Friday, October 15, 2021

A Fictional Poet's Notebook (part 2)

Some of these posts have been incorporated into a prose chapter of my 2023 book, Doubly Stolen Fire, which you may read about, and purchase, here: Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (


Sophie Poppmeier: 15th October 2020: I didn’t feel any of it, until I opened this book and resolved (this is an exercise of the will rather than a discovery of something beyond my control) that the sentence I found already written there was a message from the mannequin, in some way. The blank handkerchief is like a sudden bad mood.

A few days have passed – do I mention ‘lockdown’; all of these shifts in my consciousness and conscious self-conditioning happened under lockdown? – and the mannequin is answering me when I talk to it. Just as it performed motionlessly on stage – now it speaks without movement, or sound, back. At first, I heard a grunt, or a cough, as I’d look over and see it looking at me, ironically, or sardonically, or with assertive humour, and hear the almost-words in my head.

            Here I go again, experiencing that lapse of energy again. I need to write the mannequin into existence, as it talks itself into being. Before the mannequin takes over, I ought to say what practical matters I had to deal with.

I enjoyed the EUGE collaboration at first and – despite the philosophical discursions I wanted to avoid – I was happy alternating lines with the others, particularly with Trine, who I visited in Copenhagen on a few occasions. I learnt a lot about her conceptual poetics there. But the EUGE collaboration was simply taking over. The fanciful notion that it might last forever, this dedication to the eternal ampersandic edifice we were building (like Cage’s organ piece) dizzied me, knocked me off balance. What for a conceptualist was a cool eternity of heaven, seemed to me an eternity in Limbo, never finishing, ever-contributing. Without being too pompous, I was left without any time to write my own work. ‘Who would want to produce their own work?’ Trine would reply, when I moaned. One of the others said, mysteriously, ‘We’re all written by somebody else!’ But, damn it, I do want to write my own work, poems with titles (well, you know how mine go) with my name (alone) at the bottom.

            I had to leave. I found a replacement: Anne Hoffman, a veteran of a number of large-scale poetic projects, from Luxembourg.

            Unlike the Oulipo, I left without having to kill myself, and received eventual forgiveness from Trine. In fact, my leaving tested the system of the EUGE, that one pillar of the edifice could be replaced without the whole toppling, so I served a function. I miss it as well, its Tower of Babel stapled together by glittery ampersands.

            I am not mad, alone with my sotto voce chatty companion. I am eminently sane, because, as a fictional writer, I am super-conscious of the power of ordaining another imaginary author, especially one so obviously constructed of inorganic matter (with an ‘organic’ veneer). But I can see that the EUGE was a conceptual collaboration, whereas my relationship with my mannequin is as unsettled as it is unsettling.

            At first, free of the EUGE, I couldn’t write a thing! I marvelled at the fluency of my earlier work. It dried up as performance dried up. I don’t see a connection between the two.

            Until the mannequin spoke (to me) I was speechless (poetically speaking). Now it’s difficult to choreograph the patter into poems, but there’s no lack of material, words, parts of words. The problem is, without wanting to sound like Robert Sheppard (the ex-EUOIA one), a problem of form.

            Now I think of all my poems as collaborations. (Even with myself.)

            I dream of us sitting on a train passing pieces of paper between us as we bullet through hamlets with medieval spires, crash into the thick cover of a forest, or tunnel through the alps, with only our reflections looking back at us. A mannequin’s reflection will look back even if the mannequin does not look in, there’s an irony.

Sophie Poppmeier is one of the ‘fictional poets’ of my European Union of Imaginary Authors project, and she appears both in Twitters for a Lark and A Translated Man (both Shearsman book). The EUOIA website which describes both the project as a whole (here: European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) - Home ( ) and contains a page about her (here: Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) ( ). Two relevant posts about her burlesque work may be read here and here. A poem from Book 4 may be read online here.

 I have been writing a notebook to try to write her into the present, as it were, and I’m presenting most of it here, in instalments, like the text itself.

 The first installment includes links to all the posts: here: Pages: A Fictional Poet's Notebook (entry one)(hubpost to other parts) (