couldn’t be advertised publicly, and for being the second link between this post I am leaving and my previous one in FE, at the college where she was a student also

R, whose surname I could never pronounce, who led the MA opposite, as it were, with an efficiency that shamed my shambling Sheppard show

Comrade S for his leadership when it was needed and for his light, sardonic humour when that was needed (i.e., always!)

T (for example)

I am speechless on the T

(No, I’m not; how could I leave without resurrecting our team building awayday when we were invited to express ourselves freely about the bumper fun activities at the end in One Word, and M said ‘Scissors’ and I said ‘Time (as in a waste of)’ (technically 6 words); but I was wrong: this was also the day I saved the Creative Writing MA from integrating into the super MA he was devising; I used a string of arguments, none of which I believed….)  

U for his quiet ‘thoughtful’ (I’m using the Dean’s word here) leadership in even more interesting times, and for his following me along the escape route; in case you’re interested, the entrance is under that perspex DNA sculpture in the Rose Garden: the tunnel comes out just beyond the hedge in St Helens Road. From there it’s across country to Town Green station as fast as you can go…

V, who has been here longer than I have and has always been a gentle presence, from our first conversations in Sages in 1996 about where to live, to her steady presence now as associate head, particularly dealing with my illness earlier this year

W who has been here nearly as long, and who wittily and animatedly keeps Edge Hill on edge and on its toes, and introduces his unique interests with enthusiasm (particularly, as far as I’ve been concerned, on the MA)

and X (who took one of my lit poetry classes as a student) for her humour (I keep repeating this about people, I know, but it’s important) and for personal warmth

Y, for her annual comment that she’d been ‘writing over the summer’, and for her eventually giving in and taking the MA; colleagues aren’t usually good students, but she was as amiable as her writing is excellent

Z for his compendious knowledge and for his surprising marital connection with my schooldays

AA for her guidance in the ever-baffling world of research, where metrics now means something other than the fixed rhythm of some poems

BB who is my only Edge Hill link with my University Years at UEA: another sardonic voice (note how that term recurs also, a survival strategy); he was also an excellent personal tutor to Stephen Sheppard

CC, whose father in law appeared at our party: What is this music? Van Morrison. I shall return to the other room and listen to Erik Satie

DD, here for such a short while that I’ve forgotten his surname, for his ability to be so drunk and yet still upright as he was led from that same party and squeezed onto a train by EE

EE himself for being Swiss when he was on time and organised, Italian when he was late or bewildered, and German when he was justifiably annoyed with the rest of the world: a true international man of mystery

FF for her (I’m going to have to say it again) humour and leadership (Rodge and I didn’t even need to unroll the Kim Jong-Un joke we’ve been harbouring all year)

GG for having a grandmother who supplies an aphorism for nearly every situation in all our lives, and who offers it on call

HH who can make Rodge blush uncontrollably with his Grinder anecdotes (I’m still thinking about those thick veins)

II whose seriousness, I have to report, is a front: only he knows what ‘womb-lightning’ is, and how and where and why and who it strikes, and for his co-leadership of many poetry activities, including our co-editing of Atlantic Drift (that’s a shameless plug: it’s out on Saturday!), but my great thanks for thinking up a certain symposium earlier this year

JJ who is the first of all the Mohicans in this team  

Patricia for bringing work home with her so that we would actually discuss the progress of our students’ writing out drinking on a Saturday night

KK, the sound rich witch of the ash tree forest, who has taken over the reins of the Poetry and Poetics Research Group, ensuring it faces futurity


LL, who has the dubious honour of being my last teaching colleague on this long list, and who must come round to look at my Bob Cobbing archive soon (thus I end by looking forward and not looking back)

and thank you thank you thank you (to all the rest)...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Is that a lump sum in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Up early, and after X, Y and Z, P and I out to Bold St, with no clear idea of what we were going to do to ‘celebrate’ my first day of ‘freedom’. (They’d cut my email off, anyway, the unkindest cut, I thought.) I took out an extra tenner! We lunched at Souk, very nicely. Saw J walking by. Walked to the bottom of the road. Oxfam: didn’t buy Geoffrey Hill’s Collected or Mandy Rice Davies’ autobiography. Met C and M. Walked through the Baltic Triangle. As usual, all of the streets and buildings had been re-arranged since we’d been there last. We found nothing, just a bar not yet open, but managed to escape, to the Georgian Quarter (I never use these terms, ever). Bumped into JY, work lanyard dangling. Met DA, who tried to get P to buy one of his photos (Tony Benn) (again). To the Belve(dere), and joined in the usual banter (‘Viagra, that’s to stop you rolling out of bed.’ Or the classic exchange: ‘We love everybody except the Belgians!’ ‘I am Belgian,’ said the Belgian at the corner of the bar (but he was not Van Valckenborch). ‘Are you Flemish or Walloon?’ ‘Flemish, from Antwerp.’ ‘That’s all right then, you make good beer.’ (Didn’t rise to the routine Roger McGough routine: wanted to say he’d leapt across the room to shake my hand in Edinburgh. But just listened: ‘You’d see them in Birkenhead Market with a dollybird on each arm’, the 3 Liverpool poets. More here.)). See here for my last entry on this establishment and my poem (and others') about it. Stayed there hours, drinking very weak halves. DB joined us for a while. DB and O, tickling the latter’s doggy snout. (O is a dog.) At one point 3 of us in a row, born 1955. To the Italian Club Fish. Saw J walking by (again): out to speak to her and A. To the Pen Factory. Met PB – briefly. Drank more weak beer, lots of it. Back (T had phoned to say she’s been trying to re-instate my email) with 2 bottles of wine, to Sinatra, Jobim and Jobim and Sinatra. And Jobim and Elis, until P retired (ha-ha). It was well past dawn before I turned in. Slept till 1.15 the next afternoon.

A great Liverpool day...Now for maturity, I suppose.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Robert Sheppard and James Byrne (eds): ATLANTIC DRIFT published NOW

Follow the link to Arc’s website, here.

IT'S NOW PUBLISHED and you really should buy it! Look who's in it!!

This is an anthology of Transatlantic poetry - and poetics: each poet offers his or her own writerly speculative discourse. (See here on poetics.) 

Stay tuned with our Twitter and Facebook

Editors with the Edge Hill interns at Edinburgh Book Festival launch: Brendan Quinn, Jenni Byrne, Jessica Tillings, us, Robert Edge and Bill Bulloch - good poets all

Three of those Honeysuckle Weeks

'All my wives looked like Honeysuckle Weeks' (Sir Thomas Wyatt, more or less).

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Contacting Me: announcement

My Edge Hill email was promised to continue after my retirement on 1st September despite the agreement of many parties. It disappeared before my final day of work (today) was finished and with it contact with all sorts of people was immediately lost, from professional contacts to contributors to Atlantic Drift. I have another email and I suggest that you may use that:

However, the work one has returned: mail to:

Use whichever is appropriate...


Thursday, August 24, 2017

EUOIA Night August reading at The Other Room: Report and Future Plans (set list)

Last night, the Other Room celebrated the European Union of Imaginary Authors, with readings in person and on video.We are told that the EUOIA is the brainchild of Belgian poet René Van Valckenborch, whose double Flemish and Walloon oeuvre can be read about here. But who believes that? Read more about the European Union (of Imaginary Authors) here and here.

Conceived as a continuation of the fictional poems Robert Sheppard ventriloquised through the bilingual Belgian poet René Van Valckenborch in his A Translated Man (2013), the complete 28 poets of the EUOIA (European Union of Imaginary Authors) which we will only have time to sample take on a variety of new meanings in Brexit Britain. This collaborative work will be published before Brexit 'happens' as an anthology by Shearsman Books. (We are at the proof-stage with that.) Mostly conceived before Brexit, you can discover how Brexit became Shexit, as 'Robert Sheppard', the UK poet, becomes fictional, optional and expelled.

Working in collaboration with other writers, Sheppard creates a stylistically various programme of these European writers, whose works range from the comedic to the political, from the imaginatively sincere to the faux-autobiographical. History may not be argued away by the fictive. Accompanied by biographies of varying detail and plausibility, the poets grow in vividness until they seem to possess lives of their own. There is no resultant ‘Europoem’ style, but a variety of styles that reflects the collaborative nature of their production.

I’d like to publicly thank everybody for making this EUOIA night a memorable one. I think everybody played their strange parts of being half or wholly someone else! Those of you on video added to the occasion by suggesting elsewheres (though two were filmed in Norfolk and one in the very (lovely) space we were performing in).

I did feel the reality of the poems that were read, particularly to hear them read by single voices. That choice worked I think, because it smoothed out the collaborations: in a lot of cases I was listening and trying to remember what I wrote and what the other had written, and I often couldn't. One measure of success.

I think I was right to hold back on the Brexit aspects. Not only because my versions of Wyatt and Surrey have been taking that head on, but because this is a project that pre-dates Brexit (though the word enters the last collaboration I did, with Steve McCaffery), its politics is of the contextual kind, when history surrounds an event and changes its meaning.

The Other Room is one of the great 'provisional institutions' of radical poetry (that's Charles Bernstein's term) and I feel honoured to have appeared there again. It is a collaborative enterprise, as this project has been, soon to be an anthology, Twitters for a Lark .

On that: I have the proofs now and I will turn to them as soon as I've come down from proofreading Atlantic Drift. (Not just from ecstasy but from the last minute labour!) I noticed a few inconsistencies (even while I was reading!).

Here’s the set list and some notes I made to help me speak to the audience

Intro from Tom Jenks

Intro to Van Valckenborch and the EUOIA.

Robert Sheppard: read 5 EUOIA poems from A Translated Man

I went back to my list (or his) and decided to write the lot starting with these 5 whose works I wrote on my own. Sophie Poppmeier as example from Twitters for a Lark: I read her 3 poems and said a little about her life. (Much more here and here)

An account of collaboration (and why collaboration)

with Jason Argleton, Joanne Ashcroft, Alan Baker, James Byrne, Alys Conran, Kelvin Corcoran, Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Patricia Farrell, S. J. Fowler, Allen Fisher, Robert Hampson, Jeff Hilson, God’s Rude Wireless, Tom Jenks, Frances Kruk, Rupert Loydell, Steve McCaffery, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Sandeep Parmar, Simon Perril, Jèssica Pujol i Duran, Zoë Skoulding, Damir Šodan, Philip Terry, Scott Thurston, René Van Valckenborch

‘I would like to thank all of my collaborators, who have pooled their sovereignty, as it were, and constructed poems and people in so many different, educative and exhilarating ways.’

This will be published soon as Twitters for a Lark

Cover by Ivalyo Dimitrov (who will be reading tonight)

An account of collaboration

Robert and Patricia Farrell (two voice performance): Bulgaria: Ivaylo Dimitrov (1979-)

Behind Into Beyond

For the next part of the evening I asked my collaborators to read our work in a single voice; after all, most of the collaborations were about creating a single voice amid varied company:

Joanne Ashcroft: Slovakia: Matúš Dobeš (1959-)
                        'Roasting One's Chestnuts' and 'As I Drank Double Espressos'

Read Joanne's hopes for the evening here. And see our previous attempt to animate our creature, Matus Dobres of Slovakia here, and read about this fictional poet and find links to his texts here

Tom Jenks: from the Biographical Note of Luxembourrg’s Georg Bleinstein. He has an interesting life (some of it still to come) and you can trace that life, with the help of embedded vidoes (Group Captain Carol Vorderman, sausages, that sort of thing), here

Scott Thurston: Malta: Hubert Zuba (1964-2015)

S.J. Fowler: Video: Sweden, Kajsa Bergström (1956-)


Jeff Hilson: Video: Hungary, Ratsky József (1970-)

Alan Baker: Slovenia, A.B.C. Remič (1958-)

If I Were...
Slovenia (excerpt)

Allen Fisher: Finland: Minna Kärkkäinen (1974-)
Small Choruses on Mars

Explanation of EUOIA and ‘Shexit’ as shadow of Brexit (see here for my playing around on this blog with that idea)

Robert Sheppard: UK (I am also a fictional poet)

                        Ern Malley Suite

An explanation how the island of Frisland nudged into the project. If fictional poets, why not fictional land-masses? Eirikur's suggestion...

Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl: Video: Frisland: Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (1948- )

Koans of sweet pig Brenda and the escape from Frisland

Robert Sheppard: Fragments of the Ancient Tale of Queen Brenda and the Settling of Frisland (here’s a clip, as it were):

Bjorn my best Beserker born of bears
Feels no fear on Frisland’s fishless shore;
He bursts forth bearing crests of bear and boar
And peels the flesh from living men leaving
Sweetmeats and stinking gore hanging from gates,
And widows’ wombs torn free like bloody bladders,
And children’s brains bashed pretty hard.

Concluding remarks by Tom Jenks: next reading 31st October…


And here's my last reading at The Other Room, where I read the Flemish poems of Rene Van Valckenborch:

The book may be bought (but not yet) here:

My Edge Hill email was promised to continue after my retirement on 1st September despite the agreement of many parties. It may come back but I doubt it: it disappeared before my final day of work was finished and with it contact with all sorts of people was immediately lost, from professional contacts to contributors to Atlantic Drift, but not EUOIA poets and collaborators. I have another email and I suggest that you use that: .

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Firminists: The Malcolm Lowry Conference: 70 Years On (a few thoughts)

The annual Malcolm Lowry celebrations oraganised by the Firiminists this special year included Under the Volcano, 70 Years On: A Malcolm Lowry Conference based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bluecoat, Liverpool. Firminist Helen Tookey worked hard on this side of things. 

It opened with a passionate and eloquent keynote address: ‘Lowry’s kindred spirits: 70 years and still counting’, Sherrill Grace (Professor Emerita, University of British Columbia) but I don't have the energy to precis every paper, but just to record how high the quality was. 

Sherill Grace talking about Lowry and Timothy Findley (on her screen as she speaks)

 This year’s Lowry celebrations commemorated not the Day of the Dead, as usual, but Lowry’s 100th birthday and 70 years since the publication of Under the Volcano. This year the Firminists decided an academic conference with a commissioned art work would replace the annual Lowry Lounge and it was a great success. Over the years I’ve recorded it variously on this blog here here and here.

Scholarship at its very best (and I am a poet-critic, never a scholar) involves a care and attention to the text, and an admirable collective responsibility to the community. Friendship over decades and – in the case of Malcolm Lowry – the strange comfort afforded by the professional acknowledgement that readers either ‘get’ Lowry or they don’t. These scholars and enthusiasts do. As they edit and evaluate, they make Lowry.

And the Firminists this year succeeded again in their aim to bring Lowry back to Liverpool.

Lots of good work from Bryan Biggs and Helen Tookey this year.

See postings of previous years' festivities herehere and here. With lots of good photos! And visit Firminist Colin Dilnot's detailed Lowry website The Nineteenth Hole here.) Here's a bit more on Helen too.

One always learns about something new at these events, whether (this year) the novels of Timothy Findley or the TV documentary maker, Tristram Powell (with whom I chatted a bit). See a clip from his Lowry documentary Rough Passage here

Here's a link to the performance pieces written for the weekend:

Poster from our first year!

My Edge Hill email was promised to continue after my retirement on 1st September despite the agreement of many parties. It may come back but I doubt it: it disappeared before my final day of work was finished and with it contact with all sorts of people was immediately lost, from professional contacts to contributors to Atlantic Drift. I have another email and I suggest that you use that: .

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tom Beau (my poem for Tom Raworth along with others' in Blackbox Manifold) and links to my other tributes

Blackbox Manifold has another fine issue out, number 18, this time with a special section of poems and prose to the memory of Tom Raworth; see the list of contributors below. I haven't read it all yet. But it's here.

My poem 'Tom Beau' is one of the contributions: here.

Earlier this year, I posted three pieces for Tom and linked to some even earlier pieces.

I have written critically of Tom's work a great deal but here's a relaxed take on his extraordinary 14 liners.

But read a decidedly unrelaxed 'On Tom Raworth: The Speed of Writing and the Poetics of What is to One Side' here.

And see my 1999 poem for him from Twentieth Century Blues, posted I.M. here.

But there's more (these posts and links were put of a tribute I put together here on Pages some months ago). How about a passage from my abandoned novel Thelma here which features Tom Raworth as a character? Thelma was my Scouse version of Breton's Nadja!

Tom Beau indeed. He'll be missed... He is missed!

The main section of Blackbox Manifold has work by:
Zohar Atkins, Louis Armand, Alan Baker, Charlie Baylis, James Coghill, Helen Charman, Aidan Coleman, John Goodby, Dominic Hale, Caleb Klaces, Daisy Lafarge, Robert Lietz, Medbh Mcguckian, Anthony Madrid, Kate Noakes, Mary Noonan, Karl O'Hanlon, Dan Raphael, Cal Revely-Calder, Aidan Semmens (who edited the Molly Bloom trubutes to Raworth), Paige Smeaton, Cherry Smyth, David Wheatley, and John Wilkinson.

The Tom Raworth memorial features work by:
Astrid Alben, Dorothy Alexander, Louis Armand, Kate Behrens, Charles Bernstein & Ted Greenwald,  Iain Britton, Robert Burton, Sara Crangle, John Latta, Ed Luker, Colin Lee Marshall, Drew Milne, Joseph Minden, Daniella Moritz, Jeremy Noel-Tod, Philip Byron Oakes, Ian Patterson, John Regan, Denise Riley, Peter Robinson, Kerrin Sharpe, Peter Jay Shippy, Ken Taylor, Jonty Tiplady, Lawrence Upton, Corey Wakeling, John Wilkinson. And me.

There is poetry by eight Chinese women poets translated by Eleanor Goodman. John Wilkinson reviews Poems by Verity Spott & Timonthy Thornton. Adam Piette reviews Keston Sutherland, Shara McCallum, Alan Halsey and Tara Bergin.
Redoubtable editors Alex Houen & Adam Piette, thanks for this issue.