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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My latest Drayton: he names all the rivers of Brexitland: I don't (temporary post)

You know, if you’ve seen these temporary posts before, that 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: hereThat was 100 poems long. But I didn’t stop there though.

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’). I’ve been at it since July 2018, one a week (more or less). Very nearly half way now.

I write a little on this project here, commenting on the project at about a third of the way in.

As regular returnees to this blog will also know I am posting one sonnet at a time, when they are finished (but the original rule was: only if I feel it appropriate in terms of topicality. But by now, over 30 poems in, it feels like a necessary part of the process). But temporarily; so there is only ever one at a time on the blog. Earlier in the week than is usual.

Unusually I worked on this poem last night and this morning, partly because the idea (Idea) came to me, and partly because I have events later this week (this has been hectic, with family goings-on and my knee giving way), but here it is. Drayton’s poem is a pint-sized Poly Olbion – a history of Britain through its rivers. I thought to emulate: the Dee is there, and Trent (look out Alan Baker, I’m coming to get you!). But then I thought: turn it inside out and do the rivers of the world. I do a Danish river (Drayton has the Dane Law Lea, but then I’ve got the Lee in the equivalent line.) There’s lots of holiday memories here, including the flooding of the Vltava in 2002, very frightening. The title looks back to one of my Charlotte Smith poems.

XXXII Cry Me a River

The Arno’s a low ditch, where Petrarch once
perched, though the Øresund, with no brag,
slips past islands in style. That wide boulevard
of imperial dream, the Danube, drifts from Buda
to Vienna. This is Idea’s first history lesson, not
Moggy’s lizardy lecture on concentration camps:
the Spree curls between bullet-pocked mirrors,
the crystal Seine shimmers, as his words slither on!
Idea sees Vltava’s wine-bottle whirlpool flood-waters
swell with global deluge (and plastic furniture) while
Amstel brims at the Dam, where beer embitters the Brits.
The Lee moulds Cork into little isles we British torched.
By the Mersey’s empty mouth to the world,
Friday night Idea sits in her sick and weeps.

18-19th February 2019

Poor old Drayton (and poor old ‘Idea’ I nearly had her: ‘collapsed in her sick yells We didn’vote leave cum bach’) 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! 

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:

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.

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:

Thursday 20th February 1969:

Number One: Build Me Up Buttercup, Foundations

Got records off Chris Halls.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Sunday February 16th 1969:

Did a show in the afternoon.

Reading with Forrest Gander and Rachael Allen on Friday 15th February 2019 (set list)

Tonight (last night now) I read at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University, in Ormskirk, with Forrest Gander and Rachael Allen.

It was good to read with Rachael Allen, who has a first book out from Faber, which she read from well, and I liked the way she got inside bodily desire and despair.

It was great to see Forrest Gander again, who is included in the anthology Atlantic Drift, which this evening's organiser, James Byrne, and I, edited last year. He read from his latest book and from new work about lichen and intimacy.

I briefly launched Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch, which is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons, and read from my most recent work Bad Idea, my versions of Michael Drayton's sonnets Idea.

I read Hap 2, 9, 13. Followed by Bad Idea: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, two that will appear soon in Monitoracism, i.e., 9 and 10; then; 17, 19, 'May Albion Never Learn', 26: Despair, 27, 28, 29:

last words: 'Even in fancy, I've betrayed my European IDEA'.  

Hap may be read about here:

Steve Spence has reviewed it here.

here. Thanks Steve.  And that’s recently been joined by:

Clark Allison: ‘One Side Ripening’, Stride, January 2019:

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my 'Petrarch' obsession.

I shall also be reading at the launch of The Robert Sheppard Companion, a volume of essays on my work, at Bluecoat, Liverpool, on 13th May (a date for the diary). Note: I will be reading different work at that reading. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Robert Sheppard: My 14 years of blogging

The little block of raw links below will take you to the posts I made after merely 10 years of blogging, trying to make lists of the best, my favourites (one for each year), the most neglected, etc., and plans for the (then) future. It was all quite fun, quite a lot of work, and is still fun to look at now. If I reach 15 years I might edit similar lists. 

Here's one of my favourites from the last year: a post about my poem 'Prison Camp Violin', which was the Guardian Poem of the Week, here.

For some years now,  I've been blogging fairly furiously, but I have also started tweeting announcements of my content, and this has increased the number of hits. See www.twitter@microbius. Nevertheless, this year I'm also undergoing the insane task of posting my 1969 diary, 50 years on, more or less each day, and the posts still get a certain number of hits despite being not Tweeted about. They are really going to take over the blog when there's one a day. But I've started it now! And I'll finish!

Probably still the most remarkable thing I have used the blog for was writing the draft of my critical work The Meaning of Form. I showed the ‘working out’ of some of the chapters and parts of chapters (along with digressions, caprices, poetic effusions, poetics, and – frankly – jokes) in numerous posts, and they are arranged, for scholar and lay-person alike, at what I call a ‘hub-post’, i.e., largely a page of links to all the posts pertaining to the chapters of the book in its earliest form: HERE. (I think I invented the phrase 'hub-post'.) I was acutely aware that the lay-person might not get a chance of seeing the final thing.

Another of the changes is the introduction of 'temporary' posts. Initially this was a device for dealing with announcements of upcoming events, particularly about readings. Physically, at Edge Hill, I would remove posters after an event, and I began to do the same online. Most, though, I decided to turn into set lists, indicating what I was reading. Like this post about the Ern Malley Orchestra performance I was involved in:

This then extended into the practice of temporarily posting the latest poems in 'The English Strain' project, in short, the poems about Brexit. It seemed to make sense to 'get them out there' as soon as possible, but also to not 'publish' them, so I could reasonably expect a magazine to publish them subsequently. I also post little skits on Brexit too, which are kinds of thinking with the dreadful things as they exist (if you know your Zukofsky). I particularly enjoyed Michael Go's Brexmas message from the dogging sites of Britain (all that will remain after leaving). That may still be read here:

And I've come across wonderful pictures too: thus:

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: hereThat was 100 poems long.

One temporary post, around Christmas, I turned into a permanent post (by removing the poem). It outlines what I'm doing with the sequence:

Some while back I posted this interview with me about my literary blogging. Read it here.

The pre-history of this blog, as a print magazine, may be read here, on what was my first post (even though I moved it later). However, the first edition of the print magazine is now online, and I post links to Jacket2 where it is hosted here. I also outline the complete run of the second series of Pages before it became a blogzine, and finally this blog.

Do have an exploration of what I have posted in the past. Did you, for example, ever read Bill Griffiths' 'Ghost Stories', six of them. They have never been collected. The first of them is here. (Note to self: I need to do a hub post for all of them.)

Me introducing Bill Griffiths

Monday, February 11, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Four sonnets from Non-Disclosure Agreement published on Stride (links)

One part of the unpublished manuscript ‘The English Strain’ consists of versions (‘overdubs’ is the term I use) of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. I read all of the Brownings' love letters, Woolf’s Flush, as preparation, and wrote them in two halves under the title Non Disclosure Agreement. Like others of these poems tracking politics in and around Brexit, the title (at least) was prophetic, but the speaker of the first half, ‘Brazilian Sonnets’, is the mistress of a Government minister during Brexit. The second half, ‘Cake and Eat It Britain’, has a variety of speakers; finally it’s Petrarch himself, coming back to claim his tradition (though not yet in the ones on display here).  

Four of the ‘Brazilian Sonnets’ appear online in Molly Bloom, Aidan Semmens’ fine  magazine, here.

I write about Non Disclosure Agreement here:

More recently, Rupert Loydell has published two of the ‘Brazilian Sonnets’ and two of the ‘Cake and Eat It Britain’ sonnets, but all from ‘Non-Disclosure Agreement’, this EBB extravaganza.. Here they are:

from Brazilian Sonnets

1. A Heavy Heart…: in which a love of bossa-nova invades his dreams; in which she confesses to have written his speeches for him. A grim ending.

2. I lived with visions ... in which there is an allusion to one of Churchill's most disgusting comments (at the expense of Bessie Braddock, Liverpool MP); in which she temporarily wins out over him. She gets the flat. (But of course there's an NDA (see poems below))

from Cake and Eat It Britain

3. First Time He Kissed Me (a poem which is about sexual assault, I should warn readers, a response both to ‘what’s happening’ in our times, and also to the very strange model in EBB’s sequence, which reads like an account of a sexual assault.) She's only a 'half-sister' to the #me too movement, since she's content with the terms of her NDA. Here:

4. Oh yes! They Love Through All this World of Ours: see here.

The mss of EBB's msot famous sonnet which I didn't overdub, thought it is alluded to

 I write about the completed 100 sonnets of The English Strain hereAnd about my sonnets generally here, and here ; and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession, which set this whole thing off, including how to purchase Petrarch 3, the stand-alone first part, from Crater press in its ‘map’ edition.

Sonnets from another earlier part of the 'English Strain' project Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch are now published;

see here:

and is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

I’m currently at work on the Idea sonnets of Michael Drayton for Bad Idea, what I think of as the second part of The English Strain. While I am still writing them I am temporarily posting them on this blog. But see here for an account of what’s going on in that one: