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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Robert Sheppard Companion: My appreciation

I have written to all the people involved with the Robert Sheppard Companion, and said (at least) these words to each:

I want to semi-formally remark how much I appreciate the work that has gone into the editing, the writing and the publishing of this wonderful and substantial critical work on my writings. I provided the headache – to quote Beckett – but the contributors provided the aspirin. I also know, having edited a similar book on Lee Harwood, and having written literary critical chapters to similar collections (as the detailed bibliography, another wonder, shows!), just how much work goes into this kind of writing. It is good to see new essays rubbing shoulders with ones that were written in previous years (and decades), and to see some reminiscences alongside critique. Although I am the focus and occasion for the book, it is also a portrait of a collaborative poetry scene, and many of the contributors are poets also, and part of that.

For the record, I should say that I have read the book from cover to cover (and had so before the launch; see here for an account) and found it a fascinating read. Of course, I read the book as no other person can. But just as I believe that, as a writer, one mustn’t believe one’s own publicity, one mustn’t believe other people’s. Or rather: the essays should not function as publicity at all, so far as I am concerned, but as spurs for me to do better.

I do have a tongue in cheek reference to the book, in one poem from my current project, my Brexit versions of the poetry of Michael Drayton called Bad Idea. The speaker is partly MD, partly me, and partly a modern-day Drayton. While the first five lines allude to chapters in the book, the sixth is a certain modern critic’s negative characterisation of Twentieth Century Blues. I hope it amuses. 'XLII The Michael Drayton Companion (1619)' begins: 

Some like my multiform methods,
and commend my social poetics.
Some say I’m a funny old translator,
‘expanded’ like a supersized codpiece.
Some that I excel in explicit vitality....

For more on the book and a hub-post to other posts and links: see here.

 You may buy the book here: