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 (

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: