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Friday, July 23, 2021

Playing my Part in the New Defences of Poetry project (the poetics of British Standards: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation

The live discussion last night worked well, even over Zoom, as we connected the seagulls of South Wales with the fogs of Northumbria. Olivia McCannon’s piece on ‘ownership and the cooperative mind’ dealt with translation as exchange and relationship, while Philp Gross dealt with ‘Words, Listening’, which focussed upon listening, silence and that noisy world of dissension that we all seem caught up in. I presented my ‘Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation’, which I wrote in the middle of writing book three of The English Strain project, British Standards, but is also a ‘defence’ of some kind, perhaps more of poetics than poetry itself. I also revise my definitions of poetics! 

Thanks to David O’Hanlon-Alexandra, the convenor of the discussion and the onlie begetter of the ‘New Defences’ project, who got us all to say more. 

2021 marks the 200th anniversary of the composition of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘A Defence of Poetry’ (1821) – one of the boldest and most profound statements on the power of poetry to act as a social and political force. In celebration of this seminal work, the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts invited submissions of short prose essays responding to the theme of ‘A Defence of Poetry’ from practicing poets. See; Essays – New Defences of Poetry ( 

Last night that was down to us three. How do you think we did?

See here…


The works selected (not just our three) are now published on the NCLA Archives website (as of July 2021), with the possibility of a print publication to follow.

You may read all of the pieces here:

You may find my piece here:

Information about ‘the English Strain’ project abounds on this blog (the poems were blogged as they were written, the progress fully recorded. This link will take you to all the others!

Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (


What I am thinking of doing is supplementing this poetics to Book Three. I think it will work, so long as I remove the odd reference to lines in the book itself.

A further poetics (on my use of the sonnet in this project, a kind of shadow to this one) may be linked to here:


Monday, July 19, 2021

An interview with me, by SJ Fowler, has been posted on Maintenant 107/3am magazine

An interview SJ Fowler conducted with me last year (and early this) during various lockdowns, is published here on 3AM Magazine.

It appeared within minutes of my sending my final copy to Steve today (!) and it is an interesting interview in that the focus was on poetry scenes, now and in the past, and partly on Creative Writing as an academic discipline, but also took in: how one keeps going, how one selects a collection, one’s neglect, one’s influences…   I was asked about my own work, Twentieth Century Blues, my associations with Writers Forum and Bob Cobbing (collaborations soon to be re-published), and (of course, since I was in the middle of writing them), my transpositions of English sonnets that I call ‘The English Strain’ project: The English Strain (Shearsman, 2021) and Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2021). I was working on the third ‘book’ of that at the time, which I call British Standards. So, wide-ranging. Things like: 'The other thing I learnt from the scene of the mid-70s was that you got it together and did it yourself, through the provisional institutions of little magazines, small presses and pub-room reading series...'

Read it here:

Maintenant #107 - Robert Sheppard - 3:AM Magazine (

 The exchange evolved in some ways from my posts (and subsequent essay) on literary collaboration (which, curiously, is not one of the things we talked about!), many of which feature accounts of Steve’s ‘Enemies’ projects: you read those posts here, and a link to my review of his selected collaborations, Nemesis!

 Look here for those: The introductory part one, flags up the themes and surveys the territory, here:

Part 10 is an account of Fowler’s poetics of collaboration. Here:

Part 11 is an account of Fowler's collaboration with Camilla Nelson (as it reads on the page), here.

Part 12 continues to analyse Fowler's collaboration with Nelson, but it takes account of the extraordinary dynamics of its 'Enemies' performance (which was filmed), here.

Other interviews with me: rob mccellan’s interview may be read

Here’s an interview with me (conducted by Joey Francis), where I talk about the PAGES project from the inside, though I stray into defining 'linguistically innovative poetry' and the experience of homelessness. Read that here.

A  wide-ranging Wolf interview with me, conducted by Chris Madden may be read here.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Three Keats transpositions posted on Pamenar Press (with videos!)

 Three poems from Weird Syrup: Overdubs of sonnets from John Keats and ‘Sheppard's lively readings of them’ on video, as they are described there, have just appeared on Parmenar. Read them and hear them here:



Big thanks to founder and editor Ghazal Mosadeq and thumbs up for finding a photo of me roaring with laughter that fits the mood of the pieces!

They are part of the third volume of my ‘English Strain’ project that is in the works, British Standards. I write about this book and the project here: Book three, British Standards, remains unpublished (because I've only just finished writing it) but may be read about here:


Here I write specifically about beginning and finishing work on these transpositions of Keats. I had some trouble getting going; you can read about that struggle here:

The Keats poems are called ‘Weird Syrup’. This post operates as a hub post about the Keats transpositions alone:



For your guide, the earlier published ‘books’ of ‘The English Strain’ are:

1. The English Strain (Shearsman, published. See below, and: here)

2. Bad Idea (Knives, Forks and Spoons, published; also see below, and  here )

Read the first review of these two conjoined books, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Also for your guide, Pamenar Press is an independent, cross-cultural, multilingual, experimental publisher, based in the UK, Canada and Iran, producing books, pamphlets and other ephemera each year. They lean towards experimental works, undiscovered territories and finding and promoting quality and often overlooked voices. They accept manuscripts across all genres from anywhere in the world.

 They bring different writers and artists together to collaborate and produce work.

 Their web-based publication, Pamenar Magazine (an online magazine of experimental writing, poetry, visual arts and translation) is open to submissions. But there is lots of interesting work to read there. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Poetics of The English Strain: part of New Defences of Poetry event 22nd July 2021

 Via Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts

I shall be taking part in this online event: I will be talking to the poetics of 'The English Strain' project, as well as looking back at Shelley's 'Defence'... 

Date/Time: Thursday 22nd July 2021, 7pm to 8pm

Venue: Online, via YouTube

Full details of the project can be found here. But you can see the video and read the 'defences' here:Pages: Playing my Part in the New Defences of Poetry project (the poetics of British Standards: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation ( 


Free event, and all welcome.

Book your place

Monday, June 28, 2021

BAD IDEA reviewed by Steve Hanson in The Manchester Review of Books

Steve Hanson, the editor of Some Roast Poets poetry magazine, and excellent The Manchester Review of Books (I call it ‘The Chester View of Books’ because of the way the cover folds over!) has reviewed my Bad Idea alongside Adrian Clarke’s Euromancer. It’s good to be there with my old comrade from Floating Capital days – and a good friend. Thanks Steve ...

 The review, in the Manchester Review… is here: The Problem of England | (

and (now) in the paper version of the journal, on the first (unpaginated) page of Issue 7: Summer 2021.

I blushingly delighted in the statement, ‘It is utterly brilliant’, of course, but I was particularly tickled by: ‘This book is the sound a man of enlightenment and renaissance makes as he sees the long rich curve of knowledge – our real ‘heritage’ – being flushed clean down a political shitter.’ Quite.

Here are links (to links) to poems, from Bad Idea, which are versions of Michael Drayton’s renaissance sonnets. See here:

One of these poems, first published in International Times, I read on this video, recorded this afternoon (just for you!):

There’s a general post on Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’; that’s described here: ). That'll give you the idea, the bad idea.

I am also delighted to say that Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, as is Adrian’s book, so you may buy it HERE and NOW:

Read the first review of Bad Idea, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Read the second, by Clark Allison, here, on the Tears in the Fence website: HERE:

 I write about Adrian’s earlier work here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: My review of Adrian Clarke's Austerity Measures on Stride plus further notes, thoughts and links

Friday, June 25, 2021

How to buy The English Strain books one and two together


As is obvious from a lot of posts on this blog, The English Strain and Bad Idea – my two new more or less simultaneously published texts – are part one and two of the longer sonnet transposition project ‘The English Strain’. They belong together, are probably best both read together. Or can be. They certainly have been reviewed together. The best place to purchase both of the volumes in one or two clicks is not with the presses’ sites (which I would normally advocate), but through The Book Depository:

The English Strain (Shearsman) is available here:

Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoon) is available here:

(They have many of my other books available too, including the critical ones, and I noted 13% off the price of Twentieth Century Blues!)  

There are many inter-linked posts about ‘The English Strain’. Here are two comprehensive ones, each with further links to earlier stages of the project, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here (written after I’d completed it but before it found its title!).

There’s another post on Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’; that’s described here: ).

Book three, British Standards, remains unpublished, but may be read about here:


 Above: a composite image that wasn't used as the cover of The English Strain. This one has me in the composite, but I made it blurry. In the end the state before this one was used. I'm fascinated that Barrett Browning's eyes show through so strongly. The second is the image for the cover, as used, to Bad Idea. Patricia Farrell produced both of these startling images. 

 Read the first review of both volumes, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Read the second, by Clark Allison, here, on the Tears in the Fence website: HERE:

Read a third review, by Steve Hanson, of Bad Idea on its own, in the Manchester Review of Books, here:

Pages: BAD IDEA reviewed by Steve Hanson in The Manchester Review of Books (

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Poem ‘Adversarial Stoppage’ from FLIGHT RISK is published in Mercurius

Under the title ‘The Linguistic Eye-Scans of Robert Sheppard’ my poem ‘Adversarial Stoppage’ appears as part of Marcus Slease’s curation the ‘Absurd-Surreal’ in the magazine Mercurius here: The Linguistic Eye Scans of Robert Sheppard — Mercurius . There are lots of goodies here, too: Mercurius . Other absurdists include Vik Shirley. 

I was asked to provide an author-statement, which I found quite difficult to do, because I’m happily not quite sure what’s going on in the text (and in others from the same sequence). I said, ‘This poem operates as a linguistic eye scanning the images that the world offers and which it refuses to read sensibly or realistically. It is a kind of squinting, although sometimes the world is just plain weird. It isn’t difficult, if you don’t look for difficulties.’ Really, it’s a guide to reading a poem that I’m assuming a reader would have trouble with.

Maybe you don’t. Try it here. : The Linguistic Eye Scans of Robert Sheppard — Mercurius

Thanks to Marcus.

The poem is dedicated to S.J. Fowler, and it is not incidental that last year I reviewed his book of collaborations, Nemeses (See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Thoughts on Collaboration 9: Nemeses: Selected Collaborations of SJ Fowler, 2014-2019 (+ review on Stide)

‘Adversarial Stoppage’ is part of a longer manuscript of similar poems – oblique, teasing, transactional, in 4 line stanzas – that I have been writing over the last few years (by a slow method quite different from, and somewhat obscured by, the ‘transpositions’ of ‘The English Strain’ project: see here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (

The whole is entitled (provisionally) Flight Risk.

Companion poems (I mean, poems from the same cluster) include a long six part poem (or is it a long poem, even a series of these 4 line stanza poems?) ‘The Accordion Book’ that appears in the second issue of the vital magazine edited by Colin Herd, Adjacent Pineapple. My poem, here;

‘The Accordion Book’ is a long and deliberately involuted poem, in six parts, dealing with perception, art and (in places) cognitive extension…. The first four also appear in The Robert Sheppard Companion. See here.

The 23rd issue of Blackbox Manifold carries two more poems from Flight Risk, ‘Hammer Glow’ and ‘The Listening Table’, and you can go straight to them here 

I’m very pleased that the title poem, ‘Flight Risk’ is now published on MIRAonline, that is, the online version of The Mechanics’ Institute Review. You may read it here, and watch me read the first twenty lines here: FLIGHT RISK by Robert Sheppard – MIR Online

(I blog about it separately, here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A new poem 'Flight Risk' published today on MIRAonline , though I don’t say anything there that I haven’t above!)

Patricia Farrell now (24 May) has some work in the same serial feature:

A Selection of the Poetry of Patricia Farrell — Mercurius

Patricia Farrell is a poet and visual artist. Her most recent publication is High Cut: My Model of No Criteria (Leafe Press). Her collection Logic for Little Girls is forthcoming from Knives Forks and Spoons.