Friday, November 27, 2009

GOING PUBLIC/going private/Afterword to Series Five

To celebrate a decade of the discussion of speculative, writerly poetics at Edge Hill, Robert Sheppard organised a talk series entitled Going Public this autumn and turned over this now concluding fifth series of this blogzine to the work of his group. (Above you can see Stephen Sheppard, Scott Thurston and Matt Fallaize in the earliest photograph of the group during a contemplative moment at one of its summer meetings, probably 2003. Photo courtesy Andrew Taylor. And above that a photo of group members Robert Sheppard, Angela Keaton, Matt Fallaize and Cliff Yates at the recording of the group's CD, Points of Reference; available £5 including p+p from Robert Sheppard, Deaprtment of English and History, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK. Photo courtesy Andrew Taylor.)

The whole series launched the Salt poetics anthology Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh (edited by Rupert Loydell from Salt Publishing); four of the group are featured in this volume. On 8th October Scott Thurston discussed his book Internal Rhyme to be published next year by Shearsman, sharing with the audience the two ways of reading the text (horizontally and vertically). The discussions, as on all the evenings, were detailed. This was also a chance to celebrate the new Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, co-edited by Sheppard and Thurston, the first issue of which was on sale.

On 15th October, two former PhDs of the university, also founder members of the group and contributors to Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh, and widely published poets, presented their poetics: Cliff Yates: ''Flying' and the gap between intention and outcome in the act of writing,' and Andrew Taylor on ‘The Poetics of Absence – part two’: a continuation and reflection upon the work in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh. Andrew spoke of how a poetics is never finished just because a document of poetics is complete, but continues to evolve, in his case developing his sense of a topologiocally-inscribed 'Poetics of Absence'. Cliff outlined his development from a poet who writes about experiences to a poet who allowed the writing of the poem, in the act of writing, to become the experience. (Again, see his contribution to the Salt anthology.) More recent pieces explore a translatorese-ish estrangement of language, refracted through broken forms such as pseudo-pantoums.

On 29th October Dee Mc Mahon spoke of the poems published on her CD Stories of the Line under the title ‘Provocation, Process and Product’. Dee described her sequence of prose pieces that springboard from quotations 'Stories of a Line', in which - Klee-like - she takes a 'line' for a walk. Robert was talking about his latest project, the fictional poems of Rene Van Valckenborch, and the double fictional poetics by which they are permitted, and by which he is permitted to by-pass his self.

On 5th November 2009, Daniele Pantano addressed the title "Living in Translation: A Discussion of Exile, Translingualism, and Writing Your Way Home" by speaking of his own original work and his work as a literary translator. Michael Egan meanwhile invited the audience to share his recent ‘Motivist’ poems in light of his Motivist Manifesto. If it catches on, you heard of it here first!

To complete the series on 11th November 7.30 in The Rose Theatre, Cliff Yates launched his new book Frank Freeman’s Dancing School (which is out from Salt: The speakers from the talks series became the support act for Cliff, who read well and contextualised the writing of his book.

On 27 November we ‘went private’ again by meeting up at the delicatessen Source in Ormskirk run by PPRG member Matt Falliaze (pictured above, even then sampling the wine) for an excellent meal. It made the group feel more like Oulipo (I had Queneau's Elemental Morality in my bag) but I suspect we'll not become a dining club, though I'm sure we'll return to Source. We were there to celebrate not to discuss, but we did touch on the subject of how to proceed as a group, and how to avoid the banalities of the 'workshop method'. Present were the founder members Cliff Yates and Andrew Taylor and myself (I think it was only a joke when they voted me out of the group!), Dee MacMahon, Michael Egan, Patricia Farrell. Everybody seemed relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Great Works currently features three of the group. And everybody round the table has been published there. Thank you Peter Philpott!

We have two official journals registering the group’s work: Pages online published work from the group members Erbacce published a print edition dedicated to the group (which may be bought at

Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics Research Group members past and present include Robert Sheppard, Cliff Yates, Andrew Taylor, Scott Thurston, Neil Addison, Dee McMahon, Matt Fallaize, Daniele Pantano, Steve Van Hagen, Michael Egan, Colin Harris, Tony Cullen, Patricia Farrell, Angela Keaton and Alice Lenkiewicz.

