Saturday, October 31, 2015

Robert Sheppard and Anamaria Crowe Serrano (Jaroslav Bialy and update on my EUOIA collaborative project) Tears in the Fence

Anamaría Crowe Serrano and I have been working on my EUOIA project and have created

Jaroslav Biały (1962-),  a Polish poet. He is
perhaps best known as an artist, archivist and maker of installations (in particular his ‘Museum’ series), has been, under the influence of his wife, Jadzia Biała, increasingly committing his ideas to paper (or screen), though he has yet to publish a dedicated full length volume of this work. He is known world-wide as the principal authority on Leon Chwistek, Zonism and the demise of post-Zonism. Chwistek’s influence on Biały can be seen in his early nonad compositions, which appeared as home-made pamphlets, where Biały challenges principles of formal logic, asserting the existence of nine levels of reality from which we interpret the world, including the abstract categories of invisireversibility and the incognifarious. Wisława Szymborska’s seminal essay, “The nomadic-nonadic of Jaroslav Biały” (Literatura na Świecie, nr 07-08, 1987, p. 416-421) was instrumental in bringing Biały’s poetry to the attention of the literary world. To this day, Biały leads a nomadic life. In an interview with Jocelyn Goos broadcast on Polskie Radio Program II (also known as Dwójka) on November 13th 2003, he famously justified his lifestyle by saying, "Walls are unnecessary."

Some of his work may be seen here on

The Bogman’s Cannon:, and more may be read in the latest edition of Tears in the Fence, 62!

The Tears in the Fence blog carries my recent update on the whole EUOIA project. Read it Here. It's the sort of post I would otherwise put on Pages.

Thanks Anamaria, thanks David Caddy of Tears and thanks to Jaroslav. 

The EUOIA website is still live at

I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology.  It will be called Twitters for a Lark and will appear in June or July 2017, in time for the EUOIA evening at The Other Room, Manchester.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: Timeless Identities (Roy Fisher)


Roy Fisher: A Furnace, Oxford University Press.

When Roy Fisher’s Poems 1955-1980 was published, it made available to a wider audience a poetic enterprise of great importance that had hitherto been granted only limited - often small press - circulation.  Suddenly, he achieved what the Americans call ‘visibility’ and he seems to be following Basil Bunting as a re-discovered poet of unfashionable difficulty and suspicious foreignness.

The comparison with Bunting is pertinent: A Furnace, like Briggflatts, is a long poem of ambitious scope, consisting of lyric passages arranged as sequences, employing a variety of technical devices and free-verse styles.  In the marvellously evocative ‘Introit’ to the main poem, Fisher points the reader back, both to his long work City (1961), concerned with his native Birmingham, and to the defamiliarising poems of the 1970s, the period of his perceptual ‘scratch ontology’.

Even in City, Birmingham had to be ‘made strange’ and hallucinatory, but here Fisher is under no such compulsion, although characteristically ‘metaphors, riddles, resemblances’ are continually offered by the surface aspects of things.  But he has a more questioning, less playful approach to the mystery of a perception

that keeps a time of its own,

made up from the long

discrete moments

of the stages of the street,

each bred off the last as if by


In earlier poems these ‘discrete moments’ and their imaginative transformations had variously oppressed and delighted Fisher; in A Furnace they are subordinated to his search for a validating - and not merely scratch - ontology.  Metaphoric play no longer simply counterparts the riddle of evanescent appearances, it enacts the quest for identification in disparity.  Fisher acknowledges the ambivalence of this when he deploys his old trick of emptying the metaphor of its tenor:

a stain in the plaster that so

resembles - and that body of air …

that’s like

nothing that ever was.

What had previously been the operation of an individual post-Modernist imagination has become a universalised, Romantic principle; Fisher notes, with approval, John Cowper Powys’s contention ‘that the making of all kinds of identities is a primary impulse which the cosmos itself has’.  A Furnace attempts to reveal these ‘timeless identities / riding in the flux’ by working on some of the moments at which they achieve personal or historical ‘materialisation’ or ‘the coming into / … the guesswork of the senses’.  They can range from the perceptual transformations implicit in a

skein of connections from

lichens to collapsed faces

in drenched walls

to the ancestral evidence of ‘William Fisher / age ten years, occupation jeweller’ in nineteenth-century Birmingham.  The continual comparison between, and superimposition of, urban Birmingham and rural Staffordshire - which again, owes much to Powys - suggests topographical transformation.

The familiar notion of the ‘palimpsest’ of succeeding settlements on one site is presented as though it were a speeded up film (which accelerates at industrialisation), but Fisher emphases discontinuities of culture.  Cultures are formed by the collision of active forces, not by their collusion, and are entropic: ‘unstable, dividing, grouping again/differently’.  This, combined with frequent evidence of working class scepticism about civic authority in the ‘primordial’ lives of ordinary people, ensures that there is no unifying vision of cultural identity, no totalising myth.  Romanticism’s flight from industrialisation is turned back on itself and a mercurial ‘Nature’ is an inescapable fact, ‘an imperative’, for the urban population.

The poem - though it has a clear form and an elaborate plan - is heterogeneous and unhierarchical.  Fisher’s attempts to encapsulate cultural history do not always quite convince (nor does the occasional lapse into ponderous diction that signals uncertain reverence).  Fisher is working to extend his range in this, his longest work in verse, only by working against the grain of his sensibility.  When a thought or a movement of ideas is presented with the fidelity accorded to natural processes, the writing is sparkingly brilliant; but inert fact and commentary undermine the phenomenologist in Fisher.  However, at his best, a few of his lines can tersely present the balanced relation between his new-found metaphysics and his view of cultural change.


of the unmoving core

comes implacably out

through all that’s material:

walls of battleship scrap,

the raising up of Consett

along the skyline,

the taking of it down again.

March -April 1986                                        Times Literary Supplement, 20 June 1986

Link to new 'Introduction' and links to all contents of Far Language here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: Irregular Actions (Allen Fisher)


Allen Fisher: Unpolished Mirrors, Reality Studios.

Allen Fisher: Brixton Fractals, Aloes Books.

Allen Fisher: Necessary Business, Spanner 25.

In 1975 Allen Fisher received the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for the first volume of Place, a poetic achievement of some magnitude which occupied him during the 1970s, and which Unpolished Mirrors completes, but he has received little institutional recognition since.  His work seems offputting because of its bulk, and because of the way texts necessarily interrelate and form parts of extensive projects.  Within works - particularly Place - the poet’s reading provides ‘resources’ and quotations that are not offered as evidence of a case, but are part of the work’s ‘shading’, the co-existence of mutually cancelling cross-references.  They contribute not to a unity of meaning, but to an expansive semantic indeterminacy.  The work is therefore learned in a curiously off-hand way, and as knowingly self-contradictory and all-embracing as Whitman’s.  Fisher has used both chance procedures and fixed systems to generate texts, but is both anarchistic and committed enough to repeatedly subvert system to his utopian vision.  But to say all this is to present a blurred snap-shot of a vitally important poetic process - a key word for Fisher - and to acknowledge that this review conceals more than it reveals of his total endeavours.

Earlier Place volumes were Olsonian in character, focusing upon a palimpsest London, but Unpolished Mirrors adopts the slightly clumsy style of pseudo-Blakean oracular monologue, with characters ranging from Gardener of ‘the garden of a coming English Revolution’ to the repressive Watling.  London becomes similarly mythical, and there is a concern for both environmental and cultural ‘memory’, and for the dream of ‘potential revolution’: ‘an unhinged garden door/the dreamscape remaining beyond’.  It is an accessible introduction to Fisher’s work and its feeling for a new type of narrative points directly to the later achievements of Brixton Fractals.

In this work, ‘coherence’ is criticized as censorship of the possible, and the poems present their alternatives to such ordering, occasionally as images (‘a stone ejects/from a pond’), but mostly by offering interfering narratives that combine the condensed reference and poetic use of specialist languages of JH Prynne with the juxtapositions and leaps of Tom Raworth.  The excitement of the texts lies in the tension between the forward thrust and the lateral shifts which creates a jagged polyphony, what Fisher calls ‘plurivocity’.  The texts are a ‘participatory invention’, therefore, and the reader has to enter into their ‘irregular actions’ to create a temporary coherence line-by-line.  For the reader, they present an opportunity to imaginatively transform the world (transformation for Fisher being essential to knowledge).  The ‘world’, specifically, is often Brixton, which Fisher defines.

Call it carnival and spell out jouissance and horror.

A nexus of life and description, the child’s

game and dream plus discourse and spectacle.

Such work is well beyond the narrow literary parameters British culture imposes on the imagination and this perhaps explains Fisher’s estrangement from it.  His own theoretical alternatives to its limiting coherence can be found in his uneven essay, Necessary Business, which sketches a poetics of the ‘new pertinence’ which, by endorsing interminacy and polyphony, continually allows for the invention of fresh meaning and - in a phrase that is echoed in Brixton Fractals - attempts thereby to avoid the imagination’s ‘co-option by the State’.

November 1985                                                                             PN Review 53, 1986

Link to new 'Introduction' and links to all contents of Far Language here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Robert Sheppard: History or Sleep now out!

My History or Sleep: Selected Poems is out.

This selection draws on every book of my poetry since Returns of 1985 through to Words Out of Time of 2015, and is designed to sample in portable form both the recurring and developing themes of my work and their changing forms. The book opens with ‘chaos’ and ‘invention’; ends with ‘changing’ your ‘life’. 

Purchase details here:

See various posts on my blog Pages about the selection and de-selection of the poems here and here. The first review may be read here.

This isn’t a book to buy for somebody else for Christmas: buy it for yourself!

This is one of three books out in 2015, the others being Words Out of Time (See here and here) and Unfinish from Veer. 

I shall be launching books and reading on

Friday November 27th 2015 at Storm and Golden Sky, The Caledonia pub, Catharine Street, Liverpool, at 7.00. (£5)

Wednesday 16th December 2015 for/at The University of Sheffield. tba.

Tuesday January 12th 2016 at Shearsman Readings, Swedenborg Hall, Central London at 7.00 (free)

Words Out of Time cover

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Wolf out now/Patricia Farrell

An exclusive interview with Kelvin Corcoran. Niall McDevitt on David Gascoyne. Tom Jenks reviews Chris McCabe. John Kinsella on re-imagining place. Mexican Poetry feature.  Poems from Yang Lian, Michelle Cahill, and more now.

Edited by James Byrne with Sandeep Parmer (reviews).

Patricia Farrell is Artist in Residence, and this is one of her images on the cover of the issue. See her site here, and her recent visual work Space Completely Filled with Matter here and exhibtion news here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Work in Three and a Half Point Nine (issue 6 out now)

Luke Thurogood’s online poetry magazine Three and a Half Point Nine (issue 6 is out now)

It features a few verses from 'Of Crystal Splinters', the poem I wrote after my father's death that will be part of The Drop, to be published by Oystercatcher soon. 

It is pleasing to see work by 4 students of the MA Creative Writing at Edge Hill University, of which I am programme leader, and to see a fifth, Luke, editing it. All except Will (who is new to the institution) appear elsewhere in Pages. So (with links)

Will Daunt

Access all HERE

Friday, October 16, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: Reading Prynne and Others



Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Poetic Artifice, Manchester University Press.

JH Prynne: Down where changed, Ferry Press.

Peter Ackroyd: Notes for a New Culture, Vision Press.


