Friday, April 06, 2018

Robert Sheppard: the Petrarch sonnet project finished with poem 100

I have made a habit of posting my topical sonnets as they were written. They are versions of versions of Petrarch, largely. They start with Petrarch 3. See here and here and here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater press in its 'map' edition. Read the 'original' translation (if you see what I mean) and a doggie version here. (Today is 6th April, the day Petrarch claimed to have first spotted Laura, and the day she died 21 years later.)

In 'It's Nothing', my failed attempt to 'write the self', the word 'Brexit' appears for the first time, as though the themes of the poems that follow erupted into the sequences almost by accident.

The Thomas Wyatt poems will be published soon by Knives Forks and Spoons. 'Brexit' is now a firm theme. Here's a HAP: 
from Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch

I write about the versions of the Earl of Surrey's sonnets which followed here , where I also explain that the poems were temporarily posted on this blog for about a week each, partly because I was often commenting on contemporary events, like Boris' gaffes, and I wanted to serve an immediate audience. Here's one touching on Trump's 'trans ban' and upon the macho version of diplomacy that seems to prevail in the White House. I held it back from publication as it became a veritable thicket of scare-quotes to show I wasn't expressing the opinions involved. That's also why I published it with the 'original' because comparison clearly shows what I'm doing, I hope, at: 

Other poems figure post-Brexit Britain as a huge dogging site, run by Micheal Gove at 'Rural Affairs'. (As I said the poems pick up themes as they go, and ti emerged out of one of the Wyatt poems.)

'This isn't what I voted Brexit for!'

See here for one reference to the following sequence, feeding off of the sonnets of Charlotte Smith, and featuring Boris' then most recent gaffe. 

Bringing the total of sonnets to 100 I've used 14 of EEB's exquisite 'Poems from the Portuguese'. I pondered 'Brazilian Sonnets' as a title, using some bossa nova tropes (another 'theme', though perhaps 'motif' is a better term to label these repetitions and variations), but that ended up as the title of the first seven. I regard the title (which came to me in a flash) as peculiarly apposite: I'd read that one of our leading (Tory) politicians has a Non Disclosure Agreement with one (or more?) of his lovers; the second poem is about the President's Club outrage - the girls had to sign such an agreement. In a sense Robert and EB Browning had a mutual non-disclsoure agreement during their courtship. (That's another suggested scenario too: Mistress Elizabeth receives gentlemen callers in Wimpole St, who have to perform beastly acts, possibly taking on the persona of the dog Flush (see Virginia Woolf's fine biography of this hound) I activated that possibility, mildly (for me) in a couple of the poems. Woof). Read their love letters! The second group of seven (out of fourteen) are like the earlier 'Direct Rule' Surrey poems in that they are overdubbed by another voice.
Links to a number of the published poems from Non Disclosure Agreement may be accessed here.

Some of my related OVERDUBS, a non-sequence of versions of Milton’s sonnets have been published online. They may ALL be accessed here.

I would like to thank Clark Allison for following my temporary posts and responding by email to every poem, and was honest about his responses to these satirical outrages.
EBB's most famous one. I didn't touch it

Of what does the project - I'm thinking of calling it The English Strain - consist?

Petrarch 3
Overdubs from Milton
two sonnets for Lee Harwood
It's Nothing
Hap: Understudies of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Petrarch
Surrey with the Fringe on Top
Elegaic Sonnets
Non Disclosure Agreement

See Peter Riley. Like Father Ted, he says: Down with this sort of thing! Here.

'Even putting it on Twitter won’t get Bo and Go or Fox and Dox
to RT it or DM me,' but above is a picture of Fox during his Globe-Trotting Expeditions looking for trade deals. But the local juice has defeated him here. But below is a more appetising sight!

My poem The Soul’s Rialto Hath its Merchandise contains the lines:

‘The fundamental unit of post-Brexit trade
will be American Boneless Pork Rectums!’

Above is the image to prove it! Though I've removed the word 'inverted' from the poem (I don't know what that means in terms of pork arse). Here's a man who is proving he alone can eat it. (Remember John Gummer and the Burger?) Each place is set with a box of BPR, it appears.

It will be a Boneless Pork Rectum and Eat it Britain after 'Bregsit' (new pronunciation), rather than the Cake and Eat It one on offer. 

Book One of ‘The English Strain’ project, The English Strain, is available from Shearsman Books here:


Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, HERE:

Read the first review, by Alan Baker in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

And now there's a second review of both books, here, from Clark Allison, here;