Friday, June 30, 2023

I'm in IS80 a book for Iain Sinclair at Eighty


Is 80, is that Iain Sinclair! And this hearty volume has been put together by Gareth Evans, to celebrate this fact - and now you can buy it, a limited-edition signed publication, signed by IAIN, that is. 

For sale exclusively from the London Review Bookshop: Solution Opportunities: for Iain Sinclair at 80 | Various | London Review Bookshop. Have a look, have a buy!

A unique tribute to a remarkable writer, film-maker and walker, in an edition of only 300 numbered copies – each signed by Iain Sinclair – this 192 page A4 illustrated publication features over 170 contributors, including Peter Ackroyd, Caroline Bergvall, Keggie Carew, William Gibson, Xiaolu Guo, Philip Hoare, Toby Jones, Stewart Lee, Esther Leslie, Rachel Lichtenstein, Robert Macfarlane, Jonathan Meades, Dave McKean, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore,  J.H. Prynne, Denise Riley and Marina Warner. And me.

Featuring original essays, poems, images, letters and reflection from writers, artists, musicians, publishers, friends, critics, booksellers and readers, it is not only a celebration of a unique body of work but also a de-facto history of the last 60 years in experimental literature and culture.

It was, as I said, conceived and edited by Gareth Evans, and designed by Joe Hales Studio.

My little poem takes the strange fact that Mary Robinson (about whom, here:Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 2: The Life of Mary Robinson ( lived in the same street as William Blake, when he was indentured to William Basire the engraver. And somehow, in a sort of Iain Sinclair way, it ends up with Mr Nemo the actor in New Brighton (that, of course, is Walter Sickert, who leads one down several Sinclairian rabbit-holes). But I don't think Sinclair ever approaches Mary. For a commissioned poem (I find them difficult) I'm pretty pleased with it, but to read it, you'll have to buy the book!

I write about Iain Sinclair on this blog (and I published some of his poems too), chiefly here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Everything Connects: The Social Poetics of Iain Sinclair . There are lots of links too. 

My book on Iain Sinclair, imaginatively entitled Iain Sinclair, is still available here: Iain Sinclair | Liverpool University Press

Nicholas Royle makes reference in his piece in the book to my booklet of reviews of Sinclair, which is pleasing. Perhaps I should print more of this Ship of Fools volume. Until then, there's much to go on.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Poem from the 1980s number 3


I write about my first recovered poem from the 1980s (and a couple of others that predate them) in the previous two posts, here: Pages: Recovered poems from the 1980s - part one ( and here:Pages: Recovered poem from the 1980s - number two ( . The three I’m posting in contiguous posts represent a particular kind of abandonment that accompanies perceived poetic development, or to use my more usual vocabulary, to changes in my poetics.

At the end of the last post containing the poem 'The Mystery Towers' I said I’d explain what the Mystery Towers were. They were floating constructions seen (you couldn't have missed them) in Shoreham Harbour (near where I grew up) that were left over from the First World War. They only exist now in photographs from the 1920s. They did ‘remain a real mystery’ because nobody knew what they were for. (We do now: Shorehams Mystery Towers. | Sussex and the Great War. ( I'm pleased to see that this image of the Mystery Towers comes from the James Grey Archive; 'Mr Grey' as she called him always, had been my mother's boss at work! She often spoke of his 'hobby' of collecting old photographs and postcards of the Brighton area. Later, we had some of his books; now there is an archive.

BUT the information does not help us to read the poem, particularly. The name was, by 1986, more important than the context I might have put them into in earlier (or, indeed, later) poems. But it still wasn’t advanced enough to survive my rapidly developing poetics. By the time I’ve reached the slightly smug self-assurance of the ‘Flashlight Propositions’ the poetry had moved on again. Pages: Robert Sheppard: Far Language: (Flashlight) Propositions (poetics) And even this third poem was abandoned because it seemed not to be fluxing between coherence and incoherence enough.

 An anthology is to be published soon, edited by Andrew Duncan, Rustbelt Arcadia which is to reflect poetry under Thatcherism (there is a blog of that name on the blogroll to the right of this post: check it out!). But here’s the third lost piece:


The policeman clings to these walls

As the only thing: all is not

All. These days of waving ladders past

Flashes, his torch against the frail curtains

While you’re inside fumbling with the half

Understood machine. A man appears in the doorway;

He shouts some impassioned command and

Raises the alarm. Another cart-load, another examination,

Pencilled dimensions of hinges: scribbled darkness.

A smudged world as usual, but this lack of focus is me:

Dark house, courtyard in grey light, consciousness

Flickering in somebody else’s need. There are new

Reflections for the mystery;

Ignore me, neutralize the grey.

It holds your perception, and the art is born.

Monday morning I could hear footsteps. There

Are objects there, useful in the way objects can be –

Not fitting in, failing disappearance:

Things to trip over in the dark. Halfway

Along the corridor you will scrabble for a side door

You know has a lamp. Ghostly hands as I write.

There is only one place and it’s subject to this law.

The policeman patrols the courtyard. Beware!

He notes the way you say, ‘Good morning’, your

Comings and goings through this synaesthetic draught:

A swinging gas-lamp over a stain

Of light. Skeletal iron cuts the glare, the open

Doorway contrived to fix all

Who stand silently to watch. Crash

Is both the world and not the world; this

Is a gas-lamp and it is not the lamp, but a chance

Move in this apocryphal game. The impossible

Is said to have happened, though it didn’t, but this

House tilts the turning at an angle, tipped

Toward the new which will never arrive. Each

Wash of words leaves this world dry. You

Sense an invitation out into the yard

Or you are inviting the light in, to you.

Something greets you, yet forbids, ‘Come no nearer;

What you project is already mine.’


November-December 1987

By the time I’d written it, it seemed too narrative. I did try to condense it, and it seems similar to ‘Internal Exile’. I have a vague memory of a Victorian photograph as the heavily re-configured source material. I write about photography and my work here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Talk for the Open Eye Gallery on Poetry and Photography December 2016 .

I hope all three still bring pleasure. I wonder what they look like to a new reader. One day I hope to 'collect' them. 


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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Recovered poem from the 1980s - number two

 I write about my first recovered poem (and a couple of others that predate them) in the previous post, here: Pages: Recovered poems from the 1980s - part one ( The reason the three I’m posting are different is that they represent a particular kind of abandonment: the abandonment of a mode of writing that comes from perceived poetic development, to use my more usual language, to changes in my poetics. From the sort of poetics I was writing here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: ‘So, now to the poetics’: from a Journal Entry, 22nd December 1983, to the sort of thing I would write only a few years later, here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Far Language: (Flashlight) Propositions (poetics). This poem, ‘The Mystery Towers’ belongs to the 1985-6 period of rapid transition, and was lost, tossed aside as I fled. Somewhere before ‘Schrage Musik’ and other long poems. Here it is:

 The Mystery Towers

He and the picture?

                                 His image

Stays with you between

The glass towers. It watches

Her, instead of guarding the disused

Shadows in the doorways, sits

Opposite her image, sliding

The facts. It is as though she

Does not exist, gaps

In the sentences the

Reader hears in the rhetoric of

Crystal moments; she watches

Her younger self laughing:

A first person insufficiently

Pluralized and filled with

The most innocuous writing.


All sound from the world we

Lived in once: a frost-

Glittered piano chord. And

Blanks from another age turn

To oracle and prophesy.

My life: I can remember

Almost nothing. The darkened

Mystery Towers remain a real mystery.


5th July 1986

There are touches of Ashbery in that opening question. I think I did cannibalise some of these lines (they seem familiar when I read them!) For the ‘Mystery [to] remain a real mystery’, I’m going to tell you about the mystery towers in the next post. Here it is, with a third recovered poem: Pages: Recovered poem from the 1980s - number two ( In three days' time! Until then you've got the first poem to look back at. Pages: Recovered poems from the 1980s - part one (


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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Recovered poems from the 1980s - part one


Before Christmas 2022, I went through old folders and files (though not notebooks, all of these ‘remains’ had been typed up, pre-digitally) and I discovered three poems I’d not ‘collected’, i.e., published (or re-published from magazines) in book or pamphlet form, from the 1980s. This discovery of poems which (now) look quite interesting and which were left behind is not a new thing for me (and it is probably not for others, too). In fact, I mention two already on this blog.

 Firstly, I write about my experimental sonnet ‘Pataphysical Sonnet’ (from about 1978) here: Pages: The Innovative Sonnet Sequence: Eight of 14: My Own Sonnets (; more recently: Pages: Robert Sheppard: My Poetics of the Sonnet in 'The English Strain' / excerpt from 'Idea's Mirror' in The Lincoln Review; which is really a link to Poetics, Robert Sheppard (, a text (the 1978 poem) and my commentary on it and its techniques. I don’t think this one will formally be recovered; it is an ‘example’ in an essay about more recent sonnets.

Secondly, I recovered ‘Round Midnight’ (from c.1983), which could have appeared in Returns in 1985, but didn’t, probably because I thought it derivative of Roy Fisher. I had posted it on this blog here Pages: Stan Tracey i.m. (and History or Sleep) (, as a tribute to its subject, Stan Tracey, who had just died, and recovered it as the opening poem of my selected poems History or Sleep, which was a surprise to me! See here: Shearsman Books buy Robert Sheppard - History or Sleep - Selected Poems. This is a recovered poem.

The first of my three ‘new/old’ poems dates from about the same time; there is the same touch of Roy Fisher about it, which – looking back – is no bad influence for a writer in his twenties at the time. I think it was published in Oasis though I’m not sure and I’m not sure my dodgy records would list it under one of the quite inadequate titles it seemed to have acquired. I think here I’m going to simply call it by the first title I found. (The other title was ‘Bedroom Poster’, which is a giveaway of its ekphrastic circumstance.)



            after Millet


A dream of a life, a stubbly pastoral,

curving to the seasons’ pull:


three gleaners separated

from a crowd of stooping harvesters,



by bedroom wallpaper that shimmers on the eye.


They follow safely at a distance

as if they’d been imagined there


or picked from the envious women

for their anonymous looks


and thus stand frigid,

pointing, scraping, bending for a few mean straws


against the hazed bustle

by the golden haystacks, the single man on the horse.


The stillness of sleep is the picture’s own thought

of autumn and birds dispersing, as it sinks,


but rises drily, each morning:

a surface scattered with dream-shards.


We rise to the world beyond this glazed scene

trapped in amber, cracked, and webbed onto paper:


a factory flag that tries to stamp its sameness upon

the morning sky above the blind buildings –


but only ever fails,

with a fresh wind tugging at its sleeve.


c. 1982/3

 The reference to the ‘factory’ dates the poem to residence in Norwich; I lived in what I called (in a poem in Returns) ‘the factory-island’ by Carrow Road football ground. A poetics piece from about this time shows that in some ways, my poetic practice hadn’t kept pace with my poetics. (That they often develop at different paces is one of my definitions of poetics.) I thought I might include it in a book of poetics but I didn’t. I posted it here instead: Pages: Robert Sheppard: ‘So, now to the poetics’: from a Journal Entry, 22nd December 1983. See poem 2 :Pages: Recovered poem from the 1980s - number two ( : poem 3: Pages: Poem from the 1980s number 3 (


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Monday, June 12, 2023

The Poems of Mary Robinson 6: Lines to Maria, MY Beloved Daughter (1793) - deselected & a note about notes

This post: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Selected Poems (History or Sleep) - the de-selected poems and the next Pages: Robert Sheppard: How I selected History or Sleep: Selected Poems talk about the problems of putting together my Selected Poems, History or Sleep, still available from Shearsman. There are different problems in selecting the work of another poet, and I talk about some of the problems I had with the poems of Paul Evans, whose selected, The Door at Taldir is also published by Shearsman: Pages: Paul Evans' Selected Poems and Lee Harwood's Collected (

Now I am selecting poems by Mary Robinson, and I’ve been sharing some thoughts as well as very rough drafts of texts for the book's intro in various posts beginning here, where you will find links to all the other posts: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 1 ( (Also for Shearsman!) Do have a look after reading this one. 

One poem has been removed from my list already. This I’d hoped to keep, partly because another selected Robinson doesn’t have this poem in it. I have read all of Robinson’s poems in her 1806 three volume Poems, only to select many of the poems also in the Judith Pascoe selected (see my bibliography), although I have distinct plans for the long political poem ‘The Progress of Liberty’, which is usually represented by the excerpts Mary Robinson published as separate poems. I also include two late elegiac poems at the end of the book, writing in illness and close to her death, which I've not seen elsewhere. 

Here’s the poem, lines to Robinson’s daughter (who remained loyal to her mother, and is partly responsible for collecting Robinson's work, ultimately, for us).  I thought it rather affective, but I think the theme of parenthood is covered more movingly in her ‘Lamentation for Marie Antoinette’ and in her poem on the birth of Coleridge’s son (Derwent, by the way). I don’t want the poem to completely disappear, so here it is. Its absence frees up space for more of ‘The Progress of Liberty’, which can only be a good thing, in terms of my appreciation of Robinson, and for the originality of my selection, which is the focus of this post.   

 Lines to Maria, my Beloved Daughter

Written on her Birth-Day, Oct. 18, 1793


To paint the lust’rous streaks of morn,

Along the pale horizon borne,

When from AURORA’S opening eye

Effulgent glory gilds the sky;

Or yet a softer theme to sing

Of purple evening’s humid wing;

To trace the crystal car of night

Along the plains of starry light,

Where the chaste Goddess bends her way,

Diffusing round a trembling ray; –

No more shall charm my pensive Muse,

With transient forms, or varying hues:

This hour my tenderer task shall be,

Sweet darling Maid, to sing of thee!


Attend my strain, and while I blend

The Guardian, Parent, Poet, Friend,

Believe, as each my verse shall prove,

A picture fraught with truth and love,

And every candid line impart

The feelings of a Mother’s heart!


Oh! form’d to soothe the wounds of Fate,

Dear solace of my mournful state!

Thou, only blessing Heav’n bestows

To shed meek Patience on my woes!

Know – that in life’s disast’rous scene,

Whate’er my chequer’d lot has been,

No hour was yet so dear to me

As that blest hour which gave me THEE!


From infant sweetness still I’ve trac’d

Thy mind, with ev’ry virtue grac’d;

Still have I mark’d Time’s ceaseless wing

Some new endearing treasure bring;

While Hope, soft-whisp’ring, bid me gaze

On bright’ning scenes of distant days’

When, more matur’d, these doating eyes

Should see the lovelier woman rise,

Adorn’d with all the modest grace

That beam’d about thy infant face;

Yet with a mind more passing fair

Than all that Nature pictur’d there!


With such a mind, so richly stor’d,

Still may’st thou live, admir’d, ador’d!

Through life enjoy the bliss divine

That waits on innocence like thine!

Still greet the morn with conscious smile,

With tranquil scenes the hours beguile;

And, when the busy day shall close,

Still find a couch of sweet repose!


For me, so long ordain’d to trace

O’er life’s dark wild a thorny space –

Still ev’ry sorrow doom’d to share,

Still shall my heart those sorrows bear,

Nor will I mourn at Fate’s decree,

If Heav’n, in pity, spares me THEE!


NOTE ABOUT NOTES: I've been writing the notes for the edition, and I won't detain anyone with details of this time-consuming and fiddly task, best done, I think, the way I did it, in a rush of activity. Now I've put the whole manuscript away for some weeks, perhaps for the summer. 

This editorial project came out of my own (mis)use of Robinson’s sonnets ‘Sappho and Phaon’ (the whole of it is in my selection) in my ‘English Strain’ project, which I explain here: Pages: My 'Tabitha and Thunderer' is published in Blackbox Manifold (, and here, where you will also find lots of images relating to her life: Pages: My Transpositions of Mary Robinson's sonnets 'Tabitha and Thunderer' are now complete (hub post) (


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