Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Should I write a fourth ‘book’ of The English Strain project?

Should I write a fourth ‘book’ of The English Strain project? (I hear some groans!)

 Should I let Bo(ris) get away with it? is another way of putting that question. Ending the English Strain project seemed – still seems – a good idea, at the point that Global Britain failed its first test by withdrawing from Afghanistan (not by choice, but because it was following the US). Bo is so much weaker than he was, less a figure of fun and more a principle of chaos, boostering around the booster vaccine (I had mine!) without a mask, cancelling trains, burning bridges, plundering social care reserves, building a Royal Yacht, defending his chums, then U turning, you know the stuff …


A phantom fourth book suggests itself (though it might morph into something altogether else). And Victorian sonnets (though why just sonnets? Patricia asks me; I have resolved not to write even a 14 line poem again!) suggest themselves as vehicles. There’s an unthinkably expensive 5 volume anthology containing 2000 such beasts (here: https://anthempress.com/anthem-nineteenth-century-series/the-anthem-anthology-of-victorian-sonnets-pdf ). There are famous sequences (I’ve covered EBB in book one), such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s rather abstract ‘The House of Life’ (see http://www.sonnets.org/house.htm) or sister Christina’s ‘Monna Innominata’ (see https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/monna-innominata-a-sonnet-of-sonnets/

) which fit structurally, but don’t inspire. Then I thought about Meredith’s Modern Love, but that’s too narrative – though obviously all these attributes can be subverted to subvert my subject matter, or poetic focus, as I prefer. Then I wondered about Decadent Sonnets (that’s a possible title!) and I spent some time looking at them, from Scouser Richard le Gallienne’s (who went to school round the corner and published his first book in Liverpool!) and Arthur Symons, his ‘Nerves’, for example, but as yet have resolved nothing! Here is Symons, to give the sickly flavour of that yellow decade and its decadence:

The modern malady of love is nerves.

Love, once a simple madness, now observes

The stages of his passionate disease,

And is twice sorrowful because he sees,

Inch by inch entering, the fatal knife.

O health of simple minds, give me your life,

And let me, for one midnight, cease to hear

The clock for ever ticking in my ear,

The clock that tells the minutes in my brain.

It is not love, nor love's despair, this pain

That shoots a witless, keener pang across

The simple agony of love and loss.

Nerves, nerves! O folly of a child who dreams

Of heaven, and, waking in the darkness, screams.


Not great, but the enervation is attractive.

 Hartley Coleridge and EBB appear in books 3 and 1 respectively, and maybe the single Dante Rosetti poem in book 3 (see it, or rather, hear it, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2021/11/three-new-poems-from-british-standards.html) represent the outer limits of Romanticism, as covered so far: all just prior to 1850, so maybe that is a starting gate. To count back through this online list of Victorian poets from Bottomley to (for 25 poems, one per poet), Hardy, or to 50 (Marston) or to 75 (Fergusson) suggests the sort of extent possible. Fifty seems the best, if this were the method. Which I’m not saying it would be. All poets and poems here: http://www.sonnets.org/victoria.htm . Though maybe something more selective, with other sources might work better. But one poem per poet (as in ‘14 Standards’ in book three) seems to be emerging as an idea. (Not enough women on this list, though.)  

 Obviously, there is reading to do, but prior to that there is checking (in several senses of the word) the ‘impulse’. That can’t be decided in the same way a corpus of poems for transposition may be selected. Should the focus still be the very Bo who is ‘getting away with it’?

Update July 2022: BUT NOW a last poem has been published in International Times, an appropriate venue for a finale of these political poems: ‘The final poem of British Standards, the third and final book of the ‘English Strain’ Project’ I announce before its subtitle: ‘Monitoring Adam Mickiewicz’ first Crimean Sonnet: The Ackerman Steppe’. Its actual title is ‘After-Shock’, the last of four ‘After’ poems at the end of the book.

Read it here: https://internationaltimes.it/aftershock/

Read about the first two books (now both available); The English Strain here, which features sonnets from Petrarch to EBB: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/04/robert-sheppard-petrarch-sonnet-project.html

and Bad Idea which features ONLY the sonnets of Michael Drayton, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/09/on-bad-idea-and-reference-to-earlier.html

and about the third book, British Standards, which features Romantic Era sonnets only: here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2021/04/transpositions-of-hartley-coleridge-end.html

 Why am I sharing plans that might see the light of day but might not? I don’t do this for other projects I’m working on (though the fictional poets material has had outings on the blog). It’s because the entire project (as the links just above this paragraph and its links demonstrate) has been ‘tested out’ and discussed, and partly published (with videos of me reading the poems) on this blog. Each poem was temporarily posted here, since they were written (or transposed) in a few hours, a very unusual practice for me, with the posting part of the process.

 As to the POETICS of the sequence, that may be accessed here: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation – New Defences of Poetry (nclacommunity.org). That piece is planned for inclusion in Book Three, British Standards. Its final sentence seems appropriate to this post too: ‘I cannot say what comes next and I’m saying it now.’ There’s the irony.

NB The answer to the question of my title was YES. (Wrote one poem.) Then NO. See here:

Pages: No need for a fourth book of The English Strain, I've decided (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

Friday, November 19, 2021

My piece on 'Collaboration' is published in The Yearbook of English Studies 2021

The Yearbook of English Studies for 2021 examines contemporary poetry from Britain and Ireland. Edited by Samuel Rogers, the volume contains fourteen essays exploring a range of poetry from 1980 and the present.

 SEE HERE: http://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/Contemporary-British-Irish-Poetry

Permanent link: 

The volume is organized into four sections. ‘Place, Identity, Environment’ contains discussions of Tony Conran, Raman Mundair, Geoffrey Hill, and Karen McCarthy Woolf. Attention is paid to questions of nationhood, cultural identity and ethnicity, the ethics of attention, and the pressing matter of climate change. In the second section, ‘Placing Language’, Rhys Trimble, Lesley Harrison, and Tom Pickard are compared; Gaelic poetry is explored via Meg Bateman, Ruaraidh MacThòmais, Rody Gorman, and others; an analysis of Catherine Walsh further underlines the connections to place afforded by language.

The third section, ‘Ways of Looking Back’, mediates between the contemporary and the past. This includes classical presences in Alice Oswald, parodic responses to Philip Larkin (no comment), and a consideration of the late Eavan Boland’s legacy. A fourth section showcases some of poetry’s ‘Forms of Meaning’, a Sheppardian title if ever there was!  Redell Olsen’s cross media lineage is traced to Sophie Robinson, Nisha Ramayya, and others. Ted Hughes is revisited via the epistolary tradition. Literary collaboration is approached through Kelvin Corcoran, Alan Halsey, S. J. Fowler, Prudence Chamberlain, and Camilla Nelson. {That’s my bit!} Finally, the complications of the contemporary lyric are examined in Zoë Skoulding’s work.

My chapter 'Doubling Up: Modes of Literary Collaboration in Contemporary British Innovative Poetry', is described in my abstract:

 Literary collaboration has become an important part of contemporary poetic practice in the last few years. Types of collaboration vary: Kelvin Corcoran and Alan Halsey have collaborated over many years; other pairings may be one-offs, as in the series of collaborative events (‘Enemies’ and 'Camarades') organized by S. J. Fowler. This discussion compares the Corcoran–Halsey texts with selections from the printed and online manifestations of Fowler's pairings, particularly with Prudence Chamberlain and Camilla Nelson. I engage with performance, though not with the broader sphere of cross-media collaboration. I ask whether it is possible to locate the kind of seamless collaboration that genuinely creates what some commentators call 'the third voice'; however dialogically it is produced, it produces a single entity, an imagined unitary subject position.

 Thanks Sam Rogers for editing this.

 My working method was quite a laborious one. Encouraged by the fact that I drafted some of the chapters of my book The Meaning of Form as posts on this blog (a hub-post to the many links is found here: Pages: Robert Sheppard The Meaning of Form: forms and forming in contemporary innovative poetry (Summary and Weblinks)) I decided to blog about ‘collaboration’, both in terms of my own literary collaborations (such as the recent pair of pamphlets with Bob Cobbing republished (in a box) by Veer here: Pages: COLLABORATIONS (Bob Cobbing - Robert Sheppard) published in a box by Veer - out now) and about my critical readings of the above named writers, and I assembled 14 posts (with links to one review on Stride and another on Litter related to it). You can find all that here:


Of course, the published piece is more economical (there are gains and losses in that). And it is accompanied by others’ works, which might be more interesting for you. If you have access to jstor you might find it here: Doubling Up: Modes of Literary Collaboration in Contemporary British Innovative Poetry on JSTOR

A subsequent piece, on Tim Atkins, I decided to write without recourse to the blog. In one situation this method was advantageous; in the other, it was less so (not for the reader, I trust, but for me, as writer!).

Nevertheless, the whole process of writing academic literary criticism is a little in question for me, given the effort required and the absence of reward (not even, on occasion, receiving a copy of the book). Perhaps I prefer the kinds of loose poetics/criticism I used for Pulse and developed in relation to The English Strain, all three volumes. (For the former, see here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: 'PULSE: All a Rhythm' published in Tentacular 5 (with links); for the latter, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2021/07/playing-my-part-in-new-defences-of.html). But then I do enjoy engaging with the difficulties of text and the intricacies of reading. 



A major part of my chapter concerns the contents of SJ Fowler's Nemeses, his selected collaborations. He seems to like the final thing: A note on : Robert Sheppard's brilliant essay on collaboration — SJ Fowler (stevenjfowler.com)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Three new poems from British Standards published in Overground Underground

 I am pleased to say I have three poems in the second issue of the Liverpool-based magazine Overground Underground, masterminded and edited by Michael Sutton. More about those poems later. The editorial says the magazine contains ‘just the kind of echoey, interrelational, intergenerational jewellery box we strive to unlid before the world’. I’m something to do with that third adjective.

It’s a colourful, visual gathering (I’ve not had time to read it yet), and may be obtained here:  https://overgroundunderground.bigcartel.com/product/overground-underground-issue-2


Issue 2 also features work from Ameek, Amphis Design, Kathryn Aldridge-Morris, George Ashdown, CD Boyland, Emma Buckley, Kayleigh Cassidy, Janet Clare, German Dario, Darren C. Demaree, Joe Devlin, Michelle Lynn Dyrness, Joel Robert Ferguson, Emma Filtness, Hollie Goodwin, Paul Hawkins, Rus Khomutoff, Charles J. March III, Richard Marshall, Michelle Moloney King, Zach Murphy, Jacqueline Nicholls, Emily Orley, JP Seabright, Craig Sinclair and Rob Stewart. It was printed with love at Printworks, Liverpool.

I noticed that Rob Stewart’s ‘Poem Model 1’ is a transposition of ‘Sonnet 72 by Shakespeare’ (one of the few sonneteers to escape my clutches in ‘the English Strain’ project).

 My contribution consists of three ‘sonnets’ from the ‘14 Standards’ section of British Standards, part three of the project. See below for news of the first two parts. These are transpositions of ‘To a Young Lady, Purposing to Marry a Man of Immoral Character in the Hope of his Reformation’ (what a title! what a cad!), by Anna Seward, ‘The Idiot Girl’ by Mary F. Johnson (which is a sort of true story, re-narrated during lockdown), and ‘A Dance of Nymphs’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. They are all in different ‘forms’. I read two of them here, but you’ll have to get the magazine to see the forms. ‘The Idiot Girl’ is too long for these short videos.


 ‘To a Young Lady, Purposing to Marry a Man of Immoral Character in the Hope of his Reformation’


'A Dance of Nymphs'

You can read more about ‘14 Standards’ section here, and find links to more texts and/or videos: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2020/05/robert-sheppard-14-standards-from.html

 and about the third book, British Standards, here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2021/04/transpositions-of-hartley-coleridge-end.html

And about the first two books (now both available) The English Strain here: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2018/04/robert-sheppard-petrarch-sonnet-project.html

and Bad Idea here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/09/on-bad-idea-and-reference-to-earlier.html

 (All of these have further links to more poems and the sites to buy the books and read their reviews, so far.) 

Monday, November 15, 2021

A poem about Dante published in Junction Box (links)

I’m pleased to see that my poem ‘Thinking About Dante’ is published in Lyndon Davies’ excellent online magazine Junction Box. Here: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/6712/robert-sheppard-thinking-about-dante/

 Thanks Lyn.

 I’m not the only one ‘thinking about Dante’ because this issue, number 16, is a special issue of the magazine to celebrate Dante’s 700th anniversary. To read the rest of the magazine, it’s probably best to go to this page and navigate from it: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/category/junction-box/

The other contributors are Pierre Joris, Fran Lock, Eléna Rivera, David Annwn, Allen Fisher, Ellen Dillon, Ian Brinton, Lee Duggan, Doug Jones, Scott Thurston, Angela Gardner,  Tom Jenks, Beth Greenhalgh, Philip Terry, Peter Hughes and David Rees, Steph Goodger, Simon Collings, Rebecca Chesney, montenegrofisher, David Rees Davies, Penny Hallas, Chris McCabe, Susan Adams, Robert Hampson, Tessa Waite, Peter Larkin, Nerys Williams, Graham Hartill, Stephen Emmerson, Frances Woodley, Steven Hitchins, Anthony Mellors, and Lyndon Davies.

I haven’t had a good look at it, but I will, and I’ll start with the editorial: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/6776/editorial-lyndon-davies/

The request to respond to Dante arrived at a very difficult time for me. I’d just finished working on the three-volume English Strain project, which begins with versions of Petrarch and ends with Hartley Coleridge (and one supplementary version of Shelley’s long lost poem). I write all about that here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2021/04/transpositions-of-hartley-coleridge-end.html

The last thing I wanted to do was plunge into another ‘transposition’, as I call my versions, and reading a review (in the Handyman, in the way the poem describes) of some of the anniversary volumes on Dante, I knew I wasn’t much drawn to him (putting your mates in Hell seems a much praticised rhetorical move of the era). I’d already decided I would never write another sonnet (!) and Philip Terry had already carved up the Inferno (he’s in Junction Box, too, by the way.) So I found myself drawn into speculation and memory, and massive disrespect (that’s probably a hangover from the sonneteering!).  

Here are two comprehensive posts to check out, each with further links to earlier stages of the sonnet 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 .

Saturday, November 06, 2021

A Fictional Poet's Notebook (last part: 11)

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 (weebly.com) ) and contains a page about her (here: Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) (weebly.com) ). 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. In fact, only the dates are true! Here's the last part:

28th April 2021: Outside Covid rages. Inside, Danny/i ignores me, no longer props up my daily performance of life. Its job is done. Performing seems as far off as ever (all the clubs dark, the tables around the stage gathering undisturbed dust, the dancers porking out on schnitzels alone, the corsetry bursting, if tried on at all).

            Inside, I’m reading. Jason suggested I tackle the poetry of Rosemary Tonks.

            ‘Rosemary who?’ I asked over Zoom.

            ‘Rosemary Bonks!’ He laughed.


            ‘Just a joke. Like Viz.


            He hasn’t learnt his lesson about joking with Germans and Austrians. Jason seems further away than ever since Brexit and Shexit, but his recommendation of Tonks was fortuitous.

            What was not to like with her orientalism of café life? She was the female Baudelaire of Swinging London (the bits that weren’t swinging). Her poems are like scenarios for burlesque performances with a soundtrack of Brel songs by Dusty Springfield – so European in yearning, so British in restraint.

            ‘Her poetry is just the sort that might have gone into your mannequin’s anthology, if only she’d written ten years earlier…’

            ‘And was prepared to become fictitious.’

            ‘Haven’t we?’

            I didn’t like the turn of this conversation. I felt I was sinking to the bottom of a dark fish tank. A bed of envelops flapped at me with packets of possibility. One lick of a stamp that tastes like strong Turkish coffee, and you’ve sealed your fate forever, in one witnessed witness statement to a crime you only imagined. (Sorry about that.)

            And now today, Jason asks, ‘Where’s the mannequin?’ attempting to peer round me on the screen.

            ‘Waiting at the door. I’m getting rid of it, once lockdown permits.’

            ‘But we need it to prove where the anthology came from.’

            ‘If you could only hear yourself. Proof! Who will believe you? Ghost hunters and conspiracy theorists. Purveyors of talking mongeese!’

            Jason was as silent as Danny/i.

            ‘You’re right. We’d be bungled onto the last train to Bournemouth.’

            I didn’t quite understand him, but I knew it was a reference to Tonks, who lived in that town, in the north of England, I think.

            ‘We’re going to have to invent something less extraordinary…’

            ‘But less true!’

            ‘The oldest gothic plot: the re-discovered manuscript in an obscure archive, the musty recovery from the vault, the mysterious package left on the doorstep.’

            (‘But I wrote it,’ I said, too quietly for him to hear, almost lying.)

 21st May 2021: There is no more poetry. I should have seen it coming, if an absence may be seen in advance. I have written nothing for months, except this notebook. The blank handkerchief is like a sudden bad mood.


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

What I have been doing with these posts is to attempt a continuation of my fictional poet project. I have condensed these posts (themselves abridged from improvisations written on the days indicated) into a tighter - almost - fiction, but it has still not yet quite resolved into what I might do. Perhaps the next stage is to write the Different Lines anthology, or some of it. That's quite an undertaking (which is why I'm thinking of 'some of it', not all of it). Then (this is the latest thumbnail) I might write more SP poems that seem to feed off, or answer, or refute, those supposed 1955 poems. They then might be put with my reflections on a talking mongoose (mentioned in passing above) and an essay on the Ern Malley hoax (neither published yet). But I'm undecided (which is OK, given my way of thinking about writerly poetics). All I know is that I'm not finished with the 'fictional poet' project. (And I've discovered, in re-reading diaries, that the notion of inventing poets and then writing their works has been an obsession, at least since the mid-1970s. That surprised me. And them, it is tempting to add.)

There is a further series of posts on fictional poetry and fictional poets, beginning here:  Pages: Reflections on Fictional Poetry and Fictional Poets (1 and hubpost for the sequence) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

and a further post here: Pages: A further thought on fictional poetry and imaginary authors (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

Thursday, November 04, 2021

A Fictional Poet's Notebook (part 10)

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 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)


Sophie Poppmeier: 16th February 2021: Something quite different has occurred. I’d wondered about the provenance of Danny/i. It seemed old (though not wise!). I went searching across its surfaces, across its bald head, across the fixed rouge lips, under its stiff chin, and, lower, fingering its crevasses (or lack of them), polishing the suggestive androgynous mound of its crotch, as though sex might erupt, but it didn’t. I dismantled it, limb by limb; and, between one forearm and upper arm, in the cross-section of its supposed elbow, I found the words Debenhams 1955. Google elucidated the mystery; Danny/i was an English mannequin from a department store (that had found its way to the fashionable retro boutique where I rescued it).

            ‘That would explain the English,’ I said (in English), as I reassembled Danny/i. It seemed unfair to leave the creature in bits.

            Every person has a book in them, we’re told. Perhaps every mannequin contains an anthology, having been dressed in so many guises.

            This is what happened, over the last few weeks.

            Now I realised that Danny/i had been talking English for longer than I had imagined. I attuned my ear to the words that came from its tight lips with increasing clarity amongst the steady fluency, a clarity and fluency I could barely match in my fevered transcription. This was no longer collaboration (if it ever had been); it was dictation. When I realised that Danny/i was reciting the same ‘book’ (as I thought it) over and over, I could often wait until the next iteration to complete any given utterance. Like a loop, the voice continued, until I had finished transcription (and I typed it up as I went along). Although I needed to tidy the transcription – working out what might be a title and what belonged to the text, what was an author’s name and what was an epigraph – the whole manuscript was eventually assembled. (We were confined to our homes again at this time.)

            Danny/i fell silent.

            From that moment on, it became an unspeaking prop again. (I’d dressed it in an old suit to make it look like Harry Lime in The Third Man: I thought it might make it more English-speaking.) It would become nothing but a mannequin for my favourite fabrics.

            I emailed translator Jason Argleton,my English language guardian, and asked him to look at the document. All I wanted of him at this stage was to Anglicise my American spelling and give a broad evaluation of Danny/i’s ‘project’.

            We spoke over Zoom and he stunned me. Jason affirmed that this was a poetry anthology I’d written down – and he suggested some changes to lineation and stanza division – and, as dated by transcription, and by quick assessment of style, it seemed to be an anthology from the 1950s.   

            I told him the story, adding the date of 1955 that I’d found stamped on Danny/i.

            ‘That’s about right.’

            Jason asked to talk to Danny/i – and I placed it in front of the laptop camera, and felt (for the first time) suddenly stupid. How could this obdurate, battered, pinky-wood entity have produced such a thing? It said nothing. I was a fraud. I’d made everything up.

            Danny/i was clearly going to give none of its, or my, secrets away. Jason, also embarrassed perhaps with his level of credulity, shyly turned from the screen. I turned Danny/i and his expressionless stare, away, off screen.

            I moved it back to the window, put its paper Napoleon hat back on its head, and it fixed its painted eyes on the apartments opposite. A cat yawned on its cushion. A man wrestled with a bendy plastic curtain rail. A woman leant precipitously from an open window in a vain attempt to clean it.

            The ordinary day brought me back to the ordinary day, but Jason was still there. His voice urged, and I returned to face his on-screen face.

            ‘Do you know what this is?’

            ‘An anthology of poems, of some kind. By different poets, fictional I shouldn’t doubt, given our pedigree!’

            He laughed, but the screen froze, and left him, a stark Francis Bacon face with a laptronica glitch voice. For a moment.

            He returned, as whole as he’d ever be, as the elective ghost of my machine.

            Although I lost a word here and there, Zoom managed to allow him to tell me a detailed story that still doesn’t explain much.

            Argleton showed the manuscript to his ‘mentor’ (I suspect he meant Sheppard), a so-called ‘expert’ on English poetry, who suggested that – despite the situation in which the words were ‘gathered or produced’ – the anthology was a genuine mid-fifties text, and was probably traceable via academic channels and databases. It wasn’t, Jason added.

            In short, this was the ‘real thing’, more than that: it was an anti-anthology to the favoured collection of the era, an anti-voice to the master-voice.

            I’d read a fair amount of English language poetry, but when I examine it – Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Eyleen Myles – they turn out to be American. I’d always thought the British very dull – duller still since Brexit too! – and their showing in the EUOIA, until Shexit, wasn’t particularly impressive.

            So when Argleton began to lecture me on ‘Movement’ poetry (he’d ceased to be friendly Jason as he slipped into role) I was lost.

            ‘A Movement. Are they like the ’49 group in Vienna?’

            ‘Not at all!’ he said, laughing. ‘The opposite!’

            ‘Or the Fiftiers generation in Holland, then?

            ‘No, no, no. Forget “movement” in that sense!’

            Example by example, he led me to an understanding of what his mentor calls ‘The Movement Orthodoxy’, the pervasive stink that infuses and curdles much British poetry to this day. The empirical lyric of social comprehension.

            ‘So Danny/i’s anthology is the Movement’s anti-movement?’

            ‘More like the anti-Movement movement’s anthology.’

            I let this go. ‘When was it published?’

            ‘It wasn’t. That’s the point. This is wholly new, yet distinctly old. It’s not a copy of the “Maverick’s” anthology of a few years later, the official opposition. This one’s not in the historical record, not real.’

            ‘But the poems are,’ I protested.

            ‘The poems are,’ he agreed, ‘but the poets aren’t.’

            ‘We’ve been there before,’ I said.

            ‘Yes.’ He adopted what I supposed was his teaching voice, the one you use to summarise the day’s lecture. ‘By whatever method you’ve made this manuscript appear’ – I didn’t like the inference here – ‘it is a clear response, a re-writing, poem by poem, of the 1956 New Lines anthology. It wittily shows the road not taken in British poetry at that time, by fictively showing that road extremely well-lit and broad. Depending on when it was produced’ – that tone again – ‘it’s either a temporal-spatial transposition or an act of alternative history. Out of the mouths of innocent mannequins comes a truth that is not real, an unfolding that…’

            I stopped listening to him.

            ‘What should I do with it, then?’

            He buffered. Open mouthed, with a circle turning before it, he said nothing for ten minutes. Then I closed him down, checked my emails (none), and slapped the lid shut.

            Danny/i darkened in the grey window against a silver sky. Now the detectives were on the case, it was exercising its right to silence. I knew it would never speak to me again.


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 (weebly.com) ) and contains a page about her (here: Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) (weebly.com) ). 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. There is only one more installment. 

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


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

A Fictional Poet's Notebook (part 9)

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 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)


Sophie Poppmeier 2nd November 2020: I have no idea what I shall write next. Am I answering imaginary quotations from an audience – a Zoom conference in International English – or am I talking to myself, in order to constitute myself, not existentially, but simply enough to allow the poems to flow? Imagine how it is that I collaborate with Danny/i. I can see an explanation arising: ‘During the isolation of lockdown, Sophie Poppmeier, former disgraced poet and now disgraced burlesque dancer, experienced mental collapse, and claimed that she was communicating with a talking mannequin, a fashionably trans one at that, and that, together, they wrote poems.’ Parents (imagine them!) imploring me not to go public, like David Icke’s family and friends when he detected the Lizard People, controlling our every move, purely by a knock on the head!

            No: it has to be negotiated only at the level of artifice. It is an artifice, is it not? Not a mania.

            It is a consciously created situation. (Yet that’s not how I’ve written about it here, but that’s because the writing about it is another artifice.)

3rd November 2020: If I weren’t such an imposter, my response would be visceral, immediate, to the terror attacks in Vienna. I would know the places, and imprinted on my memory would be layers of memory, producing overlays of grief. Shock at recognition.

10th November 2020: I might print words on myself. Like some dreadful performance artist. A sonnet on my shoulders! What a burden!

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 (weebly.com) ) and contains a page about her (here: Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) (weebly.com) ). 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. There are 11 parts in all. 

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