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Thursday, December 05, 2019

Todays' post-Trump pre-election EU NATO version of Drayton's Idea's Mirrour (1594)

You know what’s happened, if you’ve been following my 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’m continuing 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 they are in ‘Bad Idea’ and less may be negotiated, though more fleetly. They may allude more, but refer less. But with an election called, with a Flexibrexnextension accepted, it’s not clear how long this work will be. I’ve been trying to think that through. Does this finish with the election, with Brexit, with a referendum, or revocation?

It depends who wins the election, I suppose. I turn to the possibilities at the end of this post. Current thinking is that there will be 14 ‘Mirror’ sonnets (a current measure in ‘The English Strain’, derived from the ancient sonnet cycle, the corona).  

Here’s number 12. The NATO summit was a lot more exciting than the election campaign has been. My poems have delighted in Bo saying stupid things, but the Cum and others have buttoned his lips (and Moggy’s). They seem to weather the odd Ice Sculpture non-appearance. But the NATO conference has unmuted cameras (unlike the old days) and Trump pissed off without saying goodbye on overhearing gossip about him. Idea’s ‘cause’ was perhaps announced at the end of last week’s poem (which, until the election, may be read here: ). Maybe read that first?


human hair strung on a banjo un-
mute cameras catch subject
formations fiddling one tune while
another burns the world the two-faced fan
of Brexit eyeballs Erdoğan creeping by Bo
in NATO impotence no Euro-Muse
sings the fame of Trump his un-
conscious is a high strung blackbox plinkety-plink
I’m as perfect as Drayton’s muse dictates
chorused goddess of these verses I’ll
cause my cause to survive if he elects me
at election dawn as speaker of his house
of words for my heart blows imperfect power
beyond the trumpet of all fame

5th December 2019

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. Here’s today’s model:

Sonnet 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.

I have now moved on to the many poems in the original Idea’s Mirrour published in 1594. These are the ones rejected by Drayton the longest, as it were. I’ve no clear idea (!) how many of them I shall use, but it looks today as if I might access only 3 of them (two more to make up14).


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


The first epigraph to the sequence 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).

The issue for this on-going work now, which I have been making public (as I have not been with other projects, it is worth noting), is what do I do with it after the election? So far I have written the following poems:

(Dates of composition and sources in the editions of Michael Drayton’s sonnets)

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: TODAY: 5th December 2019: Ideas Mirrour 1594: Amour 4

As you can see this sequence has not advanced isotemporally, if there’s such a word, and I will hit the election date next week. 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 above for a full account: ).

They are:

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? At one a week from now on that would be 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 week, 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. 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). More poems (or the same number of more hopeful poems might be written then). But her ‘mirror’ would not be shattered.

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.

But never under-estimate Bo’s and the Cum’s abilities to stir it up shamelessly for short term gain. And the Zinoviev Letter is old school by now, but still lays rotten eggs from its dead chlorinated chicken cloaca.

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’.

4. A Corbyn Minority administration. This is a distinct possibility, according to John Curtess (sic, I think I’ve spelt the distinguish 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 am 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 need to put country before party … I mean: 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.’

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 sure no one’s interested in my thinking aloud, but here it is. Better to look up the eight online poems from Bad Idea that may be accessed from this post:

Friday 5th December 1969:

Stayed in bed.

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.

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.

Idea considering the outdoor life on the Wirral

Monday 1st December 1969:

Stayed in bed. I may have measles or something like Scotty and David Streader came to see me.