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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019

Saturday 18th January 1969:

John and I hope to make tape for Radio Veronica, the first Pirate.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What a Week: Another Brexit poem modelled on one of Drayton's IDEA sonnets (temporary post)


You can read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: here

But: straight to today’s addition to the project. The second book of The English Strain is entitled Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea, that’s 64 poems by the way (with the addition of its ‘Address to the Reader of these Sonnets’).

As regular returnees to this blog will know, I am posting one sonnet at a time, when they are finished (but only if I feel it appropriate in terms of topicality). And temporarily. so there is only ever one at a time on the blog. This one has an epigraph from Clare, which seems right. The day after I came across it, I read a poem by Simon Smith that has similar sonic play:  politician parrot patriot or partisan/ no one knows who’s in charge. Nearly used that too, or thought about making those two lines the concluding couplet. Mine rhymes (irregularly) because Drayton's ending: 'cause/laws' in modern English, is weak. And what a week, I’ll say again: this is my take, courtesy of Drayton. He was a difficult trellis to wind the weeds upon today, but I did it. (I think.)


… I fear these tory radicals these out of place patriots (or parrots) who are so loud in their insults against the present ministry only want to make paddles of the people to sail into their harbours of old sinecures …
                                                                        John Clare

That blue folder is suspiciously like the one I'm putting these poems in. He looks like he's been reading them. Unless he's being controlled by the wooden figure next to him? But then, who controls him? And who controls whoever controls him?

Do other nations face calamity like this?
(Several do.) Political virtue is lost with the vote.
That a sincerely held bad deal is put to death
by bad faith doesn’t make it good, though Bo
asserts May is ‘fortified by rejection’! These
islands sink under such mad amendments!
Can she return to Europe to express no deals
or no-deal? Or, with respect, to agree that Brexiters
love the country most? In ‘one last heave’,
are we to leave our father’s imperial sins
to our sons’ and daughters’ remains? Or (as
Go says) will we take back control of our fish?
History (their logic runs) must be on their side,
since you alone, on yours, violate their laws.
18th January 2019

OR in revised form (after a long walk in the sun along to Mersey, and to buy books: two Sinclairs and Tonks).

Do other nations face calamity like this?
(Several do.) Political virtue is lost with the vote.
That a sincerely held bad deal is put to death
by bad faith doesn’t make it good, though Bo
asserts May is ‘fortified by rejection’! These
islands sink under such mad amendments!
Can she return to Europe to express no deals
or no-deal? Or, with respect, to argue that Brexiters
love the country most? After ‘one last heave’,
are we to leave our father’s imperial sins
to our sons’ and daughters’ remains? Or (as
Go says) shall we take back control of our fish?
History (their logic runs) must be on their side,
since you alone, on yours, violate their laws.
17th January 2019 (that's the correct date!)

Unpalatable truths

Drayton is largely out of print at the moment, though I have found a ‘Poly-Olberon’ project online, (the whole epic is online, which is refreshing), and his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ 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:

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! 

There are more excerpts from The English Strain coming up in PN Review in the future, and in the current Poetry Wales. There’s another on Smithereens as I outline on this blog. I’ve not sent any of these Bad Idea ones out yet. They are amassing if anybody wants them.  

I shall be reading them at Edge Hill, where I am reading with Forrest Gander and Rachael Allen on 15th February 2019. More information available soon.

The English Strain is complete. The latest instalment of it, Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

This review of Wretched Strangers isn't irrelevant either:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Old and New poems published in Molly Bloom 18 (and MB2!)

is out (so is Issue 2 again!) Let the editor Aidan Semmens, explain this conundrum:

Since its inception as an online magazine in 2013, Molly Bloom has been living a lie, at least an implicit one. The implication, if not the overt statement, was that Molly as a printed magazine was born and died with the first issue, in November 1980. Recently, however, going through a box of old pamphlets and magazines left more or less forgotten in the attic, I came across the hard evidence that this was not the case. For there was a surely rare copy of Molly Bloom no.2, a duplicated, hand-stapled issue put together in May 1982 by my good friend Ged Lawson.

As I’ve explained to Aidan (who I met with Ged, who was also a friend of mine in Norwich at the time), I thought it odd, when I looked at the first issue online, because I had clear memories of being in it. I was wrong; for I was in this mysterious Issue 2, and I too came across a copy of it recently, assembling the bibliography with Chris Madden, for the Robert Sheppard Companion. As Aidan continues to explain:

Having launched Molly Bloom online with a reappearance of most of the contents of the first print issue, it seems only right now to bring the work from the second to the light of the online world, where most if not all of it now appears for the first time. Peter Riley's ‘Weekend’ is newly edited by him; the rest appears here exactly as it did in 1982, while some of the poets included then also provide new work exclusive to this online issue.

As I do. ‘Of Appearances: Of a Naked World’ was a 1981 collision between phenomenology (which I have recently returned to in my critical-creative piece Pulse) and objectivism, which as a critic has also re-occupied me recently (see my piece on John Seed, who is also a contributor to the new Molly Bloom here). See here:

For my own new invited contribution to the new Molly I decided to send my recent condensing (into prose, like a haibun, but with a desire to juxtapose the three 17 syllable sentences into a paragraph) the best of the haiku I was writing about a year ago. (I write about three of them here.)This piece seems somehow to be consonant with the earlier poems. Read them here:

I will reprint here, the slightly-revised version ‘Of Appearances: of a Naked World’ to demonstrate how I edited it for publication in Returns (published in 1985). And also because the text was a near-candidate for inclusion in my selected poems History or Sleep. I hope you enjoy either or both versions.


                        (pub: Returns. Southsea: Textures, 1985)

                & deep pink
along the ridge of dusk

                                & below
                the ranked squares of latticed
                factory windows, each lit

                The hard exterior
of appearances


                The flesh of night

it may well be
this obvious, but can never be



Men singing in the factory
its blocks of light
fractured upon the river's surface

its lesser light also there

                in fluid uncertainty,

full. Men singing

in the factory: unseen voices
under the waste of the sky
& its slow moon


The brittle
transformations of
settled snow

affirm, deny

a river glazed
with ice

shattered light

frozen steam
on opaque glass
in the bathroom

spiked nebula



moving upon a body

clothed in a way of
being looked at


the pulse
under the skin


something in the speechless
coming across the horizon

of a naked world


black touching




empty streets, emptied


mouth place

dirty snow


Black tyres
hissing strips
from the wet road

The shift
exchange places
bolting to
safety, risk

from the other
a pair of amphibious
​blind eyes


Monday, January 14, 2019

Tuesday 14th January 1969:

Did propaganda raid in our class.

[Note: I've no idea what that means.]

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Statement of a Friend in An Academic Appeal

This is my statement in support of X in his/her appeal against the decision to allow him/her to correct his/her thesis for the degree of MPhil in 12 months (and is therefore in support of his/her request to correct his/her thesis for the degree of PhD in 6 months). I was the supervisor of that project, and I witnessed both vivas that I will shortly refer to, but I am speaking today in my role as a friend of X and as a party to the documentation that he/she has resourcefully obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. In doing so he/she has revealed that a complex situation with a clear way forward was turned into an omni-shambles.
This complex situation was the unfortunate result of the original external examiner being unable to return to examine the re-examination that s/he himself had set up and spoke of being happy to return to conduct in twelve months. There was a set of conditions and corrections that the external and internal agreed, and explained clearly and X attended to these (to a certain extent) in her/his re-submission.
The re-examination took on the nature of a fresh examination (although the internal provided some continuity and, of course, provides evidence of the unsatisfactory nature of that examination in relation to the first, in her report, which I hope has been re-read). The two examiners did not agree: the external saying the work would, with corrections, be an MPhil if successful, the internal indicating that she thought it worthy of a PhD, with certain, different, corrections. This fact is important. X has some other things to say about these events which I think are relevant, though I want to pursue the core of this problem.
The [appropriate] Board was left with what the philosopher Lyotard calls a ‘differend’: a disagreement to which there is no higher court that can adjudicate on the matter. Their clear way forward with this complex situation was to sensibly send all the documentation to an experienced, internationally renowned external authority on research who issued a long and complex report which we have read (excepting some redacted passages). This authority seems to me, as a former member of the Board, to have offered a quite plausible way forward, on grounds which I assume this panel has absorbed. This is an important assumption, because it is clear that the Board did not read the judgement in any great detail and perhaps did not read the papers which were forwarded to the adjudicator, including examiners’ reports.
The adjudication recommended, on grounds of ‘natural justice’, that X be allowed to submit for the PhD in 6 months and that the internal (who by now is an external, having left), be allowed to sign the corrections off, as is customary with thesis revisions.
My appeal, as it were, is on the basis of the anonymous response to X from the Board. It says: ‘Since this was a second attempt at examination and neither examiner considered the thesis or its defence to be of the standard for the award of PhD, the options open to the Board was to fail the student entirely or to offer the option of the MPhil submission within twelve months.’ This is untrue: the internal examiner clearly expresses the view that the thesis could be revised to be of PhD standard (and she makes categorical references to QAA definitions and standards). The external adjudicator also points out that 2 out of 3 of the examiners involved in the two examinations agreed with this view. Why did the Board see fit to ignore this advice that it had itself requested? Perhaps they were playing safe, in thinking that an MPhil would be the best chance of retrieving something from the complex situation. Unfortunately, they repeat their misreading that ‘the fact that neither examiner considered the thesis to be of the standard meant that’ the PhD option ‘was not possible’. It was possible because the examiners did not agree about the thesis, as I’ve explained twice now. The Board brushed aside the adjudicator’s report and his plea for them to consider the results of the first examination.
There’s more I could add, about the hurt to X, about the behaviour of the second external examiner, about the diligence of the internal on two occasions, about the detail and subtle discriminations of the external adjudicator, but I feel that my main point is that the Board in its response seems not to have read the documents correctly and has come to the wrong decision from faulty premises. The Board could have reasonably taken a different line, one that could have resolved the situation, in this sense: X has a right to attempt to re-submit for a PhD. It may be odd to put it this way, but she or he also has the right to fail. She or he knows this.

Note: The Appeal was unsuccessful. The 'friend' could do no more.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Sunday 5th January 1969:

Number One: Scaffold: Lily the Pink.

(See here for more fiftieth anniversary stuff, in this case the 50 years since the Mersey Sound collection in 2017)

Friday, January 04, 2019

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Robert Sheppard and Thomas Ingmire (with others) exhibition video of the books

As posted here, one of my poems, ‘Synovial Joints’ has been … I was almost going to say ‘set to music’, which is both true and untrue. It has been calligraphed (if there is such a term) by Thomas Ingmire. I sent Thomas my poem 'Synovial Joints' (named after the Steve Coleman album) and it may be read here. It is one of my 'Overdubs of Milton' which I talk about here.The poem (and one page of Thomas' calligraphy) appears across a folio of the San Francisco magazine AMBUSH, issue 6 (They have a website here.)

And the exhibition this work is in is on display NOW. Part of the poster giving the details is from that collaboration, but that may be seen on this (as far as I can tell, silent) gallery video (ours is the first book here to have its pages turned, but I’m followed by Geraldine Monk and others). Do have a look.

The poetry readings that were a part of the exhibition opening may also be accessed here:

You can also see our previous collaboration: both poem ('Afghanistan') and image/text here

And, again, the video link.

Friday 3rd January 1969:

Went down John’s. We did an OB (outside broadcast) in the graveyard.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019