Monday, March 27, 2017


The exhibition about the micro-press Patricia Farrell and I run, Ship of Fools, in the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, has now closed. But I shall be posting photos on this blog soon (after the videos of the readings from the Sheppard Symposium) documenting the exhibition (and therefore the press). Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the exhibition here

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Robert Sheppard on Roy Fisher's ‘Stops and Stations’: part of A Tribute to Roy Fisher

The last time I saw Roy was at the Manchester Literary Festival on18thOctober 2010 (I spoke with Fleur Adcock, Jon Glover, Michael Symmons Roberts, Peter Robinson, and Jeffrey Wainwright, while Ian Pople chaired). Roy sat in the audience and didn't read or speak which felt odd (because we were reading and speaking) but he was was as witty as ever, close up and quiet. The text of of my piece was published on Eyewear and may be read here

I began: 'The invitation to speak about a single poem by Roy Fisher already makes me feel that violence has been inflicted upon the considerable body of work we now possess. Such stringency favours the isolated poem as against the sequence; it seems to me that much of Roy Fisher’s brilliance reveals itself in extended – often serial – works. The single poem conserves its energies in a centrifugal way, looking to itself for its sense of form, finding just enough confirmation of its own viability, its vitality, its need to exist, from its own resources. It seems to me that what we used to call free verse (and we haven’t found a less clumsy term to replace it) requires more of that energy. The poem hangs together by the formal and semantic magnetism of its parts. Fisher speaks of the short poem – and he was much given to the form in the 1970s – as being somewhat like the 3 minute max recordings of his favourite Chicago jazz heroes. Familiar patterns, laced with unfamiliarity. Tight, concise, limited, complete...' Read the rest!

More on Roy Fisher here:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Tentatives (poem for Roy Fisher, offered again IM))


                                    for Roy Fisher at 80

Between buildings brushed
By bitter wind

Bodies chatter
Chilled equivocation

Sliced by splintered screen
Of sinking reflections

As some else
Thing resonates

A minor chord
Among flurries tinkling

Lost in
Tingles of thing

Hoist from the purest
Lyric a catch

To pull up the stepped lines
Silvered in living daylights

A neck ridged with bone barely
Turning on a pillow breathing fast

Obstinate anchorage



Wind cuts sunlight
Leaf-glitter tells you it’s there

Pushes so hard it could bend
Light if you chose to believe

which you do it makes it
cowl like a bush in a gust curling

Into its own grey withdrawal
Terrified of its black heart

Sun’s low disk

Throws long shadows lawns of
Dark stretching back from flaming

Brickwork the faces of buildings
Distant towers

Glint buckled fire for a
Second then gutter

Lost reclaimed
By the order of place some

Where at the periphery stretches
A god created by gospels

That thread between things
Like gossamer like culture       

Note: I am at the moment writing a new poem for Roy, not quite in memoriam, because I wrote it on the train to work in a state where I didn't know whether to believe the single tweet I'd read about his death,, which seemed to appear and then disappear before I left. But the appearance of one of the Roy Fisher doubles who populate Britain (cousins all of the 'actor' who plays the narrator in The Ship's Orchestra) on the bus seemed to be a representative of the neither living nor dead. That's what the poem is about, a veritable Roy Fisher theme in a Roy Fisher wrapping, I hope. I hope it also sees the light of day. By the time I got to work, tweets from authoritative sources acknowedged his passing. And then, later in the day, word of David Kennedy's death. Then later: the London attack. For today, the poem is on the drawing board, as is another Wyatt/Petrarch poem, written this morning, one which glancingly mentions the terrible (but foiled) attack on Westminster Bridge. 14.19

More on Roy Fisher here:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Robert Sheppard IM Roy Fisher: It is Writing (critical piece)

It is Writing

Roy Fisher wrote a poetry that foregrounds its own artificiality, and this itself is foregrounded in the poems of the 1970s, published in The Thing About Joe Sullivan in 1978. Indeed, foregrounding, in the technical sense, involves ‘all salient linguistic phenomena which in some way cause the reader’s attention to shift from the paraphrasable content of a message ... to a focus on the message itself.’ 44 It resists naturalization, in a way of holding a text in suspension, so that its qualities of saying are extended, its fixity in the meaning of the said, delayed.
‘The Only Image’ consists of a series of simple propositions concerning its opening observation, and is as fundamental to Fisher’s poetics as Williams’ similar framing of the wheelbarrow, or even Stevens’ of his snowman, are to theirs:

Salts work their way
to the outside of a plant pot
and dry white.    (DLD, p. 106)

This becomes ‘the only image’ of the title, the only counter in its metaphoric change. ‘The rest,’ the poem states, ‘comes as a variable that shifts/in any part, or vanishes.’ (DLD, p. 106) Linguistic relations, particularly those of metaphor and simile, are as arbitrary and free as they had been in The Cut Pages, although here Fisher is remarking upon the process. The only image can be related, through comparison, to any other. (The ‘salts’ are also, paradoxically, a metaphor for the possibilities of metaphor.)

                                                           I can
compare what I like to the salts,
to the pot, if there’s a pot....

The salts I can compare
to anything there is.
Anything.                (DLD, p. 106 )                         

Metaphor, so distrusted by the Movement Orthodoxy (and used only for domestic and limited defamiliarizations by the Martian poets of the 1980s and after), has a clearly subversive, rather than decorative, rhetorical role. In Riceour’s formulation, it

brings together things that do not go together and by means of the apparent misunderstanding it causes a new, hitherto unnoticed, relation of meaning to spring up between the terms that previous systems of classification had ignored or not allowed.

Fisher has called the poem a ‘formal “work-out”’, adding, ‘For me it’s a work of delight in making the picture of the salts on the plant-pot and using them for that great void’ of linguistic relation which lies open to the poet, the general economy of language’s surplus; since it can be compared to anything, no metaphor or simile need be proffered.46 It is this facility of language that allows for the saying to remain elusive to the power of the said that must inevitably embody it, a game of hide and seek between the metaphor’s fixed vehicle and its indeterminate tenors.
            ‘It is Writing’ defiantly asserts its textuality; it argues for a poetry that frustrates moral interpretation, that implicitly supports the argument of ‘The Only Image’. Poetry becomes foregrounded as the subject of its own discourse, even while the temptations of artifice (in being able to transform suffering) are being ostensibly disavowed.

I mistrust the poem in its hour of success,
a thing capable of being
tempted by ethics into the wonderful.    (DLD, p. 108)

Similar scepticism about the function of poetry is evident in the conditional opening lines of ‘ If I Didn’t’, which denies the possibility of foregrounding its artifice, in one sense, in the very act of undertaking it in another.

If I didn’t dislike
mentioning works of art

I could say
the poem has always
already started, the parapet
snaking away, its grey line guarding
the football field and the sea ...

-          the parapet
has always already started
snaking away, its grey line
guarding the football field and the sea.            (DLD, p. 112)

It is almost as though it were not possible to deal with the epiphany of involuntary memory (‘the looking down/ between the moving frames’) without ‘mentioning works of art’ (DLD, p. 112) The relineation of the repeated report of the perception of the parapet foregrounds the fact of its necessary mediation by a ‘work of art’. The ‘poem’ here contrasts with its anterior memory which, as memory, is also an event. The enjambement of the first occurrence of this phrase attempts to disguise the continuous presence of a particular moment of recollection.
            Part of Fisher’s impulse to de-Anglicize England, is realized through foregrounding the aestheticism of the gaze; years after City he is still on the number 15 bus, thinking with Birmingham and the Midlands. ‘In the Black Country’ uses the simple declarative style Fisher developed during the 1970s, and even opens with a simile, metaphor’s weak cousin.

Dudley from the Castle keep
looks like a town by Kokoschka,

one town excited
by plural perspectives

into four of five
landscapes of opportunity

each on offer
under a selection of skies.         (P55-87, p. 106)

Fisher distances the empirical Dudley by prolonging the reader’s apprehension of the town, a classic act of defamiliarization. The last line, ‘Art’s marvellous’, is sardonic about the use of art to achieve this, even while the reader is made aware of the possibilities of the actual Midlands town through the incongruous art of Kokoschka; the temptation of the wonderful is suspended. Dudley achieves ‘clarity’ through the very ‘confusion’ of its confrontation with the expressionist style of Kokoschka’s landscapes; the reader’s perception of both has been revitalized and altered; an alternative ethic to that of the wonderful and the marvellous is asserted.
There is a certain instability in the textual voice that ‘mistrusts’ the poem. It is most often a disembodied voice, a position, that the reader reads. As Barthes writes, ‘Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance saying I; language knows a “subject”, not a “person”.’ 47 Fisher dramatizes this lightly, in a poem which, complete with title and dedication opens:

Of the Empirical Self and for Me

for M.E.

In my poems there’s seldom
any I or you

            you know me, Mary.   (DLD, p. 109)

Thus the poetic discourse opens self-consciously with a series of puns on its title and the name of the dedicatee, a playfulness at the level of the signifier unusual in Fisher’s work that represents the unstable nature of the self that is barely represented in the text. The empirical self is cut off from its own ‘me’. ‘Me’ is also the ‘M.E.’, the addressed Mary of the text, who is also, ‘linguistically’ as Barthes would say, the position ‘you’. Pronominal usage of ‘I’ and ‘you’ is rejected, but only by their very assertion; ‘the “I” is always located unlocatably,’ as Bell and Lland assert. 48 Each becomes a possible position for the other and the first person plural is fastidiously avoided to preclude intersubjective agreement. However, despite this playful beginning, rhetorical austerity returns; attention shifts from the instability of the self to the nature of that self’s self-confirming apparatus of sense data and perceptual instabilities. Merleau-Ponty claimed that the blending of intersubjective perceptions confirmed the world; Fisher seems to argue the opposite. The poem is concerned, moreover, with that area of tension between the fictive and the real already examined, though now from the point of view of the discrepancies between the self and its perceptual construction in making the world. The night, innocently presented at first, nevertheless limits perception until the empirical selves are once more unstable: ‘two invisible ghosts’. (DLD, p. 109) The senses have defeated their own claims to clarity and replaced it with comic confusion.

A tall man passes
with what looks like a black dog.
He stares at the milk, and says
            It’s nice to be able
            to drink a cup of
            coffee outside at night ... (DLD, p. 109)

Once the man has vanished, this confusion prompts the question, ‘ So-/ What kind of a world?’ (DLD, p. 109) The world is constructed by agents of perception with all their phenomenological indeterminacies; reality is a spectral trace, a mark (those frequent Fisher lexes), something almost artificial, photographically printed: ‘lightning-strokes repeatedly/bang out their reality-prints’. (DLD, p. 109)
‘The Poet’s Message’ continues this enquiry by opening with two parallel questions about the function of subjectivity and text, what kind of ‘message’ and what kind of ‘man/comes in a message?’ (DLD, p. 108) The second of the questions seems more engaging and elicits not so much a clear response as a teasing confession. Its tone is assertive, while its own ‘message’ – the first unanswered question - is curiously oblique and conditional.

I would

get into a message if I could
and come complete
to where I can see
what’s across the park:
and leave my own position
empty for you in its frame. (DLD, p.108)

The self is only the validating principle of the poem insofar as it is an absence, or a ‘position’ in Barthes’ sense. It stands behind the point where the scene focuses on the artificial retina of a camera, and its ‘message’ would ideally be the unmediated view of a characteristic park, which it knows to be an impossibility. The view is blocked by the absent self’s paradoxical self-consciousness. Not much of a man comes in a message, but enough, in this case, to frustrate realistic description.
City had, of course, used memories of a vanishing Birmingham, but the role of memory and its loss, its correlative shadow, become problematic in Fisher’s work of the 1970s. Most of these poems are quite slender with little evidence of metrical contour, and consist of brief, almost gnomic, propositions upon their subjects. In the case of ‘On the Open Side’, Fisher attempts ‘getting Proust down to matchbox proportions’, as he jokingly put it. Not only is the memory fleeting and involuntary, it seems eternal, pre-linguistic, and – more importantly – autonomous:

                        - the other life,
the endless other life,
endless beyond the beginning   

... holds and suddenly presents

a particular, but totally insignificant scene to the mind. (P55-87, p. 111) ‘That was all,’ the poem concludes, ‘Something the other life wanted - / I hadn’t kept it.’ (P55-87, p. 111) The self is disrupted by this autonomous image, strangely significant with its haunting insignificance, its doubtful value. Elsewhere, in surprise, the narrator says,

                                    So I start
at the single recurrence of a counter
I expect never to need.             (P55-87, p. 135)

Unlike Proust, the recurrence does not involve the recovery of the past. Fisher is ‘fascinated with memory,’ because of its non utilitarian nature; ‘I’m impressed by its disregard for time and narrative sense. Or even for the simplest categories of thought’.  The ‘counter’ can’t be used or exchanged in anything like the market this economic metaphor suggests. Its patterns of association offer not the old, but the new; they do not so much recover the past, as flood the present with the blank screen of nostalgia.
          In many ways the obsessive concern with Birmingham (the narrator’s need to think with it as yet another counter) has dictated that later poems, such as the more discursive ‘Wonders of Obligation’, ‘Introit: 12 November 1958’ from A Furnace, his most ambitious long work of 1986, and ‘Six Texts for a Film’ (1994), are re-memberings of the body of the city, and constitute what Peter Barry calls Fisher’s ‘“composite-epic” of urban material’.
‘Handsworth Liberties’ is yet another such attempt, in The Thing About Joe Sullivan, and is one of Fisher’s most impressive sequences. Like all such sequences, the 16 parts do not develop narratively, as they negotiate adolescent memories of particular locations in Birmingham that Fisher associated with particular pieces of music. Indeed it is the street that dominates the sequence, not the people, who appear only as traces upon it: ‘The place is full of people./It is thin. They are moving’. (P55-87, p. 118)  Even when

A mild blight, sterility,
the comfort of others'

is invoked, it is still the incomplete yet immobile environment that claims the poem’s attention:

apart from the pavement
asphalt and grit are spread
for floors; there are railings,
tarred. It is all
unfinished and still.  (P55-87, p. 121)

Other poems from the sequence consciously de-Anglicize memories of the 1940s, as had parts of City. The procedure to refuse to name objects which then appear indeterminate, a form of semantic indeterminacy developed from The Cut Pages, is introduced to deal with the characteristic material. Thus the presentation of the city horizon, which certainly resembles the northern prospect of one of the clues of ‘Starting to Make a Tree’, ‘pale new towers in the north/right on the line’, operates here through non-descriptiveness, as it were. One of Fisher’s favourite descriptive adjectives is ‘non-descript’.

It all
radiates outwards
in a lightheaded air
without image. (P55-87, p. 117)

Realism is forced, not just into the strategies of foregrounded artifice, but into a register of ‘waves’, since there is no presentable ‘image’, a version of the ‘traces’ and ‘marks’ already noted. Occasionally a ‘flicker’ might reveal a partial, but insignificant, image.

There is a world.
It has been made
out of the tracks of waves
broken against the rim
and coming back awry; at the final
flicker they are old grass and fences. (P55-87, p. 117)

Sometimes, ‘At the end of the familiar’, there is stark realist enumeration but with the barest of elaboration:

brick, laurels, a cokeheap
across from the cemetery gate –
a printing works and a small
cycle factory; hard tennis courts.  (P55-87, p. 121)

But this exists in a state of tension with formalist abstraction: ‘With not even a whiff of peace/tranquilities ride the dusk’. (P55-87, p.119)
Shklovsky’s formalism is easily mistaken for pure aestheticism, especially when he declares that the ‘object’ that undergoes defamiliarization is not important.52 As has been seen the object – usually Birmingham - for Fisher is very important; there are social and political reasons for his de-Anglicizing. The Russian formalists themselves were rigorously criticized, both by Trotsky and the Bakhtin Circle before the Stalinist years enveloped them all. Shklovsky’s 1940 volume Mayakovsky and His Circle, was a rejoinder to that criticism, in which he reformulates defamiliarization. He repeats part of his 1917 essay, particularly Tolstoy’s claims that ‘if the entire life of many people is lived unconsciously, then that life, in effect, did not exist’. 53 This has an obvious existential and moral dimension often missed in readings of the original essay (as is its insistence upon form). Shklovsky developed this (opportunely) with an examination of some statements of Lenin. His conclusion is that Lenin took an interest in ‘eccentricism in art, a skeptical attitude toward the conventional, and the illogic of the unusual’. 54 Although Shklovsky is trying to prove that ‘eccentric’ art can be ‘realistic’, he is also showing its political potential, that ‘the absurdity of the capitalist world could be shown through methods of eccentric art’.55 One avenue for this radical art would lead to the dramatic alienation techniques of Brecht’s poetics of the theatre; the other would concentrate upon destroying habitual associations within thought and language. In ‘Handsworth Liberties’ – the pun on the second word is intentional – moments of eccentric illumination occur during

a trip between two locations
ill-conceived, raw, surreal
outgrowths of common sense, almost
merging one into the other. (P55-87, p. 118)

Such a meeting of the extraordinary within the quotidian produces

on an ordinary day a brief
lightness, charm between realities;

on a good day, a break
life can flood in and fill.  (P55-87, p. 119)

As Shklovsky argued, the most radical art works are not those that thematize revolution or class war. Indeed thematizing itself imposes a limit upon the possibilities of expression.
            Memories and things in Fisher’s poetry of this time are often invested with an additional autonomy from reference; things achieve a necessary freedom as the recognisable world is phenomenologically reduced:

Travesties of the world
come out of the fog
and rest at the boundary.  (P55-87, p. 122)

These ‘travesties’ are not quite visual or tactile, but synaesthetic, evanescent; they are only

strange vehicles,
forms of outlandish factories
carried by sound through the air,

they stop at the border,
which is no sort of place;
                        then they go back.   (P55-87, p. 122)

Although ‘they come/out of a lesser world’, they offer an approach to perceptual freedom: ‘I shall go with them sometimes/till the journey dissolves under me’. (P55-87, p. 122)        

Fisher has stated that the ‘political content’ of his work consists of ‘descriptions of consciousness, reminders of the complexity of the perceptual mechanisms which show us the world.’ 56 ‘For me,’ he adds, ‘it is the private memories and private fantasies of individuals which actually create the public, social world.’ 57 An art that consciously defamiliarizes breaks the false perceptual automatism which habitualizes readers to a particular version of social reality. In the fourth poem of the sequence there is yet another trip unnamed between locations, one in which all that is solid melts into a world of exchange that is not primarily economic:

Something has to happen here.
There must be change.
It’s the place
from which the old world fell away
leaning in its dark hollow.

We can go there
into the seepage,
the cottage garden with hostas
in a chimneypot 
or somewhere here
in the crowd of exchanges
we can change.   (P55-87, p. 118)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Roy Fisher (I.M.) Last week's seminar

This is the handout I issued to my MA group:

Roy Fisher:  MA Creative Writing 15th March 2017

 Three quotes from interviews (poetics)

I would say to myself: I am on a number fifteen bus in Birmingham. I am familiar with the sensibility of Paul Klee or Kokoschka but I’m not familiar with the places they were at, but I’ll play some perceptual games and I will de-Anglicize England – which seems to me absolutely essential.

The only point of using any form is to create freedom forms and not to do things about the imposition of order on chaos and this sort of rubbish.

As far as I see it, a poem has business to exist, really, if there’s a reasonable chance that somebody may have his perceptions rearranged by having read it or having used it. The poem is always capable of being a subversive agent, psychologically, sensuously, however you like.

Please watch this video (15mins)

On it he reads:

‘The Thing About Joe Sullivan’
‘The Entertainment of War’
‘The Nation’
‘Text for a Film’
‘Birmingham River’
‘For “Realism”’
It is Writing’

(all poems you can find in The Long and Short of It and in other books; some we shall consider)

Read this review:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Petrarch 3: first review by Alan Baker

The unfolding Petrarch 3

The first review of Petrarch 3, published by Crater Press, may be read on Litterbug, here. It is by the excellent Alan Baker. (Read his answers to Edge Hill students' questions about his work here.) here.) Read more about Petrarch 3 and how to buy it here. And about about my Petrarch obsession (it's Wyatt's Petrarch at the moment (watch me at the end of my video here...

The second review of the publication may be read here:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Inaugural Lecture PART 4; Poems

Parts one and two and three (the last three days' posts) should be read before this final part

Poems [1]

don’t normally wear a suit       don’t normally wear a tie       not at a reading      (laughter)       not when I’m reading poems       that’s all      All poems        (single catcall from audience at disrobing)     I knew you’d say something       All poems stage their meanings at a critical remove from their occasions, sources, influences and poetics. Sometimes poems subvert such complex and lucid notions as ‘complexity’ and ‘lucidity’, to produce poems that are anything but complex and lucid in an attempt to re-define      those things       In any case, poems … run ahead of the conjectures we make      the conjectures run ahead of the poems at different times     I’m going to read     I’m going to turn this into a brief poetry reading       partly because I believe that the poetry reading is one of the provisional institutions of linguistically innovative poetry or whatever you want to call it       and one of the functions of it is to flog books       I thought I’d do that       I have some books here       and there’s one thing free       and also there’s something else that’s common with  poetry readings       that’s a      that’s a trip to the hostelry afterwards       I know there’s a bun-fight immediately after this       but there could be an after after       I think I will simply delegate the Buck I’ th’Vine as a possible       venue       so here are five poems       they’re all metapoems       they do what I was talking about       this is what I wrote for the Alan Halsey reading here as part of the series Ailsa (Cox) and I run from the writing department       I decided to do a kind of introduction for him       I kind of see this as you know when you go home and you find three answerphone messages from the same person      it also rhymes and       I tell students ‘rhyme is a crime’       but they never quite get the irony of me saying that       so I’ve got the maximum number of rhymes

The Hello Poem

for Alan Halsey

Hello poem, it’s me again. I’m
the voice that lives upstairs. You

hear me reeling across my floor,
your ceiling, as I dance about my

affairs. And you about yours, not
miming my sound, un-

rhyming your eyes as they rise,
faltering, toward me, from the ground.


Hello poem, it’s me again, the
other side of your world,

speaking long distance

around your curve, racing
like a tycoon’s jet

to overtake the dawn
and possess tomorrow.


Hello poem, it’s me again. You
ran away with yourself to

stage your new self’s forming. I am
the silence that inhabits your zero.

this is a poem called

Another Poem

The scribe of the poem knows nothing
but he embodies every word you hold.
He’s not an original. He’s a solid
conduit, form rather than wave or
particle. He’s left-handed, and his block
fist covers every word once it’s formed.
The eyes he turns to us
in his mirror
            look away.
Careful not to smudge, he crouches low,
reversing the verse, furrowing his plough.
The poem tells of flowers and trees,
naming names you recognise from other
poems, but you could never make them out
in the wild. Did he say ‘Wild’? No,
he didn’t, as it happens. Neither did
the poem. You’re making it up. You think
it should be you alone and the words
agreeing to differ. But you watch his fist
pounding the lines: Snouts nuzzling the moon
grass or Gifting broken gusts. The poem
has barely recovered from his scratches, yet
you’re making to scribble links in its margins,
calming and charmless. Will you then tear
his calligraphy back, peel it off to leave
the wounded poem yours, a dripping pelt?
He fashions the final words. Waves of feeling rush
towards this hooded moment. His dream is to be power-
less as the endless poem.

                                                Then he
inscribes, in mirror-script: The scribe of this poem
knows it all

this is called ‘Not Another Poem’     partly because it’s in prose       and partly (laughs)        through exasperation       this actually       I made allusion to an essay I wrote on the avant-garde       this is also part of that       what I was attempting to do was  to write something that was neither poetry or prose nor a critical article but it’s a response to that book but I’m not sure you need to know that book

Not Another Poem

after Krzysztof Ziarek

Often I am permitted to return to a field. And it is full of forces

Something is happening here, saying whatever, but saying all the same. But not. The same there’s nothing to exchange. No need to

Forces don’t build in power. Or domination. A thoughtful, forceful relinquishing

Inside this field you are safe but not safe. All that is the world is not. The world. A bullet flies as the idea of a bullet (flies) but its trajectory is turned. To words like ‘sleet’ turning to ‘snow’. To slow. It is a bullet that stands. In relation to every new thing

Everything here is transformed, every thing (out there) interrupted. A snow-bullet  frozen mid-air becomes off-centre of a new constellation from where we see it transfigured our selves. What we think of it is the new thing

There’s more of it. And more and more of it in a different way there’s nothing. We can do with what we find here. It’s not stock. This is where. I want to make some thing. Something elsed, but disavowed – disallowed, even – in this

A carafe, That Is a blue guitar. Beyonding art

I don’t want to only make relations. I make. The gangly girl in black-framed glasses in my making. I make her trip back from her car to number 99 in her strappy party shoes to root out the Christmas present she has forgotten. Then I will make the thoughts she has as she returns

Outside of her there is domination. House numbers telephone wires. Humming with Power. Not poetry and the antinomies. Satellite navigation. Data shadow. Inside. They share the world is not escaped, but elsed

Empower me to be. So unpowered. In my relinquishment by distance not elevation to keep the saying unsaid. To speak against is to speak. Let me do it I need to do it but let me speak something elsed. From somewhere else. Of something

I have made something. For you. Now you are someone else

another poem which relates to a reading       this time I didn’t write it as an introduction       I wrote it the next day       when John James came here to read       he has the poem with the line ‘I beg you to free this boy’ and I introduced him with the words ‘I beg you to hear this boy’       so I took this up the next day whilst he was busily working with the second year students here I wrote the poem for him

As Yet Untitled Poem

for John James

I beg you to hear this boy. And hear him out.
His morning poem you’re in, now,
is neatly creased as a crisp new shirt, stiff-
backed and clipped on its cardboard torso, posed.

It trips you over the cat from the film you’ve never
seen, as you search for your spectacles.
I use my enormous brain to seek the signals
they emit. We are both The Prisoner

on this island, Crusoes of overlapping surveillance.
Sleep is where we’ve come from, a misty place                           
of drizzled desire and mordant fear. The fog has
lifted, real enough, for the expedition that must

set off for the explanation. Your house-
guest, a sort of vapour that
an opening door dispels, coughs his soft pardons.
Serious poetry is back in town:

the Unfinished Alba of the Unknown
Troubadour, whose vida is word for word. The
beloved of this lyric is the hero of that epic, where
sometimes I did seek, I beg you now to flee this boy.

and my final one       this final one comes from this sequence of metapoems       but it also belongs in the ‘September 12’       poem as well       I need to retreat behind here for the use of my hands[2]     it’s short

Reading ‘The Poem…’.

The poem sends itself from anywhere
to your little box there it replays it
over and over. No redial no recall.
Dead ears drop in your lap. Pause.

No reply possible, skip onto Message Two:
I can see the twin cathedrals twisting below.
I should keep this thing switched off it affects
the instruments it doesn’t matter now terror

has been hijacked by artifice. Commas cower
along Hope St as we torque above them
out of control spluttering towards the radio tower
full stop. That was your fake captain speaking

through me printing fear backwards through his script.
You receive my wild meaning in his spliced last words

thank you     (applause)       thank you

[1] I have attempted to transcribe the verbal introductions to these poems (in italics), which includes me reading and abandoning  prepared text (in ordinary type) before the lecture transforms into a poetry reading. I have borrowed a number of transcription conventions from the ‘talk poems’ of David Antin.
[2] I cupped my hands to make my voice more like an intercom as I read the italicised lines, and needed to rest my text on the lectern I had read the lecture from. During the poetry reading, after having removed my jacket and tie, I moved out into the audience, swaying and moving as I read, as is my custom, advancing some way up the aisle dividing the audience. So at the end of the performance I was back in the position I started from.