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Friday, September 18, 2020

Robert Sheppard: SIX poems from British Standards published as part of the Poetry and Covid Project (links, context and videos)


I began work on the book I am thinking of calling British Standards in pre-Covid 2020, but post-Brexit 'Independence Day'. Both ‘issues’ are important, but Coronavirus (to give it its more ‘poetic’ name, given that a ring of sonnets, usually seven or fourteen, like mine, is called a corona) dominates at various points (from March to August 2020, really).

I discovered the Poetry and Covid Project (see here https://poetryandcovid.com/) quite late in their deliveries (but that meant my poems were oven ready, unlike Brexit, to add to the mix). I never wanted to produce ‘Covid’ Poetry or ‘Lockdown Lyrics’ but that is, inevitably, what these early parts of British Standards, in part, because of their socio-political focus, turn out to be.

I am pleased to say that three of the former and three of the latter have been selected for the website and they may be read here: https://poetryandcovid.com/2020/09/18/five-poems-2/ (They say it's 'Five Poems' but there are actually six.)

The first section of British Standards, containing these ‘covid’ poems, was completed late March. For this, I transposed poems from Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html


Then followed ‘14 Standards’, the lockdown poems, which are arranged non-chronologically, something I’d pre-decided for formal reasons, but which reflected the timeless quality of lockdown quite well! I write about this section here:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . There are links to online publication of other poems too, via these links. 



Here is a video of me reading (chanting) the Wordsworth transposition, ‘O Friend! I Know Not which way I must look’, written on 13th March.

 


Here is a video of me reading the first ‘Standard’, an overdub of ‘To the River Tweed’ by William Lisle Bowles, written on 27th April but revised on 13th May. 👍 👍👍👍

 


The Project, funded by the AHRC, and led at Plymouth University, by Anthony Caleshu, and led at Nottingham Trent, by Rory Waterman, (thanks, guys) asks the question, ‘What role is poetry playing during COVID-19?’ They explain:

Our project proposes the writing, exchange, publication and discussion of poetry as a significant cultural response, benefiting the wellbeing of people from around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to join the conversation, to submit your own poems or to nominate others which speak to the idea of contemporary and/or historical pandemics. 

Every day, we’ll be featuring a new poem from our inbox, and each month we’ll feature new writing from one of the world’s leading poets as they think through their predicaments, find in language a way to connect to others, and offer and seek solace and consolation.

Do have a look. https://poetryandcovid.com/

Also, as to my sense of what poetry can do, or not, see here, for an earlier sonnet from ‘National Grandeur’, and my commentary on this issue: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-two-transpositions-of.html

An unpublished poetics piece, ‘Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation’ deals with the question: ‘A compassionate world, inspired by the great sacrifices of NHS frontline staff? Or…’ 

 


 Where did you find that beer, Mark, during lockdown? 

 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A version of Keats with Petrarch, Blowup Laura, Keats, Blake, Robert Frost and me (temporary post with crowded video at the end of the post)

I began work on British Standards in pre-Covid 2020, but post-Brexit Independence Day. Both ‘issues’ are important. The first section was finished late March. For this, I transposed poems from Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’, and even more cheekily subtitled them, ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

 Then followed ‘14 Standards’, the lockdown poems, and in turn, two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements (transposing a couple of Shelley’s sonnets) and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for all 16 ‘standards’: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . There are links to online publication of some of the poems too (as there are in many of these links).

‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, interventions in the sonnet sequence ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson, followed, and they may be read about (with video) here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/my-transpositions-of-mary-robinsons.html

 


Now I have turned to Keats. I had some trouble getting going (and you can read about that struggle here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/an-overdub-understudy-version-of-keats.html


 

Here’s the third one. How did Laura become a blow up doll? (She’s been most things to a lot of people, as I’ve been reading.) Video at the END of this post. 