Poetic Artifice explores the various techniques and devices that make poetry a special form of discourse and, above all for Veronica Forrest-Thomson, an autonomous form of language, separate from ‘everyday language’ and prose.  Her study’s seriousness and complexity is the antithesis of the engagé naivety exemplified by books like Raban’s The Society of the Poem, which reduces art to a function of sociology: the sort of thing that is fashionable within contemporary poetry courses in our universities.  Forrest-Thomson’s “Preface” is vital reading for anybody truly concerned with the health of poetry now, and I hope to show that, although she tangles the umbilicus of Art and Life, she by no means severs it; she is overstating her case to achieve a clarity of polemic, to make her readers stop before they presume to state what a poem means, to realise (with Wittgenstein) that ‘a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information is not used in the language-game of giving information’.  The enemy is what she terms Naturalisation, ‘an attempt to reduce the strangeness of poetic language and poetic organisation by making it intelligible, by translating it into a statement about the non-verbal external world, by making the Artifice appear natural’.  We need to dwell on the internal dynamic of the poem, to avoid both ‘external expansion’, pushing our derived ‘meanings’ into the world, and the ‘external limitation’ of only examining poetic artifice (formal patterning etc.) in the light of our thematic interpretations or our too hasty paraphrasing.  ‘Expansion must take place within the limits imposed by the poem’s style.’  Thus expressed, it appears obvious enough, but a brief meditation will reveal how often in critical interpretations these limits are brutally transgressed, to the detriment of a full reading of a poem.

The book, through a study of the various forms of poetic logic and artifice in the works of Shakespeare, Pound, Empson, amongst others, is seeking to demonstrate ‘how to read a poem’.  She endeavours to show that ‘Good naturalisation dwells on the non-meaningful levels of poetic language, such as phonetic and prosodic patterns and spatial organisation, and tries to state their relation to other levels of organisation rather than set them aside in an attempt to produce a statement about the world’.  (Her full list contains the Conventional, Phonological/Visual, Syntactic, and Semantic levels.)  These coalesce to produce what she calls the Image-Complex where the relevant devices from the hierarchical levels of poetic organisation on her list are brought together to point towards a thematic synthesis that hasn’t dodged the question of the role of Artifice, that doesn’t rely upon extended meaning or imposed ‘interpretations’.

(Radicals will be seething by now.  But, briefly Forrest-Thomson points out, ‘It is only through artifice that poetry can challenge our ordinary linguistic orderings of the world, make us question the way in which we make sense of things, and induce us to consider its alternative linguistic orders as a new way of viewing the world’, but this is untied to dogma, and the poem comes first.  In Marcusean terms perhaps, this is not too far from saying that the Aesthetic Principle undermines the Reality Principle).

As a phenomenology of correct reading along it is useful, but Veronica Forrest-Thomson is suggesting something more.  The book is half a theoretic for a poetry just beginning to be written, and exemplified for her in the work of JH Prynne.

There is no escaping the ‘tendentious obsecurity’ of Prynne’s poetry.  Down where changed, his latest book of short, untitled lyrics, is prefaced by the epigraph, ‘Anyone who takes up this book will … have a half formed belief that there is something in it.’    The question that any reader has to ask himself is, what is there, then, in it?

Take one ‘lyric’:


You have to work it out

the passion-scribble

of origin swallowed up


the inserted batch of fission

lacks its label, grips its fever

you strike your fill of that.


A continuous sentence, one comma.  To naturalise: ‘You …’ is perhaps an address to the reader on the difficulties of interpretation.  The ‘passion-scribble’, the original lyrical impulse and/or act, is absorbed (lines 2 and 3 set in invisible parenthesis) by something.  The passion-scribble = the inserted batch = the poems.  They are inserted in a batch (‘Down where changed’ itself) and fission is their outcome: they split, fall away into meaninglessness or an infinitude of interpretations and guesses.  The batch ‘lacks its label’ (the ‘lyrics’ are untitled and their origins in experience, the ‘lyrical occasion’, are ‘swallowed up’ by its style.  They also lack the identity of lyrics at the Conventional level.)  The alliteration suggests harmony.  The caesura of the solitary comma couples the phrases either side of it at a syntactic (and rhythmic), though not semantic, level.  It is a loose strand in the poem’s tapestry of meaning (as so far I have inepted traced my naturalisation); if we pull too hard the whole will disintegrate.  (What does, or could, ‘Grips its fever’ mean?  What is the relationship of ‘fission-fever-fill’; of ‘scribble-strike’, as actions of the pen?  Other poems disturb our syntactic assumptions constantly.  Thus’ introduces non-sequiturs; we sense patterning as part of the image-complex, without (beyond?) meaning.)  The assonance of ‘lack’ and ‘that’, the repeated address to the invisible ‘you’, slam the poem shut.  The reader (if indeed it is addressed to him) has had his fill.

This is the only poem I wish to examine.  I could repeat the exercise on others, but only to demonstrate my inability before Prynne’s poetry.  Others I find resound with a tranquil, if somewhat sterile, beauty.


The sick man polishes his shoes

wide-awake in the half light

what else should he do


as scent from the almond tree

‘abjures the spirit’ with its air

of mortification.  What is known


is the almanack set out

on a trellis, a pious gloss

over waste so clean and natural


that clothes out on a line

dwindle and then

new colours are there again.


Perhaps Forrest-Thomson would agree with Eliot that enchantment (I think it was) is the beginning of understanding.  ‘The minute attention to technical detail,’ she says of Prynne, ‘together with tendentious thematic obscurity, gives the poet a way of recapturing the levels of Artifice, of restoring language to its primary beauty as a craft by refusing to allow its social comprehension.’

The cultural ideas that have made both Forrest-Thomson’s criticism and Prynne’s poetry possible are examined in Peter Ackroyd’s Notes for a New Culture.  Although it is a polemical, theoretical book, it is also a critical history which traces, amongst other things, the development of the notion of the autonomy of language from Nietzsche and Mallarm¾, through Heidegger, where it is seen coupled with the death of the image of Man as represented by humanism, to Prynne himself.  For Ackroyd, he is the first poet ‘to exercise the full potential of the written language’, to subjugate the lyrical voice (and thus the subjective humanistic Self) to the anonymity of an ‘objective’ Language.  (Literature too is represented as an entity to have emerged from the relatively modern concept of Language.)  (For a full review of the book see Peter Riley’s fair assessment of its value and drawbacks in Poetry Information 17,  and chiefly the criticism that Ackroyd’s cultural history pays too little attention to the productive tension between the lyrical voice and Language, and the value of a writing that resides in that tension, between ‘human significance’ and tradition/convention, although Ackroyd acknowledges this to be one of the qualities of John Ashbery.)

‘The contemporary abstractions here, and the syntactical force which holds them within the same discursive context, exert an unfamiliar pressure upon the language,’ Ackroyd writes of Prynne’s Kitchen Poems (1968).  Down where changed contains the same mixture of tones and languages.  ‘Just a twitch of doubt we sail with’, he writes, with a public lyric voice that more properly belongs to his first collection, Force of Circumstance (1962).  ‘The consumption of any product is the destruction of its value’, begins another, resembling the Kitchen Poems themselves.  There are images of clairvoyance (the epigraph is from Practical Crystal-Gazing; see also the lyric quoted above), as well as demotic expressions (‘Shut yer face’).

Ackroyd goes to the limit - and beyond.  Prynne’s poetry is for him ‘completely written surface’; voice has been erased and so, he assumes, has meaning, a concept that Forrest-Thomson complicates in her schema, but does not exclude.  It has an autonomy denoted by its obscurity, it ‘contains varieties of contemporary language … within a written paradigm which changes its function’, but can Prynne’s lines:


We give the name of

ourselves to our needs.

We are what we want


 which Ackroyd quotes, have ‘no reference to anything except the presence of their written form’?  Surely we are better guided by Ackroyd’s later comment that Prynne’s poetry ‘exists somewhere between use and contemplation’.

Ackroyd tends to joy in Prynne’s meaninglessness rather than in the skill Prynne demonstrates in his handling of non-meaningful devices, although he acknowledges that ‘it is the ability of literature to explore the problems and ambiguities of a formal absoluteness which we will never experience.  For these forms seem to proclaim the death of Man’.  We’ve to ask ourselves I think as Gerald Graff does in ‘The Myth of the Postmodernist Breakthrough’ whether we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath-water in our formalist anti-humanism.  We know from Barthes that the Death of the Author (the lyric voice replaced by text) is the Birth of the Reader.  Despite these two ambitious beginnings there may be other ways of reading Prynne.



August 1979                                                                            Reality Studios 2:2, 1979

(Note 2015: Poetic Artifice is nearly back in print (at last!) HERE.) 

Link to new 'Introduction' and links to all contents of Far Language here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Obituaries of Lee Harwood by Nicholas Johnson

An edited version of Nicholas Johnson’s obituary of Lee Harwood appeared in The Independent last weekend. Tom Raworth has obliged by putting on his blog, the first version which may be read here; the ‘final’ submitted one here. Thanks Nick, for a job well done!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: (original) Introduction

These short pieces have been selected from the hundred or so I have written because they tell a number of stories.

Firstly, they trace developments, often in the form of immediate reactions to newly published books, but occasionally as  surveys of whole bodies of work, of what has been called the British Poetry Revival, the New British Poetry or - more narrowly and recently - Linguistically Innovative Poetry.

Secondly, they develop a series of literary critical concerns, delineating the historical context and general poetics of that work, a task that is continued, as yet in a piecemeal way, in more orthodox critical settings.

Thirdly, several pieces explicitly articulate what remains implicit in most of the rest: the gradual construction of a specific poetics relating to my own practice as a poet which, nevertheless, aims to be seen as part of the poetics and poetry from which it developed.

The forms, lengths and tones of these selections have sometimes been dictated by the demands or permissions of their various original periodical publications (which I have indicated, along with the date of composition, at the end of each piece), yet the resulting variety lends a certain polyphony to the whole that avoids the monologic voice of orthodox criticism. The slight mismatch between pieces I find additionally more authentic to my experience of thinking these things through over the past twenty years; it was less linear - more speculative, provisional, positional - than the results of this rigorous selection might suggest.

Apart from extended works of literary criticism, and  some bits of language I'd rather forget, as well as shorter attempts that repeat assertions made here, I have felt impelled to exclude a number of pieces I should like to have made public again. My attacks (some of them satirical) on the Movement Orthodoxy, carried out during my entryist period as a reviewer for the New Statesman, deflect from the positive, even celebratory, aspect of this collection. My account of David Miller, "A Gap at the Heart of Things", appears in another Stride volume, At the Heart of Things. My review of Paul Evans' The Manual for the Perfect Organisation of Tourneys (Oasis Books), which I described - and still regard - as one of the best British  poetry books of the 1970s, most recently re-appeared in The Empty Hill (Skylark Press).

Robert Sheppard

14 December 1997

Link to new 'Introduction' and links to all contents of the book here.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Selected Poems (History or Sleep) - the de-selected poems

One thing not de-selected is this image for the cover, Patricia's 1993 portrait of me.

In an attempt to pack in as many of my ‘good’ poems (who am I to judge? I mean that: my whole notion of poetics is based upon the ‘fact’ that writers can’t ‘read’ their own work!) In an attempt to pack them in, I over-provided and then we (Tony Frazer as editor of Shearsman and as the designer of the book, and I) counted the number of pages we’d need to remove. Then I de-selected the appropriate number of poems and I’ve been posting them on these Pages over the last few months. The process is now over; the book nearly ready for publication (here). But I thought I’d say a little about de-selection. The poems (and even more prose works) were often cut on space grounds, a shorter poem replacing a long one, for example.

Some I particularly regretted: it was either ‘Mesopotamia’ or ‘Schrage Musik’ from The Flashlight Sonata (and later Complete Twentieth Century Blues). ‘Mesopotamia’ won. The 12 line ‘Standing By (for my father)’, from The Drop (soon to be published by Oystercatcher’) stood in for the earlier poem, both of them dedicated to my father.

‘The Micropathology of the Sign’, one of my birthday ‘homages’ to Bob Cobbing was replaced by a shorter ‘homage’, one that missed out appearing in ‘Twentieth Century Blues’ due to its time-based parameters, but which I like. Oddly, ‘The Micropathology…’ has received a lot of hits on Pages. Perhaps the mockingly-academic title attracts latter-day structuralists. (They are probably disappointed by the poem, but maybe not. It does attempt to offer what it says on the tin, though with relation to Bob’s work, particularly Processual, to which it originally provided an introduction.)

Similarly, of another poem rescued from a 1987 Ship of Fools pamphlet collaboration with Patricia Farrell, Looking North, it had to be either the first or second poem. I went with the second, which I thought a gnat’s wing’s breadth ‘better’ than the first. But I can still let others judge.

‘Hymns to the God my Typewriter Believes In’ is one of my ‘text and commentary’ poems. There were quite a few already in the Selected. (I have a sense that Hymns to the God in Which My Typewriter Believes didn’t get around a lot, even with its Alan Halsey cover.) This one, long, even in its selected version, seemed incomplete and weakened by excerption, so it was a no-brainer. Similarly, ‘The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham’ was a follow-up to ‘The Materialisation of Soap 1947’, which as a coda to, and partial substitute for, ‘Schrage Musik’, was necessary. ‘Dagenham’ is sprawling and funny and I like reading it, but it was marked by its affiliation to the ‘1947’ poem, and by the fact that I decided not to select too much from texts in the Salt Tin Pan Arcadia and Complete Twentieth Century Blues (though when I selected I didn’t know Salt was about to savage its list, though Twentieth Century is still available from them in paperback).  

‘History or Sleep’ is a long poem I enjoyed writing after the grimness of The Lores, and I wanted to call the selected poems by this title, and I was determined to include the whole of it. Another simple reason for the squeeze. (It also put a squeeze on The Lores itself and ‘Book Two’ had to go!) The de-selected poems are near misses for all sorts of reasons, some of which I suspect I’ve forgotten.

So: the book itself is available here soon. I will write another post when it is out, to talk about the selection rather than the de-selection process.

The de-selected poems, a kind of annex or sampler for History or Sleep, may be read here. They are (in order of composition):

‘Tombland’ (from 1979). Here. (But note it has been ‘remoded’ for a new work as a 'Miltonic', post-Selected Poems, ironically, and you can read that as well.)

‘The Blickling Hall Poem’, 1980. Here

‘Schrage Musik’ (posted in memory of my father, but with a loss of italics). Here. And here.

‘Looking North 1’. Here.

‘The Micropatholgy of the Sign’. Here.

from ‘The Lores: Book Two’. Here.  

‘The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham’. Here.

‘A Voice Within’ from The Anti-Orpheus. Here.

Part One of ‘Putting Claws on the Glove’, a homage to the great Catalan poet Joan Brossa. Here.

from ‘Hymns to the God my Typewriter Believes In’. Here.

form Warrant Error, 'Byron James is Okay'. Here.

If you want to now read how I did select them, read this post here!

And there are general introductions to my work here. And here.


Friday, October 02, 2015

Relaunch of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry

As I've noted in previous posts, I have stepped down from the editorship of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, and this was a step I anticipated even before - one night, way back when, it seems - Scott Thurston and I drew up some initial plans for it. (Read about the last print issue, on Bill Griffiths, here.)  

It has now entered the age of Open Access and the first issue is now available (and future issues will be) available here. At the moment it is accreting article by article, review by review. So come back later (or bookmark it) and you will find more when there is more.

Scott Thurston, University of Salford, and Gareth Farmer, University of Bedfordshire, are now the editors for the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. Vicky Sparrow, Birkbeck, is the Reviews editor. And I am still one of many on the editorial board.

The journal centres on the poetic writings that have appeared in Britain and Ireland since the late 1950s under various categorizations: for example avant-garde, underground, linguistically innovative, second-wave Modernist, non-mainstream, the British Poetry Revival, the parallel tradition, formally innovative, neo-modernist and experimental, while also including the Cambridge School, the London School, concrete poetry, and performance writing. (I bet there are more!)

It is very exciting to see this developing (and being more openly available), to all, to you, not just to subscribers or libraries, scholars and academics. Even poets might read it now! Decades ago, Sir Karl Popper proposed that all scientific and academic work should be made available to all in just this way. That is now happening - though spare a thought for long-running print journals that will find it difficult to compete (there complex rules about research journals, which I have sat through several presentations about, and not understood a word!).

Read the journal, and return later to re-read later issues. I'll see you there, I hope. Robert