Monday, December 31, 2018

Introduction to Letts Schoolboys Diary 1969

Diary entry: Sunday 9th December 2018:

Reading Donne a lot today. Some writing. A quiet day. TV in evening. A walk… 

            First review of Hap online… [See here.]

            Enjoyable in its quiet way. 

I also blogged more of my 1969 diary to form an ‘OTD 50 years ago’ thread across next year’s posts. I must admit, I don’t quite know why I’m doing it. 1969 is clearly the year I became me, or the year my representations of self seem related to continuing representations of self. Somewhere, there is an autobiographical work potentially there. After all, there are so many things that I do remember and are excluded from The Given [with its chorus of things ‘I don’t remember...'] and transformed entirely in ‘A Rival’ (I mean ‘Arrival’) and didn’t find their way into Words Out of Time. 

[See here for details of Words Out of Time, my autrebiographies. There is a separate account of 'The Given', here. And a recent extension of the final part of the book, 'Work', here. Previously unpublished.]

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Message from the Right Hon M. Go, secretary of Rural Affairs, the post-Brexit Dogging Agency

People of Britain, you have spoken and you shall not speak again: you have elected to place the dogging community and those who practice the dogging lifestyle at the centre of national life and post-Brexit regeneration. As the poet imagines:

fences impearled with natural oils from budding tools,
fast comforts of the dogging sites of Global Britain.

Let me tell you how I intend to further your lusty desires once we have repatriated our laws (did you see what I did there? I used a word that the National Front used to use about people, but I’m using it in a Brexity sort of way, which has nothing to do with racism, nothing at all!). Designated dogging sites are a rariety, except in Sussex, Kent and on the Wirral, and we plan to make such areas as plentiful and opulent as ordinary beauty spots. And what beauties have I spotted, hiding behind my bumper to watch the dogging community and those who practice the dogging lifestyle in rich action! As the poet also said:

You stuck out a mile in the Ladyboys of Bognor,
bigging yourself up in Bignor like you owned the place.
You’d be walking the South Downs Way, believe me,

after wild frenzy with Tom of Findon -
or with a femdom Alpha bitch in Fulking Dungeon,
nettle-thrashing you, Unworthy of Worthing!

Of course, not being part of the dogging community or those who practice the dogging lifestyle, I can only wonder,

            Like a man filming his wife taking a selfie
of her silvered face in sylvan Windsor Park.

‘This is such a pleasant spot to stain with pleasure:

the picnic tables, the rustic spread, the chorus of wasps
around the bin,’ the Rake from Hell remarks, pulling
his vest back on but feeling well pissed off…

In the new year, after Independence Day, I pledge to bring forward legislation to register dogging sites under the new Rural Affairs Act 2019 and to legislate for better protection for those in the dogging community and for those who practice the dogging lifestyle. As custodians of the environment, fecundating the land with your leaky seed, you need to be recognised as what you truly are. (And the ladies too, with their obliging ingresses.)

M. Go 

(Leaver by name and by naturism, but I’ll stick with you, like a tool stuck to a frozen gatepost! I remain, well, I don’t actually, yours, etc..)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Robert Sheppard: My latest write-through of Michael Drayton's IDEA (remains of temporary Brexmas post)

The English Strain is complete. I mean: I've finished writing it. (Book One of it, he means. 2021) The latest part of it, Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

You can read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project, if you like, in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: here

The second book of The English Strain is entitled Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea, that’s 63 poems by the way, of which I have covered 23. I will post one at a time, when they are finished (but only if I feel it appropriate in terms of topicality). On this, amended, post, I've removed the poem, but have preserved some of the ideas around Bad Idea since they seem of some import (and also because I've finessed this post several times until it is quite intricate. [Second 2021 interruption: I’m delighted to announce that Bad Idea is available NOW from Alec Newman’s excellent press Knives Forks and Spoons, with a cover design by Patricia Farrell. You may get it HERE: ]

This week I was greatly impressed by Sir Ivan Rogers’ speech in Liverpool; you can access it all here:

He says:

In an earlier lecture, I described Brexitism as a revolutionary phenomenon, which radicalised as time went on and was now devouring its own children. This current phase feels ever more like Maoists seeking to crush Rightist deviationists than it does British Conservatism.

Both fervent leavers and fervent remainers as well as No 10 seem to me now to seek to delegitimise a priori every version of the world they don’t support.

But he doesn’t present the EU as benign at all, which is refreshing. We need to realise that it will act in its own interests, rightly, and that (wrongly) we will not be a part of that large social-democratic market. That political status has meant that Labour politicians have been (rightly) sceptical about a 'capitalists’ club', though it's never been exactly that, with its labour laws and environmental controls for example.

But Corbyn doesn’t get it, does he? As my son says, he’ll lose the youth vote (my son is post-youth now, but knows). He really is a Brexiteer, but probably not a very convinced one. Rogers had it right:

And even yesterday morning I listened to a Shadow Cabinet Member promising, with a straight face, that, even after a General Election, there would be time for Labour to negotiate a completely different deal – INCLUDING a full trade deal, which would replicate all the advantages of the Single Market and Customs Union. And all before March 30th. I assume they haven’t yet stopped laughing in Brussels.

They will never meet the Six Tests, because leaving will always be worse than staying. (Nobody has ever negotiated deliberately a WORSE trade agreement.) I also read this online, which somewhat surprised me. MPs aren’t delegates (I’m not arguing for another referendum, as such, btw. I don’t think we should have any.).
Corbyn has been an ambiguous figure in ‘The English Strain’, often a victor, even a hero so far. But around poem 22-23 I've started to address Labour's miss-steps on this issue. I’ve also been reading Guattari, who indicates how things move at a level not accessible to committees and sub-committees, lines of flight, forces of subjectivation, etc... But I've also been thinking about the differences between representative democracy and delegates’, and plebicites, and how we're confused with all three operating at once.

