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.