Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Edge Hill Enemies: Luke Thurogood and Brendan Quinn

See here for my details of the North by North West tour and about the Edge Hill evening, of which I was the local curator. Luke and Brendan are both students of the MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill, but as they are in different years, they'd not worked together before.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A chapter on Twentieth Century Blues in Mark Scroggins' The Mathematical Sublime

Mark Scroggins, a fine poet and scholar of Zukofksy (among others) has collected a number of his essays on subjects ranging from Andrew Marvell to Rae Armantrout, Beowulf to Ronald Johnson, from the high modernists to Language Poetry and the contemporary avant-garde. He also includes his piece on my Twentieth Century Blues which I have had in manuscript for many years. It is great to see it collected in this volume, The Mathematical Sublime from The Mad Hat Press. (Details here)

Marjorie Perloff's blurb hits the feel of the book just about right:

What makes the fugitive reviews and informal essays collected in The Mathematical Sublime so remarkable is that their author is unpredictably brilliant and persuasive about such a wide-ranging and seemingly eclectic body of work. What other critic could move so readily between Language Poetry and the New Formalism, between anthologies of  contemporary secular Jewish poetry and the theological niceties of Geoffrey Hill, between Robert Sheppard’s Twentieth Century Blues and Susan Howe’s “hauntologies”? … You never quite know which poetries or critical studies he will like, but he is always persuasive in making his case for them…. It’s an electrifying performance!

Follow Mark's blog here

And there's a lot more about Twentieth Century Blues here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Edge Hill Enemies videos: James Byrne and Cathy Butterworth

See here for my details of the North by North West tour and about the Edge Hill evening, of which I was the local curator. James Byrne and Cathy Butterworth both work at Edge Hill, and this is their first collaboration, an exploration of the term which overarches the evening: THE ENEMY (as in Pound and Wyndham Lewis).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Edge Hill Enemies: Mark Greenwood and Jonathan Hartley

See here for my details of the North by North West tour and about the Edge Hill evening, of which I was the local curator. Mark Greenwood here reads alone although Jonathan's music can be heard over the speakers. Mark runs the Gramophone Raygun poetry reading series in Liverpool.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Storm and Golden Sky: We're Calling it a Day (a Friday, actually)

Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee reading September 2016

After nearly three years, the organisers of Storm and Golden Sky have decided to call it a day. The decision, I think, was made by the three remaining organisers fairly independently. I definitely felt that the Allen Fisher reading felt like the end, as I organised it alone. It was a great reading, but I couldn’t quite see into the future for another event. None had been arranged.

I’m proud of what we achieved and I was surprised (given I’ve also been smoothly running poetry readings at Edge Hill since 1998-ish (take a look here for a description of that series) and was part of the Sub-Voicive Readings in London for a number of years before that, not to mention the Collected Works readings at our house a few years ago) how difficult it was. The runaround to find another venue for the Brown-Corcoran reading was a steep learning curve. (The staff at Bluecoat were wonderful in accommodating us.) The moment when Elly and I managed to lock ourselves out of that reading (which was in full flow) and our immediate and uncontrollable hysterics perhaps sums it all up.

It was good to organise readings for some of the great writers of our time (look at the list) but I also particularly enjoyed meeting people I didn’t know before, who delighted by their performances: Sophie Collins, Claire Potter, Sophie Mayer, Lauren De Sa Naylor and Nathan Walker. 

A (hopefully) Complete List of Storm and Golden Sky readings in the Caledonia, Liverpool

Organised by Eleanor Rees, Robert Sheppard, Michael Egan, Nathan Jones (with Michael dropping out during 2015)

February 28th 2014: Crispin Best and Melissa Lee-Houghton (with 10 minute sets by Eleanor Rees, Robert Sheppard, Michael Egan, Nathan Jones).

March 21st 2014: Sarah Corbett and Lee Harwood

April 25th 2014: Keston Sutherland and Zoe Skoulding

May 30th 2014: Joanne Ashcroft and Rhys Trimble (with short set by Nathan Jones)

June 27th 2014: Evan Jones and Holly Pester

July 18th 2014: Helen Tookey and Niall Campbell

September 26th 2014: Sophie McKeand and Tom Jenks

October 31st 2014: Richard Barrett and Sophie Collins

November 28th 2014: Steve McCaffery and Karen MacCormack (with short set three voice piece by Robert Sheppard, Jo Blowers and Steve Boyland. Steve also performed briefly with Steve McCaffery as HEN STEP)

January 30th 2015: Claire Potter and Tim Atkins

February 27th 2015: Luke Kennard and Claire Trévien

March 27th 2015: Maggie O’Sullivan and Chris McCabe

April 24th 2015: Tim Allen and JR Carpenter

May 29th 2015: Ross Sutherland and Patricia Farrell

June 26th 2015: Andy Brown and Kelvin Corcoran (with long supporting set by Maria I. Bennett). This reading occurred at Bluecoat.

