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 (

Three more 'Standards' appeared in Overground Underground in 2021, and I write about them here, AND read two of them on video: Pages: Three new poems from British Standards published in Overground Underground (

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