Friday, January 30, 2015

25 Edge Hill Poets: Martin Palmer

My time at Edge Hill: I'm very lucky to have been accepted at Edge Hill as their approach to Creative Writing is to keep you out of your comfort zone as much as possible, whilst offering the support needed to keep you going. I enrolled on the BA in 2009 hoping to learn how to write scripts, but a lot has changed since then. I started engaging more with poetry after an introduction to the works of Bob Cobbing in our third year 'Experimental Writing' module which, alongside an increased emphasis on our own poetics, helped me see areas I'd like to write in.

The Literature modules on the BA helped keep a strange sense of perspective on texts I'd encountered and ones I'd produced, yet enrollment on the MA in 2012 was for 'pure' Creative Writing without other 'distractions'. It soon became clear that this was very much another level, and, though I found it challenging, the supportive atmosphere was as strong as ever. Looking at postmodernism, learning about how we learn as writers from a more conceptual point of view and, as ever, a diverse range of mind-expanding texts all contributed to making me a less fearful writer at last - even, dare I say it, a bit more mature.

I know everyone says it, but it's true that there have been so many wonderful memories from my time at Edge Hill. All the visiting professionals, from the serious to the wacky, the readings at the Rose Theatre (now part of the new Arts Centre, of course), the different tutoring characters and styles (I've still not followed up the advice to get arrested for a night - I won't say who said that...). In short, I've enjoyed it so much, I've grown a lot and I wouldn't change any of it.

A little on the poetics: 'Conservative' is part of a group of poetry I call 'Deconstructivist'. These works, resembling exploded diagrams as one may find in an engineering manual, aim to probe language on a variety of levels - visual, sonic and associative - in the hope of finding out what language means to us and thereby expanding our awareness of our world. So many things in life are subjective experiences, whether it be religion, politics or sexuality as examples. Answers are there for us to try and find, or not as the case may be. Deconstructivism is an instinctual process and one that is open for everyone to try.

Martin blogs at and occasionally posts poetics. He is also re-blogging all of the 25 Edge Hill Poets posts and reflects on why here.

Details of the MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill may be read here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Tim Atkins' and Peter Hughes' Petrarch versions compared

When I wrote my original comparison of Peter Hughes’ and Tim Atkins’ versions of Petrarch I had only a few scattered booklets to compare their developing projects. Poem 3 was selected almost at random, by being one of the few poems by both that I possessed. Read that comparison here. (Poem 3 then set me off on my own versions of that single poem, Harry Mathews or Nicholas Moore-like, of which there are 14 +, but none yet published, though one is here. Though I have performed them; see here and here for set lists, and comments on the nature of my versioning practice, including a blues version and a Jimmy Savile poem.)

Both of these long projects are now available whole.

See Tim Atkins’ Complete Petrarch here. Scroll down to find Crater 27.

See Peter Hughes Quite Frankly: After Petrarch’s Sonnets here.

I think we can safely say Tim’s book is the best Petrarch of 2014; Peter’s is the best of 2015! They are both brilliant reads cover-to-cover, but the experience of reading the books means I need to update my readings on the earlier post (although I don’t think I need to revise, as far as they went). Indeed, it was a surprise to find a reference to that post – its reading – in Jèssica Pujol i Duran’s excellent introduction to Atkins’ Complete Petrarch. Anyway here’s one update:

Jèssica Pujol i Duran notes, in her introduction to Atkins’ Collected Petrarch, that ‘We needn’t really read Petrarch for the differences between Petrarch and Atkins’, as I argue of Hughes’ work, ‘or indeed, their similarities’, she adds; ‘such concerns seem gleefully inessential’ for Atkins. (Pujol i Duran 2014: xii). She responds to an earlier web-post version of this chapter by concluding: ‘Thus we read Sheppard’s “distance”, aware that the measure of that distance is hallucinatory; that most of the time Atkins seems to be having a conversation with a neighbour, with a Zen master, or with “fucking-Jeffrey-fucking-Hilson”, rather than with the fourteenth-century Petrarch.’ (Pujol i Duran 2014: xii) [i] The identification of the Zen master is instructive, as we shall see.
As is clear, I think, these posts are dry-runs for the argument of a book in progress called (now) The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry for which I have a contract (literally on the desk under my Hughes-Atkins chapter waiting to be signed and sent back to the publisher; read more here). (The other contemporaneous factor is that Tim will be reading for Storm and Golden Sky this Friday, which I am very excited about. (31/1/15: rightly so: a magnificent reading from the book.))

But I have also written general surveys of both projects, now we have them entire. Let them stand here as mini-reviews of both books.
Peter Hughes (b. 1956) has long been an admired independent voice in British poetry, avoiding groupings and affiliations, operating a prize-winning small-press, Oystercatcher, from the relative seclusion of North Norfolk, practising a writing that moves between various lyrical and sequential styles, but the sardonic and satirical tone in Quite Frankly: After Petrarch’s Sonnets (2015) is quite new. Hughes’ narrator seems a consistent ‘I’, Petrarch-like in his thwarted passions, but modernised: ‘drunk I scratch LaureTA on my arm/ with a Jocky Wilson lightweight dart’, (Hughes 2015:13) and is relocated to the Norfolk coast, where he lives in a fairground caravan: ‘you can understand why so many gods/ chose the middle east instead of Norfolk’. (Hughes 2013: 8) I can indeed. Having been at university in Norwich I know the bleakness of that coast. Throughout the 317 sonnets of Quite Frankly: After Petrarch’s Sonnets (the complete 2015 version), we repeatedly encounter a lover addicted to the eternal repetition of his sorrow and unrequited love (while using contemporary analogues, such as lines from pop songs, and plenty of humour) in the repeating form of the sonnet, with the continuing consolation of his pleading (even after Laura’s death). Into this relatively faithful transposition, Hughes weaves references to contemporary austerity Britain, that suggests that his Petrarch is one for our time, a time of generalized, lachrymose gloom. However, Petrarch’s concern for ‘justice & love’, denied by the hoodwinking of the poor in favour of a distant political establishment, arises enough times to bring us back to recognise Petrarch’s concerns, though they are cruelly stripped of theological consolation. (Hughes 2015: 342) 
Tim Atkins (b. 1962) is a lively presence in the London poetry scene, who also edits the online journal Onedit. Unlike Hughes, he is not striking a new tone or adopting a fresh voicing in his Petrarch poems – his Horace (2007) is almost a dry-run for their transformative methodology – but the sheer bulk and variety of this 2014 collection, Collected Petrarch, makes it his largest and most important volume to date. As Atkins creatively re-reads the canon of Canzoniere we are led into a distanciated body of work, where it is no longer the year 1327 but the time ‘13:27 - & there are still no demands to make love     in/ this sonnet   the author    function    soothed’. (Atkins 2011: poem 219) The poems seem to offer ‘an unending set of translations’ as Foucault’s concept of the textual author function (cleaved apart by caesura, mid-phrase) is ironically entertained only to be dismissed just short of half-past one in the afternoon – in an O’Hara-like or Berriganesque time-check – since O’\arasince sex will not be had in the castrating tradition of courtly love, but this is ultimately soothing to this pseudo-narrator, tortured as he is by human love. (Attridge 2004: 74) The restless registering of the contemporary world seems to confirm that its ten thousand things are indeed illusory as Buddhism suggests: ‘the woofing of dogs will not save me.’ (Atkins 2014: 437) The ‘Buddha life’ leaves ‘I … empty inside it’, (Atkins 2014: 537), yet the narrator (like Hughes’) cannot expunge the Petrarchan legacy: ‘Love – This is the notion which feeds and & informs me.’ (Atkins 2014: 445)
 (For Summaries and Weblinks on form, click here.) (Yes, I do know Frankie Boy is upside down!)

2017: My 'Petrarch 3' is now in print, see here and hereI have written in detail about the writing of Petrarch 3 (see )

See three of my Petrarch 'Wyatts' here. And here
takes you to what came next:  Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch (though the first, introductory, poem ‘Perhaps a Mishap’ is not a version of Wyatt’s versions of Petrarch).

I write about the completed 100 sonnets (including my Petrarch ones) of The English Strain here

[i] My post ‘Robert Sheppard on the Petrarch Boys’, in which I raise the difference/distance distinction may be read at (accessed 27th January 2015).

Friday, January 23, 2015

25 Edge Hill Poets: Debbie Walsh

Nimbus Movements is published by Knives Forks and Spoons. See here. Debbie says of her work by way of poetics:

... 'The work I try to represent spans the invisible space between sensory response and syntactical elaboration. The tense, tone and meaning are often juxtaposed between space and silence – representing the place beyond words that cannot be felt fully or measured precisely'.


Insignia Drowning


   The   felt before thought

Before dilution

          Before  a  simplification of words.


And love?

          A moist breath   fingering skin

And  You close, deep         perfect tense


And   the door closes and closes


 tears ceaselessly               end .

   Memory is anaemic.


 The past           a scape

 a foliage of words         conceal

          transitive         heritable.


Now as clarity fades  dust

         imagination folds        recoils.



The smooth.

         The steel-stone box.

                Moments piled on moments.


I breathe                  dust of absence

            I well   at smiles

               at glances               held


                                    hands            held.


        Love              wrapped

 in smoke filled air





You               uniform framed.

               You             hollowed-out

tunnel-eyed   into              

 a restless symmetry

             of still  warm  ash

of flayed-flesh

of blacked-out screams.



 And this

           gathered  paradox


certain as a pulse

    your soft mouth    pressed

                 a corolla

                       a zephyr.


Explode  my heart

                 meet this rage

     this decayed regret     

                  come        alive  out of



 Debbie Walsh was a student on the MA at Edge Hill, details here

Monday, January 19, 2015

Robert Hampson and Robert Sheppard: LIVERPOOL HUGS AND KISSES NOW OUT

(See Robert Hampson and Chris Gutkind - I was ill - reading the text for the first time)

                 ROBERT                             ROBERT
               HAMPSON                         SHEPPARD

 is now published by Ship of Fools/Pushtika Press

A collaboration, originally written for Steve Fowler's Camarade event in London (see the video above) by exiled Liverpudlian Hampson and domiciled Liverpolitan Sheppard. They decided to take on the city, but like so many, were left haunted by its history and its pubs. An adjunct to Hampson's famous Seaport and to other explorations by Sheppard in his recent work concerning the city, this pamphlet is the real thing: Arthur Dooley and Ray Charles rub shoulders in a Ginnassium and The Grapes with Marc Chagall and Kevin Ayres. Get it now before closing time, from sending a cheque (old skool) to Ship of Fools, 78 Nicander Road, Liverpool, L18 1HZ, made out to R. Sheppard, for £3.

Read an earlier poem by Robert (Hampson) on Pages, 'synthetic feed', here.

See here for details of Fandango Loops by Patricia Farrell and Robert Sheppard; buy both books for £5. (Cheque address above; or email See more about Sheppard on his website here.
Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning a Ship of Fools exhibition here

Friday, January 16, 2015

25 Edge Hill Poets: Sarah Billington

Sarah Billington

A few words on Edge Hill and my poetry

 The last three years that I have spent studying at Edge Hill have been what I believe to be the most formative years of my life. I have learnt so much about myself and who I am as both a writer and poet.  Before I came here I hadn't written poetry in a very long time and I didn't even know if I still could but it wasn't long before I found my voice again and now I write almost everyday.  My poetry is still in its early stages and I am constantly trying out new ideas and themes and letting it take me wherever it leads.  I have recently just completed a portfolio on confessional poetry that examined aspects of my life from childhood to early adulthood, to who I am today as a woman, mother and aspiring poet.  The collection is a personal journey and one that I felt was important for me to write at this stage in my life as it visits a part of my past that I had long ago put to rest but had never forgotten.

Red Leaves


What of those final moments

            when all time folded into one

and we left our love

            buried under red leaves

like a disappeared smell

            expectation and bitter fruit.


How did I not fall

            off the edges of the earth

dissecting memories

painting them onto snow

            the moon turned black

shadows glided into darkness. 


Bones of a young girl

            wandering out of town.


 Sarah is currently a student on the MA at Edge Hill, details here.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham (re: History or Sleep, Selected Poems

Here's another de-selection from the Selected Poems, not because it doesn't make the grade, but because the appearance of a number of poems in both Tin Pan Arcadia and Complete Twentieth Century has allowed me to be more severe with their de-selection in the process. This is one of those; it's also a part of the 'Materialisation of Soap 1947' strand (and the original is represented in the selection, as is Schrage Musik, (see here) a long poem included entire, in which George and Pearl (a psuedo-couple like some of Beckett's that appear again and again in Twentieth Century Blues. (As in the last, here. And read here about the whole project 1989-2000.) I forbade their reappearance in  my work, so enjoy their caperings while you can.

The dedication to Keith and Nate was result of their work on the original '1947' poem for its inclusion in the Oxford Anthology of British and Irish Twentieth Century Poetry. Looking again at that poem I decided (as I have done on a number of occasions) to go back to the source material (National Geographic pictures of Britain in 1947) and use them again. See what happens. This was my third and final squeezing of that material, and the most surreal. I like it. Enjoy it. It was also an experiment with lineated prose and was written on 17th August 1999 and is Twentieth Century Blues 66, Articulates 10 (the 10th lineated prose work), Impositions 2 (the second using some technique of using images, I forget what, exactly, and the fourth Materialisation of Soap poem).

The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham

for Keith Tuma and Nate Dorward

once Pearl pricks the two chops in the sizzling pan restaurant music she says

crouched towards the postcards outside the tobacconist’s George lives and loves it all though iceless

not the corner ABC spelt out of emptiness nor the mobile library of American magazines

an abstract noun fogs the capital city until the breeze’s caprice

looks could kill and still be made to look good

packets of Creamola in windows searched after their sewing class digests with gusto

absence and abstinence

leading to orderly queues or queues of asylum orderlies wheeling their own reflections into the chilly English Channel

the frozen symbol of nationhood empire’s dissolution home made

eat what you see hell of damaged stock half-price turnips will find their way to Heaven

through multiple hardbaked soil

creak for milk over the bathtub she poured coffee in case who will buy air

(selling air 

a high wind bites through the worn threads of jogging army girls a state bard recites through his beard and his beads of sweating half rhymes

Pearl’s first wrinkle faces the wringer

buxom corn maidens with gleaming washtubs await the dispensary of grubby propensities to consume the word ‘democracy’ doesn’t creak through our rafters

too high for worship

her finger tickles his meat balls his organ is an old widow’s wellpaid wellwisher

George’s wick sticks up in sticky appreciation

bangs like a barn door for the girls’ buoyancy against the oppressive clouds there’s a cut out shape where Pearl was washing George’s smalls

threatening blank pages at the backs of ration books ready for whatever is fewer

winners catch the cooling mint flavoured newsprint scrolls from Dagenham to Dagestan

labels Individual Balconies small squares on the brushed magnificence the Sacred Tanks open thin ribs of land dress for talk everything is mean and means little

unrelated to a shortage the Sydenham band has disbanded the saxophones swing in the heat near the public well

(skilfully carrying water jugs for miles on their heads

the woman in foxfurs explains the marvels of the snow on the field of blood meaning itself subject to this economy

the clacking abacus drum stores the few apples’ stories as documents and dockets

cleansing invisibility hides in Hyde Park from the laughter is deaf but vital hands perhaps even George’s weeping penis washing Pearl

will emigrate to Canada to begin again

doing her business lust flashes like George’s shape has been pruned from his allotment of pure time regeneration trumpets over the city in each tree kippers and cider roused them to it

outside Timothy Whites they clatter the hardware like Gene Krupa tubs in his straps a post-war blur of rematerialising Hero nervously waits to deNazify the English East Midlands of its thin-lipped officials

abed in the crystal crematoria of recent history

the past’s persistence we knitted our way to victory and now we’re eating shit 50 million flies can’t be wrong

(‘and now Pearl will croak a few bars for barter

George sniffs his way through her fat negotiating hothouse grapes gleaming bladders in greengrocer’s immortal calligraphy spelling flowers for his staff car

plenty is the finger that touches Pearl’s meat for once they’ll recognise this attempt

to conjoin George’s triumphal offal language falling from signposts (we work or want; no

says George: we     



to provide a validating ethos for Man kicking in the night (‘here he goes again

a bombsite ripe for conjuring him once more in plentiful Kodachrome against her shins

whose thighs make a necklace of pearl clouds in a grey sky building plots national assistance

near the dosshouse round the back of the Palace of the Winds

Friday, January 09, 2015

Robert Sheppard: 'Hymns to the God My Typewriter Believes In': History or Sleep, Selected Poems

Here's (yet) another poem de-selected from my selected poems, in this case in the already abridged version I was considering for the book.This is one of my so-called 'Text and Commentatry' poems from my book Hyms to the God in which my Typewriter Believes. It has only been taken out because there is another, more representative, 'text and commentary' (a text which 'reads through' another but is also a text in its own right) in the selection. This poem comments (and textualises!) on the sequential drafts of an Anne Sexton poem, 'Wallflower', which are presented in Robin Skelton's The Poet's Calling. I've not come across another act of writing that does that. The title of the poem (and the re-grammarised book title) is a quote from Sexton, defining what her poems are.

from Hymns to the God My Typewriter Believes In


for Anne Sexton


To write is to walk over the surface of story, kicking at patterns. It is not told, but told of. Do not extinguish its thought; it is better worn down to its threads!

            Three times you type the same words, an incantation. The circle is repeated three times.



She invites you in, but the promise is clumsy, distant. Perhaps you withdraw from the reiterated details, threadbare traps. Keep still, like a bartender, as she passes the bar


                           paces the boundaries of her body, skin prowler. Her red face is a giveaway that you won’t take up.



Deletions first! The story has clearly begun again, an odyssey of carpet navigations and curious misspellings. We are not going to escape the whiplash across the bad lines.

            X marked the spot, only we’re adrift.

            She’s out in the bathroom, throwing up, washing her hands again and again; she’s caught somewhere in the wrong poem.

            It’s ‘bliss’ she can’t spell, as though her thighs might splay drunkenly if you caught her saying ‘blish’.




Blushing without bliss

She pulls the rug from under us

The lines are on her body

Stolen and scuffed

Scoured by soap in a Victorian scullery


At least a suspicion

Her thighs on duty

Off stage

Thinking in circles again


Ask: which metaphor was which bit of whose sore thumb?



She’s not listening, no longer beside you. She’s


beside herself with hunger. The aphrodisiac silence


smooth below the waist like a manikin


Perfect playmate
of a thought

a Crusoe of radishes
and I-spy

fix your position
for the same polished performance

You can climb a
ladder but you can’t

climb out of the book
We could snigger at

the smut but we’d get thrown
clean out of the playhouse


Move back and see what energy we can distil from what we didn’t want to say. The bride has fallen, whorishly. No heart can rip her skirts off, not in a busk.

Tear up the carpet and paste its patterns on your consciousness. It is censored by the scribbler after the prayer was rolled out of its scroll, January 2nd-3rd 1962.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Looking North 1 (re: History or Sleep, Selected Poems)

Here's another poem de-selected from History or Sleep, my forthcoming selected poems. It's a poem from 1987 and it appeared from Ship Of Fools as a folder with images by Patricia Farrell. Part or poem 2 will appear though. It was just a smigeon better than this one. So here it is, in its latest revised form.

Looking North 1

                        Brownswood Park, N4

                                                          for Patricia

Point seeing window frame
And house still standing
Dimensional tree scarlet of
Autumn stretches at its tips
Opinion in the branches
Moment caught trapping me
Back within its pointed eye
A mode of being out of the world
Takes this in eye drawn into
Its static statement a
Luxury a house with love
Of vision whatever is revealed of
The mind or of the world at this
Curved crossroad
                              we didn’t need
This for metaphor it is a metaphor
In a sliding change.


Of the fire escape passion drains
Showing where a spiral staircase
Might be sits the man who invented
For us to barely possess as it slips
Ahead feels it shut and runs
Sharper angled turns until on
The images that remain the news
Has produced has fallen from the
Reporting become a fact and focus
Roof tipping into audial consciousness
But hidden from view and off
Cut off no news from something
We’ve seen it is described
And used again and the man
Is the news and reports his own                                   
But the little that isn’t has no
Reason to be here at all.


Gliding to a hand upon your door
Advertising colour soaks
Into her sepia a dress torn
On its surface but never nakedness
For pure graffiti in your
Window white shoes geometries
And none remains skip catching the nuance
                                    this says
The thing over and over there’s
Message watch and desire
Will vanish from you
It is all hers you are
Lines points planes jump the
World turns over on its back
And she sings to you
Whenever you want to hear her.

The road crosses to its name
Recognise turning a corner on
The ‘wrong’ side to see how
Asian children having just passed
Turned to look at that turning
She turned bright pink carrying
A plastic bag of provisions another
Recogntion while cognition
Streaks forth and matches the
Eye jumping a line in
Dead centre the bedroom sashes
Brown walks straight as her long hair
Beckons as a home the road has snaked
These children make the road
Back where I started back in the world
Of decay and decadence this is moral.


On through the barrier on
Battered brick garden there
Two chairs dining table chairs
Colours showing stages of rebuilding
A wall that’s been kicked and hammered
The roofs were snowed with incompletion
Less repose what rests here is
The eye taking it in and re-
Ordering there is movement
And reversal and the feeling
Of an idea of a clash of ideas
That attempts to order the mind
In winter and the branches
Were (are) an interference to
That attempt to say it fail it all
And paint grown hard flakes
Always fails eye shut on the
Scene unseen eye open on the still
Surroundings and the breathing

Saturday, January 03, 2015

100,000 page views +

of this blog since 2006. (100,043 on the clock to be precise.) 324 posts remain accessible. Pages started in 2005, nearly ten years ago, somewhat before the counting began, so the plus sign is both accurate but indeterminate. Happy New Year! Robert...

PS Access the first of several posts looking back over the first ten years of Pages here. And then here:

Here is a link that links to all the links to the good things on this blog: