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Monday, June 29, 2020

‘An overdub of The Dancing Girl by Letitia Elizabeth Landon’ from British Standards is published online in The Nest issue of A) Glimpse) Of)

Founded in October 2009 by Dimitra Ioannou, A) GLIMPSE) OF) is an Athens based independent journal which publishes works by contemporary writers and artists in order to generate new narratives for the now. See here:

What the ‘now’ constitutes now is the nesting-down of quarantine and lockdown, and the ‘Nest’ issue is presented as a strand which may be accessed here:

There are lots of responses by artists and writers to the issue (though only one I recognised, Amy McCauley, whose work I admire greatly), and I’m the latest in this strand.


My contribution, which I read on the short video above, is ‘An overdub of The Dancing Girl by Letitia Elizabeth Landon’, one of the ‘14 Standards’ from the section of that name in British Standards. Big thanks to Dimitra.

’14 Standards’ were all written in ‘lockdown’, and sometimes obliquely, and sometimes directly, refer to that event, though each is a version of a poem by a significant Romantic poet. This is the section of British Standards where the concentration on Brexit becomes dispersed.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon (LEL as she’s known) is pretty much recognised today, though I don’t know the work that well, though she has a large selection of sonnets in the anthology I’ve been working from, which I have read with interest and pleasure; it was quite difficult to choose a poem. There’s a recent biography too, and a slightly churlish review of it here: .

The title about dancing got me thinking about my collaborations with dancer Jo Blowers. See here: for details of a piece called ‘Shutters’ from the 1990s that was revived a few years ago, and to which I allude here. More on work with Jo here and here. Of course, I’ve experimented with the form here, and the word ‘form’ is indeed the axis the poem spins on. Here’s LEL’s original for intertextual reading:

A light and joyous figure, one that seems 
As if the air were her own element;
Begirt with cheerful thoughts, and bringing back 
Old days, when nymphs upon Arcadian plains 
Made musical the wind, and in the sun 
Flash’d their bright cymbals and their whitest hands.
These were the days of poetry—the woods 
Were haunted with sweet shadows; and the caves 
Odorous with moss, and lit with shining spars,
Were homes where Naiades met some graceful youth
Beneath the moonlit heaven—all this is past; 
Ours is a darker and a sadder age; 
Heaven help us through it !—’tis a weary world 
The dust and ashes of a happier time. 
British Standards was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March, by which time we were already ‘nesting down’. For that first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, cheekily subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here:

‘14 Standards’ (with links to other poems in the sequence) may be read about here:

British Standards is Book Three of ‘The English Strain’ project. 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 . All these posts carry further links.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Second sonnet from 'Tabitha and Thunderer' temporarily posted here

The body of my current occupation, the ‘book’, British Standards, was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. (An earlier version of a Shelley poem stands as ‘preface’.) For that 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:

Then followed ‘14 Standards’. I have now written two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for all 16 standards!

Now I’m moving onto ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, which is another projected sequence of 14 sonnets.

I’ve previously 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: )

Parts of Book One are still available in booklet form; look here and here:

Back to current concerns. ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’ is a version of 14 of the passionate love sonnets of ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson. Carol Rumens writes about this extraordinary sonnet sequence (and its author’s extraordinary life) here:

The whole sequence (as well as all the poems I transposed in ‘14 Standards’) may be found in Feldman, Paula, R., and Daniel Robinson. eds.  A Century of Sonnets. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, a fascinating and eye-opening anthology.

Here’s the poem, the second in the sequence of 14. I shall follow my previous practice of temporarily posting each poem as it’s written, and immediately reading it on video too. These are still in draft form, it is worth noting.

VIII Her Passion Increases

Why not in aching caresses I used to start
while my tangle of curls entangled him
in tangles of desire for these very curls
bare back shameful blush in vain pushes
through veins veiled in my vale no more 
a lyric professor of subjectivity I 
narrate my self bathed in sprinkled 
scorched source of song thrill
Go my Mamas with no papas shiver
your shoulders why must Thunderer’s stunted 
slaves slice through viral Liverpool streets vile
African Trade banners swaying while I
miraculate angles my heels force on him he’ll 
melt like Bo kicking fit on his office floor

28th June 2020

If Bo can’t do a press briefing at least he can do a press up!

Why ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’? Tabitha was one of Mary Robinson’s pen names; the ‘Thunderer’ was a print by James Gillray that features Mary Robinson and her lover, Ban Tarleton, the Liverpudlian war criminal and slave owner, the tight-trousered ‘Thunderer’ of the title. You can see a fine reproduction of ‘The Thunderer’ by James Gillray here:

Look what Gillray's done with Mary!

The best place for more about Robinson is Byrne, Paula. Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson. London: Harper Perennial, 2005, which I am currently reading for the second time And there’s more than enough on Tarleton in Cameron, Gail, and Stan Crooke, Liverpool – Capital of the Slave Trade. Liverpool: Picton Press, 1992.

In today’s poem I allude to the fact that when he canvassed for a Liverpool seat in parliament on a pro-slavery ticket, part of his Boris Johnson-like campaigning was to have a pair of black boys carry a banner reading ‘Support the African Trade’, i.e., slavery. The two boys may have been freed slaves, or slaves still. The streets they walk in Liverpool are named, still named, after slave-owners.

Indeed, see me read a relevant poem from ‘14 Standards’ here:

We will be seeing a lot more of him (and her). But the characters in the poem have their contemporary avatars too, though I’ve yet to work them out.

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. Chronologically, they lie between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here,

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

I contemplate the term ‘transposition’ at the end of the following post (that is mostly about collaboration, you can scroll past that bit). In determining that ‘transposition’ isn’t collaboration proper, so far as I’m concerned, I also demonstrate, if only for myself, that ‘transposition’ isn’t translation.

Carol Rumens writes about my work, too, here, in The Guardian here. And see here for the subsequent book publication, Smart Devices:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Poem from 'Poems of National Independence' talking to the dead (Wordsworth) on STRIDE today

As part of the 'Talking to the Dead' feature on Stride magazine (which began with posts from 17th June 2020) I've contributed one of my 14 'Poems of National Independence', writings-through of Wordsworth's sonnets. This is one of the odd ones out in the sequence, in that it speaks back, writes back, talks to, the dead author, tracking his infamous revisionary poetics. It snuck up on me quite innocently. I was planning to 'transpose' this sonnet, which is about a silent black deportee from France, in a different way, but I discovered that I had two versions of the poem to work with. Fascinated by the differences, this poem emerged between the two authorised Wordsworth versions.

Read it on Stride here.

Watch me read it (best to see the text as well, it's not very oral, as it happens) above.

I transposed poems from a part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’. I added the subtitle ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I’d only selected ones written 1802-3. Each carries Wordsworth's first line as its title, for identification. The poems are easy to find, though not always in the versions I have used. Wordsworth wrote over 500 sonnets; I’ve read about 100 of them this year.

This blog post from Jonathan Bate, who was about to publish his Radical Wordsworth biography at the time I was writing the poems, is illuminating about the early vs. the late poems. This is relevant, since the poems I have selected are late revisions of early poems. 

Leader, Zachary. Revision and Romantic Authorship. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, and Wolfson, Susan J. Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997, are also particularly good on Wordsworth's revisions. Wolfson is good at any time, of course, and a principal theoretical input to The Meaning of Form. (See here.) 

There is a general hubpost to all the other parts of this sequence and the way it links to other parts of 'The English Strain' project, and this 'Wordsworth' part of 'British Standards' here.

There are two posts about the background to the project: one that looks back at Book One, The English Strain here (to be published later this year) and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here .

I am delighted to report that two other poems from ‘Poems of National Independence’ (in British Standards) are published by International Times. Here they are with short laptop videos: