Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Two new magazines: The Black Market Re-View and Card Alpha (and Robert Hampson interview)

Black Market Re-view is edited exclusively by Creative Writing undergraduate and postgraduate students at Edge Hill University. The previous incarnation, Black Market Review, is no longer available online.

See here: for the current edition.

Editor: Luke Thurogood

Poetry Editor: Sarah Billington

​Fiction Editor: Laura Tickle

Artwork and Photography Editor: Bill Bulloch

This issue includes an interview with Robert Hampson about Seaport and a bonus poem by Daniele Pantano. My Ship of Fools pamphlet with Hampson, Liverpool Hugs and Kisses is available here.

AND a new promising innovative POETRYmagazine, Card Alpha, is starting up and is looking for work: at

The editor is Adam Hampton.

I'm pleased to say I've taught all five of these editors, and they've all appeared on Pages: see the general link here and find their work and poetics from the listed links. They are all good writers.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Peter Hughes, James Byrne and Robert Sheppard (set lists) Edge Hill reading 17th February 2016

On Wednesday 17th February, the Creative Writing Programme at Edge Hill University presented Peter Hughes with James Byrne and myself as support.

Peter Hughes is a poet and founding editor of Oystercatcher Press. His Selected Poems came out from Shearsman in 2013, who also publish a critical volume on his varied work. His versions of the complete sonnets of Petrarch, Quite Frankly, were published by Reality Street in 2015 to great acclaim. See this website. Peter read exclusively from this volume on the 17th. Read my account of his and Tim Atkins' translations from Petrarch here and here. (My own Petrarch project, which I kept to myself in the presence of the Master, can be read about here and there in the first of those two links, and read about and partly read, here.)

James Byrne read from his new book Everything Broken Up Dances (including the extrarordinary title poem) and I read from my newish book History or Sleep: Selected Poems and my new Oystercatcher, The Drop. As at the three previous 'launches' I read no poem that I'd previously read. Their set lists are here for Liverpool, here for Sheffield and here for the London Shearsman launch.  

Robert Sheppard (set list)

from History or Sleep

1. Returns 1
2. Coming Down from St. George's Hill 3
3. Empty Diaries: 1974, 1982, 1987, and 1990.
4. Prison Camp Violin, Riga
3. National Security 1940, Huyton (for Hugo Dachinger)
4. from Warrant Error: London

and from The Drop

Standing By (see here for text and context).

On 12th March I shall be reading the whole of The Drop at an Oystercatcher reading in Leicester. Info soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Carys Bray: Sweet Home republished

Now re-published by Cornerstone, this book of short stories was begun whilst Carys Bray was a student of the Creative Writing MA, which I tutor. Buy here. Or here.

And here Carys is answering questions about her Costa Prize shortlisted novel, A Song for Issy Bradley which was written as part of her PhD in Creative Writing at Edge Hill (with Ailsa Cox and myself) and has been a great critical success. I watched this again the other day and was deeply moved by it. And I'm glad she was here to witness my birthday (in the background)! I was also there for her local launch of her book in her favourite Southport bookshop here. (Earlier news here.)

Carys Bray's debut collection SWEET HOME won the Scott prize and selected stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra. Her first novel A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY was serialised on BBC Radio Four's Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Utah Book Award and the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award.

Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University. She lives in Southport in North West England with her husband and four children. Her second novel THE MUSEUM OF YOU will be published in June 2016. She is working on a third novel (keep up with her on her blog to the right of this post!).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Blogging - 11 years of PAGES

I celebrated ten years of Pages with a series of posts outlining my favourite past posts, in various categories, whose links are shown below the picture of me trapped inside the blogosphere, flat against your screen (it would seem). Why not celebrate my eleven years of blogging by re-reading them? There's an interview with me too about Pages.

The pre-history of the blog, as a print magazine, may be read here, on what was my first post (even though I moved it later):

(It was also 20 years ago today that I was appointed at Edge Hill, though I took up the position on 1st April 1996. See here for celebrations of Creative Writing teaching at Edge Hill.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Robert Sheppard's SHUTTERS at Prelude to INHABIT (at the Bluecoat) (set list)

It's What You Don't Say (That Counts)
A Performance Inquiry
Wed 3 Feb 2016 featured a performance of 'Shutters' featuring Jo Blowers (voice), Aleysha (voice) and Lizzie (movement)

This was based on a text of that name that I wrote for Jo in 1992 and which we have revived over the years, but Jo and Aleysha read the text, which was effective and affective. It's a woman's voice, often, in the poem, which was written in response to the Victorian photographs of Lady Harwarden.

Liverpool Improvisation Collective (LIC) Jo Blowers, Andrea Buckley, Paula Hampson and Mary Prestidge, offered an insight into some of the key areas and concepts which they are initially exploring as part of the prelude to INHABIT, a programme for New Dance development at Bluecoat which launches in June 2016.

'Shutters' - the poem - was first published in Tin Pan Arcadia and in Complete Twentieth Century Blues, of which it is 'Blues 21'. In the stranding of the works of 'Twentieth Century Blues' it is also 'For Jo Blowers 1', 'Phallic Shrines 3', and 'World's Body 2'. It opens:

Burnished fog of
daylight fleshes my
shoulder melts into
my gaze metal
bars to secure
the night
into the pit
OUTSIDE harsh discriminations
powder the air
with your disappearance
of light stolen
from the city
scabs of blood
bejewel each breath

On 27 May 1993 ‘Shutters’ was first performed (‘a movement based mixed-media work performed by six women. It includes voice, sound projections, steam and pyrotechnical images. It is about women, and the forms which have arisen out of the process of its making are both lyrical and violent’ (Jo Blowers)). The performers were Polly Hudson, Josephine Liesk, Tracey West (whose photograph was projected against the wall of Bluecoat), Eava-Mama Mutka, Fernada Amaral, Lisa Harley. Photography: Aeden Kelly. Nosepaint at Woodwork, Vauxhall Spring Gardens, London.

I didn't take part in that one, either, but I did in some of the chamber performances that featured only Jo and myself. These were: 18th July 1993, at Vertical Images at The Victoria, in Mornington Place, London; and on 14 November 1995 (my 40th birthday), a Ship of Fools event at Falkland Arms, London, to launch the Ship of Fools The Book of British Soil (with Patricia Farrell).

More on work with Jo here and here.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Lee Harwood Archive now ready for study at the British Library

Now available for study in the Manuscripts Reading Room at the British Library.

On-line catalogue:
Collection ref number: Add MS 88998. Or just search 'Lee Harwood'.

The 'Browse this Collection' tab will bring up the hierarchical 'tree' of files which you can move around freely.

Lee Harwood's hands resting on one of the notebooks that are in the collection
Michael Peverett's Six Notes on Lee may be read here. He lists these posts on Lee that I've written:

Review of the earlier part of the Collected Harwood:
Review of the later part of the Collected:
Three sequences in Morning Light (1998):
Review of The Orchid Boat:
A short reflection on the above:
Poem dedicated to Lee Harwood:
A laugh with Lee Harwood:
In Memoriam:

Friday, February 05, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: Bob Cobbing: Sightings and Soundings

in honour of his 75th birthday

This page (written 1995) was read at the Bob Cobbing Symposium in May 2015 as part of my talk 'Bobliography' (see here), breaking off at the end of the page, and moving on to other writings on (and with ) Cobbing:

1          Two Lessons

I visited Bob Cobbing, and thus met my first poet, on November 3 1973.  I was still at school, keen to put on an exhibition of concrete poetry.  I recognised this as the wilder edge of the new British poetry I had discovered through Horovitz’ anthology Children of Albion and Bill Butler’s Brighton bookshop.  In the school library there was, unaccountably, Emmett Williams’ An Anthology of Concrete Poetry.  Bob was in it.

When I arrived at Randolph Avenue to collect some hansj√∂rg mayer posters, Bob was already talking to a student who was writing a thesis on language in visual art.  I listened as they talked and sounded some of the Shakespeare Kaku.  I remained mute, uncertain.  Bob played a tape of himself and Peter Finch performing e colony from the Five Vowels, a then incomplete project.  He showed us the work in progress.  I stayed for six hours literally learning the life of a poet.

Two lessons, one immediate, the other lasting:

  There was a world of poetry which did not hypostacise the Poem as a closed structure.  (I left burdened with booklets and off-prints from Cobbing’s own work and excerpts from Lee Harwood.)

  The importance of radical consistency for an artist: to refuse to mark out an aesthetic territory which is then colonised, but to move confidently on, to create structures, large and small, for continued experiment.


2          Selected Sightings and Jottings 1978 - 1994

Bob Cobbing, Bill Griffiths and Paul Burwell, May 10 1978: Public House Bookshop, Brighton.  ‘Two poets concerned with the discontinuity of language.  Yet even more concerned with the building up of the discontinuous, into new structures … the simplicity of Cobbing’s Alphabet of Fishes … it is what Cobbing does visually (typographically and otherwise) and vocally that gives a poem its complexity, its ‘art’ … bellowing like a walrus.’

King’s College, November 26 1981: ‘with Griffiths and Fencott.  He swigged from his own ‘secret supply’ and launched into an hour of completely new material’ to put a wedge into the bibliographic mentality that cannot distinguish between the ‘latest’ and the ‘last’.

Saturday, July 13 1985 (the rest of the world watching Live Aid):  Bob beneath a tree in Clerkenwell churchyard.  ‘SILLIWHIG’ he yelled, from the

The rest may be read

This is the last chapter of Far Language and the last to be posted or linked-to here.

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

And here are the chapter links to the original publication.

The (original) 'Introduction': here.
'Reading Prynne and Others': here.
'Far Language' (MacSweeney) here.
'Irregular Actions' (Allen Fisher) here.
'Timeless Identities' (Roy Fisher) here.
'Utopia Revisited' (John Ash) here.
'Flashlight Propositions' (Robert Sheppard's 1987 poetics) here.
'Education of Desire' (pedadgogic poetics) here.
'Commitment to Openness' (Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth) here.
'Poetic Sequencing and the New: Twentieth Century Blues' (poetics) here.
'Buoyant Readings' (J.H. Prynne, Bruce Andrews, Ken Edwards, Aaron Williamson and Gilbert Adair) here.
'Collosal Fragments' (Adrian Clarke) here.
'Tune Me Gold' (Maggie O'Sullivan here.
'Linking the Unlinkable' (poetics of Twentieth Century Blues) here.
'Adhesive Hymns' (Ulli Freer) here.
'Bob Cobbing: Soundings and Sightings' here.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Alan Baker: Links and Interview about Whether (KFS, 2015)

Read an email interview with Alan Baker, conducted by the WRI 2010 (The Art of Poetry: Land and Landscape) group at Edge Hill University (2015-16), via Robert Sheppard, the tutor.

The interview is largely about the pamphlet they were studying, Whether, which is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here.

We were wondering about your overall book title Whether. What is the purpose of the pun on ‘weather’?

The pun on “weather” – an obvious one I know – is because the poems are “about” climate and weather, but not directly. I wanted to express the general unease we all feel about this subject but to do it by making word-objects in the form of spells. I also wanted to express a general feeling we often have of wanting to take control of our world, but being limited by our own physical resources. So the poems are related to climate and weather, but not exclusively about that. I like to think the pun in the title expresses this uncertainty.

This conditional mode expressed by “whether” also sets the tone for "Week to View"; in that sequence I wanted to express how our perception of the world is contingent and dependent on chance.

How did you structure the poems in ‘Week to View’ and how much was left to chance, or collage?

I can tell you that I wrote this sequence in a single sitting while waiting for a delayed plane at Amsterdam airport. I started writing in diary mode; I’d stayed in a hotel, attended powerpoint presentations, and so on, so they all got into the poems. At the airport, I consciously responded to the various stimuli - announcements, adverts, a Golden Age centre (still not quite sure what that is), and my own random thoughts which were affected by being in Holland. I also had a notebook of previous jottings from which I lifted phrases and passages (I didn't make it all up at the same time - some of those notebook entries were a year or two old). "Heart disease wears a skirt too" was a headline in a women's magazine. By including it at that point in the poem, I wanted to replicate the sudden switches in attention which contemporary life forces on us, sometimes in a shocking way (the switch from TV adverts to a news report of some violent event for example). As is probably obvious, the poem isn’t a true cut-up; but neither is it too consciously structured; it’s more of an improvisation. Whenever I found myself getting into a fluent passage, I’d switch focus, or add in an unrelated piece of text – whatever my eye alighted on at the time (so introducing a large element of chance); this seems to be how people keep diaries, or diary-style blogs, by writing short passages on things that occur to them; these poems try to take that to another level.

The poems (particularly in ‘Week to View’) seem multi-voiced. Are there overheard voices, media clips, found material, etc. in there? How much is your own voice?

The question "How much is your own voice" is a good one, and difficult to answer. I don't really know, in terms of poetry, what my own voice is. Even apparently personal statements are forms of address in a poetic text. At the same time, there is a personal element to these poems, both to the tone and the content, a result, I think, of the work of the subconscious. What I find when writing this collage-based poetry is that I'm often surprised at what comes out, and how pertinent to my own life it is. As if the use of apparently impersonal collaged materials frees your unconscious; themes emerge, and preoccupations become apparent. I suppose this is the equivalent of the traditional idea of ‘the muse’, or of Jack Spicer’s “poetry by dictation”.

The poems certainly contain found materials – from adverts, headlines in magazines, marketing materials, work-related emails and so on. What I've done in these poems, particularly in “Week To View”, is to collage materials from various sources, including my own notebooks. Are these latter "my own voice"? My writings probably have evolved a distinctive style, but it's not the same as my speaking voice, or my tone when writing emails at work; it's a style evolved to write in notebooks, and is certainly, to some degree, borrowed from the style of other poets.

In writing poem 5 of ‘Thirteen Spells’, how did you arrange its various parts? How was it written?

I work in an office overlooking the railway tracks at Derby station, and part of this poem was jotted down while at work there - just observations from looking round the office. The lines "traffic lights turn icicles red", "the river’s dangerous eddies that seem beautiful in the dark" and "Hyundai containers line the tracks" were from notebook jottings (I like Hyundai, as it's so un-English - starting a word with "hy"). Part of my technique is to assemble all these bits of text, and to yoke them together using a form, like pouring metal into a mould; the form here, of course, is the Spell or Charm, and it allowed me bring all of the pieces together; as I said earlier, somehow using the form freed the subconscious to make associations between them.

We noticed repeated imperatives in ‘Thirteen Spells’ and wondered why you’d used so many to create their rhetorical shape?

I used so many imperatives, because that’s the poetic form of the spell. Traditional spells and charms use imperatives, as they're demanding that something happens ("Shrink like coal in a bucket",  etc). Traditional spells also name things, as if the act of naming gave the speaker some kind of power. So the Nine Herbs Charm names herbs:

This herb is called Cress ...  This is named Nettle
The things they named were everyday, banal things to people at the time. In my spells, I name things like the office water cooler, Hyundai containers and hot desks.
The spell and the diary provide the forms in "Whether". The "talking to yourself" mode, which people use for diaries, provided the form of address in "Week to View", and that dictated the voice to some degree.

How seriously should we take the ancient spoken and written forms of spells or charms in reading these pieces? How strong is ‘against’ in the title?

I take the traditional spells very seriously; too seriously to want to reproduce them as museum pieces. So, the poems are partly parody, which is one way of paying homage to the originals. The idea is to "make them new", in the way that the poet Peter Hughes has done with Petrarch - his lively and irreverent versions are created by imagining how Petrarch might write today. How would you speak if you were casting a spell now? i.e. if you were addressing something over which you have little control, in language which might help you believe you were mitigating its effects. The word “against” is strong in the sense that I envisage these poems as contemporary spells which may give some comfort in the face of large, impersonal forces, but, of course, it’s also ironic in that none of us believe in the efficacy of spells in the way medieval people did.

We liked the way the poems move from the everyday to the cosmic. How does that work for you?

It's difficult to address the 'cosmic' (in both the literal and metaphorical sense) without becoming hopelessly abstract (which may work in French, but not so well in English). So it's necessary to undercut and contrast the cosmic things with the everyday. This is something which collagic composition and its sudden switches enable you to do. I think it's part of the human condition to be caught between two worlds of the day-to-day and the cosmic / spiritual and for each to interrupt each other at inconvenient times.

Alan Baker blogs here, and runs the  magazine: LITTER here.

Steve Spence on Alan Baker’s Whether may be read here. And Ian Brinton on Whether here.

Alan Baker's reivew of The Drop by Robert Sheppard may be read here.