Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Reflections on Fictional Poetry and Fictional Poets part 5

 [A hubpost for this sequence may be accessed here: Pages: Reflections on Fictional Poetry and Fictional Poets (1 and hubpost for the sequence) (]

 In the third 'book' of my ‘Fictional poet’ project, in which these sentences are intended to appear, I prefer to work by meta-commentary, and mainly in prose. I prefer to explore authorship in vestigial gestures, by temptation rather than through fulfilment.     

This means that Sophie Poppmeier may confidently return to her Book Five or Six or Seven – and proceed where we may not follow her, into the accomplishment of her fictional future, beyond the potentiality she clearly displays, a potentiality built upon incommensurable mathematics, unlike that of the EUGE, with its eternal addition. (See her page on the EUOIA site for full details of her biography:  Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) (


René Van Valckenborch threatens to return (he says so on his Twitter feed now and then: Rene VanValckenborch (@VanValckenborch) / Twitter; please follow) but, even though he would have more to say, he has nothing new to enact or transact. Neither would fictional contributor James Johnston, if I were to pursue Different Lines: he is too obviously twinned (as anti-self) with Donald Davie in New Lines. But isn’t Davie partly his own anti-self, turning from the Movement into wider perspectives by the 1960s, until he’s writing on Charles Olson? And Tristram Garner, marking Thom Gunn like an opposite number in a football team, would have to tackle the brilliance of late Gunn, friend of Robert Duncan. Not so Perceval Lynam, of course, who must now carry the burden of the ‘Different Lines’ confection, in the singular poem of that title, which I have written; it overdubs one of Philip Larkin’s prize contributions to New Lines and it is more than enough work for me. (I don’t address my sheer exhaustion with this kind of work in these posts, but it’s there – and real). Hasn’t David Malcolm proved that New Lines is a more variable anthology than its detractors make out? It is, though the existence and persistence of ‘the Movement Orthodoxy’ – however attenuated today – is more important than the anthology itself, which, as Malcolm points out, never went into a second edition. (Malcolm 2021: 213-221: in the critical volume described here: Pages: My two pieces (British Poetry Revival & Harwood) & editorial exhibit in CONTEMPORARY BRITISH AND IRISH POETRY, 1960 – 2015 Edited by Görtschacher and Malcolm ( )

What looks like a confession of failure is in fact a measure of qualified success. Whether it is a few lines, a single poem, or a whole book, the textual spoors of a fictional poet or imaginary author, will of necessity prove incomplete, twitching with the electricity of unfinish that I would wish for my other writings, as it happens. In any case, such poems are ‘held in place less by literary history’, such as that of the British poetry that I have investigated elsewhere, ‘than by one of the categories that the logical world keeps in supply’, hypothetical entities that are at once unfinished and infinite. (Gerald Bruns 2005: 105-6) In this sense, New Lines will never be as various as Different Lines, though Different Lines will never actually disrupt literary history. Nevertheless, we may turn from fictional poems, refreshed by our contact with them, brief or sustained, throbbing with possibility.

Fictional poets, on the other hand, have a habit of haunting the imagination, as skeletal bibliography expands into fleshly biography. Heroes or villains, their names stand as cyphers for their fragmented (or even merely hypothecated) bodies of work, as well as suggesting the work (or leisure) of actual bodies (and minds): hints of Van Valckenborch’s uncertain domicile in Belgian towns and cities ‘Ghent, where I have never lived’ he protests too much), my imaginings about Poppmeier’s traumatic lockdown in Berlin, even my account of Ern Malley’s spoof natality in Liverpool (which is related in an unpublished essay). Even Elaine Jackson, the single female poet of Different Lines, we feel, must have a backstory, if only the thumbnail of an anthology’s biographical note: ‘Jackson lives in Cambridge, an Anglican nun and landscape gardener.’ (Or ‘Jackson lives in Bradford, a Buddhist herbalist and magistrate.’) This is why the biog note Tom Jenks and I concocted for our fictional Luxembourgish poet Georg Bleinstein is long – longer than other such notes, longer than his single poem in Twitters for a Lark – and why it projects into the future, until 2086, in fact, long after his death. An overkill of a biography, it may be read online here:  Pages: Luxembourg’s Georg Bleinstein says Don't leave the EUOIA (

(The fictional poetry of the future is just slightly less possible to write or imagine than the alternative historical poetry of Different Lines; others have attempted it, I know, usually with a science fiction frame.)

We cling to such details, however improbable (‘Jackson now lives in Southwick, a cryptocurrency influencer and militant single-use plastics advocate, and performs as Nasty Nancy in a dirty burlesque troupe based in Steyning’) in the hope it brings us closer to the poet, who we imagine like the crispest figures of our favourite novels, even as we know that such things should not influence us.

For Sophie Poppmeier’s lockdown journal, begin here:

A related piece begins here: Pages: One Off Episode: Transient Global Amnesia and the Fictional Poetry Project (EUOIA and all that) (

All these entries may be thought of as the working notes towards the third book of my fictional poets project, after A Translated Man and Twitters for a Lark, which has its own website, EUOIAEuropean Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) - Home ( ; this contains a page about Poppmeier too: Sophie Poppmeier (1981-) Austria - European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) ( ) I have no idea whether this will appear in print as a third book, but I'm working on that assumption.

Books one and two are described here: Pages: Celebrate Belgium’s Independence Day with European Union of Imaginary Authors poet Paul Coppens and with Rene Van Valckenborch (