Thursday, February 15, 2024

19 Years of Blogging: links to the last year's best posts and comments on the year

I’ve been blogging for 19 years (today). In recent years, on this anniversary, I have looked back at the posts that have enlivened me, have been looked at a lot, and (even) have not been looked at all! I started this mode of reviewing on the tenth anniversary, and all those posts (and the annual posts in the last ten years of blogging) were presented as links, in last year’s 18th year post. I think this year, I’ll simply point to that post as a guide to all the others. Do have a look, but don’t get lost in the labyrinth.

Here: Pages: Eighteen Years of Blogging today! (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)


Blogging is meant to be a posting of the instant, but I’ve never thought of Pages as ephemeral, as Twitter or X are, for example. As those posts will indicate I set this blog up in 2005 as an attempt to continue my print magazine Pages as a ‘blogzine’, but gradually it turned into a blog, but with the proviso that I see many of the posts as of permanent import (I can’t say ‘importance’, for only others may judge that). But the various posts on Iain Sinclair, for example, add up to something, critically speaking. Or those that led up to my book The Meaning of Form. Some posts are essays, some a spattering of links to other posts, and (during the writing and temporary blogging of the poems of ‘The English Strain’) I learnt to delete posts or to edit them after posting for a short time only. The writing of those poems (but not of others, note) was very public (because the poems were public, and demanded an immediate audience).   

Nineteen is an odd number, in all sorts of ways. Maybe the 20th year will be an occasion of looking back at the WHOLE blog, so I am going to limit myself to this past year to point out posts I would suggest readers re-visit or visit for the first time.

This blog (and some other blogspot blogs) seem not to be favoured by my Norton security. I look at my own blog and it warns me: ‘Dangerous Web Page Blocked!’ I just ignore it, because it doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve not noted interference or strange changes – except via the strange bot hits that catapult random posts into thousands of supposed ‘hits’; I suspect they are Russian, because of the sheer number of hits that derived from there (though Blogger no longer provides that sort of geographical information). I’ve always suspected my mention of Pussy Riot started that off. But that’s a different animal to the Norton warning. Clearly it doesn’t stop people looking at the blog, and people with other security systems are not affected. One friend said he received the warning on his phone but not on his laptop. If anyone can explain this (in simple terms) do let me know!

I intend to pick out the best of last year’s posts, but first I should say a few things about the last year. Last year’s post mentions the radiotherapy and hormone treatment I’d been receiving, the one intense and quick, the second distributive and slow. It’s gone pretty well, and I’m as active as I used to be. The following posts will confirm readings, music performances, and some travel. If you meet me you’ll note that I’m often wearing the little Man of Men design that Prostate UK sports. (I think it is a design masterpiece: I’ve even got the socks and beanie!) See here for their work and their warnings and their wonders: Prostate Cancer UK | Prostate Cancer UK. Men, here’s the Risk Checker: Check your risk in 30 seconds | Prostate Cancer UK. 

 


In the last year I published a book, Doubly Stolen Fire, and, of course, I posted about it, Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) and about its two launches (so far), Pages: Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (set list) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) and Pages: Performance of the Ern Malley Orchestra and launch of Doubly Stolen Fire (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). One of the texts from the book ‘Circling the City’ was published online, close to the publication of the book, so it served as an advert:  Pages: Circle of the City published now on Osmosis/New book coming soon (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) Here's the first review: Pages: Reviews of my book DOUBLY STOLEN FIRE (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

I looked back at my other published books and found most of them still in print (Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!) and in the process found that my poetics piece, The Anti-Orpheus , is available as a download (Pages: Robert Sheppard The Anti-Orpheus (pdf available online).

Here's a bit from an unpublished book, my 'verse-novel', Elle published in Shuddhashar 37 in Norway: Pages: My Verse Novel ELLE is excerpted in Shuddhashar 37: Surrealist Poetry edition (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

 


In the last year, I looked back only a little to consider the New Collected Poems of Lee Harwood, that I co-edited with Kelvin Corcoran, and noted a couple of online reviews: Pages: Two online reviews of New Collected Poems by Lee Harwood: links and comments (robertsheppard.blogspot.com).

 As soon as the Harwood book was finished I moved on to the very different editing required for a Selected Poems of Mary Robinson, and there are a number of posts about the process of editing that book, beginning with the first and hub post, here: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 1 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com).

I like to indicate recent creative publications, and where that has been online it means I can link directly to the poem(s)/prose. Two poems in Stride also get the short video treatment too: Pages: Two new poems published on Stride (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). Four in Shearsman (one video this time): Pages: Four poems from British Standards published in Shearsman 137/138 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). My long poem ‘The Area’ appeared in The Long Poem Magazine and I posted about it (too long for a short video!): Pages: My poem THE AREA is published in The Long Poem Magazine number 30 (background and links) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). Two more in Tears in the Fence: Pages: Two new poems published in Tears In the Fence 78 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) Two poems on Anthropocene (short enough for vids): Pages: Two British Standard sonnets are published in Anthropocene - notes, links and a video (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) My collaboration with Sarah-Clare Conlon appeared in Blackbox Manifold and I predictably blogged: Pages: UNTITLED by Sarah-Clare Conlon and Robert Sheppard is published in Blackbox Manifold 31.

That last poem came about via a reading, and I have listed readings on the blog: Pages: The Liverpool Camarade at Open Eye Gallery : May 2023: the videos of my collaboration with Sarah-Clare Conlon (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) and  Pages: Robert Sheppard and two others at Peter Barlow's Cigarette 24th October 2023 (set list). (This doesn’t include the launches, listed above!)

 


I published a poem for Iain Sinclair’s 80th birthday, Pages: I'm in IS80 a book for Iain Sinclair at Eighty (robertsheppard.blogspot.com), and an essay on Caroline Bergvall’s work (my only critical piece this year; in the post, I partly explain why; of course, I’m also editing more these days than critiquing). Pages: My essay 'Inventive Re-workings' included in 'Caroline Bergvall's Medievalist Poetics' (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

However, I did rise to the challenge of writing a new POETICS of my work, ‘My Own Crisis’, which was published by FUTCH: Pages: My poetics piece 'My Own Crisis' is published by Futch (robertsheppard.blogspot.com), possibly my most important piece this year!

MUSIC. I wrote about performing with the Ern Malley Orchestra (duo): Pages: Performance of the Ern Malley Orchestra and launch of Doubly Stolen Fire (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) and about more fun music (with thoughts about writing about music, too; I’ve plans for a book of poem on music, or round and about music):  Pages: More returns of Little Albert - the music I play, the music I listen to, the music I write about (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

‘Cocaine Hippos’ was a Stride project that I documented with a kind of index: Pages: Cocaine Hippos Project (and my part in it): posts and updates (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) My contribution, ‘A Kink in the Anthropocene’, possibly my only ‘animal poem’, may be read here: Cocaine Hippos 11: A Kink in the Anthropocene | Stride magazine.

Three poems from the 1980s were recovered over Christmas 2022, and the (3) posts of them begin here: Pages: Recovered poems from the 1980s - part one (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

This year, and sadly, I remembered the late Gavin Selerie and his laugh:  Pages: Remembering Gavin Selerie and his laugh (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). And I remembered my UEA friend Colin Scott in a long and 'linky' post: Pages: A Positive Virtue: memories of Colin Scott, a friend from UEA days rediscovered (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

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Locating Robert Sheppard: email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter ; latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com

 

 

Saturday, February 03, 2024

My Verse Novel ELLE is excerpted in Shuddhashar 37: Surrealist Poetry edition

I am pleased to say that guest editor David Spittle has selected some work of mine for the special ‘Surrealist’ edition of the Bangladeshi magazine Shuddhashar. Or is it called FreeVoice - one word, like that?


Explore this issue, number 37 in full: Surrealist Poetry. Or follow the links below.  
  

It is a long time since I’ve thought about surrealism, but then again it isn’t. By that, I mean that, although I haven’t pronounced on the subject much, it’s never gone away. (Not quite true either, see Poetics, Robert Sheppard (lincolnreview.org) In any case, it came back with a mighty thud, when I started to write Elle. 

Anyway, the first four chapters of Elle may be read HERE: Elle:  a verse novel

Other contributors include a brief description of their allegiance/connection to surrealism and I thought that my ‘introduction’ to my excerpt (it’s a long excerpt) which I’d sent would suffice (it is a long introduction!). It’s not there on the magazine. In fact, it is the intended ‘afterward’ of the verse-novel. Here’s a shortened version of it:


Sharp gas lips under her flesh suddenly white in the hallway 

Watching the early films of Jeff Keen, see Jeff Keen aka Dr Gaz | Jeff Keen. I noted the repeated appearance of what I thought of as ‘the pink auto’; I had read somewhere that this Pontiac Parisienne belonged to a nightclub owner in Brighton in the UK. Keen continued to use footage of this automobile throughout the 1960s, though I think he only borrowed its gangsterish gleam for an afternoon’s shoot, to make the 11-minute black and white silent 8 mm film Breakout (1962). (This isn’t it, but is a useful sample of Keen's approach:

 


Jeff Keen: Instant Cinema (1962/2007) - YouTube

 )The incongruity of seeing this mammoth American car on film squeezing past the familiar Clock Tower in Brighton (my local South Coast city as I remember it vaguely from the early 1960s) was most impressive, if uncanny. It was not until I read Richard Davenport Hines’ An English Affair (2013), about the nefarious goings-on of cabinet minister John Profumo, that I linked the car, which was mentioned in passing, and the films of Jeff Keen, which I knew, with a precursor scandal of the Profumo debacle, and its Brighton setting. It was a sordid story concerning a Conservative MP and washing machine importer, John Bloom, and Christine Holford, the wife of the nightclub and Pontiac owner. The result was that, in 1963, a jealous and taunted Harvey Holford murdered Christine Holford, spitefully shooting her in the genitals. The subsequent trial and the minimal sentence Holford received – before an all-male jury – leaves a bad taste in any aesthetic appetite that desires to utilise this material.

But I did want to utilise this material and I did want to make the link to the extraordinary films made by Jeff Keen, who I met on a couple of occasions, even visiting his Brighton flat with Lee Harwood; I remember a column – no other word for it, it reached the high ceiling – of Marvel comics, which he used as raw material in his later Blatz! movies. I felt that my raw material would have to include Keen’s work, the car, its murderous owner, his victim wife, as well as a favourite and iconic film of the era, Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967), presented here in visual summary, as it were:


Belle de Jour - official rerelease trailer (youtube.com)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnYA6mj9hDU

Notably, this surrealist masterpiece of the sixties is based upon realist pulp from 1928: Buñuel hated Joseph Kessel’s moralistic and misogynist novel of that title, in which a woman is condemned for her secret sexual desires (as was Christine Holford with her more public affairs and flirtations). The film is not a parody or pastiche of its model; it’s perversely faithful to its twisted but conventional morality. The novel was perfect material for post-surrealist transformation. In 1969, an English translation by Geoffrey Wagner from 1962 was rushed into a second paperback edition with a picture of a simpering Catherine Deneuve on the cover, a 75p charity shop purchase.  

Uncertain how I would approach and proceed with these materials, I decided to work on my copy of the novel with an analogous disrespect to that shown by Buñuel: I treated Belle de Jour using the technique I have always called ‘Tom Phillipsing’, finding new linguistic content in this old novel, as Phillips had with A Human Monument, as he transformed it into the bubble texts of The Humument (ignoring for a moment the brilliant visual side of the work!). There is something of gentle gathering, enclosing, about the method, which is absent from the tearing violations of the superficially similar cut-up technique. Both are versions of collage, or montage, of course. 'Here's the book, and here's the method,' as I say on this 5 second video!  

At some point during this slow process (one page Tom Phillipsed a day, 140 pages), I watched Daniel Farson’s British ATV television programme Living for Kicks (1960) which partly took as its theme the teenage clientele of the Whiskey a Go-Go milk bar (such pre-Clockwork Orange innocence!) near The Clock Tower in Brighton. Watch it here:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvA1MSk3K2A

I already knew that this establishment was part of the entertainment complex run by Harvey Holford: upstairs lay the more exclusive Blue Gardenia and Calypso clubs (where alcohol was served). Farson’s documentary (the old Soho soak feigns shock at teenagers snogging and disdaining marriage) features an intelligent and knowing interview with a proto-Beat poet called Royston Ellis, whose name was familiar to me, but not from my knowledge of British underground poetry of the 1960s, which I’d foolishly thought comprehensive. In fact, the name was literally floating before me in Ye Cracke pub where, after lockdown, I regularly met a group of Liverpool friends (the informal 1955 Committee). On the mirror under which we often sat is an engraved commemoration of a joint poetry-music gig by Royston Ellis and John Lennon in Liverpool in 1960.

One afternoon I suddenly noticed the memorial to this performance, seen above. (It's disputed whether Ellis is the 'Paperback Writer' of the song, but he did write books on pre-Beatles music.) Something was happening here, I felt, to speed this project along; I conceived of superimposing the shadowy Brighton reality upon my distorted version of Buñuel’s Ur-text. Both narratives involve a jealous murderer. I replaced Kessel’s names, Buñuel’s dramatis personae, with the names of the participants in the Brighton tragedy: acquaintances and lovers of the fatal couple (Thatcher, Hatcher, Bloom, Cresteef), and employees and habitués of the night clubs (Corvell and Bubbles and Squeak), with the addition of the artist figures Jeff Keen and Royston Ellis, and a few necessary others. (Not all of them appear in this first extract, of course.) ‘Elle’ was the Tom Phillipsed ‘Belle’ persona of Kessel’s anti-heroine, the titular haunting (but who is ‘she’?). I transposed place names from Paris to Brighton without irony. The text passed through many stages of transformation (‘states’ an engraver might have called them), both mechanical – I made use of the ‘dictate’ and ‘read as’ functions on my laptop – and deliberative: my choices were quite conscious, though guided by procedure. The process was my old friend, the stochastic. Then I revised the text in an intuitive way, unrecognisable in this latest (and perhaps not yet completed) form on Shuddhashar

I did not want to repeat the grim and ghastly scenarios that documentary sources had laid before me; (e.g www.pulpinternational.com/pulp/entry/Cover-of-the-National-Insider-with-Harvey-and-Christine-Holford.html

 Falling from grace | The Argus

 https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/10458357.falling-from-grace/

 Crime Murder Christine Holford April 1963 Her husband Harvey Holford their baby and Heather Thatcher taken the summer before she died Stock Photo - Alamy

https://www.shutterstock.com/editorial/image-editorial/peter-corvell-manager-of-the-blue-gardenia-club-brighton-owned-by-harvey-holford-holford-is-charged-with-the-murder-of-his-wife-christine-which-was-reduced-to-a-verdict-of-manslaughter-box-760-530051713-ajpg-9130220a

 Memories of 1950s Brighton | 1950s personal memories | My Brighton and Hove

 https://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/topics/1950s/1950s-personal-memories/where-to-go-for-a-good-time

https://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/places/clubs/clubs-3) I sought to introduce the main actors into a drama not quite theirs, and not quite mine, either. I wished to liberate them, albeit imaginatively, from history. I like to think that Keen and Ellis become the positive creative energies to transform this loathsome narrative towards different endings – or none. Those transformations are not just a matter of form, but of a forming of its matters, its matters of fact, and its matters of fiction.

The turn to the ‘verse-novel’, however ironical, reflects yet another, late, act of transformation, the sudden switch to ‘verse’, a term I seldom use…

So back to today. Just as Bunuel hated Kessel’s work I think I disapprove of the ‘verse-novel' – and, like Bunuel using Kessel, that’s just why I’ve 'written' one. I was somewhat relieved, when I witnessed Jen Calleja reading Vehicle: a verse novel to discover that it wasn’t, in fact, a ‘verse-novel’. (I did enjoy, though, Bernadine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe, so maybe it’s the idea of the verse-novel that trips me up; I don’t like the term ‘prose-poetry’ either, but I'm a big fan of Ian Seed!).

Here’s a full list of the articles/poems/prose/images in this wonderful edition, with links to each: 

1.Note from Guest Editor Note from Guest Editor
2.Simon Perril 
Sun  Deck  Set  Cogitation
3.Lisa Samuels 
lodge in the zing of
4.Ali Graham 
My appetite wears metallic facepaint
5.James Byrne 
Apparitions
6.Geraldine Monk 
Let fly the unquiet tongue
7.Will Alexander 
The Sand Genie
8.Aase Berg 
Monday in the Mariana Trench
9.Tom Jenks 
Broccoli and chunky relish
10.Julia Rose Lewis 
through and through and through and through
11.Harry Man 
The Airborne Gooseberry Boy
12.Sascha Akther 
Anatomy of a Car Crash
13.Robert Sheppard: from 
Elle:  a verse novel
14.SJ Fowler The Parts of the Body that Stink
15.Lila Matsumoto 
the saws and hammers
16.Aaron Kent 
It is the most natural thing in the world to leave
17.David Spittle  
from HALLUCIGENIA
18.Stephen Sunderland 
Notes for a Revolution
19.James Knight 
Disappearing Subject
20.Joseph Turrnt 
In the fifteenth year I bought you crystals
21.Vik Shirley 
https://shuddhashar.com/hmm-sweetie/
22.W.N. Herbert 
A Dream of Vending Machines
23.David Spittle 
Seeing the Unseen: The Occult and Surrealism

Thanks to David and thanks to all at Shuddhashar. Shuddhashar is an exiled Bangladeshi publishing house with this magazine, and is currently based in Norway. Shuddhashar received the 2016 Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award, given to publishers outside the United States who demonstrate courage despite restrictions on freedom of expression. They are brave people indeed, if you follow their publishing history, which is really a testament to their activism.  

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Locating Robert Sheppard: books: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!; email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com; website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter ; latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Reviews of my book DOUBLY STOLEN FIRE

 If I found it difficult to describe my latest book, Doubly Stolen Fire, hiding behind the word ‘hybrid’, have a thought for poor reviewers (a trade I’ve indulged in to excess in the past: see bibliography: Full Bibliography - Robert Sheppard (weebly.com)). I eventually managed to find ways of doing it (for example, Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)), but it was always easier to deal with one part of it at a time (the bit about Malcolm Lowry, here: Pages: Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (set list) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com); or the bit about the Ern Malley Hoax, there: Pages: Performance of the Ern Malley Orchestra and launch of Doubly Stolen Fire (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)). Tellingly, I seem to be launching it, chapter by chapter.

 


Buy the book straight from the publisher: HERE: Robert Sheppard: Doubly Stolen Fire – Glasfryn Project.

 


Billy Mills is the first off the blocks, as so often, on his excellent blog. I link to it on my blog roll (whoever thought of that term?); see to the right of this post.

