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) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) and Pages: Two new poems from British Standards published in Tears in the Fence 73 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) ).
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,
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 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)