Here ends the Fifth Series of Pages. Check the archive between May and November 2009 to read the series whole. (For a quick look, the bulk of the meetings occured in October 2009.)

Robert Sheppard
PS Sixth series?

Introducing Robert Sheppard

Robert Sheppard reading at the Costa Coffee Poetry Venue in Liverpool (photo courtesy Tim Power), recording the Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics CD at Edge Hill, and reading at the Liverpool Tate Gallery Credit Crunch reading (both photos courtesy Andrew Taylor).
I am a poet-critic, and recent volumes of poetry include Tin Pan Arcadia, Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2004,
Complete Twentieth Century Blues from Salt as well, and
Warrant Error from Shearsman.

My critical work includes The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents Liverpool University Press, 2005)
and Iain Sinclair (Northcote House, 2007).

I am editor of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry {link to } and this blogzine.
I also edited the Salt Companion to Lee Harwood, and most recently The Door at Taldir: The Selected Poems of Paul Evans.I am also an advocate for the way writers write about writing, a speculative discourse that is often misread as literary criticism or as autobiographical writing, but which is really a mode of writing quite distinct. I encourage students to read it and produce it, and I am working on a study of this. Part of my thinking on this may be read on PORES journal as The Necessity of Poetics’ .

Poems from Warrant Error, may be read here

Complete Twentieth Century Blues was reviewed by Todd Thorpe. Read the review here
Warrant Error has been reviewed by Alan Baker. Read his review at

I can be seen reading my poems from Twentieth Century Blues at

as part of the Other Room Readings in 2008. (On the first clip I read ‘A Dirty Poem and Clean Poem for Roy Fisher’, ‘From a Stolen Book’ followed by a selection from ‘Empty Diaries’, the sequence with which I continues on the second video.)

If any of these links are broken, this one isn't: here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Robert Sheppard: Three Riga Poems

Mentzendorff House, Riga

The bearded woman with amber eyes
makes him tie elfin aprons to his shoes
which glide like galoshes over the polish
of the timbers while the bride’s stilettos
tap-tap up the stairs without reproach or restraint

The woman scraped away these walls
to reveal layered fauns and fountains
but when he plucks the harp that waits for him there
it lets of a slack dead sound. Escaping

their scrutiny he secrets himself in the mock
‘Poet’s Room’. The desk: a quill still rests across
parchment by a notebook embossed Poesie

He lifts the feathery pages loose from the flaking
leather spine and finds that they are blank

July/November 2006

Riga Duet

Prison Camp Violin

A brittle fiddle someone
Turns this on a lathe

Of the spheres where
Replica becomes the real

Thing thin
Birch treated knocked up

Catches an unhuman
Voice in its hollow

Thumbs moulded to pegs
Skewered into splintering holes

Tune the stolen wires a
Mollusc curled at neck’s end

Pluck the kinked tune free

Out of itself a
Collapsed bridge

Sabotaged by
Time mittens

The soup-bone bow-grip

Horse hair human
Hair taut straight like a well

Brushed bride’s
Bends the tamed twig

Tucked under your chin the violin
Splinters against your jaw

As you draw the grinty
Voice out from the mechanics

Of survival: extinct
Livonian love song

Mute Piano

This box could house
A stethoscope or

Paintbrushes its
Leather strap sags

A conspiring smile
Unclip the lid in

A double-thumbed
Ritual of rhyming

Clasps and prop
It open a jack-

In-a-box grin of black
And nicotine octaves

Three there potential
But one key escaped

Gives the game away
A peep-hole to the void

Mechanics beneath

Half-frozen fingers that

Soothe the smooth keys
And then in a furious

Double-fisted cluster
Rattle them with the

Padding stealth of
Rats upon boards

Stealing moist bread
From mute mouths

In 2018 'Prison Camp Violin' became the Guardian Poem of the Week (see here) All three poems were published in Berlin Bursts (details here) and 'Prison Camp Violin' was selected for History or Sleep (see here)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Introducing Tony Cullen

Photo: Patricia Farrell. Tony Cullen, the newest recruit to the Poetry and Poetics Research Group, attending one of our meetings, minutes after hearing that he'd received a Distinction for his MA in Writig Studies at Edge Hill. The PhD beckons.

Some of his poems are due to be published in Great Works soon: check the November issue at

Here are some others:

Grande Arcade

It has a cathedral quality
high roof and hush yet
somewhere someone speaks
echoes flutter against

skylight windows looking
for escape consumers on automated
glide-by wear Picasso expressions
chameleon eyes swivel

and shift with the passionless
sanction of a broken contract
lock-jawed doorways reveal
gapping throats into which

shoppers simply vanish
feminine fragrances and magic
music lure the curious
with a crooked finger

schoolgirls skittle in awe
old couples merge together
for comfort children rattle
with excitement while mothers

browse for bargains through
glass plate and plastic
a hackled mechanical spine
winds methodically toward

an upper level escarpment
where coffee clouds mass
above the Casino Café
sipping latte or mocha

Olympians examine the synthesis
below bristling with the promise
of profit drowning soul
in a redeveloped see

buried in a wooded
half-moon pelt where
the homicide of Harlem
John plays out


Here’s George’s little sally,
embedded in the huge stone
shoulder of a cobbled bank.

On a gable opposite, a stick
rattles inside a swill bucket.
The original went for scrap

the year they exiled
Trotsky. This is a replica,
reinvented for tourists

still feeding on Eric’s
unhealthy diet served up
in the pub\restaurant they

named after his reinvention.
It’s a narrower gauge
than standard and tips

nothing more than nostalgia
and an admiration of a hardship
enacted in their comic playhouse.

Marsh Green Marsh

The sun quivers to cross
it. Not vast, but empty
and deep; it’s silent air
trimmed of alibis
and waiting.

Grasses army the surface,
gangling adolescent stalks
crowding to the river,
where rushes bull
the margins.

The ground there, three
quarters water, will
never let them go.
Things scurry
at root level,

only squeak and rustle
announce their attendance,
a splash of black water,
their shun. Tussock
grass stumps on sturdy ground,

short and sharp as teeth.
Each footstep injures moss
to weep over boot leather
and lace as the earth
gives. It’s the river,

reaching from beneath,
where clay prisons
hold tight in.
After sun-fall,
a lacy cloak

of ghosts hover there,
thickening to a nightdress
of nature’s shy cloud,
behind which, the dark
world disappears.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chris McCabe reading at Edge Hill last year

Photo: Tim Power

Chris read in the Rose Theatre last year, and this picture seems to capture something of the charm of his performance.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Introducing Steve Van-Hagen

I was appointed at Edge Hill in 2006, having previously taught at The International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle (Queen’s University, Canada, in the U. K.), the University of Kent, and Canterbury Christ Church University. I have taught most periods and genres within English and American literature, but have tended to specialise in eighteenth-century literature, Renaissance drama (especially Shakespeare), and modernism and post-modernism.

My edition of selections from Woodhouse’s The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus was published in 2005 (Cheltenham: The Cyder Press) and I have recently completed a book entitled The Poetry of Mary Leapor for the Focus On series published by Greenwich Exchange Press. I am currently writing an article for The Literature Compass on the life, career and reception of James Woodhouse, as well as writing The Student Guide to Jonathan Swift for Greenwich Exchange. I am also researching a critical biography of Woodhouse.

My other interests include literary representations of obsessive-compulsive disorders (and particularly in the work of the American novelist Chuck Palahniuk), and the life and career of the American eco-anarchist Edward Abbey.

Poems have appeared in a number of magazines (see links at the end of this post)

Die Sönne Scheint Noch(with thanks to Jason Whittaker)


Barbarians are coming, they sing, crawling
from the East. He wears a leather skirt East
European hat, metal cross
draped over his bare chest. Aryan, Wagnerian
ice maidens who study postgraduate
English in their spare time sing
harmonies wearing black vests, blonde
pigtails tumbling from their fezes. Banners
depict a thick cross within a cog though no
White Rose. Seeming swastikas that know not
seems adorn album covers passed round, sleeve
notes by Žižek, film projectors
beam streams of images. The crowd
chant in tandem “Tanz
mit Laibach”, singing of American
friends and German comrades dancing
in Baghdad.


Most likely this was not what
Sophie and Hans and Christoph went
to the steel blade for but you never know
what you’re living or dying for till
later as they’ve told Tomasz as
they look down, unlike him, bemused. Dropping leaflets
from University stairs can be for some
what a concert and exhibition at the House
of the Workers is for others. It is many years
since the threesome took that last
unprecedented cigarette, but Sophie is a nation’s
heroine. At least the website says
Tomasz’s influence lives on.


Outside in the Trbovlje evening, where Tomasz
ended twenty three years before, the audience files
out, waves passports in the air that helped some
escape Sarajevo. The Kum mountain lodge houses
some as the NSK philosopher declaims, and they drink
Laibach wine, deep into tomorrow until

the sun comes up.

Der Papierene
the streets of Favoriten are quiet
now, a suburb of a city
of shadows, secrets, whispers, though they
weren’t quiet that day in January ’39
when they laid you to rest some say
twenty thousand thronged the streets

whisperers whisper still
about you; you were a jew, a
nazi, a gambler, when you were found
with Camilla in the Anagasse
they whispered too: you were
murdered, committed suicide, Camilla
killed you, politics
killed you

there is no memorial, even the cafe
you bought from Drill is gone,
demolished, “they did not want it there
as a reminder of him”, they told me,
when I asked

I look for you, I find you only
in the memories of the reunification
derby, the pride of
Osterreich, not Ostmark, waltzing
around grinning before the box
full of dignitaries, at full time

grainy images on You Tube
narrated in Spanish
are the only sight I find but
it is not a bad epitaph: “the new club
president has forbidden us to talk
to you, but I will always
speak to you, Herr Doktor.”

Emily warned me it would be like this
There is only one truly philosophical problem
wrote Albert, a problem I solved
one winter’s afternoon

At the last there was the little
not so much
the King in the room
as the mundane in the gloom

It ended
not so much with a whimper
as with an unavoidable bang
or two, on the head

As fumes swirled, the thoughts:
did I feed the cat?
did I turn on the gas (enough)?

the taciturnity of amorous encountersi don’t bring you flowers

we meet in hotels

i don’t bring you chocolates

we mouth neither hellos nor farewells

we pass the same anonymous receptionists and bellboys

this month room twenty six next month ninety four

after, i trace the outline of your nose

in my mind as you lie

face up turned away on sweat-soaked sheets

perhaps one day we might speak

Links to poetry:

Two North West Events



Cliff Yates Reading at The Rose Theatre at Edge Hill, Ormskirk on Wednesday 11th November 2009; 7.30, £3.50.

The launch of Frank Freeman’s Dancing School:

his new Salt book.

Cliff Yates is the author of Henry’s Clock (Smith/Doorstop) which won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Poetry Business competition, and Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society). He teaches at Maharishi School, where his students are renowned for winning poetry competitions, and runs courses and workshops in the UK and abroad. His latest collection is Frank Freeman’s Dancing School (Salt).

(This is part of the GOING PUBLIC series at Edge Hill: see for details.)


Following the popularity of the Birkbeck launch in October, Gylphi Limited is pleased to announce:

The launch of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry

Ed. Robert Sheppard (Edge Hill) and Scott Thurston (Salford)

at the University of Salford with guest speakers Christine Kennedy, Allen Fisher and Ian Davidson (Wednesday 9 December at 4 pm)

There will be speeches and discussion of the journal, as well as an opportunity for readers and contributors to the journal to meet with editorial board members.


Christine Kennedy, Leeds Trinity & All Saints

Allen Fisher, Manchester Metropolitan University

Ian Davidson, University of Wales at Bangor

Followed by discussion and drinks.

All Welcome. Free entry.

Directions here:

To register for this event on Facebook, please visit:

You can also become a fan of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry at:

To receive your copy of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry before the launch subscribe online:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Talks: Daniele Pantano and Michael Egan

(photo courtesy of Patricia Farrell)

A game of two halves last night: Daniele Pantano (left) and Michael Egan (right) answering questions after their presentation. (Who's your smiley friend, guys?)

Dan spoke to the title 'Living in Translation: A Discussion of Exile, Translingualism, and Writing Your Way Home'. Home might or might not be Switzerland, in Dan's case, and he explored the polylingual background of Switzerland, his sojorn in the United States, his writing in English and his translating from the German. He quoted Richard Kearney on Ricoeur's On Translation: 'The idealist romantic self, sovereign master of itself and all it surveys, is replaced by an engaged self which only finds itself after it has traversed the field of foreignness and returned to itself again, this time altered and enlarged, "othered".'

Michael introduced us to the tenets of 'Motivism', a style of poetry (or a schema for generating a long sequence of poems), based around a verse form of 1/3/3/1 lines and a series of guiding principles for each stanza: initial image, wandering, connection, and return.

This is final talk in the series but Cliff Yates (supported by the team of 'talkers') will read at the Rose Theatre, at Edge Hill University on Wednesday 11th November at 7.30: tickets £3.50 for the launch of his book Frank Freeman's Dancing School (Salt).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Introducing Daniele Pantano (as translator): Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl (1887-1914) is commonly seen as the most prominent figure of Austro-German literary Expressionism.


In red leaves full of guitars
The yellow tresses of girls flutter
By the fence where sunflowers grow.
A golden tumbrel wheels through the clouds.

The elders in a peace of brown shade
Become silent and hug each other like fools.
Orphans sing sweetly at vespers.
Flies buzz in yellow palls.

At the stream the women still wash.
Hanging linens sail.
The girlchild I long fell for
Comes again through the evening gray.

Sparrows plunge from balmy skies
Into green voids filled with rot.
A bread smell and pungent spice
Cheats the hungry one of recovery.

Translated from the German by Daniele Pantano


Beneath mutilated willows, where brown children play
And leaves drift, trumpets blare. A graveyard shudder.
Scarlet banners plunge through the maple’s grief
Horsemen along fields of rye, empty mills.

Or shepherds sing at night and stags enter
Into the circle of their fires, the grove’s ancient sorrow,
Dancers rise from a black wall;
Scarlet banners, laughter, madness, trumpets.

Translated from the German by Daniele Pantano

Introducing Daniele Pantano (as poet)

(photo courtesty D. Pantano)


What I enjoy about chaos is the guarantee of creation
The rapid unexpected



Anticipate the whipping beauty of these southern women
Accustomed to euphoria within the word.


Inform them that they’re unable to solicit the final embalming.


Language consists of minute fractures near each climax.


Confirm the impossible: to fully comprehend any experience.


We can die at once and laugh about it.


Proclaim days are dominated by sex, verbs, red paint.


Witness the death of a praying mantis as her black hair finally settles.


Fictitious. This green. Like no other. This blue. Conscious.
Spectators. We agree. Language at birth. The rush. At once.
Forever. Scourged by origins and locutions. We find ourselves.
Back to it. The octagon. Its base. Like a senate of fatidic ants.
Ready. For the scouts. To move. From red. To white. To red.

Daniele Pantano is a Swiss poet, translator, critic, and editor born of Sicilian and German parentage in Langenthal (Canton of Berne). His individual poems, essays, and reviews, as well as his translations from the German by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Georg Trakl (see next posting) and Robert Walser, have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies, including Absinthe: New European Writing, ARCH, The Baltimore Review, The Cortland Review, Gradiva: International Journal of Italian Poetry, Italian Americana, The Mailer Review, and 32 Poems Magazine.

His next books, The Oldest Hands in the World (a collection of poems), and the translations The Possible Is Monstrous: Selected Poems by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and The Collected Works of Georg Trakl, are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, New York. He teaches at Edge Hill University.

For more information, please visit his website at