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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sunday 21st September 1969:

Reading: HMS Ulysses, Alisdair McLean.

Recorded our tape service for Funnell and George. Sun Radio has put up their power. Going off air for 10 weeks.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

This week's Drayton poem about Bo, Father of Lies (temporary post)

The second book of my The English Strain project (see below for the first and for more details) is entitled Bad Idea and it is a re-working of the whole of Michael Drayton’s sequence Idea; that’s 64 poems (with the addition of its ‘Address to the Reader of these Sonnets’). I’ve been at it since July 2018, one a week (more or less), now for over a year. I’ve got only one left to ‘do’ now.

I’m posting the poems temporarily, so there is only ever one at a time on this blog.

Here’s today’s. Drayton’s original (in a couple of senses: it also dates back to the first version of Idea, 1595) is a Petrarchan sonnet (in a couple of senses too: its use of paradox for one). Wyatt plays around with the borrowed Petrarchan image of burning in ice, etc, that Drayton also deploys: I use it (as the only autobiographical bit of the poem) to describe the icepack that is really on my knee as I type. I can’t march against Un-Boostered Bo at the moment (he’s hiding and lying anyway; he gives a new meaning to the term ‘lying in wait’). I did go to a rally the other week though, in Liverpool. I merely stood. They also stand who only stand and wait! Dryden has moles and creeping in his poem by the way. Read it out loud with a wee pause before the last two words.

LXII (with revisions)

As Bo begins, he mostly ends:
his best show is non-appearance. Where
he is most deficient, votes, he mostly vetoes:
his best plans are silence. I dream of
marching against him, but my knee collapses;
the ice pack burns: I drown in dry despair.
Ravished by Idea, I can think it through
but cannot write it down – without her touch.
All I desire is embedded in her body,
but her social imaginary is a project not a product.
I build my hopes a world above her utopic sky:
down below, her rabbit creeps into my mole hole.
The press films Bo saying, ‘The press isn’t here!’
The Father of Lies is fucking his Mother of Parliaments.

19th September 2019

The Father of Lies

Fortunately some other ‘Bad Idea’ poems may be read online. I’m pleased to say three poems appear in Monitor on Racism. Patricia Farrell’s two images of Bo accompany them. Thanks to Monica at Monitor. Find the poems and images here:

Four consecutive poems from Bad Idea (XLV-XLVIII) are published together in International Times. Thanks to poetry editor Rupert Loydell. HERE

I write about those here:  

Not the sort of rabbit mentioned in the poem

If you ‘do the math’ you can see that I will run out of the poems at this rate of progress, soon, at the end of September 2019, next week, to be precise, but the Flexibretension (and Bo’s extremist ‘do or die in a ditch’ deadline) runs to 31st October (‘the eve of the Day of the Dead’ as one of my poems notes, Lowryesquely). And now it looks like an election will follow in November or December. After the dreadful proroguing: ‘for those rogues have prorogued the no-deal clock’, as I put it in poem 61.

I have called a summit of Drayton’s ‘thrice-three Muses’ to discuss possibilities but they didn’t show. I’ll have to think it through myself.

Musing on the train a while back, and in the pub, waiting for Scott Thurston, I settled upon some post-revolutionary reactionary sonnets of Wordsworth, 1802-3. The idea of Bad Idea originally was that it would pass through Brexitday and onto the other side, where it might gather some positivities. (I’m not even hinting here that post-Brexit will have any positive effects itself.) There’s no chance of that timetable now, and Wordsworth won’t help (although there are poems about Kent, where the Dogging Sites of Brexit Britain, and Farage, come from! There’s potential in that. Lie back and think of Nigel! ‘After Brexit the only meat we’ll get is each others’ bodies,’ she purred: ‘Let’s go dogging!’).

Too early at the Dogging Site? Why not have a little relax?
But I have also located more of Drayton’s ‘Idea’ poems not included in the 1619 edition, 12 of them, and I thought I might use them as a now neccessary appendix to ‘Bad Idea’ itself, and also use however many I need of the 1595 edition’s poems (the ones not preserved in the 1619, obviously). I’ve sorted them but I’m not satisfied with them. Too many of them are dedicatory sonnets. Or text-book Petrarchan exercises. They are, by nature, not as good as the ones in the 1619 edition. Scholars agree. (I might post this selection on this blog at some point.)

Instead, I think I will move back reflectively through the sequence I have written as befits the title Idea’s Broken Mirror (derived from Drayton’s original title for the sonnets, Ideas Mirrour). I shall make use of both my versions of Drayton’s poems and his originals, as we move backwards, as week by week models. (The precedessor of this lies at the beginning of The English Strain: the multiple versions of Petrarch in Petrarch 3, published by Crater. See here.) The mirror is broken so it will offer a more fragmentary view (not necessarily textually, but possibly) and it will not be necessary to progress from 63 back to 1 in its entirety. So when would the break off point be? It could be anywhere I wanted it, or where history dictates: perhaps at Brexit or some other crux point, an election maybe. The sequence might be only 4 poems or 63. This personal flexi(br)extension is useful to the uncertain progression, to the need to respond to national chaos, and to the need (simply) to stop at some point.

At the moment, I see them more like my 100 word sonnets (I might even take up that form again, which I invented in the 1990s, actually, my diary tells me, 25 years ago today, and which I talk about here) in that they might be impacted, unpunctuated, multiply coherent rather than unitarily narrative. On the other hand, they are also going to be narrated from the point of view of Idea herself, obviously stripped of her Platonic and Petrarchan idealism. The Charlotte Smith versions (see below) represented my comic ‘becoming-female’ as a narrator. Perhaps here it will not be so comic. They need to reflect BACK on the poems as they already exist (the Drayton-Sheppard pairings, as it were) but they need to absorb the developing political epic of Brexit, and they should project forwards. Throughout Bad Idea she has been trying to get a word in, and when she does, she’s often quoting Rosi Braidotti, though she has developed certain human traits also (a certain plumpness and a love of gin). Perhaps she has no need of them now. As ever, of course, these thumbnails (one definition of poetics) are not blueprints. (See here on the nature of poetics as a speculative writerly discourse: 

Nevertheless, Wordsworth is potentially waiting for a new turn for the third book of The English Strain – though that thought is unthinkable in two senses: both of the post-Brexit world with which it would deal, and the thought of writing a third book of transposed sonnets! Somewhere the sonnets of John Clare lurk as final possibilities. Or quennets rising out of them like sparrows from the nest. Then it’s done…. Though I’d have my homework to do, as I have had with Petrarch, Milton, Wyatt, Surrey, Smith, Barrett Browning and Drayton. And currently Shelley. Why Shelley?

My latest thought: Perhaps use might be made of Shelley’s ‘England in 1819’ (particularly as it is alluded to in one of the Bad Idea sonnets). Perhaps the lens through which to reflect back through events (to mix and muddle optical metaphors).  

Of course, I am working on other creative projects; I just don’t NEED to post them weekly. Jamie Toy writes about the periodicity of these weekly posts in relation to the temporal progression of Brexit here, in Versopolis :

Back to touchy Micky (he was very grumpy about his lack of visibility and patronage as a poet), and this current sequence reflects that now and then. Recent research has rather revised the Victorian view of him (only a paragon of virtue could write Drayton’s verse). Here he is in court:

(Source: Capp, Bernard. “The Poet and the Bawdy Court: Michael Drayton and the Lodging-House World in Early Stuart London.” Seventeenth Century 10 (1995): 27–37.)


Poor old misunderstood Drayton is somewhat out of print at the moment, though I have found a ‘Poly-Olbion’ project online (the whole epic is online, which is refreshing), and his fine sonnet sequence ‘Idea’ (the 1619 version) is also available online; 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:

This is also the source ( for much more of Drayton’s poetry, including the ‘extra’ sonnets I located for possible further transpositions.

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! 

In fact, I’ve also bought

Evans, Maurice, ed. Revised by Roy J. Booth. Eizabethan Sonnets. London and North Clarendon: Phoenix Paperback, 2003,

a careful book that includes the 1619 Idea entire (with original orthography) and has some notes. BUT not so careful that it doesn’t have the typo I have made use of: ‘This anthology mistypes my chosen verb ‘eternize’./ A new word enters the language as I enternize you!’

Brink, Jean R. Michael Drayton Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1990, has also proved extremely useful in giving an overview of Drayton’s career and voluminous works.  

You know, if you’ve seen these temporary posts before, that you may read about the whole ‘English Strain’ project in a post that has links to some other accounts, and earlier parts, of this work: hereThat was 100 poems long. But I didn’t stop there though. The most recent instalment of it, Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession (Petrarch 3 is still available from Crater) which kicked ‘The English Strain’ project into motion.

There are more excerpts from The English Strain in The Robert Sheppard Companion:

Three more overdubs of the Sussex poems of Charlotte Smith have been published at Anthropocene, an online platform run by Charlie Baylis. The first, ‘To the River Adur’ features a line or two from a letter from Lee Harwood. The second, ‘Written at a Church-yard in Middleton in Sussex’ is an overdub of Smith’s most famous poem (of that title), and ‘The sea-view’ which is a fully gender-bending Brexit-madness poem from later in the 14 part sequence.

You can go straight to them, here:

I am pleased to say I have six poems published in BlazeVOX 19, edited by Geoffrey Gatza, four of them poems from ‘The English Strain’ project, also transpositions of Charlotte Smith sonnets. You may get straight to the pages here:

Another from this part, another Charlotte Smith variation may be read in Smithereens 2, on page 15:

I read one of these at Roy Bayfield’s leaving do. More about that here:

Links to a number of the published poems from Non Disclosure Agreement (the last part of the proposed book of The English Strain) may be accessed here:

Some older ‘English Strain’ poems (from the first ‘book’) may be found here:

Ravished by Idea...

Friday 19th September 1969:

This week we have had a lot of home-work.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

First Review of Micro Event Space by Alan Baker on Litter

Hot on the foot of Andrew Taylor’s account of the Poetry and Poetics Research group on Litter, here, there appears the first review of Micro Event Space by Litter editor Alan Baker, which pretty much gets to the point of its attempted minimalism: short poems about little things in a small short run book in the neat Red Ceilings series. Alan’s final words are ‘This is a much bigger book than is apparent from its physical appearance.’ Thanks for the review Alan. Read it HERE.

Details of the book here (and lots of links to some of the (micro) events and collaborations and publications included therein):

Micro Event Space Book Launch
There’s also a review by Steve Spence of the anthology Noon: An Anthology of Short Poems, edited by Philip Rowland, that one of my short ‘twittersonnets’ in the book was published in.

My last poetry in Litter was four ‘Burnt Journal’ poems, birthday poems for poet friends:

Micro Event reader

Thursday 18th September 1969:

Number One: In the Year 2525, Zager and Evans.

Chris George gave me his small tape.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

Andrew Taylor: Robert Sheppard and the Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics Research Group on Litter

Up on Litter now is ‘“Isn't it time somebody wrote all this down”: Robert Sheppard and The Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics Research Group, 1999-2013.’ This is a generous account of the PPRG, focussing on the years the author Andrew Taylor was a member, but nevertheless acknowledging that this poetics anti-workshop is still going (strong: there is a new publication on its way). There are some nice photos too, of our meetings and publications. Thanks for the article Andy.

Read it here.
Cliff Yates and Andrew Taylor talking at the 'Going Public' open meetings of the PPRG 2009

It is a detailed piece on its history, much of it I'd forgotten, and my only concerns are that it might mythologise what should remain historicised: the attempts we made to define the nature of poetics (see here) were crucial, both in terms of defining the discourse and defining OUR discourses. It is good to recall that the PPRG is still operative. There's a meeting next week!
Andrew Taylor and others at the Symposium
A version of this article was presented at the Robert Sheppard Symposium at Edge Hill University, 8th March 2017. (More about that here.)

Details of The Robert Sheppard Companion which came out of the symposium may be read here:

Pages goes back almost as far as the PPRG. Here’s an early post about it with some links:

Here’s some thoughts on the group here, which I think I posted after including the thoughts in an email to Andy; he quotes some of it:

And don’t forget that this summer I guest-edited Stride and exclusively featured the current members of the PPRG. See here for an account of that with links to all the items.

In a nice neat symmetry, there are also four new poems by original PPRG member Cliff Yates in Litter too: here:

My last appearance in Litter was four ‘Burnt Journal’ poems, birthday poems for poet friends:

Litter also carries the first review of my Micro Event Space here.

Tuesday 16th September 1969:

First tape given to me by Funnell for a comedy show.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Monday 15th September 1969:

The few have accepted my tape idea. Voted as president of the 3A Debating Society.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday 14th September 1969:

John came up. Sun Radio did go on the air, and they were not raided in their transmission. They were faint. This probably answers the GPO who said they were interfering with the airlines’ radio.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Saturday 13th September 1969:

Running Radio station by tape is re-planned. Bought framed call up card of 1915 at Jumble Sale.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Friday 12th September 1969:

Sun Radio have been warned not to go on air on Sunday by the GPO – it is a good job we did not make a tape for them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Thursday 11th September 1969:

Number One: In the Year 2525, Zager and Evans.

In evening, I did a show. Played records I’ve just bought off Scotty. No microphone because it broke.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Wednesday 10th September 1969:

Had Biology Test (easy) with Miss Prior. Good programme about Lenin on the radio.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Tuesday 9th September 1969:

Streader (David) and Simon Hales came up my bedroom at dinner time. We got out to have our pack lunch.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Monday 8th September 1969:

Sent letter off to John. Told him of weekend’s events and free radio.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Sunday 7th September 1969:

Went to Katie’s christening. She cried all through the service. Drink, etc… at Uncle Peter’s new house.

Sun Radio.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Saturday 6th September 1969:

Went to the wedding of Pat and Colin. (See May 26th 1968). The reception was for 80, and it was in a hired hall, with free drinks, and a dance band. Arthur, who was paying for the lot, tried to get everyone drunk. Karen was a bridesmaid. Met goodness knows who on Dad’s side of the family.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Friday 5th September 1969:

Ronan O’Rahilly is reported to have bought 2 planes for a pirate TV station. (He started Radio Caroline.) Got letter from John. Had Mr Putnam for first time. He is quite good really.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Thursday 4th September 1969:

Number One: In the Year 2525, Zager and Evans.

Today we did not have Mrs Edwards for Maths. Instead we had Miss Jennings, who takes English, so we did minute speeches. She is new to the school, and the boys seemed pleased at the sight of this female. The speeches we heard were filthy. Mine was partly humorous, and about communist propaganda. She really liked this more than the show-off ones (Flea-circus, bird watching).

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Wednesday 3rd September 1969:

Back to school {Shoreham County Secondary School, called Middle Road, boys only}, Mike Edwards is our form master, and I am again the form captain. (See timetable.)

Monday, September 02, 2019

Tuesday 2nd September 1969:

Last day of free-dom. John and I went mad. In the morning we took the record player in the front garden (John’s) and played records. Many people gave us very funny looks. In the afternoon John and I went chasing after girls on our bikes. We saw two who we’d seen previously the other day. We followed. We ended up a close, and the girls went into a house. We went to the Square, and we saw them again, and followed, until they met a boy. We went to John’s, and when we went out again, we saw them again, and followed them. Soon they stopped and one of them turned and said, ‘Go and fuck off!’ We had a good time. Oh, well, back to school!!

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Retirement: Mine and Roy Bayfield's: Remix of Words Out of Time (set list)

Two years ago I retired. You can look back at my account of my ‘first day of freedom’, AND at my retirement ‘do’ rap. and my thoughts after a year, here:

This year it was the turn of Roy Bayfield, (and of Ailsa Cox earlier in  the summer) who is also a member of the Poetry and Poetics Research Group, and whose poems I selected for my guest editorship of Stride (see here:
This is the cover of the booklet of imaginary events put together for Roy's leaving do, in the style of the Edge Hill Arts Centre publicity!

I was invited by Cathy Butterworth to read something at his 'do' and I thought I’d read this introduction and then this re-mix from my book Words Out of Time. In the event it was too long so I read something else. But here it is:

Roy’s book Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2016) is a glorious exploration of – as it says on the tin – Nonreal Places. More on that book Here

Roy like me, is a South Coast poet: he comes from Portslade in East Sussex and I come from the next town along, Southwick in West Sussex.  I think it would take about 20 minutes to walk from the house where I grew up to the house where he grew up. In one paragraph he quotes me and explains the Southwick/Portslade dichotomy:

‘I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen…’ wrote Robert Sheppard in his chapbook The Given – a moment forgotten by the writer but remembered in a journal entry from an earlier decade. Robert was raised in Southwick, the town next to Portslade, and such dismissal is perhaps to be expected from the rival place, across the border in West Sussex. Admittedly, Portslade may not be on many people’s radars, at least not consciously so. (Bayfield 2016: 25)

He explains further:

As a child, the border between East and West Sussex, Portslade and Southwick, running at the back of our garden, defined by a footpath and a row of electricity pylons, seemed like such a line. Merely by virtue of being on the other side of the line, Southwick seemed slightly uncanny. (28)

I’d like to offer a special ‘Portslade/Southwick Remix’ of my text that Roy refers to, The Given, for Roy, and to wish him many psychogeographical explorations of uncanny nonplaces, wherever he may find them:

Portslade/Southwick Remix

I don’t remember going to the Grenada in Portland Road, Hove, don’t recall the film on show, and don’t remember, on the same day, seeing a play, or its plot, or its title. A frame set up, years later, by others. Coal dust on the doorframe, where the hood catches it. A dozen or so knapped flints pushed into the earth: a Roman road straight across the horses’ field, the wheat, the ridge of the Downs. Nazis machine-gun the cheese crates and screaming POWs leap up to their deaths. The pebbly beach beneath the Brighton B power station will do. An aluminium bowl of wasted food before which feeding is practised with moral intensity. I don’t remember the thunderstorm I watched from my window, lightning flashes over Southwick, flickering, striking ground. After the toad in the witness box, real policemen arrive to investigate stolen buttons, the wrecked foreign car. I don’t remember trying to buy This is Blues and finding the record sleeve contained only cardboard. I don’t remember tracking Radio 260 through the streets of Southwick, the ‘common’ English of the DJs, the warning that they’d cut up rough if we found them. The desire to write is the desire to write. I don’t remember reading The Day of the Triffids. I don’t remember watching colour TV. I don’t remember seeing Portslade on the radar screen, don’t remember the visit to HMS Collingwood. I don’t remember being shot at by somebody from a van. I remember the Ruby wine at the Romans, the way the barman would loll his tongue from the side of his mouth as he poured the soupy chemical liquid into Tony’s bottles. I don’t remember Doll and Arthur’s caravan at Selsey. I don’t remember getting a harmonica with Green Shield stamps. I don’t remember David’s bottled fish. I don’t remember Emerson Lake and Palmer playing a tribute to Hendrix at the Dome. I don’t remember seeing a band called Vomit. I don’t remember playing my tape of The Waste Land to an empty room. I don’t remember when poems became a currency. I don’t remember a girl called Annie flashing on Toby’s houseboat. I don’t remember writing a poem about Bill Butler’s Unicorn Bookshop. I don’t remember the night that was not particularly memorable. I don’t remember the Scottish woman who helped me at Metal Box in Fishersgate. I don’t remember sitting in Southwick Rest Garden to read Wilfred Owen. I don’t remember dancing with a girl with a big nose whose brother was a surrealist. I don’t remember that I bought Bomb Culture the day I saw Country Joe and The Fish. I don’t remember Tony arriving at 15 Oakapple Road, Southwick, with a letter from Henri Chopin. I don’t remember the German sailor dead drunk on the steps of the Crown and Anchor. I don’t remember the clever-dick who wanted to know why the Newhaven-Dieppe crossings were more expensive than the Dover-Calais ones. I don’t remember seeing the Doctors of Madness again, not getting it the second time, that blue-haired zeitgeister Kid Strange. I don’t remember reading Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat in the swelter of ’76. I don’t remember Flatfoot at The Alhambra. I don’t remember the disco to celebrate Franco’s death. I don’t remember laughing at the statue of the past Mayor of Brighton. I don’t remember jumbling the verses of ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’, our first gig at the Burrell Arms in Shoreham. I don’t remember climbing Chanctonbury Ring, the moon rising, ensanguined, over charmed hills…

Remix July 2019: for Roy

This is not the first remix from Words Out of Time on this blog. I did a special remix as part of the eulogy to my mother (see here) and a presented continuation of the final part ‘Work’ to the day of my retirement, here. More on that here. Read my account of writing The Given, the part used for Roy’s remix here.  There are even some outtakes here, stretches of 'When' that didn't make the final edit, here. It is an extraordinary flexible text to form and re-form.

Words Out of Time is still in print and may be read about and purchased here:

So what did I read for Roy?

Well. I decided to play with his notion of Southwick being ‘uncanny’, and I more or less said what I’d already written as intro to the remix above, and then read one of the Charlotte Smith Sussex 'Brexit' sonnets or overdubs, ‘Composed during a walk on the Downs’. It may be read here, along with other poems from the sequence: It’s the second poem down:

It also seems appropriate to mention this poem because what did I do 50 years ago, according to my 1969 diary which I am blogging each day: 'In afternoon, went over Downs for a walk.'

I write about my sonnets generally here, and here and see here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession,which set this thing off. 

Monday 1st September 1969: Late Summer Bank Holiday

Listened to Sun Radio in morning: special transmission. In afternoon, went over Downs for a walk.