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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Robert Sheppard Companion: My appreciation

I have written to all the people involved with the Robert Sheppard Companion, and said (at least) these words to each:


I want to semi-formally remark how much I appreciate the work that has gone into the editing, the writing and the publishing of this wonderful and substantial critical work on my writings. I provided the headache – to quote Beckett – but the contributors provided the aspirin. I also know, having edited a similar book on Lee Harwood, and having written literary critical chapters to similar collections (as the detailed bibliography, another wonder, shows!), just how much work goes into this kind of writing. It is good to see new essays rubbing shoulders with ones that were written in previous years (and decades), and to see some reminiscences alongside critique. Although I am the focus and occasion for the book, it is also a portrait of a collaborative poetry scene, and many of the contributors are poets also, and part of that.

For the record, I should say that I have read the book from cover to cover (and had so before the launch; see here for an account) and found it a fascinating read. Of course, I read the book as no other person can. But just as I believe that, as a writer, one mustn’t believe one’s own publicity, one mustn’t believe other people’s. Or rather: the essays should not function as publicity at all, so far as I am concerned, but as spurs for me to do better.

I do have a tongue in cheek reference to the book, in one poem from my current project, my Brexit versions of the poetry of Michael Drayton called Bad Idea. The speaker is partly MD, partly me, and partly a modern-day Drayton. While the first five lines allude to chapters in the book, the sixth is a certain modern critic’s negative characterisation of Twentieth Century Blues. I hope it amuses. I shall temporarily post it here for a week or so:

 XLII The Michael Drayton Companion (1619)

Some like my multiform methods,
and commend my social poetics.
Some say I’m a funny old translator,
‘expanded’ like a supersized codpiece.
Some that I excel in explicit vitality.
But others call this strange ventriloquism
‘unsuccessful and overheated, loud and repetitive.’
Ignore my grudge over the ‘esquire’ thing. Now
Duffy’s off, poets leave the laureateship alone.
Am I not best remaining bard for Brexit’s long betrayal,
the ‘better spirit’ that even Shakespeare envied,
before I drank him to death with fat Ben?
I’ll knock one out for the local elections. Free.
            Flick through the only Companion I need: you.
           
2nd May 2019

For more on the book and a hub-post to other posts and links: see here.

 You may buy the book here:

Tuesday 20th May 1969:

Revision.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This week's Brexit-Michael Drayton 'Bad Idea' sonnet (temporary post)

The second book of my The English Strain project (see below for the first and for more details) is entitled Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea; that’s 64 poems (with the addition of its ‘Address to the Reader of these Sonnets’). I’ve been at it since July 2018, one a week (more or less).  



If you ‘do the math’ you can see that I’d run out of the poems at this rate of progress, in September, but the new Flexibretension is until 31st October. I need to call a summit of Drayton’s ‘thrice-three Muses’ to discuss possibilities. Another sequence? Or a sort of standing still by producing multiple versions of a particular sonnet on the way? Or could I locate more of Drayton’s ‘Idea’ poems not included in the 1619 edition? Or have a summer recess, like the MPs will: ‘time for a last visa-free Euro recess: British disdain amongst the scattered hegemonies,’ as the poem says! The idea of Bad Idea originally was that it would pass through Brexitday and onto the other side, where it might gather some positivities.

I’m posting the poems temporarily, so there is only ever one at a time on this blog. Here’s today’s. As you can see I’m aware of its ‘weekly’ periodicity.

XLIV

While my weekly sonnet should eternise Idea,
every daily Brexit debate is Time she won’t get back!
She makes a map of my wrinkled misery, charts
our disgrace, to navigate the EU elections, the terrain
they dare to name ‘a consequence-free environment’.
Tyrannising Time trips May’s world-outwearying
span. Her fourth defeat shall be her final deal.
Then it’ll be time for a last visa-free Euro recess:
British disdain amongst the scattered hegemonies.
But then: imagine Green youth returning rejuvenated
to remain and reform. Or: black age to leave, ruling
oppressive lines, to reproduce its repression eternally.
I’ll keep her, enfleshed in words, from Albion
and its grave. My name will fuck hers forever!

16th May 2019



My companion (for the week before last’s poem was ‘The Michael Drayton Companion (1619)’:

Some like my multiform methods,
and commend my social poetics.
Some say I’m a funny old translator,
‘expanded’ like a supersized codpiece.
Some that I excel in explicit vitality.
But others call this strange ventriloquism
‘unsuccessful and overheated, loud and repetitive,’ etc.)


was launched at Bluecoat, Liverpool, on Monday 13th May. I read two ‘Bad Ideas’ to finish…. See here for an account:


Poor old Drayton is somewhat out of print at the moment, though I have found a ‘Poly-Olbion’ project online, (the whole epic is online, which is refreshing), and his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ (the 1619 version) is available online, including the one I’ve just translated above; have a look at both, the latter being:

Drayton, Michael. ‘Idea.’ in Arundell Esdaile, ed. Daniel’s Delia and Drayton’s Idea.
London: Chatto and Windus: 1908. 67-141; online at Luminarium:  http://www.luminarium.org/editions/idea.htm

Although I am using

Tuley, Mark. ed. Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: Five Major Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: by Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser. Crescent Moon Publishing, Maidstone: Kent, 2010,

a careless book that even misses one sonnet out! 

In fact, I’ve now bought

Evans, Maurice, ed. Revised by Roy J. Booth. Eizabethan Sonnets. London and North Clarendon: Phoenix Paperback, 2003,

a careful book that includes the 1619 Idea entire (with original orthography) and has notes.

You know, if you’ve seen these temporary posts before, that you may read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: hereThat was 100 poems long. But I didn’t stop there though. The most recent instalment of it, Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/hap-understudies-of-thomas-wyatt-s-petrarch-by-robert-sheppard-26-pages


I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which ‘The English Strain’ project into motion.

There are more excerpts from The English Strain in the current Poetry Wales. Some later this month on Blazevox… And another 4 in The Robert Sheppard Companion:



Links to a number of the published poems from Non Disclosure Agreement (the last part of the proposed book of The English Strain) may be accessed here:


Some older ‘English Strain’ poems may be found here:


I’m pleased to say three poems from Bad Idea have now appeared in Monitor on Racism. Amid many important articles on the varieties and modes of racism, I hope my humble skits on Brexit still have something to say (in the limited, contextual way poetry can) about our world today. Patricia Farrell’s two images of Bo accompany them. Find them here. http://monitoracism.eu/from-bad-idea/


Thursday, May 09, 2019

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Thursday May 8th 1969:

Number One: Goodbye, Mary Hopkins.

Sports. Our relay disqualified.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The Robert Sheppard Companion (ed. Byrne and Madden) is published NOW

This critical volume, which has been closely edited by James Byrne and Christopher Madden, is now available. It offers a substantial review of my writing activities ‘to date’, a discrimination I like! Indeed, it offers essays on my earliest work to my latest (uncollected) work, from a range of writers. Most are newly penned, but a couple are revisions of pieces written co-terminously with the work with which they deal.

You may buy it here:



After a pithy, funny, playful preface by Charles Bernstein, and a generous introduction by James Byrne, there are essays by Joanne Ashcroft, Ailsa Cox, Nikolai Duffy, Patricia Farrell, Allen Fisher, Robert Hampson, Alison Mark, Christopher Madden, Adam Hampton, Tom Jenks, Mark Scroggins, Zoë Skoulding, and Scott Thurston (obviously not arranged in that alphabetical order; see full contents at the foot of this post).

The roundtable featuring Gilbert Adair, Adrian Clarke, Alan Halsey, Chris McCabe, Geraldine Monk and Sandeep Parmar, is a collection of shorter, looser responses.

There are two interviews with me, conducted by Edmund Hardy and Christopher Madden. Both detailed.

I offer some new poems to the mix, a long ‘toffee of the universe’ piece called ‘The Accordion Book’ and four sonnets from two parts of The English Strain. (See here for details of that project.)

There concludes a detailed bibliography of my work, initially compiled by myself but brought to completion (perfection!) by Christopher Madden. He visited (with cake) a number of pleasant afternoon that had me knee-deep in book-dust.

Patricia Farrell also provided the cover. And Peter Hughes wrote this generous endorsement:

This book shows how far-reaching and generous Sheppard's writing life has been. He has argued and sung for the benefit of an entire community, to keep opening the possibilities of poetry itself. He stands and stands up for the breadth and depth and future of modern poetry. He's written it, written about it, published it; theorized, organised and celebrated. It is not often that innovative practice, political engagement, a thorough knowledge of poetry, and wit are combined in one body of work. But this valuable Companion provides the necessary spread of insights and perspectives to do justice to the extraordinary range of Sheppard's achievements. And that is some achievement in itself.  – Peter Hughes

The result is a book that focuses not only on me, but the various literary contexts in which I have found myself, and I heartily thank everybody involved. I know how long all of this takes, having written critically for many years – and having edited The Lee Harwood Companion some years back.

The book itself (James Byrne and Christopher Madden (eds.) – The Robert Sheppard Companion) is available now; its details: Paperback, 9 x 6 ins, 296pp, £16.95 / $27.50
ISBN 9781848616257.

It is available here:



Or navigate through the Shearsman website: https://www.shearsman.com

LINKS RELATING TO THE BOOK

Have a look at details of the Bluecoat launch in Liverpool on May 13th 2019:


Here's my appreciation of the book.

There’s more information (and links) on the Edge Hill symposium and exhibition in 2017 that fed into the book on my blog here:




Full contents:

Charles Bernstein: Aesthetic Justice
James Byrne: Introduction: A Sheppardian Social Poetics
Robert Hampson: Convergences:
Robert Sheppard’s Early Poetry and English Traditions
Scott Thurston: “For which we haven’t yet a satisfactory name”: The Birth of Linguistically Innovative Poetry and the Practice of a Collective Poetics in Robert Sheppard’s Pages and Floating Capital
Nikolai Duffy: Unfinish:
The Politics of Literary Experiment in Robert Sheppard
Alison Mark: ‘Flashlights Around A Subjectivity’:
Melting Borders and Robert Sheppard’s The Flashlight Sonata
Christopher Madden: Mad About the Boy:
Robert Sheppard and Orpheus
Mark Scroggins: Where to Begin: The “net / (k)not – work(s)” of Robert Sheppard’s ‘Twentieth Century Blues’
Adam Hampton: Political Rhetoric and
Poetic Counterforce in Robert Sheppard’s Warrant Error
Tom Jenks: ‘God’s not too pleased with me’:
Robert Sheppard’s Poetics of Transformative Translation
Zoë Skoulding: European Fictions
Patricia Farrell: The Expressive Tension Between Text and Painting in the Collaborative Work of Robert Sheppard and Pete Clarke
Joanne Ashcroft: A Response to Vitality in Robert Sheppard’s
Empty Diaries and ‘Wiped Weblogs’
Ailsa Cox: But What of the Real Robert Sheppard?
Allen Fisher: Who is Robert Sheppard?
The Robert Sheppard Roundtable: Gilbert Adair, Adrian Clarke, Alan Halsey, Chris McCabe, Geraldine Monk, Sandeep Parmar
Two Interviews
Robert Sheppard: Poems
Bibliography
Index

Sunday, May 05, 2019

A new review of Twitters for a Lark in Dundee University of the Arts by Annie Runkel

There is a new review of Twitters for a Lark here

Or Annie Runkel, ‘Twitters for a Lark’, Dundee University Review of the Arts.


It is short but astute I thought. Of course, Brexit suffuses all the reviews (although, as Runkel notes, the poems were all written before Brexit happened, or seemed likely). She also reminds readers that this book, the poems of the EUOIA (European Union of Imaginary Authors) is related to one of my previous volumes, A Translated Man. (Which reminds me that there is a third volume, or part, of the project to write one day. I have some ideas.)

The sentence that amused me was: 

In the age of Brexit, getting a group of mostly British poets to pretend they were fictional European nationals can easily seem like a bad idea.

Why? because Bad Idea is the title of what I am writing now about Brexit. See here for a description of that latest project, here! Of course, it's Brexit that's a bad idea, although Idea is Michael Drayton's ideal woman (the sequence transposes Drayton's sonnets Idea).


YOU MAY BUY TWITTERS here:

https://www.shearsman.com/store/Robert-Sheppard-ed-Twitters-for-a-Lark-p102839129

Norman Jope’s review ‘Games Across Frontiers’ (Twitters for a Lark) appears in the new Tears in the Fence 69, Spring 2019: 122-127. See also Billy Mills: ‘Poetry after Brexit’ (Twitters for a Lark): Elliptical Movements (web), 13th May 2018.  Read this review  Here

There are rather a lot of references to the books and to EUOIA on this blog, so here are a few links to hubposts that have links to other posts and/or videos of the many performances by myself and collaborators (and sometimes not with me):

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/02/meet-euoia-collaborators-general-intro.html
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2017/08/euoia-night-august-reading-at-other.html
https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/04/twitters-for-launch-part-of-european.html

To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com,

 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The launch of The Robert Sheppard Companion (set list)

at Bluecoat, Liverpool, at 7.00 on Monday 13th May 2019

James Byrne introducing
An excellent launch of The Sheppard Companion, thanks to the editors James Byrne and Christopher Madden, Bluecoat, Bryan Biggs, Edge Hill, Paul Ward, and the participants.

I helped by reading a few poems to show what I’m up to now. I read

‘Poem’ (which will appear in my next book, Micro Event Space)

‘Mayan Thoughts at Brighton’ (for Lee Harwood, a number of old friends of Lee in  the audience), from 'The English Strain'.

‘Accordion Book 2’ (in the book (but also here) https://www.adjacentpineapple.com/robert-sheppard-1

‘Charms and Glitter: Gallery 7: Three female artists: St Vincent (see here:
 ), Debbie Harry, and Patti Smith (see here:

Empty Diary 2018 (soon to appear on Blazevox). 

Then onto parts of ‘The English Strain’: 4 from the book and 2 unpublished to finish. Here I am finding them in the book!

Links to a number of the published poems from Non Disclosure Agreement (the last part of the proposed book of The English Strain from which I read that night) may be accessed here:


I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which ‘The English Strain’ project into motion. (See Tom Jenks below, trying to unfold the literal mysteries of the Crater Press publication of Petrarch 3.)



There followed a long discussion of my work with Scott Thurston, Tom Jenks, and Ailsa Cox, moderated by Chris Madden.
The discussion: Chris, Ailsa, Scott and Tom

After a well-deserved break, the audience heard brief readings from Scott Thurston, Joanne Ashcroft, Patricia Farrell (more Ivalyo poems (see here), Tom Jenks and Chris McCabe (he read the Belevedere poem:


; you can even read it by zooming in on the photo!)


Published by Shearsman, the ‘Companion’ is edited by Christopher Madden and James Byrne, who hosted this launch.

Supported by Edge Hill University

Thank you, thank you everybody!

*

The book itself (James Byrne and Christopher Madden (eds.) – The Robert Sheppard Companion) is published May 2019. Paperback, 9 x 6 ins, 296pp, £16.95 / $27.50

ISBN 9781848616257

A substantial review of Robert Sheppard’s career to date, this volume includes critical writings and appreciations by Joanne Ashcroft, Charles Bernstein, James Byrne, Ailsa Cox, Nikolai Duffy, Patricia Farrell, Allen Fisher, Robert Hampson, Alison Mark, Christopher Madden, Adam Hampton, Tom Jenks, Mark Scroggins, Zoë Skoulding, Scott Thurston; plus a roundtable featuring Gilbert Adair, Adrian Clarke, Alan Halsey, Chris McCabe, Geraldine Monk and Sandeep Parmar. Plus new work by Sheppard.

You may order it here now:



Or navigate through the Shearsman website: https://www.shearsman.com



There’s more information (and links) on the symposium and exhibition in 2017 that fed into the book on my blog here:


Tom Jenks struggling with a copy of my Petrarch 3 (Crater Press)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Robert Sheppard and Trev Eales: from 'Charms and Glitter' at Queen Mob's Tea House (Debbie Harry/Patti Smith) & St Vincent here

Here is one part of the collaboration between myself and Trev Eales, Charms and Glitter. This is a poem from Gallery 7.

The rest of Gallery 7 (Debbie Harry and Patti Smith) may be found at Queen Mob's Tea House HERE. Thanks to music editor Medha Singh for selecting them.


St Vincent





Astonishment sub-
limated

at everything she causes, finding
in her findings

the New Result. Lift
into ritual her white

guitar, and wait. Her
offering is this note,

and she presses it,
watches the process.

She holds it with her
half-painted fingernail,

a little negligence in this
vital operation

at the centre of
the New Charm. She builds

herself into her
playing. Her throat threatens,

her chin catches, the guitar’s
curve, glows, a cyber-glitch

on the glitzy Long March –
unbruised by shadow.


I write more about the collaboration here (with links to further images/poems and to a talk that went undelivered on the relationship of my writing to photography as a social practice and art).

Featured in Otoliths is ‘Gallery 3’ of Charms and Glitter, on three reggae artists: Toots Maytal, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and Jimmy Cliff. Find them HERE

Charms and Glitter will be published by Knives, Forks and Spoons later this year. 


Trev Eales is a photographer specialising in live music who lives in Cumbria. For over 20 years, beginning in the early 1990’s he photographed for WOMAD. Over the past 10 years he has contributed as a photographer and reviewer to a variety of online publications covering major UK music festivals: Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, etc. Photographs and reviews: http://www.efestivals.co.uk. Web: http://www.trev-eales.co.uk

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Friday 18th April 1969:

Went into Brighton, got book of tape-recording and Ray Charles, 45.

[That may have been ‘Come Rain or Shine’, which I still possess, play - and enjoy. You can too. Here it is.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Robert Sheppard and Patricia: The Passionate Nymph'/The Impassive Shepherd' : European Poetry Festival, Manchester 2019 (set list)

On Saturday 13 April, Patricia and I read at Steven Fowler's wonderful European Poetry Festival. Unusually, we were assigned each other as verbal collaborators.


We made use, as a template, of the almost-collaboration between Christopher (‘Kit’) Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, the former’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the latter’s ‘The Nymph’s Reply’. We have jointly composed two poems.

For the first we treated as a source vocabulary some words from a passage in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Dead Man in Deptford, in which the two poets converse. Seemed right for the venue, The Anthony Burgess Centre, in Manchester.

To correspond to Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘reply’ to Marlowe’s poem, we jointly wrote a ‘reply’ to our first poem that was its ‘antonymic translation’. This technique, we discovered, was far from a mechanical selection of simple opposites.



 
 Also at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh6v5Mi14LI


The Passionate Nymph, begins:

‘And all that nymph buffet,’
feminine Kit said, ‘purgeth the pores!’
Raleigh, in his satyr’s shabby finery, read
the truth, amazed in his poetic turret.


The Impassive Shepherd begins:

‘But some of this imago fondling,’
manly Walter screamed, ‘bungs up the inattentions!’
Marlowe, on her dryad’s pristine pinny, failed to note
the ambiguity, blasé in his prosaic coalhole.


In the post HERE I provide links to former years and other activities and publications associated with the Manchester legs of the EPF 2018 and 2019.That includes Twitters for a Lark EUOIA reading and my collaboration with Rimas Uzgiris. All sorts...
 
The event also featured Kim Campanello and Leonce Lupette / Harry Man and Krisjanis Zelgis / Scott Thurston and Simona Nastac / Tom Weir and Endre Ruset / Colin Herd and Morten Langeland / Martin Kratz and Inga Pizane/ Sophie Carolin Wagner and Maria Sledmere / Nell Osborne and Vilde Valerie Bjerke Torset / Sarah-Clare Conlon and Jazmine Linklater / Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler / Tania Hershman and Christodoulos Makris.
  


We were only able to stay for the first half, due to a compromise with the medical condition of a relative. (It doesn't matter what words I use to describe this, it sounds mysterious. It's not: we just had to go!)

All the Manchester videos are now up https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/manchester


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Friday, April 05, 2019

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Monday, April 01, 2019

Friday, March 29, 2019

Saturday 29th March 1969:

Did first Outside Broadcast in Shoreham Harbour with Cassette.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Thursday 27th March 1969:

Number One: I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye.

Got Gimme Little Sign.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell: Collaborating as part of the Manchester European Camarade: April 2019

European Camarade has been to Manchester


On April Saturday 13th 2019


You can read what Patricia Farrell and I did for the performance: here.

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation 3 Cambridge St, Manchester M1 5BY, UK

The European Poetry Festival comes to Manchester with some of the finest modern poets of the thriving Manchester (and surrounding!) scene in collaborative pairs with writers visiting from across Europe, though some locals, like us, are working together. (As we have for over 30 years, though not like this!) New performances made for the night in this unique Camarade event. Featuring

Kim Campanello and Leonce Lupette
Harry Man and Krisjanis Zelgis
Scott Thurston and Simona Nastac
Tom Weir and Endre Ruset
Colin Herd and Morten Langeland
Martin Kratz and Inga Pizane
Sophie Carolin Wagner and Maria Sledmere
Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell
Nell Osborne and Vilde Valerie Bjerke Torset
Sarah-Clare Conlon and Jazmine Linklater
Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler
Tania Hershman and Christodoulos Makris



Patricia and I have made use, as a template, the almost-collaboration between Christopher (‘Kit’) Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, the former’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ and the latter’s ‘The Nymph’s Reply’. We have jointly composed two poems.

For the first we treated as a source vocabulary some words from a passage in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Dead Man in Deptford, in which the two poets converse.

To correspond to Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘reply’ to Marlowe’s poem, we jointly wrote a ‘reply’ to our first poem that was its ‘antonymic translation’. This technique, we discovered, was far from a mechanical selection of simple opposites. 

It all seems to fit together, particularly in terms of location.

This year’s (and last year’s) information and full documentation may be found here

Last year's group picture

It’s always an interesting and varied evening. The last (2018) Manchester Euro reading was partly a launch for Twitters for a Lark


All the videos are to be found here: 




At the 2018 Manchester launch I was also collaborating with a real Lithuanian poet Rimas Uzgiris, https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/rimas-uzgiris

which I thought went well. You may also see that here. AND I posted the text itself, a lyrical piece called 'Unreadable Expressions', on this blog HERE

Read more about the European Union of Imaginary Authors here and here. All the collaborators are accessible via links here.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Four Burnt Journal poems published on Litter (links)

I’m pleased to say I have four of my ‘Burnt Journal’ poems published on Alan Baker’s intermittent but active blogzine Litter, published by his Leafe Press.

You may read them here.

‘Burnt Journals’, like ‘Empty Diaries’, which they superficially resemble, come with dates attached, in this case: 1968, 1977 (twice!) and 1978. The poems are written as birthday poems, and the largest group published is in my book Berlin Bursts. (Two of them are also on this blog, ‘Burnt Journal 1924’ (the earliest, as it were), written for my father, and ‘Burnt Journal 1939’ for Lee Harwood. See here and here.) I find the writing of ‘occasional’ poems quite demanding, but the technique and materials I have used for this (non-) sequence often produces good results. Not always though (as with any series). The rough aim is to create a mirage, rather than a description, of the particular year: after all, the recipients won't remember it!

Method: I take the person’s birth year and turn to the relevant pages of Tom Phillips’ anthology The Postcard Century (it's arranged chronologically, 1900-2000) and write through/from the images until I have  amassed enough material to process/collage/work through, in ways as I described in my non-delivered ‘talk’ about my use of photographs, here. In a sense, this domesticates the techniques I used to write ‘Empty Diaries’ where I collected notes made from multiple sources over a long period of time. Here I’m not ashamed to acknowledge that some of the selecting has been undertaken by Phillips before me. And usually, these poems have to be produced quickly for events (as is the case with three out of the four here), as well as simply for the deadline/birthday!

The four presented on Litter are all for men, but that’s a coincidence of availability, the ones I had free to send, since others are for Geraldine Monk, Frances Presley, Mary Prestege…

‘Burnt Journal 1968’ was written for Simon Perril, and you may read about the occasion here. There’s more about Simon here too. (There’s quite a lot of material about Simon as poet and critic on this blog, and there are additional links in these.) This will be appearing in my little book of little poems, Micro Event Space to be published by Red Ceilings Press later this year.

‘Burnt Journal 1977’ (or rather the first and second) were written for Chris McCabe (who held a birthday do in the Ship and Mitre) and for James Byrne (who I think was not around for his actual birthday). I found there were enough photographs in the Phillips book for two poems.

The same with ‘Burnt Journal 1978’, because I’d used the same materials to write a very different birthday poem a few years before for Eleanor Rees (see here or here: Burnt Journal 1978). This new one, ‘Parade’ was written for my colleague, the novelist, short story-writer and biographer Rodge Glass, as a request for his birthday ‘do’, which is described here. I like that line about ‘Calculated misreadings of Adorno’.

Other ‘Burnt Journals’ available online include one for Frances Presley here, and one for Patricia Farrell, here. (The last one is newly revised.)   
  
I know what you’re thinking: what will I do when I face the first millennial? Answer: I don’t know. Maybe that’s when I’ll start my other un-written (non)series ‘Drowned Books’ using different materials!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My REF statement describing my Veer volume UNFINISH

51VTwOgIVwL_352.jpg

I may be retired from Edge Hill but they can still submit my publications from my period of employment in the (mostly-dreaded) REF process. Part of the process for those entering creative writing involves the writing of a 300 word introduction to the work. That’s four out of the five. I thought I’d put them on my blog. I don’t think I’ve perjured myself.
51VTwOgIVwL_352.jpg
But for Unfinish, these be the words; I’m not offering them as a model, but they might help somebody write their own. It might also – in this context – draw people’s attention to the book, persuade them to buy it, even. It’s one of my least-noticed books, but one of my favourites. This is what I say:

Unfinish. London: Veer Publications, 2015
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Unfinish is an attempt, in 7 prose pieces, in different styles, to test out some of the following theses, and to produce a variety of experimental forms in response to some of the axioms printed at the beginning of the miscellany: ‘Interruption is one of the fundamental devices of all structuring’ (Walter Benjamin). A poetics piece, in the form of a letter to the poet Sean Bonney, is an instrument of interruptions. As such it illustrates another of the axioms, ‘The main thing is how to think crudely’ (Brecht), but in its developed poetics it relates to one of the best definitions of poetics: ‘His judgement was always anchored in poetry, or in the very subtle thinking that surrounds it. (Alain Badiou on Mandelstam). This collection of contrasts also contains a writing-through of TASS photographs of Soviet history which attempts a surreal history of that social experiment, interwoven with a ghostly narrative of espionage; a performance piece in two parts (a conventional story and a fantasia upon its theme); and a piece of psychogeographical prose, ‘In Unadopted Space’, that relates to another two of the axioms: ‘Space is a part of our mental life’ (Roy Fisher) and ‘Space is as much a challenge as is time. Neither space nor place can provide a haven from the world.’ (Doreen Massey) Varieties of montage, de-montage, with interruption as structure, with transformation and transposition, formal resistance, creative linkage, ‘imperfect fit’, near-perfect fit, contribute to create all kinds of multi-form unfinish, to use the deliberate title of the book. As another of the quotations states: ‘As Picasso said about unfinish, alive and dangerous… I have a taste for unfinish. It’s one of the ways I want to live my life and art.’ (Ronald Kitaj)
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The two axioms I don’t quote are:

We listen to silence. We listen to fictitious music in our head. Think music. (Ralf Hutter)    
          
But for what we believe most we don’t have art at all. (Kenneth Koch);

I couldn’t quite see how to work them in! But what's not to like?   
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Buy Unfinish  here and read more of the text.
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I write more about it here:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/03/robert-sheppard-new-book-out-unfinish.html

and I have another set of axioms that didn’t end up in the book here:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/03/robert-sheppard-new-book-unfinish-de.html

Access the other REF statements on my 2014-2017 output via links accompanying the first one here:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/03/writing-my-ref-300-word-statement-on.html

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