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.