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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.