July 31st 2015: Eleanor Rees and Robert Hampson

September 25th: Natasha Borton and John Redmond

October 30th 2015: Alan Halsey, Geraldine Monk with singer Steve Boyland

November 27th 2015: Sandeep Parmar and Robert Sheppard (with short set by Adam Hampton)

January 29th 2016: James Byrne and Leanne Bridgewater

February 26th 2016: Lizzie Nunnery and Scott Thurston

April 29th 2016: Nathan Jones and Sarah Crewe (with short set by Abigail Goodhart)

May 27th 2016: Sophie Mayer and Jeff Hilson

June 24th 2016: Mark Greenwood and Rachel Sills

July 22nd 2016: Lauren De Sa Naylor and Nathan Walker (Liverpool Biennial Fringe Event)

September 30th 2016: Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee (Liverpool Biennial Fringe Event)

October 28th 2016: Yvonne Reddick and (Andrea Brady was ill so Robert Sheppard, Patricia Farrell, James Byrne and Tim Allen read with very little preparation)

November 25th 2016: Allen Fisher and (Linda Stupart was ill so 8 Edge Hill poetry writing students read: Rob Edge, Brendan Quinn, Phil Carter, Izzy Lamb, Bill Bulloch, Jen Murphy, Laura Tickle and one other with a couple of days preparation)

NB: Hannah Silva read a short set at one of the earliest readings.  

That’s exactly 70 readers by my counting, which is a hit to be proud of.
Reading photographs of Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee, Charles, Susan and Robert Sheppard © and courtesy of Adam Hampton: September 30th 2016.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Edge Hill Enemies Video: Robert Sheppard and Joanne Ashcroft (Matus Dobres of the EUOIA)

Joanne and I read three poems from our collaboration, the fictional poems of Matúš Dobeš of the European Union Of Imaginary Authors (see here and here for more on both).

See here for my details of the North by North West tour and about the Edge Hill evening, of which I was the local curator and for links about the EUOIA project and the 28 poets us make it up (and they did make it up).
I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology.  It will be called Twitters for a Lark and here is its cover:

A bit more on Joanne here. See her blog on my blogroll. And on it you'll be able to read her take on the event, but here it is for speed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Portable Poetry Workshop; my chapter and others'

I have a chapter in this new creative writing volume, 'Taking Form: Experimental and Avant Garde Forms', where I try to squeeze in Language Poetry, Concrete Poetry, Language Poetry (particularly 'writing through' and 'poet's prose') and Conceptual Writing. It is the result of handouts and explanations I have given to my third year Poetry and Innovative Form class over some years. It's quite contentious (one section is entitled 'What Was Free Verse?'

It is also a practical take on the attitude to form I develop in my book The Meaning of Form (see here), a transpostion of its thesis of which I am proud.

One class handout is referred to in my bibliography to my contribution, and I provide a link to this beefed up list of experiments (I was summarising the kinds of stuff in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing  ed. Dworkin, C, and Goldsmith, K., Evanston: Northwestern Uni, 2011.) here. I wonder if more people will access it. (Fewer have looked at it so fa than my purely academic takes on CP.) 

See here for details of the book. My thanks to the generous editor Nigel McLoughlin (one of my ex-colleagues on the HE Committee of NAWE).

I recommend it, since there is a balance between, for example, expected accounts of the sonnet and a surprising and welcome chapter on Muriel Rukeyser.

The full contents are:



1. Varieties of The Sonnet; Nigel McLoughlin
2. Terza Rima; Martin Figura
3. The Villanelle; Siobhan Campbell
4. The Ballad; Paul Hardwick
5. Sestinas; Barbara Smith
6. The Ode; Tony Williams
7. Modern Syllabics; Claire Crowther
8. Blank Verse; Ros Barber
9. Vers Libre/Free Verse; Todd Swift
10. The Prose Poem; Carrie Etter
11. Taking Form: Experimental and Avant Garde Forms; Robert Sheppard
12. Spatial Form; Mario Petrucci


13. Prosody; J. T. Welsch
14. Rhyme; Angela Topping
15. Simile; Andrea Holland
16. Metaphor; Nigel McLoughlin
17. How to Make a Woman Disappear: Extended Metaphor in 'Waiting for Bluebeard'; Helen Ivory
18. Irony is for Losers; Kevin Higgins
19. Dramatic Monologue; Barbara Smith
20. Humour in Poetry; Todd Swift
21. Imagery; Ashley Lister
22. Persona; Angela France
23. Voice; Andrea Holland
24. The Singing Within; Ann Drysdale


25. Gerard Manley Hopkins: Sprung Rhythm, Inscape & Instress; Nigel McLoughlin
26. Towards a Reading of 'The Mountain' by Robert Frost; Siobhan Campbell
27. Amy Lowell: Common Sense Readings; Ashley Lister
28. Eliot and Pound: The Better Makers; Todd Swift
29. The Meaning of Meaning: William Empson; Claire Crowther
30. Gertrude Stein: Poetry and Grammar; J. T. Welsch
31. Charles Olson's Projective Verse: The Breath and the Line; Kate North
32. Frank O'Hara: Personism; Barbara Smith
33. William Carlos Williams: Music and Machines; Susan Millar DuMars
34. Maurice Scully and the Avant Garde; Paul Perry
35. When is a Riddle not a Riddle?; Helen Ivory
36. Muriel Rukeyser: The Social Role of Poetry; Claire Crowther

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Edge Hill Enemies Videos: Patricia Farrell and Chris McCabe

There is definitely a body buried in this one, perhaps something to do with the bodily parts that show up somewhere in this exchange of words, by two of the touring company of poets on the tour. See here for my details of the North by North West tour and about the Edge Hill evening, of which I was the local curator. Chris read here before, here; Patricia's poetry as links and videos here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Robert Sheppard: More Wiped Weblogs (Empty Diaries) in Blackbox Manifold 17

The final six 'Wiped Weblogs' (2009-2014) have appeared in a wonderful edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here. Thanks for publishing them, Adam.

'Wiped Weblogs' is a sequence dealing with sexual politics, generally narrated from the point of view of a woman. These recent ones use a lot of internet flarf and detritus, combined with references to the first recorded uses of various technologies (and their jargons, like ‘selfies’) and first uses of various sexual practices (and their jargons, e.g., ‘pegging’). I see them as a sort of egregious Tom and Jerry sequence with several characters (like Fuckeye and Stonehead) running through them. (The cat Gruntcakes and the dog Gruffnuts never made it into the final mix.) Everything gets excessive, even the line-lengths. They are continuations of the 'Empty Diary' strand that ran through Twentieth Century Blues, 1901-2000). The first eight 'Wiped Weblogs' appeared in The Literateur. Find them here or here.

The rest of the Winter 2016 issue 17 of Blackbox Manifold contains other work by Linda Anderson, Tom Betteridge, Adam Burbage, Stephen Burt, James Byrne, Sophie Collins, Joey Connolly, Adam Flint, Jane Goldman, Thomas Kelly, Chris Kerr, Eric Langley, Dorothy Lehane, Tan Lin, Jaki McCarrick, Gail McConnell, Joseph Minden, Ian Patterson, Ronnie Sirmans, Oliver Southall, Matthew Sweeney, Charles Tarlton, Ken Taylor, Jonty Tiplady, Samuel Tongue. John Tamplin interviews Keston Sutherland, Peter Larkin reviews Peter Riley, and Adam Piette reviews the new Eliot, Denise Riley, Charlotte Newman, and essays on J.H. Prynne. Lots of good stuff:


 A general piece on my sonnet-writing may be read here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Robert Sheppard: The Drop published a year ago today!

The Drop

an elegy to my father was published a year ago today, details here.

More links here.

The Drop is reviewed here by Ian Brinton, and by Alan Baker, here, and Steve Waling reviews it along with my Unfinish here

My prose eulogy to my father, Claude H. Sheppard (1924-2013), may be read on Pages here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Talk for the Open Eye Gallery on Poetry and Photography December 2016

Talk for the Open Eye Gallery (scheduled for December but undelivered through illness!)

for Ideas Lab on Writing and Photography 


14 December 2016


An ideas lab inviting writers and photographers to think collaboratively about their practice.
Robert Sheppard, Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Edge Hill University, was to have spoken about the possibilities and potential of collaboration between photography and poetry, and collaborating with Trev Eales (http://www.trev-eales.co.uk)

Writer and photographer Chris Routledge (camera always at hand) probably did speak about the Jupiter Project – a collaboration between Chris and new generation poet, Rebecca Goss.

The event was organised by the wonderful Pauline Rowe, poet in residence,and I thank her for kickstarting this project!

Ekphrasis: I’ve always hated the word, because it seemed to mystify something that seemed to me second nature, because it seems to me to ennoble, with its Hellenic majesty, the act of doing something ignoble. There’s a whiff of euphemism about it. One of the widely used definitions of ekphrasis only heightens my disquiet; James Heffernan calls it ‘the verbal representation of a visual representation’. (Miller 2015: 11) This evokes the fear that it is unnecessary at best, parasitic at worst. There are great poems ‘about’ (or roundabout) images, but the best carry a transformative twist, such as Michael Davidson’s ‘The Landing of Rochambeau’, which turns out not be a verbal representation of an historical painting, but is the representation of a representation of a representation; it’s about a postage stamp featuring the painting; the postmark obscures significant details. (Messerli 1994: 681-3). Unless the act of forming involves such transformation it seems invalid as art.
Although I make use of photography – or rather, photographs – there are very few straight ekphrastic exercises in my poetry; the one recent example I carried out under the guise of a Czech fictional writer, Jitka Průchová, whose Poems Ekphrastic and Plastic re-write the imagery of the tragic photographer Bohumil Krčil and the surrealist photomontagist Jindřich Štyrský. My fictional poems are all about doing what I don’t let myself do under my own name.(See here here and here)
In simple terms, and ignoring differences of medium, my practice seems to have been blithely to take a lot of details from lots of photographs from both selected and random sources, and to use them in literary collages that are analogues for the photomontages these scraps might have made, in acts of what I call ‘creative linkage’ (when I’m writing about the kinds of accelerated collage one finds in the work of a poet like Allen Fisher, for example).  It’s not always easy (though it’s also not always impossible) to trace words back to image, but it will be an equivalent verbal fragment for a visual fragment, to parody the definition of ekphrasis itself. An example of ‘selection’ is ‘Shutters’, which I wrote for the dancer Jo Blowers, which used the ectoplasmic mist of early photographs, Lady Hawarden’s well-known images of her daughters in diaphanous interiors. The poems deform the perceived or remembered images. (See here) An example of ‘random’ – by which I mean less motivated, ‘found’ – is my long exploration of sexual politics, ‘Empty Diaries’, one poem for each year of the twentieth century, and which was a creative linkage using (amongst many other stretches of language) writings drawn from squinting at – literally, using them as flash cards – photographs of all kinds, from photojournalism to art photography, related to the appropriate year. (See 1956 here. and 1990 here) I remember Bill Brandt furnishing images of the 1930s, and Cindy Sherman (to whom one diary is dedicated) for the 1970s. This is an extensive project, but I have domesticated and tamed the method for an intermittent series of poems, ‘Burnt Journals’, that I make for people’s birthdays, usually poems knocked off in a bit of a hurry. It’s easier to demonstrate the method and the source: I make pragmatic and singular use of Tom Phillips’ wonderful year by year collection The Postcard Century. I use the postcard images – they are mostly photographic – in a montagist way to produce the short poems; images bleed, are read and then written as superimposed. Here’s

 Burnt Journal 1939

for Lee Harwood at 70

a not particularly disruptive collage:

The sergeant under the umbrella splashes Bovril
as he carries a cup to the private on duty.
It’s all part of the service of the services,
it seems, in this dream that you’re marched into.

The Cenotaph crouches under billowing silks
as a new red bus putters up Whitehall.
The colony of Belisha beacons flashes in harmony
lukewarm but welcome like a pie.

Everybody’s aunt assembles by the ambulances,
masks tested for when the city turns to mustard.
Their perforated snouts chorus submarine melodies,
rubbery inhalant hallelujahs! The last pleasure

boat is moored, the boathouse padlocked. Time
is serving time, commandeered for the duration.

In none of these cases would I want the images to be presented with the poems, even if there were any clear descriptive correlation left, which there is in this example. This makes me guilty of what Andrew D. Miller calls ‘suppressed ekphrasis’ (Miller 2015: 6) I don’t always feel the need to acknowledge the sources, although another recent sequence, ‘Out of the Way’ from Warrant Error (my book dealing with, as the title suggests, the war on terror, see here  - and here for poems), fully acknowledges its sources, and says it ‘owes to the photographers Marieke van der Velden, Rodribo Abd, Stepanie Sinclair, Newsha Tavakolian, featured in the exhibition Risk, at Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam,’ which I saw and bought the catalogue to use. (Sheppard 2009: 119) But even here I pick and choose from more than one photograph. Here’s ‘Afghanistan’, a poem which has subsequently been re-articulated by the American calligrapher Thomas Ingmire, so it has a long collaborative life. (See here) Its grim details are the grim details of the photographs; the rest is my imagining.


Like a figure in a dream of perfect falling
Like something from somewhere like hell

You were the dark-eyed girl who crept out
Before the pink meat dawn to spy
The growling machines while the whole town
Still dreamt of exactly what she saw

Night vision green flecked with sparks
And clouds of vectoral vapour pouring across
Sun-baked gravel where a human head severe
And severed scarved in crackling plastic
Resurrected. She dived through coils of barbed wire

She ran her oily fingers along the sealed walls
Of the outsiders as though reading their secret script
Or leaving her own

Mesopotamia was written in 1985 and first published with images, the photocopymontages of Patrica Farrell, one of our many Ship of Fools collaborative publications (see above). The text used found images and my great uncle’s contact prints from the First World War that were too faint for Patricia to collage into her images, but other photographs were used (we shared some, but not all) for both image and text, but they possess a relative autonomy in the final product. The prose text, though, is extremely collaged:

One step backwards, and you’re gone, waking to a dream of dawn, over which wild cat’s eyes, carved into the arm of the chair, close her head. She turns away to reveal a veined neck, set between the cool brass. No, that was somebody trying to locate the morning – my chest covered with flies – a history of sensation on the streets. You’re here because that same courtyard, or so I fancied, was the studied flight of stairs until I can take only one sentence at a time. The peep show stilled at the word halting.

My daily practice of writing – it either gathers notes for poems or remain as exercises in keeping ‘writing fit’ – usually uses photographs, and to simplify, one source has been returned to regularly, the German artist, Hans-Peter Feldmann’s book Voyeur, a collection of all kinds of photographs, indeed, all the types I’ve habitually used elsewhere: from art photography to vernacular snapshots, from pornography to advertising. Like Tom Phillips’ book it saves me work but acts as an explanatory tool, and introduces minatory caution. The daily practice throws up the dangers of ekphrasis, even the repressed ekphrasis, the flash-card squinting, or the flick book approach to images, the long naïve gaze that either reads materials as reality or fantasy, that I favour: that is, the freezing in language of the decisive (or indecisive) moment, the danger of static description, often indicated by the use of persistent present tense, the focus exclusively ocular and suppressing the other (necessarily imagined) senses. The answer lies, for me, in my certainty that to be formed, an ekphrastic text might fragment, unform, deform, re-form, equivalent or non-equivalent verbal fragments and linkages and assemblages, but, to succeed, it must transform the given, or transcend its sources. Even if the photographs – photography itself – becomes invisible. Miller even talks of ‘anti-ekphrasis’. (Miller 2015: 6-7)
Miller also says that Heffernan states that there is a ‘representative friction between the ekphrasis and materials of the ekphrastic object’. (Miller 2015: 11) If so, I wish to make fire from that friction, to go much further – his model of the literary is more conventional than mine. ‘Ekphrasis … is dynamic and obstetric’ he comments, beginning well. But when he adds that ‘it typically delivers from the pregnant moment of visual art its embyronically narrative impulse, and thus makes explicit the story that visual art tells only by implication’, he may be descriptive of others’ practice, no doubt, but not mine, with creative linkage working against narrative if not narrativity; (Miller 2015: 11) But my poetics can only be indicative about this.
            I have collaborated a good deal – I have used the photographs Patricia and I took of North London to produce the Ship of Fools booklet, Looking North, and those taken by Pete Clarke of the buildings around Liverpool docks; some of my words appear in his prints (see here) – but I have never worked with a photographer per se. A friend of 42 years standing, Trev Eales is a well-known photographer specialising in images of performing musicians and his work may be found on his website. (Here) He has worked both freelance and as commissioned by various festivals and websites. He has exhibited and also won prizes for his work. We decided to collaborate and met in late November to discuss it.   

[What follows are my fascinating notes for progression. As ever, poetics is 'speculative', which means it is not projecting or predicting what will happen; it is enabling. In my case I follow almost none of what follows. Instead it turned out like THIS]

There needs to be an overarching structure. I suggested sets of three images accompanied (below it) by three texts. I was thinking of triptych form but Trev’s term ‘trios’ seems better because it suggests music (and could be a possible title). Short largish print (thinking of exhibition or webpage presentation). Trev pointed out that his work was largely landscape in shape despite being mainly portraits.   

Trev’s role in the project is (since the images already exist) to select, assemble and order the images (left to right we thought: the convention of English language reception would take hold as part of the total ‘textimage’). His principles of selection could include but not be limited to:

formal relations (e.g, all close ups, all left or right facing, or not; or the relationship of colour(s)),

thematic relations (eg. all male guitarists, or Alex Turner ageing) or

(hidden and unheard): musical relations (e.g. all acoustic blues players).

Or combinations of all of these, and contrasts within those or other categories (not necessarily consciously chosen: the selection could be an intuitive act!) We discussed crowd scenes and festival scenes, celebrated instantly recognisable faces (Keith Richard, St Vincent) as against lesser-known performers. It’s clear that the complexities of selection involve enough aesthetic and practical decision-making on Trev’s part to say that he is ‘making’ the work anew by arranging his trios.     
      ↔ □
There would exist a kind of lateral vibration between the three images of the trio.

Robert then writes three texts to go with each. Each would have a relationship with its corresponding image, and form a unit (not a descriptive or subsidiary relationship; more on this later). We discussed how long and (in spatial terms) each would be. I decided to revert to word counting procedures and we settled on texts of 36 words in 2 stanzas of 3 lines with 6 words per line.
The writings would strive to construct an ‘intermedial intimacy’ between text and image to form a compound ‘textimage’. (Miller 2016: 172) But of course, my assumption that the text would go beneath the image begs a question that might only be answered once we proceed.


There would also be a textual relationship (another lateral vibration) between the three poems. You’d read them left to right but there would still be a push and pull backwards, as with the images.

In total, each ‘textimage’ to adopt one of Andrew Miller’s terms, would amount to a big ‘textimage’ which would ‘operate’ (if that’s the right word) like this:  

      ↔ □
        ↔ ■
Outside of each ‘textimage’ and outside the big ‘textimage’ (as above) there would still be music, or the sense of musical performance, a silent partner to the ‘intermedial intimacy’ of the whole (Miller 2016: 172?) An ever-present complicating factor. The centre and absence of the entire project. Ideal reception conditions: absolute silence, anechoic chamber! Again, the spatial relations could be disrupted:, e.g, a triangular relationship might be necessary in exhibition spaces, and a landscape publication might not be practical. But the textimage would help me, for one, to conceptualise the project and stimulate the process.

We decided titles and/or references would be placed outside the text-image, in an index or catalogue.

Notes on text: They would not ‘describe’ the images. They have no need to, given they would be displayed with the images. Neither would they substitute for the music(s). How could they? To operate in an even more oblique fashion than before, but not to make the texts too complex, to be read by a ‘viewer’ rather than a reader. 

November 2016

The North by North West Poetry Tour in Ormskirk (set list Joanne Ashcroft and me)

The North by North West Poetry Tour comprises over sixty poets collaborating in pairs to produce brand new collaborative works for performance, commissioned for each event, over six nights in January and February 2017. Tonight it went to Edge Hill University, Ormskirk~ here's Nathan Walker and Amy Cutler:

the pairs of poets for this ark and archive:

Tom Jenks and Tim Allen 
Jessica Tillings and Jazmine Linklater
Adam Hampton and Matt Fallaize
Luke Thurogood and Brendan Quinn
James Byrne and Cathy Butterworth
Mark Greenwood and Johnathan Hartley
Martin Palmer and Laura Tickle
Chris McCabe and Patricia Farrell
Robert Sheppard and Joanne Ashcroft (set list below)
Amy Cutler and Nathan Walker (picture above)

Everybody was on form, with a variety of tone, and focus, from politics to pataphysics and back again, some strong work from the touring core and from the local pairings including many poets from Edge Hill, who have appeared on this blog before. Well done everyone!

More on the tour here. Videos of all performances are viewable on that sight too, though I have embedded them all on this blog!

Joanne and I read (see video below) the poems of Matúš Dobeš of the European Union Of Imaginary Authors (see here and here for more on both)
And did more than 40 mushers from eight European countries
eat our rich food, pig-killing with rigidly clenched lips
and slightly restrained záviny? Did somebody in Slovakia
abuse my face to skip lunch, and was that someone you?  (Ashcroft and Sheppard: unpublished)
Tiger C. Roholt says, ‘We often understand things we deal with through our boldily actions.’ (Roholt 2014: 99; I'm writing through his book Groove to construct a treatise on metre. This is what I wrote today.) Reading collaborative EUOIA poems last night, under theatre lights, the floor disappeared and was an expanse of black with no edges, no horizon, though it reflected the lights in a blinding pool of glitter at my aching feet. I lost sense of my own balance, but wasn’t sure what sense it was.
            This is all on the other side of skill.
            I held on to the microphone stand, heard the sound of my grip over the speakers, while Joanne Ashcroft read her lines from our poems.
            Habit (like riding a bike, touch typing, motility) suggests poetry performance is continual performance, not this waiting, which cannot be ennobled as listening. Waiting with my two uncertain unrhythmic feet, for my voice to steady me:

                                     I glide off into Perspex fountains, sculptures
celebrating black holes, in slow-time now the work I was
to do is done, I weave ways out of these eternal prisons. (Ashcroft and Sheppard: unpublished)

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, in time for the EUOIA evening at The Other Room, Manchester.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Janis Raups of the EUOIA: poems on Stride (Me and Simon Perril)

Simon Perril (see a kind of hub post on his work here) and I collaborated on the fascinating figure of the Latvian fictional poet Janis Raups. His work (and a copy of his autobiography appear on Stride magazine here: or: 


He likes Scott Walker we think, so here is the album (cover image particularly) referenced. Scott Walker is colour blind.

Thanks to Rupert Loydell, as ever!

Read more on the EUOIA here and here.And on Raups here.
I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology.  It will be called Twitters for a Lark and will look like this:


Monday, January 16, 2017

Juliet Troy answers questions about her new KFS book MOTHERBOARD

This academic year, I taught Motherboard  by Juliet Troy, a new Knives Forks and Spoons book I’d liked since before publication (I’d been asked to write a blurb for it but I was pushed for time) as the so-called 'Reading as a Writer' text to my ‘Poetry and Landscape’ poetry writing group. Following last year's practice (when I asked Alan Baker to submit to email interrogation about his book, Whether, see here) I asked Juliet if she would answer questions supplied by the class as a whole. Her generous responses to questions are reproduced below. Details of the book here

  1. Why do you ultilise space rather than conventional punctuation in these poems? I’ve used these ‘breathing spaces’ in most of the poems because I was thinking that as endangerment of species, cultures and ecosystems is to a great extent a result of the world’s consumerist culture, rhetoric, languages and the conventional grammatical constrictions utilised, then I should be experimenting with changes in form that could make the work somehow more organic and alive, more connected to and more like nature.

  1. Two questions about the poem ‘And Other Cetaceans’:
    1. Some of us were baffled by some of the jumps within the poem. What has the boy in the rain get to do with the whales ‘and other cetaceans’ later in the poem? Basically all the seemingly disconnected facets of the poem were all flying at me at once. I was in a department store café in Hemel Hempstead on the top floor – large glass windows, torrential rain, a series of massive billboards on the roundabout below, a child running about the café and two newspapers in front of me, one with the picture of dead herring with a story about beaching of Cetaceans. With the noise of the rain, I felt as if I was in a storm at sea. Everything got collaged down onto the page at once. Later when revising the poem, the child, the advertising billboards, the cetaceans, all seemed essential components of the ecosystem of the poem each representing different facets of endangerment of species, culture and climate.
    2. ‘From periphery to periphery’: is the emphasis on impaired vision a reference to human blindness to ecological ‘relational connections’? Yes in a way I was referencing edges of the billboard or the way advertising distorts our ability to see ourselves and our culture as part of the ecosystem.  
  1. Are you pessimistic about the survival of ecosystems? I would like to think that engendering ecological change through an improved connection with nature is not impossible. It may be somewhat optimistic to consider the possibility of an Ecopoem’s ability to change our perceptions of nature, but it is something I think an ecopoetic work should aspire to. Together with input from other disciplines and creative practices, I think culture evolves hopefully in way that our natural environment and ecosystems can be not only sustained, but regenerated. 

4.  We noticed a lot of names of species, for example, lists sometimes of animals and plants we don’t know and of scientific terms which are not familiar. Is the purpose of that to suggest how little we do understand about the ecosystem?

It was not really my aim to suggest how little we know about the ecosystem but rather to  incorporate a linguistic diversity in the landscape of the poem. Not only by including the names of different species but also to include a diversity using words from different languages and disciplines, again, as a kind of escape from the confines of the monolingual strictures imposed by globalisation that result in loss of species and language. In practicality this meant that on occasions when writing, I would prefer the sound of words translated from other languages  to their equivalents in English and so I used them as part of the poems mixed in with other languages.   The use  of ‘Feldlerche’  (German for Field lark)  - in the poem  ‘Rate/ Rhythm of Furrow’ on page 18 is one example.  

5.     Is a poem like an ecosystem? If so, how?
I think a poem or a collection of poems can attempt to in some way echo the multiplicity and connectivity of an ecosystem. Perhaps by including  a diversity of language and by enacting some of the processes of an ecosystem in its construction. In this collection I have tried to enact  the eco-process of recycling by recycling and collaging text from a diversity of sources.  My daily practice for this collection was to fill notebooks with experience of my environment, both my habitat and ranging wider, this included snippets of conversation, interesting or relevant words from exhibitions, significant or resonant news stories and sounds. Text from the notebooks was then re-appropriated and combined with new text on the page to form these poems.  I usually had a specific theme in mind when each poem was written which at times was suggested by a line or a phrase from the notebooks.

6 .We like the cover! Did you choose it/make it and how does it relate to the themes of the book.

I’m glad you like the cover. In my attempt to enact eco processes while writing many of these poems I also made a series of rather peculiar objects with materials recycled from nature. The one on the cover with its feathers  and some what bird-like stance  bounded by wire and with a small chips of computer motherboard at the base seemed to complement the collection as an attempt to remind us of our abuse of nature and the natural, while also being a play on the title ( at least in my mind!) as it has elements that suggest a ‘Motherbird’.

7. We like the title, particularly as it comes from computing. How does that relate to your insistence on the organic (and even, in your last answers, to your sense that the poem is organic).

 The title  came from my feeling that the earth is becoming  like a giant motherboard, You look down a hole in the pavement where repairs are being done and see a confusion of multi-coloured wires. Massive phone towers are appearing everywhere in the countryside everywhere is becoming electric. I suppose that all the electric interconnectivity of our culture in its own way apes the organic interconnectivities of nature. But the installation of so much technology comes at a price for there is with little thought of how it affects the local wildlife and environment and the health of people living nearby.  So my title ‘Motherboard’ very much incorporates my concerns for habitat and environment.

Another inference of the title for me as well as its main eco theme and  play on ‘Motherbird’ was the fact that while I wrote this collection, underlying all of this,  my mother, who died earlier this year, was  very ill in a hospital bed (a kind of Mother-board)with Parkinson’s disease.   This for me tied in with traditional organic resonances of ‘mother nature’ for the title as well the cultural interconnectedness of a vast computer board.

Juliet Troy and the communal voices of WRI 2010 students from Edge

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Review of Rosmarie Waldrop in THE WOLF 34

I have a review of Waldrop's recent Selected Poems, Gap Gardening in The Wolf 34.

Thanks to James and Sandeep for asking me. 

Read an earlier piece on Waldrop's poetics here.

And an account of the chapter it fed into in The Meaning of Form here.

See all the links to The Meaning of Form here.  

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Petrarch 3 published NOW by CRATER Press number 36

'They look fantastic, a great wonderful folding pleasure!' I told the publisher on receiving the package and discovering the unfolding 'map' format.

Crater Press's Richard Parker hits the bullseye: 'Robert Sheppard's spotted a gap in the market—the insatiable need for loads of versions of Petrarch 3!' 

Petrarch 3 is Crater 36: buy here

The Complete Petrarchs of our time and poetics are splendid, but what happens if you dig down and realise version after version of just one sonnet (Petrarch’s third in this case), stuttering in repetition, re-staging it for voice and situation, from a Scouse dog at Christmas (see below) to Jimmy Savile beyond the grave; a twittersonnet or a lengthy semantic poetry translation; a French Symbolist version or a Middle English sonnet? Robert Sheppard’s pamphlet is what happens, leaving a performance of humour, excess, variation, and an uncanny undersong courtesy of Petrarch himself.

These poems came about writing a chapter on Peter Hughes’ and Tim Atkins’ Petrarch collecteds.See here (and read my notes on the Petrarch variations by Peter Hughes and Tim Atkins here, ).

Read the 'original' translation (if you see what I mean) and the doggie version here.
There’s even one in the style of Wayne Pratt here. (I also explain who Wayne Pratt was/is!) 

And you can watch me read some of my 'Petrarch' variations during a reading here

BUT you’ll need to buy the new unfolding/folding 'pamphlet' to access the additional delights of the BDSM Petrarch (see below), the mysterious 1401 sonnet (before Wyatt!), a semantic poetry translation in the style of Stefan Themerson, a twittersonnet, ‘Empty Diary 1327’, Jimmy Savile’s last love poem, a sonnet for a Babestation Babe, not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 French Symboliste versions, and even a National Poetry Day poem. Versioning gone mad.

BIG THANKS to Richard Parker. Remember Crater published Tim Atkins’ COMPLETE PETRARCH' so he's the one who spotted a 'gap in the market'. I knew this derivative derive (as I call it) was asking for the very trouble it provides! It's dated 'January 2016' but it's out, now, January 2017! Read the first review here.
'Why don't they leave me alone?'
I have a post with some links about my sonnet writing here, both the past and the unpublished (untitled: 'The Song Nets' is not a great title, and 'First Sight; Last Look' is too Ian McEwan).

I have written in detail about the writing of Petrarch 3 (see https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/practice-led-piece-on-petrarch-3-from.html )

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Roy Bayfield’s new book Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places

Edge Hill colleague Roy Bayfield’s new book Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2016) is a glorious exploration of Nonreal Places. As the publishers say: 'Among the book’s many characters and diversions are Wetherspoons, Capt. Picard, the Navy Cut sailor, the buried ‘Spirit of Brighton’, Wendy Craig, Harrods, Buddhism’s Six Realms of Desire, ‘Things to Do...’ tourist brochures, Argleton redux, the abyss, strip-lynchets, punk residues, Milton Keynes, multiple identities and an inkling of what the future may hold for thoughtful walkers.' - See more here and here.

 He has had a little influence on my EUOIA project of nonreal poets in that his discovery of Argleton (see here) fed into my borrowing his Argleton University as a place for the Frislandic poet Hróbjartur Ríkeyjarson af Dvala to work for a while (Frisland, like Argleton, turned up on maps in the past) and in the name of the nonreal Edge Hill student Jason Argleton. (For the EUIOA, see here).

Roy comes from Portslade (in Sussex on the South Coast). In one bit he quotes me and explains the Southwick/Portslade conflict thus:

‘I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen…’ wrote Robert Sheppard in his chapbook The Given – a moment forgotten by the writer but remembered in a journal entry from an earlier decade. Robert was raised in Southwick, the town next to Portslade, and such dismissal is perhaps to be expected from the rival place, across the border in West Sussex. Admittedly, Portslade may not be on many people’s radars, at least not consciously so. (Bayfield 2016: 25)

Later after explaining that the face on John Player’s cigarettes was a man from Portslade (so what! we in Southwick say, John Cowper Powys lived here; actually they don’t, nobody cares!) he explains further:

As a child, the border between East and West Sussex, Portslade and Southwick, running at the back of our garden, defined by a footpath and a row of electricity pylons, seemed like such a line. Merely by virtue of being on the other side of the line, Southwick seemed slightly uncanny. (28)

Perhaps I could write, ‘As a child I remembered that the East seemed like East Germany because it meant stepping back into an older generation by visiting grandparents as we crossed the border in the bus.’ But I like the idea of Southwick being uncanny. I do my best: here's the full passage Roy quotes from:

I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen, don’t remember the visit to HMS Collingwood. Inside the cupboard there are scribbled weather-charts. I don’t remember writing a list of stories I’d written. I don’t remember being shot at by somebody from a van. I don’t remember the good programme about Lenin on the radio. I don’t remember debating nuclear warfare in English. I don’t remember Kathy getting too close for comfort. I don’t remember the day Frank Sinatra retired. I remember the Ruby wine at the Romans, the way the barman would loll his tongue from the side of his mouth as he poured the soupy chemical liquid into Tony’s bottles. I don’t remember Doll and Arthur’s caravan at Selsey. I don’t remember witnessing Hitler’s last will and testament. I don’t remember arguing about Fats Waller. I don’t remember trying to define a book. I don’t remember writing a history of the avant-garde. I don’t remember recording Son House off the radio. I don’t remember thinking the prints of Blake ugly when I saw them at the British Museum. I don’t remember when I started writing poetry. I don’t remember getting a harmonica with Green Shield stamps. Or sea and sand with nothing familiar, perhaps a tent of evangelists.           
            I don’t remember David’s bottled fish.... 
The Given is reprinted and only available as part of my autrebiography Words Out of Time: see here and here. Read my account of writing The Given here.

Where I write about space, place and ambulation is in my prose piece, 'In Adopted Space' in Unfinish. Details here. Its first review from Steve Waling here

Here's Roy's response