Monday, August 15, 2022

FINAL EXTRA: The last poem of The English Strain project is published on INTERNATIONAL TIMES


The comedy that was Bo (as opposed to the reality of Boris Johnson) is now over. Johnson, while he could be transformed into Bo, as indeed I was transforming sonnets into other forms and frames, was the gift that just kept on giving. I do not doubt, in the future, he will clumsily or carelessly and deliberately cause damage to our democracy and nation, as well as to individuals he will dispose of as he plunges through the undergrowth like a rogue elephant, but I won’t be pursuing him with my poetic blunderbuss. Perhaps he will return to writing: his memoirs, the crappy book on Shakespeare he has spent the advance of, or even his book about home furnishings. I’ve just heard a Tory MP on the radio refer to his ‘behavioral issues’, as though he was still the 'frozen child' of many years ago, though an ex-Tory MP called him a ‘wrong ‘un!’. He’s a rogue. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, he's a hero! (Though on the dancefloor, he's shit!)   

Of course, it had to end. Having to go out to support and defend his tricksterish ducking and diving, and face a volte face each day or even a U-turn immediately after their defence from his staunch officers (when they weren’t pissed out of their brains) was finally too much for some ministers, with some standards.

Talking of ‘standards’, British Standards, why did I not, why do I not still, write a sonnet (or a sequence!) to finish him off? A great Gillray balloon with a pin in it! Or the verbal equivalent of that video of him dancing at his wedding? Surely, even though the Decadents proved not to be ‘fruit-fly’ material, in Queneau’s sense, there would be some sonnet I could find to transfigure, torque, into a new shape to fit The Last of Bo into? 

You can read, if you want to, my provisional thinking on how to end the ‘English Strain’ project, or even whether to continue it into a FOURTH book! (Spoiler: the answer was No!) Here:

These sonnets, nearly all posted temporarily on this blog, have been conducted in public, if you like, because of their contemporaneous nature. Other projects are less visible until they are published. I talk about them here: It is clear to me that a more combative approach will need to be taken to world politics generally, the 'Enough is Enough' movement, though this project was fun, and it was new for me, to take an entirely comic and satiric approach, though of course it was combined with the technique of 'transposition', which has sustained me through three books. I don't think I could have been so direct unless I was also being so indirect, if you see what I mean, if you can appreciate the generative tone between comic feeling and borrowed form.

I even thought an earlier poem, a transposition of a Gerard Manley Hopkins sonnet, would be the final poem and it was published in International Times earlier this year as just that. See Here:

Actually, I then made this more recent poem the final poem.

BUT NOW it too 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:

I wrote about the poem here at the time I wrote it. See here:

 where you find a video of me reading it in draft!  So here's a video of the final version, as published:

Thank you IT! And poetry editor Rupert Loydell. But of course that WASN'T the end at all. It nearly was, but one more poem revealed itself with the death of the Queen (did Bo kill her?) and the strange cargo cult reactions of the Great British Public. See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A final final poem for British Standards!


‘British Standards is still 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 (more on her soon!), Shelley, both male Coleridges, John Clare, Hopkins, Arthur Symons, and others, as well as Keats. )

 ‘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:


Book Two, Bad Idea, is described here


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

[There was even a horrible chance of Bo returning to power in October 2022. I was ready, as you'll see here: Pages: The Horrible Thought that Bo mioght be back: only The Bard could save me now! ( and am ready, should he ever dare!]

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Part of 'The Necessity of Poetics' republished with a new introduction on the CREATIVE CRITICAL website

My poetics piece ‘The Necessity of Poetics’ has been through a number of publication channels, including this blog, and a part of it (in some ways, the central part, the even slightly-famous, ‘definitions’) is now available on the new Creative Critical website, with a fresh introduction, as requested by the editor of this ‘blog’ part of the website, Robert Hampson. You may read these two conjoined discourses here:

Creative Critical is edited by Gabriel Flynn and Dr Thomas Karshan (UEA): see

‘The twenty first century’, they say, ‘has seen the erosion of any sharp distinction between the “creative” and the “critical”. Can criticism itself aspire to be creative? Does creative writing have a critical force? Or should we dispense with these terms altogether?

I’m quite happy to regard criticism as criticism (and with its inherent creative elements, as I know from writing it straight), creative writing as creative writing (which has critical elements and even a critical function, as I know and argue elsewhere), and see poetics as the third term between them, as I argued in, my inaugural lecture (which is on this blog, here: ). Just to recap: I have (repeatedly) defined poetics as 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’. It is a writerly discourse.

Just for the record: ‘The Necessity of Poetics’ first appeared as ‘The Poetics of Writing; The Writing of Poetics’, in Creative Writing Conference 1999, Proceedings, Sheffield Hallam University, 1999. A shorter version, emphasising practical uses for students, was published by Ship of Fools in 1999 solely for distribution amongst Writing Studies MA students at Edge Hill College of Higher Education (later University), Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK. Another – emphasising poetry – was published in Pores (2001). Updated versions were amended, expanded and abridged in various ways – a Ship of Fools booklet was published in 2002 and was re-printed a number of times until 2016 – but the chief addition is the section ‘Poetics as Discourse’ which was written in 2009.