 




Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there


Faithful guests whisper filth
in this overdub

Understudies in thorny thickets
flushing their pumps

This poem was only picked
for its references to Petrarch

Let’s skim the frosty stars
distancing in constellations

The threaded illuminations at
Blackpool clustering my dead poems

Ignore the chesty chill queuing
at the remote testing centre

Contrafacts testing testing
testing the spumes of brimful song

I take back control of these
miles to go or we’ll soon be

Trotting to Robert Frost’s measures
I assume direct rule until I’m

Safely back home with my bust
of Blake frowning under the weight of

Lardy impressions re-musicating
Milton’s subaltern devilry

Sublunary Blowup Laura blushes
behind her light green face covering

As fitful Keats crested in laurels
flusters like Bo at PMQs with

His moonshot galaxy-beating
bluster his lust a pump to inflate her

17th September 2020 


I’m thinking of calling these poems ‘Weird Syrup: contrafacts and counterfactuals from Keats’. It’s really true that ‘This poem was only picked/ for its references to Petrarch’. But I was helped by referring to Zuccato, Edoardo. Petrarch in Romantic England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008,  book I have read very quickly having come across it reading (even more quickly) Translating Petrarch’s Poetry (which I am in and you can read about that here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/practice-led-piece-on-petrarch-3-from.html )

Though Keats had already written several Petrarchan sonnets, he first mentioned Petrarch in ‘Keen, fitful gusts are whispering here and there’, a sonnet he composed to celebrate one of his early visits to Hunt’s cottage in Hampstead. The last lines describe ‘lovely Laura in her light green dress, / And faithful Petrarch gloriously crowned’, that is, a portrait of the two lovers Hunt had in his house. The picture is described in greater detail in ‘Sleep and Poetry’: ‘Petrarch, outstepping from the shady green, Starts at the sight of Laura; nor can wean His eyes from her sweet face. Most happy they! For over them was seen a free display Of out-spread wings, and from between them shone The face of Poesy: from off her throne She overlooked things that I scarce could tell.’ Keats did not linger on Petrarch’s melancholy. The couple is described as ‘most happy’ because love conjures up the invisible wings of Poesy, as Keats will call them in his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. At this date Keats did not pay much attention to the price to be paid to compose love poetry. But in Hunt’s room there were other literary portraits. ‘Sleep and Poetry’ mentions Alfred the Great, Tadeusz Kosciusko and, significantly, a bust of Sappho. 

Here's a cluster of lines that I tried out:

 

Untranslatable Laura blushes

behind her light green face covering, /

 

As faithless

 

fitful Petrarch crested in laurel,

blushes like Keats with saucepan on his head

 

As faithless Keats crested in laurel,

flushes with

 

As faithless Bo crested in laurel,

flusters at PMQ’s world-beating.

 

flushes his pump in the undergrowth,

 

blushes like Keats with saucepan on his head

 

I really like that last one, but it doesn’t fit, the line that is, not the saucepan!

British Standards is book three of my ‘English Strain’ Project. My ghostly production of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ turned the project (as though it itself was an enormous sonnet corona), so that it could not turn back to the 14 line sonnet frame (see https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/my-occasional-transposition-of-shelley.html ).  I’d been looking at some poems of Robert Duncan, ‘derivative’ (his word) of Dante’s sonnets, which weren’t formally sonnets at all. (I mean they possessed none of the determinants of sonnethood; not even 14 lines.) That seemed like a necessary formal ‘volta’, or ‘turn’, as the sequence begins the long descent towards the runway. I have a determination (though not religiously so) to never write a 14 line poem, or a sonnet-approximate poem, again.

 On this blog, as I’m guessing most visitors know, I’ve documented ‘The English Strain’ as work progressed through to its third book. Here are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html )

 

I am delighted to say that Book One and Book Two are due for publication soon, The English Strain from Shearsman, and Bad Idea from Knives Forks and Spoons.

 


Parts of Book One are still available in booklet form; look here for Petrarch 3 in its fold-out map format, and here for Hap:

 


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

I have written in detail about the writing of Petrarch 3 (see https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/practice-led-piece-on-petrarch-3-from.html )

 

As might be gathered from what I have said the third book, British Standards as a whole (not just the corona of ‘14 Standards’), aims to present transpositions of admired sonnets of the Romantic period, from William Bowles to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Chronologically, they lie between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html

and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both of them in the final parts of Book One:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/09/robert-sheppard-non-disclosure.html

 I read this the other day, and it struck me as important to the misgivings I have now again about the socially referential aspects of this project, but then satire thrives on that: ‘There’s something about satire which means that it oozes outwards quicker than other modes, it forces the reader to draw the text into relation with the social totality quicker, it is ecological insofar as it is always profoundly embedded in a wide contextual web and twangs those threads repeatedly.’ Robert Kiely (I notice he is published by Crater too) at

 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1InkJ5BItS2XYkZ6UBaqTaL2qQhPgfjdb/view

 

 





Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Practice-Led piece on 'Petrarch 3' from The English Strain published in Translating Petrarch's Poetry (Legenda)

I have a ‘practice-led’ essay in this wondrous volume, Translating Petrarch's Poetry: L’Aura del Petrarca from the Quattrocento to the 21st Century, edited by Carole Birkan-Berz, Guillaume Coatalen and Thomas Vuong, and published now by Legenda ISBN: 978-1-781886-63-2 (hardback)  RRP £75, $99, €85. (Ouch! Try to get a library copy.)

 This is an expensive academic hardback, but a paperback is due next year, ISBN: 978-1-781886-64-9.

And, ISBN: 978-1-781886-65-6, JSTOR ebook, is available… 


See here for the Legenda/MHRA page for full details (and contents) of the book:

http://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/Translating-Petrarchs-Poetry

Ranging through five centuries of translations, adaptations and imitations of Petrarch, the father of Humanism, this transcultural, transdisciplinary study considers the echoes of this major figure, whose reach goes beyond borders, eras and literary genres to resonate singularly into our times and in our own resonating ears. 

I'm pleased to be share these pages with one of my literary heroes, Jacques Roubaud, and his ‘Elements of the History of the Sonnet from its Italian Sources: Formal Aspects’. His axoim 'All sonnets are sonnets by Petrarch' is provocative for my own 'sonnets'. 

The rest of the book is grand too. There are chapters on the French and Spanish reception of Petrarch (the latter involving a Portuguese working in Peru!), as well as on illustrations to, and musical settings of, the text. I enjoyed the chapter on brother and sister team of the de Scuderys, he who abridged the sonnets like Reader's Digest and she who novelised (and satirised) Petrarch's and Laura's married life. The French tried to claim him as ... well ... French. There's a good chapter on Tim Atkins and Emmanuel Hocquard, and another on Geoffrey Hill. I am expecting the book to inform the rest of my Petrarchan project, ‘The English Strain’, which I’ll explain after I say a little more about this book and my part in it.  

Tim Atkins’ piece on his Complete Petrarch is also here, which is appropriate, since I owe a debt to him (and Peter Hughes), though they must be exonerated from blame. Let me explain.

My ‘“Era il giorno ch’al sol si scoloraro”: A Derivative Dérive into/out of Petrarch’s Sonnet 3’, in Translating Petrarch's Poetry: L’Aura del Petrarca from the Quattrocento to the 21st Century, ed. by Carole Birkan-Berz, Guillaume Coatalen and Thomas Vuong, Transcript, 8 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2020), to give it its full citation, if that helps with locating it, is an account of my writing the transpositions (as I now think of them) of my Oulipo-inspired variations of a single Petrarch sonnet, after making a ‘translation’ of a Petrarch sonnet to help me write a chapter on Peter Hughes’ and Tim Atkins’ full jobs on the Man, in The Meaning of Form (see here http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/09/robert-sheppard-meaning-of-form-in_19.html

) and finding myself drawn into the wonderful world of versioning. (There are 7 of the 14 poems complete in the piece, too.) It was quite a new thing for me, and with it came a new tone. In the process, I discovered my inner Byron and Steve Bell!

