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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The last of my Wordsworth versions in 'British Standards' (Book Three of 'The English Strain')


My ‘English Strain’ project has sped on, given the rapidity of production in the last few weeks. Poem one was written in the very different world of the first week of February; this last poem is being written on the last day of March. There are two posts about the background to the project: one that looks back at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here .

The final part of Bad Idea is called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, which is described, along with some of the prospective poetics plans I had before the general election in December 2019, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html

The manuscripts of both books are ready for publication. Both submitted.

The third book is entitled British Standards. Its preface is a version of Shelley’s ‘England in 1819’ (obviously retitled ‘England in 2019’), written in October of that year, whereas the body of the book was begun in 2020, after Independence Day.

For the first section, I have used poems from a part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, and subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’, which is what I have taken. I’ve selected ones written 1802-3, around the Peace of Amiens, when he returned to France, briefly. Each carries the first line as a title, for identification. The poems are easy to find, though not always in the versions I have used. Wordsworth wrote over 500 sonnets; I’ve read about 100 of them in the last three months or so.


This blog post from Jonathan Bate, who is about to publish a Wordsworth biography (which I have on order, but it’s going to be a little late for this initial writing of my project, I know) is illuminating about the early vs. the late poems. This is relevant, since the poems I have used are late revisions of early poems. That’s a further twist, about which much has been written, I know: which is why one poem We had a female Passenger who came from Calais deals with the finding of two versions of the poem I’d selected: 

In your fidgety revisions, she’s ‘a fellow-passenger… 
from Calais’ (tracking today’s trafficking route); 
‘gaudy in array’ you wrote, though ‘spotless’ is
nobler, this ‘Negro woman’ now ‘white-robed’
in your neo-Netflix pot of time.
‘Pot of time’ is very cheeky, I know. For some reason, I’d imagined that Wordsworth’s revisionary poetics was limited to The Prelude, but it pervades his publishing history.

My poems present a vision of post-Brexit Britain, which is now overtaken by the coronavirus, which was hardly an issue when I began this ‘corona’, though it does get a mention, even in poem 2. Maybe ‘overtaken’ overstates it: it mingles with it (in all kinds of ironic ways). I’m also going to leave the poems posted a little longer than I do usually, though they are still temporary. 
Patricia Farrell's representation of a Techno-Dogging Site (December 2019)


This is the last poem of the 14. It mutes (hopefully extinguishes) the dogging theme, but it’s there. As you know, the National Thrust (formerly the Department for Rural Affairs) has opened a number – the government says 40, but it’s nearer zero, like their pre-Nightingale hospitals – of new dogging sites. Most were ready for Independence Day (31st January 2020), and several were the new Techno Dogging sites promised in the Conservative Party Manifesto. Ever since the current Chancellor of the Dogging Sites of Lancaster was at Rural Affairs, around the time he issued his famous Christmas Message in 2018, anticipation has been growing, but it's all on hold now. Read it again here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/12/christmas-message-from-right-hon-m-go.html

Pre-social distancing


Of course, now all the dogging sites are shut. (You couldn’t make it up: they are shut. The national press made much of an online message cancelling one dogging meeting in the Midlands. You will see that self-distancing is practised by my men of Kent.)  


Vanguard of Liberty, ye men of Kent


Vanloads of libertines, playboys of Kent, 
you once set your calcic frowns against
France’s toothless coast! Now’s the time
to prove you’re rock hard tarts! Let Gillray’s 
Bum-Boats dump the last of your hops. Those 
French hear your brave woodland shouts for show 
as you roam, single, in self-distancing self-love; 
they watch your glistening lance throb
in your (well-washed) hand, as you film 
an isolated maiden in a mask. (It’s a nurse!) 
No partying now: we’re ramping up mass testing, 
damping down individual urges. In breathless 
Bo’s Britain, each stay-indoors chartered street 
is mothballed in his notional socialism.  

31st March 2020
The last phrase I’m particularly proud of. Let’s say no more. This post will be permanent, though the poem will disappear, to leave a hub post. (That will catalogue any publications, with links, particularly if they appear on line.)

The Gillray is reproduced here. I saw it in Wu, Duncan, ed. Romanticism: an anthology. Third edition. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007. 



British Standards aims to present versions (or transpositions) of sonnets of the Romantic period (between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html

and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both of them in the final parts of Book One:


EBB is clearly a BDSM freak with her dog (and slave Robert Browning) locked in that top floor flat. (‘Knock here for Latin lessons with Mistress Elizabeth’). She's also a Tory minister's 'mistress'. Four more poems have appeared in print recently: see here:


I’m thinking of the poems I ‘transpose’, and the ones I plan to process, as ‘Standards’ in two senses: I have been listening to Anthony Braxton’s ‘Standards’ albums, where he plays those communally malleable tunes dubbed ‘standards’ by jazz musicians, but I’m also thinking of the ‘standards’ that British locks and other devices conform to, which seem, incidentally, to have survived the supposed uniformity of 40 years of EU Regulations, and which Bo and others will doubtless champion, along with Imperial Measures and £.s.d. Oh, and hanging.

Hear an Anthony Braxton ‘standard’ above, or here: 


Braxton is still at it too: look at this: filmed live, at one of the only jazz concerts this year so far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRYGqZifWCE

In a piece to be posted soon, on ‘collaboration’, I was moved to make a remark about ‘the meaning of form’ and I found myself reflecting upon ‘The English Strain’ as a whole, contrasting the formal and the content. You can read the ‘collaboration’ strand from here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html

And you can read about my critical book The Meaning of Form here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/09/robert-sheppard-meaning-of-form-in_19.html

I genuinely believe [I wrote] that literary works can have efficacy (at the level of form) that is truly liberational. To take my recent ‘Poems of National Independence’, I take it that the satire about Brexit is on the surface, but the real aesthetic work, the lastingly moving part of the experience, lies in the act-event of the reception of the formal distance between Wordsworth’s original ‘Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!’ and my ‘Flat-Battery Bo, rusticated man’s man!’ That’s where I locate the active, eventful innovation.

In fact, the address to the reader that begins Book Two, already states a similar case, basically a version of the first sentence (and axiom) of The Meaning of Form:

I hang out inside these sonnets, punching
echoes into new shape, because I take 
poetry as the investigation
of complexity through the means of form. 



You can access six poems, transpositions from Michael Drayton, see above, from Bad Idea here:


Another eight online poems from Bad Idea may be accessed from this post:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/robert-sheppard-two-more-poems-from-bad.html

Three sonnets from the last section of Bad Idea, ‘Idea’s Mirror’, may be accessed here:


In ‘Petrarch 3’, the opening part of Book One, the transpositions are achieved by having 14 versions of one translation from Petrarch. This part of Book One, ‘Petrarch 3’, is published under that title. Another part is published as Hap which ab(uses) the sonnets of Thomas Wyatt. (It’s also where the dogging in Kent theme began: he lived in, was banished in, his wife possibly played around in, Kent. Both pamphlets are still available.

Look here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater Press in its ‘fold out map’ edition.



Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch (Does. Tin. On. It. The. What. Says) is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:

If you are fed up with Hilary Mantel, or you can't get enough of a 'modern' Thomas Wyatt, try it!

Occasionally my method of transposition is demonstrated in publication. Here’s a poem by the Earl of Surrey (he's also in Mantel) with my take on it: http://internationaltimes.it/direct-rule-in-peace-with-foul-desire .

I contemplate the term ‘transposition’ at the end of the following post (that is mostly about collaboration, you can scroll past that bit). In determining that ‘transposition’ isn’t collaboration proper, I also demonstrate that ‘transposition’ isn’t translation, even of the fashionable, ‘expanded’, kind.


I’m not only working on this sequence, by the way: my website is updated annually with life, writing, collaborations, criticism (by and on), etc. here: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com

Here is a link that links to all the links to the good things on this blog: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/02/fifteen-years-of-blogging-hubpost-to.html

The National Thrust: the national sport

Monday, March 30, 2020

If Dylan can release his back-catalogue, so can I...

This video, taken by Liz Eales, was shot on 14th November 2015, my 60th birthday party, at which I misguidedly decided to entertain my guests. I should have just enjoyed myself! Anyway, here it is.

This was also the night that An Educated Desire was published, by Knives Forks and Spoons, a book of poems written for my birthday (secretly edited by Scott Thurston).

Here's more on the book, and the evening, here and here.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Wordsworth transposition in form of a get well card for Boris Johnson (temporary post)

My ‘English Strain’ project speeds on, given the rapidity of production in the last few weeks. (Poem one was written in the very different world of the first week of February.) There are two posts about the background to it: one that looks back at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here .

The final part of Bad Idea is called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, which is described, along with some of the prospective poetics plans I had before the general election in December 2019, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html

The manuscripts of both books are ready for publication. Both submitted. 

The third book is entitled British Standards. Its preface is a version of Shelley’s ‘England in 1819’ (obviously retitled ‘England in 2019’), written in October of that year, whereas the body of the book was begun in 2020, after Independence Day.

At the moment, I am using poems from a section of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, and subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. Each carries the first line as a title, for identification. The poems are easy to find, though not always in the versions I have used. I’ve finalized my selection of 14 of them, a corona, ironically, having reached today, poem 13. One more to go. Wordsworth wrote over 500 sonnets; I’ve read about 100 of them in the last two months or so.


This recent blog post from Jonathan Bate, who is about to publish a Wordsworth biography (which I have on order, but it’s going to be a little late for this part of my project, I know) is illuminating about the early vs. the late poems. Of course, the ones I am looking at are late revisions of early poems. That’s a further twist (about which much has been written, I know: which is why one poem We had a female Passenger who came from Calais deals with the finding of two versions of the poem I’d selected:


In your fidgety revisions, she’s ‘a fellow-passenger… 
from Calais’ (tracking today’s trafficking route); 
‘gaudy in array’ you wrote, though ‘spotless’ is
nobler, this ‘Negro woman’ now ‘white-robed’
in your neo-Netflix pot of time.
‘Pot of time’ is very cheeky, I know. 
The poems present a vision of post-Brexit Britain, which is now overtaken by the coronavirus, which was hardly an issue when I began this ‘corona’, though it does get a mention, even in poem 2. Maybe ‘overtaken’ overstates it: it mingles with it (in all kinds of ironic ways). I’m also going to leave the poems posted a little longer than I do usually, though they are still temporary. 

Today I told Patricia that I would write this penultimate poem and make it ‘not funny’. I think I failed, which is probably just as well. The illness of the man I have been lampooning as Bo is slightly shocking (though predictable, given his gung-ho behaviour in public, shaking hands, squeezing up to the suddenly-fashionable experts: the line ‘experts shyly show their expertise’ got lost somewhere in writing this poem). I actually do wish him well. We need him: we also need to see people getting well. All we are getting is news of infection and death, not recovery. The dogging sites get a look in (they are inevitably going to be part of poem 14, one of the poems that attracted me to these sonnets, as I read them on the train over to Manchester to see a friend, now an unthinkably bold expedition). I saw a drone flying over Derbyshire on Twitter and it was obvious to me what was going on down below.


England! The time is come when thou shouldst wean


Britain, the time is now to wean yourself from
hoarding fancy food or panic buying bog rolls.
It’s hard. Old routines are unsettled. Seedy spots
where you trespassed (camera phones in one hand),
idly watched at bridle-paths for meat-wagons 
freighting broad-bodied flesh, are shut, policed
by drones. If in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, 
they falter, how will proud Brexit Britain fare?
It lost the email inviting it to share with them.
We self-isolating ‘get well’ card rhymesters    
(the abject position of the contemporary poet now,
according to the press, and even some bards; 
we must soothe and smooth the national mood) gift 
Bo our best wishes: Our best hopes rest with you!

28th March 2020


British Standards aims to present versions (or transpositions) of sonnets of the Romantic period (between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html
and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both of them in the final parts of Book One:
EBB is clearly a BDSM freak with her dog (and Robert Browning) locked in that top floor flat. (‘Knock here for Latin lessons with Mistress Elizabeth’). Four more of those have appeared in print recently: see here: 
I’m thinking of the poems I ‘transpose’ as ‘Standards’ in two senses: currently, I am listening to Anthony Braxton’s ‘Standards’ album, where he plays those communally malleable tunes dubbed ‘standards’ by jazz musicians, but I’m also thinking of the ‘standards’ that British locks and other devices conform to, which seem, incidentally, to have survived the supposed uniformity of 40 years of EU Regulations, and which Bo and others will doubtless champion, along with Imperial Measures and £.s.d. Oh, and hanging.

