Sunday, September 19, 2021

Robert Sheppard: A poem published in Hollow Palaces: An Anthology of Modern Country House Poems

I’m pleased (but rather surprised still) to have a poem, ‘The Blickling Hall Poem’, in Hollow Palaces: An Anthology of Modern Country House Poems ed. Kevin Gardner and John Greening, Liverpool University Press, a very solid looking hardback of what it says on the tin. Or as it says on the website: 

Over 160 distinguished poets representing a diversity of class, race, gender, and generation offer fascinating perspectives on stately exteriors and interiors, gardens both wild and cultivated, crumbling ruins and the extraordinary secrets they hide. There are voices of all kinds, whether it’s Edith Sitwell recreating her childhood, W. B. Yeats and Wendy Cope pondering Lissadell, or Simon Armitage’s labourer confronting the Lady who’s ‘got the lot’. We hear from noble landowners and loyal (or rebellious) servants, and from many an inquisitive day-tripper. The book’s dominant note is elegiac, yet comedy, satire, even strains of Gothic can be heard among these potent reflections. Hollow Palaces reminds us how poets can often be the most perceptive of guides to radical changes in society.

Along the way we get poems by Harry Guest and Bernadine Evaristo, TS Eliot and Alun Lewis, Ted Hughes and Andrew Motion, Rory Waterman and Sarah Salway, Philip Gross (with whom I talked recently, here) and Penelope Shuttle – not my usual fellows (though my contribution was influenced by the first poet listed!). But that’s what makes it interesting (for me, anyway). It has a fine introduction, with a history of the 'country house poem', as a sub-genre.

It may be purchased here: Liverpool University Press: Books: Hollow Palaces (the press appropriately based in a fine Georgian building next to the Cambridge pub where I have occasionally washed up post-lockdown).

Of course, the country house has been a focus of some enquiry following the tumbling of statues and Black Lives Matter, and my own subject, Blickling Hall, has some faint connection to the slave trade. Of course. (See here for my responses to these more recent themes: Pages: My latest Liverpool-Brexit-Virus-Slavery British Standard transposition (of Robert Southey) ( and  Pages: Two new poems from British Standards published in Tears in the Fence 73 ( ).

I haven’t had a chance to read much of the book yet, but I’d like to thank the editors for using my poem. I was glad to be picked. Ironically, because I left ‘The Blickling Hall Poem’ out of my selected poems, it appeared on this blog as a deselected poem,

Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Blickling Hall Poem (re: History or Sleep Selected Poems)

and it was spotted by Kevin Gardner who contacted me, and asked if it could be included. As I explain here Pages: Robert Sheppard at Fifty ‘The Blickling Hall Poem’, written in 1980, has been much published. This poem (and possibly the later poems, ‘The Materialisation of Soap 1947’ and ‘Prison Camp Violin, Riga’) count as my hit singles: I actually won a poetry competition with it (a much needed £150 in 1980), it was published in a North West Arts magazine and in PN Review, and it was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, where Michael Schmidt said something about it ‘being more a matter of the text than the flesh’. (Both of the above posts carry the text, but I read it for you on this new video.)

The poem is also part of Turns, a long-time collaboration with Scott Thurston which, oddly, we were talking about reviving or continuing only this week; I write about it in this post on collaboration: Pages: Solo Thoughts on Collaboration 4: Literary Collaboration part one (

Friday, September 17, 2021

The European Camarade at The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, October Friday 1st

 The European Camarade at The International Anthony Burgess Foundation

October Friday 1st : 7pm doors : Free entry

 3 Cambridge St, Manchester M1 5BY. 

 Supported by The Manchester Poetry Library, the 2021 European Poetry Festival comes to Manchester once again with some of the finest modern poets of the thriving Manchester scene in collaborative pairs with writers from across Europe. New performances made for the night in this unique Camarade event, featuring

 Patricia Farrell and Michael Egan

Ailsa Holland and David Gaffney

Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler

JT Welsch and Colin Herd 

Robert Sheppard and Joanne Ashcroft

Lydia Unsworth and Sarah Clare Conlon

Callie Michail and Scott Thurston

David Spittle and Stephen Sunderland

James Davies and Matt Dalby


More details here: link


As you can see Joanne and I are paired, and we’re writing a text at the moment that consists entirely of questions.

 Curated by SJ Fowler and Martin Kratz. I write about the Camarade in some of my ‘Collaborations’ posts, beginning here, and review SJ’s book of selected collaborations. The introductory part one, flags up the themes and surveys the territory, 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.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Robert Sheppard: The 'War on Terror' : my 'Warrant Error'

 I wrote a book called Warrant Error round and about the ‘War on Terror’.

It seems the right time to remind people that it is still in print, from Shearsman, here: Shearsman Books buy Robert Sheppard - Warrant Error

It seems the right time because, on Sunday 5th,  I heard a feature on the World this Weekend that completely failed to mention that any Afghans, Iraqis, or others were killed in this ‘War’. Since they claimed to be explaining the terrible events of 9/11 to those who weren't born then, they clearly failed in some duty. Of course, my poems don't 'explain' in that way. 

There are a number of samples from the book online. They include:

perhaps most appropriately, given recent events, 'Afghanistan', a poem that formed part of a collaboration with calligrapher Thomas Ingmire: Pages: Robert Sheppard and Thomas Ingmire: Afghanistan

Some sonnets from Warrant Error and other poems may be seen on the Eyewear feature on my work, here. More, here: from Warrant Error:

The introductory three poems (they are not sonnets like the rest) may be read on Intercapillary Space here

More here:
 Pages: Robert Sheppard's Warrant Error: unredacted report from the War on Terror 

A set of poems focussed on the War on Terror here: Pages: Robert Sheppard's Warrant Error: unredacted report from the War on Terror

The book overall is ‘round and about’ the War on Terror since I try to write about more positive qualities in the ‘human covenant’.  

Pages: Robert Sheppard: four poems for Patricia (from Warrant Error)

Here's one that I don't think I selected for History or Sleep (where you can read a select grouping of these sonnets, which works well as a sampler). It's 'round and about' the only personal involvement I had in the 'War': a bit of rubbernecking in a local street where a suspect's (unfortunate) brother lived, and had his house searched (they found nothing). I like the identification of  'global' warming and warning in this extremely 'local' poem.

And I read a run of them on the ‘Archive of the Now’ audio site: sheppard-robert_september-12_brunel_2006.MP3

You may read about History or Sleep here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: How I selected History or Sleep: Selected Poems

Thursday, September 02, 2021

COLLABORATIONS (Bob Cobbing - Robert Sheppard) published in a box by Veer - out now

Out now from Veer. Two booklets and a card introduction in a box! HERE


“Reprints of two collaborations between sympathetic but rather different disturbers of the poetic peace. As detailed in Sheppard’s illuminating Introduction, the first – Codes and Diodes - started with his poem for Cobbing’s 67th birthday; after another a year later Cobbing’s reworked response followed within days. Occasional exchanges continued till Christmas 1990 in the form of “flick-book ekphrasis”, cut-up and collage. - Sheppard:

Early in the alphabet the
Surprises began where the
Unknown linguist housed Francophone
In the sewer music

Cobbing: Elongated words flying furred against Francophone forms. “Juxi! Splelp! Ajax out!” These imps stage the dark world of the sewer.

Ten years on, over three months, a second, more intensive set of exchanges – Blatent Blather/Virulent Whoops - was effected by post; a loose three-line form accommodated homophonic strings, associative leaps, puns, pure sound and even plain statement; printed and handwritten text, diagram, score and image being interrupted by a shaggy dog story of meetings repeatedly foiled by missed calls. From

m(over) –



invention takes off apparently unstoppably through to an enigmatic conclusion '(end)uring freedom / in / (fin)ite j(us)tice'. Most of the personal pronouns appear in brackets like parts of mysterious encrypted messages still afloat on the relentless swirls of language."
                                                                    - Adrian Clarke

Veer Publications 093 & 094 [ISBN: 978-1-911567-24-0, 978-1-911567-25-7 & 978-1-911567-26-4 (boxed set)] 205mms x 285mms size. 34 & 34 & 4 pages. 2021. £13.00 (+ p&p).

 Go here to purchase and read more: Bob Cobbing - Robert Sheppard - Collaborations - Veer Books

 You may see me demonstrating how the box opens and the books spill out here!

The box format is appropriate to the fact that the first text in Codes and Diodes was also an introduction to Cobbing huge box publication Processual, one of Cobbing’s most important works. We just carried on from there. Here's one of my poems from that book, 'Verse and Perverse are Both Verses'. 


As I write of the second pamphlet here, in the introductory three page essay included with this publication:

My second co-authored piece with Cobbing, Blatent Blather/Virulent Whoops, conceived as a whole from the beginning, unlike its predecessor, falls into [the category of to and froing collaboration] (though falling into any category at all was clearly something that we were intending to avoid). The exchanges were conducted ‘to and fro’, via the post, between July and October 2001. I remember that Bob suggested that it was about time we wrote another collaboration at some point, and we must have discussed it at one of our still quite frequent meetings, even though I was living in Liverpool by the turn of the century. We established only one rule: we would each write 3 lines (or groups of 3 lines), then post the results to the other for response and continuation. One working title was ‘Over to You’.

A video of Patricia Farrell and I reading a revival of the text at The Other Room is visible on The Other Room website. (See video here:

I write about Cobbing a number of times on this blog; see here:

and here:


Soon after finishing Blatant Blather/Virulent Whoops I found myself with the sad task of writing Bob’s obituary for The Guardian (which may be read here:

I also write about collaboration in general (see here

My previous prose book from Veer, Unfinish, my be read about and bought here:


Monday, August 30, 2021

The Sea Was Closed ... the final 'English Strain'/'British Standards poem (links to hubposts about the 'English Strain' project)

I was reading

Davis, Amanda Blake, ‘“Ephemeral are Gay Gulps of Laughter”: P. B. Shelley, Louis MacNeice, and the Ambivalence of Laughter’, English, vol. 70, no. 268, Spring 2021, 23-46,

and discovered, printed in full, a sonnet by Shelley only discovered in 1973, excluded from my predated ‘collected’ and my postdated ‘selected’ volumes. I had thought to add a further intervallic sonnet by Shelley (they occur between and before, and now after, the sections of British Standards) and here it came, some months after the project was (effectively, dramatically and half-deliberately) abandoned, i.e., finished. Here was a sonnet about humour, the device that guides ‘The English Strain’ project, in a way ‘unprecedented’ (the Covid word) in my work (though there is humour in my other work, but almost incidentally, as it were). My first line is a paraphrase of Hazlitt’s definitions of humour and wit, quoted by Davis, though it also alludes to Shelley’s poem. As a fellow of the English Association, I’m pleased to have discovered this work in this prize essay from the Association’s journal. Into the ‘Works Cited’ it goes!

This poem, which I have taken down now, will form an 'Afterword' to mirror the 'Preface', which is a version of Shelley's 'English in 1819' (mine's about 2019, and thus I alter the date in my title) to the book British Standards. That feels properly finished now. 

It’s sometimes a good thing to be able to demonstrate the intuitive way in which the ‘original’ poems are transposed (I have long given up describing the process as ‘translation’), which can only be done by providing, in this case, another of the isolate Shelley poems, and my ‘version’. Here is another one, as it appeared in International Times: 

Lift Not the Painted Veil | IT (

It seems only fair to give you access to at least one of my Shelley transpositions. 

These temporary posts (that are occasionally turned into permanent ones, as here) on this blog testify to the development of these contemporary works. Here, you may find the main hub-posts as they are called, which have links to other posts (often with videos) from the project.

Read about Book One of 'The English Strain', The English Strain here .

Book Two, Bad Idea, is talked about here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’, it’s described here:

You can buy both books so far here: 
Pages: How to buy The English Strain books one and two together (

Book Three is called British Standards. Unpublished, it is best described here:

And I think that's all folks, although I've not made my mind up whether to include the poetics of the project as an appendix after the 'Afterword'. See here for an account of that poetics and how it played its part in another Shelley-based activity: Pages: Playing my Part in the New Defences of Poetry project (the poetics of British Standards: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation (

Friday, July 23, 2021

Playing my Part in the New Defences of Poetry project (the poetics of British Standards: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation

The reading of 'Defences' and live discussion about poetry and poetics (Shelley's and our own) last night worked well, even over Zoom, as we connected the seagulls of South Wales with the fogs of Northumbria. Olivia McCannon’s piece on ‘ownership and the cooperative mind’ dealt with translation as exchange and relationship, while Philp Gross dealt with ‘Words, Listening’, which focussed upon listening, silence and that noisy world of dissension that we all seem caught up in. I presented my ‘Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation’, which I wrote in the middle of writing book three of The English Strain project, British Standards, but is also a ‘defence’ of some kind, perhaps more of poetics than of poetry itself. I also revise my definitions of poetics! (Revised from those offered here.

Thanks to David O’Hanlon-Alexandra, the convenor of the discussion and the onlie begetter of the ‘New Defences’ project, who got us all to say more. His 'hidden' introduction to the project may be read here: Editor’s Introduction – New Defences of Poetry (

2021 marks the 200th anniversary of the composition of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘A Defence of Poetry’ (1821) – one of the boldest and most profound statements on the power of poetry to act as a social and political force. In celebration of this seminal work, the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts invited submissions of short prose essays responding to the theme of ‘A Defence of Poetry’ from practicing poets. See; Essays – New Defences of Poetry ( 

Last night that was down to us three. How do you think we did?

See here…


The works selected (not just our three) are now published on the NCLA Archives website (as of July 2021), with the possibility of a print publication to follow.

You may read all of the pieces here:

You may find my piece, which I probably only read half of on the evening, here:

Information about ‘the English Strain’ project abounds on this blog (the poems were blogged as they were written, the progress fully recorded. This link will take you to all the others!

Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (


I plan to add this poetics to Book Three, as an appendix. I think it will work, since it is anticipatory (and points beyond the book and project). 

A further poetics (on my use of the sonnet in this project, a kind of shadow to this one) may be linked to here:


Monday, July 19, 2021

An interview with me, by SJ Fowler, has been posted on Maintenant 107/3am magazine

An interview SJ Fowler conducted with me last year (and early this) during various lockdowns, is published here on 3AM Magazine.

It appeared within minutes of my sending my final copy to Steve today (!) and it is an interesting interview in that the focus was on poetry scenes, now and in the past, and partly on Creative Writing as an academic discipline, but also took in: how one keeps going, how one selects a collection, one’s neglect, one’s influences…   I was asked about my own work, Twentieth Century Blues, my associations with Writers Forum and Bob Cobbing (collaborations soon to be re-published), and (of course, since I was in the middle of writing them), my transpositions of English sonnets that I call ‘The English Strain’ project: The English Strain (Shearsman, 2021) and Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2021). I was working on the third ‘book’ of that at the time, which I call British Standards. So, wide-ranging. Things like: 'The other thing I learnt from the scene of the mid-70s was that you got it together and did it yourself, through the provisional institutions of little magazines, small presses and pub-room reading series...'

Read it here:

Maintenant #107 - Robert Sheppard - 3:AM Magazine (

 The exchange evolved in some ways from my posts (and subsequent essay) on literary collaboration (which, curiously, is not one of the things we talked about!), many of which feature accounts of Steve’s ‘Enemies’ projects: you read those posts here, and a link to my review of his selected collaborations, Nemesis!

 Look here for those: The introductory part one, flags up the themes and surveys the territory, 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.

Other interviews with me: rob mccellan’s interview may be read

Here’s an interview with me (conducted by Joey Francis), where I talk about the PAGES project from the inside, though I stray into defining 'linguistically innovative poetry' and the experience of homelessness. Read that here.

A  wide-ranging Wolf interview with me, conducted by Chris Madden may be read here.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Three Keats transpositions posted on Pamenar Press (with videos!)

Three poems from Weird Syrup: Overdubs of sonnets from John Keats and ‘Sheppard's lively readings of them’ on video, as they are described there, have just appeared on Parmenar. Read them and hear them here:



Big thanks to founder and editor Ghazal Mosadeq and thumbs up for finding a photo of me roaring with laughter that fits the mood of the pieces!

They are part of the third volume of my ‘English Strain’ project that is in the works, British Standards. I write about this book and the project here: Book three, British Standards, remains unpublished (because I've only just finished writing it) but may be read about here:


Here I write specifically about beginning and finishing work on these transpositions of Keats. I had some trouble getting going; you can read about that struggle here:

The Keats poems are called ‘Weird Syrup’. This post operates as a hub post about the Keats transpositions alone:



For your guide, the earlier published ‘books’ of ‘The English Strain’ are:

1. The English Strain (Shearsman, published. See below, and: here)

2. Bad Idea (Knives, Forks and Spoons, published; also see below, and  here )

Read the first review of these two conjoined books, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Also for your guide, Pamenar Press is an independent, cross-cultural, multilingual, experimental publisher, based in the UK, Canada and Iran, producing books, pamphlets and other ephemera each year. They lean towards experimental works, undiscovered territories and finding and promoting quality and often overlooked voices. They accept manuscripts across all genres from anywhere in the world.

 They bring different writers and artists together to collaborate and produce work.

Their web-based publication, Pamenar Magazine (an online magazine of experimental writing, poetry, visual arts and translation) is open to submissions. There is lots of interesting work to read. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

BAD IDEA reviewed by Steve Hanson in The Manchester Review of Books

Steve Hanson, the editor of Some Roast Poets poetry magazine, and excellent The Manchester Review of Books (I call it ‘The Chester View of Books’ because of the way the cover folds over!) has reviewed my Bad Idea alongside Adrian Clarke’s Euromancer. It’s good to be there with my old comrade from Floating Capital days – and a good friend. Thanks Steve ...

 The review, in the Manchester Review… is here: The Problem of England | (

and (now) in the paper version of the journal, on the first (unpaginated) page of Issue 7: Summer 2021.

I blushingly delighted in the statement, ‘It is utterly brilliant’, of course, but I was particularly tickled by: ‘This book is the sound a man of enlightenment and renaissance makes as he sees the long rich curve of knowledge – our real ‘heritage’ – being flushed clean down a political shitter.’ Quite.

Here are links (to links) to poems, from Bad Idea, which are versions of Michael Drayton’s renaissance sonnets. See here:

One of these poems, first published in International Times, I read on this video, recorded this afternoon (just for you!):

There’s a general post on Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’; that’s described here: ). That'll give you the idea, the bad idea.

I am also delighted to say that Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, as is Adrian’s book, so you may buy it HERE and NOW:

Read the first review of Bad Idea, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Read the second, by Clark Allison, here, on the Tears in the Fence website: HERE:

 I write about Adrian’s earlier work here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: My review of Adrian Clarke's Austerity Measures on Stride plus further notes, thoughts and links

Friday, June 25, 2021

How to buy The English Strain books one and two together


As is obvious from a lot of posts on this blog, The English Strain and Bad Idea – my two new more or less simultaneously published texts – are part one and two of the longer sonnet transposition project ‘The English Strain’. They belong together, are probably best both read together. Or can be. They certainly have been reviewed together. The best place to purchase both of the volumes in one or two clicks is not with the presses’ sites (which I would normally advocate), but through The Book Depository:

The English Strain (Shearsman) is available here:

Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoon) is available here:

(They have many of my other books available too, including the critical ones, and I noted 13% off the price of Twentieth Century Blues!)  

There are many inter-linked posts about ‘The English Strain’. Here are two comprehensive ones, each with further links to earlier stages of the project, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here (written after I’d completed it but before it found its title!).

There’s another post on Book Two, Bad Idea here . (The final part of Bad Idea is slightly different; called ‘Idea’s Mirror’; that’s described here: ).

Book three, British Standards, remains unpublished, but may be read about here:


 Above: a composite image that wasn't used as the cover of The English Strain. This one has me in the composite, but I made it blurry. In the end the state before this one was used. I'm fascinated that Barrett Browning's eyes show through so strongly. The second is the image for the cover, as used, to Bad Idea. Patricia Farrell produced both of these startling images. 

 Read the first review of both volumes, by Alan Baker, in Litter here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

 Read the second, by Clark Allison, here, on the Tears in the Fence website: HERE:

Read a third review, by Steve Hanson, of Bad Idea on its own, in the Manchester Review of Books, here:

Pages: BAD IDEA reviewed by Steve Hanson in The Manchester Review of Books (

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Poem ‘Adversarial Stoppage’ from FLIGHT RISK is published in Mercurius

Under the title ‘The Linguistic Eye-Scans of Robert Sheppard’ my poem ‘Adversarial Stoppage’ appears as part of Marcus Slease’s curation the ‘Absurd-Surreal’ in the magazine Mercurius here: The Linguistic Eye Scans of Robert Sheppard — Mercurius . There are lots of goodies here, too: Mercurius . Other absurdists include Vik Shirley. 

I was asked to provide an author-statement, which I found quite difficult to do, because I’m happily not quite sure what’s going on in the text (and in others from the same sequence). I said, ‘This poem operates as a linguistic eye scanning the images that the world offers and which it refuses to read sensibly or realistically. It is a kind of squinting, although sometimes the world is just plain weird. It isn’t difficult, if you don’t look for difficulties.’ Really, it’s a guide to reading a poem that I’m assuming a reader would have trouble with.

Maybe you don’t. Try it here. : The Linguistic Eye Scans of Robert Sheppard — Mercurius

Thanks to Marcus.

The poem is dedicated to S.J. Fowler, and it is not incidental that last year I reviewed his book of collaborations, Nemeses (See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Thoughts on Collaboration 9: Nemeses: Selected Collaborations of SJ Fowler, 2014-2019 (+ review on Stide)

‘Adversarial Stoppage’ is part of a longer manuscript of similar poems – oblique, teasing, transactional, in 4 line stanzas – that I have been writing over the last few years (by a slow method quite different from, and somewhat obscured by, the ‘transpositions’ of ‘The English Strain’ project: see here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (

The whole is entitled (provisionally) Flight Risk.

Companion poems (I mean, poems from the same cluster) include a long six part poem (or is it a long poem, even a series of these 4 line stanza poems?) ‘The Accordion Book’ that appears in the second issue of the vital magazine edited by Colin Herd, Adjacent Pineapple. My poem, here;

‘The Accordion Book’ is a long and deliberately involuted poem, in six parts, dealing with perception, art and (in places) cognitive extension…. The first four also appear in The Robert Sheppard Companion. See here.

The 23rd issue of Blackbox Manifold carries two more poems from Flight Risk, ‘Hammer Glow’ and ‘The Listening Table’, and you can go straight to them here 

I’m very pleased that the title poem, ‘Flight Risk’ is now published on MIRAonline, that is, the online version of The Mechanics’ Institute Review. You may read it here, and watch me read the first twenty lines here: FLIGHT RISK by Robert Sheppard – MIR Online

(I blog about it separately, here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A new poem 'Flight Risk' published today on MIRAonline , though I don’t say anything there that I haven’t above!)

Patricia Farrell now (24 May) has some work in the same serial feature:

A Selection of the Poetry of Patricia Farrell — Mercurius

Patricia Farrell is a poet and visual artist. Her most recent publication is High Cut: My Model of No Criteria (Leafe Press). Her collection Logic for Little Girls is forthcoming from Knives Forks and Spoons.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote a transposition of a John Thelwall sonnet for the WOW Festival in Liverpool

This is my last poem in this first batch of of OTD 2020... (I don't know whether there will be a second. I have been drawing attention to poems from British Standards that were published online and that escaped much notice at the time.)

ON THIS DAY 2020, as coronavirus ('Covid' seems to have been a later term, in general use, and even, more recently, 'CV19') and (what we didn't know was the first) lockdown trundled on, I wrote one of my last responses to it: one of the ‘14 Standards’, which uses a 'standard' Romantic sonnet for its own purposes. ‘The Vanity of National Grandeur’ was published on the WOW Festival, site, after having been commissioned by Victor Merriman as a response to the incarceal term 'lockdown'. My poem is here:

My account of this poem and ‘14 Standards’ as a whole may be read
 here, (with video):

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

But here’s the poem again, in case you missed it. It is a transposition of the poem named in its title.

The Vanity of National Grandeur by Citizen John Thelwall

It took Covid-19 to topple Bo’s giddy lust,
zigzagging virality of virility. The bong-gong
his near knell. He shifted Victory (over) Europe Day
around his post-Brexit holiday calendar. Adjust

in Time. The cheated hand waves the pennant to
We’re Meat Again as spitfires spit universal spores.
Labour is a sponge squeezed dry. Who was that Masked
Psilosopher? My curious hand shakes at his suffictions.

A consolation consul, he’s got a creamy tub of poesy
into which he stirs radicalism like jam. Frontline
is always somewhere/somebody else, hi-viz patrols
to broken train tracks. Thunder affords unsympathetic
background, scowling backdrop to his latest Skype.
His pocket awakes into rising alarm.

6th May 2020

'Psilosopher' and 'suffictions' are coinages of Coleridge, a friend of Thelwell. They can be worked out from the context, but the first is a false philosopher; the second is a baseless fiction used as a first term in a specious argument. (Think current Covid conspiracy theories!)

Here's the rest the online STANDARDS (sometimes with videos)

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 (

British Standards is the third book of the ‘English Strain’ project. Pages: Robert Sheppard: My Poetics of the Sonnet in 'The English Strain' / excerpt from 'Idea's Mirror' in The Lincoln Review

Book One, The English Strain is described here (on a post that was written before it had gained its title!).

There’s another post on Book Two, Bad Idea here .

I am delighted to say that Book One, The English Strain is available from Shearsman; see here:

I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons; see here:

Read the first review of those books together, by Alan Baker in Litter, here: Review - "The English Strain" and "Bad Idea" by Robert Sheppard | Litter (

One day, I hope, the third part, which is now complete, British Standards, will be available as a book. Until then, here is a post about its development: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Robert Sheppard: My Poetics of the Sonnet in 'The English Strain' / excerpt from 'Idea's Mirror' in The Lincoln Review

I am pleased that I have an excerpt from ‘Idea’s Mirror’, the final sequence of Bad Idea in The Lincoln Review. The Lincoln Review . Read that here:



Here's a video of the first poem.

Hopefully, these samples will make you want to purchase the whole of Bad Idea, on sale now from KFS Press. Here:


There’s another post on Bad Idea here . (‘Idea’s Mirror’ is described separately here: ).

 Having accepted my poems, one of the editors, Alison Smith, persuaded me to write a poetics piece. I had just written one specifically for The English Strain, the project of which Bad Idea is the second part (as yet unpublished). So the result is a meditation upon my obsessive use of the sonnet form, which nevertheless opens out into a general poetics. In some ways, it’s a continuation of the personal parts of my serial posts on the innovative sonnet (that led into a chapter of The Poetry of Saying). (See here: Pages: The Innovative Sonnet Sequence: One of 14 (

However, this piece brings it up to date, to my renunciation of the sonnet frame, now that I have completed the last poems of 'The English Strain' (See here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) ( . Thanks, Alison for the prompt. Given that I have written several kinds of sonnet, it is a surprise to find myself looking back to a very early text from 1978. (I had considered it once before here: Pages: The Innovative Sonnet Sequence: Eight of 14: My Own Sonnets ( But coming back to it, I found myself considering this isolated poem as an unknowing precursor of recent discoveries (it also demonstrates how the avant-garde gesture in British poetry of that time wasn’t to be found in a creative writing textbook). It took decades to catch up with myself. However, I can't see it heading up a 'Collected Poems'. It belongs now in this essay.

I say in it: One axiom I do have is provided by the opening words of my critical book, ‘Poetry is the investigation of complex contemporary realities through the means (meanings) of form.’ (The Meaning of Form, Palgrave, 2016: Pages: Robert Sheppard The Meaning of Form: forms and forming in contemporary innovative poetry (Summary and Weblinks)) This is echoed in the dedicatory poem to volume two of this project, Bad Idea:

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....

Read my “Hanging Out Inside Sonnets: A Text and Anti-Commentary” here

(I’ve since realised that it isn’t an anti commentary at all: it’s a commentary. And here is a poetics I wrote before this piece, also pertaining to the work in this project, and beyond, I hope: ) 

Also in The Lincoln Review 2 (2021) find:


James Brasfield

Mary Buchinger

Michael Chang

Felix Chow

Gemma Gorga

Ivan de Monbrison

Juanita Rey

Robert Sheppard

Marcus Slease

Virgil Suárez

Anannya Uberoi

Lauren Winchester

Jennifer Wong

Lindsay Young

Jane Zwart


Sally Gander

Alan Michael Parker

Andreas Philippopoulous-Mihalopo 

Cathy Ulrich


Casey Jo Stohrer


Yvwh Elohim


Jay Waters


Robert Sheppard


Colin Bancroft

Jennifer Wong


Andreas Philippopoulous-Mihalopo's The Book of Water