Friday, December 09, 2022

Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings

 I’m sure both Kelvin and I can ‘hear’ Lee Harwood ‘reading’ whenever we peruse a Harwood poem, even one we have not actually heard him speak. We can guess how he would have read it. This may be true of any writer, but it has been said before – most notably by William Rowe – that conversational (and often incomplete) segments are a kind of prosody in this work. Harwood signals it on the page, but this signalling cannot quite replace an actual audial, aural, experience of the work.  

‘There is a direct relationship between the compositional processes of a Lee Harwood poem and the way in which Lee Harwood the poet read his poetry,’ we say in our introduction to our New Collected Poems (though the words, and the thoughts, are Kelvin’s here). ‘Both work through an apparent simplicity which is typically intimated as the almost innocent disguise and disavowal of complexity and significance.  Through collage and various forms of declared and undeclared incompletion, the reader or listener is gently taken unknowingly into complex and charged moments of recognition …’ We add: ‘This fundamental feature makes hearing Lee Harwood read important,’ though that’s not anything we can obviously supply in our edition (a CD included or a set of web connections, a QR code would have been great). ‘Readings can be found on YouTube of varying technical proficiency.  The recordings in the British Library archive are extensive but not currently available online.’ (But, it is worth adding here, they will be!) The PennSound collection of readings is a major resource covering 40 years of Harwood’s poetry, and a guide to where other readings are available … The calm, measured, unostentatious delivery introduces the ambition and confidence of the poem. This is not a sort of coyness or false modesty but rather an acknowledgement of the scope and depth of the lyric as language at its most intense and meaningful.’

 I thought I’d spell that invitation out, and add my own.


The link Lee Harwood ( takes you to FOUR items containing Harwood reading:

ONE Lee Harwood and Ange Mlinko reading, St. Mark’s Church, NY, December 9, 1998

TWO The Chart Table, Lee Harwood: Poems 1965-2002.

This is the recording released as Rockdrill CD published by the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Optic Nerve for Birkbeck College, 2004, and indeed the recordings stretch those years, the first item being from the Steam LP of 1965 and (used without permission, I note) ‘Animal Days’, at least, taken from the tape magazine 1983, Supranormal Cassettes, which I published in 1976 (a whole 20+ minutes of it). It’s a nice ‘selected poems’ (the texts also stretching across the years of recording! They are, in order, with tracking:

As Your Eyes Are Blue (3:47)

The Doomed Fleet (8:13)

Question of Geography (2:17)

Linen (1:52)

The Words (2:25)

Animal Days (5:55)

Qasida (3:49)

One, Two, Three (4:12)

You Essai. You O.K. (8:42)

Summer Solstice (3:12)

African Violets (5:37)

The Rowan Tree (4:32)

For Paul / Coming Out of Winter (1:28)

October Night (3:01)

Czech Dream (4:39)

Gorgeous (1:28)

Late Journeys (1:13)

The Wind Rises (4:32)

Salt Water (3:58)

Hampton Court Shelter (2:46)

THREE Reading at the Shearsman Reading Series at Swedenborg Hall, London, June 17, 2008

FOUR "Chanson Tzara" with Lee Harwood by Alexander Baker, 2012

NOW ANOTHER NICE SET IN FOUR VIDS Lee’s quietly assertive delivery caused some problems with recording, as you will find looking online elsewhere, particularly with video performances, where the microphone is positioned where the camera is (i.e. at a distance from Lee). Often one can see him, but you cannot hear him clearly. BUT the following recordings, from Sound Eye 2005, in Cork, probably recorded by cris cheek, are clear and entertaining, and are embedded from YouTube. Each is only a few minutes long. 

Part one begins with ‘As Your Eyes are Blue’

 Lee Harwood-from Collected Poems-1/4 - YouTube


Part two begins with ‘Dream of Blue Paint’

Lee Harwood-from Collected Poems-2/4 - YouTube


Part three begins with ‘The wind rises’

Lee Harwood-from Collected Poems-3/4 - YouTube


Part four begins with‘Hampton Court Shelter’


Lee Harwood-from Collected Poems-4/4 - YouTube


If you work your way through these recordings, with our edition to hand, you will appreciate, I hope, what we have described above.

 My recordings of Lee, made by my friends John Purdy and Tony Parsons in 1976, were published as 1983 number 2, and I donated the master tapes to the National Sound Archive in the 1980s, BUT they have never appeared in the catalogues of the British Library. However, a copy of one of the cassettes (whose quality must have eroded) appears in the BL’s Cobbing Archive, and may be digitalised in the future.

Read about the BL Harwood and Cobbing archives here: Pages: POEMS IN PROGRESS : a new book of poets' drafts from the British Library (featuring Lee Harwood and Bob Cobbing) (

 More on New Collected Poets, and links to all posts about Lee Harwood on this blog, may be accessed via what I call a hub-post, here: Pages: Lee Harwood: 4 Poems (and a note on them) in Abandoned Playground, ahead of NEW COLLECTED POEMS edited Corcoran and Sheppard (


You may order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:


Wednesday, December 07, 2022

The John James/Chris Torrance issue of Junction Box - plus my poem for, essay on, James

John James was – is – one of my favourite poets, but you might not know it, from my published work, particularly as a critic. As a reviewer, I once hoisted the banner by ending a review of one of his minimal 1990s volumes with the words, ‘A Collected John James please!’, which was quoted years later by Simon Perril, introducing the Salt Companion to John James, when – indeed – there was a Collected Poems (published by Salt themselves), to which the contributors could make happy reference. This is latterly supplemented by Sarments, a new and selected poems from Shearsman.  

In my Berlin Bursts there is a poem ‘As Yet Untitled Poem’, that is dedicated to (is a homage to) John James, written on the day he was up Edge Hill talking to our students (the night before he’d read in the Rose Theatre, one of the many readings I organized at Edge Hill. 

JJ at Edge Hill, Collected Poems aloft

The more recent Edge Hill connection was through the anthology of poetry and poetics that James Byrne and I edited in my last year as a full time wage-slave, Atlantic Drift. We also asked him to read for us at the launch in the London Review of Books shop in January 2018. There’s a report here, and a video of most of one of one of his poems (with the missing words provided as text), shot by poet Jennie Byrne (see her work in some editions of Tears in the Fence): Pages: John James reading 'Baudelaire at Cebazan' (


However, within weeks John was no longer with us, as I posted at the time, along with the text (and video) of ‘As Yet Untitled Poem’:

Now we have to thank Lyndon Davies for producing an edition of Junction Box with a feature on the work of James, and I have to thank him for including my work.

 I particularly have to thank him, because I have two contributions to this feature, a new poem-sequence ‘Swift Songs for John James,’ and an essay John James and Poetics: ‘A Theory of Poetry’. Thanks Lyndon.

Here is a reading of 'Late Advance to Bonheur', the first part (or poem) of the sequence on video. You will hear that I allude to that last meeting with John, and our walk along Museum Street, and to the anthology, and its student-interns:

the Atlantic Drift scrum

spiders ahead to leave us

pacing behind…


The remainder of the text may be read here: Robert Sheppard: ‘Swift Songs’ and Essay on James’ ‘A Theory of Poetry’ – Glasfryn Project

My essay also alludes to that last meeting, or rather, to the occasion of using John’s poem ‘A Theory of Poetry’, as the poet’s poetics in this anthology of poetry and poetics, a tricky move as the essay explores. As I say, ‘This was an inevitable choice for our anthology of poetry and poetics, since James was not given to statements of poetics, in the sense I have defined it in a number of places,’ but I’d forgotten about it, until I’d submitted the poem to Lyndon. I then revised it (only to find it had been revised before!), top and tailed it, and presented it in its final (I hope) form. (It could have been part of my critical volume When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry.

John James and Poetics: ‘A Theory of Poetry’ may be read here. I hope I have dealt with one of the most idiosyncratic, teasing, examples of poetics that I could find. HERE: Robert Sheppard: ‘Swift Songs’ and Essay on James’ ‘A Theory of Poetry’ – Glasfryn Project OR Microsoft Word - John James and Theory.docx (

Do explore this special issue in total. Here is the editorial: Editorial to Issue 17: The John James / Chris Torrance Special – Glasfryn Project

Note Andrew Taylor talks about finding an uncollected poem by James, and Simon Smith provides another.

This is also an issue i.m. Chris Torrance, another Welsh poet, by adoption, who I had been reading an interview with, while waiting to have radiotherapy, and it occurred to me that the one with Peter Hodgkiss hadn’t been seen since the 1970s. I suggested it to Lyndon, and it’s good to see it here, with a few introductory words from Peter. HERE: Peter Hodgkiss: Interview with Chris Torrance for Poetry Information 1977 – Glasfryn Project

(I’ve also incidentally been re-reading William Rowe’s Three Lyric Poets, that also has a good chapter on Torrance’s work.) I only met Chris Torrance once, and that was at a reading by John James, so this issue of Junction Box seems ‘just right’ for me! 

 My last appearance in Junction Box was for the ‘Dante’ issue: see here: Pages: A poem about Dante published in Junction Box (links) ( But there were previous appearances too, which is gratifying. It’s a fine project; it’s more than a magazine, as you’ll discover if you roam through the site.


Locating Robert Sheppard: email: website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter latest blogpost:

Friday, December 02, 2022

Lee Harwood New Collected Poems (2023) Some of the new things we found to put in it

How does the 2023 New Collected Poems differ from the 2004 one that Lee himself compiled, some people must be asking (other than the correcting of creeping errors, etc.)? Of course, it collects poems written later than that date (some of his best, I think, from Orchid Boat). We have also restored poems removed from the 2004 edition, and added poems taken out of earlier ‘collecting’ and ‘selecting’ volumes, including from the monumental The White Room of 1968. Admittedly some of these are weak poems (not all), but the restoration of the whole of his 1965 pamphlet title illegible turns up some fascinating poems, not least of all the opening poem-letter to his then literary hero Tristan Tzara. That provides a bit of a blaster to the collection, a direct hit back to modernism. (Just to confirm: Harwood's translations of Tzara, still in print elsewhere, are not included in our volume.)

At quite a late stage of editing, a pamphlet slid off the shelf (literally!), an edition of 12, published by Lee for ‘connoisseurs’, entitled In the Mists, the same title as his later Slow Dancer pamphlet. I idly thought it an early version of that; but it isn’t. There are 9 poems not already published and we have included these in a section entitled ‘Moon Phase’. Oddly, I’d always remembered the poem of that name, a second elegy to Harwood’s grandmother, and had long assumed it had been long published alongside ‘African Violets’, a poem Lee would often read at readings (reading will be the subject of my next pre-publication blog). In some ways I’ve always preferred this shorter poem, and it seems apposite to offer it here as a brief taster for the book:   

Moon Phase

A misty full moon tonight

coloured pale orange

– clear as that.

Clear as the afternoon death

of a frail woman in a hospital bed,

her arms thin as sticks,

her words clear.

Overcome by age her time come,

as she desired, as it must.

Yet beyond her time she lives

in my heart, in my dreams,

as the night clouds shift.


            (In memory of Pansy Harwood 1896-1989)


Poem © and permission: the Literary Estate of Lee Harwood.

 Our editorial principles were to publish every poem or creative prose Lee published in book and pamphlet form, but there are two (late) exceptions: a collaboration with John Hall, called ‘Loose Packed’, a series of texts to print on card, and shuffle, and read, and his final poem ‘Philatelic Counter’, a homage to the artist Donald Evans. Kelvin managed to find a fine example of his work as our cover design.

More on the book, and links to all posts about Lee Harwood on this blog, may be accessed via what I call a hub-post, here:
Pages: Lee Harwood: 4 Poems (and a note on them) in Abandoned Playground, ahead of NEW COLLECTED POEMS edited Corcoran and Sheppard (

You may order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (

Here's another new thing, one of Lee's collaborative poems, with John Ashbery, in manuscript (also included in our book: Pages: POEMS IN PROGRESS : a new book of poets' drafts from the British Library (featuring Lee Harwood and Bob Cobbing) (

Listen to the best of Lee on audio and video here: Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings (


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:

Friday, November 25, 2022

Lee Harwood: New Collected Poems: a blurb or mini-essay by Iain Sinclair

The art of the blurb is not often considered (and I’m a veteran of writing them. Here’s one I like a lot that I did for Alan Baker’s excellent Riverrun: Pages: Alan Baker's Journal of Enlightened Panic (and the EUOIA poets) ( Iain Sinclair has written one for the New Collected Poems Kelvin Corcoran and I have edited from the works of Lee Harwood for publication in January 2023. Unfortunately, we have had to edit Iain’s copy too, in that it is too long, with Iain’s kind permission, but the whole appears on the Shearsman website, but I thought it might be interesting to publish it here as well. 

In Edge of Orison Sinclair makes the observation that the portrait of John Clare below looks like the young Lee Harwood. (You'll see below he looks a bit like the later Harwood!) The thought seems to have percolated into his sensibility, for now he’s operating with a full-blown, but mysterious, analogy between the two writers. I have been reading Clare attentively (to write 14 versions of his sonnets for my ‘English Strain’ project: find one representative post here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Four new versions of John Clare published in Talking About Strawberries (plus videos and links)) and I have to agree there is something in it.

Lee Harwood and John Clare: they come from such different places and times, but they share something we can’t explain, a way of making bright and inevitable a pattern of words, measured sounds, never there before in quite this way, but now present for us, always. And redeemable too. Their poems affect our memories like intimate letters from a stranger. Trust is solicited and willingly given, experience before understanding. Light dances from the white field of the book in our hands. Visions are offered just as they come. That is the beautiful illusion, the uncommon gift. Sequences scroll out, playful, perverse when required, modestly assertive, and in good heart. The captured history of these serial engagements with consciousness lets us think better of ourselves.

That stipple engraving of John Clare by Edward Scriven, a commissioned frontispiece to The Village Minstrel, taken from the portrait painted by William Hilton, brings me back, by some unexplained alchemy, to Lee Harwood. To a certain watchful look, questing beyond occasion, held within the climate of private reverie. Harwood knows he is untouchable in his vulnerability. There are landscapes and there is scenery, the shared room and the mountains climbed with friends. Purity of diction must be capable of ‘hazing the sharpness’ of a familiar horizon.

This new collection is a generously considered gathering of resistant and supple fragments, hard evidence of a life truly lived. We are the beneficiaries of these dazzling transfusions of personality and circumstance. Of remembered and newly encountered detonations of affect. ‘The clarity of such moments,’ Harwood confesses, can never stay still, even when that seems to be the required task.  Love moves and shifts. Through repeated acts of making, it coheres and continues.


Something profound. ‘Harwood knows he is untouchable in his vulnerability,’ is itself almost a visionary remark. Instead of a blurb we have here a mini-essay on one view of the essential qualities of Harwood’s work! We, that is Kelvin and I as editors, and Tony as publisher, would like to thank Iain for this thought-provoking text.

 More on the book, and links to all posts about Lee Harwood on this blog, may be accessed via what I call a hub-post, here: Pages: Lee Harwood: 4 Poems (and a note on them) in Abandoned Playground, ahead of NEW COLLECTED POEMS edited Corcoran and Sheppard (


You may pre-order or order New Collected Poems from Shearsman here: Lee Harwood - New Collected Poems (

My book on Iain Sinclair, Iain Sinclair is still available here, and elsewhere: 9780746311547: Iain Sinclair (Writers & Their Work) (Writers and Their Work) - Robert Sheppard: 0746311540 - AbeBooks and elsewhere.

Listen to the best of Harwood online from here: Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings (


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:

Thursday, November 24, 2022

I.m. Wilko Johnson (poem, video, thoughts)

Here’s a poem about Wilko Johnson, his music, and his strange encounter with cancer. Text followed by video.

This poem comes from a sequence called ‘Sound on the Lip of Silence: from the photographs of Trev Eales’, which itself is a distillation of a project that hit the buffers very late, just into the Pandemic (the two instances are aligned in my memory). I talk about that project here: Pages: Whatever happened to the book Charms and Glitter? (

Wilko Johnson


seen him leaping in the freshness

of youth across the stage of my

miscomprehension, his body in

percussive jounce, frenetic frenzy

of mopped hair. Later, much later, 

he seems

in decline, terminal, a

meat-head butting mortality. But


or miracle

gives him back to time, as 

continuity, and from it he quickens

a pattern like rising chords 

on wild frets, a finale 

that becomes a prelude in late style.

Fresh prickles of hair rise on his scalp. 

I saw Wilko twice, I think, once with Dr Feelgood, whose hyped-up blues I didn’t get at the time, and once solo, when I equally didn’t get his proto-punkness, though I remember being impressed by that energy, also captured in Trev’s photo, and captured in my memory (of the stage at UEA). And, in my poem I hope. Now, both strategies make sense. Indeed, my friends and I were discussing him on Tuesday evening, ignorant that he had already passed away. I don't think he's going to 'rest' in peace.  


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:

Friday, November 18, 2022

Proof copy of New Collected Poems by Lee Harwood arrives

 The proof copy has arrived - and I filmed myself opening it. Here:

It will be published in January 2023, and represents a lot of hard work by Kelvin Corcoran and myself (as editors) and Tony Frazer (as publisher), and there are still sone final things to check - and then it'll be available. Must get on with them now. 

See here for a recent post on the volume, AND links to the many posts concerning Lee Harwood on this  blog: Pages: Lee Harwood: 4 Poems (and a note on them) in Abandoned Playground, ahead of NEW COLLECTED POEMS edited Corcoran and Sheppard (

Listen to the bet of Lee online here; Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems: the best audio and video recordings (


Locating Robert Sheppard email:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:



Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The 1955 Committee (and others) 2022

Ellie, Dave, me (b. 1955), Nick (b. 1955), Frank (b. 1955) and photographer Len (b. 1955), in The Belvedere (where we'd all met a few years ago), November 14th 2022 (my birthday).  

Who would have thought that I'd have written that day's line, only hours before: 'In a sweet birthday shower of body parts'? That strange inner-life of words and the outside world of sociality. We need both. 

There are many posts 'about' November 1955 on this blog. Here's one: Pages: November 1955 ( Here's one that hits the target date: Pages: November 14th 1955; 'Tombland: How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth' (

Oh, yes, there are other posts about the Belvedere. Here's one about the poems Chris McCabe and I had on the walls once, along with a handwritten Brian Patten poem! Pages: Chris McCabe and Robert Sheppard poems in the Belvedere, Liverpool!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The 2022 Lowry Lounge - a few thoughts

Seventy five years since Wirral-born Malcolm Lowry’s acclaimed Under the Volcano was published, and 65 years since his death, this year’s Lounge explored his continuing relevance, with a look across the waters to the Isle of Man (which features in his work).

We started the day with a few quotes from Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, read by Cian Quayle, Jeremy Lowry (yes, Lowry), and Patricia and myself. I'm still mulling over one of the passages I read, this image of the lighthouse:

Civilization, creator of deathscapes, like a dull-witted fire of ugliness and ferocious stupidity […] had spread all down the opposite bank, blown over the water and crept up upon us from the south along it, murdering the trees and taking down the shacks as it went, but it had become baffled by the Indian reserve, and a law that had not been repealed that forbade building too near a lighthouse, so to the south we were miraculously saved by civilization itself (of which a lighthouse is perhaps always the highest symbol)...

The Lounge comprised of presentations, discussions, films and sound recordings, including an account of the research project Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, led by artist Alan Dunn that reimagines Lowry through the climate crisis (and semaphore); Cian Quayle also told us about his work based on his home island, too, in relation to Lowry, and with a nod to Chris Killips's work. 

There's a whole website dedicated to the AHRC project: Hear Us O Lord 2020-22 (

Lunch talking to Colin Dilnott and Michael Romer. Catching up. 

A recorded conversation, led by Bryan Biggs and Helen Tookey, with Alberto Rebollo from the annual Malcolm Lowry Colloquium held in Cuernavaca, Mexico, was quite fascinating. His notion that the history of Mexico is a history of betrayal led him to suggest that Under the Volcano is a book of betrayals. He also read from his novel-in-progress 'about' Lowry. 

Poet Helen Tookey’s reflections on Lowry’s ‘last notebook’, written in the Lake District was wonderful, as she engaged with the materiality of this little-seen text, his underlinings about not being at home in the world anywhere (even the Lake District). Helen is the latest to fall ill with Derrida's 'archive fever'!

A Lowry audience Q&A with Michael Romer and Colin Dilnott was a fine ending. 'Which character,' they were asked, 'in The Volcano would you like to be?' I muttered 'The dog!' to Patricia; Colin said 'The Dog! (and Cian thought 'The dog!' he confirmed later.) 

The traditional mescal toast to 'Malcolm' finally followed.  

Patricia and I had a drink and chat (not all Lowry-related!) with Michael and Cian - and a longer one in The Lion with Cian after, which was a nice way to end the day.

Some previous years are accounted for on this blog (not quite in order!) and in different levels of detail:

Pages: The Lowry Lounge 2021, Bluecoat, Liverpool (and my poem 'Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five') (

Friday, October 28, 2022

SHOP TALK (TO) POETICS: about the forms of writing - presentation to MA Creative Writing, Edge Hill University

SHOP TALK (TO) POETICS: oh yes, 'shop talk' about the forms of writing, some notes for a presentation to the MA Creative Writing, Edge Hill University, on my patented buzzword, 'poetics'. (Oh, yes, this was my 'thing'.) Tonight. These notes (these links) might prove of use beyond the limited context, although it didn't feel 'limited' tonight.

By means of introduction, this is who I am, what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I hope to do: 

These are some of the texts I used tonight, rapping, in between whatever it is I said:

I used ‘Gathering from the Past’ to introduce the topic, see:

 on the excellent ‘Creative-Critical’ website:

 though ‘Creative-Critical’ does not quite describe the focus of poetics as ‘shop talk about form’.

 Three famous examples of poetics suggest the range of possibilities:

T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett and Salman Rushdie each present themselves as writers of poetics.

A dry run for the introduction to Atlantic Drift: An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics is posted here, but, of course, it may be found in its final form in the anthology itself (I thought it quite useful tonight,, though I only referred to it a bit, it's a course text):

This itemises further examples you may read (though they are focussed on poetry; remember: ALL writing has poetics!).

I wanted to talk about what isn’t poetics. (This could be more useful than what it is, we thought!) Two examples:

ONE. Against exegesis: ‘don’t explain’. Poetics doesn’t explain. Explained here, with reference to Malcolm Lowry's famous explication to Jonathan Cape:

TWO. Poetics is not a manifesto (you can find the bit I’m concentrating on in the third paragraph, but poets might want to read on. My first sentence-paragraph is pretty axiomatic to me too: that 'the writings that writers write about writing are curiously misread', though that wasn't my major theme tonight.).

(Though if the word 'manifesto' helps (you), use it!) My litany of definitions of poetics (to suggest its multiple varieties and FORMS) may be read here:

after the introduction ‘Gathering from the Past’. (You’ll find that ‘gathering from the past’ is part of the first definition.) They begin:

Poetics is the product of the process of reflection upon writings, and upon the act of writing, gathering from the past and from others, speculatively casting into the future.

Poetics is a discipline, though a flexible one.

Poetics is a discourse, though an intermittent mercurial one…. [and so on…]

I didn't actually read all of this anaphoric litany, though I'd intended that. Perhaps I should have rehearsed, as I would have for a poetry reading. 

I wanted to make passing reference to the best book I’ve read on Creative Writing, Andrew Cowan’s new (2023!) Against Creative Writing, but in this context I only referred to the part where he (very briefly) makes reference to my notion of poetics and to the pamphlet The Necessity of Poetics, on p 176. He also reflects on the rise of ‘exegesis’ in some Creative Writing commentary, while I recommend a strategy of ‘Don’t explain’! See here:

After discussion of the students’ poetics (I prepared an oral questionnaire for them) I didn't have time to read my own poetics. (I wouldn't dream of mentioning theirs, in any detail, here. Our discussions are not for public consumption.). 

This poetics refers to British Standards, not yet a book, but now a finished project (more or less): see here: The poems in the book are all versions of Romantic Era sonnets, Wordsworth to Hartley Coleridge, including Clare and Mary Robinson. They treat of the twin subjects Brexit and Covid in the ‘twin’ forms of Romantic sonnets and my sonnets! The poetics in full may be read here (but I had a shortened version for the evening, but that didn't find air-time):

It seemed only fair to make my own poetics available to the students. OK : it's now 01.53 - and I'm back at home, a number of (Handyman) drinks on(wards), and I think it's time to let Rory Gallagher (on the CD) yell, 'Let's go home!'


Monday, October 24, 2022

The Horrible Thought that Bo mioght be back: only The Bard could save me now!

 I know I keep saying goodbye to Bo(ris Johnson), once through the Medium of Jake Thackray’s masterpiece. That’s here: Pages: Goodbye to Bo through the Medium of Jake Thackray’s masterpiece (not a book review) (

 Before that I said goodbye to Bo(ris), here, with a poem:

 And then, here, finally, finally finally, here here here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A final final poem for British Standards!

But yesterday I thought I might have to say HELLO again to him! The horror! The horror! The thought that this wreck of a human being


nursing his hangover, desperately phoning out for supporters, or to Deliveroo for an Alka-Selzer (as one wittily expressed it on Twitter), thumbs-upping us in Trumpian triumphalism, was returning, was a threat of more ego-driven drivel! Even those Union Jacks limply appropriated (from where?) for the occasion in the empty office space (hired by the hour?) express the desperation. The biggest threat, was not the political chaos that would follow (maybe a second royal yacht in case of emergencies) but the threat to ME! (Why can’t I be as big as egotist as him?) The threat that, far from having passed on to a project to write through the Liverpool images of Tricia Porter, or to write 10 poems one line at a time (today’s is ‘as they twirl knowledge in a giddy drop’), or even to finish my ‘novel’ Elle, I would have to return (like Bo himself) to that which I have renounced. Of course, I haven’t been in the Caribbean (though I have been in the Belvedere, The Handyman, and Ye Cracke… No, but I might have to return to the task of transposing sonnets to keep up with Bo’s vaulting ambition (imagine him vaulting!), even though I’ve rejected the decadent sonnets I was looking at some months ago (that’s all in those posts linked to above), Arthur Symons and all that.

 No, I decided, I would have to face up to the Big One, Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I’ve avoided them, because others have written through them (Philip Terry, K. Selim Mohammed, Michael Egan, and many others), and because they are curiously disarming in a way that Drayton’s are not (I bagged them here: : all done, all available). In preparation I read about 35 of them, and also the pages in Jonathan Bate’s very fine book Soul of the Age that I’d already marked, in my initial sonnet-researches eons ago. So, off I would go. I looked at sonnet one. Oh, yes, the imploring voice, it sounded like Zahawi’s quickly deleted email in favour of the blond bombshell Bo. Oh yes, ‘From fairest creatures we’ do ‘desire increase’ – in inflation, interest rates, food costs. Yes, I’m already starting. Bo’s bombastic egoism is perfectly echoed by The Bard in his ’thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel’! ‘Pity the world… to eat the world’s due!’ – it's all there, all there. Ready to go, if need be.

 Then he pulled out, having 100 supporters (sez who?), saying he could have won, if only they’d let him. Pete Best has turned up at Abbey Road to record Revolver!

 One of the reasons for picking Shakespeare for this approach (and, remember, part of this post is to keep materials in mind in case he does re-emerge, after he is exonerated by the Commons Committee, Bo is no liar (he assures us)). One reason is that he himself, Bo, is writing a book on Shakespeare. It has a title, The Riddle of Genius, and it is available for preorder on Amazon, here: Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius: Johnson, Boris: 9780771050831: Books

 It is due for publication in 2035, yes, 2035 (though another Amazon source, Patricia tells me, has 2075!).

 Not a word of it has been written, other than the title and the synopsis, which I shall allow anyone with a smidgeon of literary sensibility to vomit over now:

Four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare is more popular than ever. Studied by schoolchildren everywhere, performed and interpreted in every conceivable medium and setting, he remains an unparalleled global phenomenon. With characteristic curiosity, verve, and wit, Boris Johnson sets out to determine why and how. He immerses us in the swagger and terror of the Elizabethan era, with its newfound craze for theater and its bold intellectual flowering, under the threat of repression. He explores the timelessly intriguing themes of the plays: the illicit sex and the power struggles; the fratricide and matricide; the confused identities and hormonal teenagers; the racism, jealousy, and political corruption. He explores the psychology of Shakespeare's characters and celebrates the playwright's appreciation for women and the roles he created for them, more fully realized than those Hollywood churns out (had women but been allowed to play them in his day). And above all, he revels in the language -- our language, which that master poet enriched with at least 2,500 new-coined words and a litheness that is an ongoing delight to us all. In this joyful, fascinating book, Johnson reminds us why Shakespeare truly was a genius, a writer not just for his time, but for all time.

If he dares, I am here, sonnets in hand, like grenades, at the ready. (Unless, of course, I choose to do something quite other with the Bard. After all, he’s ‘more popular than ever’!) Oh, and Jonathan Bate has words of advice for Bo: ‘Don’t waste everyone’s time with a sub-par biography based on secondhand research – write a more personal book about what Shakespeare has taught you about the important things in your life such as sex, ambition and betrayal. He has a lot to say about those great themes.’

See for an account of Bo's work in progress and the controversy surrounding its composition: Boris Johnson offered to pay for help writing Shakespeare biography, says scholar | Books | The Guardian

Bo at the theatre, talking his way through a performance of Shakespeare, unmasked during the restrictions!


Locating Robert Sheppard




Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter

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