Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Cocaine Hippos Project (and my part in it): posts and updates

In April this year I was asked by Rupert Loydell to contribute to a gathering of poems about the ‘Cocaine Hippos’ of Colombia, and to help the invitees, he sent this wonderful link:

 I had already read about these beasts, bobbing along at the top of their human-directed food-chain, escaped from Pablo Escobar’s private zoo. I’m sorry that they are a ‘problem’, but I caught a feature about them on TV and rather delighted in their health, profusion and general invasion of the jungle. Of course, they are an ecological aberration, acknowledged in the title of the poem I wrote, ‘A Kink in the Anthropocene’, but not in the substance of it, for it reminds me of poems by Edwin Morgan (Patricia of Bill Griffiths) so it’s in no way a typical poem by me! (Good!) I speak in the voice of a hippo. (See links below.)


I thought it only fair (and interesting) to link to the whole project as it appears, every few days, on Stride:

Sept 7  #1: Thirteen Ways of Writing About a Hippo: Eric Eric Cocaine Hippos 1: Thirteen Ways of Writing About a Hippo | Stride magazine 

Sept 9  #2: dead on the road: Geoff Sutton: Cocaine Hippos 2: dead on the road to Colombia | Stride magazine

Sept 11  #3: Wildlife Sanctuary: Rupert Loydell (our editor): Cocaine Hippos 3: Wildlife Sanctuary | Stride magazine

Sept 13  #4: Dead or
Alive: Mélisande Fitzsimons: Cocaine Hippos 4: Dead or Alive | Stride magazine 

Sept 15:  #5: Hippos on Cocaine (visual poems): Mike Ferguson: Cocaine Hippos 5: Hippos on Cocaine | Stride magazine

Sept 17  #6: poem #02-12-1993: Blossom Hibbert: Cocaine Hippos 6: poem #02-12-1993 | Stride magazine

Sept 19  #7: The Paradox Engine / Sober Noises of Morning: Andrew Darlington: Cocaine Hippos 7: The Paradox Engine/Sober Noises of Morning | Stride magazine

Sept 21  #8: boy says nothing: Charlie Baylis: Cocaine Hippos 8: boy says nothing | Stride magazine

Sept 23  #9: Magdalena: Andrew Taylor: Cocaine Hippos 9: Magdalena | Stride magazine

Sept 25:  #10:  Humans Into Animals: Rupert Loydell (our editor, again, and it's a good one):  Cocaine Hippos 10: Humans Into Animals | Stride magazine

It's my poem on Wednesday, then it's farewell to these happy hippos... Coming soon. Don't forget to check...

Sept 27  #11:  ‘A Kink in the Anthropocene’; that’s my poem. And it’s last, so please come back, if you’re looking at this before September 27!

Watch a clip from CBS News about them. (The ‘Rhino News’ in my poem is a hint at a rather different US ‘news’ network.)


Pablo Escobar's hippos keep multiplying and Colombia doesn't know how to stop it - YouTube


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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Poems of Mary Robinson 7: anti-slavery poems and Slavery Remembrance Day

Here’s a hubpost to all of those I’m posting now on my Selected Poems of Mary Robinson: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 1 ( 

About a month ago I paid a visit to the Slavery Museum in Liverpool, as I explain in my email below. I thought I’d post it online, since it outlines ways in which Mary Robinson is travestied, even now. The contemporary scandal and the Victorian revulsion at it never quite rubbed off this remarkable woman. And I thought I’d post it today because it is Slavery Remembrance Day. Here’s what’s on today at the Museum : Slavery Remembrance Day 2023 | National Museums Liverpool ( And here’s what’s happening in London: Slavery Remembrance Day 2023 | National Maritime Museum ( .I haven’t received a reply to my email (yet). They probably think I’m a nutter. (They must get hate mail: a racist group protested outside the Museum last week, with a nice big banner saying ‘White Lives Matter’.) In some schools in the US the 'benefits' of slavery are being taught.

Dear Sir or Madam

(Please forward this email to a curator, please.)

I very much enjoyed my visit to the Slavery Museum yesterday afternoon, distantly some research for a poem I’m writing about blues music. [This is called 'Searching the Desert for the Blues', and I am currently revising it; there's a passage below.] I am also editing the poems of Mary Robinson, and so was interested in your feature on her Liverpool lover, Banastre Tarleton, an enthusiastic pro-slaver, right up to his death on the eve of abolition.

I’m glad he’s there, and I’m glad the feature reports his war career (today he would be classed as a war criminal). However, I was dismayed to see the unsubstantiated claim that he seduced Mary Robinson as a bet, and also that it referred to her by her nickname ‘Perdita’ (the part she played in a version of The Winter’s Tale which attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales, which led to their affair). Never have I seen the locution ‘Perdita Robinson’ (not even in the Gilray cartoons of the time). In fact, Mary was an abolitionist (later she was friends with William Godwin and other radicals). She also wrote about slavery in her poem ‘The Negro Girl’ and in her long political protest poem ‘The Progress of Liberty’. I intend to include both texts in my volume of her poems, and I attach my life of Robinson, [ that's also available here: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 2: The Life of Mary Robinson ( the texts for your perusal. If such information was added to the display, the complexities, ironies and contradictions of the pro- and anti- slavery positions would be more apparent. In your account, Mary appears as a pawn in Tarleton’s roguery, but in fact their relationship was long-lasting, and Mary was just as able to seduce him.

Yours faithfully

Robert Sheppard

Emeritus Professor of Poetry and Poetics

Edge Hill University

Here's an excerpt from 'The Progress of Liberty': 

Shall the poor AFRICAN, the passive slave,

Born in the bland effulgence of broad day,

Cherish’d by torrid splendours, while around

The plains prolific teem with honey’d stores

Of Afric’s burning soil; shall such a wretch

Sink prematurely to a grave obscure,

No tear to grace his ashes? Or suspire,

To wear submission’s long and goading chain,

To drink the tear, that down his swarthy cheek

Flows fast, to moisten his toil-fever’d lip,

Parch’d by the noontide blaze? Shall he endure

The frequent lash, the agonizing scourge,

The day of labour, and the night of pain;

Expose his naked limbs to burning gales;

Faint in the sun, and wither in the storm;

Traverse hot sands, imbibe the morbid breeze,

Wing’d with contagion, while his blister’d feet,

Scorch’d by the vertical and raging beam,

Pour the swift life-stream? Shall his frenzied eyes,

Oh! worst of mortal miseries! Behold

The darling of his soul, his sable love,

Selected from the trembling, timid throng

By the wan tyrant, whose licentious touch

Seals the dark fiat of the slave’s despair!

And here's a fragment of what I wrote after visiting the museum, from my poem about the blues:

…localities on maps, familiar names on a manifest, a portrait or two in postures of Attic tranquility, pro-saccarites on porcelain sugar bowls, sketches of woolybacks unloading Confederate bales, proclaim the guilty-elect of this city, no step now without a blue note to trip us…

Mary by Reynolds: looking like she knows how she'll be treated by history. Talking of 'treated', I have bought a novel about Robinson, which I've speed-read. It's by Freda Lightfoot and it is entitled Lady of Passion. Despite the title, it's historically accurate (which in a weird way is disappointing). There are three very good modern biographies, as well as Mary's own Memoirs. Listed in the bibliography that appends my life (see the link above). 


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Friday, August 18, 2023

Two online reviews of New Collected Poems by Lee Harwood: links and comments

There have been two online reviews of Lee Harwood's New Collected Poems that Kelvin Corcoran and I edited earlier this year. It’s a big book and, I suspect, it will take most reviewers a long time to complete even their initial readings.


Billy Mills, in his review of New Collected Poems – Lee Harwood (eds. Sheppard and Corcoran).  30th March 2023, was the first off the blocks (as Billy often is; I link to his blog on my blogroll to the right of this post, so you and I can keep pace with him). He tells us straight off:

'This new edition of Lee Harwood’s poems, edited by Kelvin Corcoran and Robert Sheppard, adds a not inconsiderable 200 pages to the 2004 collected edited by the poet himself. In part, this is due to the addition of the poet’s first collection, Title Illegible at the start and an additional 60-odd pages of post 2004 work. The remaining additions are poems excised by Harwood from the earlier book but here restored in their rightful chronological positions.'

In fact, there is one new section of work not collected in commercially-available book form. He notices how much of the book consists of work from the 1960s and he concentrates on this earlier work, while ‘my excuse’ – he does not need one – ‘is that there is a rare sense of consistent continuity about Harwood’s writing, with a kind of blueprint laid out in the work of the first 10 years which the later work builds on.’

Adam Piette, in his review of Lee Harwood New Collected Poems (and Mark Hyatt, with whom Lee's work has been associated before, in Geoffrey Thurley's forgotten critical book The Ironic Harvest) and Emma Bolland), published in Blackbox Manifold 30, - takes a look at the poetry of plain statement and, in a long and detailed essay (it’s more than a review) says, ‘The plainstyle discovered here on the surfaces of the world is closer to post-Romantic practice, and is grounded in a ego-less ‘we’-persona that is constructed as though in touch with the powers of ‘this earth’, and with the ghosts of the dead ‘surrounding us with a tenderness’. Adam is talking about ‘The Long Black Veil’, Harwood’s long plainstyle (cavalier rather than puritan, in Lee’s own terms) notebook poem, a text I keep coming back to. (See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: HMS Little Fox by Lee Harwood republished (My reading of 'The Long Black Veil') for what is basically an excerpt from my book The Poetry of Saying, which Adam mentions.) Notably, there’s hardly a metaphor in Harwood's piece.

Thanks to both writers for their time and attention to this volume!

Here’s a hub post about our new edition:

Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings (

You may order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (

 My review of the earlier part of the ‘old’ Collected Harwood (2004), as it were,
and a review of the rest of the book,

are to be found at these links.

I will add other reviews here as and when. Or perhaps only the online ones, so you can link to them immediately.



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Friday, August 11, 2023

Two new poems published in Tears In the Fence 78

 Tears in the Fence 78 is now available at 

It features reviews by others as well as poetry, prose poetry, visual poetry, translations and fiction by: Mark Dickinson, Ian Seed, Eliza O’Toole, Lisa Pasold, Lizzi Linklater, Mark Goodwin, Blossom Hibbert, Morag Kiziewicz, Kate Noakes, Kenny Knight, Matthew Carbery, Pratibha Castle, Lesley Burt, David Ball, Toon Tellegen translated by Judith Wilkinson, Chrissie Gittins, Carla Scarano D’Antonio, Siân Thomas, PQR Anderson, Elizabeth Wilson Davies, benjamin cusden, Basil King, Janet Hancock, Melissa Buckheit, Benjamin Larner, David Miller, Steve Spence, Amber Rollinson, Beth Davyson, Claire Watt, David Harmer, Sue Johns ,Kathleen McPhilemy, Robin Walter, Michael Henry, Elizabeth Parker, Alice Tarbuck, Joanna Nissel, Sarah Watkinson, Mandy Pannett, Charles Wilkinson, Valerie Bridge, Jane Wheeler, Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana Naoise Gale, and me!

I’ve got two (unrelated) poems there and now my copies have arrived (why does everybody else seem to be tweeting about the issue before I even receive mine; it's the same with Jazzwise too, so it's not to do with the journal itself?) I want to introduce them. 

One is one of the latest ‘Empty Diary’ poems. This is a sequence that formed the backbone of Twentieth Century Blues – and kept on growing after the blues, as it were (as well as appearing in its earlier stages as the Stride book Empty Diaries). Books in print are featured here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not! So it runs from 1901-2022 (so far). 

This one is ‘Empty Diary 2021’ , ‘Squeezing the spray’!

Empty Diary 2022 will appear in a masculinity anthology from Broken Sleep early next year. You can find others here:

 Pages: Robert Sheppard: The last two Empty Diary poems are published on Stride

I don’t mean ‘last’, of course, but ‘latest’. The ‘diaries’ for 2019 and 2020. I read both of them on video, and link to the texts (on Stride). I write about the sequence in some detail there and won’t repeat that here, but you can have a look. Additionally, there are further links to ‘Empty Diary’ poems of various kinds.

I am thinking about one for this year. I think I might take on anti-vax piss-drinkers.

The second poem is ‘Turns Return’, which is a poem for Scott Thurston. It’s a nudge for him to make the next move in our ‘collaboration’ Turns – but he hasn’t taken the hint/bait yet. Watch out soon for his Selected Poems from Shearsman.

I say the two poems are unrelated, and they are at the level of content, but they are connected by having been written at the same time, and they are two of a number of poems (the others are oddly in two editions of Junction Box) where I deny myself capital letters at the start of lines and any punctuation at the end of lines. I adopted this convention for a couple of months, I'm not sure why, which I'm sure is why I discontinued it!

I want to thank David Caddy again for publishing poems in Tears in the Fence this year (and in others).

I was last in issue 75 (video here too):

Pages: Two more sonnets from British Standards (from Keats) in Tears in the Fence 75 (

 Before that in issue 73 (video again):

Pages: Two new poems from British Standards published in Tears in the Fence 73 (

 And 68 (a poem in memory of Roy Fisher)

Pages: Robert Sheppard: 'Between' a poem for Roy Fisher published in Tears in the Fence

And 3 poems to the memory of Lee Harwood (now collected in The English Strain; see here: Pages: Search results for The English Strain ( :

Pages: Robet Sheppard: 3 poems to the memory of Lee Harwood in Tears in the Fence (

There are loads of reviews too in issue 78. It’s time to read it now. Feet up: new glasses on, and away we go!


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Friday, August 04, 2023

Remembering Gavin Selerie and his laugh

I have heard that Gavin Selerie died earlier this summer – and I wanted, briefly, to remember him. Much could be written about his poetic work – its serial epic ambitions, and his dedication to the sonnet. I have just found that yesterday Robert Hampson published an obituary of him in The Guardian that outlines these aspects in some detail. Please read that here before moving on:

Gavin was a solid member of the London poetry scene, and was so before I lived there, and long after I’d left, but he and Frances Presley (another old friend) were nearly always there when I appeared for events. He and I must have read at the same gigs, certainly at the same venues. His knowledge and conversation were to be treasured. I liked the way he tossed his head back when he laughed. I want to remember him laughing. I do remember him laughing.

In the 1980s he threw a good party. I remember Patricia and I rather embarrassed ourselves by misbehaving at one of them! He was a model for our own at-home festivities and he was a guest always (and I know he visited us in exile in Esher (his parents lived nearby)). 

He was also a generous witness to our ‘clandestine’ marriage in 1985, and here are pictures of him with the newly-weds and the other witness, Jeff. For their trouble, we dined them royally at an Italian fish restaurant in Islington. (Gavin's on the left, in the pictures above and below; Jeff on the right.)


I also dedicated two poems to Gavin, ‘Fucking Time’, my impressions of the life and works of the Earl of Rochester (I know it was the wrong end of his beloved seventeenth century; Gavin was a Jacobean scholar). It seems inappropriate to quote from that here, though it may be found in Complete Twentieth Century Blues. More appropriate is the poem he was forced to share with Alan Halsey (those who know their Days of 49 will know the justice of this), and those who have recently mourned Alan’s passing will share this grief (see here: Pages: I.M. Alan Halsey: some thoughts, links, and a poem dedicated to him. ( Here’s their joint ‘Burnt Journal’, another birthday poem, for their common year of birth. It got published in Berlin Bursts. And I read it again on video this afternoon:


Burnt Journal 1949


for Gavin Selerie and Alan Halsey at 60

You walk away from the Dakota, its silver fuselage

creaking as it cools. You wave your summer hat

at futurity. A grainy artifice sells the peace,

white-feathered fall into history’s nigrescent ink.


Heads of the crowd glow pin-pricked under Schweppes flashes

on a newsreel besmirched by mist. You sip real wine

under a tilted made-up parasol, an untitled poem

by Wallace Stevens, full of his tropical clickety-click.


You recite crisp leaves from the borders of the Floral Clock.

The Dummy Cowgirl Orchestra fumbles mandolins

with bloated plaster fingers, stares through golf-ball eyes.


Not quite as advertised, they flicker within without

voice. All these lovelies are lost in black.

Your pure ears ring with perfect pitch.


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Sunday, July 02, 2023

Circle of the City published now on Osmosis/New book coming soon

I’m pleased to announce a couple of related things before I have a little summer break from blogging (and Twitter). One is the publication of a poem (today) and the other is the publication of a book (later).

The poem has been mentioned before on the blog, because it relates to the celebrations of the life, times and writings of Malcolm Lowry that are held every year in Liverpool. Indeed, it relates to this post about the 2021 celebration, here:  Pages: The Lowry Lounge 2021, Bluecoat, Liverpool (and my poem 'Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five') ( On that you will find references to my poem ‘Circle of the City’, which I read in the Open Malc (ouch!) section and which I also describe in my book (more of that later!) thus:

This poem is a series of interrupted haiku written (or drafted) while following the walk taken by sailor-revolutionary Sigbjørn and his shipowner father as described (in both senses of the word) by Lowry in his unfinished novel, written in the mid-1930s, In Ballast to the White Sea (ed. P.A. McCarthy, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2014). Their Liverpool walk starts (and ends) at Exchange Flags and skirts the docks, the shopping centre, and rests at a cinema to view a Russian revolutionary film. They discuss politics generally and, more personally, their culpabilities in the deaths of others. Like Lowry, I take in the messages of the urban environment I pass through: street signs, adverts, t-shirt slogans. There are, oddly, both in Lowry’s chapter and my poem, references to Melville’s Redburn (1849). The Liverpool guidebook Redburn carried was 50 years out of date. My ‘guidebook’ was Lowry’s novel itself, Bodega and cinema both long gone. The poem was first performed at the 2021 Lowry Lounge, Saturday 30 October 2021, The Bluecoat, Liverpool [as described in the link above].

I am now pleased to say this is published today on the 'Featured Writing' section of the Osmosis website HERE:

 Robert Sheppard: Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five – OSMOSIS PRESS

 Thanks to all at Osmosis for selecting this. They publish 'Featured Writing' every Sunday, and books, of course, every now and then (as a press). Check them out: OSMOSIS PRESS – where writing shifts and spills across boundaries

The post above to the Lowry Lounge 2021 also presents links to some previous years’ meetings. Of course, that won’t let you link with the 2022 meeting, about which I had some thoughts here: Pages: The 2022 Lowry Lounge - a few thoughts ( The 2023 meeting is in preparation: 28 October. A date for local diaries.

The poem is the final piece in my hybrid book
Doubly Stolen Fire, which is subtitled ‘authorship imaginary and real’ and will be published by Aquifer Press, which is run by Lyndon Davies. The second half of the book is indeed about real authorship, since it contains my writings on Lowry, a handful of poems including today’s, and my prose piece ‘Malcolm Lowry’s Land’, which is a psychogeographical exploration of walking to Lowry’s grave in 1979, imaginatively re-tracing my textual steps 30 years later (it's a sort of 'reading through' of a poem I never published). 

The first book of the fictional poetry project, A Translated Man.

The first half of Doubly Stolen Fire is about imaginary authors and is, in essence, the third part of my imaginary authors project. Read about the published first two books of it here: EUOIAEuropean Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) - Home (

The second book of the fictional poetry project, Twitters for a Lark.

A long piece in Doubly Stolen Fire is culled from the lockdown diary of Sophie Poppmeier, my imaginary Austrian poet, who appears in each part. 
Pages: Reflections on Fictional Poetry and Fictional Poets (1 and hubpost for the sequence) ( BUT I also consider the Ern Malley Hoax, Pages: Robert Sheppard: My essay on Ern Malley and Fictional Poets appears in International Timesa famous talking visitor to the Isle of Man (not Lowry), a talking mannequin (of course) and a couple of other people who have lifted themselves into fiction. The writing weaves and matches and mixes hybrid modes: memoir, essay, creative non-fiction, fiction, fictional poems, psychogeographical derives, jokes and poetics. Oh, and a lot of footnotes!

Keep checking this blog for updates. And read my poem online as a taster (though there is no sample of the book that could be thought ‘typical’).  Nearly there! Here's me holding the proof copy:



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Friday, June 30, 2023

I'm in IS80 a book for Iain Sinclair at Eighty


Is 80, is that Iain Sinclair! And this hearty volume has been put together by Gareth Evans, to celebrate this fact - and now you can buy it, a limited-edition signed publication, signed by IAIN, that is. 

For sale exclusively from the London Review Bookshop: Solution Opportunities: for Iain Sinclair at 80 | Various | London Review Bookshop. Have a look, have a buy!

A unique tribute to a remarkable writer, film-maker and walker, in an edition of only 300 numbered copies – each signed by Iain Sinclair – this 192 page A4 illustrated publication features over 170 contributors, including Peter Ackroyd, Caroline Bergvall, Keggie Carew, William Gibson, Xiaolu Guo, Philip Hoare, Toby Jones, Stewart Lee, Esther Leslie, Rachel Lichtenstein, Robert Macfarlane, Jonathan Meades, Dave McKean, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore,  J.H. Prynne, Denise Riley and Marina Warner. And me.

Featuring original essays, poems, images, letters and reflection from writers, artists, musicians, publishers, friends, critics, booksellers and readers, it is not only a celebration of a unique body of work but also a de-facto history of the last 60 years in experimental literature and culture.

It was, as I said, conceived and edited by Gareth Evans, and designed by Joe Hales Studio.

My little poem takes the strange fact that Mary Robinson (about whom, here:Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 2: The Life of Mary Robinson ( lived in the same street as William Blake, when he was indentured to William Basire the engraver. And somehow, in a sort of Iain Sinclair way, it ends up with Mr Nemo the actor in New Brighton (that, of course, is Walter Sickert, who leads one down several Sinclairian rabbit-holes). But I don't think Sinclair ever approaches Mary. For a commissioned poem (I find them difficult) I'm pretty pleased with it, but to read it, you'll have to buy the book!

I write about Iain Sinclair on this blog (and I published some of his poems too), chiefly here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Everything Connects: The Social Poetics of Iain Sinclair . There are lots of links too. 

My book on Iain Sinclair, imaginatively entitled Iain Sinclair, is still available here: Iain Sinclair | Liverpool University Press

Nicholas Royle makes reference in his piece in the book to my booklet of reviews of Sinclair, which is pleasing. Perhaps I should print more of this Ship of Fools volume. Until then, there's much to go on.