Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wednesday 31st December 1969:

Felt ill more. Went to bed early. Will I be OK for school on Tuesday?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Monday 29th December 1969:

Did not see John. Made new recordings for Zenith, my new ‘recording company’.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Robert Sheppard: thirty years since Twentieth Century Blues was begun, 20 since it ended, and future plans

A double anniversary: I began my long network of texts Twentieth Century Blues on 28th December 1989 and I sort of ended it on 28th December 1999, in that on that day I decided to stop extending the cumbersome strands and interconnections of the text – see some of the posts on this ‘network’ below – and resolved to write one last poem (an ‘Empty Diary’ for 2000 that I called ‘The Push Up Combat Bikini’). That’s what I did.

In December 1989 I wrote in my journal, after some poetics notes that appeared, spruced up, here :

… world events move fast, at least in Romania they do. Too fast to use in a poem, the situation changing hour by hour. An acceleration of history, certainly not its end… 

as would have been the current neo-liberal thinking. I also found a way of writing to keep up with ‘events’, with the poem I wrote the following day, on 28th December, ‘Melting Borders’, which became the preface to Twentieth Century Blues.

Those buckets of blood there are the president’s property;
they reek of recent history, but have nothing to do
with what has become your fault; leakages
of household gas that punch too-distant disaster-holes
in the indifferent sky…

I write about the book that this project became here:

And here:

One POETICS of Twentieth Century Blues may be read here .

Another, ‘Linking the Unlinkable’, is found  here.

I wrote about ending the network (or k(not)-net-work), on December 1999 (the last entry of a journal, as it happens):

Half an hour to go to end C20th Blues. Even a quick look through this journal shows the moments of crisis in its development, a moment in 1993 when I worried about inclusions and exclusions, and its great initial moment when I saw Europe (correctly) changing its political and cultural configuration and wondering about the influx of the culture. The Rothenberg/Joris, as I say in the piece itself, goes some way towards dealing with that. But what a different era, when I wrote of walking down the street and of sensing everything against you, the great Tory-Capitalist machine. Now, irony guides me more; Tony Blair wants to make GMT into Greenwich Election Time on the Internet. Thatcher changed human consciousness. He wants to control time. Time Lord.   

The Age of Irony was succeeding The Drowning Years, just as we have given way to Warrant Error (Era?) and then The Age of Immiseration (where we still are. In Bad Idea I think I’ve replaced irony with slapstick).

Twentieth Century Blues is written about by others (particularly Mark Scroggins) in The Robert Sheppard Companion: see here.

It seems appropriate to quote these diary entries that the time I am just finishing posting my 1969 diary daily: 50, 30 and 20 years all laid out! (Forty years was mentioned last month on this blog.) (See

You may still buy the 2008 publication (all 300+ pages of it) Complete Twentieth Century Blues from SALT here:

Or navigate their website to their Robert Sheppard page. It is a sort of ‘Collected Poems, Volume One’.

I like to think of today as ‘Twentieth Century Blues Day’, but I don’t expect others to remember it! But it is a day when I customarily ponder my poems (though that could be said of every day!). 

The second book of ‘The English Strain’ project, Bad Idea (which consists of ‘Bad Idea’ and ‘Idea’s Mirror’) is now complete (see here

and here:

I have a couple of other projects to get on with (including a neglected batch of microfictions), and I hope to return to critical writing on a piece about collaboration (and I will also put some energy into posting about my own collaborations as a warm up). Indeed, following on from my EUOIA work, the collaborative work in Twitters for a Lark,

(see here:

and here:

I need to get round to its announced third part (announced by Zoe Skoulding at the start of her contribution to the Companion!). I’ve a few ideas relating to my involvement with Ern Malley events and fictional poets generally, and perhaps about the Isle of Man (possibly linked loosely to my Firminist involvement concerning Malc Lowry). But those ideas never seem to resolve into resolve, as it were.

As ever: more reading.  

Sunday 28th December 1969:

Had a bad cough. [This was bronchitis on top of chickenpox: I fail to record just how ill I was. After the excitement of Student Power of 3A in November, I wasn’t back at school until March 1970.]

Did not see John.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Friday 26th December 1969:

Nanny and Grandad, Uncle Michael, and Auntie M. and Helen and Great-Aunt Gina (over 80, but still dancing) came. Better than 25th. John came up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Thursday 25th December 1969:

Nanny, Auntie Joyce, Maureen and Uncle Ted, Karen and Mandy came. A bit bad. Played Xmas tape.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Wednesday 24th December 1969:

John is working. Just played records and tapes. (Well, it’s a holliday, isn’t it?)

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Monday 22nd December 1969:

In the morning went down John’s. Gave me Georgie Fame’s Seventh Son as Xmas present.

[I still have the record!]

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Michael Drayton and my borrowings from his sonnets (the originals presented)

I have now ‘finished’ the second book of my The English Strain project, which is entitled Bad Idea. It is a re-working, a transposition, if you will, 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’). One of the ways of reading most of the poems in ‘The English Strain’ project, both book one and two, accessing their deeper resonances, I hope, is by comparing my versions with the originals.

The ‘Bad Idea’ poems, unusually for Drayton, are widely available. The first modern edition of them is online, and may be found here:

Drayton, Michael. ‘Idea.’ in Arundell Esdaile, ed. Daniel’s Delia and Drayton’s Idea.
London: Chatto and Windus: 1908. 67-141; online at Luminarium:  http://www.luminarium.org/editions/idea.htm

I also found 

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!  Much better (not least of all for the other sequences there) is

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 useful notes.

[Update 2021: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:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages ]

 I write about Bad Idea extensively (with lots of explanation, photos, and links) in the hub post HERE:

I write more about its sequel‘Idea’s Mirror’ here:

In both I outline my thinking behind these Brexit poems. As I ran out of Drayton’s sonnets in Idea before Brexit was resolved, I was forced to continue book two of The English Strain with Idea’s Mirror, using selected Drayton sonnets jettisoned on his way to the definitive 1619 edition, accessing the literary equivalent to the record collector’s ‘completism’. As you can see I finished them just after the 2019 General Election. Since this is a selection rather than a sequential ‘writing through’ of a readily available edition, I felt the need to write an index for them.

This includes the dates of composition (of my versions!) and sources in the various editions of Michael Drayton’s sonnets (which is an epic story of extensive revision).

1: 8th October 2019; 1605: Sonnet 57
2: 15th October 2019; 1605: To Sir Walter Aston, Knight of the honourable order of the Bath, and my most worthy Patron
3: 17th October 2019: 1602: Sonnet 63 (To the high and mighty Prince, James, King of Scots)
4: 20th October 2019: 1599: Sonet 1
5: 24th October 2019: 1599: Sonet 3
6: 30th October (one day short of Brexit Day 2, Halloween) 2019: 1599: Sonet 9
7: 5th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 11 (To the Moone)
8: 11th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 23 (To the Spheares)
9: 18th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 27
10: 21st November 2019: 1599: Sonet 57 (To the Excellent and most accomplisht Ladie: Lucie Countesse of Bedford); incorporating a phrase from the Eighth Eclogue of Poemes lyrick and pastorall (1606)
11: 28th November 2019: 1599: Sonet 58 (To the Lady Anne Harington)
12: 5th December 2019: Ideas Mirrour 1594: Amour 4
13: 9th December 2019: Ideas Mirrour 1594: Amour 5
14: 15th December 2019: Ideas Mirrour 1594: Amour 9

These poems are all to be found in MINOR POEMS OF MICHAEL DRAYTON




but not necessarily together, so it seems sensible to gather them here in this post.

Some may be found here: http://www.luminarium.org/

2 sonnets from the Edition of 1605:


Sonnet 57


You best discern'd of my interior eies,
And yet your graces outwardly diuine,
Whose deare remembrance in my bosome lies,
Too riche a relique for so poore a shrine:
You in whome Nature chose herselfe to view,
When she her owne perfection would admire,
Bestowing all her excellence on you;
At whose pure eies Loue lights his halowed fire,
Euen as a man that in some traunce hath scene,
More than his wondring vttrance can vnfolde,
That rapt in spirite in better worlds hath beene,
So must your praise distractedly be tolde;
Most of all short, when I should shew you most,
In your perfections altogether lost.

To Sir Walter Aston, Knight of the honourable
order of the Bath, and my most
worthy Patron


I will not striue m' inuention to inforce,
With needlesse words your eyes to entertaine,
T' obserue the formall ordinarie course
That euerie one so vulgarly doth faine:
Our interchanged and deliberate choise,
Is with more firme and true election sorted,
Then stands in censure of the common voice.
That with light humor fondly is transported:
Nor take I patterne of another's praise,
Then what my pen may constantly avow.
Nor walke more publique nor obscurer waies
Then vertue bids, and iudgement will allow;
So shall my tone, and best endeuours serue you,
And still shall studie, still so to deserue you.

Michaell Drayton.

One sonnet from the Edition of 1602:


Sonnet 63


To the high and mighty Prince, James, King of Scots

Not thy graue Counsells, nor thy Subiects loue,
Nor all that famous Scottish royaltie,
Or what thy soueraigne greatnes may approue,
Others in vaine doe but historifie,
When thine owne glorie from thy selfe doth spring,
As though thou did'st, all meaner prayses scorne:
Of Kings a Poet, and the Poets King,
They Princes, but thou Prophets do'st adorne;
Whilst others by their Empires are renown'd,
Thou do'st enrich thy Scotland with renowne,
And Kings can but with Diadems be crown'd,
But with thy Laurell, thou doo'st crowne thy Crowne;
That they whose pens, euen life to Kings doe giue,
In thee a King, shall seeke them selues to liue.


8 Sonets from the 1599 edition: 


Sonet 1


The worlds faire Rose, and Henries frosty fire,
Iohns tyrannie; and chast Matilda's wrong,
Th'inraged Queene, and furious Mortimer,
The scourge of Fraunce, and his chast loue I song;
Deposed Richard, Isabell exil'd,
The gallant Tudor, and fayre Katherine,
Duke Humfrey, and old Cobhams haplesse child,
Couragious Pole, and that braue spiritfull Queene;
Edward, and that delicious London Dame,
Brandon, and that rich dowager of Fraunce,
Surrey, with his fayre paragon of fame,
Dudleys mishap, and vertuous Grays mischance;
Their seuerall loues since I before haue showne,
Now giue me leaue at last to sing mine owne.


Sonet 3


Many there be excelling in this kind,
Whose well trick'd rimes with all inuention swell,
Let each commend as best shall like his minde,
Some Sidney, Constable, some Daniell.
That thus theyr names familiarly I sing,
Let none think them disparaged to be,
Poore men with reuerence may speake of a King,
And so may these be spoken of by mee;
My wanton verse nere keepes one certaine stay,
But now, at hand; then, seekes inuention far,
And with each little motion runnes astray,
Wilde, madding, iocond, and irreguler;
Like me that lust, my honest merry rimes,
Nor care for Criticke, nor regard the times.


Sonet 9

Loue once would daunce within my Mistres eye,
And wanting musique fitting for the place,
Swore that I should the Instrument supply,
And sodainly presents me with her face:
Straightwayes my pulse playes liuely in my vaines,
My panting breath doth keepe a meaner time,
My quau'ring artiers be the Tenours Straynes,
My trembling sinewes serue the Counterchime,
My hollow sighs the deepest base doe beare,
True diapazon in distincted sound:
My panting hart the treble makes the ayre,
And descants finely on the musiques ground;
Thus like a Lute or Violl did I lye,
Whilst the proud slaue daunc'd galliards in her eye.

Sonet 11

To the Moone


Phæbe looke downe, and here behold in mee,
The elements within thy sphere inclosed,
How kindly Nature plac'd them vnder thee,
And in my world, see how they are disposed;
My hope is earth, the lowest, cold and dry,
The grosser mother of deepe melancholie,
Water my teares, coold with humidity,
Wan, flegmatick, inclind by nature wholie;
My sighs, the ayre, hote, moyst, ascending hier,
Subtile of sanguine, dy'de in my harts dolor,
My thoughts, they be the element of fire,
Hote, dry, and piercing, still inclind to choller,
Thine eye the Orbe vnto all these, from whence,
Proceeds th' effects of powerfull influence.


Sonet 23

To the Spheares


Thou which do'st guide this little world of loue,
Thy planets mansions heere thou mayst behold,
My brow the spheare where Saturne still doth moue,
Wrinkled with cares: and withered, dry, and cold;
Mine eyes the Orbe where Iupiter doth trace,
Which gently smile because they looke on thee,
Mars in my swarty visage takes his place,
Made leane with loue, where furious conflicts bee.
Sol in my breast with his hote scorching flame,
And in my hart alone doth Venus raigne:
Mercury my hands the Organs of thy fame,
And Luna glides in my fantastick braine;
The starry heauen thy prayse by me exprest,
Thou the first moouer, guiding all the rest.

Sonet 27


I gaue my faith to Loue, Loue his to mee,
That hee and I, sworne brothers should remaine,
Thus fayth receiu'd, fayth giuen back againe,
Who would imagine bond more sure could be?
Loue flies to her, yet holds he my fayth taken,
Thus from my vertue raiseth my offence,
Making me guilty by mine innocence;
And surer bond by beeing so forsaken,
He makes her aske what I before had vow'd,
Giuing her that, which he had giuen me,
I bound by him, and he by her made free,
Who euer so hard breach of fayth alow'd?
Speake you that should of right and wrong discusse,
Was right ere wrong'd, or wrong ere righted thus?

Sonet 57

To the Excellent and most accomplisht Ladie: Lucie Countesse of Bedford

Great Lady, essence of my chiefest good,
Of the most pure and finest tempred spirit,
Adorn’d with gifts, enobled by thy blood,
Which by discent true vertue do'st inherit:
That vertue which no fortune can depriue,
Which thou by birth tak’st from thy gracious mother,
Whose royall minds with equall motion striue,
Which most in honour shall excell the other;
Vnto thy fame my Muse herself shall taske,
Which rain'st vpon me thy sweet golden showers,
And but thy selfe, no subject will I aske,
Vpon whose praise my soule shall spend her powers.
Sweet Lady yet, grace this poore Muse of mine,
Whose faith, whose zeale, whose life, whose all is thine.

(I also allude to the Eighth Eclogue of Poemes lyrick and pastorall (1606), when this view of Lucy is viciously revised:

Let age sit soone and ugly on her brow,
No sheepheards praises living let her have
To her last end noe creature pay one vow
Nor flower be strew’d on her forgotten grave,
And to the last of all devouring tyme
Nere be her name remembered more in rime.)  

Sonet 58

To the Lady Anne Harington

Madam, my words cannot expresse my mind,
My zealous kindnes to make knowne to you,
When your desarts all seuerally I find;
In this attempt of me doe claim their due,
Your gracious kindnes that doth claime my hart;
Your bounty bids my hand to make it knowne,
Of me your vertues each doe claime a part,
And leaue me thus the least part of mine owne.
What should commend your modesty and wit,
Is by your wit and modesty commended
And standeth dumbe, in much admiring it,
And where it should begin, it there is ended;
Returning this your prayses onely due,
And to your selfe say you are onely you.

(Anne was Lucy's mother.)

