Friday, February 24, 2023

Robert Sheppard The Anti-Orpheus (pdf available online)

I have just discovered that a poetics piece of mine, The Anti-Orpheus, is still online on the Shearsman site. It was written in 2001, and originally published by Tony Frazer in 2004 as a booklet and pdf. I think there were only a few hard copies, but I was always pleased to see that the pdf  downloadable version remained online. I thought it had been removed in one of the revamps of the Shearsman site – but I was wrong. Possibly I’d missed it because I don’t often provide a link to the general page for my books and tend to copy links to pages with details of particular volumes.

Here's that general page (you can see all of my Shearsman books here too): Sheppard, Robert (

There is a link to The Anti-Orpheus there (if the one below doesn’t work for you).

Here’s a direct link to the piece:

What is this piece, The Anti-Orpheus? It’s best to just read it (at least some of it) to get a fix on it, since it is multifaceted, and summary is difficult. Recently, I’d wondered whether I might collect it in a volume of poetics. I decided against it, since it seems too diffuse, needs its own space (or none). It enacts rather than argues. I wrote freely and ‘The Anti-Orpheus’ is the result. There may still be much to discover there; there may not. It was a machine for getting me away from Twentieth Century Blues and towards the other, later books that are represented on this Shearsman page, to that desired ‘else’ of its opening passage. There are fragments of daily writings, bits of poems, snippets of speculative poetics, enactments of an ethics of writing, and quotes from others. In fact, only one POEM from this strange, tidied-up notebook found its way into later books. The poem ‘A Voice Without’ is reprinted in Berlin Bursts and History or Sleep – a kind a teasing Levinasian riff on the saying and the said, which I do like. If I remember correctly, it was written straight out (a rare event for me!). 


To say and not say at

the same time, or


at a different time to not

say and yet say –


eversaying, yes-

saying, gainsaying,


truthsaying, lying,

neversaying so that it


closes into what has been

said… (I read it all on the video below) -


I like other parts of it too, but perhaps of what remains, only the haiku about Auschwitz could be published separately. I have just re-read the piece and found it suggestive and (I'd forgotten) fun and (in parts) funny! There is one useful part about enjambement ('creasing syntax with a (metrical) limit, decreasing sense in sound') and ceasura ('punctuating the metrics with a space for thought'). That could have come in handy in my recent post about free verse metrics: Here: Pages: Re:Pulse – on pulse and Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse: Explorations in Rhythm (  There are snippets of 'fiction', which I'd forgotten and the sinister epigram: 'Writing in ancient forms shits in the mouths of the dead'! Hmmm! The ethics of signature is a big theme. I like the central and final prose passages about Orpheus too; again it is a Levinasian reading of the myth (in terms of the saying and the said), and reflects the fact that I was writing my critical book The Poetry of Saying at the same time. 

However, I wasn’t simply trying to cast the theory of that book (which may be accessed here: sheppard-poetry-of-saying-point.html, the ‘ethics’ part of the book, anyway) but was, as I said, trying to find a new poetics after having finished writing Twentieth Century Blues (whose own poetics might be thought to be expressed here ; another, 'Linking the Unlinkable', poetics of Twentieth Century Blues, may read here. (‘Linking the Unlinkable’ ends up in The Poetry of Saying too.)

I find that I have considered and introduced this piece before, in one of the earliest posts on this blog, by quoting the text I used to introduce a reading of it (at Great Writing 2005, the University of Portsmouth): Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Anti-Orpheus/Rattling the Bones. Before publication, I'd read it at the Edge Hill Research Forum and had read parts of it as part of a contribution to the Talks series, curated by Robert Hampson at Birkbeck College, London, both in 2001.

These days, I like to make poetics compressed like an old lemon: See ‘Shifting an Imaginary’: Pages: Playing my Part in the New Defences of Poetry project (the poetics of British Standards: Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation ( 

The quote from Derek Attridge towards the beginning of The Anti-Orpheus shows that my subsequent critical work on form, and the formal turn in my poetry, were entangled into the piece early on. The quote is from an article Attridge gave me at a conference in Salford around the turn of the century. The impress of that meeting may be felt on most things I’ve done since, The Meaning of Form especially, and a post such as this piece from 2015:

Enough! I’ll let possible readers find what they will in it. I know Sandeep Parmar used to use it with her students at Liverpool University at one time. Indeed, may it be of use still.

Nearly all of the posts about poetics as an anticipatory discourse, including definitions of it, may be accessed via this recent hub-post:  Pages: SHOP TALK (TO) POETICS: about the forms of writing - presentation to MA Creative Writing, Edge Hill University ( 


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



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Eighteen Years of Blogging today!

Blogging is more than a publicity exercise for me. Although this blog started out as the extension of an earlier magazine, it is an instrument for thinking (and writing, as I explain below in relation to the sonnets I have now finished). It is even therapeutic in some strange way: I lose myself in the process and within the labyrinthine linkages it makes. (It took me a long time to realise this aspect matched the strands and links of my Twentieth Century Blues project. (See Pages: Twentieth Century Blues published ten years ago! ( It is, clearly, a mode of publishing (which reflects its beginning as a blogzine). 

This year has been an odd one, not least of all for having radiotherapy in the summer and on-going hormone treatment for prostate cancer (get it checked, old lads out there, that's the most serious message of this post, believe me. I've never had a symptom. And here's the most important link today: Prostate Cancer UK | Prostate Cancer UK ). It hasn’t made much difference to my blogging (though I timed my annual summer break for those 20 radiotherapy sessions at the wonderful Clatterbridge in Aintree). 

I’m going to select 10 ‘areas’ with links for this year (but there's really 11!):

 1 The great work of the year was the co-editing of New Collected Poems by Lee Harwood. Here’s one post, about the launch, with a link to other links (there’s lots about Lee on the blog!)   Pages: Lee Harwood New Collected Poems launched and on sale now (


2 It was great to participate in the Cliff Yates @ 70 tribute and I write about that (and have links to the tribute, for which I wrote the introduction and submitted a specially-written poem) here: Pages: Cliff Yates at 70 : my parts in this celebration of his poetry and poetics (links to it) ( Andy and Alan did him proud - as we all should. 

 3 Good also to be asked by Lyndon Davies to provide poem and essay to the John James/Chris Torrance issue of Junction Box, here: Pages: The John James/Chris Torrance issue of Junction Box - plus my poem for, essay on, James ( I wrote for and about James, but I did have a fruitful suggestion for the Torrance part (that is, to reprint an interview with Torrance I read waiting for one of those radiotherapy appointments). 

 4 It’s grim to announce the deaths of friends (whether they are artists are not). But we lost two extremely creative friends in the last year and they are remembered here:

Philip Jeck: Pages: Philip Jeck 2022 (

Alan Halsey: Pages: I.M. Alan Halsey: some thoughts, links, and a poem dedicated to him. (

 5 I continued publishing excerpts from British Standards (my transpositions of romantic sonnets) in magazines over this year and I provide links to them, BUT I also include on this blog short videos of those poems too. So here is a piece on transposing Wordsworth, which is also a homage to the brilliant work Phil Davenport is doing with homeless people using Wordsworth’s poems in a parallel way to me. (No, I am using them in a parallel way to him.) See: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Wordsworth’s Sonnets Transposed for the 21st Century appears on Zwiebelfish!

6 Keats got a similar treatment, and here are four posts, with videos, of work that appeared from the 14 sonnets I’ve tackled (or mangled, depending on your view of the project):

 Pages: Two more sonnets from British Standards (from Keats) in Tears in the Fence 75 (

 Pages: A version of a Keats sonnet published on STRIDE today (links and video and context) (

 Pages: Four more Keats' overdubs published online in LITTER (and videos here) (

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

 You’ll notice on the video I wear my Keats (life mask) with pride.

 7 John Clare got the same treatment in British Standards and here are the two posts about the publication of some of the resultant poems (again with videos): here:

Pages: My transposition of a sonnet by John Clare, from British Standards, is published on Beir Bua (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: Four new versions of John Clare published in Talking About Strawberries (plus videos and links)


Here's my accidental 'poem-film', or is it 'film-poem' of one of those Clare transpositions.

These sonnets were all temporarily posted on this blog so blogging became part of the process of their becoming. (And, therefore, as I say above, of me.)

8 Talking of performing or reading, I did a reading (and would love to do more, if there are any organisers left after Covid!) at MMU’s English Futures conference in July 2022. Here’s my set list: Pages: My reading at the English Futures Saturday 9th July 2022 (set list) ( It’s more of the Wordsworth transformations. I read a whole block to make absolutely clear what I was doing. 

9 I wrote about Fictional Poets (looking back at the two volumes I published of such work), beginning with a post here: Pages: Reflections on Fictional Poetry and Fictional Poets (1 and hubpost for the sequence) ( and with links to the rest. I was also thinking through (even writing) a third part. I am quietly announcing here for the first time that a cleaned-up version of these posts will form parts of a book called Doubly Stolen Fire which will be published later this year.

10 Even before the eighteenth year of blogging began I was posting posts about having FINISHED the ‘English Strain’ project with its serial ‘final’ poems. It didn’t turn out that easy: these posts quite amusingly trace the process of closure, as I debate HOW and WHEN to end it. The final post here even contemplates starting it all up again, but decides against it (it is also the least consulted post of the four). Since the whole project was published and discussed on the blog (unlike other projects you won’t know about from reading these pages) it seems appropriate to cluster them together. I think they make interesting reading:

 Pages: Another 'final' poem of the English Strain sonnet project: looking eastwards and to the Ukraine (

Pages: Goodbye to Bo through the Medium of Jake Thackray’s masterpiece (not a book review) (

Pages: Robert Sheppard: A final final poem for British Standards!

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

I’m saying goodbye to the sequence but I’m also saying goodbye to Bo (and to the sonnet: I’ll never return to the form! (He sez.))

Bo bored with himself at last

One other thing (this isn’t point 11, believe me): I’ve also started this last year adding a set of addresses to every post (if I remember to do it!) That’s to make sure people can contact me. The other way of putting this is: don’t use my edgehill email address! I can’t access it. So:  

Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Do follow me on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:

The little block of four raw links below will take you to the posts I made after merely 10 years of blogging, trying to make lists of 1, the best posts, 2, my favourite posts (one for each year), 3, the most neglected posts, and, 4, my blogging plans for the (then) future. It was all quite fun, quite a lot of work, and is still interesting (even informative) to look at now.

 My annual accounts of blogging all link (up). In fact, they are a sort of guide to that year’s ‘best’ posts (though it’s only in my estimate). Here’s 14, 15,16 and 17 years…

Pages: Robert Sheppard: My 14 years of blogging

Pages: Fifteen Years of Blogging (A hubpost to all the hubposts and other goodies) (

Pages: Sixteen Years of Blogging! (links to the best of the blog) (

Pages: Seventeen Years of Blogging. A look back and the best of the last year (

The pre-history of this blog, as a print magazine, may be read here, on what was my first post (even though I moved it later). I also outlined the complete run of the second series of Pages before it became a blogzine, and finally this blog. However, the first run of the print magazine is now online, at Jacket2 where it is hosted here

Friday, February 10, 2023

Re:Pulse – on pulse and Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse: Explorations in Rhythm

Re:Pulse – on pulse and Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse: Explorations in Rhythm (New York, Oxford: Routledge, 2017). More about the author here: Richard Andrews

Re-pulse. I’ve not thought a lot formally about rhythm since writing ‘Pulse’. (This is a ‘treatise on metre’, or rather, on rhythm, and I write about it here: an excerpt appears in Tentacular here: (I am hoping that someone will publish the whole of ‘Pulse’ at some point.)

Richard Andrews’ A Prosody of Free Verse brought me back to the subject, but didn’t convince me that I was wrong. It didn’t convince me that he was wrong, either, though I wasn’t convinced by his attempts to draw in several other ‘rhythmic’ disciplines, though he does consider ‘groove’ by the end (but not in the way Tiger Roholt managed it; my ‘Pulse’ is a writing-through of Roholt’s book Groove, an odd method, I know). The more specific he becomes, the less useful it seems. He elaborates elaborate schema for parsing rhythmic contours, and then suggests there’s little point in extensively using them. (He often gestures to areas of ‘further study’, indeed, there's a later book.) He seems to be describing a kind of well-behaved free verse very different from my own (or Lee Harwood’s, or Roy Fisher’s, or Maurice Scully’s, etc.).


To fill it an allograph


Of utter utterance

Caught through the aperture


Of belonging longing

To think a moon


Pressing close to kiss the earth


Rhythm, as in free verse, is additive, he tells us, which is fundamental to his thesis.


… event-sized shapes, both men in front,

loose ties around hot necks, the next clouds’


black rims fringed with greying and blueing,

she slows to light her cigarette, laconic,


steps to a kerb, leather bag over her

shoulder, it slaps her thigh, reminds her,


somewhere inside this body I’m happy, yes, she

walks across the ceiling with her red hair …


‘The opening line or lines of a free verse poem can set the template via which subsequent lines position themselves, both aurally and/or visually … one line provides the ground for the next, one strophe for the next, and so on…’ (a ‘so on’ that can include the super-cadences (my term, made up on the spot) of whole books, Pound, Whitman…) – ‘with the reverse operation that subsequent lines reflect back on the opening lines or strophes’. (68) Another good thing about this attempt is its refusal of traditional metrics to account for any of the rhythmic effects of what really happens in a free verse poem.


walks across the ceiling with her red hair,


negotiating reefs of felt under window clouds,

climbs the ringed bark


into a sky of river,

cools her wrinkled feet


Andrews writes of ‘pulse’ slightly differently from me: ‘Pulses are crucial in that they provide periodic markers; they establish anticipation and predictability’. (68) I’ve used Abrahams’ phenomenological readings of ‘anticipatory’ consciousness a little like this. (See page 3 of the online excerpt: ‘has a foundational and often unheard or invisible function in free verse’. (69) Pulses ‘are not the same as beats’. (68) (I need to consider this distinction more. Andrews uses the plural often.)


There’s no end to it line-

Break its little one


The dead their own deity it’s

Best to offer tactile thanks


Twitching under

Fingerprinting pulse


‘Turns’, what I call (above) ‘line-/Break(s)’, ‘are more literal than in formal, metrical, verse. (104). They are ‘part of the form’ (104), ‘the turn is more significant because the articulation required is multifunctional. It joins two rhythmic phrases together (they are ‘articulated’) and also signals a shift that is, at the same time, rhythmic and syntactic’. (104)


– To think with particular and

Articular interruptions


Never to unthink skinned-in

Ecstasies in the poem that


Sees the world as well

As itself


I find his use of ‘turns’ suggestive, but we mustn’t think of this too closely as actual ‘turns’ (whether we relate it to dance, as Andrews does, or not).


To think through

The tune of the thing


Andrews’ use of Lanham’s ‘economics of attention’ – ‘it takes more attention to respond to free verse because the rhythmic framework is not “given”’ – is also suggestive (the telling adjective of my response). ‘If’ – note! – ‘the additive model is accepted … the reader or listener has to hold each line in isolation to those that follow and precede it’ etc (184). Thus the attention has to be greater, ‘getting to the heart of the creative compositional process’. (185)


To shiver with joy drive

Pattern against violence


The theory is ‘multimodal’, and the future is ‘to recognize how gesture, movement, choreography, music, sound and other modes are embodied in the ostensibly two-dimensional nature of the poem on the printed page … to show not only how the various modes (and their rhythmic impulses) inform the words on the page but how the words on the page evoke those very same modal dimensions.’ (186) Andrews looks as if he’s about to launch into speculations about hypertext but he brings it back to the page (or simple screen). (These final pages will bear some re-reading.)


Spectral email template

Pre-addressed to the dead one


One final plea: ‘A new prosody or multimodal notational system for rhythm can open up possibilities for poets, enabling them to see connections and affordances of which they were previously unaware.’ (192) It seems to me we should imagine such a system, assume the possibilities, and create connections and affordances that then may be seen – but possibly not measured. (I never use the term ‘free verse’ unless I can help it; ‘non-metrical’ verse at a pinch; ‘poem’ ordinarily of verse and (much) prose.)

Prosody as part of a poetics of anticipation (as we anticipate the next pulsation of sound and meaning). (Which is a summary of my Pulse, as well as of much of Andrews' work.)

A couple of times (I’ve lost the page references) Andrews writes of free verse ‘taking form’, which sounds like a gesture towards Derek Attridge’s sense of the literary (although Attridge only appears here as a prosodist). (I’m thinking of what I’ve written here what I have long ago amassed here: Form as a gestural thing, as an active mode of forming in both the acts-events of writing and of reading. And pulse or rhythm is part of that.

NB The excerpts from my poems which interposed themselves as I typed up my response to Andrews from my poetics journal come from ‘Six Poems Against Death’ in Berlin Bursts (and ‘Five Poems Against Death’ in History or Sleep: Selected Poems) See here for both books (and others) :

Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  website: Do follow me on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: