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Saturday, April 17, 2021

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

ON THIS DAY 2020, after coronavirus took hold and what we thought of as THE lockdown matured into 'the new normal', I wrote my response to the much-reported urban 'hush' as one of my ‘14 Standards’, using Romantic sonnets.  This one was published on the Poetry and Covid website, here: Six Poems (poetryandcovid.com) along with a number of the other OTD 2020 poems that I'm currently blogging. 

But here’s the poem again, in case you missed it. It is a transposition of the poem named in its title. Obviously, mine is not about The Nile. When somebody asks me what I remember of the lockdown it will be sitting in the yard, reading Hazlitt or Leigh Hunt, and hearing the ambulances going up and down Smithdown Road. It was about this time I also noticed the neighbourhood song-thrush, but he had to wait for me to be reading John Clare to penetrate my sonnets! 

 


The hush

The Nile by Leigh Hunt

 

now windows open on a

different world

hushed streets empty

of thronging bands breeze

stale the trickle of breached pipes

under paving between drains

routine buckles these oars of fire

dipped into treacle lake

under flaming sirens

ambulances whine as anxiety pools

red wine below floorboards keeps

time to stern brooding

fruity with breath’s

imagined judgement

 

17th April 2020

 I write a response to the Poetry And Coivid website and AHRC project here: Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote this lacuna-pocked poem as a version of one of Coleridge's sonnets (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

This poem is from the ’14 Standards’ part of British Standards, which you can read about here:

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

British Standards is the third book of the ‘English Strain’ project: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

You may read about the first book and second book here. Indeed, you may now buy them.

Book One, The English Strain is described here (on a post that was written before it 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:

https://www.shearsman.com/store/Sheppard-Robert-c28271934?offset=6

I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons; see here:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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

ON THIS DAY 2020, as coronavirus took hold (indeed, was at its first peak) and what we thought of as THE lockdown unfolded, I wrote my response to it as one of my ‘14 Standards’ using selected Romantic sonnets (writing them deliberately out of order than the way they will eventually appear).  It was then published on the Poetry and Covid website, here: Six Poems (poetryandcovid.com)

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



To a Friend, Who Asked How I Felt, When the Nurse
First Presented My Infant to Me by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


At dawn’s first coffee        I scan my passport
to prove my self    through a sycamore
sun bursts    into the leaf-time of breathless spring
update your face in the mirror    it has angel’s form

It’s left without you    appears in this poem
a sudden father    dewy on his mobile
in a public callbox    for old time’s sake
imagine giving    birth in a pandemic

Priti disappointed    Bo’s thrilled and melted
that any thing    could be ‘powered by love’
she puckers the frigid    kiss of the State
for the    fever lips of the ‘economic inactive’

Watch the parasite        feed off beauty
who still thinks PPE is what rich kids    do at Oxford

14th April 2020


I have recently (early April) answered a questionnaire about the Poetry and Covid AHRC project that provided the website. I commented on it thus:

It has surprised me by the way it just keeps continuing on and on. There is something there, on the site, every day and, although I don't read it all, I re-Tweet about it, since I feel it must be important. For myself, I was writing a particular project, 'The English Strain', whose book two (now published as BAD IDEA) was an exploration of the madness of Brexit, through the sonnets of Michael Drayton. Book three (British Standards) followed on, making parodic (but not just parodic) versions of sonnets by Romantic sonnets. The hubris of Brexit hit the disaster of Covid head on: while Boris Johnson fiddled the National Anthem the country was burning. Naturally, the poems followed, out of necessity. It didn't choose to write Covid poems. At the time of writing, it is slightly horrifying to realise that I wrote the poems you published (six!) about a year ago. You caught me investigating the first, fatally-delayed, lockdown. I never expected these poems to make me feel better. I am sceptical of therapeutic aspects of art, since I believe that the openness of aesthetic engagement must be open to the possibility that art is bad for us (though I recognise that our pretending that it is a fiction is part of the defence against its possible ill-effects). I don't write to make myself feel better about anything; but I don't write to make anybody deliberately feel bad. After all, I hope these poems - relatively straight-forward by my usual avant-garde standards - are funny. Humour is on the whole good for you.  

As I say, this poem comes from the ’14 Standards’ part of British Standards, which you can read about here:

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

British Standards is the third book of the ‘English Strain’ project. Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

You may read about the first book and second book here. Indeed, you may now buy them.

Book One, The English Strain is described here (on a post that was written before it 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:

https://www.shearsman.com/store/Sheppard-Robert-c28271934?offset=6

I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons; see here:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

Sunday, April 11, 2021

ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote a melting column version of LEL's 'The Dancing Girl' in lockdown for British Standards

ON THIS DAY 2020, as coronavirus took hold, and the hospitalisations and deaths reached their first peak, and what we thought of then as THE (single) lockdown unfolded, I wrote one of my responses to it: one of my ‘14 Standards’, using selected Romantic sonnets.  In this case ‘An Overdub of Letitia Elizabeth Landon's The Dancing Girl’'.

My account of ‘14 Standards’ is here here:

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

Read the poem here. Or about the poem (and hear/see another video of me reading it) here.  

 


British Standards is the third book of the ‘English Strain’ project, and '14 Standards' is an important part of it. My post on the whole of British Standards may be accessed here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

Book One, The English Strain is described here (on a post that was written before it 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:

 ttps://www.shearsman.com/store/Sheppard-Robert-c28271934?offset=6


I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons; see here:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

 


Tuesday, April 06, 2021

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

ON THIS DAY 2020, coronavirus had taken hold and what we thought of as THE lockdown was unfolding. I wrote my response to it all as one of my ‘14 Standards’, using Romantic poems (deliberately arranged out of order of composition). This is my poem ‘Ozymandias’, based upon the Horace Smith poem that was written alongside Shelley’s as a contest. I write about both Shelley and Smith’s poem (AND my own earlier attempt to version Shelley’s poem): here: Pages: My occasional transposition of Shelley' s 'Ozymandias' appears and disappears (hub post) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)  

This poem, along with another four sonnets from ’14 Standards’, have been published in the handsome American print magazine The Café Review, which is edited by Steve Luttrell.

They are Overdubs of ‘Written at Killarney, July 29th 1800, by Mary Tight’ (sic: should be Tighe!), of ‘Ozymandias by Horace Smith’; of ‘Written in the Workhouse by Thomas Hood’; of ‘When lovers’ lips from kissing disunite by Charles Tennyson Turner; and of ‘Long time a child, and still a child by Hartley Coleridge.

All in The Café Review Volume 32, Spring 2021: pp. 24-28.

It may appear odd to say so, but my 'Standards' allude both to the title of my book, British Standards, and to Anthony Braxton's 'Standards' albums and concerts, which do to the 'standards' of the jazz catalogue what I hoped to do to their Romantic poetry equivalents! My account of ‘14 Standards’ as a sequence is here:

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

Here are two videos, one of the version of the Thomas Hood sonnet, the other of one of Hartley Coleridge's, recorded when they were written (the texts read may still have been drafts).


Overdub of ‘Written in the Workhouse by Thomas Hood’

Overdub of ‘Long time a child, and still a child by Hartley Coleridge'.

The magazine The Café Review may be read about here: The Cafe Review – a quarterly journal of poetry, art and reviews that is based in Portland, Maine and has been published for over twenty-five years.

And there will be full details of this issue here eventually. At the last check it was carrying details of the previous issue. (It’s a big site, worth checking out in any case!)

This is a British slanted issue, with new poems by Robert Hampson, Peter Robinson, Jeff Hilson, Peter Finch and Clive Fencott, among others (I have still to read it properly).

Thanks, Steve, for asking, and for putting me in this great company.

'14 Standards' is part of a larger, now-completed transposition project, British Standards which may be read about here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). I also write there about my later return to Hartley Coleridge's excellent sonnets as my way of ending the book, and the whole 'The English Strain' project they come from.

Friday, April 02, 2021

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

On this blog I’ve documented ‘The English Strain’ project as work has progressed, through to its third (and final) book, British Standards. Yes, part three is finished; ‘The English Strain’ is finished (I think). And it's worth repeating so that I remember it. I’m posting today because Petrarch first saw Laura on Good Friday 1327, as recorded in his third poem and my ‘transpositions’ of it in Petrarch 3. (See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: the Petrarch sonnet project finished with poem 100  ) I also finished Book One around Eastertide.  


For your guide, the ‘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 )

3. British Standards (just finished, as I say: you can smell the ink drying, as this posting demonstrates)

Unlike other projects, I decided to live its writing in the blare of blogging publicity, particularly since videos have been added. That's because its subject matter is contemporary, political, and part of a fast moving story. (The poems are usually fastidiously dated.) There are two ways (at least!) of looking at the project as a whole: it either consists of accounts of the capering of Bo and Go and other clowns across the post-Brexit dogging site that newly independent ‘Bressex’ has become, or it’s the subtler story of the English strain of the sonnet form. I hope I will send readers back or away to the ‘originals’. Part of my poems’ meaning has to lie in intersectional readerliness between one (or two) of Hartley Coleridge’s sonnets, say, and mine. That’s one role of the reader here, although general knowledge of transposition will be enough to see what’s going on. I’m not dismissing tradition; I’m invoking it. Book one is called The English Strain: the project begins with Petrarch, picking up the ‘Brexit’ theme in a number of sonnets of my own, until Milton, Wyatt, Surrey, Charlotte Smith and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, provide the frames for me to hang my boots on. (There are a couple of sequences in 'my own voice', which deliberately 'fail'.) This continues in book two, Bad Idea, though there I stick to Shakespeare’s contemporary Michael Drayton, a fine sonneteer. I’ve spent almost as long on this project as on Twentieth Century Blues. ‘No man can know, of himself, whether he is, or is not, a poet… and the result of the experiment may not be known for years,’ stated Hartley Coleridge in the preface to his 1833 book.


But here I am at its end, at the short sequence 'Partly from Hartley'. I was pleased to find Coleridge used Drayton (to whom he wrote a fine homage sonnet) as an epigraph to his poems, and I thought of using it as an epigraph myself, to link the books together, but in the end it wasn't appropriate: ‘I write, indite, I point, I raze, I quote,/I interline, I blot, correct, I note,/I make, allege, I imitate, I fain.’  

 However, a quote from Hartley’s letters makes an appearance as epigraph to the pair of double sonnets, which forms the totality of my 'Partly form Hartley' section: ‘Politically speaking, I am much more a Tory than a Whig, and least of all, a Democrat.’ Letters, pp. 124-5. In the first pair of sonnets you can see that he is not a red wall Tory (as I originally thought I’d make him) but the (illegitimate) son of one, living in the Lakes and occasionally visiting the Northern City represented by his Pops. The Frank Zappa song 'Idiot Bastard Son' was the muted soundtrack to my thinking him into existence. (Hartley had his parallel Oedipal problems, of course.) But I found I couldn’t sustain the voice, as I actually say in the second half of the first poem in the pair of doubles: I cannot ventriloquise the Tory voice without feeling queasy. (It’s like reading mainstream poetry.) In the second double-poem, I leave evidence that I actually abandoned an Ur-text (sort of, at one point, or in imagination only!) and the sequence, and I have – and I haven’t. (You can have your cake and eat it, obviously! The poem is still essentially fictive, as well as fictional.) Indeed, I thought at one point that I was writing chapters of a verse-novel on the life of a certain ‘Hartley Coleridge’, but I'm glad that idea hasn't bourn fruit on this occasion. (I’d just finished reading my first contemporary verse-novel, the brilliant The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo.)

 


The double sonnets remained on this blog temporarily, though this post has transposed into a hubpost for British Standards, is a guide to all the previous guides to British Standards - and to the whole project, for that matter, through the labyrinthine links that take you to different parts of the work’s inception, publication and reception. It has been to a certain extent written on this blog, with blogging of the day’s poem. This itself is a novel rhythm of writing for me. Oh, yes: I've vowed not to write any further sonnets! 


H.C.'s Grave


 


Part of that ritual of composition (since January 2020, when the technology became available) has been to post short films of the poem in draft and above is one of those. Of course, the final version of the poem differs somewhat from this (particularly as the form of the double sonnet, a form picked up from the works of Clare rather than Coleridge, reshaped the writing.

The double sonnets refer to the following sonnets by Hartley Coleridge, found in all three editions listed below, especially as they appear in The Complete Poetical Works of Hartley Coleridge. ed. Ramsay Colles, London and New York: George Routledge and Co: 1908: ‘Dedicatory Sonnet’, 2; ‘When we were idlers with the loitering rills’, p. 3; ‘In the great city we are met again’, p. 3; ‘I loved thee once, when every thought of mine,’ p. 5. Allusions to, memories of reading, the following poems also manifest: ‘We parted on the mountains, as two streams’, p. 4; ‘I left the land where men with Nature dwelling’, p. 15; ‘’Tis strange to me, who long have seen no face’, p. 15; and to ‘From Petrarch’, p. 93. Here’s one of them. I believe Hartley to be a neglected sonneteer:

In the great city we are met again,
Where many souls there are, that breathe and die,
Scarce knowing more of nature’s potency,
Than what they learn from heat, or cold, or rain,
The sad vicissitude of weary pain:—
For busy man is lord of ear and eye,
And what hath nature, but the vast, void sky,
And the throng’d river toiling to the main?
Oh! Say not so, for she shall have her part
In every smile, in every tear that falls;
And she shall hide her in the secret heart,
Where love persuades, and sterner duty calls:
But worse it were than death, or sorrow’s smart,
To live without a friend within these walls.

 


All the poems I am transposing also first appeared in Hartley Coleridge, Poems, Songs and Sonnets (Leeds: F. E. Bingley, 1833). Pre-Daguerreotype! Accessible online here:

Poems, songs and sonnets : Coleridge, Hartley, 1796-1849 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

They are also collected here: Coleridge, Hartley, Poem . London: Moxon, 1851 contains a lengthy memoir by his brother;

Poems : Coleridge, Hartley, 1796-1849 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

 though, as I say, I am using Ramsay Colles’ edition, London and New York: George Routledge and Co: 1908, of which I found a hard copy on AbeBooks.

Some sympathetic background reading may be found in Nicola Healey’s PhD:

Nicola Healey PhD thesis (st-andrews.ac.uk)

https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10023/787/NicolaHealeyPhDThesis.pdf?sequence=6

 And sympathetic background there should be: I am convinced that Hartley was autistic (which I have hinted at in the poem). He shows a number of giveaway characteristics, but I’ve no idea whether this is a commonplace identification, or my own alone.

I am thinking of using the following quotation from Hartley’s letters as an introduction to British Standards as a whole.

Have you read Wordsworth’s anti-railroad Sonnets? As Petrarch with all his Sonnets could never prevail on Laura to more than admire him, and I believe no man by Poetry ever won any woman that would not have run away with a Strolling Player, how could the Bard imagine or fancy that 14 lines, though each line were instinct with living fire like an Electric Telegraph, would mollify the philanthropic no-heart of a Railway Company? (Hartley Coleridge: 1847)

 


I will now give details of the whole of British Standards. Please follow the links for the major page on each part of the work (which itself will guide you to online poems and other relevant snippets). 

The first section of British Standards was finished late March 2020, just after the (first) lockdown was belatedly, fatally for some, announced. For this, I transposed poems from 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 . There are links to online publication of some of the poems too (as there are in most of these links).


In the sequence of British Standards, after Wordsworth, there followed ‘14 Standards’, the lockdown poems (quite a few online now, plus some print poems out in the States soon, and one in the current Tears in the Fence), and in turn, two additional ‘Double Standards’ about the now-departed Cum’s disgraceful lockdown infringements – I transposed a couple of Shelley’s sonnets – and his elitist refusal of apology and regret. See here for the ‘standards’ (and links to online publication): http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html . One of Hartley Coleridge’s was one of my models (as was a sonnet by his father about his birth!) in ’14 Standards’. (Little did I know at the time, by the way, that I would return to him more fully, though I had clocked that Hartley’s sonnets were better than his father’s.)

 


‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, interventions in the terrific sonnet sequence ‘Sappho and Phaon’ by Mary Robinson, followed, and they may be read about (with video) here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/my-transpositions-of-mary-robinsons.html

 


Then I turned to Keats. I had some trouble getting going; you can read about that struggle here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/an-overdub-understudy-version-of-keats.html

The Keats poems are called ‘Weird Syrup’. The first 7 are entitled ‘Contrafacts and Counterfactuals from Keats’, the last 7, ‘Curtal Song-Nets from Junkets’.

This post operates as a hub post about the Keats transpositions: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/11/weird-syrup-final-keats-variation.html


 Then I read more than I had hitherto of the brilliant poems of John Clare, for writing my ‘Unth(reading) Clare’ sequence. Read about it here:  Pages: The final sonnet transposition from John Clare (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

The intervallic ‘Shelley’ poems, (I mean: they appear singly between the other sections) of which another, with its 'original', is recently published online here (Lift Not the Painted Veil | IT (internationaltimes.it) are discussed here in their own hub-post: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/09/my-occasional-transposition-of-shelley.html

 As might be gathered from what I have said in this post (and others), British Standards, as a whole, presents transpositions of admired sonnets of the Romantic period, from William Bowles to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Chronologically, they broadly 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, The English Strain.

Here are two comprehensive posts to check out, each with further links to earlier stages of the project, the first 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: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-last-ideas-mirror-post-election-poem.html ).

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

https://www.shearsman.com/store/Sheppard-Robert-c28271934?offset=6

I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons, so you may buy it HERE:  https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/bad-idea-by-robert-sheppard-102-pages

 


I hope one day I will update this post with details of how to purchase Book Three. Until then this post, or rather, the links from it, will direct you to periodical publication of its contents-in-assembly.