Friday, March 22, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Four Burnt Journal poems published on Litter (links)

I’m pleased to say I have four of my ‘Burnt Journal’ poems published on Alan Baker’s intermittent but active blogzine Litter, published by his Leafe Press.

You may read them here.

‘Burnt Journals’, like ‘Empty Diaries’, which they superficially resemble, come with dates attached, in this case: 1968, 1977 (twice!) and 1978. The poems are written as birthday poems, and the largest group published is in my book Berlin Bursts. (Two of them are also on this blog, ‘Burnt Journal 1924’ (the earliest, as it were), written for my father, and ‘Burnt Journal 1939’ for Lee Harwood. See here and here.) I find the writing of ‘occasional’ poems quite demanding, but the technique and materials I have used for this (non-) sequence often produces good results. Not always though (as with any series). The rough aim is to create a mirage, rather than a description, of the particular year: after all, the recipients won't remember it!

Method: I take the person’s birth year and turn to the relevant pages of Tom Phillips’ anthology The Postcard Century (it's arranged chronologically, 1900-2000) and write through/from the images until I have  amassed enough material to process/collage/work through, in ways as I described in my non-delivered ‘talk’ about my use of photographs, here. In a sense, this domesticates the techniques I used to write ‘Empty Diaries’ where I collected notes made from multiple sources over a long period of time. Here I’m not ashamed to acknowledge that some of the selecting has been undertaken by Phillips before me. And usually, these poems have to be produced quickly for events (as is the case with three out of the four here), as well as simply for the deadline/birthday!

The four presented on Litter are all for men, but that’s a coincidence of availability, the ones I had free to send, since others are for Geraldine Monk, Frances Presley, Mary Prestege…

‘Burnt Journal 1968’ was written for Simon Perril, and you may read about the occasion here. There’s more about Simon here too. (There’s quite a lot of material about Simon as poet and critic on this blog, and there are additional links in these.) This will be appearing in my little book of little poems, Micro Event Space to be published by Red Ceilings Press later this year.

‘Burnt Journal 1977’ (or rather the first and second) were written for Chris McCabe (who held a birthday do in the Ship and Mitre) and for James Byrne (who I think was not around for his actual birthday). I found there were enough photographs in the Phillips book for two poems.

The same with ‘Burnt Journal 1978’, because I’d used the same materials to write a very different birthday poem a few years before for Eleanor Rees (see here or here: Burnt Journal 1978). This new one, ‘Parade’ was written for my colleague, the novelist, short story-writer and biographer Rodge Glass, as a request for his birthday ‘do’, which is described here. I like that line about ‘Calculated misreadings of Adorno’.

Other ‘Burnt Journals’ available online include one for Frances Presley here, and one for Patricia Farrell, here. (The last one is newly revised.)   
I know what you’re thinking: what will I do when I face the first millennial? Answer: I don’t know. Maybe that’s when I’ll start my other un-written (non)series ‘Drowned Books’ using different materials!