Hear an Anthony Braxton ‘standard’ here, or above. That's the album I'm listening to, part of my Christmas mass buying of CDs from the Leo Records sale.  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTkIx8fErYg

In a piece to be posted soon, on ‘collaboration’, I was moved to make a remark about ‘the meaning of form’ and I found myself reflecting upon ‘The English Strain’ as a whole, contrasting the formal and the content. You can read the ‘collaboration’ strand from here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html

And you can read about my critical book The Meaning of Form here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/09/robert-sheppard-meaning-of-form-in_19.html

I genuinely believe [I wrote] that literary works can have efficacy (at the level of form) that is truly liberational. To take my recent ‘Poems of National Independence’, I take it that the satire about Brexit is on the surface, but the real aesthetic work, the lastingly moving part of the experience, lies in the act-event of the reception of the formal distance between Wordsworth’s original ‘Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!’ and my ‘Flat-Battery Bo, rusticated man’s man!’ That’s where I locate the active, eventful innovation.

In fact, the address to the reader that begins Book Two, already states a similar case, basically a version of the first sentence (and axiom) of The Meaning of Form:



I hang out inside these sonnets, punching
echoes into new shape, because I take 
poetry as the investigation
of complexity through the means of form. 


You can access six poems from Bad Idea here:


Another eight online poems from Bad Idea may be accessed from this post:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/robert-sheppard-two-more-poems-from-bad.html

Three sonnets from the last section of Bad Idea, ‘Idea’s Mirror’, may be accessed here:


In ‘Petrarch 3’, the opening part of Book One, the transpositions are achieved by having 14 versions of one translation from Petrarch. This part of Book One, ‘Petrarch 3’, is published under that title. Another part is published as Hap which ab(uses) the sonnets of Thomas Wyatt. Both pamphlets are still available. 


Look here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater Press in its ‘fold out map’ edition.

Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch (Does. Tin. On. It. The. What. Says) is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:




Occasionally my method of transposition is demonstrated in publication. Here’s a poem by the Earl of Surrey with my take on it: http://internationaltimes.it/direct-rule-in-peace-with-foul-desire .

I contemplate the term ‘transposition’ at the end of the following post (that is mostly about collaboration, you can scroll past that bit). In determining that ‘transposition’ isn’t collaboration proper, I also demonstrate that ‘transposition’ isn’t translation, even of the fashionable, ‘expanded’, kind.


I’m not only working on this sequence, by the way: my website is updated annually with life, writing, collaborations, criticism (by and on), etc. here: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com


Here is a link that links to all the links to the good things on this blog: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/02/fifteen-years-of-blogging-hubpost-to.html

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A further Wordsworth reversioning: The Great Libertarian has put out the lights! (temporary post)


A longish preamble, this morning: In a piece to be posted soon, on ‘collaboration’, I was moved to make a remark about ‘the meaning of form’ and I found myself reflecting upon ‘The English Strain’ as a whole, contrasting the formal and the content. (You can read the ‘collaboration’ strand from here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html

And you can read about my critical book The Meaning of Form here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/09/robert-sheppard-meaning-of-form-in_19.html

I genuinely believe [I wrote] that literary works can have efficacy (at the level of form) that is truly liberational. To take my recent ‘Poems of National Independence’, I take it that the satire about Brexit is on the surface, but the real aesthetic work, the lastingly moving part of the experience, lies in the act-event of the reception of the formal distance between Wordsworth’s original ‘Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!’ and my ‘Flat-Battery Bo, rusticated man’s man!’ That’s where I locate the active, eventful innovation.

In fact, the address to the reader that begins Book Two, already states a similar case, basically a version of the first sentence (and axiom) of The Meaning of Form:

I hang out inside these sonnets, punching
echoes into new shape, because I take 
poetry as the investigation
of complexity through the means of form. 
I’m also going to leave the poems posted a little longer than I do usually, though they are still temporary. If you haven’t seen my posts before, here’s my explanation of what I’m up to.

My ‘English Strain’ project squeezes on, maybe squirts or spaffs on, spumes on today, even, given the rapidity of production in the last few weeks. There are two posts about the background to it: one that looks back at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here .

The final part of Bad Idea is called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, which is described, along with some of the prospective poetics plans I had before the general election (remember that?) in December 2019, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html

The manuscripts of both books are ready for publication.

The third book is entitled British Standards.
At the moment, I am using poems from a section of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, and subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. Each carries the first line as a title, for identification. The poems are easy to find, though not always in the versions I have used. I’ve finalized my selection of 14 of them, a corona, ironically, having reached today, poem 11. Wordsworth wrote over 500 sonnets; I’ve read about 100 of them in the last two months or so.

This blog post from Jonathan Bate, who is about to publish a Wordsworth biography (which I have on order, but it’s a little late for this part of my project, I know) is illuminating about the early vs. the late poems. Of course, the ones I am looking at are late revisions of early poems. That’s a further twist (about which much has been written, I know: which is why one poem We had a female Passenger who came from Calais deals with the finding of two versions of the poem I’d selected:



In your fidgety revisions, she’s ‘a fellow-passenger… 
from Calais’ (tracking today’s trafficking route); 
‘gaudy in array’ you wrote, though ‘spotless’ is
nobler, this ‘Negro woman’ now ‘white-robed’
in your neo-Netflix pot of time.

‘Pot of time’ is very cheeky, I know. (I have ‘spot’ in today’s poem, a lift from the ‘original’, I might add.)

The poems present a vision of post-Brexit Britain, which is now overtaken by the coronavirus, which was hardly an issue when I began this ‘corona’, though it does get an early mention, even in poem 2.

OK, here’s today’s, the twelfth. I am conscious that I am nearing the end of these poems and that these poems of Wordsworth (which fit the Brexit theme very well, since they do read as though they are about dogging in Kent), are not the best fit for the unfunny times we find ourselves in. Also, I am aware that I am a bit behind the curve of the virus in my response (just like the government, as it happens, though more fatally). And as to dogging: reality outstrips my fictions: a dogging group has indeed called a halt to proceedings because of the need to socially distance, according to The Daily Hate. Dogging is in danger of becoming mere exhibitionism. Maybe I’ll weave that notion into the fabric of this sequence, but maybe I won’t. It's all blogging and no dogging, from now on. The line ‘Bright sun and breeze herd them to the weekend parks’, although it does relate to Wordsworth’s lines, is also a reaction to the crowding of Greenbank Park at the weekend, the sort of thing that caused the leaky lockdown we have at the moment. The poem (in syllabics of 11) speaks for itself:


Self-distancing soft friends 



One might believe that natural miseries


One might well believe that national misery
only blasted Britain, made it a void land
unfit for labour: rural workers dwell on
sofas, ordinary businessmen tap online.
Bright sun and breeze herd them to the weekend parks,
for their sensual pleasures, soothing flesh, no cares.
Myriads must work – against themselves. ‘No more
Brexit frenzy, no more drunken mirth!’ says Bo. 
The Great Libertarian has put out the 
lights!... This sonnet has been interrupted to
deliver the latest lockdown laughter to 
your doorstep. Watch this spot while the Cum spumes: ‘Herd 
immunity, protect the economy, 
and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.’

25th March 2020




British Standards aims to present versions (or transpositions) of sonnets of the Romantic period (between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here, https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/07/more-english-strain-poems-overdubs-of.html

and those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that I’ve also worked on, both in the final parts of Book One:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/09/robert-sheppard-non-disclosure.html

EBB clearly a BDSM freak with her dog (and Robert Browning) locked in that top floor flat. (‘Knock here for Latin lessons.’) Four more of those have appeared in print recently: see here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/robert-sheppard-four-poems-from-non.html

I’m thinking of the poems I ‘transpose’ as ‘Standards’ in two senses: currently, I am listening to Anthony Braxton’s ‘Standards’ album, where he plays those communally malleable tunes dubbed ‘standards’ by jazz musicians, but I’m also thinking of the ‘standards’ that British locks and other devices conform to, which seem, incidentally, to have survived the supposed uniformity of 40 years of EU Regulations, and which Bo and others will doubtless champion, along with Imperial Measures and £.s.d. Oh, and hanging. 
Hear an Anthony Braxton ‘standard’ here: 
You can access six poems from Bad Idea here:
Another eight online poems from Bad Idea may be accessed from this post:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/robert-sheppard-two-more-poems-from-bad.html

Three sonnets from the last section of Bad Idea, ‘Idea’s Mirror’, may be accessed here:

In ‘Petrarch 3’, the opening part of Book One, the transpositions are achieved by having 14 versions of one translation from Petrarch. This part of Book One, ‘Petrarch 3’, is published under that title. Another part is published as Hap which ab(uses) the sonnets of Thomas Wyatt. Both pamphlets are still available.

Look here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater Press in its ‘fold out map’ edition.
Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch (Does. Tin. On. It. The. What. Says) is available from Knives Forks and Spoons here:




Occasionally my method of transposition is demonstrated in publication. Here’s a poem by the Earl of Surrey with my take on it: http://internationaltimes.it/direct-rule-in-peace-with-foul-desire .

I contemplate the term ‘transposition’ at the end of the following post (that is mostly about collaboration, you can scroll past that bit). In determining that ‘transposition’ isn’t collaboration proper, I also demonstrate that ‘transposition’ isn’t translation, even of the fashionable, ‘expanded’, kind.


I’m not only working on this sequence, by the way: my website is updated annually with life, writing, collaborations, criticism (by and on), etc. here: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com

Here is a link that links to all the links to the good things on this blog: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/02/fifteen-years-of-blogging-hubpost-to.html

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Robert Sheppard: Yes, like all the other poets, I have an old poem about a virus: Grippe Espagnole (from Empty Diaries)





I didn’t think I had a poem about viruses and plagues. Every poet seems to have found one in their product and rolled it out. Then, while thinking about how ‘Empty Diary 2020’ ought to take on board the unspoken subject of sexual relations (both physical and psychological) in the age of corona, I remembered that one of the earliest poems in the sequence, ‘Empty Diary 1920’, indeed took on board, took for title, the Spanish Flu of that year. (From the numbering alone you can see how the sequence is organised.) Here it is. As usual, the narrator is a woman. The method is collage, but the ‘gentle art of collage’, as I say of Lee Harwood’s work. . The earlier sequence was mainly written from photographs (as I say here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2017/01/robert-sheppard-talk-for-open-eye.html )

 

Empty Diary 1920

Grippe Espagnole


                    Split in a
mirror, gloves or fingers in
their meadow of scarf lines, with
its censure, like a man’s. I’ve
shelves of those Everyman books,
a chair in front of the fire.
Light up, read Goldman, bloomers
under the wet umbrella.


                    Whenever
I’m photographed in front of
my portrait, self-vigilant,
a seismic oscillation 
of bone, cruel beauty dances
for a field of fogged lenses.
Only a master could paint 
the crumple of rich dresses;


                    my nest of
hair for marble eyes to steal
a home, crystal beads trembling
under those hot sick fans. Such
tyranny behind men’s masks
breeds: Poisons sprayed onto bus
seats, nestling between the hard 
joints, sticky with the flu’s beads.




The original publication of Empty Diaries contained the ‘Empty Diaries’ 1901-1990. (Exeter: Stride, 1998). Revised, they reappeared, reprinted in Complete Twentieth Century Blues, Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2008, with additional poems, the ‘Empty Diaries’ 1991-2000, scattered throughout the text, not as a sequence (but as a ‘strand’): see here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/05/twentieth-century-blues-published-ten.html


Some of them are now online and may be read if desired. The ‘Empty Diaries’ for 1905, 1936, 1954, 1968 may be read here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2007/01/robert-sheppard-archive-of-now.html

(These ones I read for the Archive of the Now. A link is provided to the sound recordings of them.)

See 'Empty Diary 1956' here.

Empty Diary 1990 may be read here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/10/robert-sheppard-new-poems-empty-diaries.html

And here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2015/03/robert-sheppard-empty-diary-1990-number.html


Empty Diary 1993 may be read here:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/05/twentieth-century-blues-published-ten.html


‘Empty Diary 2000’, the final poem in Twentieth Century Blues, may be read here (and the bottom of the page:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2014/04/robert-sheppard-past-writings-on-and.html




In about 2014, breaking my rule that the ‘strands’ of Twentieth Century Blues should end with that book, I decided to extend the sequence into the current century: ‘Empty Diaries 2001-14’. A corona, note, 14 sonnets. They are egregiously rude, with a lot of Google sculpting for the new century.

The first eight appeared online in The Literateur, now a dead site, unfortunately. But good news: the second six appeared, and still appear, in a wonderful edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here.

Since then I have been writing one a year. Some of them are online. This 2015 one has a touch of the bossa nova about it: Empty Diary 2015

The 2016 Empty Diary was published in the special 50th issue of Erbacce. See here.

On BlazeVOX you may read ‘Empty Diary 2017’ and ‘Empty Diary 2018’ (scroll past the excerpts from ‘Elegiac Sonnets’):

http://www.blazevox.org/BX%20Covers/BXspring19/Robert%20Sheppard%20-%20Spring19.pd

That brings us nearly up to date. 2019’s is unpublished. 2020 remains unwritten. But, as I said at the top of this post, it is not unthought-about in our current preoccupations.