Drayton, passionate and civil, is largely out of print at the moment, though I have found a ‘Poly-Olberon’ project online, (the whole epic online, which is refreshing), and his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ is available online, including the ones I’ve just translated above; have a look at both, the latter being:

Drayton, Michael. ‘Idea.’ in Arundell Esdaile, ed. Daniel’s Delia and Drayton’s Idea.
London: Chatto and Windus: 1908. 67-141; online at Luminarium:

Although I am using

Tuley, Mark. ed. Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: Five Major Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles: by Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser. Crescent Moon Publishing, Maidstone: Kent, 2010,

a careless book that even misses one sonnet out! But then, he's always so glum: look at the face on him! And that desperate title 'Esquire' (which meant he owned a bit of property) when what he dreamt of was a knighthood.

There are more excerpts from The English Strain coming up in PN Review next year, and in the current Poetry Wales. There’s another on Smithereens as I outline in an adjacent post on this blog. I’ve not sent any of these Bad Idea ones out yet. They are amassing if anybody wants them. 

Also next year (since I've just realised that this is my Christmas-New Year post) two readings locally, including a celebration of the also upcoming Robert Sheppard Companion and the revelation of my poetry-photo collaboration with Trev Eales. Merry Brexmas to you all. And a Grand New Year...

And particularly to Clark Allison, who has commented on most of these temporary posts, and who has a review of Hap appearing in ... the New Year. Hap, hap happy one, all.

And here it is: Clark Allison: ‘One Side Ripening’, Stride, January 2019:

I hope you've read M. Go's Brexmas message, from the Dogging Sites of Post-Brexit Britain! If not, it's here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Robert Sheppard: in memoriam Vik Doyen, Lowry scholar and much more

I’ve heard from friend, poet and critic Helen Tookey (one of the Liverpool Firminists) that one of our best friends in the Malcolm Lowry community, Prof Vik Doyen, has died in Belgium. I am very sad about this. He was a very kind and good humoured man.

He edited Malcolm Lowry's 1940 Under the Volcano and the re-discovered Lowry novel In Ballast to the White Sea and had a long history of crucial critical work on Lowry, going back to the 1960s, I think, but he was a good friend of our annual Liverpool Lowry Lounge celebrations at Bluecoat. (See about the most recent here, and its links to previous years.)

I want, though, to remember him for one more thing. As many of you know, my book A Translated Man (see this slow link here), purports to be the work of a Belgian poet writing in both Flemish and French (it was Vik who told me there was no such language as ‘Walloon’). The fiction includes the ‘editorial’ role of Erik Canderlinck (see the draft for what became his introduction, here). I located my Erik as formerly (I was hinting he was removed from his post) of the University of Leuven. Of course, I would never meet anyone from Leuven, let alone from the University! Then (in this other, Lowry world) along comes Vik Doyen from that very institution, and, at the end of one of our Lowry years, I plucked up courage, and gave him a copy of the book.

The following year (and in subsequent years) he was astonished that I had been able to recreate his colleague (he named an individual) from the university so well!So well, he insisted, that I must know him. I did not. And we laughed.
Of course, this is one of the ironies of the creation of fictional poets. Like Bob McCorkle in Peter Carey’s wonderful novel My Life as a Fake they turn up and find you. Or nearly, in this case: as Vik knew and loved and laughed with me about it. It’s unthinkable to imagine a future Lounge without him for this (and many many other) reasons. I have written myself into sadness. And shall stop…


Sunday, December 09, 2018

First Review of HAP on Litter (by Steve Spence)

Steve Spence has reviewed my new HAP: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch  Knives, Forks and Spoons Press   23 pages   £6.50, December 2018, on Litter.

here. Thanks Steve.  

'It’s a rollicking good read,' Spence says, 'where questions of ‘Englishness’ are subtly intertwined with pornographic imagery and devastating political acuity. Sheppard revels in language, delighting in all the ‘tricks’ and wordplays which poetry is capable of while keeping his eye firmly on the ball.'

Also see here for more details of the book, and links to other parts of 'The English Strain' project, of which this pamphlet is a major part. 

See  also

Clark Allison for a second opinion on the patient Wyatt: ‘One Side Ripening’, Stride, January 2019:

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Robert Sheppard: Two 'Earl of Surrey' 'expanded translations' published in Poetry Wales

Many fine beasts in this issue, some friends indeed, but there are also four of my sonnets, this time 'translations' from the Earl of Surrey. They follow on from the 'Wyatt' poems that have just been published as 'Hap' (see below). You can see what's going on in the Surrey poems (and in them all really) by looking here, where another of Surrey's poems is presented alongside my expanded (or contracted!) translation. This was published in International Times. 

I write about this 'Trump' one here:

and you can go straight to the 'International Times' poems (and an image) here:

Of course, to read the new ones in Poetry Wales you'll have to buy, or subscribe to, Poetry Wales. Here. But that's a really good thing to do. It's under the steady editorial hand of the excellent Nia Davies. Thanks Nia, for publishing the poems, and thanks for the best acceptance letter ever: she wrote: 'I want to publish some of your bonkers sonnets'. What more can I say!? 

The English Strain, my collective title for these sonnets, is complete now. The latest part of it, Hap:Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, now, here:

You can read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project, if you like, in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: here. Yes, I do have more to say...