Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Robert Sheppard: Thughts on Collaboration 1: Introduction

[Links to later posts in this 'collaboration' strand are at the bottom of this post.]

I am writing an article on the theme of ‘collaboration’ in contemporary British poetry. I see collaboration as being quite vital to many poets’ operations today. It seems like a good subject, and I could attack the issue academically quite well, I hope. However, as in most aspects I concentrate on in my criticism (ethics, history, form) they have a spin off into my creative practice, though the creative practice also has ‘themes’ that I do not investigate (ekphrasis, gender, Brexit) in my critical practice. Which I think is a good thing. Floating between the two is the discourse of poetics, of course. This is a subject about which I have written a great deal. (See my ‘Necessity of Poetics’ work HERE:

I may well call the piece I am writing ‘From Dialogue Out: Modes of Literary Collaboration in Innovative Contemporary British Poetry’. By literary collaboration, I mean to delimit the exercise, so I will be excluding multimedia from the discussion (just as well because another contributor to the collection will be covering that area). I want to consider, as a way of easing myself into the discussion, and as a way of thinking back on what I have collaborated upon, both literary and extra-literary collaboration. There is a difference between writing words together with someone and mixing words with image, sound, movement. I think I will consider what I have attempted in the last category first, because it is vitally important to me (but less so for the work directly in hand). Some of that is ongoing; some it is historical (another distinction). Actually, some of it may concern the future. One of the possible futures for the ‘fictional poet’ project, (see weebly
) weighs heavily upon me, though that might be a case of ‘fictional’ collaboration. (Don’t worry about that, just yet.) The pause in my ‘English Strain’ project (see here

or more fully, here:

), creates a vacuum into which all these ideas fall, abhorrently or otherwise.

Before I turn to those possibilities (the past neatly summarised on my website site on the page, notably called ‘Collaborations’, the plural suggesting the specificity of reference) I perhaps need to consider the term collaboration itself.

Afghanistan by Thomas Ingmire (text mine)

I know one of my collaborators, Thomas Ingmire, doesn’t think that’s what we are doing, and others, of course, don’t like the term for its political implications. ‘Collaborators’ with the Nazis were served severely by the French people after the Second World War. Boris Johnson called people from other parties ‘collaborators’ if they communicated with the EU, though they legitimately should have, in my opinion. After all, ‘Here’s his better world that’s pure idea, unseen: / ‘collaborators’ distract us from its flames’, as I put it in ‘Bad Idea LVII’, written last August. Part of me argues that to say that you’ve ‘executed’ a plan doesn’t mean you support capital punishment (Brexecutions are the aim of Brexit, I’ve always said, by the way, but I’ve not used that term (yet)). But … but … the connotations do remain. But … but … we have to use a word for it. Co-created? That’s not too bad, and it’s one I’ve used.

'Tangled Scree' by Pete Clarke (runner up for Adrian Henri Prize 2013)

In 2013, to accompany the exhibition at Edge Hill of work by Pete Clarke (with many of our collaborations included) see here:

I hastily convened a free symposium on ‘Collaboration’ at which I’m sure this issue was discussed. Though what I remember is the ‘show and tell’ aspect of it: Andrew McMillan on the poets’ nude calendar, Scott Thurston and Steve Boyland demonstrating voice collaboration… It was a great success but none of it was documented on this blog. (Did somebody write a report of it for the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry , of which I was an editor at that time? Yes: Tom Jenks did. But I won’t search out the report just now. I’ve also lost a book, photocopies of pages from, ‘Laird, 2000, Female Co-Authors (reference incomplete)’, which also has some theorizing of the subject. Well, I've just (4/2/20) recovered the line up for the Symposium. Here:

Literary Collaboration – a symposium hosted by the Edge Hill University Poetry and Poetics Research Group (English and History Department)

23rd April 2013 1pm-9pm E1 (afternoon) & Hub 2 (evening)

E1 is in the Education Block beyond the lake. Hub 2 is upstairs in the Hub.

To accompany the exhibition of image and text MANIFEST by Pete Clarke and Robert Sheppard in the Edge Hill Arts Centre, Ormskirk, between April 8th – 26th

Schedule with 20 minute papers

1.30: 135: welcome

1.35-2.50: Session A: Processes, Texts and Artists (3 speakers)


Speakers: Andrew Taylor ( Nottingham Trent/Edge Hill): ‘Two Poets, Two Artists, and a Person who Makes Things’. 
Richard Barrett (Salford) ‘processual work might always be considered collaborative’ 
Joanne Ashcroft (Edge Hill) Collaborating with Mina Loy


3.00-4.00: Session B: Voice Text and Music  

Chair: Patricia Farrell
Judy Kendall (Salford) ‘The use of music and text in Seaming To's 'Songs for My Grandmother'
Andrew McMillan (JMU/Edge Hill) Collaborations with photographers: a 'third' voice emerges

4.00-5.10: Session C: Interdisciplinary Collaboration  


Speakers: Rebecca Sharp: Synaesthetic Poetics: interdisciplinary collaboration in three works– ‘Unmapped’ (poems + paintings, with Anna King); 
‘The Ballad of Juniper Davy and Sonny Lumiere’ (poetry in performance, with Elizabeth Willow); and ‘Rules of the Moon’ (text + sound, with Philip Jeck). 
Eleanor Rees (Exeter): 'Arne's Progress', A Contemporary Broadside': collaborating with Desdemona McCannon

Including Pete Clarke (UCLAN) in the exhibition space, The Arts Centre.

5.30 break


6.30-6.35: welcome

6.35-7.50: Session D: Image Text, the Graphic Novel, Collaborative Dramatic Writing  

Chair: Ailsa Cox

Patricia Farrell (Edge Hill) will speak on the collaborations of Clarke and Sheppard
Rodge Glass (Edge Hill) on writing a graphic novel
Kim Wiltshire (Edge Hill) Playwright collaborations in the Theatre

7.50-8.40: Session E: The Interface and Other Voices

Tom Jenks (Edge Hill) will speak on the human-machine interface

Steve Boyland and Scott Thurston (Salford) will speaking about voice-text-movement collaborations (30 mins max)

Final discussion until around 9.00

Post-Symposium Drink in Ormskirk

TEAM: Robert Sheppard - Joanne Ashcroft - Tom Jenks

I am currently reading Juha Virtanen’s Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect in which collaboration is discussed. What I am impressed with so far is his ‘conception of performances as events of intersubjective authorship and cacophonous collectivity’, (p. 21) which suggests (and I agree) that all literary events (he takes the term from Whitehead, I would go to Attridge) are kinds of collaborations.

I talk about act-events here: ) There will be more about that elsewhere. So far, I’ve only read chapter one, which is about The Royal Albert Hall Poetry Incarnation in 1965. Something I write about here:

This is also a hub post for the 'Thoughts on Collaboration' strand

This introductory part one, above, flags up the themes and surveys the territory, here:

In part two, I talk about ways I've collaborated across media here:

Part three, is 
here. I talk more about literary collaboration, but I also try to account for my own transformative practices (in 'The English Strain' project) that are not collaborations, not translations, but are transpositions.

Part four, on some of my literary collaborations, is here.

Part five is about SJ Fowler's 'Enemies' collaborative project, in general, and my part in them (with videos). It may be accessed here.

(Here is an example of a collaboration between Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler. It is an hilariously funny guide to life after Brexit using the images from the 1980s 'Protect and Survive' booklet. It's less part of my 'Thoughts on Collaboration', and more of an interlude. I witnessed this performance.) 

Part six is a round up of my own literary collaborations in Twitters for a Lark; poetry of the European Union of Imaginary Authors (the EUOIA) 

Part seven considers some of the ways female coauthors have operated and whether the term 'coauthors' isn't a better term to use to describe what's going on here. 

Part eight consists of two parts: my considerations of the past collaborations of Kelvin Corcoran and Alan Halsey 
here. The second part is the linked review of their co-authored Winterreisen on Alan Baker’s excellent online journal Litter HERE (if you want to go straight to it). 

Part nine contains some thoughts on SJ Fowler’s 
Nemeses: Selected Collaborations of SJ Fowler, 2014-2019. HTVN Press, 2019 : here:

There are also links there to the review I have written of 
Fowler’s book.  That may be read on Stride  HERE

Part 10 is an account of Fowler’s poetics of collaboration. Here:

Part 11 is an account of Fowler's collaboration with Camilla Nelson (as it reads on the page), here.

Part 12 continues to analyse Fowler's collaboration with Nelson, but it takes account of the extraordinary dynamics of its 'Enemies' performance (which was filmed), here.

Part 13 reviews most of Juha Virtanen, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect. Here.

Part 14 contains links to all parts and off-shoots of this collaboration strand, in preparation for the writing of an article on that subject, here. 

SJ Folwer comments on all 14 of these posts, here: