Monday, December 18, 2023

My poetics piece 'My Own Crisis' is published by Futch

As anybody who knows anything about my work knows, I am keen on the writerly discourse of poetics. This has been the subject of my academic work (see, e.g., ‘Poetics and the Manifesto’, comparing the poetics of Pierre Joris and Adrian Clarke, here: Poetics and the manifesto | Jacket2), an important part of my creative writing pedagogy (see, e.g., my manifold links that I have provided students with, via this Pages post: Pages: SHOP TALK (TO) POETICS: about the forms of writing - presentation to MA Creative Writing, Edge Hill University (, and it is an integral part of my thinking as a writer. On occasions, I write poetics for myself and others (while keeping a more fragmentary poetics journal going to capture practical poetics alongside more abstract, conjectural and probing poetics). 

Probably the last big piece was the poetics behind the third part of my ‘English Strain’ project, British Standards. It could also be regarded as a ‘covid’ poetics, too. That piece may be read online here, Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation – New Defences of Poetry (

Before that I developed the associational paragraph style I used for that piece in ‘Pulse’, a treatise on poetic rhythm that may be read, in part, here: It was produced by a strange method. The first draft was made by ‘writing-through’ Tiger C. Roholt’s Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014, between August 2016-February 2017. Throughout this process, contingency is its rhythm, a pulse that matches the varieties of montage, de-montage, that I attempt in my own practice, with interruption as structure, with transformation and transposition, formal resistance, creative linkage, ‘imperfect fit’, near-perfect fit, all kinds of multi-form unfinish.

So, it moved between creative prose and critical writing (say the ‘straight’ critical writing of The Meaning of Form. See here for that tome: ). It’s the sort of writing called Creative-Critical writing these days.  (There's a rougher piece that follows on from 'Pulse' here, which I notice not a lot of people have accessed: Pages: Re:Pulse – on pulse and Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse: Explorations in Rhythm (

My most recent piece (I will get round to it) perhaps moves between politics and poetics in a way that surprised me. I sought – but didn’t complete – a poetics writing-through of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, a book I felt drawn to for its brevity, its cultural focus and (since Fisher, like me, had moved from teaching in Further to Higher Education) for its feeding off of that (shared) pedagogic experience.

'My Own Crisis' eschewed the paragraph units of the previous pieces, and I went for a more impacted discourse, adding difficulty to the thinking. But then difficulty, or people’s difficulty with difficulty, is part of the thematics.

Image by Patricia Farrell to accompany the piece. One of her recent paintings. (See Patricia Farrell - Home ( )


I’m very glad that the good folks at FUTCH (a journal much committed to that ‘creative-critical’ hybrid About | Futch Press) saw fit to publish this piece. And it may be read whole here, so I won’t say any more about it.


Re-reading an intermediate set of notes (partly poetics, partly critical thinking) before posting this post, I realised that they not only fed into 'My Own Crisis', the post actually refers to writing it (due to the gap between writing the notes and typing them up for posting. Inconclusive as they are, they might be of interest; I need to return to them, I know, as I feel critical, creative and poetics muscles flexing; See here: Pages: From a Poetics Journal 2023: notes on two critical volumes: Betteridge and Kaufmann (

I think I'll take my winterval break from blogging for a few weeks. 



Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:


Sunday, December 10, 2023

Two British Standard sonnets are published in Anthropocene - notes, links and a video

 I’m pleased to say two poems from the last part of ‘The English Strain’ project, British Standards have been published in Anthropocene. You may read them here:

 2 poems by Robert Sheppard (

Thanks to the dedicated editors!

‘British Standards’ is best described here: Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) ( where you will find links to other magazine appearances of parts of the book. I transpose sonnets by Wordsworth, Mary Robinson, Shelley, Keats and others, as well as Clare (but not Arthur Symons, my second model here).

The first poem on Anthropocene, ‘The rich-brown umber hue the oaks unfold’ is an ‘overdub’ of John Clare, one of 14 such poems, written late 2020/early 2021. I write about the Clare poems here, with videos,: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Four new versions of John Clare published in Talking About Strawberries (plus videos and links).

