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