Friday, January 29, 2021

A lo-fi lockdown videopoem: An overdub of John Clare's sonnet 'What a night!' posted as part of Writers Kingston Online

Since January 2020 I have been able to upload short videos ‘taken’, as they used to say, on my laptop. For example, I read a poem from the book Bad Idea to celebrate its launch (particularly poignant given the zero chance of a live launch) Here:  Pages: BAD IDEA (versions of Michael Drayton's Idea) available now from KFS ( You can see it’s a straight reading, though I flap the book in front of the camera to show the book’s existence (and its cover, by Patricia Farrell). Similarly, I read the final two ‘Empty Diary’ poems, experimenting a little by standing up and using my collaged walls as a part of the backdrop (it includes the cover of the Stride Empty Diaries). See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: The last two Empty Diary poems are published on Stride . 

Mostly, I have been using this facility to accompany my temporary posting of my poems from British Standards (the book that follows Bad Idea), as I write them. It is part of the periodicity and writing of the poems (or their drafts). They are usually speedily-done head and shoulder Zoom poses, although, during the writing of my versions of Keats, I made a point of using Keats’ life mask as a Greek mask. One of those videos survives online. Again, it is the draft of the final (or still to be developed) poem. Here:  Pages: an overdub, an understudy, a version, of Keat’s most famous sonnet (and then a further version) (

When Steven Fowler of Kingston University and the Enemies project asked for video-poems (but emphasising that they could be as rudimentary as they needed to be) I sent him my copy of one of my recent unthreadings of John Clare, ‘What a night’, where I experimented (or accidentalised, is probably more truthful) with the window and its glare, and put myself on the edge of the frame.

‘A lockdown poem: An overdub of John Clare's sonnet 'What a night!' A brilliant new film poem’ – the site says – ‘published as part of Writers Kingston Online - a program of new films and video performances commissioned to stand in lieu of a live events program negated by the global lockdown of early 2021.’

Visit and re-visit here as the collection grows:

I write about Steven and collaboration and short videos in these excerpts from a long strand on collaboration: Part five is about his 'Enemies' collaborative project, in general, and my small part in some of them (again with videos). It may be accessed here. Part nine contains some thoughts on SJ Fowler’s Nemeses: Selected Collaborations of SJ Fowler, 2014-2019. HTVN Press, 2019 : 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. And Part 12 continues to analyse this, but it takes account of the extraordinary dynamics of its 'Enemies' performance (which was filmed; all these events are filmed; hence Steven’s lockdown itchy fingers), here.

 The video is here too: 


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

My two pieces (British Poetry Revival & Harwood) & editorial exhibit in CONTEMPORARY BRITISH AND IRISH POETRY, 1960 – 2015 Edited by Görtschacher and Malcolm

CONTEMPORARY BRITISH AND IRISH POETRY, 1960 – 2015 Edited by Wolfgang Görtschacher and David Malcolm. Wiley Humanities, is out now. 

A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960 - 2015 | Wiley

978-1-118-84320-8 | Hardcover, 635 pages! | $195 £150 €135.60


I have a couple of essays in this massive compendium of British and Irish poetry, which has arrived today. It has taken some years for the two editors to put it together, and while I obviously haven’t read it (though I know Scott Thurston’s piece on ‘Linguistically Innovative Poetry’), just turning the pages over, I can tell this is a splendid book. Having written for both of the editors before, I vouch for their editorial thoroughness. Of course, it’s pricy, but it’s huge; ask your library to get it.  

It is a comprehensive and scholarly review of contemporary British and Irish Poetry with contributions from noted scholars in the field. A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960-2015 offers a collection of writings from a diverse group of experts. They explore the richness of the work of individual poets, genres, forms, techniques, traditions, concerns, and institutions that comprise these two distinct but interrelated national poetries. The best I can do at this early stage to ‘review’ it – it has literally arrived in the last hour – is to list its contents at the end of this post. I plan to read it all, in order. What I can say is that I’m pleased there is acknowledgment of the alternative poetries alongside the mainstream offerings. I know library copies of such books demonstrate the prevalent use, through wear and tear, of pages relating to canonical figures, but the rest is obdurately present. The limit of 2015 is judicious, I think, since these books take a long while to assemble. And quite a lot has happened since 2015 which cannot be its concern.  

The editors are Wolfgang Görtschacher, PhD, Senior Assistant Professor at the University of Salzburg, where he has taught literary criticism and translation studies since the early 1990s. He has published widely on British poetry magazines, contemporary British and Irish literature, and translation studies. And David Malcolm, a professor of English at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. He previously taught for twenty-eight years at the University of Gdańsk and has published extensively on British and Irish fiction and poetry. Both have appeared at Edge Hill for conferences or papers. I write about the book in a flash review here: Pages: A Rapid Response to A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry ed. Gortschacher and Malcolm (

In their introduction, the editors discuss a number of poems, and I’m pleased (and surprised) to announce that my own sequence ‘Fucking Time: Six Songs for the Earl of Rochester’ is discussed there. They signal that the poem appears in my Tin Pan Arcadia which is the only 21st century volume of mine out of print: it appears in the still-available Complete Twentieth Century Blues (see here: Complete Twentieth Century Blues, Robert Sheppard - Salt ( and re-appears in History or Sleep, my selected poems (see here: Shearsman Books buy Robert Sheppard - History or Sleep - Selected Poems

See here: Pages: Twentieth Century Blues published ten years ago! ( Oh, and here, too, for the original Fucking Time booklet with images: Pages: Ship of Fools press exhibition: Fucking Time by Sheppard and Farrell ( I particularly like the parenthetical observation: ‘it is lewd throughout’! 

A part of the introduction aligns itself with formalist readings of poetry, and quotes Derek Attridge, as do I in my The Meaning of Form. See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry PUBLISHED

I have two essays in A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960-2015 . As you can see from the list of contents, first I write about ‘The British Poetry Revival’, a subject I have revisited on this blog as well:

Pages: Robert Sheppard: Return to the British Poetry Revival 1960-78

There’s also much about the Brsitish Poetry Revival in a later take than the piece in this book, part of a partial review of Juha Virtanen's excellent book on performance in poetry, Pages: Thoughts on Collaboration 13 or: review of Juha Virtanen, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect. ( (He also has a piece in the book, which I am looking forward to reading.) Here's Better Books:

Secondly, I present here what I thought of as my definitive piece on the work of Lee Harwood, when I wrote it.

My review of Harwood’s Collected Poems 2004 appears in two parts here and here. I review the reprint of HMS Little Fox here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: HMS Little Fox by Lee Harwood republished (My reading of 'The Long Black Veil') 


Lee and me in Ormskirk, after a reading

Details of this new book, published by WileyHumanities ,  may be found here:

A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960 - 2015 | Wiley

Its contents are: 

Section 1 Introduction – 1960-2015: A Brief Overview of the Verse

Wolfgang Görtschacher and David Malcolm

Section 2 Contexts, Forms, Topics, and Movements

a. Institutions, Histories, Receptions


1. Some Institutions of the British and Irish (Sub)Fields of Poetry: Little Magazines, Publishers, Prizes, and Poetry in Translation

Wolfgang Görtschacher

2. Anthologies: Distortions and Corrections, Poetries, and Voices

David Kennedy

3. Minding the Trench: The Reception of British and Irish Poetry in America, 1960-2015

Daniel Bourne

4. Readers: Who Reads Modern Poetry?

Juha Virtanen


b. Genre, Kind, Technique

1. Manifestos and Poetics/Poets on Writing

Daniel Weston

2. The Genres of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry

Gareth Farmer

3. The Elegy

Stephen Regan

4. The Sonnet

David Fuller

5. Free Verse and Open Form

Lacy Rumsey

6. Satire

David Wheatley

7. The Traditional Short Lyric Poem in Britain and Ireland, 1960-2010

Tim Liardet and Jennifer Militello

8. (Post)Modern Lyric Poetry

Alex Perstell

9. The Long Poem after Pound

Will May


c. Groupings, Themes

1. Generations

Robert Hampson

2. The Movement

David Malcolm

3. The Liverpool Poets

Ludmiła Gruszewska Blaim

4. The British Poetry Revival

Robert Sheppard

5. Poets of Ulster

Martin Ryle

6. Martians: Towards a Poetics of Wonder

Małgorzata Grzegorzewska

7. Linguistically Innovative Poetry in the 1980s and 1990s

Scott Thurston

8. Concrete and Performance Poetry

Jerzy Jarniewicz

9. Performances of Technology as Compositional Practice in British and Irish Contemporary Poetry

John Sparrow

10. “Here to Stay”: Black British Poetry and the post–WWII United Kingdom

Bartosz Wójcik

11. Anglo-Jewish Poetry

David Malcolm

12. Gay and Lesbian Poetry

Prudence Chamberlain

13. Women Poets in the British Isles

Marc Porée

14. Irish Women Poets

Monika Szuba

15. Religious Poetry, 1960-2015

Hugh Dunkerley

16. Love Poetry

Eleanor Spencer

17. Political Poetry

Ian Davidson and Jo Lindsay Walton

18. Radical Landscape Poetry in Scotland

Alan Riach

19. Coincidentia Oppositorum: Myth in Contemporary Poetry

Erik Martiny


d. The Past and Other Countries

1. History and Poetry

Jerzy Jarniewicz

2. British and Irish Poets Abroad/in Exile

Glyn Pursglove


Section 3 Poets and Poems: Canon, Off-Canon, Non-Canon


3.1 John Agard - Ralf Hertel

3.2 Eavan Boland - Peter Hühn

3.3 Paul Durcan - Jessika Köhler

3.4 James Fenton - David Malcolm

3.5 Bill Griffiths - Ian Davidson

3.6 Excluding Visions of Life in Poems by Thom Gunn - Tomasz Wisniewski

3. 7 “Now Put It Together”: Lee Harwood and the Gentle Art of Collage - Robert Sheppard

3.8 Listening to Words and Silence: The Poetry of Elizabeth Jennings - Jean Ward

3.9 “Forever in excess”: Barry MacSweeney, Consumerism, and Popular Culture - Paul Batchelor

3.10 When Understanding Breaks in Waves: Voices and Messages in Edwin Morgan’s Poetry - Monika Kocot

3.11 Grace Nichols - Pilar Sánchez Calle

3.12 F. T. Prince - Will May

3.13 Kathleen Raine - Glyn Pursglove

3.14 “Everything except justice is an impertinence”: The Poetry of Peter Riley - Peter Hughes

3.15 Anne Stevenson - Eleanor Spencer

3.16 Paula Meehan – Vocal Cartographies: Public and Private


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Whatever happened to the book Charms and Glitter?

Some of you may have seen advertised a book, Charms and Glitter, carrying photographs by Trev Eales and poems by myself. Let me explain what happened to it. 

I’ve known Trev since we met at a Thin Lizzy concert at UEA in October 1974. In the intervening years, Trev had taken up photography, specalising in images of concerts and festivals, and of the Cumbrian landscape. See: Lomogon Stories: Trev Eales · Lomography. And:  treveales photos on Flickr | Flickr . I talk about how we came to collaborate in recent years, here Pages: Trev Eales - photography and friendship ( and I outline some of our early plans (in a piece on my own relationship to photography, which is more extensive than I’d thought): Pages: Robert Sheppard: Talk for the Open Eye Gallery on Poetry and Photography December 2016 . In a weird prefiguration of the fate of the ‘Charms and Glitter’ project itself, I never actually delivered this ‘talk’; I was ill.

In the end, the ‘project’ resulted in a large lavish book, with 62 full page colour illustrations and 62 poems, also printed in a colour that derived from the photographs. This thing was to be sold at £50 hardback and £30 paperback. I joked to friends that if they didn’t have a coffee table, they’d have to acquire one before taking delivery of such a beauty. The publisher was pleased. The photographer was pleased. The poet was pleased. We communicated with The Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool about a possible launch for the book. Then the pandemic hit, engulfed the world (and, incidentally, engulfed the very world of music performance and spectacle that the book was trying to reflect and even celebrate).

This slowed things up. A handful of proof copies were produced for publisher, photographer and poet to approve. They approved. Then: meltdown. In July 2020, Trev discovered that, although he was the copyright holder, he was deemed to have licensed the rights to the photographs jointly to a festival organization and to the respective festivals he had attended, in exchange for a press card, although he had never signed a contract (which, in the circular logic of these things, was why he didn’t know of this arrangement); the non-signing (indeed, the non-offering) did not exonerate him from the effects of those transferred rights. This summary of the situation doesn't quite capture the piecemeal means by which we garnered this truth. All three of us realised that we could not proceed (and the gathering of rights from numerous festival organisations seemed too complex to contemplate). We are all still friends. No one made a mistake.

So, those of you who spotted an advert for the book have seen a phantom.

Of course, the poems exist (so do the photographs), but the book doesn’t. I looked again at the texts and I realised that many of the poems simply do not ‘work’ on their own (they were not designed to do so, and I didn’t want to see them in print without the photographs). But, me being me, I realised that there was a shorter set there, of revised, re-ordered, re-sequenced poems, and I have re-worked ‘Charms and Glitter’ into Sound on the Lip of Silence: from the photographs of Trev Eales. This consists of an introduction, ‘Driving the Spectacle’, which re-works some of the poems about performance generally (though they lose their identifications with particular performers), a main chunk, ‘The New Charm’, which identifies the artists, from Jack White to Debbie Harry, and a coda, called ‘Crowding it Out (for Trev)’, which is (now) a poem about Trev as the captor of these vanished spectral beasts. I have yet to publish any parts of this, as it still goes through the relentless revision-mill I reserve for my poems. Even today, in preparing this post, I restored ‘IAMDDB’ to this 20 pp sequence. Here are three poems that I’ve now removed, partly because they repeat points made already in the revised piece, but not because they only ‘work’ with their equivalent photographs. Let’s call these

Where Spots Funnel Beams

1 Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

Mouth astonishment at
whatever descends through
the music from
the other side
of music silent
underbelly of delight

                 His hands
think a chord
only to turn it
inside out

2 Ray BLK

Her dreads flip
down her oil-swirl
jacket as she

a chorus into
icy air –

minute particulars
of joy squeeze
beneath her furrows

though her smile
is a mask

she is about to
burst through

    of her shoulders
    would drop her
    into rhythm

3 Anne-Marie

her breath – sharp intakes,
ecstatic out-
takes – shaking the daisies.

their chains, stay
with the breathing. Let it

become visible
without trying to place
the words. Vibrate

with her vocal chords,
follow the
contour of melody;

lift yourself into
song, and back again,
into invisible audition.

(Here's another poem. 'Wilko Johnson', which I added to these pages on the announcement of his death. This one survives into 'Sound on the Lip of Silence: Pages: I.m. Wilko Johnson (poem, video, thoughts) (,


You may have noticed that this isn’t exactly ‘my’ music, but that was the appeal of the project actually. I’m not even a festival goer, like Trev, though we did both go to the aborted Hope and Glory Festival in the centre of Liverpool, he to work, me to regard the overcrowding with horror. (On reflection, this trip was another prefiguration of the fate of the project.) 

In a recent interview I decided to list ten artists I’d been listening to. Only one is included in the original ‘Charms and Glitter’ project. Can you guess which one? They are: Ellen Andrea Wang, Byron Wallen, Harish Raghavan, Immanuel Wilkins, Mary Halvorson, Kurt Elling, Scott Walker, Richard Thompson, Tori Freestone, and Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

BAD IDEA (versions of Michael Drayton's Idea) available now from KFS

I’m delighted to announce that Bad Idea is available NOW from Alec Newman’s excellent press Knives Forks and Spoons, with a cover design by Patricia Farrell. You may get it HERE:

Let me say a little about this book. There are two ways of seeing it. One: it is a homage to Michael Drayton’s 1619 sonnet sequence, Idea, transpositions into contemporary forms. Two: it tells the story of Brexit, as it passes through the body politic, the undigested cake and eat it of daily life. We read of the peccadillos and pet projects of the Brexiteers, the ineptitude of resistance. Expect comedy and chaos rather than analysis, ‘how not to get the blues while singing the blues’. You don’t need to know any more about Drayton than I’m telling you here to ‘get’ these poems. Drayton is both Renaissance man and man of resentment. His worshipped muse Idea is transformed into a tragic Scouse idealist caught in a satire nobody can quite control. ‘The English Strain’ of the sonnet tradition meets the dogging sites of post-Brexit Britain. You’ve got to laugh. You couldn’t make it up (though I did).    

You will notice that I call the poems ‘transpositions’. The term ‘expanded translation’ has been popular in some quarters, but I prefer my term to emphasise the process of transformation as I version my way through the English sonnet tradition. Bad Idea is a transposition of Idea for our times.

There are posts on my blog written during the writing of Bad Idea that may be accessed, with links to some of the poems, here .

A cluster of sonnets may also be read on the Knives Forks and Spoons Press site. (There are other books of mine at KFS too, my book of short stories, The Only Life, and my autobiography Words Out of Time.)

Here’s a post with a video of me reading one of the poems, celebrating the day my copies arrived: Pages: A Well-Deserved Break/Bad Idea available/Brexit Christmas Past (

And here's a quick video of me reading the 'Address to the Reader', a version of Drayton's Sonnet 28.


Bad Idea is Book Two of a longer project, ‘The English Strain’, though it may be read on its own.

Check out Book One, The English Strain here and posts on Book Three, still in progress, probably to be called British Standards, may be caught in action here: Pages: Weird Syrup: The final Keats variation: a (premature) farewell to satire as a strand in British Standards (temporary post with video) (

In short, the parts of ‘The English Strain’ are:

1. The English Strain. Book One of ‘The English Strain’ project, The English Strain, is available from Shearsman Books here:

2. Bad Idea (Knives, Forks and Spoons, available now)

3. British Standards (work in progress)


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:

 Read the third review, by Steve Hanon, in the Manchester Review of Books, here:

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