And here is a video of a reading of the poem:

 The second poem is ‘After Image: Improvisation upon “Idealism” by Arthur Symons’, which comes from the ‘After…’ poems that I amassed in serial attempts to end my three volume trek through the English Petrarchan sonnet tradition, particularly the end where the subject matter was tracking the hubris of brexit colliding with the mismanagement of Covid. I wrote about this version at the time, here:  Pages: Should I write a fourth ‘book’ of The English Strain project? ( This one dates from early 2022, though this video dates from this afternoon, late 2023!


For the record, I did finish the project, and it is great to publish in magazines a few of the poems that weren’t published nearer the time of composition, particularly as there remains no collecting volume to finish the job!  

Read about Book One of ‘The English Strain’, The English Strain here . Book Two, Bad Idea, is talked about here . Both are available for sale.

Three poems from The Engliosh Strain book were published in a very early post of Anthropocene, here: 
3 poems by Robert Sheppard ( - versions of Charlotte Smith. 



Monday, December 04, 2023

Poetic Evidence for the COVID Inquiry from British Standards (temporary post, with videos)


December 2023 Update:

Bo (Boris Johnson) appeared at the Covid Inquiry, and waffled and confirmed that he remembered that he couldn't remember anything. I watched it, in the knowledge that my friend was there watching it in person. I felt that some of the poems I was writing at the time of Covid in British Standards – they carry dates – might be offered as contemporary evidence, like Chris Whitty’s un-witty diaries. This group of poems, that transpose some of the 1802-3 sonnets of Wordsworth (though I added one using Shelley), and (as I’ve said here before) they chart how the hubris of brexit (which I now choose to spell with a lower case b) collided with the mismanagement of Covid. A few had accompanying videos, only the Shelley differing from the printed text. A bit.  

I left them here till 'the end of the year', and today will do nicely as cut off date. (More details on British Standards may be accessed at the end of this post.) They are now deleted, like Number Ten whatsapp messages, though I've kept the videos here. So here's the remains: at the end I'll say some more about what evidence I shall continue to poetically gather, if Bo is ever returned to office. 

From Poems of National Independence


                        liberties with Wordsworth: from British Standards



Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!


Flat-Battery Bo, rusticated man’s man!' the poem begins!

O Friend! I know not which way I must look


13th March 2020



One might believe that natural miseries


England! The time is come when thou shouldst wean


Mine begins: 'Britain, the time is now to wean yourself from

hoarding fancy food or panic buying bog rolls.'...

Vanguard of Liberty, ye men of Kent


'Vanloads of libertines, playboys of Kent,' my transposition begins!


 And, as promised, a Shelley transformation: 

Political Greatness: an overdub of Shelley


25th May 2020 (all the dates are important to placing poems against 'evidence', as more 'evidence'). 


British Standards is the still-unpublished third part of my ‘English Strain’ project. There are loads of posts on this blog about the process of writing them. ‘The English Strain’ is in three books, two of them published so far, The English Strain (Shearsman, 2021) and Bad Idea (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2021; see above). I talk about thinking I’d finished the project (I had a few more poems to add, in fact, as I shall point out:

There are lots of links to the other parts of the project. I was ‘doing’ Wordsworth (some might say ‘doing Wordsworth in’!) in this first part of the British Standards of the ‘English Strain’ project. (I’ve written about that a lot on this blog, but here’s a handful of links specific to the 14 sonnets from 1803 by Wordsworth that got the Sheppard treatment, some of them with videos of the poems, as above):

Pages: Poem from 'Poems of National Independence' talking to the dead (Wordsworth) on STRIDE today (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: Two transpositions of Wordsworth from British Standards published on International Times

Pages: ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote my final transposition of a sonnet by Wordsworth (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: my recent 'Wordsworth' transposition is published by New Boots and Pantiscracies

Pages: Real beginning of new series of 'liberties' taken with Wordsworth's sonnets (temporary post of The English Strain' series) (

 If Bo is ever returned to office I have this plan afoot: Pages: The Horrible Thought that Bo mioght be back: only The Bard could save me now! ( Actually, I've had a few more thoughts. On Boxing Day 2023 I read ALL of Shakespeare's Sonnets which, as that last post will tell you, I've have hidden away for possible use on the return of Bo (the post has some other crossovers between Bo and the Bard). But I think now that The Passionate Pilgrim might be the more appropriate vessel to transpose, for the following reasons: it was a pirate edition with Shakespeare's name on the cover. It does contain some of his works and versions of his works, even 2 sonnets from the later 1609 volume, BUT it has a lot of stuff clearly not by the Bard. Somehow this FAKE volume, padded out with printers' illustrations and blank pages, extra title pages, is somehow comparable to Bo's disposition towards, not just Shakespeare, BUT EVERYTHING. I wouldn't mind betting that if he ever did write that book about Shakespeare, one of his 'revelations' or 'discoveries' will be that he did indeed write all the poems in the book (20 of them).   


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

My poem THE AREA is published in The Long Poem Magazine number 30 (background and links)

I’m pleased to say my long poem ‘The Area: thinking with the photographs of Tricia Porter, Liverpool 8: 1972-74’ has been published in the excellent Long Poem Magazine, issue number 30. Yes, 30! 

How did this poem come to be? Well, in 2015 the Bluecoat arts centre in Liverpool mounted an exhibition (and, importantly for the writing of the poems, published a catalogue) of the 1970s photographs Tricia Porter made of ‘the area’ called then Liverpool 8, later Toxteth. (Now part of it glories under the name the ‘Georgian Quarter’, newly re-developed, but not beyond recognition.) 

Tricia's website has more images, and may be found here. Tricia Porter Photography (

I have recently contacted her and discussed her work. Perhaps more on this blog about that, one day. 

As Liverpool unlocked after Covid I returned to the photographs (and the place; some of the images adorned the newly decorated walls of the Belvedere pub I frequent, reminding me of them; I used to have a poem on the wall in an earlier decoration of the pub: Pages: Chris McCabe and Robert Sheppard poems in the Belvedere, Liverpool!). I was haunted by the richness and deprivations of life in the photographs, a life I didn’t experience at the time (though many of my Liverpool friends in the loose grouping, the 1955 Committee, had! See here: Pages: The 1955 Committee (and others) 2022 (


I decided to ‘write through’ the images, including this one above, and then edit some of the results into the unpunctuated couplets that you may read in the Long Poem Magazine. The emphatic capital letters starting each line might be thought of as a counterpointed mode of punctuation, certainly a guide to rhythmic utterance (or ‘stutterance’ one could even say).


This subtle dialectic between

Reinforced glass and finely engraved


Panels at the counters of the Belvedere she sits

On a stool in white slacks


He wraps an arm around he

Presses his lit cigarette onto the tip of hers


I have a love-hate relationship with so called ekphrastic writing (see here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Talk for the Open Eye Gallery on Poetry and Photography December 2016) and was determined that no section of the poem would relate completely to a single image: I was imagining collaging the images in the same way I was collaging the words, ‘thinking with’ rather than looking at.


Read the poem by buying the magazine here: ISSUE 30 – Long Poem Magazine


Other writers included in this issue (and at least four are associated with Liverpool as well!) are:


Helen Tookey                                                A Choice of Paths

Peter Robinson                                              Le Suquet Revisited

Aidan Semmens                                            Tales of the Old Pacific

Garry Mackenzie                                           Oysters

Anna Quarendon                                           Menagerie

Daniel Samoilovich tr Terence Dooley        Awaking Demons

Graham Mort                                                 Concerning the Ukraine War

Simon Collings                                              Scenes from Out West

Judith Amanthis                                            How to Howl

Frances Presley                                           The Modern Long Poem and Feminist Projects

Mara Adamitz Scrupe                                   a seiche a derecho

Simon Maddrell                                            dear derek jarman

Ian Seed                                                        from Scattering My Mother’s Ashes

Robert Minhinnick                                      Family Bible

Andrew Nightingale                                    Dead voice trafficking contraption

Iain Britton                                                   Dolls

Penelope Shuttle                                          book of lullabies

Peter Daniels                                               Happy and Fortunate

Kathryn Pierpoint                                       Sunspot

Sean Street                                                   Running Out of Time


 My copy has now arrived and it looks very exciting. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Scott Thurston's TURNING ; my endorsement and a link

Sometimes a blurb for a book (I mean ‘endorsement’, don’t I?)  says little more than ‘I like this book: you will too’. Snappy, short. Quotable. Sometimes I find myself (given my history as a critic and reviewer) sketching out an essay or a review (which I then have to shave until it’s the right length). In the case of this slightly long blurb for the selected poems of Scott Thurston, I managed to write a condensed review of this excellent collection.

Thurston’s poems always danced, as the early writings here demonstrate, in line and spacing, long before dance as a practice became his poetic focus and his ethical metaphor for other modes of action and introspection. They always measured a world to be moved into, fine lines across fine distinctions. His texts become cues for performance, in performance, but just as important is the insistent voice of the poem as it becomes increasingly the voice of the poet: restless, relentless, carrying us with it. This is all for us: ‘in dancing your own rite you don’t/ do it for yourself.’ This is crystallized in the culminating triumph of the lockdown sonnet sequence, ‘A Hard Grief’; it reaches out from our shared resignation and hope. We’re all ‘searching/ for the shapes that shadowed the meaning/ until the flow showed up’, and Thurston is our invaluable lead.


I spent most of today with Scott, pleased to exchange our books, and dine in Chorlton. We chatted about the journal, dance, Salford, life, health (mine) and well-being (his), before retiring to his study to talk poetry and books. Joanna emerged from Zoom meetings, and we all drove to Liverpool, joking all the way in the failing (but bright) light. A great day.

What about looking at the interview I conducted with Scott about his writing and dancing (even the cover of the new book will not allow us to take these pages as simply for, or of, the page!), part of my guest editing of Stride a few years ago:  Guest editor Robert Sheppard: 8 | Stride magazine,

Turning may be purchased here: Scott Thurston - Turning — Selected Poems 1995-2020 (

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Performance of the Ern Malley Orchestra and launch of Doubly Stolen Fire


David Whyte and I took part in this event on Saturday night, a celebration of all things Mallyesque, that included Mark Ford on meeting one of the hoaxers, John Wilkinson on John Tranter's Malley poems, and other contributions as on the poster above (but I missed some of the names represented by the elisions). But thanks to William and Jeremy, named above in brief, the organisers of the conference that this was the 'let your hair' down tail of. 

I read a shortened version of the essay 'Doubly Stolen Fire' which is published in my new book. also called Doubly Stolen Fire. (See details:  Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT ( It's a response to the Malley 'affair', and posits a distinction between 'hoaxes' and 'fictional poems' and 'poets', which is something I've experimented with a lot; I also read my 'Ern Malley Suite', which is from one of those projects. (The essay was written after the Liverpool celebration of Ern's birth: Pages: Ern Malley 1918-1943: Celebrating the centenary in his place of birth Liverpool (set list) ( )

Here's a picture of the two man orchestra setting up., David with guitar and lyrics, me with lyrics and harmonicas... 

We then launched into a performance of four of Ern's greatest poems, set to music by David Whyte. We ended with a bit of a Malleyoke, with (some) of the audience singing our Malley chorus: 'I have split the infinite.' Imagine.

It felt good to be singing once more and playing a little backing blues harp. One commentator said I sounded like Kevin Ayres. 

Here's a selfie taken at the 'blood-soaked Royston perimeter', as Andrew Duncan called it long ago. It was good to travel with David. This is where 'rail replacement bus' gave way to trains.

 Pages: Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (set list) ( tells you about my Liverpool launch for Doubly Stolen Fire, the one that concentrated on the Malcolm Lowry materials in the book. There are different emphases for different venues. Next up: the talking mongoose? 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

From a Poetics Journal 2023: notes on two critical volumes: Betteridge and Kaufmann

 Notes on two critical volumes

Joel Betteridge’s Avant-Garde Pieties: Aesthetics, Race and the Renewal of Innovative Poetics. Oxford and London: Routledge, 2018; and

Reading Uncreative Writing: Conceptualism, Expression and the Lyric by David Kaufmann. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017; 

and touching very briefly on Oren Izenburg’s Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011.

