Sunday, April 03, 2022

THREE new sonnets from British Standards (overdubs of John Keats) appear in Shearsman 131 and 132

You wait for ages and 7 Keats variations come along at once. Yesterday, I had 4 poems on Litter (see here: Pages: Four more Keats' overdubs published online in LITTER (and videos here) ( Today I am pleased to say that three (more) sonnets from Weird Syrup: Contrafacts and Counterfactuals from John Keats (part of the ‘British Standards’ volume of The English Strain project) have appeared in Shearsman 131 and 132. They are ‘overdubs’ of relatively well-known Keats poems. Thanks to editor Tony Frazer.

This first double-issue of Shearsman magazine for 2022 also features poetry by Tim Allen (his Shearsman book A Democracy of Poisons is jolly good:, Kate Ashton, Isobel Armstrong (good to see), Carmen Bugan, Jonathan Catherall, Wendy Clayton, Tom Cowin, Claire Crowther, Julian Dobson, Katy Evans-Bush, Amlanjyoti Goswami, Lynne Hjelmgaard, Penny Hope, Eluned Jones, Fiona Larkin, Mary Leader, DS Maolailai, James McGonigal, James McLaughlin, Deborah Moffatt, Mark Russell, Tim Scott, Rufus Talks, my European collaborator Rimas Uzgiris, (see here for our text and film) , Vickery, Margaret Ann Wadleigh, Polly Walshe, Fiona Wilson, Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese; and translations of Max Jacob (by Ian Seed, always interesting), Denis Rigal (by David Banks) and the energetic and interesting Portuguese modernist Mário de Sá-Carneiro (by Chris Daniels). 

Purchase details here:


Each of my three contributions has a video, below, recording – nay, celebrating! – the completion of its first draft, as did the four published yesterday. They were posted briefly at those times, as part of a performance ritual of writing them (all quite a new sensation for me, as an habitual collagist, to get poems written in a couple of hours). They often differ slightly from the final poems that appear in print, and that is true of the ones here. But they give a good sense of the texts’ first manifestations than an updated version would, even read through clearer sinuses! There is a weird glitch on one of the versions, I seem to remember, and a lot of clowning about with the life-mask of Keats (and of Blake). These videos are not performances, so much as signatures. (They also compensate, I think, for the lack of poetry readings post-pandemic.) 


The first poem, 'On Looking Again into Peter Hughes' Petrarch', is another (there are others) acknowledgement that it was his volume of Petrarch translations that started me off on 'The English Strain' project (which I describe below). I write about this first Keats version (because I had problems with it) here: Pages: an overdub, an understudy, a version, of Keat’s most famous sonnet (and then a further version) ( and I have a literary critical response to his Petrarch (and Tim Atkins, and, then, mine) here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Tim Atkins' and Peter Hughes' Petrarch versions compared

In 'Keen Fitful Gusts...' I deliberately recall the poems written after my Petrarch obsession, when 'The English Strain' project indeed turned to the English Petrarchs (Wyatt and Surrey; see here: Pages: Robert Sheppard Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt's Petrarch published NOW).  

Finally, 'After Dark Vapours', with its dedication to Nicholas Moore, is gesturing further back, to his 'versioning' influence on 'Petrarch 3', which I write about here: Pages: Practice-Led piece on 'Petrarch 3' from The English Strain published in Translating Petrarch's Poetry (Legenda) (

And there's more, much more. I recently had another two of these Keats poems in Tears in the Fence. There’s a link to that publication, and two more videos here: Pages: Two more sonnets from British Standards (from Keats) in Tears in the Fence 75 (

 There are three more Keats versions (text and videos together this time!) online at Pamenar here:

 There is another that may be accessed here, published recently on Stride, Pages: A version of a Keats sonnet published on STRIDE today (links and video and context) ( with a video of me reading the poem here too.

 As I say here, another bunch appeared on Litter: see the link above, or navigate straight to the poems here: Robert Sheppard - from Weird Syrup: Contrafacts and Counterfactuals from John Keats | Litter (


I’m thinking that must mean nearly all 14 of the ‘Keats’ sonnets are now firmly on the interweberals. I wrote about the whole lot, when I’d just finished them here: Pages: Weird Syrup: The final Keats variation: a (premature) farewell to satire as a strand in British Standards (

 As anybody who looks regularly (or even irregularly) at this blog will know, these Keats poems come from a longer manuscript called ‘British Standards’. It is best described here: where you will find links to other on and off line appearances of parts of the book (and some other videos). I transpose sonnets by Wordsworth, Mary Robinson, Shelley, both male Coleridges, John Clare, Hopkins, Arthur Symons, and others, as well as Keats. The book has now been completed with a version of a Mickiewicz sonnet. (See here: )

 (We are in a different era. It needed a different focus.)

 ‘British Standards’ is also book three of a larger project of refunctioning traditional English sonnets, called ‘The English Strain’.


Read about Book One of ‘The English Strain’, The English Strain here .

 Book Two, Bad Idea, is talked about here .

You can buy both of these published books so far, here: Pages: How to buy The English Strain books one and two together (