Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gurkan Arnavut says Don't leave the EUOIA

Cyprus’ Gurkan Arnavut (1978-) co-created with Zoe Skoulding says Don't Leave the EUOIA! (European Union Of Imaginary Authors). His single volume of poetry is entitled star/fish/city. He lives in Cyprus where he works on Turkish language radio.

Zoë Skoulding may be viewed reading the works of Gurkan Arnavut above and at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-UHv9lFaxU as part of the Manchester Enemies of the North in March 2013.

If Britain votes to leave the EUOIA on 23rd June, states the Bremain campaign, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with Frisland’s Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl). To find out more (or less!) about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then check). 

Monday, May 30, 2016

EUOIA; European Union of Imaginary Authors: update on progress

So far, the collaborations, either finished or currently underway, have been with colleagues, old friends, new friends, young poets, and female poets. I couple I’d not met before. Recent methods of collaboration range from two words at a time (with Philip Terry), whole lines (with Joanne Ashcroft) to whole poems (Kelvin Corcoran and S.J. Fowler). Some (with Jèssica Pujol i Duran and Alys Conran) leave me not quite sure who wrote what. Some were slow, and some (like Alan Baker) were really fast! Some are jests (with Tom Jenks); some poignant (with Jason Argleton). Every poet is now assigned and there are only a few to finish. Poets with no names next to them were created singly by me (they are the ones already featured as Rene Van Valckenborch's own inventions in A Translated Man and they are also featured together here.

The links below weill take you to their EU(OIA) pleadings and their biographies, or occasionally other sources.

Croatia Martina Marković (1982-) with James Byrne (and Damir Sodan) (see here)
Austria Sophie Poppmeier (1981-)  with Jason Argleton (see here)
Belgium Paul Coppens (1980-)  with Philip Terry (see here)
Bulgaria Ivaylo Dimitrov (1979-) with Patricia Farrell (see here)
Cyprus Gurkan Arnavut (1978-)   with Zoe Skoulding (see here for text and video)
Czech Republic Jitka Průchová (1978-) (see here)
Denmark Trine Kragelund (1979-) (see here)
Estonia Hermes (1975-) with Rupert Loydell (see here where there's a link to our full collaboration)
Finland Minna Kärkkäinen (1974-) with Allen Fisher (see here)
France Carte-Vitale (1973-)  with Sandeep Parmar (see here)
Germany Karla Schäfer (1972-) with Frances Kruk (see here)
Greece Eua Ionnou (1971-)  with Kelvin Corcoran (see here)
Hungary Ratsky József (1970-) with Jeff Hilson (see here)
Ireland Sean Eogan (1969-)  with Steve MacCaffery (see here)
Italy Lucia Ciancaglini (1968-2010) (See here for publication details and an unfinished poem)
Latvia Jānis Raups (1967?-) with Simon Perril (see here)
Lithuania Jurgita Zujūtė (1966-) (See here and read one of her poems)
Luxembourg Georg Bleinstein (1965-2046) with Tom Jenks (See here for his short biography and some illustrations, featuring Sabrina, Group Captain Carol Vorderman and sausage manufacture)
Malta Hubert Zuba (1964-2015; he died in the middle of Scott and me reading his poem, as can be seen here) with Scott Thurston (yet to be linked)
Netherlands Maarten De Zoete (1963-) with God’s Rude Wireless (a cut up machine).
Poland Jaroslav Biały (1962-) with Anamaria Crowe Serrano (see here for information and a further link)
Portugal Ana Cristina Pessao (1961-) with Jessica Pujol (see here)
Romania Sultana Nemoianu (1960-) with Robert Hampson (see here)
Slovakia Matúš Dobeš (1959-)  with Joanne Ashcroft (see here)
Slovenia A.B.C. Remič (1958-) with Alan Baker (read the two poems we created here). I also pause to consider the murder of Jo Cox MP during the EU Campaign and the role of this 'mad caper' here. 
Spain Cristòfol Subira (1957-) with Alys Conran (see here for biography and video of us reading the poems)
Sweden Kajsa Bergström (1956-) with S.J. Fowler (see here)
United Kingdom Robert Sheppard (1955-) with myself! (See here, principally, eventually, but here as well)

Read 'Robert Sheppard''s resignation speech from the EUOIA here. And Hermes' response here.

bonus track (outside the EU and reality):

Frisland Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (1948- ) with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl (see here)

The result of this mad caper is the developing anthology, which I hope will be published.

I am also posting posts about the project on my blog, beginning here. In the run up to the EU referendum I will be posting daily pleas from these poets for the Bremain campaign (except Hermes, who will recommend leaving), or actually to stop me being chucked out of my own fictional organisation!

If you think this book will be the end of it, it won’t. I’m already contemplating turning the EUOIA-idea inside out, and writing (by myself) a fictional collaboration between two of the poets, Sophie Poppmeier and Trine Krugelund.

SJ Fowler (see 1956 above) has his own post here

NEWS August 2017:

I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books has published the EUOIA poets as  Twitters for a Lark. Here's the cover. Buy here: 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bulgaria's Ivaylo Dimitrov says Don't Leave the EUOIA

Bulgaria’s Ivaylo Dimitrov (1979-), created with Patricia Farrell, says: 'Don't Leave the EUOIA or the EU!'

Ivaylo Dimitrov lives in Bergen, Norway. 

If Britain votes to leave the EUOIA (European Union Of Imaginary Authors) on 23rd June, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with Frisland’s Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl). To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then check). 

Dimitriov's cover for the EUOIA anthology Twitters for a Lark

Friday, May 27, 2016

Paul Coppens says Don't Leave the EUOIA

Belgium’s  Paul Coppens (1980-), created with Philip Terry, who does exist, says, 'Don't Leave the EUOIA' (European Union Of Imaginary Authors).
Paul Coppens’ books include his masterpiece The Fainting Goats of Moon Spot Farm. His essay, ‘Henri Lefebvre and Van Valckenborch’s Poetics of Space’ appears in Canderlinck and De Zoute’s The Transliterated Man. He is the son of the film maker Paul Coppens, about whom René Van Valckenborch has written an essay, ‘Frozen Cuts of Light: The Scratch Cinema of Paul Coppens’, published in Chosement 1 (2010) but available in English in Junction Box at http://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/655/robert-sheppard-frozen-cuts-of-light-the-scratch-cinema-of-paul-coppens/.

If Britain votes to leave the EUOIA on 23rd June, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with Frisland’s Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl). To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then scroll).

Filip Dujardin's photomonages inspired work by Coppens

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sophie Poppmeier says Don't Leave the EUOIA

Austria’s  Sophie Poppmeier (1981-), created with Jason Argleton, who also doesn't exist, says 'Don't Leave the EUOIA!' (European Union Of Imaginary Authors).
Sophie Poppmeier’s poetry includes Book One (2002), Book Two (2003), and Book Four (2015). She has lived in Vienna and Bratislava, but currently resides in Berlin. A neo-burlesque dancer, Poppmeier performed as Minnie Minerva (but occasionally as Polly or Poppy Polidori or – in Berlin – Angela Merkin, although that was not to disrespect the EU). Her best acts include the ‘Ute Lemper Trilogy’, based on Punishing Kiss, a 15 minute piece combining the swirling silk sea-waves and bejewelled seashell bodice-work of ‘Little Water Song’; ‘Streets of Berlin’, a mimed drag-king boylesque; and ‘You Were Meant for Me’, in which she confronted the audience with ‘unbridled displays of female desire’, to quote a programme of the time. Her later ‘Narcotango’ used the hypnotic grooves of Carlos Libedinsky’s new tango for her exploration of intoxication, obsession and trance. In contrast, the energetic ‘Neveen’s Levee’ involved Oriental and belly dancing, and the accompanying poem is a lipogram. ‘Madame Mallarmé’s Fan Dance’ was the most literary (and least appreciated) of her acts, and the accompanying poem rhymes! Her memoir Minnie Minerva’s Book of Marvels has been forthcoming for some years. Despite its title, it is a theoretical defence of burlesque, and has been compared to Augusto de Campos’ work on bossa nova. In it, she argues that burlesque is an enabling and safe but public way of exploring and asserting various conflicting models of female body-awareness (not just beauty) and female fantasy and sexuality (auto-, homo-, hetero- and trans-), and draws on her experience of facilitating workshops for differently-abled and neurologically atypical people and running the annual pan-European Ugly Bug’s Burlesque in Bratislava. Poems from her controversial sexually explicit Book Two, which abandoned the ‘corsetry’ of her characteristic four line stanza, have been excluded from this anthology. Perhaps in reaction to the criticism of this book, she is said to have given up poetry and burlesque (on the brink of considerable success at the Berlin Burlesque Festival), but the truth may be less dramatic, since she studied Art History in Vienna, gaining a PhD in 2010 and it is not clear that she didn’t continue writing, while teaching and theorising performance (and she is rumoured to have ventured out under cover of several new alter-egos when impecunious). She is also rumoured to be collaborating with Trine Krugelund, the EUOIA representative from Denmark. (JA)

One of her poems may be read at http://tonyfrazer.weebly.com/robert-sheppard.html

Other posts about this poet and performer include:

One of Sophie's uncollected poems below:

Book 3 Poem 5

‘My thighs bulge like chicken drumsticks
but I’m still shooting behind my mask. Its face
became punched by a streak of white before its starry eyes.
My wife shares these swellings, though sexier.

She makes foreign policy with giraffes, social theory
with foxes, traffic regulations with natterjacks.
These bulges could be testicles and the students laugh,
setting fire to the fleet. I couldn’t move to help them.’

Jason Argleton was a student at Edge Hill University where his final dissertation was a comparative study of the poetry of Ern Malley and Bob McCorkle. He is pursuing practice-led graduate studies on Ossianism. Poems have appeared in various magazines, including Pages, and he translated Sophie Poppmeier’s notorious Book Two into English. Argelton is co-curating an anthology of fictional poets, the United Nations Platform of Poetry (UNPOP) drawn from the approximately 200 nations (and disputed territories) of the world, from Afghanistan’s Hamida Sulemankhel to Zimbabwe’s Pakuramunhumashokoanowanda Nevermore.

More on Jas here.

If Britain votes to leave the EUOIA on 23rd June, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with Frisland’s Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl). To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then check).  

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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Croatia's Martina Markovic says Don't leave the EUOIA

Croatia’s  Martina Marković (1982-) created with James Byrne (and with a little back-translating help from Damir Sodan), says 'Don't Leave the European Union Of Imaginary Authors.'

Martina eschews publicity, but she was born in Serbia and attended both the University of Belgrade, where she was expelled under mysterious circumstances (involving mushrooms that the authorities claimed were ‘magic’ and she pleaded were ‘organic’) and the University of Zagreb, where she studied history and politics. 

If Britain votes to leave the EUOIA on 23rd June, Robert Sheppard, the British representative of British imaginary authors, will have to be excluded from his own anthology, EUOIA, which he is conducting and collaboratively writing with other writers; at the very least he will be moved to the Appendices with Frisland’s Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala (whom he created with Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl). To find out more or less about the EUOIA check the EUOIA website which is still live at http://euoia.weebly.com, and there are multiple posts on the subject of the EUOIA on this blog (use the keyword EUOIA to see them all displayed, and then scroll). 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Sudley (remode of Sudley House)

                                                                   for Scott Thurston

Suddenly. You are inside the house. Standing in the old entrance. The garden hall or vestibule. The little Corot landscape’s here. All pictures domestic scale. The Holman Hunt propped on an easel. A magnifying glass swinging on its string. One painting shifted a little to the left to fit another in. The nightmare of George Holt’s handyman. Trade with Brazil. Florentine swelter. Crackling through the horse chestnut leaves. Crisp. Liquid electricity. Doric columns rise either side of the fireplace. The faint tinkle a chime. A tintinnabulation of the silence out of which a painting may be conjured. Into which it might disappear for the ambulant solitary in performance for a group walking far from the Paris Commune. A tornado of options. Poplars. As though time has ceased. Moments stretched. A loose bowelled cow flaps its flanks:  chiaroscuro whisper. We pick up. Each other’s senseless sense and fly with it. Rough of a sensibility. Bull’s spittle dribbles on stones. A rumour a promise. Unconfirmed broken. Autumn shiver. Beasts dung the tilled field. Fecund chill. Enter. Gainsborough over the fireplace. The latest purchase. Perspective distorts the carpet’s intention. Poems were written at this desk. Liberty spelt out. The tomb long open and the trees crouching for a peep. Tall windows: granite melody in a haze. The channel. Silt bank. Catches light from over the water. Wish for mist. On the distant Welsh hills. Or mountains. The single hammering at 1 o’clock you mistake for the butcher boy’s sharp bell. In the name of God silence pierced her side high and plaintive as a silken moth. Posed but never poised. A dreamy girl with a creamy neck. Ready for a ball or bell. Who has no servant to call remove the dying flowers their odour sickens. She should know these things you don’t. She’s designed to be merely cherished. After death, bookmarks mark. Wisdom, a crumple of promises clutched in sweat. The cobbler bangs out his unspoken love for her on the soles of her broken shoes. Byron might have imagined her. Shelley would have mirrored her. But she’s tucked away that unique thing a fake. Insert her into the language of which she is composed. Trees weave. Time is a turning page, every quarter of an hour. A slow three-decker telling of empty dandy chairs lusting the wrong way round. Chime. How do tall shelves of books become a Library? At the sarcophagus your writing will be prophetic. What will be. When it is done: Unitarian, Liberal, Philanthropic. Someone will slouch in your creaking armchair and frown at your words. Its marbled blanks. Desiccated edition of Cowper’s Poems. Dropping brown powder from its spine. Into your lap as you turn the pages. Curtained secrets. Of quiet decay. Exposed to light, crumples. Breathless wind-chimes. You were looking for a remarkable symbol. Trudging the green lane. To the front doors you have already forgotten. A silver glow behind the nets. Illumines the desk upon which the bills were once paid. Archive of illegible documents preserved in paint. Ribs blush over a riverine council. Of peasants. The drought. So perfect that any blemish would turn the day septic. The title sprinkled from this book. Tinkling. Angel dust flaking from the walls of a fresco. During a riot, something. To be something. Must be darker than darkness. Viol burns its madrigal. Out into a room which is not a room. The unseen inhabits the scene. Dwarfs the people. Undiminished not quite vulnerable. In the oil sketch. Measured chimes of human anthems. Weirs crash upon Venetian thoughts. She’s suddenly seen you. From the new entrance. Entranced fascination. Opening your hatch you admit such pleasure. Delirium soaks the tedium, etiolated and brittle. Bristles of genre. Lavender alive with bees swaying after the storm. Amber glow rises from polished boards soaked into scarlet walls. Somebody watches you from the balcony.  A flicker of interest in your lack of interest. Your room a tumbling red cube for his pitching vertigo. The window at this diagonal. Nine more steps. The morning room saw the child stamping and stamping on the ants. Trees, the slate-grey Mersey. Industry at its shore ‘ruralised by distance’ in the Romantic conceit. That other blue distance. Welsh mountains. Or hills. Slit the morning post beneath the woodblock variegations, the Pre-Raphaelite dazzle. The tinfoil-crackle tones of Tennyson and Browning. Play them this morning’s lesson: the dust that rises from a beaten carpet. A knocked up bit of greatness. A hand on a keyboard, too many naturals. A fantasia in black and white, the temple (again). Without even a Fra Fillipo Lippo wink at you. A startling eye looms in the magnifying lens. A falcon dives. Rips into the neck of the dove, this premature Transfiguration. Bays picked to shreds. She threads beads. Roses, the tiles at her bare feet. As though a wish could fall true on this marble. Breasts ghosted through thin robes. Poised as a sponge of poison squeezed into your limpid pool. Past the Italianate marble fireplace with the Holt crest, Schloss Rosenau. It’s an isle, an aisle of light. Sufficient to allow divinity or human majesty its approach. The radiance of patronage. A smeared palette. Or the palpitating shade which you cannot penetrate. They are not human enough: boy tensing his fishing rod, girl floating on collapse. Their scattered picnic. Crouching mendicants at some filthy game. Fawning before an oblivious consort, they scratch away the cracked sky to find Margate sun. The ‘lighthouse’ is a white-hot brushstroke a blemish on the skin of night. With what confidence could you mount those steps to the promise of a quayside? It comes out with a whitened misty sky and a double rainbow. Spectral retribution. Painted over. Not over. When it returns the painting has darkened. Less lightning burst than rainbow. Obliterate the eye’s asperities. Look close Cousin George in the magnifying glass. The eye looms. The beginning of his interest in Surrealism. Reading to yourself. Reading yourself. A monstrous porthole. This rectangle, no larger than a servant’s mirror. Black is a shade of white. Clouds, sails, sea-crest. Black-tipped gull comes to rest. In the rest. Say you are rendered. Wordless the memory of a memory of men. Loading a ship dreamt about, stark. Bonington’s moment for as long as you dare. Look away. Listen. Tear the image as though it were rotten canvas. An old painting a dead sail. Part the net. Curtains. If anyone is watching. A triangle. With both your hands, either side. Watch yourself from behind. This is the view they built here. The sloped lawn, the billowing trees. Afar: the same hills or mountains without features. A study, a framed tangle of light.


This text is the latest 'remode' of a piece that has had a long life (and a life largely online since its first enactment). ‘Sudley House’, as it was originally entitled, was realised as a guided tour/performance at Sudley House, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, in four shows on 6th and 12th November 2004, with Scott Thurston as second voice and presence. Props included recordings of Tennyson (1890) and my 1793 edition of Cowper’s Poems (Vol I). I would like to thank Scott; and Jane Duffy and Alex Kidson of the National Galleries of Merseyside for allowing me to act as Visiting Scholar to Sudley House, and to the latter for his whistle-stop private tour of the Emma Holt bequest. Thanks to all the staff at the House for making my writing visits so pleasant, and for the smooth running of the performances. I readily acknowledge monies from the (then) Edge Hill College of Higher Education School of Humanities and Arts Research Development Fund to enable this work to be developed in its original form. The full performance text is available on Great Works at http://www.greatworks.org.uk/poems/sh/rs1.html. Many thanks for Peter Philpott for publishing it. The first remode was largely prompted by the re-hanging of the works and thus the rendering fictive of my movement instructions and narrative. It was omitted from my Unfinish (Veer Books: 2016.) This version may be read here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/sudley-house-for-scott-thurston.html. The second remode – this third version – was made in March 2016. ‘Cousin George’ is George Melly. There are several quotations melted and re-formed in the text, particularly Ruskin on Turner, but also Turner’s detractors. More on my work here.

Photos of the first performances (c) Andrew Taylor, 2004

Friday, May 13, 2016

Robert Sheppard; poetic response to Veronica Forrest-Thomson

Poetic Artifice is at last back in print. (See here for my response to that event). Here is an account my creative interaction with the work (which underlines the impact her criticism had on my critical thinking AND poetics, which is not a necessary connection). My poem‘Parody and Pastoral’ is what I called at the time of writing my response (March 2002) a ‘text and commentary’ upon Forrest-Thomson’s poem ‘Pastoral’ (and a homage to her). By such designation I meant to suggest that the poem could be read in its own terms (as text) as well as being considered as intertextual correlative of ‘Pastoral’ (as commentary). (It's worth mentioning that Forrest-Thomsom uses 'Pastoral' as an exhibit in Poetic Artifice which is both an interesting but dangerous strategy.)Whether my conceit works in practice, I believe, is not for me to say. The poem embodies the conceit as best as I am able. I retreat from interpretation of my work just as much as Forrest-Thomson seems to advance towards her own, doomed to some degree of failure or blindness, as I have said. In its commenting aspect my poem may be seen as parodic, in the general sense of reaching out towards another text to assimilate and re-direct its meanings, and in its transformations (‘clover’ becomes ‘clever’ for example), though I would be happier to think of it as benign pastiche, but I am not sure that it directs its energies towards the conventional level, as Alison Mark would expect of parody. My prosody is quite different, for one. It alludes not only to her poem, and her critical (ab)use of it, but to Prynne’s comments about the poem (in the elegaic afterword to On the Periphery). It is perhaps only a version of pastoral in that it follows the contours of Forrest-Thomson’s poem of that title, though it swaps rural simplicities for urban ones to negotiate the complexities of the vocal but non-verbal world, at the thematic level. The ‘plot’ of my poem follows hers and deliberately invites a parallel reading:

They may not be clever
creatures but they leave us
to iron sensation melted                       
on a deadly breeze

Rough beasts and rough
boys both relieve us, unloved;
we pay up responsible
for what they call themselves

Invade another language
to be invaded by it:
the burglar alarm
perforates the morning’s shell

They stitch up our loves
our lives to a violation that
believes inviolate dwelling
open like all ears

Wails as a headache a
screen of pain that the
window flashes
in migraine streaks

Door slams then ignition coughs
up to voice our twinned words
where barbed wire bleeds

((Robert Sheppard, ‘Parody and Pastoral’, Hymns to the God in Which My Typewriter Believes  (Exeter: Stride, 2006), pp. 41-2. But it's also in the recent volume History or Sleep: Selected Poems Bristol: Shearsman: 2015.) The act of homage cannot, of course be divorced from one’s sense of regret, my act of elegy, at Forrest-Thomson’s early death at 27 in 1975.))

I wanted to question the dilemma posed by what she called her ‘intolerable theme’ – are words twinned with the non-verbal in some way or hopelessly entwined only with one another? – and also to echo the violent emotions hinted at in Forrest-Thomson’s poem. To say even this is to stray too far into interpretive terrain where I feel, creatively speaking, alien. I wanted to respond to her poem in the form of a poem, not because she had commented upon it herself (which I may have forgotten when I wrote it) but because I wished to pay homage to her through her finest poem and to field some ‘ideas’ about poetics in creative form. That she had attempted to deal with it in her own scholarship – her brazen ‘affrontery’ – did, of course, attract me to utilising it in the writing of this essay, since it spoke to me of the relationship of scholarship to its dark twin poetics.

A theory of poetry is not a poetics, perhaps, unless it is mediated through particular poems. If I mediate her vital and valuable theory through my own poetics and my poem its function becomes part of an ever-changing practice of reflection and speculation, creation and further creation. When Forrest-Thomson submits her own poems to her theory she risks the danger of forcing them to work in complicity with it, which keeps self-commentary rigid rather, than, as in the best poetics, conjectural and provocative, speculative or mercurial; it forces her to act as though unaware of creative excess. By attempting to cross the divide between poem and theory she paradoxically strengthens the negative hold of her intolerable theme, that we might be imprisoned within language. She is a brilliant scholar and a fine creative writer and her poetics actually lies between her two practices, in an elastic and dynamic tension between conceptual elaboration and the concentration of her own poetic artifice, and surfaces in occasional asides rather than in her self-analyses. The relationship between creativity and scholarship is exacting but eternally unstable, a theme I return to in The Meaning of Form.

Veronica Forrest-Thomson adjusts the artifice

A similar response appears in ‘Linguistically Wounded: The Poetical Scholarship of Veronica Forrest-Thomson’ in ed. Turley, Richard Margraf, The Writer in the Academy: Creative Interfrictions, Essays and Studies 2011. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, for the English Association. See details of the new edition of Poetic Artifice here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Response to Veronica Forrest-Thomson's Poetic Artifice back in print at last

A major influence on my early turn to form and my recent return to form, expressed in my volume The Meaning of Form, (see here) and which is revisited in detail in its current Chapter Two, is an old one: Veronica Forrest-Thomson’s Poetic Artifice (1978). It is a sheer delight to see that Gareth Farmer’s new edition of the book is out from Shearsman. (See here.)I first encountered the book in 1979 at a crucial time in my PhD studies. I regret most deeply that at an administrative stage it was decided that her methodology was ‘not strong enough’ to be used in it, by some committee or other. (They meant ‘unknown’ and wanted me to read Bloom instead.) The book had been reviewed by my tutor Helen McNeil in The New Statesman. However the lesson remained and it is indeed a book that changed my (poetry) life. (And it changed others: like Alison Mark, to whom I introduced the work).

Forrest-Thomson valorises what she calls the non-meaningful devices of poetry; meaning can be read only as torqued by artifice in defiance of a method of reading called ‘naturalisation,’ which she defines as the ‘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’. Our best reading occurs when this process is resisted almost successfully and artifice shines most artificially.

This axiomatic sense that an unexamined form is not worth reading naturally opposes instrumental readings that temper textuality with social naturalisations. Writing about what is sometimes called ‘linguistically innovative’ poetry that works by defamiliarisation, undecidability or through structural and linguistic complexity, means that I take form to be unavoidable as an issue, though it seems not to be in other areas of literary (or cultural) studies, though even to say so should seem odd. My critical and poetic commitment to the discourse of writerly poetics also necessarily focuses upon form.

Even the most casual reader of her book will glean the central notion that Bad Naturalisation (to ‘set aside’ ‘the non-meaningful devices’ of poetry ‘in an unseemly rush from word to world’) is a betrayal of poetry’s specificity, since it involves the ‘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 world, by making the Artifice appear natural’.  This is the process many exegetes of a poem seem content with, to talk away the poetry in prose paraphrase (and many of us are ‘guilty’ of this) while we pay lip service to the autonomy of the literary work. What Forrest-Thomson demands is a system of delaying this (inevitable) process in order that a poem’s formal features may be fully registered as an integral part of the poem’s total effect, not as a mere vehicle of, or supplement to, meaning.

A process of ‘external expansion’ of the words of the text into the world and then an ‘external limitation’ back into it characterises bad naturalisation. Meaning is sought beyond the poem (perhaps in social and literary contexts) and dragged back into it. ‘The attempt to relate the poem to the external world limits our attention to those formal features which can be made to contribute to this extended meaning.’  A bad reading, for example, will relate a free verse poem to the fractured state of society it is assumed to ‘reflect’, while other aspects, say its harmonious alliteration, which contradict the poem’s supposed message, are conveniently ignored. On the other hand, ‘Good naturalisation dwells on the non-meaningful levels of poetic language, such as phonetic and prosodic patterning and spatial organisation, and tries to state their relationship to other levels of organisation rather than set them aside in an attempt to produce a statement about the world.’  More precisely good naturalisation ‘dwells at length’ (delaying the forces of naturalisation for as long as possible) ‘on the play of formal features and structure of relations internal to a poem’: for example, on ‘all the rhythmic, phonetic, verbal and logical devices which make poetry different from prose’. 

Naturalisation – both good and bad – constructs intelligibility by reaching out to the non-verbal, and is inevitable, we must remember, in any reading.

Her work is fundamental to my The Poetry of Saying. (See here.) In The Meaning of Form and in ‘Linguistically Wounded: The Poetical Scholarship of Veronica Forrest-Thomson’ in ed. Turley, Richard Margraf, The Writer in the Academy: Creative Interfrictions, Essays and Studies 2011. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, for the English Association, I take issue with some of her methodology (I don’t believe poetic artifice is non-meaningful, and it’s possible neither did VFT (as the secret society that has read this work hitherto often calls her) by the end of her short – far too short – life. But this is not the place to extend those critiques.

For a creative response to her work as a theorist and poet, read here.  

For those who can buy The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry, or order it for libraries, here are the places

Here is some book data:

eBook ISBN
Hardcover ISBN

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Croaky Albert Fly sings/music day


The piano was tuned but my voice had given in to the Croak and I keep doing the Tony Bennett whisper to compensate by the time Steve recorded this. Too much singing in the morning and singing along to Major Major. But the rendition of our staple 'Motherless Child Blues' (below) recorded earlier in the evening has me in OK voice. Odd. So maybe this is the one to watch. On piano, as ever, Steve. Together: the Blooze Brothers.


Diary: 30th April 2016: I'd already declared this music day and it lived up to that name. After a little EUOIA work [I played guitar, harp and sang, really for the first time since my birthday see here].... out in the afternoon to Kelly's where Nathan's Nina was expected to be playing. [The Smithdown Road Festival] Wasn't. Saw Vidar Norheim playing vibes and singing. Back later for a cool set by Mike Badger and the Shady Trio. Also caught an energetic end to Major Major, featuring an old schoolfriend of Stephen's. (S was around and about.) Then to MDI to see Veryan Weston (big hugs) and Trevor Watts. Magnificent and so different from the afternoon, playing with the Merseyside Improvisors' Orchestra, who were pretty good too. Then to Maggi's for Lavinia's 30th. Then, on music day, it was my turn. Steve had had the piano TUNED, and it was in good form, and so was he. The usual songs, but also I played blues harp. And home at 4.30, Steve still playing as P (who'd had a little nap) ... Birds' dawn chorus to end music day.

Sunday: saw Fort Baxter, Rival Bones, Voo and (my favourite:) Big Safari.... https://www.facebook.com/bigsafari/

See here for un-croaky New Year's Eve singing (though the piano is untuned): here. It's 'Motherless Child Blues' again. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Dinesh Allirajah Launch of SCENT: The Collected Works

Tonight Dinesh's Scent: The Collected Works was launched at Bluecoat in Liverpool with readings from the book, which is published by Comma Books, and is a beautiful big hardback; the event was HOSTED BY SARAH MACLENNAN and the readers were

1. former Edge Hill student Claire Dean Easy on the Rose’s (story)
2. Ra Page The hate inside the inkwell (blog)
3. Andy Darby Bashful Alley Poems
4. Catherine Frances What do you want to know (blog)
6. Bryan Biggs Interesting times (blog)
7. Adrian Challis In Dreams (Story/performance piece)
8. Eleanor Rees A memory of sap (story)
9. Robert Sheppard The Power of Invisibility (blog post)
10. Edge Hill PhD student and Comma Press employee Jim Hinks Scent (story)
11. Dave Ward ('Items 1 to 17', story)
12. Duleep Allirajah The Sun… One Saturday (story)
13. Levi Tafari Zong (poem)
14. Film of Dinesh performing, from Bluecoat

It was a well-supported event, less emotional than the one exactly a year ago, one more focussed upon Dinesh as a writer (in a variety of modes).

This was the intro I'd written, but in the event, I said something else, which was about blogs, that this was one of the first books I'd read that collected BLOG POSTS as well as other kinds of writing. If I'd not thought that I would have said:

Dinesh was a poet. So am I – but I’m not going to read one of his poems. Dinesh wrote short stories. I have now and then - but I’m not going to read one of his. He was a teacher of creative writing, and so am I; he was a blogger and so am I – so I thought it fitting to remember him through this blog (which is still online and I link to it from mine). This is a post coming out of the teaching he did, out of his practice of writing short stories, and it even mentions poetry once or twice (how could it not?).

I then read The Power of Invisibility, posted: April 9, 2011. It may be read in the book, but is of course still on the blog here! The best sentence must be: 'In the short story, we can witness the craft of the writer in its most natural state. We see the rises and falls in the text and know that this is keeping time with the writer’s own breathing.' (It's two sentences I realize now, and the rest is pretty good.)

First review by Sara Maitland here: http://bookoxygen.com/?p=6868

Previous posts about Dinesh are


His blog (linked to the right here) may also be accessed here.

‘Dinesh’s short stories, poems and blogs present a cultural, social and political portrait of life’s many experiences, revealing a panoramic view of society with humour and a poetic rhythm that commands our attention.’ - Levi Tafari

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Supplanting the Postmodern (notes)

Unrevised journal notes on Rudrum, David, and Stavris, Nicholas, eds., Supplanting the Postmodern: An Anthology of Writings on the Arts and Culture of the Early 21st Century. New York, etc: Bloomsbury, 2015. Details here.

 Supplanting the Postmodern
31st December 2015: I’ve just this morning finished Supplanting the Postmodern, a bewildering anthology of views of what happened after postmodernism ‘died’ (a common supposition of the book). While it disgracefully doesn’t mention poetry, and while some of its contributors (‘Stuckism!’) are plainly silly, the common perception that the classic postmodernist ‘dogmas’ (those that are now absorbed and clarified in the summarising literature) no longer fit contemporary (i.e. 21st Century) art, literature, culture, society and technologies, is persuasive.

Rudrum’s afterword brings into play a quote that haunted my reading of the previous 300 pages: Lyotard’s observation that ‘postmodernism is not modernism at its end, but in a nascent state, and that state is recurrent’ (337), which deals deftly with false chronologies (though September 11th, as in my ‘September 12th’, did mark a break for me [See here]) – and also brings a constant sense of crisis to the contemporary. Rudrun’s use of the same parts of Rancière that I use [in The Meaning of Form, see here], to show the oscillation between possible views of the relationships of ‘art’ and ‘life’, and to pitch that view onto some of the ‘post’-postmodernisms projected, to suggest, in a nod back to [Gerald] Graff, that there is a pendulum swing between views (‘metamodernism’ provides this metaphor: we’re swinging between modernist and pomo paradigms, and not settling). There’s no ‘break’.

Stavris, in his afterword, argues that the ‘anything goes’ of Lyotard (what of [Paul] Feyerabend?) has given way to ‘a contemporary culture of anxiety’ in which ‘artists attempt to overcome the uncertainties of the human condition in the twenty-first century by reaching out for a renewed period of sincerity. Authenticity is the new focus for the present day artist. The assertion that “Anything Goes” is no longer the case, nor is it a commonly felt sentiment: the desire for relaxation has been replaced by the desire to formulate some kind of grip on reality… This development has occurred in response to a culture of fear’ (350), a ‘climate of anxiety’ (351). ‘The result is a strong resurgence in the presentation, or rejuvenation, of self-hood and identity …’ (352). ‘The artist is no longer concerned with postmodern displacement strategies; instead, their primary aim is to convey a transition, a positive desire on the part of the subject to reclaim wholeness and selfhood in a globalized culture that is cloaked in uncertainty … Our occupation of a cultural landscape that strives for freedom and autonomy is met with a realigned focus on truth …’ (353). Realisms and experiment co-exist; religion and spirituality haunt the scene … classic return of the repressed, actually.

Does any of this reverberate? Critically, my formalist bent is a return to artistic autonomy and human agency in reading, but then I have never believed ‘the death of the author’ in its common misreadings. A diarist of such prodigious energy, I can hardly have subscribed to the ‘death of the subject’. The birth of the reading subject has always been important [to me]. Something interesting happened towards the end of Warrant Error – the need to assert human values and to express them more directly, [see below] and in the current 14 liners [the sequence ‘It’s Nothing’, see here] I’m finding that they keep vacillating between their fictive constructedness and the desire to attain (I suppose) a realist epistemology. ‘Metaxis … simultaneously here, there, and nowhere’. (325) Oscillation, betweenness, is another theme [of the book, not my poems] (so is the role of technology in creating the appearance of the real, and engendering a (false) sense of human autonomy, represented by the docusoap and the ‘personalized’ playlist, respectively. Of course, ‘fear’ is the fear of economic downturn, terrorism, and eco-disaster, in the above accounts: September 12th and the Era of Immiseration, as co-existent extremes).

Obviously, this summary is too clenched, my reading too recent, to come to conclusions. (Not that I’m trying to: I’m trying to use the book for poetics.) I see parallels with things I’ve been doing, but it is noticeable that most of the referenced art and literature I’ve not [seen or] read. It perhaps strengthens my resolve about parts of my recent work (the end of Warrant Error, the ‘Poems Against Death’, these ‘domestic’ poems [elsewhere I describe ‘It’s Nothing’, half complete, as ‘about domestic qualia, and above all, a kind of haunted John Jamesian pleasure]) that gesture towards selfhood and transparency – though it will never be the simple default mode of the Movement Orthodoxy, still pervasive, I’d say. [Later I write: ‘They do keep reticulating, in the sense of becoming more self-conscious the more they are conscious of self – that diminished, displaced, but present, “me”. See here.]    

The theorists are often clear that art is striving for an autonomy or a freedom that it will never achieve: it refuses the simpler PoMo gesture of articulating a tired resignation in the face of received ‘impossibilities’: it has never seemed persuasive on that front.

I’m not expecting such a book to really tell me what’s going on. In some ways the example of the fossilization of postmodern ideas speaks against such epochal adventures, but it is interesting to see commonalities, in one’s work, and to generally suggest that postmodernism (a term I haven’t used (much) since 1987, when I defined it quite precisely [see ‘Flashlight Propositions 1987, here]) no longer offers a dominant paradigm, that things have shifted. Yet the alternatives don’t convince: they register a general impulse. It doesn’t answer where conceptual writing might lie, where kinds of inventive translation might lie. [See here and here for those.]

The ‘altermodernist (artist) is a homo viator,’ write Vermeulen and Van den Akker of Bourriaud, ‘liberated from (an obsession with) his/her origins, free to travel and explore, perceiving anew the global landscape and the “terra incognita” of history’, (312) a view which suggests that ‘multiform unfinish’ is a strong position, not an evasive one (which was the fear), ‘enthusiasm as well as irony’, (318), ‘to pursue a horizon that is forever receding’ (325).

Trajectory rather than position. Unfinish. [See here and here.]


24th April 2016: The entry ends there; perhaps I'm trying to pick up a few themes I thought I’d not captured already, particularly ‘enthusiasm’. I interestingly pass over the ‘religious’ aspects (although I remember thinking that humanists and the Brights might have something to fight for and against at last, not least of all in response to killings of secular academics in  Bangladesh and elsewhere). The observation that postmodernism and post-post modernism will co-exist remained undeveloped but is present at a couple of points. They were, are, notes I want to come back to. Here are two poems that seem to have been in the back of my mind, from the end of Warrant Error (see here):

Two poems from ‘Out of Nowhere’ from Warrant Error

You build from song
an architecture of tumbles

a dance of stumbles on a shelf of air.
You name this the space left by the human.
You excavate Babylon or the strata of resting Jews
and the ribbons of tight ink on Pinkas Synagogue wall
with the surnames’ bejewelled rubrication

(Whenever erased they’re re-written
the act of their scrubbing
inscribed anew)

Stones leaning splinter through time
for those with no names
possess no death. You ex-
hume the ex-human in human unfinish


After the Last Word
of the dead text necrophiles come
our next words
which yet survive

as reasons
for living happily out
of nowhere and now

and then on to multitopia bearing
the stories so far

whose passions read as co-
eval becomings
geographies of affect in
capital Isness where
human unfinish is all about

The first also appears in my Selected Poems History or Sleep (unlike the second, which, incidentally, is a collage of quotatioins from everybody from Philip Roth to Doreen Massey). See here for details.