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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Robert Sheppard: summer break: guide to this blog

My chimps and I, unable to await traditional August, are having a bit of a summer break from this blog (and from Twitter), the equivalent of what I called 'inner leave' when I was at work. (I'm still 'at work', of course, though in a different way.) But don’t despair: there is plenty to look at that’s been posted in the last 6 months. I’ve been continuing with my transpositions of sonnets and you can either scroll back and read some of them (and I’ve been adding short videos since the start of this year!), or you can follow the links below.

I’ve documented what I call ‘The English Strain’ sonnet project as work progressed through its three books so far. 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: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html ). There are links to many of the online excerpts from this project.

More recently, my current preoccupation has been Book Three, British Standards, from the ‘English Strain’ project, begun in February, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. (A Shelley poem stands as ‘preface’.) For that first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html


I read one of those on video.

Then followed ‘14 Standards’. I added two additional ‘Double Standards’ (using another two Shelley poems) about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for all 16 standards! http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . Again, there are links to online poems.

Now I’ve moved onto ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, which you will see on this blog temporarily. (Of course, not all my writing is made public in this (temporary) way. These poems deserve an immediate showing because they are, as the saying goes, topical. As to other sequences and writings, well...

The 14 posts in my ‘Collaboration’ strand may be accessed via links at the end of the first post, a hubpost, as I call it, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html
Or you could discover my blog more thoroughly by checking out the ‘best of the blog’ post of links (a hub-post) from the last 15 years, here:
I usually tweet about my latest posts, so one good way to stay in touch is to follow me at @microbius on Twitter.  

Friday, July 24, 2020

My latest Mary Robinson sonnet transposition with a Russian tinge (temporary post)

The body of my current preoccupation, the ‘book’ British Standards, from the larger ‘English Strain’ project, was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March. (An earlier version of a Shelley poem stands as ‘preface’.) For that first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’, and even more cheekily subtitled them, ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-last-of-my-wordsworth-versions-in.html

Then followed ‘14 Standards’. I have now written two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for all 16 standards: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html






Now I’ve moved on into ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, which is a version of 14 of the passionate love sonnets of ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson (portrait above). I will be posting more of them from late August (I'm having a bit of a rest now, but there's plenty to look at via the links here.) 

Why ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’ as  a title? Tabitha was one of Mary Robinson’s pen names; the ‘Thunderer’ was a print by James Gillray that features Mary Robinson and her lover, Banastre Tarleton, the Liverpudlian war criminal and slave owner, the far-too tight-trousered ‘Thunderer’ of the title. You can see a fine reproduction of ‘The Thunderer’ by James Gillray here.


This official site does not list Mary as one of the ‘sitters’. She’s sitting, all right, on that ‘Whiriligig’ (prostitute) pole. The lily flower-head is the Prince of Wales, Mary’s previous lover.

Carol Rumens writes about this extraordinary sonnet sequence (and its author’s extraordinary life as poet, novelist, actor and lover) here:


The whole sequence (as well as 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.

The best place for a detailed life of Robinson is Byrne, Paula. Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson. London: Harper Perennial, 2005, which I am currently reading for the second time. And there’s more than enough on Tarleton in Cameron, Gail, and Stan Crooke, Liverpool – Capital of the Slave Trade. Liverpool: Picton Press, 1992. As I’ve gone on, there’s less on Tatleton and the slave trade. Mary was an abolitionist, by the time she died, when she stopped moving in louche circles and became literary, via a Foxian Whig period (when she was lover of brushy-browed Kosygin-like Fox!).



I’ve documented ‘The English Strain’ project as work progressed through its three books so far. 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: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html )

There will be news about both book one and two soon. 

Parts of Book One are still available in booklet form; look here for Petrarch 3 and here for Hap:

As might be gathered from what I have said, British Standards as a whole (not just the corona of ‘14 Standards’) aims to present transpositions of admired 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, 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:

‘Transposition’ (in preference to ‘translation’, even to ‘intralingual translation’ in Jakobson’s witty term) is borrowed from Rosi Braidotti. In her musicological derivation, it’s an ‘in-between space of zigzagging and of crossing: nonlinear and chaotic’. (Braidotti 2011: 226). ‘Transposable moves,’ in genetics, she explains, ‘appear to proceed by leaps and bounds and are ruled by chance, but they are not deprived of their logic.’ (Braidotti 2011: 226) 


Thursday, July 23, 2020

On Literary Collaboration part 14: some final thoughts and LINKS to all previous parts (hub post)

This probably concludes my ‘Thoughts on Collaboration’. I think it is best that my remaining work on the theme is composed offline, for eventual publication as a critical article.

Only one final text to acknowledge, the extraordinary 500 page Poetic Interviews, edited and conducted by Aaron Kent, from Broken Sleep Books, 2019, in which Kent uses poems much as an interviewer uses questions - and various writers (I note SJ Fowler amongst them) reply with poems. The project is so massive (and with so many of the poets unknown to me) that I don't feel able to comment on it. It probably deserves a footnote in my article, an example of a multiple to- and fro- ing structure. 


On a personal note, I am pleased to report that there are plans for Veer to republish both my collaborations with Bob Cobbing (which I talk about  here ). That’s a good way to end this rambling strand.
I have read it through and I’m surprised that I spend so much time looking at my own collaborative work, although I am always interested in new collaborations, and I have obviously been thinking about fictional collaboration as a way to forward the ‘Fictional Poets’ project (as I have found myself calling it), but, again, its final form is probably better developed off-line. The more important parts are those on Corcoran and Halsey and SJ Fowler in general and in collaboration with Chamberlain and Nelson. You can pick out which bits are of use to here, through these hub post links. And the most coherent parts are the two reviews, one of the Halsey-Corcoran collaboration  HERE , and one of the SJ Fowler book HERE, both of them appearing off-blog, if I may invent yet another term. Here is an example of another such term, the 'hub post' to this strand: 

The introductory part one, flags up the themes and surveys the territory, here:
https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html

In part two, I talk about ways I've collaborated across media here:
https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thoughts-on.html


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) 
here.

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. 
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:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/04/robert-sheppard-thoughts-on.html


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:

https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/04/robert-sheppard-thoughts-on_3.html

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 (that's this post!) contains links to all parts and off-shoots of this collaboration strand, in preparation for the writing of an article on that subject, here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Thoughts on Collaboration 13 or: review of Juha Virtanen, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect.

Note: All posts in the Collaboration strand may be accessed via links on the first post, a hubpost, as I call it, here:


Introduction

As part of my research for the essay on ‘collaboration’ (which I have been writing slowly, via the method of accreting posts on the subject, the same method I used to amass much, but not all, of The Meaning of Form, and which I realise now is less ergonomic than it was in the case of the book, see here: https:/rt-sheppard-meaning-of-form-in_19.html/robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2016/09/robe) I read the volume which is the subject of the following review. I’d seen the author read from it in Amsterdam in 2011 and thought it an excellent project. (See here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2011/05/amsterdam.html.) I hadn’t intended to review it, but an editor of a reputable journal of innovative poetry (whose blushes I will spare) suggested that I review it for that journal. I leapt forth – the lockdown was in its first grip of terror and it seemed a valid distraction from the rising death toll – and began reviewing the book, working chapter by chapter. The editor then emailed to tell me not to bother reviewing the book because it had already been reviewed! My brakes screeched – like the those of ambulances outside houses in the surrounding streets: this piece was written in the back yard, listening to those vehicles’ sirens – and I stopped. I did enquire of another journal if they were interested, but I heard nothing back. That journal is in a country with a government more stupid than ours in its response to the Coronavirus, so I’m not surprised I didn’t hear back. The irony of my preoccupation with collaboration and performance during the solitary lockdown period was not lost on me.

What I offer here is three quarters of that review (which I think is pretty good) and I hope Juha will appreciate it. The book isn’t about collaboration but anybody following this strand will have seen that I quote from it a couple of times, and it is worth emphasising that there is a collaborative aspect to all four of the performances treated. It is an important book. You will see that it literally ends at a point where I make a transition to the final work to be considered. I will let you read it so far as it goes, after which I shall comment on the projected missing paragraphs and present some loose writings I had prepared for the conclusion.  

(For more on ‘The British Poetry Revival’, see 1. The British Poetry Revival and here).

Events and Effects

Review of Juha Virtanen, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

It is customary, in discussions of innovative poetry, to make reference to poetry readings and performances as modes of ‘publication’ (if we take that term literally, as in: to make public). It is commonly agreed that the poetry reading is one of the sustaining provisional institutions of the innovative poetry world. Too many accounts of contemporary poetry turn swiftly from the phenomenon to the solidity (and safety) of the fixed printed version of the text in order to evidence substantive points about it. Its performance, or performances, seem too complex to chart, and are more easily thought of as one of the contexts of the text’s existence or transmission. To my mind, too many readings are mere book launches, so that the oral performance of a text becomes its own trailer rather than a (different) event in its own right, with specific and observable effects.
Juha Virtanen, in his short but incisive volume, wants to flip this around, so far as he’s able (as an non-attendee at four selected poetry performances during the years customarily assigned to the British Poetry Revival) to account for, relate the details of, and analyse the effects of, these events. (The book refers to itself as Event and Effect; a number of volumes in the excellent ‘Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics’ series, ably edited by Rachel Blau du Plessis, have reversed title and subtitle, so that Virtanen’s focussed title now appears as the subtitle, as though it were an afterthought, in favour of the much less elegant but easily e-searchable Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980, blazing with keywords. If more people find this book, and its separate chapters, which are also available electronically, via this contrivance, then I am pleased, though I am better pleased to possess the neat paperback.)
What happens if one analyses works which are postmodern to such an extent that they already ‘have the characters of an event’, as Virtanen says, quoting Lyotard? [1] At worst, one has an unstable event produced from an unstable text that amplifies those complex effects mentioned above. Such poems are already ‘event-like artworks’.[2] One has to negotiate, Virtanen says, the ‘parallels … between the analysis of “radically incomplete and unfinishable” innovative poetry’, whose poetics he outlines deftly in his introduction, ‘and seemingly “non-graspable” performance events’, which are his main concern.[3]   
This calls for a methodology, and Virtanen skips over both Deleuze (though he uses the rhizome as a useful analogy for this network of dynamic relationships) and Badiou (who has theorised eventness in detail, but who is not engaged with), to find both a model and an exemplar in the work of A.N. Whitehead, and he recalls it at strategic points in the book. Whitehead meditates upon Cleopatra’s Needle in its post-Imperial position on the Thames Embankment; he considers this undeniable object in terms of its event-like aspects: it changes as it is examined, and re-examined, temporally, spatially, psychologically, phenomenologically. The one thing it isn’t, under this fluxing scrutiny, is stable; it is inter-connected and fluid, formed, though unfinished, through intersubjective multiplicity. It is, though this term is not used, forever forming. This leads onto Virtanen’s marvellous, central observation upon which the book is constructed:

Applied to a poetry performance, this formulation suggests that the various audience responses can be understood as being simultaneously both unique to a particular member of that audience as well as connected to the event’s collective experience as a whole. On this understanding, the poetry performance is characterized by a kind of ‘cacophonous collectivity’ where the event is both singular (we all witness the same proceedings) and plural (we all form distinct responses to it) ... Both the performing poet and the audience author the event, and this intersubjective ‘authorship’ means that the narratives of such events are multiple.’[4]

It is odd that he uses the example of a single poet reading here, because he is clearly aware that the range of possible performances stretches from the monotext delivered in a monotone through to the kinds of multi-voice and multi-media performance he introduces us to by the book’s conclusion. He is probably keeping the issue simple at this stage. He promises the reader assaults upon the authority of a single poet in his model of collective authorship that fuses poet, performer and audience. His references to the extended and expanded techniques of Caroline Bergvall, Bob Cobbing and cris cheek leave us in no doubt of the applications of his arguments beyond the four previously ‘unexamined … events’ he has selected.[5] Despite this theoretical underpinning, his approach is both ‘archaeological’ and ‘archival’, and he wisely announces that his analyses will take the specificity of each event in its own, unique terms.[6] 
Virtanen has his work cut out for him choosing as his first occasion, the June 1965 Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall, organised by a committee with Allen Ginsberg as the cultural centre, a mass event much mythologised by commentators, ranging from Michael Horovitz to Iain Sinclair (though with participants like Barry Miles trying to offer his best factual accounts). To call it a ‘site of manifold ambivalences’ is probably an understatement’.[7] I have never been quite sure who read (or didn’t), and when. Some named performers seem distinctly un-countercultural (as Ginsberg noted.) The short film of the evening, Peter Whitehead’s Wholly Communion, is necessarily highly selective as documentary evidence. Who were the seven thousand people who endured eight hours of poetry? The ‘carnivalesque performances’ may have advanced ‘a temporary sense of liberation’, and they may have been a boost for the British Poetry Revival, and it is treated as such in Horovitz’ Children of Albion anthology (1969), and even in Jeff Nuttall’s less utopian cultural history, Bomb Culture (1968), but it did not feature many of the writers we now recognise as its major poets. In this sense, the analogy that Virtanen draws with the star-studded 1955 Beat reading in Six Gallery is incomplete, although he makes much of the physical spaces of both environments, pointing out how the Albert Hall operates as a détourned post-Imperial space, and he uses both Situationism and de Certeau’s analysis of micro-political spaces deftly. Of course, Ginsberg’s presence was central to both events. Despite what he calls the ‘multifarious facets of the Incarnation’, Virtanen focuses upon Ginsberg’s performance, which, while not his best – he was drunk and parts of the crowd were hostile – he points to the effects of both ‘the presence of the author-poet as well as the cacophonous collectivity of a multiplicity’.[8]  
Ginsberg read two poems of his own, the mantric ‘The Change’ (published by Cobbing’s Writers Forum), to which a woman danced while Ginsberg chanted, but this is judged a failure, due to the poet’s aggravated mood, and ‘Who Be Kind To’, which Virtanen figures as a success. He outlines the balance between the poem’s negativity regarding the Vietnam War and the poet’s recent positive immersion in Liverpool’s sub-culture; Ginsberg ‘performs within a terrain that is organized by establishment culture, and seeks to create surprises in the cracks of its proprietary powers’.[9] If so, this seems a sombre and limited victory compared to the consciousness-raising hopes for the evening, though Virtanen then re-models the event as one in which the intersubjective attention of the audience, in dialogic co-authorship, moulded their responses, both during and beyond the evening, to the poet’s own enraged tenderness.
Virtanen is not blind to the gender imbalance at the heart of the British Poetry Revival, and at the Incarnation in particular. Things were not very different at the second Cambridge Poetry Festival of 1977, although there were fewer people in attendance, since this event catered for the more specialised audience (many of them writers) of the Cambridge nexus. Virtanen’s focus is the first public reading by the young and unknown Denise Riley, one of the few women to read, in the company of her co-author and associate, Wendy Mulford. If the poetry of the Women’s Liberation Movement may be characterised as ‘political committed poems of experience’, then Riley and Mulford’s were political committed poems of theory, which included feminist theory, but also political, post-structuralist and poetic theory (though the tenets of the last, poetics, are not discussed here).[10] Riley is also the anti-Ginsberg, not presenting herself in performance and publication (although the long interview appended to the chapters manifests Riley only to witness her testimony: ‘I was so sick with fear and horror and loathing of having to stand up and make an exhibition of myself.’)[11] Not surprisingly, her early work deconstructs gender markers, but liberation seems always freighted with inherited guilt, since those markers – particularly the ‘I’ of lyric poetry, but also the performative body – cannot be theorised away, despite the urge to do so.
The opening of the reading was an attention focussing Hwæt! With Mulford, with whom she had collaborated on a book of unassigned poems, carrying the unforgettable title Marxism for Infants (a famous sneer of Orwell’s), she chanted the overheard phrase, ‘Am I, she asked, going to make feminist scrambled eggs’, which mirrors the questioning of pronouns in the feminist statement then read, and in the subsequent poems themselves. With reference to Judith Butler’s theories of gender performativity, Virtanen traces this process: ‘If Riley’s poems in Marxism for Infants and elsewhere resist the lyric “I” as a singular heroic persona, her performance continues to transgress the social foundations and conventions that produce these singularizations.’[12] It is the social that is engaged with in the rest of the analysis, from the accidental intrusion of a vacuum cleaner as Riley reads a poem about women’s labour, through to the audience in discussion, rejecting Riley’s generous reading of one of Mulford’s poems. Although Virtanan is at pains to present the two readings analysed so far as equally co-authored with the audience, I find it odd that he does not contemplate the effects of this Q and A following the reading; does this academic convention diminish the power of performance? To me, it is also interesting how many of the traits of Riley’s later work were present, not just in the (freshly) published work, but in Virtanen’s rich presentation of its performance, since social performance is so often her theme: the paradoxical self-consciousness of not knowing from what particles the (female) self might be assembled.    
Paradoxically, a little-known text by a well-known figure of the British Poetry Revival, Eric Mottram (indeed, as a critic, he popularised the term, and identified the dynamics of performance at the heart of its practice) plays an important role in Virtanen’s argument. Mottram’s Pollock Record of around 1978 is a script consisting of ‘ “three big sheets with all kinds of materials on them, with black lines around them”; during the event, the three collaborators would “read one selection one after another”, and the proceedings were brought to an end when one of them “reread one of the sections” that had already been uttered.’ [13] An image of one of the pages of the more recently published text might have been useful here. Virtanen charts Mottram’s shifting beliefs about performance: he emphasised the presence of the poet but also the instability of the indeterminate script for performance (though this need not be a contradiction). The unifying principle of these ‘materials’ is American action painter Jackson Pollock, ‘a totemic figure’,[14] we are told, to whom the script pays a kind of multi-voiced ventriloquial homage, by mustering quotations from Pollock and from other related sources, put into relation by the presence of Mottram; it ‘attempts to incorporate Pollock within a wider constellation of materials’.[15] Virtanen’s spatial metaphor is exact to the visual disposition of the text. But in tracing some personal contexts (not least of all the events at the Poetry Society in the mid-1970s) this text is a deeply personal one (with its stated commitment to experimentation).
Virtanen goes so far as to say, ‘Pollock Record is an arena where Mottram attempts to actively work with with Pollock as a mutual collaborator’.[16] The word ‘attempts’ alerts us that Pollock is not a collaborator like Mulford was for Riley, because he has no agency in the piece. However, ‘this interaction seemingly occurs via fusing the painter’s technique with the performance of the poem’, in ways consonant with Mottram’s most inspiring essay, Towards Design in Poetry (republished by Veer/Writers Forum in 2004).[17] As Mottram says, there were two live collaborators to assist in performance, Allen Fisher and Bill Griffiths. The unrecorded performance was indeterminate in structure and vocally dynamic (I’m not sure this fully ‘fuses’ Pollock’s action painting technique) but it was less so in terms of duration. Mottram spoke afterwards of the expectant tension of performance but after twenty minutes, Griffiths repeated some material and the performance (according to its one rigid rule) ceased. ‘It WAS a mistake,’ Mottram insisted; ‘He wanted to keep going much longer.’ [18] I have my doubts (though I cannot prove them). Griffiths was a seasoned performer and improviser, with Bob Cobbing and others, and he would have known exactly the point to stop the performance, particularly if he felt it had yielded whatever complexity was possible and/or if the performance was beginning to lack energy. As Fisher says of Mottram (in the second of the long interviews included in this book), ‘His experimentation was kind of reserved.’ [19]
Allen Fisher, on the other hand, had no such reservations. His practice since the 1970s intersects many projects, several artforms, in publications and performances…

That’s as far as I’d got, when I opened the fated email. This is a shame because Virtanen goes on to consider Allen Fisher’s Blood Bone Brain, a multiply-conceived piece of work which has always mystified me, partly because I have in my possession (and have for about 45 years) the programme for one of the performances (which I didn't attend), which listed performers and the groups of 39 instances (photos, jars, objects, recordings, texts, etc) that comprise much of the work. I was pleased also to see that this work becomes central to some of the discussions in the new Allen Fisher Companion (mostly written before Virtanen published his study; see here:
http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-essay-included-in-new.html). Anyone interested in Fisher’s work will find both of these books useful for recovering some of the conceptual schemes and frameworks Fisher utilises (and I know that I have paid them too little heed, preferring to concentrate on his two major textual projects, as I do in my contribution to the Companion).

I know that in my review I wasn’t going to be able to fully engage with one of Virtanen’s terms, ‘event’. I pasted in the following from an earlier post on this blog (see here and, more recently, here) that attempted to summarise Derek Attridge’s sense of the 'singularity of literature', particularly with respect to our aesthetic engagement with it as an act-event: art is both something that happens to us and something we do. It seemed that this formulation might answer the question of the participation of the audience to show what a limited (but fundamental) part its members have to play in the creation of the event as a whole. The passage is:  

In The Singularity [of Literature] he [Attridge] insists upon the fact that genuine literary engagement (that is when one is reading non-instrumentally) is both an event that occurs and an action that the reader does, that is both passive and active. ‘The coming-into-being of the work of art is, I’ve been arguing,’ Attridge argues, ‘both an act and an event: it’s something the artist does … and something that happens to the artist’. (220) Creation and reception are similar: ‘I use the term “act-event” in order to capture the strange duality of this process in which active and passive are not clearly separable – whether we’re talking about the work or the person responding to it. In this way, the work is remade each time it is read’. (247) … Reading is a ‘willed passivity’. (2)

I also seem, at some point of the drafting of this review, to have offered myself a conclusion that combined what I had read in Virtanen with the general literary focus of Attridge which I now use habitually. (I guess, it occurs to me now, that, as a critic, I am an Attridgean, should there be such a thing.)  

Conclusion: The ‘text’ of the total performance is a multi-systemic act-event that only the reader as witness can put together. Juha Virtanen’s Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect presents his ‘conception of performances as events of intersubjective authorship and cacophonous collectivity’. (p. 21) This occurs at exactly the point where the reception of the literary work as an act-event (in Derek Attridge’s terms) opens the whole thing out to a multiplicity of intersubjective assemblages, a co-creation of many minds beyond the two performers.

All posts in the collaboration strand may be accessed via links at the end of the first post, a hubpost, as I call it, here:
https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/01/robert-sheppard-thughts-on.html

Only one more post to go. 



[1] Juha Virtanen, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), p. 15.
[2] Virtanen, p. 15.
[3] Virtanen, p. 15.
[4] Virtanen, p. 19.
[5] Virtanen, p. 11.
[6] Virtanen, pp. 11 and 13.
[7] Virtanen p. 47.
[8] Virtanen p. 48.
[9] Virtanen, p. 45.
[10] Virtanen, p. 57.
[11] Virtanen, p. 67 and p. find later
[12] Virtanen, p. 72.
[13] Virtanen, partly quoting Mottram, p. 85. I would like to thank Adrian Clarke for forwarding me jpegs of the published version of Pollock Record.
[14] Virtanen, p. 91.
[15] Virtanen, p. 90.
[16] Virtanen, p. 93.
[17] Virtanen, p. 95.
[18] Virtanen, p. 98.
[19] Virtanen, p. 102.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Robert Sheppard: my recent 'Wordsworth' transposition is published by New Boots and Pantiscracies

I’m pleased to say that I have received an email from Andy Jackson in the last hour to inform me that my Brexity-Covidy poem ‘Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour,’ is, within the hour, to be published in the wonderfully named blog New Boots and Pantiscracies. I love the combination of Ian Dury and some Romantic Blockheads, one of whom was Wordsworth, of course, the victim of this current ‘transposition’, which was made in March (in the early stages of the pandemic). See here: https://newbootsandpantisocracies.wordpress.com/  I also link to it on my blogroll. 

(I know Wordsworth wasn’t involved in Pantocracy as such.)

This poem, from the group of transposed Wordsworth’s sonnets, called ‘Poems of National Independence: liberties with Wordsworth’, dealt with the Cum and his effects on British politics (pre-Barny Castle, it is worth saying). The reference to the National Thrust pertains to the running theme of government-sponsored post-Brexit dogging sites.

In the time it’s taken me to type this, the poem has appeared. Thank you Andy


I also read it on video here:

This is day 86 of the Covid project, 'Postcards from Malthusia' so there are many more poems to explore at New Boots.

There is a ‘hubpost’ for other poems from this 14 poem sequence, here.

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 'Wordsworth' poems are from Book Three, British Standards, an on-going work. Much the better for being published in part this afternoon! 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

My review of Marjorie Perloff's reviews Circling the Canon appears on Stride (reflections and a link)



From the point of view of the writer there are two kinds of critic (of course, there are more, but I’m drawing a simple explanatory binary): there are critics who seem to furnish poetics, who seem to push the art forward, and there are those who, for all their scholarship, do not. Jonathan Culler is, I think, one of the latter: however much I take from his remarkable The Theory of Lyric, it will not feed into my creative writing. Marjorie Perloff, an equally scholarly critic it is worth stating (that’s not part of the binary), is one of the former. At least as far as I’m concerned (and I reckon others, too, particularly US language writers). Her Poetics of Indeterminacy arrived at just the right time to spur me on as a writer (and at the right time to feed into my critical PhD). Her Radical Artifice performed a similar task when I was fully engaged with the poetry that became Twentieth Century Blues. Her Unoriginal Genius taught me how was I was, and how I wasn’t (or, rather, how much I was and how much I wasn’t) a conceptual writer (and that fed into chapters of The Meaning of Form). Pages from her On and Off the Page were the only critical prose I used with writing students in the early years (to get them to get free verse and then to get them ‘beyond free verse’!)

In person, too, it comes back to me, she could be immediate and critical (in a good way). ‘Lose that line about Arafat!’ she commented on an early version of The Lores that I read in New Hampshire. I lost that line about Arafat! If her Frank O’Hara is a ‘poet among painters’, then she is a critic among poets.

It was a pleasure, therefore, to consider her work again, to review her reviews! (This experience suggested I should steadily re-read those books and read the essays, abundantly archived, poetry people, on her website HERE.)

The reviews are published as Circling the Canon: The Selected Book Reviews of Marjorie Perloff, 1995-2017, Volumes I and II, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2019.


I think I say everything I need to say about those two volumes in the review itself. You may read it here on Stride. And then you may check out the rest of her work.