As I say in the piece:

Petrarch was pretty clear that translation implied more than faithful reproduction of linguistic features. He warned, utilising a conventional metaphor for translation drawn from apiculture, ‘Take care … that the nectar does not remain in you in the same state as when you gathered it; bees would have no credit unless they transformed it into something different and better.’ This essay involves attempting to trace the transformations involved in the writing of fourteen variations on a ‘translation’ I made of the third sonnet of Petrarch, Petrarch 3, a partly conceptual, partly expressive, sonnet sequence, made under the sign of Oulipo, but informed by earlier poetic interests of my own, even early poems. It is at once impersonal and personal. It is, arguably, both hugely derivative and original, though that last judgement is beyond the scope of my poetics as I define it as a ‘speculative, writerly discourse’…As a poet-critic, I believe that my literary criticism must inform my poetics – the mercurial writerly conversation that I have with myself in my journal, with others in explicit poetics pieces, and perhaps in this piece I am writing now – but I do not know how particularly, hence my use of the verb ‘attempting’ above… The creative story I … tell is one that criss-crosses poetics, literary criticism, translation and creative writing itself, and may reveal something about modes of transformation and translational processes.

 Read my ‘original’ translation (of Petrarch’s third sonnet) and a Scouse doggie Christmas version here.

See here for my first encounters with Hughes and Atkins and with the single poem I produced. You can read here about the famous map-format publication of Petrarch 3 from Crater Press   here and here . It is still available.

The version in the style of Wayne Pratt (one of my ‘early poems’ referred to above, and which I write about in the article, and Atkins mentions in his) may be read here with a short video of me reading the sonnet, less than a minute:  http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-from-english-strain-ve.html

The final poem in the sequence (and a farewell to Laura’s aura, or so I thought) may be read here:  http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2017/09/robert-sheppard-from-petrarch-3.html

Here’s a rare outtake: the semiotic fringe removed from one of the poems:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/07/robert-sheppard-petrarch-3-semiotic.html

 

Here I am seen reading 'The First English Sonnet 1401', the joke being 'I' got there before Wyatt and Surrey (and Chaucer; dig my Neville Coghill impersonation)!

Read the first review of Petrarch 3  here. The second review of the publication may be read here:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/martin-palmer-on-petrarch-3.html

Peter Riley considers it sternly here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/03/peter-riley-on-my-petrarch-3-and-other.html

Petrarch 3 is, as I say above, separately available from Crater Press Press   here and here but it now forms the first part of a much longer set of transpositions of ‘English’ sonnets, ‘The English Strain’, the first book of which, The English Strain, will be published by Shearsman later this year.

The English Strain is described here and as is Book Two, Bad Idea here . Parts of Book Three, British Standards, upon which I am currently engaged, are covered here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

And here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html

That one workaday translation of Petrarch set off something huge. From the essay itself you will find how randomly it was ‘chosen’. But I also keep coming back to it. My first 'Keats' transposition takes me back to Peter Hughes' project to spur on my own: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/an-overdub-understudy-version-of-keats.html

‘Take care … that the nectar does not remain in you in the same state as when you gathered it; bees would have no credit unless they transformed it into something different and better.’ Pet. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

A version of Keats' poem on Leigh Hunt's release from prison: Bo is committed to prison (counterfactual poem)



I began work on British Standards in pre-Covid 2020, but post-Brexit Independence Day. Both ‘issues’ are important. The first section was finished late March. For this, I transposed poems from Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’, and even more cheekily subtitled them, ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

 Then followed ‘14 Standards’, the lockdown poems, and in turn, two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements (transposing a couple of Shelley’s sonnets) and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for all 16 ‘standards’: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . There are links to online publication of some of the poems too (as there are in many of these links).

 


‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, interventions in the sonnet sequence ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson, followed, and they may be read about (with video) here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/my-transpositions-of-mary-robinsons.html

 My ghostly production of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ turned the project (as though it itself was an enormous sonnet corona), so that it could not turn back to the 14 line sonnet frame (see Ozymandi).  I’d been looking at some poems of Robert Duncan, ‘derivative’ (his word) of Dante’s sonnets, which weren’t formally sonnets at all. (I mean they possessed none of the determinants of sonnethood; not even 14 lines.) That seemed like a necessary formal ‘volta’, or ‘turn’, as the sequence begins the long descent towards the runway. I have a determination (though not religiously so) to never write a 14 line poem, or a sonnet-approximate poem, again.

 


In the meantime, I have turned to Keats. I had some trouble getting going (and you can read about that struggle here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/an-overdub-understudy-version-of-keats.html

 


Written on the Day that Mr Bo was Committed to Prison 


Times Radio drones its truth (to
power itself). Bo’s shut away,

violator of his word yet in his flattered
state he thinks it’s a lark. He

hasn’t killed fifty thousand
through grandeur’s neglect or tardiness.

Our despoiler of both domestic
ties and international law ‘in a very

specific, limited way’ attempts to glue
the 3½ nations back, like his busted bust

of Pericles, broken at his bust. He
clutches his Lucretius (‘holiday

reading!’ he calls it at his trial) who
proves all things play algorithmic

games, from atoms to plagues for mortal
remains. Nothing to worry about (as the

Cum said, in defence) not even love,
thinks our Adonis of Loveliness,

hoisting himself in happy flights of
fantasy: bonky-bonky with the next

future ex-Mrs Bo! I know this is just
a thought-experiment, the fictional

culling of his wrecking crew,
since the real delusive Bo

is pounding out his podium’s latest
legend: SHIT – SHOWER – SHIRT:

BRITAIN’S BACK TO WORK
, and it’s me
who’s banging himself up with a poem.

10th September 2020

 


I’m thinking of calling these poems ‘Weird Syrup: contrafacts and counterfactuals from Keats’, and this is a counterfactual: the arrest of Bo on charges of being a liar. It’s a version of Keats’ ‘Written on the Day that Mr Leigh Hunt Left Prison’, and I resisted a serious poem on actual political prisoners (in Belarus, for example) and reversed the polarities of the original. I utilise some of Hunt’s offending words which landed him in prison as a political journalist. So, Bo shares one profession with Hunt; another with the Prince Regent. Brandon Lewis, of course, said: "Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way". We have a government of brazen outlaws. No, I’ll save that thought for another experiment. Oh yes, I find the increased use of the phrase ‘the 4 nations of the United Kingdom' galling. I can actually only count 3. Surely Northern Ireland is not a nation, either for Unionists (obviously) or Republicans (even more obviously).

SHIT – SHOWER – SHIRT: 

BRITAIN’S BACK TO WORK

British Standards
is book three of my ‘English Strain’ Project. (Shall I simply call it BS?) 

On this blog, I’ve documented most of ‘The English Strain’ as work progressed through to its third book. Here are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html )

I'm pleased to announce that Book One and Book Two are due for publication soon, The English Strain from Shearsman, and Bad Idea from Knives Forks and Spoons.

Parts of Book One are still available in booklet form; look here for Petrarch 3 in its fold-out map format.

I have written in detail about the writing of Petrarch 3 (see https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/practice-led-piece-on-petrarch-3-from.html )

And here for Hap:

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


As might be gathered from what I have said the third book, British Standards aims to present transpositions of admired sonnets of the Romantic period, from William Bowles to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Chronologically, they lie between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html

and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both of them in the final parts of Book One:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/09/robert-sheppard-non-disclosure.html

Here’s a thought: ‘There’s something about satire which means that it oozes outwards quicker than other modes, it forces the reader to draw the text into relation with the social totality quicker, it is ecological insofar as it is always profoundly embedded in a wide contextual web and twangs those threads repeatedly.’ Robert Kiely at

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1InkJ5BItS2XYkZ6UBaqTaL2qQhPgfjdb/view

 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

an overdub, an understudy, a version, of Keat’s most famous sonnet (and then a further version)

Here is an overdub, an understudy, a version, of Keat’s most famous sonnet. (But see the update  below where I update it! All these temporary posts of sonnets involve drafts.)

On Looking Again into Peter Hughes’s Petrarch (draft)


I’ve travelled a lot in Norfolk; I’ve seen
toffs with their guns eating their own packed lunches
in the pubs; bitten by the snippy crabs of Cromer
and the nippy Arctic winds of King’s Lynn; I’ve seen
threadbare Teddy Boys in Norwich Market (1975);
but never did I find a tattered fairground
blaring Stupid Cupid through a distorted tannoy
till I heard sly-eyed Hughes loud and clear; and I felt
like a consultant consulting the world’s worst piles;
or like watching Eric Morecambe on the telly
with his trembling glasses, stretching over a fence
on little un-Grecian Ern’s shoulders: and I’d hoot
at Eric’s wide-eyed speechless leer, as he beheld
unseen teams of nudists bouncing their balls.

20th August 2020


I wrote this poem on auto-pilot. The lines came to me and I saw the poem and its effects laid out before me as though it had already been written. In some senses it had: it transfers to Keats’ ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’, the technique of much of ‘The English Strain’ project (versions of canonical sonnets) and it returns me to the poetics of ‘Petrarch 3’, the first part, which arose out of some literary critical writing I was doing on Peter’s ‘Petrarch’ (and Tim Atkins’ too; see here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2013/12/robert-sheppard-on-petrarch-boys-peter.html). I like the poem but, like Roy Fisher, I distrust the poem in its (apparent) hour of success. Hadn’t my ghostly production of ‘Ozymandias’ turned the project (as though it itself was an enormous sonnet corona) so that it could not turn back to this sort of thing? Yes. I’d already decided that. I’d been looking at some poems of Robert Duncan, ‘derivative’ (his word) of Dante’s sonnets, which weren’t sonnets at all. (I mean they possessed none of the determinants of sonnethood; not even 14 lines.) And that throws it open to respond to a selection of Keats’ sonnets in an original way (possibly under the title ‘Weird Syrup’), vaguely thinking ahead to John Clare’s sonnets (which I am thinking of transposing into quennets) and the end of this project. In other words, to leave the hitherto guiding formal constraint (what’s left of it) behind. ‘14 Standards’ had me exercising my formal muscle, so that each poem was a different sonnety shape. And I’d almost left the Brexit theme, with its National Dogging Sites, behind with Wordsworth, up his knees in Kentish fluid.

 In short, I have developed a ‘technique’, a mode, that can take any sonnet by any writer, and transpose it (even here, where there is no approach to Brexit or Coronavirus). I am not programmatically wedded to formal innovation or investigation, but I need to prefer my will to my ease here, and push on, investigatively. I have 14 sonnets by Keats selected, or randomly arranged (there are, oddly, 14 sonnets embedded in the selection of Keats’ letters, in Gittings’ edition), and ‘Chapman’s Homer’ isn’t one of them. I point you also to Robert Hampson’s work on that sonnet. Of course, I could use it alone as a model for 14 poems, replicating the work of ‘Petrarch 14’, but that seems inadequate, though suggestive! (On Looking Again into Tim Atkins’ Petrarch; On Looking Again into Petrarch’s Petrarch; On Listening Again to Dusty Springfield; On First Listening to Harish Raghavan’s Calls to Action; On Looking Again into the Shed at the bottom of the garden; On Looking Again at Boris Johnson’s Brexit; On Looking Again into the Dominic Cummings’ Eyesight; On Looking into Trump’s Tax Records…) In an Oulipean way it is, as it should be, potentially (I typed ‘poetentially’) plenitudinous. But I’ve three volumes of this stuff anyway (that’s over 200 poems!) and it needs to turn away from former models, but perhaps back towards contemporary political and social events. (The slippage back to the 1970s, as here, is there in ‘Petrarch 3’, in my versions of Charlotte Smith’s Sussex sonnets, and in one of the Wordsworth overdubs. That mention of ‘former models’ sounds coincidentally slightly sleazy!)

I think I shall have my cake and eat it (why not? It’s a very Brexity concept, as earlier poems suggested, where I used that as a title) as I have by turning ‘Ozymandias’ into a ghost of itself (and by offering my 2007 version of it, ‘for Stephen’, as an extra, in the notes to the notes). I might print this new poem as a footnote to my Keats variations, a phantom limb (rather than Keats’ ‘living hand’) sticking out and providing fake sensations, a false reading on the poetentiometer!  

UPDATE (two days later): Then this happened. As I was revising the half-abandoned poem, I half rescued it, as I continued to work on it, and ended up with (again) partly: a poem that looks remarkably like what I was intending to do: a poem coming out of a sonnet, which is not itself a sonnet. I also explicitly added a Brexit theme. So now we've got:


On Looking Again into Peter Hughes’s Petrarch

I’ve travelled a lot in North
Norfolk too I’ve seen toffs

with their hunting guns eating
their own packed lunches in

the pubs faced the snippy
crabs of crumbling Cromer

the nippy Arctic blizzards
of Blakeney Point I’ve seen

washed-out Teddy Boys
weeping in Norwich Market

yet never did I find
a tattered fairground

blaring Stupid Cupid through
a distorted tannoy till

I heard sly-eyed Peter
loud and clear and felt

like a post-Brexit Europhile
gifted my first starry visa

or like I’d watched Eric
Morecambe on telly

with his trembling glasses
stretching over a fence

on little un-Grecian Ern’s
shoulders and I’d hooted

at Eric’s speechless
English leer as he beheld

unseen teams of Swedish nudists
bouncing their balls

20th-22nd August 2020


  


 
The poem is not only set in the territory featured in Peter’s poems (which I did know, and travel a lot in, during my UEA 1970s and early 80s); it is also the site of a spectacular vote for Brexit. So formally and thematically, this version is tougher, and belongs to British Standards, although it does dislodge the plans I’d devised for tackling Keats. Critics writing about Keats (because they don’t understand the nature of poetics as an anticipatory writerly discourse) are surprised that his letters indicate, for example, that one day he renounces writing epic, and the next day he takes it up again, but in a different way. I understand that. And I understand that writing what I wrote (above) and what I’m writing now, is part of the process. As is the blogging of these 'contrafacts and counterfactuals' as I might call them.  

As I worked on the poem (and perchance into my hands came a CD with Stupid Cupid on it, I mean, literally, without me remembering that a man in a pub had once burnt it for me, there it was in a pile while I was searching for Tori Freestone or Ambrose Akimusire!) I wondered whether Keats and his sonnets might entirely defeat me, that I might be only able to this one. What a spur to do them – or to do something different! (23rd August 2020)

British Standards was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. For its first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’, and even more cheekily subtitled them, ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

Then followed ‘14 Standards’, and in turn, two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements, and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for information on all 16 ‘standards’: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . There are links to online publication of some of the poems too. 

I’ve documented ‘The English Strain’ project as work progressed through its three books so far. There are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html )

However, the big news is that Book One and Book Two are due for publication soon, The English Strain from Shearsman, and Bad Idea from Knives Forks and Spoons.

Meanwhile parts of Book One are still available in booklet form; look here for Petrarch 3, which is also co-dedicated to Peter Hughes (for it was partly his work that got this whole project going) in its fold-out map format, and here for Hap: 

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

As might be gathered from what I have said, British Standards as a whole (not just the corona of ‘14 Standards’) aims to present transpositions of admired sonnets of the Romantic period, from William Bowles to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, stopping off at Keats on the way. Chronologically, they lie between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html

and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both of them in the final parts of Book One:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/09/robert-sheppard-non-disclosure.html

Friday, September 11, 2020

My occasional transposition of Shelley' s 'Ozymandias' appears and disappears (hub post)

 My ‘book’ British Standards, which is part of the larger ‘English Strain’ project, threads transpositions of Shelley through itself. British Standards was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. For its first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’, and even more cheekily subtitled them, ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

But this was prefaced with a single poem from 2019, called ‘England in 2019’, a version of Shelley’s prophetic ‘England in 1819’.


Then followed ‘14 Standards’, and in turn, two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements, and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. ‘Double Standard’ consists of two more variations of Shelley, put into the stanza shape of ‘Ode to the West Wind’, which is a unique fourteen line shape. See here for all 16 ‘standards’: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . 

There are links to online publication of some of the poems too, but none of the Shelley transpositions yet. When they are, this will form a hubpost for them.

After finishing ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, which is a version of 14 of the passionate love sonnets of ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson (1796) (see here), I returned to another Shelley poem. Returned in three senses. Firstly, I have attempted to write a version of ‘Ozymandias’ for 'the English Strain', ‘Oxymandius’, using this Oulipo technique (whose name I can never recall), once before, but failed, since the constraint was not motivated. Secondly, I have versioned the poem written simultaneously as Shelley’s, Horace Smith’s sonnet (sometimes also called ‘Ozymandias’), in ’14 Standards’. Thirdly (as I explain in my note to my ‘Standard’) I have already written a sonnet version of Ozymandias, my ‘for Stephen’ of 2007, which you may read in a moment.

However, the toppling of statues raised the question again, and I felt I had an opening into this subject, with the Oulipo constraint of the absent poem operating as an analogy for the both the vanishing statues of owners and the disappeared spaces of slaves. (This is continuing the slavery theme of ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’ and my ‘Standards’ version of one of Southey’s anti-slavery sonnets.) It’s in the air; it’s on the streets in Liverpool: the empty plinth of Huskisson on Prince’s Drive, that I refer to here; the replete slave-name streets (dozens of them!) in Liverpool.

Here is the note to ’14 Standards’ (which I refer to below):

Horace Smith’s sonnet was written at the same time as Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’. Both were published in Hunt’s Examiner during 1818. Guy Davenport points out that the poem, which appears as ‘Ozymandias’ in Feldman and Robinson, was originally entitled ‘On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below’, and comments, ‘Shelley called his “Ozymandias”. Genius may also be knowing how to title a poem.’ (Davenport 1984: 281). However, Smith’s spectacle of the ‘annihilated’ London of futurity is a memorable vision not shared by Shelley’s poem (Davenport shows how much Shelley took from Smith). This partly explains my choice of this ‘Ozymandias’, but my poem ‘for Stephen’, written in 2007, is already a transposition of Shelley'sjustly more famous sonnet:


The red metronome on Letná hill 
sways like a lucky drunkard 
on its pedestal above the spires 
a restless reminder of rust and wreck. 
Or an antique windscreen wiper 

describing its arc 
upon a plane of smear and rain-wash 
heroic in a monochrome movie, tinted red 

With each wipe across the screen 
the determined visage of the driver clears. 
It’s Josef Stalin the giant blocks with his pocks 
long blown to shatters but he’s still there 

waving yes and no 
to anyone who can see him (Warrant Error: 112)


I write more about my poem here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2011/07/innovative-sonnet-sequence-thirteen-of.html . This post reminds me that there's a second poem that also alludes to this Shelley sonnet (which is also included on this 2011 post). 

You can read about, and buy, Warrant Error, here:

https://www.shearsman.com/store/Robert-Sheppard-Warrant-Error-p102839132

and here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2014/12/warrant-error-unredacted-report-from.html 

I’ve documented whole three book ‘English Strain’ project as work progressed through its three books so far. There are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html )

(This video seems to lack sound: how appropriate: another vanishing.) 

Ozymandias[1]

 

 

 

[2]

 

 

                                                                [3]

 

                            [4]      [5]                      

 

 

       [6]

                                                           [7]

 

 

                                [8]  [9]



[1] This statue has been removed for further study. (See ‘9: Ozymandias’ by Horace Smith in ‘14 Standards’ from British Standards, and its note; above.)

[2] The level plinth.

[3] They didn’t roll this hollow monster to the harbour in ’81. He was dropped where he’d stood, eyeing the monarch’s approach. Replaced by a single shivering palm, a Jamaican flag for ganja Bank Holidays.

[5] Barefoot in sand. Bare facts for the unknown: boundless space for the disappeared.

[6] Along the shore, the Iron Men socially distance. 

[7] Self-besotted be-sooted Bo; be-suited Go. In bronze!

[8] A vast Trump of Stone: the White House forced to discreet enquiry concerning vacancies at Mount Rushmore.

[9] Any toppled statue becomes a sculpture in shatters of re-form, memories of its memory.