Sunday, May 28, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Diary entries. Poems about the Belvedere pub Liverpool

Friday: I still couldn’t get on the Teachers’ Pension Website but I decided to resign anyway. Via email and then up to Ormskirk to tender my resignation physically, hard copy. Which I did. A brief conversation with A and then back to L’pool. To the Belve. With P.

All hell broke loose. B turned up from Malta. C fell over and cut his head and had to be taken away by paramedics. D and E on their way to see John Cale. We talked to a drunken engineer called F. An average day in the Belvedere. Pizza Express with P. Can’t remember a bloody thing.

Saturday: Woke up to find Ranjit Hoskote’s poem about the Belve online. It’s here. And mine is the third one down in Molly Bloom here. But then there’s still Chris McCabe’s poem about another such memorable afternoon in the pub, which exists on paper and as a video for the Sheppard Symposium. I can envisage a mini-anthology.
(⚠Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be time to reflect on momentous decisions. (It's tucked away in this post here too. Also based on a diary entry. A busy week, and a horrible one too, with the atrocity in Manchester.) I’ve always said my diary was trenchantly non-literary. This proves it. The big Number 6 question, ‘Why did you resign?’ remains unasked, unanswered. Have a drink.)

Robert Sheppard: On recent sonnets from ongoing sequences (and links where published online)

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

I have a green folder on my desk marked ‘Song Nets’, the abandoned title of the collection of sonnets I am building up (and building up to, it seems, constantly). I am toying with the title Lost Sonnets now. Some other sonnets (such as the ‘Empty Diaries 2000-14’ known as Wiped Weblogs) seem to have migrated to the end of the folder: in but not in, a section two of a book, or possibly another book altogether. The first eight appeared in The Literateur. Find them here or here.  The final six appeared in a wonderful edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here.

So that leaves an accumulating sequence of sequences (a 'corona of coronas' as Richard Parker called it):

‘Petrarch 3’ (published) Read more about 'Petrarch 3' and how to buy it here. And about about my Petrarch obsession... The first review of Petrarch 3, published by Crater Press, may be read on Litterbug, here. It is by the excellent Alan Baker. Here's one of the poems.

‘Overdubs’ (responses to some of Milton’s sonnets; read one here; my poem for the Yazidi)

Two poems for Lee Harwood (published in Tears in the Fence 65, along with a third which is part of the next sequence);

‘It’s Nothing’, a series of poems that tries to write the self and fails miserably. (There are some online here and here, and here, and recently four in Molly Bloom here, and one printed below.)

‘breakout’ (a return to the 100 word sonnet, none published yet)

‘Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch’, of which three have recently been published in International Times here… They are what they say they are, but Wyatt appears in them as himself and as his modern analogue, a foreign office spy on a secret pre-Brexit mission… (They were great fun to write..)

(The last two sequences I read at the Sheppard Symposium, 'breakout' at breakneck speed, and ‘Hap’ as far as I’d written it on March 8th, and in an unrevised state, obviously). Below:

Then I stopped (to write other things). Now the question is; where does this go next? I wondered about contrafacting 5 poems by Surrey. Time has passed and I might get round to them, a counterpoint to the 5 ‘breakout’ poems maybe. Or maybe not… I really don’t know, which feels rather good. Anyway, here is one sonnet from ‘It’s Nothing’. It’s a poem for Peter Hughes’ 60th birthday that appeared in a special volume for him. But I’m not very clear how many people saw that excellent collection. (See his poem for Patricia Farrell’s 60th here.)  

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

The Book of Names or: Late at the Tate
The bullseye breasts of the Matisse nude
follow us across the room to where his Inattentive Reader
smoulders. She’s irritated and has turned from
what looks like raw pastiche of David Miller’s Visual Sonnets.

Patricia sees the play of colour, the balance of form;
I see that frown. Later, someone calls me Richard
Patterson; he’s checked on the web so that’s non-negotiable.
No ogleable odalisque can help me lose this self now.

Fortuity I endorse, the strong noun Peter Riley uses
of your patient projects and restless forms.
But my dictionary gives it a wide berth. It offers

‘fortuitism’ instead, another ism we don’t need.
We don’t believe in chance; it happens. Then we choose.
Sonia Delaunay knocked up Tristan Tzara’s pyjamas.

(to Peter Hughes at 60)

21st February 2016

Note: the new Molly Bloom also has new work by Amy Evans, Louis Armand, Wanda O’Connor, Rahul Gupta, Peter J King, Mark Goodwin, Mark Young, Laura McKee, Joshua Weiner, Carole Coates and Tim Allen, plus tributes to Tom Raworth and Roy Fisher, here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Celebration of 50 Years of The Mersey Sound (readings and pop up reading by Roger McGough) (set list)

Published on May 25th 1967, this influential collection of poetry by Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten is one of the biggest selling poetry anthologies in the world. To commemorate 50 years since its publication, Edge Hill students hosted a day-long poetry event on 25th May as part of Tonight at Noon, a city-wide series of events celebrating the legendary Liverpool poets.

Celebrating the poetry of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten a special one night only reading (aren't they all?) from The Mersey Sound, with creative writing students from Edge Hill University, plus special guests performing original poetry. The special guests - we thought - were Tom Jenks, Mark Greenwood, Patricia Farrell and myself. We were wrong!

Yesterday was a frustrating day spent marking, and trying to resign, too much time on Twitter, a hot day too. Everybody complaining about the heat, because we’re not used to it. To the Everyman for Bill Bulloch’s reading, downstairs. We chatted to the super-organiser of Tonight at Noon Catherine Marcangeli, and Phil Jeck, before descending. Students from Edge Hill read well, most reading from the Merseysound anthology (whose 50th anniversary it was that day!) but Bill and Susan Comer read responses to the anthology. Mark Greenwood, Tom Jenks. Patricia read her conceptual write-through of Henri’s ‘Me’. But the big ‘surprise’ for us (but not for the BBC film crew, the whole thing staged for a programme to go out on – unthinkably – Mc Gough’s 80th birthday in November! he looks so young) was the sudden ‘pop up’ reading by Roger McGough himself, who also answered questions (well) at the end.

I was the graveyard shift reader. I read 3 of my motivist poems, the Liverpool ones. They were published by Shadowtrain which has disappeared off line, so I've printed them below. I like them. 'Motivist Poems' was the invented form of Michael Egan, a modern Liverpool poet.

Then I read ‘The Batwoman Sutras’, a story I’d rescued and restored for the occasion. It’s a fragmented account of a young female poet (hence the dedication to Tina Morris) during Ginsberg’s visit to Liverpool.

I talked to Roger after and he said that he was around in Liverpool during the visit in June 1965, but he had less to do with it than Adrian and Brian, as my story suggests. We talked a little about Morris and Cunliffe and about Bruce Wilkinson’s book on the Blackburn scene (which deserves a post of its own soon), and about Horovitz … He told me Spike Hawkings had died.

Patten, Catherine Marcangeli, and McGough earlier this month...

Bill Bulloch, the organiser of the reading, who also read his original responses to the book, said:

 “Being involved with the celebration is a real privilege. The Mersey Sound inspired me to become a writer and, 50 years on, still resonates as clearly now for me as a scouser and a poet. It will be great to be able to perform in the footsteps of my literary heroes.” Little did he think he'd be performing alongside one of those heroes.

The Liverpool Motivist Poems 

the split-pea eyelids of the nymph summon you slyly

the floating wave of her pale body rests
breasts small far apart low her legs entangled
fleshy fingers nestle in the cleft of her thighs

cupids pipe sweet nothing but fountains of love
tickling breeze stirs apples ripe for plucking rhyming the decorative rim
cracked oil on panel is the net that binds her hair

legend tells you she’s sleeping but she’s not

(Lukas Cranach the Elder)

she rises from the ugliest chair in the decade

breasts pendulous adjusting suspender straps with both hands her
face a wave of peroxide shaken to her thick shoulder back-parlour
pornotopia for any adolescent spooking the Iron Curtain of undress  

her legs chunky in micro-mesh knees scraped with abrasions female labour
the shovelling of ashes the polishing of doorsteps ensanguined and lethal     
the aura of Birdseye Minted Garden Peas around Ubu and Cranach’s nymph

postcard proportions in the era of mechanical reproduction

(Adrian Henri)

a gust of chip wrappers attacked by killer gulls

the she-male in high heels stoops beneath a candyfloss bee-hive
Nefertiti kohl on mandrill face with Kathy Kirby lips
sucks a dark pint of Cains bitter through a pink straw

the raven bar-maid’s tattoo peeps beneath her t-shirt she stretches for a glass
we would have to write with milk on frost to calibrate her vanishing point
drunks would dance for her through steam in the dying fountain

the deserted gulf between after-hours municipal gothic

What about doing this in bronze on the very spot (which has NOT changed) at all? The Scaffold on Hope St...

Tonight at Noon, named after the first Adrian Henri poem in the collection, is a series of exhibitions and events organised by Catherine, designed to shine a spotlight on a piece of work which captured the mood of the Sixties and brought poetry down from the shelf to the street. Running from Wednesday 12 April to Saturday 15 July, it forms a key part of Liverpool’s 67-17: 50 Summers of Love celebrations.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Definitions of Poetics (again)

I have been working on the pages for a poetry and poetics anthology I am editing with James Byrne, called Atlantic Drift, that deal with 'poetics', that obsession of mine, about which I have written here in my piece The Necessity of Poetics and, once more, here, in my Inaugural Lecture (and there are other non-online places too; see links at the foot of this post). I thought I'd share the bare bones of this piece in the hope that it clarifies the issue rather than muddies the water.

Poetics at its simplest is the self-communing of creative artists, in this case poets, about what they do, what they make, and why they do it, and carry on doing it. Poetics (like the word poetry) derives from the Greek, poesis, ‘to make’. It is often misread and I would like to suggest approaches to it.
Poetics is essentially a speculative, writerly discourse, one which might have a variety of foci for its author: on the creative process in general or on specific works as they are written (or are about to be written). It may take on aspects of a manifesto or it may be a more mercurial affair, teasing rather than programmatic, possibly teasing for the writers themselves. Where it approaches the manifesto – the ‘Projective Verse’ essay of Charles Olson, for example – it may be proposing formal innovations for a creative community, either existing or hoped-for, but we are just as likely to find personal thumbnail sketches and thought experiments of an individual poet (who may even, ultimately, abandon the course of action the poetics seems to be suggesting).
Jerome Rothenberg, defines the urgency and scope of poetics well, in introducing a book-length collection of his own meditations on practice, and he relates it directly to the way he sees the world:

But the world we share, & our interplay with it, calls again & again for discourse: in the case of Poets, the setting forth of a poetics. I have found myself involved with that also, at first tentatively & then, once into it, discovering ways suited to my own temperament & to the sense I have … that the discourse, like the poetry, must in all events resist rigidity & closure. (Rothenberg, 1981: 3)

He also states his more general ambitions for poetics: ‘At the same time – make no mistake about it – I’ve attempted, like other poets so engaged, to create a new & coherent poetics for our time.’ (Rothenberg, 1981: 3) This rather neatly expresses the range of the discourse, the tentative nature of its utterances and yet the often communal, even global, ambition it has; Rothenberg is ‘like other poets’ but the writing is ‘for our time’, and, therefore, for other poets (and readers of poetry). Rothenberg’s sense that poetics might encompass the same flexibility and openness encountered in his poetry itself leads us to imagine the formal possibilities of poetics as analogues of the poetry itself. Its own forms are often exploratory and worthy of contemplation; it is not a transparent discourse, a secondary ‘commentary’. In some cases it is in the poems themselves. (See my precis of World Poetics in 4 posts, links below.)
As these examples alone suggest, the discourse appears in many forms, and in many places: in letters and treatises, in private journals and on public platforms, in interviews and introductions, in casual asides and even in well-wrought literary criticism, though the simple ‘statement’, often aphoristically concise, may be its most consistent form. (To my mind, actual manifestoes overstep the mark and damage the speculative nature of the discourse and replace it with the ‘must do’ of literary orthodoxies. The craft-oriented ‘how to’ of creative writing manuals is another danger to its speculative freedom.)  Some examples are even anti-poetics in their reserve in the face of possible self-commentary, but every piece I know demonstrates the axiom expressed forthrightly by Charles Bernstein, ‘Poetics don’t explain; they redress and address.’ (Bernstein 1992: 160)
Given this range, I believe poetics, which is too often read as a short-cut way into the poetry it has provoked into being, as a readerly tool, should be studied as a unique and curious writerly discourse in its own right. However, restricting ourselves to our present collection and its arrangement, I should like to suggest the best way in which its poetics might be encountered, what mode of ‘dialogue’ I am proposing between poetry and poetics. Like Bernstein, I do not believe these pieces ‘explain’ the poems that they accompany. (In any case, while poets’ own descriptions of their work are interesting, they may not be accurate; poetics, oddly, may function as a masking process, in the service of further innovation, stimulating creativity by not explaining what has been, or what might be, written.) They ‘address’ questions of poesis, matters of content sometimes (as in feminist poetics or eco-poetics), questions of form nearly always (and there is less ‘redress’ here, fewer suggestions that the poets are putting the record straight on the histories of poetic antagonisms, the so-called Poetry Wars). If for a writer, as Bernstein says, ‘One of the pleasures of poetics is to try on a paradigm … and see where it leads you,’ then a reciprocal pleasure for the reader might be to entertain creative paradigms and speculate how they operate as ideas about poetry in general, rather than searching for clues to interpretation of the adjacent particular poems. (Bernstein 1992: 161) 
If for the poets, their poetics denotes a ‘permission to continue’, then permitted continuation for a reader might suggest fruitful avenues of aesthetic encounter and repeated creative reading. (DuPlessis 1990: 156) If that reader of poetics is also a poet then it exists as a provocation to explorative creativity, one guided by the poet’s own developing poetics. Indeed, such examples (again see the formal range in World Poetics here) suggest manners and forms which might be adopted or adapted to articulate it. Again, check out the formal range of the World Poetics summarised in the four posts below.

Works Cited

Bernstein, C. 1992, A Poetics, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
DuPlessis, R.B., 1990, The Pink Guitar, Writing as Feminist Practice, New York and London: Routledge.
Rothenberg, Jerome. Pre-Faces and Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 1981.

Links to Works on Poetics

Below are four very condensed accounts of poetics through the ages:

Part One: Poetics and Proto-Poetics

 Part Two: Through and after Modernism

Part Three: North American Poetics

Part Four: Some British Poetics

Also read The Neccessity of Poetics here:

And my Inaugural Lecture here: 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: Checklist of publications

Ship of Fools Pamphlets and Artist’s Books

.          Mesopotamia (with images by Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1987

  • Looking North (with images by Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1987
  • The Cannibal Club (with Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1990
  • Killing Boxes, London: Ship of Fools, London, 1992
  • Wayne Pratt: Watering the Cactus – the deathbed edition, 1999 Ship of Fools, London, 1992, revised 1999
  • Logos on Kimonos (with images by Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1992 revised ed. 1998
  • Seven (with images by Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1992
  • Icarus - Having Fallen (with Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1992
  • Transit Depots/Empty Diaries (with John Seed [text] and Patricia Farrell [images]), London: Ship of Fools, 1993
  • net/(k)not/-work(s), London: Ship of Fools, 1993
  • Fucking Time (with images by Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1994
  • The Book of British Soil (with Patricia Farrell), London: Ship of Fools, 1995
  • Sole√† for Lorca, Liverpool: Ship of Fools, 1998
  • Birthday Boy, A Present for Lee Harwood, ed. with Patricia Farrell, anthology containing poetry by John Ashbery, art by Andrzej Jackowski, and others, 1999
  • Depleted Uranium, Liverpool: Ship of Fools, 2001
  • 31st April or The Age of Irony, Liverpool, Ship of Fools, 2001
  • The End of the Twentieth Century, Liverpool: Ship of Fools, 2002
  • The Blickensderfer Punch (with Patricia Farrell), Liverpool: Ship of Fools, 2002
  • Turns (with Scott Thurston), Liverpool: Ship of Fools/The Radiator, 2003
  • Looking Thru’ A Hole in the Wall (with Patricia Farrell), Liverpool: Ship of Fools, 2010.
  • Liverpool Hugs and Kisses (with Robert Hampson), Liverpool: Ship of Fools/Pushtika Press, 2015.
  • Fandango Loops (with Patricia Farrell), Liverpool, Ship of Fools, 2015.
Note: Ship of Fools was set up in the mid 1980s by Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell for the purpose of publishing their art and text collaborations, though we have used it for other purposes on occasions. The last three publications are still in print. £3 each. Email 

As the exhibition demonstrated, Patricia and I use the 'Ship of Fools' imprint for all our publications, ephemera and outtakes, and they are not all listed above. But the collaborations are all there. 

 Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibtion: Fandango Loops (Sheppard/Farrell)

The last set of images from the exhibition now! This text of broken quennets and computer images shaped on the page to match the poems seems to have escaped being photographed in the exhibition. They come out of our visit to Copenhagen, so they are much concerned with style and design. It is subtitled 'A Book of Forms'. This book is still available: £3: email

There is more about its writing here. Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Post-Truth Poetry Publishing (Loydell/Fish/Swift)

I don't think it out of place to acknowledge this interesting dispute and its chronicling by Rupert Loydell and Katrina Fish in the middle of these posts exhibiting the Exhibition of our small press Ship of Fools... here. And here's a later post by by Rupert.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ship of Fool press Exhibition: Looking Thru' a Hole in the Wall (Sheppard/Farrell)

'Looking Thru' A Hole in the Wall' is a series of poems ('Berlin Bursts' re-printed in both Berlin Bursts and History or Sleep: Selected Poems) and images that derived from our stay in Berlin. The images, produced by varying means use images of The Wall. The poor chap below is being pulled out of a drain, for example. Published in 2010. There are some unbound copies of this work which are still available: email They'd be £3 each...

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: The Blickensderfer Punch (Sheppard/Farrell)

The light around one side of the exhibition was not conducive to photo-snaps, but here are some pages from the artisanal publication The Blickensderfer Punch (2002) which was all about typewriters, and based upon the typewriters kept by Dave Stephenson in the Ship and Mitre pub in Liverpool before he sold it (and the typewriters). It was printed on fine paper and bound by black ribbon that resembled typewriter ink ribbons. It was probably the first computer image booklet we produced and there was a deliberate contrast between obsolete and emerging technologies. There is a big gap in Ship of Fools publications in the Liverpool years.  Here's a better image of this wall (third photo down on this link).

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: Empty Diaries, Transit Depots (Farrell/Sheppard and John Seed)

Some of the crayon and conté images from the large book Transit Depots Empty Diaries that wove these images between the 1918-1939 parts of John Seed's 'Transit Depots' and my 'Empty Diaries. One of our best books, I think. I've made the images large so that you might see them.

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: The Book of British Soil (Sheppard/Farrell)

The Book of British Soil was a limited edition with large-print text and a unique print in each. This one belongs to Scott Thurston. They were made for a performance of the text with the dancer Jo Blowers on 14 November 1995 in London. (The text is part of Twentieth Century Blues.) Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: Jungle Nights in Pimlico (Sheppard/Farrell)

This is one of the early editions (there were later, typeset, ones) of this single sheet publication imaginatively folded. We published a lot of these i.m. Eric Mottram. No clear records of how many, since one could more or less print them to demand. The text was a coda to The Lores. The images are glass-prints.

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: Icarus - Having Fallen (Sheppard/Farrell)

Photographed through glass, these camera-ready originals of the booklet, are not completely clear. They did look good in the cabinets though.

What I remember about this, our take on Breughel's Icarus, is that I did a LOT of writing which was then rendered redundant by Patricia's images, so I cut cut cut until there was very little left.

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: some miscellaneous fascicles

Some smaller items now. Above is 'Seven' (reproduced with images in Twentieth Century Blues) but here in the folded A4 2017 reprint that Patricia made. (It was originally A5.) The text doesn't work apart from its neo-formalist numerology and arrangement. Below is 'Improvisation Upon a Remark of Gil Evans', IM for Miles Davis from October 1991.

Some smaller New Year cards and pamphlets

We used - and still use - Ship of Fools as the publisher of our ephemera, which doesn't appear in our lists of publications. We've no idea what they all are. Here's some we found. Just now checking the dates of the Miles Davis elegy in a copy of Twentieth Century Blues another fascicle fell out!

.... plus copies of Pages (the forerunner of this blog!) See here about that 1987 beginning.
Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Ship of Fools press Exhibition: Logos on Kimonos (Sheppard/Farrell)

These first two images are very clear and you can read the title and dedication. This is very rude (there is a theme here running through The Cannibal Club and Fucking Time to this one); it was produced as a 4 page folded A4 sheet. The text appears in Twentieth Century Blues. It is also 'Empty Diary 2055', and is a late-era Pacific Rim-Cyberpunk piece from 1992, written for Gilbert Adair's removal to Singapore.

Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Ship of Fools press exhibition: Fucking Time by Sheppard and Farrell

 Our rather splendid Fucking Time from the 1990s was displayed behind glass and the images aren't as clear as they might be. But you can get the idea: it's a work about or round and about the life and works of John Wilmot, Rochester. He can be seen on the right below holding the poet's bays over his pet monkey. The pictures are as rude as the poems (texts are republished in Twentieth Century Blues and History or Sleep). Something about his abject view of the bodily reflected Thatcherite politics or my visceral reaction to it.

For more images access the hub post on the exhibition. Visit the hub post to take you to all the posts concerning the Ship of Fools exhibition here