Sonnets from Ideas Mirrour, 1594:

Amour 4

My faire, had I not erst adorned my Lute
With those sweet strings stolne from thy golden hayre,
Vnto the world had all my ioyes been mute,
Nor had I learn'd to descant on my faire.
Had not mine eye seene thy Celestiall eye,
Nor my hart knowne the power of thy name,
My soule had ne'er felt thy Diuinitie,
Nor my Muse been the trumpet of thy fame.
But thy diuine perfections, by their skill,
This miracle on my poore Muse haue tried,
And, by inspiring, glorifide my quill,
And in my verse thy selfe art deified:
Thus from thy selfe the cause is thus deriued,
That by thy fame all fame shall be suruiued.

Amour 5


Since holy Vestall lawes haue been neglected,
The Gods pure fire hath been extinguisht quite;
No Virgin once attending on that light,
Nor yet those heauenly secrets once respected;
Till thou alone, to pay the heauens their dutie
Within the Temple of thy sacred name,
With thine eyes kindling that Celestiall flame,
By those reflecting Sun-beames of thy beautie.
Here Chastity that Vestall most diuine,
Attends that Lampe with eye which neuer sleepeth;
The volumes of Religions lawes shee keepeth,
Making thy breast that sacred reliques shryne,
Where blessed Angels, singing day and night,
Praise him which made that fire, which lends that light.

Amour 9


Beauty sometime, in all her glory crowned,
Passing by that cleere fountain of thine eye,
Her sun-shine face there chaunsing to espy,
Forgot herselfe, and thought she had been drowned.
And thus, whilst Beautie on her beauty gazed,
Who then, yet liuing, deemd she had been dying,
And yet in death some hope of life espying,
At her owne rare perfections so amazed;
Twixt ioy and griefe, yet with a smyling frowning,
The glorious sun-beames of her eyes bright shining,
And shee, in her owne destiny diuining,
Threw in herselfe, to saue herselfe by drowning;
The Well of Nectar, pau'd with pearle and gold,
Where shee remaines for all eyes to behold.

They make an interesting group of 14, kind of outtakes (like alternative recordings of songs arranged as bonus tracks on a complete CD). They stand on their own as well as together. For more on Drayton consult Brink, Jean R. Michael Drayton Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1990, which proved extremely useful in giving an overview of Drayton’s career and voluminous works, and questioning a lot of the unsupported assumptions that still circulate about his poetry (particularly about identifications of ‘Idea’).
Finally here is the sonnet that provided my epigraph to ‘Idea’s Mirror’, from ‘Endymion and Phœbe,’ n.d., 4to, entered in the ‘Stationers’ Register’ 12. April 1594

To Idea
Amidst those shades wherein the Muses sit,
    Thus to
Idea, my Idea sings,
   Support of wisedome, better force of Wit:
    Which by desert, desert to honour brings,
Borne to create good thoughts by thy rare woorth,
    Whom Nature with her bounteous store doth blesse,
    More excellent then Art can set thee forth;
    Happy in more, then praises can expresse:
Which by thy selfe shalt make thy selfe continue,
    When all worlds glory shall be cleane forgot,
    Thus I the least of skilfull Arts retinue:
    Write in thy prayse which time shall neuer blot;
Heauen made thee what thou art, till worlds be done,
Thy fame shall flourish like the rising Sunne.

The last three are the first to appear from ‘Idea’s Mirror’.


This showing of just pre- and just post- 2019 Election poems is accompanied by Patricia Farrell’s fine illustration of a Techno-Dogging Site.

Thursday 18th December 1969:

Number One: Rolf Harris, Two Little Boys.

Woke up late (11.30)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

My last 'Idea's Mirror' post-election poem transposed from Michael Drayton's sonnets (the end of The English Strain book 2)

You know what’s happened, if you’ve been following my temporary posts. I’ve long run out of the sonnets of Michael Drayton from his 1619 Idea, which I had been using to write my sonnet sequence Bad Idea, the latest part of The English Strain. I thought Brexit would be over before I’d written all of its 64 poems! Instead, I reached the start of October 2019. I write about it extensively (with lots of explanation, photos, and links) in the hub post HERE:

Despite the various schemes outlined in that post, I’ve continued this Brexit work with Idea’s Mirror, using selected Drayton sonnets jettisoned on his way to the definitive 1619 edition, accessing the literary equivalent to the record collector’s ‘completism’. The narrator is Idea herself, Drayton’s shadowy muse (although the Muse –capital M – is also separately addressed).

The poems are shorter in ‘Idea’s Mirror’ than in ‘Bad Idea’ and less may be negotiated, though more fleetly. They may allude more, but refer less. But with an election nearly upon them, with a Flexibrexnextension accepted by the EU (remember them?), it was not clear how long this work would be. I’ve been trying to think that through. Does this sequence finish with the election, with Brexit, with a referendum, or revocation? I asked myself. I wrote about the first poem here:

It all depended on who won the election. (For the sake of a very battered posterity, I turn to the possibilities at the end of this post, preserving my last thoughts before that catastrophe.) By the end I had more or less decided that there would be 14 ‘Mirror’ sonnets (a common measure in ‘The English Strain’, derived from the ancient sonnet cycle, the corona). That left me a single post-election poem, i.e., the one I wrote this morning. I needed to get in the post-election fatigue and feeling of hopelessness. A three day hangover helped! And I knew Idea would fade away, though actually she’s given posthumous life too, and hope.

The dogging site theme needed to be there, and the line about ‘dying laughs’, leads us back to the first poem of Bad Idea, ‘To the Readers of these Sonnets’, which concludes: ‘I … interrupt the passionate civilities/ of Drayton’s lines, until dying laughs’, which just about sums it up. Even this sour valediction. I have now removed this poem from the blog. It got used as our New Year's card, by the way. 

The fountain of the techno-dogging site

It ends:

I’m transfigured into a bigger idea
shifting an imaginary where I’ll
remain for all eyes to behold

The final three poems have been published in International Times and may be read HERE

Update 2021: I’m delighted to announce that Bad Idea, with 'Idea's Mirror' in it, 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:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

Book One of ‘The English Strain’ project, The English Strain, is available from Shearsman Books here:



Idea transfigured

As I say, I have selected these poems so that they move (backwards) through the various editions of Drayton’s poems. The originals are pretty rare, which is why I’m posting each here. And the 14 that I selected are gathered HERE.

Today's model is 'Amour 9' which ends:

Where shee remaines for all eyes to behold.

For the end of ‘Idea’s Mirror’ I moved on to the many poems in the original Idea’s Mirrour published in 1594.


The poems are also to be found in MINOR POEMS OF MICHAEL DRAYTON




The first epigraph to the sequence

Amidst those shades wherein the Muses sit,
                                    Thus to Idea, my Idea sings…

derives from, ‘To Idea’, in E N D I M I O N and   Phœbe , IDEAS LATMVS. This is drawn from the Renascence Editions text, which was transcribed by Risa S. Bear, November 2000, from the edition of 1595.‘Endymion and Phœbe,’ n.d., 4to, entered in the Stationers' Register, 12th April 1594. Though I might re-visit this poem to bid farewell to Idea when the time comes (with a gin and tonic I hope, for her).

To return to my thinking about the sequence here are some about the effect of the election, written before the event:

There are only 4 possible outcomes of the election. They suggest 4 outcomes for both ‘Bad Idea/Idea’s Mirror’ and for the whole of ‘The English Strain’ project (again, see this hubpost for a full account: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/09/on-bad-idea-and-reference-to-earlier.html ).

They are:
Nasty Bo

1.A Bo Majority. Brexit will happen quickly and Idea’s mirror will be shattered, as would she be. Right wing policies: magic police and nurses. The poems would stop, I think. At 14 maybe, just post-election. Maybe time to move on to the Wordsworth poems mentioned in the hubpost? Even take a short break. I admitted to Brexit-fatigue the other month, in my diary. Yes, even me, and possibly Idea too! And doubtless, gentle reader, you also. Or I could go back to the voice of ‘Bad Idea’ and carry on with the many 1594 sonnets that still remain. Remain!

2. A Corbyn Majority. Re-negotiation and a further referendum. And a manifesto I think I fully agree with. Nationalise Sewerage! Idea would be much more hopeful under this scenario: perhaps she could carry on with her Braidottiesque deleuzoguattarianism (i.e., her unfashionably utopic politics, or the ‘politics of kindness’ as she calls it). But only to poem 14, in current plans. But her ‘mirror’ would not be shattered. She’d give it a polish, I’m sure.

The last sonnet of ‘Idea’s Mirror’ would be celebratory, cautiously so, and it wouldn’t be clear what I would do after. Have a break? Get back to my ‘microfictions’ maybe? All the stuff I’m writing that I don’t post?

The Wordsworth poems could only be transposed if the referendum vote was to Leave. I can’t believe a second referendum (we shouldn’t have any in a representative democracy) would be less rancorous than the first. Though the anti-immigration line has weakened, now people realise how the NHS, for example, is dependant on migration.

3 A Bo Minority administration. Could Brexit be delivered? If not, what poems by Idea (or another?) could track the chaos? And for how long, or for how many could I carry on? But mirth would be possible, although it would be ‘deja vu all over again’! Just re-read ‘Bad Idea’ to get the gist! This would perhaps justify returning to the ‘voice’ of ‘Bad Idea’ to sandwich the brief election corona of ‘Idea’s Mirror’. That would work, I think.

4. A Corbyn Minority administration. This is a distinct possibility, according to John Curtess (sic, I think I’ve spelt the distinguished cephologist’s name incorrectly, and his profession’s?). Could Brexit or a referendum be delivered? If not, what poems by Idea (or another) could track the chaos, the breakdown, the compromises? It’s not predictable.

I was left in the odd position that politically I really want the outcome to be 2, but that 1 or 3 suits the poetry better. Like MPs, I needed to put country before party … I mean: country before poetry!
There is a fifth outcome for the poems, of course. Which is: ‘The English Strain’ will end at the end of ‘Idea’s Mirror’, heeding Miles Davis’ advice, ‘End your solo before you’re done.’ Especially if I feel everything’s been said. Or left unsaid (as the empty lining of poem 13 suggests).

However, just as the ‘Brexit’ theme developed out of the ‘English Strain’ poems (it appears towards the end of ‘It’s Nothing’, when I made a joke about the word ‘Brexit’, which I thought might need explaining like ‘stagflation’ or other temporary and ex-contemporary expressions)), ‘The English Strain’, in its versioning of canonical (and not so canonical) sonnets, need not be completely stuck on the Brexit theme. It is as much a formal exercise as a thematic one. And an historical one.

I still feel the lack of transpositions of Romantic sonnets. Then I’d be through. I’m too fatigued to contemplate a third book of The English Strain at the moment, but it’s a possibility and a possibility I am registering here. (All my thinking about the sequence has been on this blog, not in my poetics journal, oddly.)

Best now to look up the eight online poems from Bad Idea that may be accessed from this post:

Please note: there will be more published on Stride on the following dates: 1,3,5,7,9,11 January 2020.

I would like to acknowledge the weekly interaction with the poet and reviewer Clark Allison, who has not failed to email me about these temporary posts. It really became part of the process – as was blogging itself, as was also noted by Jamie Toy, who writes about the periodicity of my weekly posts in relation to the temporal progression of Brexit here, in Versopolis: https://www.versopolis.com/arts/to-read/792/moving-but-also-staying-the-same

Early to the Dogging Site

One last interesting fact. A Tory MP had suggested that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would result in an increase in dogging (in Kent too, a county that entered ‘The English Strain’ through Sir Thomas Wyatt’s associations with it). I’m so glad the political perspicacity of my poems is apparent in this important policy area, administered so well by Go. See here:

You couldn’t make it up. (I did.) When Go was appointed to Rural Affairs, which surely is a dogging site agency, this theme ran and ran. Here’s a Christmas message from him:

Hares mugging Corbyn
Of course, Corbyn wasn't actually mugged by hares. I'm glad I was too busy celebrating Patricia's birthday to attend to the election, staying up all night (as I usually do). So far as I can see Labour lost because of 3 factors:

Brexit (their message was too complex, nuanced if you will, but unlikely to clearly appeal to voters. I don't know what a simpler message might have been. Leave wouldn't have worked, neither would remain.)

Corbyn (he never appealed on the doorstep. Negative press didn't help, but it can't just have been that. I have friends who don't like him, but who can't put their finger on it why. Another claims he's not very bright. I thought he was a principled man, but that doesn't count for much, I suppose.)

Policies (I liked the manifesto but I don't think it was sold. Privatising the railways is popular, ditto water, but probably not leccy and gas. Don't Sell the NHS was a hyperbolic slogan that was burst by Trump's refusing the NHS, even though the real risk of inflated prices from US pharmaceuticals is still there.)

Monday 15th December 1969:

Did nothing exciting.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sunday 14th December 1969:

Reading: Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders.

Sun Radio [illegible]

John came up. He has a large tape of the Splod recordings. Sun Radio came on the air. In the afternoon, the Glenn Miller Story was on TV.  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Friday 12th December 1969:

Stayed at home. I planned another Xmas tape entitled, ‘The 60’s’.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Thursday 11th December 1969:

Number One: The Archies: Sugar, Sugar.

Did a show for Xmas on Dad’s new tape recorder.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Monday 8th December 1969:

Stayed in Bed. Heard about new sea-going pirate, Radio North-Sea International.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Sunday 7th December 1969:

Reading: Squires, Electronics.

John came up in the morning. Sun Radio (not very strong) and Radio Yvonne were on for the first time.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Saturday 6th December 1969:

Stayed in bed. In the late afternoon, John came up. He [sentence unfinished]

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Monday, December 02, 2019

Tuesday 2nd December 1969:

Stayed in bed. I am rather spotty. The doctor says I have chickenpox very badly.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Robert Sheppard: Two more poems from BAD IDEA published by International Times

Image from International Times

Two more sonnets from Bad Idea (my transpositions of sonnets by Michael Drayton from his sequence Idea, that being the name of his ‘lady’) appear on International Times. They are LVII, which is about Bo (Boris Johnson) and his ‘vision’ of the world, and LVIII, which features the various carves-up of the nation pending if Bo takes us out of the EU. Idea appears in each poem, as its muse. In the first she considers dogging (due to become the national sport after Brexit); in the second she flees with revulsion from Bo, Moggy and Co. The huge insensitivity to Ireland’s historical ‘relationship’ to Britain is played upon; ‘Murphy’ is what Bo calls the Taoiseach, apparently. To bring the two themes together, a later sonnet shows Bo 

waltzing the Taoiseach around the Wirral where
wodwos await the worm on public footpaths
(obscure moist bridals)

You may read the two poems HERE. http://internationaltimes.it/idea/

Two previous poems from the sequence may be read HERE

 Another four consecutive poems from Bad Idea (XLV-XLVIII) were published together in International Times earlier this year! HERE 

 Thanks poetry editor Rupert Loydell for publishing them. They feel very timely.

See here for a hubpost concerning the writing of these 64 versions of Michael Drayton’s Idea.

I am currently working on the sequel to Bad Idea, Idea’s Mirror, and these sonnets are being posted temporarily, one at a time, on this blog. If you look, you’ll find them. This post explains. The larger sonnet project is entitled The English Strain. 2021: Book One of ‘The English Strain’ project, The English Strain, is available from Shearsman Books here:


Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, HERE:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

Idea considering the outdoor life on the Wirral