Beginning, and offering links (you may have noticed how much I like links, a habit from the days of assembling Twentieth Century Blues), he notes ‘Robert Sheppard’s Doubly Spoken Fire is, in part at least, the third and final part of his ‘fictional poetry project’, the first two parts of which I reviewed here and here (In hindsight, I was far too dismissive of this book at the time).’ I liked his harsh treatment of those volumes, and I like his ‘in part at least’, which is true: this may have run the ‘fictional poetry project’ into the ground (or it may not, I’ll cheekily hint, perhaps falsely) but there are lots of other bits. Billy is forced to be descriptive as well as evaluative. I’ll say no more about it, but simply thank Billy (I know how much work is involved in reviewing, which may be the reason I do less of it), and give you the link to it:

Recent Reading January 2024: A Review – Elliptical Movements (wordpress.com)

I’ll add some more reviews, if there are any. In the meantime, here’s an X feed tweeting the sayings of a talking mongoose, highly relevant to my ‘Rectophonic Monologue’! Billy found this too. I guess I’ll have to follow: (4) Gef the Mongoose (@gefbot) / X (twitter.com)

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Locating Robert Sheppard: books: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!; email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com; website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter ; latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Positive Virtue: memories of Colin Scott, a friend from UEA days rediscovered

Nearly everybody had long hair at the University of East Anglia in 1974, even (or especially) the men, and Colin Scott was no different. (Here we are in my contemporary hand.)

He was different, though, in that he was older than the regular dishevelled bunch (myself included), and had worked in the library service and (I think) was quite content with the thought of returning to that noble profession after studying History for three years. He was serious without being super-studious, liked music, and we certainly attended some of the rock bands that toured the campuses. 

Before I move on from that reference to UEA concerts, I'd like to share an uncollected poem I wrote in 1976, and revised recently. I have dedicated it to Colin's memory because a. he might have been there (my diary mentions a mutual friend, and b. both the poem and Colin were lost (to me, not to themselves, of course) between the 1970s and now(ish). 

Midnight Air:

John Martyn with Danny Thompson, June 12th 1976

 

                                                i.m. Colin Scott, who may have been there

 

Ocean music flows over you

wailing where waves break

back upon the water’s edge

They strike up on form

 

Full moon rises to face you

accepting droning chants and spells

that drown the sense in magic

 

Somebody slides through the windowpane

having flown through the night

 

Cannabis spiral cracks open the sound

and its diamond shatters

each shimmering fragment

a swirling seawave at the end of unseen fingers

 

You rise from the waters

in the midnight air

 


1976/2021 (Of course, in the late 1970s, and later, Tony Parsons and I would sing 'May You Never', by John Martyn, a song that curiously leaves no space to breathe. Above is a video of JM and DT, as in the poem, and at the concert.) 

I re-read my copious diaries during Covid lockdowns and was surprised how much time I spent with Colin, going to concerts, drinking real ale, throwing snowballs (those Norfolk winters!) and smoking perfumed cigarettes (!), during my first year. I think he maturely organized the transportation of my drunken form from the pub back to my room on my 19th birthday. 

By our second year Colin moved to a house near a pub called The Boundary with his friend Jan. (It was he who is mentioned in my diary entry about the Martyn gig.) Whilst another UEA friend Trev Eales and I attended parties there (somebody had a dog called ‘Dog’, I remember, which is emblematic of the household, I think) we both saw less of Colin on a day-to-day basis. Trev remembers meeting Colin a lot on the bus to campus. Of course, he also had a settled life in his native Swindon, friends would come to visit him – and he returned to that (I think) after we’d all graduated. We kept in touch for a while but, like so many, lost contact, through the moving of addresses and the vicissitudes of life. He lost contact with Jan as well. (I kept in touch with Trev, as may be seen from this post: Pages: Trev Eales - photography and friendship (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) (And here is a post about my slightly later UEA studies in Creative Writing: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Some memories of the Creative Writing MA (cohort 1978-1979) at the University of East Anglia )

I never forgot Colin – and always wondered where he was. There was a barman in Liverpool (where I had moved in 1997) of whom I remember remarking to my wife, Patricia, ‘See that man? I reckon that’s what Colin Scott looks like today!’ (The memory is interesting for the fact I didn’t need to explain to Patricia who Colin was.)

He obviously hadn’t forgotten me either. At one of his Positive Images meetings with the poet Leanne Bridgewater, probably in 2016, Colin asked, giving it a long shot, whether she knew a poet called Rob Sheppard that he was at university with. Leanne answered that she did. She and I had met a number of times; she had been taught Creative Writing at Salford by my ex-student Scott Thurston, and was part of the burgeoning creative and experimental excitement that surrounded The Other Room readings in Manchester. And so was I, from my outpost in Liverpool. (See one of her publications, here: 'adDICTIONARY' by Leanne Bridgewater (670 pages) | Knives Forks and Spo (knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk)

The highlight of my evening at the North by North-West Enemies reading in February 2017 in Leeds was supposed to be my co-performing my collaboration with Ian McMillan. 


That was terrific (or a terrific experience, see the video above), but I left the evening more overwhelmed by the fact that Leanne (who was also on the bill


see the video) led a small dapper man from the shadows and introduced him as Colin. (He didn’t in the least look like the man from the pub!) After a gap of 40 years, I don’t know what we spoke about, ‘catch up and conversations’ my diary relates unhelpfully. That wasn’t really the point: we were now in contact again, and I thank Leanne for engineering this meeting, which proved so fruitful, meaningful, and ultimately poignant. (On that evening, here: Pages: Ian McMillan and Robert Sheppard: Simultaneous Performance: Leeds Enemies (photo, video, set list and thoughts))

 


Our next meeting was also at a poetry reading and performance, but in June 2017 – as part of Positive Images, co-organised by Colin. Patricia read as well, Leanne compared, and I read too. I didn’t think Patricia and I went down particularly well (I should have read my skits on Boris Johnson), but Leanne was wonderful, playing the ukelele (and editing the video of the evening, which you may view above, and here's a post from nearer the time: Pages: Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell: Poetry from the Stage (Coventry) Saturday night ). Colin was much in demand as an organiser (I’d yet to fully register the amount of work he put into this vital community arts event) but we did get to talk after, at least about Coventry, which was new to me. Here is Colin introducing the results of a poetry competition: 

 Positive Images Peace Festival Poetry Competition Awards 2018. (youtube.com)


From then on, we corresponded regularly and he visited a number of times, once briefly before a beer festival. He was also deeply into CAMRA organisation, so real ale remained a (shared) constant among the decades of change. (He liked dark beers, I like light ones. He liked folk music; I like jazz!) We went on to Lancaster to meet Trev one day, and also all three convened around the time of my birthday, with Michelle (purveyor of fine chutneys, among other things.).

I found Colin contemplative and calm, after a busy career in librarianship, and he was full of quaint anecdotes. (One time he told me about a library book that disappeared from the shelves for years, then suddenly re-appeared; another time, he announced he'd just read in The Guardian that the reason older people can't retain new facts is that their brains are literally full!) He is the only person I know to have read Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, he always had a copy of the latest Positive Images poetry anthology from Coventry, but otherwise our conversations were not literary. He kept up his interest in history, visiting battle sites, for example. We were leisurely and relaxed. He never pushed an issue (though he must have been an effective committee man). He remained an enthusiast for the railways (he was from Swindon, after all) and sent me links about steam train excursions: I never got to show him Edge Hill station, the oldest in England. The leisureliness of our meetings meant we left whole areas of our lives unshared, unexplored, and possibly there was an unexplained reticence on his part. Of course, Leanne was a constant reference-point, our common factor, and his grief at her death was palpable and deep. Here he is introducing the Positive Images memorial reading for Leanne (and you can watch the tribute readings that follow): 


Late last year, just before Colin died, although he was tired after a busy summer itinerary of travel, he was thinking about another trip to Liverpool. That meet-up would have been an opportunity perhaps to have explored new themes or to have examined his quirky memories afresh. (He claimed there was a student called Jeff who lived on Trev’s corridor at UEA, a guitarist in the Al Kooper mode; since nobody else could recall him, he became a character of myth and mirth, reiterated in our frequent emails.) 

Herein lies my chief regret: I was really only starting to know him well, when he was taken so suddenly from us. I’m glad I got to know him again, and I treasure those meetings that redeemed time, collapsed decades, and reinforced friendship and kindness as the only positive virtue in our somewhat dark times.  

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Locating Robert Sheppard: books: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!; email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com; website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter ; latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com


Friday, January 19, 2024

UNTITLED by Sarah-Clare Conlon and Robert Sheppard is published in Blackbox Manifold 31

UNTITLED by Sarah-Clare Conlon and Robert Sheppard is published in Blackbox Manifold 31. We’d like to thank the editors for taking our fugitive piece in from the cold salt-spray. 

Sarah-Clare and I collaborated as part of the special Eurovision European Poetry Festival in Liverpool, about which I wrote here: Pages: The Liverpool Camarade at Open Eye Gallery : May 2023: the videos of my collaboration with Sarah-Clare Conlon (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). There’s a video of our original performance there too, but I include it below too.) That post describes the evening, and links to previous events in the series, in which both of us have played our separate and earlier parts.

I’m pleased to say that the text of ‘Untitled’ (I know!) is now published in the latest edition of Blackbox Manifold. This is a magazine I have been published in before, and you will find excerpts from the series ‘Flight Risk’ as well as most of my re-versions of the sonnets of Mary Robinson, but I don’t want to overload this post with links, so here’s just one to the Robinson: Pages: My 'Tabitha and Thunderer' is published in Blackbox Manifold (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

Here is the link to our ‘Untitled’: Blackbox Manifold - ConlonSheppardBM31 (sheffield.ac.uk)

Here is the video of Clare and I reading the poem at the Open Eye Gallery, down on the docks in Liverpool, a venue which almost forced upon us the theme of ‘Riverine Thoughts’ or ‘Riparian Observation’, to use two quotations from the poem that we might have used as titles. I’m glad we didn’t!

 


 Here's the video: Robert Sheppard and Sarah-Claire Conlon : EPF 2023 - Liverpool Camarade at Open Eye - YouTube

Set up your machine to follow the text and watch the video. WE may get the chance to perform it again, and will, we’ve agreed.

 Just to repeat, there are lots of links to other collaborations and to my critical writings on collaboration, via that first link above.

 The editors of Blackbox Manifold are pleased to announce the launch of the 31st issue of the journal:

https://blackboxmanifold.sites.sheffield.ac.uk/

featuring poems by Kyle Booten, Daragh Breen, Mark Byers, Sarah-Clare Conlon & Robert Sheppard, Hannah Copley, Michael Farrell, Adam Flint, Charlotte Geater, Paul A. Green, Oli Hazzard, Nicki Heinen, Doug Jones, Joshua Jones, Jee Leong Koh, Jazmine Linklater, Steve Noyes, Simon Perril, Flo Ray, Rahul Santhanam, Geoff Sawers, Kashif Sharma-Patel, Gary Sloboda, Jedediah Smith, Adam Stokell, Kenny Tanemura, John Wilkinson. 

 Adam Piette reviews Kelvin Corcoran and V.R. "Bunny" Lang. Zoë Skoulding reviews Ágnes Lehóczky. John Wilkinson reviews David Grundy & Sabeen Chaudhry.

 

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Locating Sarah-Clare Conlon: Freelance Writer & Editor:  @wordsnfixtures | @sarahclareconlon . Her latest poetry pamphlet Lune is now available. See her books here: cache-cache & Marine Drive & Using Language. Locating Robert Sheppard: email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com.