Thursday, May 28, 2020

Robert Sheppard: 14 Standards from British Strandards is complete as one sonnet appears at the virtual WOW Festival 2020 (hub post)

Another part of my ‘English Strain’ project is finished as it moves beyond its third (and final) book. I’m pleased to say a poem from the book, which is entitled British Standards, is from the section called ’14 Standards’, has been published online as part of this year’s virtual WOW Festival ‘events’, in a collection of writings called ‘Lockdown, Unlocked’. I wrote it especially for Victor Merriman, who asked me for something. Many thanks to him.

but his general introduction seems to have already been taken down.
For this showing I turned Bo back into Boris, for clarity, although I didn’t explain Coleridge’s two extraordinary neologisms. A ‘Psilosopher’ is a false philosophy; ‘suffictions’ are fake suppositions. John Thelwall was a radical as wsell as a sonneteer, which is why I choose his sonnet for the radical WOW Festival!

Here’s a video of me reading the sonnet, with Bo restored to his single ejaculatory syllable.  

This is a hub post for the ’14 Standards’ section of British Standards. No other poems have been published to date. (Though until about mid June my one about slavery and Liverpool place names (written before the drenching of hollow racist statues) will still be temporarily posted on this blog.) 

Read 'We had a female Passenger who came from Calais' as part of the the 'Talking to the Dead' feature on Stride here. I write about the poem and read it on video here.

Read 'An Overdub of Letitia Elizabeth Landon's The Dancing Girl here. Or about the poem (and hear/see another video) here.  

Pages: OTD 2020: a version of Horace Smith's 'Ozymandias' was written; it and other 'Standards' appear in The Cafe Review in the USA (

Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote this lacuna-pocked poem as a version of one of Coleridge's sonnets (

Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I heard the ambulances in the lockdown silence and wove them into a Leigh Hunt sonnet (

Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote a lockdown transposition of a Willian Bowles sonnet and was rude about Bo (

I’ve documented my progress to date in detail as ‘The English Strain’ progresses. There are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here  and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here:
Parts of Book One are still available in booklet form, see below.
The preface to the third (and projected final) book British Standards. The preface is a version of Shelley’s ‘England in 1819’. The body of the book was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. For that first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, cheekily subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here:

All the poems I transposed in ’14 Standards’ may be found in Feldman, Paula, R., and Daniel Robinson. eds.  A Century of Sonnets. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, a fascinating and eye-opening anthology. I did not write these transpositions sequentially, and I used a variety of methods and forms, in order that they don’t conform to the pattern (or the narrative) of contiguous poems. The only one I chose to write was ‘The Vanity of National Grandeur’ because I knew which one was just the job for the WOW Festival. (Of course, a seeming pattern emerges: it will resemble you, and all that!). I hope you see how my perverse self-interrupting poetics works.

The 'Dominic Cummings' 'affair' prompted a pair of poems entitled 'Double Standards', which stands as a kind of coda to '14 Standards', both them overdubs of Shelley. 

I call these ‘transposed’ poems ‘Standards’, since the originals are part of our poetic repertoire. I’ve been listening to one of Anthony Braxton’s ‘Standards’ albums, on which he plays and transforms those communally malleable tunes dubbed ‘standards’ by jazz musicians. I refer directly to that in Standard 10. Hear an Anthony Braxton ‘standard’ here, indeed the ‘Recorda Me’ that I refer to in that poem, off of Braxton, Anthony. 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003, Leo Records, CD LR 402/405 (CD), 2004.

Braxton is still at it too: watch this: one of the only jazz concerts this year so far:

Second half here:

I’m also thinking of the ‘standards’ that British locks and other devices conform to, with a hint of moral standards, of course.

Like a lot of the world during the weeks of writing them (6th April-18th May 2020), I had a pre-scripted lockdown life, which was quite useful. Given that the poems are often fragmented, they are perhaps less funny than previous ones. I only wanted to write indirectly about coronavirus, but some have turned into my ‘lockdown’ poems (because they are). Of course, the virus had already appeared thematically in ‘Poems of National Independence’, slowly creeping in until it had subsumed the Brexit theme.

As might be gathered from what I have said, British Standards as a whole (not just this corona) aims to present transpositions of sonnets of the Romantic period, from William Bowles to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Chronologically, they lie between those of Charlotte Smith, which I’ve already worked on here,

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

There are quite a lot of poems from various past parts online. You can access six poems from Bad Idea, Book Two, here:

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 the Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater Press in its ‘fold out map’ edition. I have written in detail about the writing of Petrarch 3 (see )

Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, here:

If you’re fed up with reading Hilary Mantel’s accounts of Wyatt (or Surrey for that matter), OR you can’t get enough of Henrician Terror, Hap is the book for you, and the link above will prove efficacious. Alec Newman is awaiting your order (there are other books of mine there, too, as well as the new out now)!

Two ‘Poems of National Independence’ have been published on International Times. Link here, via my short laptop videos:

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, so far as I’m concerned, I also demonstrate, if only for myself, that ‘transposition’ isn’t translation.