Last night I read at the last reading of the year for The Other Room in Manchester. (The other readers were Rachel Smith and Sandeep Parmar.) It was also the end of what I’ve called The DeKoninck Tour, launching my book A Translated Man, which is available from Shearsman Books and purports to the be the work of the bilingual Belgian poet René Van Valckenborch. Read about him here. Buy the book here. Or here. See that last reading of the tour here: http://otherroom.org/tag/robert-sheppard/
Last night I read from his supposedly Flemish poems; at other readings I’ve usually mixed the sides a little. At the North Wales Poetry Festival I only read from the Walloon side. I was also billed as Van Valckenborch alongside a range of REAL poets from Austria and Iceland and elsewhere. This poster shows Rene there (bottom lefat hand corner).
I also read alongside Allen Fisher at Edge Hill, and for Shearsman (with Patricia Farrell and Rupert Loydell).
In the summer I launched the book privately and also read the poems of Gurkan Arnavut (which I co-wrote with Zoe Skoulding), one of the European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) invented by Van Valckenborch. (You’d think he’d know better, making up poets of his own!).
The only gig that went wrong was the collaboration with Robert Hampson, ‘Liverpool Hugs and Kisses’, a brief holiday away from my Belgium of the mind. My foot went again but I couldn’t walk, as it were. Sorry about that, Robert, and Steven Fowler too. I know I missed a wonderful gig.
I’m being interviewed by the very astute Chris Maddon for The Wolf and his final question about A Translated Man asked me what I’d say to Van Valckenborch if I met him. I wondered what he’d ask me! (I’ve been interviewed by Ana Maria Seranno for a new online journal in Ireland called Colony and she too had searching questions about this project.) It is odd that I’ve never quite thought of him as a character, more of an ‘author-function’.
I’ve enjoyed the company of his book, but I’m keen to move on. There are a number of projects. The Given/ Arrival/ When, the autrebiographies., are due out 2014. There is a manuscript called Unfinish waiting for my attention.
What of René? Well, one of my possible projects involves completing his EUOIA project for him. That would mean inventing 27 fictional authors (one of whom is myself, by the way).
And, although I have no readings lined up (and quite like that fact) I’d like to read work other than Van Valckenborch’s. As I said last night, If you are seeing me for the first time, then you won’t know that I don’t write like this. But, then, of course I do now. Then there’s the question of whether I could be influenced by him, write my own ‘twitterodes’ or my own explorations of the spatial imagination. But that’s the irony: they are mine. (For the record, I’ve never denied that they are.)
Thank you to everybody who has published, listened to, put on readings by, Van Valckenborch this year.