I have been trying for an age to finish reading Joel Betteridge’s Avant-Garde Pieties (2018) and I’ve finally done it. (And I've taken even longer to get this post up and online.) I’ve been simultaneously re-reading Reading Uncreative Writing by David Kaufmann (2017). Both books are rocked, I think it is fair to say, by the affront of – intended – and the affront caused – probably unintended – by Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘The Body of Michael Brown’ (2015, well that's the date of its single performance anyway). Never has a text been so central and absent to literary debate (since Goldsmith withdrew the work and replaced it with a self-justifying Facebook post). With one enclosure does Goldsmith refute his often quoted assertion that you don’t need to read his work. In this case we do, but we can't. But, then, we should be wary of Goldsmith’s pronouncements (I suppose we should call it ‘poetics’, but it appears too finished to fulfil my definitions of it. See Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Necessity of Poetics 1: The Identification of Poetics) His whole book Uncreative Writing (saintly white cover), like its critical shadow, Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius – brilliant and persuasive books both! – his book (as I say in my book The Meaning of Form: see Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form in Contemporary Innovative Poetry PUBLISHED) offers a teleology that fashions all of avant-garde or modernist history into a precursor of uncreative writing or, rather, to himself. I criticised this, rightly, but what I failed to see was that his critics have also taken him at his word. So that when the disgusting and ill-judged presentation (and subtle rearrangements, or forming in my terms) of ‘The Body of Michael Brown’ was attacked so comprehensively, some commentators used the opportunity to dismiss all avant-garde art... particularly as racist. Where this gets us – suddenly everything I've ever written is automatically racist! – is unclear – but where it leaves Baraka or Mackey (etc… a long list in Betteridge and Kaufmann) is much clearer: they stand as refutations of this simplistic charge, by dazzling us, by simply existing. As I say, these critics (who have an aesthetic agenda (mainstream writers) or a political one (they want directly political work; what would they make of my sonnets? nothing, of course, the focus is purely American, a blindness unaddressed…) These critics are only following Kenneth Goldsmith’s teleology. We all go down for his crime, in the worst form of joint enterprise.

The year 2015 is an interesting one for the wheels to fall off the conceptualist wagon. (Vanessa Place was also playing with fire by retweeting Gone with the Wind at this time, and Kaufmann itemises the creative blindness of the gesture, and the critical blindness of the response.) Somewhere I noted that I thought conceptual writing would last until about 2015. (I wished I'd expressed that publicly; I didn't, probably because I've been so wrong with predictions before! Examples omitted.) If you believe Kenneth Goldsmith's self-serving teleology, then all avant-garde work died in 2015. (With him.) It's not what he intended, but that's the result of his argument.

Goldsmith's intentions are of interest in this moment. Betteridge argues convincingly that his justification of ‘The Body of Michael Brown’ – I feel like I'm re-inscribing the pain, and ‘anti-elegy’ with each reiteration of his name in this context – betrays most of the tenets of conceptual writing, largely through a very traditional plea to ‘Truth’. It's like he's claiming to be some kind of documentary poet (like Mark Novak for example, or Juliana Spahr, about whom Betteridge writes so eloquently). But maybe Kenneth Goldsmith would sell his own skin to save his body.

If you don't believe Kenneth Goldsmith's self-serving teleology then avant-garde work didn't die in 2015, not all forms led to Goldsmith. Indeed at that moment I was working on The Meaning of Form, attempting to prove, in part, that conceptual writing’s disavowal of form was not evidenced by the form, forms and acts of forming involved in producing the works themselves. (See Pages: Robert Sheppard The Trace of Poetry: Notes on Conceptual Writing and Form) One of the problems with Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘The Body’ is that he does reform the work – ‘translating’  medical terms, it's a re-forming of an autopsy report, a transposition of its restricted code (and quite unlike Goldsmith's American Disasters which uses PUBLIC language) another of Kenneth Goldsmith’s self-justifications that deny and defy the evidence is to suggest ‘The Body’ is an extra chapter of American Disasters. Kaufmann's thesis – in brief –is a parallel one to mine. Where I find form where it's been liquidated by the theory, he finds affect, ‘subjectivity’, a ‘trans-subjectivity’ belonging to a mass of quoted people, and ‘expression’ in Adorno’s sense, i.e. it's not self-expression. 

[I will now interpollate some earlier notes I made on this use of ‘expression’: First he redefines ‘expression’:

The truth of dissonance is expression.

‘Expression renders audible differentiated state or mood... Expression... marks the critical function of art and its concomitant utopian hope.’ (Kaufmann 2017: 7)

My language. Expression is not self-expression. Indeed, in The Meaning of Form I say something like this: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A Note on Self-Expression and Conceptual Wriitng]

The rejection of lyric subjectivity is not as absolute as it might be for Marjorie Perloff.

‘A critique of actually existing “official verse culture” is not a criticism of lyricism tout court. It is a critique of the current state of play,’ (Kaufmann 2017: 9) the ‘workshop poem’, for example. Thus he can say of Emily Dickinson: ‘a determinate negation of the lyric of her time, not the blanket negation of the lyric, as such.’ (Kaufmann 2017: 10.) (Such negations are part of its history.)

A turning from that lyric, not from the long tradition. Or returning from it, within the tradition.

Kaufmann has serious wonders on the way, but by page 125, we're back to Adorno’s  ‘expression’ that is not self-expression: ‘Artworks bear expression not when they communicate the subject, but rather where they reverberate with the proto history of subjectivity’... Expression ‘approaches the trans-subjective.’ (Kaufmann 2017: 125))

I'll leave his thoughts about lyric to one side for now. [Actually, these notes do not return to the subject.] The more satisfactory conceptual work for Kaufman is that of Robert Fitterman and it is interesting (to me, anyway), that James (Byrne) and I should have selected his work for Atlantic Drift. (See Pages: Atlantic Drift launch in London: 5th February 2018 (some photos and a few comments) ( The language of affect, argues Kaufmann, saturates conceptual writing when it shouldn't. The ‘shouldn't’ only works if you exchange the flexibility and developmental gymnastics of poetics for the sclerotic diktats of a manifesto – but that's exactly what conceptual writing did in its (or Kenneth Goldsmith's) attempt to be the only avant-garde practice in town.

It's not. It can't be, given continual avant-garde poetics and practice, of course.

And it isn't, if we are looking at the other writers Betteridge treats (chiefly Spahr and Buuck, Kaia Sand, Peter O’Leary, and Clauda Rankine (another inclusion in Atlantic Drift)), and the scope can be widened to include many many other writers, as ever when one writes a critical work).

‘Race’ in Bettridge’s subtitle ‘Aesthetics, Race and the Renewal of Innovative Poetics’ is a live issue, in a particular, global way, post-Black Lives Matter (his book is pre-BLM, of course, given the delays of book publication). It's never been a not-live issue for Poets and People of Colour, and - without sounding like Kenneth Goldsmith and his self-justifications, I'm pleased with the diversity of coverage in Atlantic Drift though that's probably more James Byrne’s doing than mine.

No, it's racism that's the issue here. Betteridge puts up an argument against directly activist poetry that isn't worth repeating here, since I'm more interested in his ‘renewal of innovative poetics’.

Because a poem doesn't mention race it doesn't mean it's racist. (That should be obvious, but it's not.) If a person doesn't mention race that doesn't mean it's not racist; obviously, to be overtly racist (rather than institutionally racist) you'd probably need to mention race, possibly obsessively so. Of course, my use of ‘mention’ is playing into certain presumptions about the referentiality of poetry - it's not helpful…

One of the things Betteridge touches upon at the beginning is dealt with precisely by the rest of the book: the notion that some ‘avant-garde’ gestures (I'm using his terms but ‘formally innovative’ might do just as well) – some such named gestures just aren't. I came up with the aphorism: ‘A writer (an artist) must both derive and dérive –  and both must be unruly,’ after reading Betteridge (on Robert Duncan, as it happens). I do see surrealist writing, Oulipo techniques applied on far from the fruit fly material Queneau stipulated, decorative concrete poetry, ineffectual erasure, pointless cut up, etc… etc…  but to note that is only, really, to notice that being derivative is not the same as deriving the work – Bettridge has no problem with an avant-garde tradition – so long as one does something with it, ‘working the work’ as I've long said: ‘derive and dérive’ seems to me an epithet-prophylactic for that problem. It's a minor point and it doesn't need returning to. (I take it up in a piece of poetics intended for publication, called (at the moment) ‘My Own Crisis’. Really!) ‘Right imitation’ is no longer part of our poetics, but neither is wild novelty. It is part of good aesthetic judgement to deal with it. It is partly poetics’ task to derive and to suggest the dérive. (Oh no, not another definition of poetics!)

This brings me to another minor point. Betteridge occasionally gestures towards the religious and, even if his suggestion that the language poets’ commitment to language is not unlike a sect’s commitment to its principles (I always think of the Muggletonians!) I would want to steer away from that, and stay secular and linguistically materialist.

That said, his account of the ‘pieties’ of the avant-garde suggest ways towards ‘renewal of innovative poetics’. Another way of saying this, is to say that I want to re- read his book – or parts of it – as poetics. Or rather, to read the parts which are poetics. Betteridge is a poet, after all. That demands a different way of reading parts of the book, for example, his discussion of Claudia Rankine which includes the words ‘the book’s form of politics – its avant-garde belief that aesthetics are political. The avant-garde values of multiple genres, use of sources, etc…’ (passages on page 29 and 151-200 for those who have access to the book)...

[These notes become more notelike from here on, as I ran out of energy. I’ve also not taken up the suggestion to re-read parts, but I suspect I will. In the meantime I have been writing (as I said) ‘My Own Crisis’, which overlaps with some of this, BUT began life as a writing-through of Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher. I got halfway, and then wrote through my own notes backwards. It has the virtue of compression which these notes don’t. MY OWN CRISIS may be read here:]

Betteridge tells us that Rankine takes elements of a ‘racist violent culture’ and ‘redirects that culture by means of the poem’s friendship’. (Betteridge 151). This use of ‘friendship’ derives from readings of Stanley Cavill, (but I believe the modes of ‘hospitality’ Derek Attridge writes of (in writers and readers) serves just as well; see Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form and Derek Attridge’s The Work of Literature). (304) Betteridge talks of ‘its avant-garde belief that aesthetics are political. The avant-garde values of multiple genres, use of sources, and commitment to a form of literary poetics... They ‘simultaneously illuminate the problem of American culture and produce a solution to it.’ (151) 

He calls it an ‘impossible avant-garde politics’ as I think it might be for me!

‘A multiform tradition’ (163) ‘multiform avant-garde tradition’ (165-6) The danger he calls ‘moralising’. It destroys the multiformity of the avant-garde (171)

Wendy Brown. We must develop a ‘vision about the common’ (‘what I want for us’) ‘because it aims to create a collective future by transforming where one lives out of love, and it takes political acting and conversation as the means of such correction’. (73) We mustn't ‘abandon … the sheerly political domain in favour of moral judgement and identity … particularly injured identities.’ (174) Identity + Ressentiment = Moralism (which cuts us off from anything that offends us).  Isn't this obvious? Perhaps it is, but this ‘conclusion’ does provide some terms to use, a few useful quotes for critical writing and – more importantly – poetics.

Here's a particularly useful passage: ‘Just because lyric poets and their apologists find the avant-garde tired, annoying, and out of fashion does not mean that it is; it just means that those writers bent on realism and representation can't read the avant-garde in the required spirit.’ Says Bettridge (197). And even better:

‘We have no idea which poem will be the catalyst for which particular readers and keeping this fact of reading alive and vital for specific readers is what a multiform avant-garde permits.’ (195) (Could equally argue that of the mainstream, of course, that that would be less multiform.)

The rousing chorus of the avant-garde seems more like a single strained note, or a breathy obviousness. Let's end this (failed?) summary with a quote from a different book: ‘Radical poetics... is not radical for its political commitments but for its pre political or ontological commitments.’ (Isenberg 35), a book I'm slowly rereading at the moment.

Later: I haven't returned to these thoughts – perhaps they are finished, what they are, and are destined to remain where they are, informing practice, as poetics is meant to do, according to me!

The Tesco delivery has arrived so I shall stop my dictation from my poetics journal and engage (briefly) with capitalism.

A previous set of journal ‘notes’ from my reading of critical works may be read here: Pages: Re:Pulse – on pulse and Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse: Explorations in Rhythm ( and also (further back in time) these thoughts on postmodernism came from my poetics journal: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Supplanting the Postmodern (notes).



Locating and contacting me: email: Please do not use the Edge Hill one; it doesn’t work:  website: Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Robert Sheppard and two others at Peter Barlow's Cigarette 24th October 2023 (set list)

An evening of alternative poetries happened at Peter Barlow’s Cigarette with me and two others. It was meant to be Patricia (Farrell) reading, but she was unavailable and I went instead. Patricia has had a short notice eye operation. She would have had to squint and glare at the audience with a piratical wink. (See ) 


Tuesday, 24th October 2023 

(not one of their usual Saturdays)

The (very fine) Carlton Club, Carlton Road, Whalley Range, Manchester.

I was reading with 


Paradise Takeaway, a long poem with Luton Airport in it, is out from Two Rivers Press on 21 October 2023. Other recent publications include Two Verse Essays (Longbarrow, 2022) and two further volumes of his translations from the Russian of Osip Mandelstam (The Voronezh Workbooks and Occasional and Joke Poems, Shearsman, 2022). He lives in Berlin, which is where I last saw him at his wonderful Berlin Festival, at which both Patricia and I read, and Stephen sat on my hat!

And I wasn't (quite) reading with ELOISE OUI because the trains are shit in this country, so I left at half time. Only later, reading Alistair's Paradise Takeaway in the Belve did I realise that that is one of the emphatic and powerful themes of his book; though I actually had interruption-free travel, but we can't risk it, can we? In fact, the taxi journey was worse, caught in Man United traffic...) Anyway, apologises to ELOISE, who

is a multipurpose artist from Leeds. She is the writer and director of two upcoming short films: Warm Egg, a sci-fi-infused musical drama, and O River, a psychedelic cat-and-mouse Western set in the Yorkshire Moors. These projects are currently in post-production, with plans for release at various festivals in the upcoming year. Eloise writes poetry and paints for fun and for work she’s a graphic prop designer for tv shows, contributing to the visual storytelling of the small screen.


I read from the ‘English Strain’ Project, two poems: 

1 Afterword: The Shepherd's brow etc...' (see here: Pages: No need for a fourth book of The English Strain, I've decided (

2 Aftershock: Monitoring ... (see here: Pages: Another 'final' poem of the English Strain sonnet project: looking eastwards and to the Ukraine ( ), but nothing from Doubly Stolen Fire. Otherwise, all new work. And on to:

3. The Area (a new work due to appear in The Long Poem Magazine. It is a long poem!)

4. Empty Diary 2022 (a work due to appear in a Broken Sleep anthology on 'Masculinities'. Up for pre-order here:

5. Empty Diary 2023. (About piss drinkers.)

Empty Diary context here:  Pages: Robert Sheppard: The last two Empty Diary poems are published on Strideabout the ones for 2020 and 2021 (with videos).

finally, 6 (to cool it down) 'Late Advance to Bonheur', a poem i.m. John James, published here:  Robert Sheppard: ‘Swift Songs’ and Essay on James’ ‘A Theory of Poetry’ – Glasfryn Project

Then it was time to go: thanks to Joey Francis and the team for a great (truncated, for me) night. And thanks to the audience for responding with laughter to what Joey called 'the first poem about edging that we've had in ten years!' (That's number 4 above.)


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: Follow on Twitter (or is it X?): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: