Friday, October 27, 2023

Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT

My new book Doubly Stolen Fire is now available. Buy it straight from the publisher: HERE:Robert Sheppard: Doubly Stolen Fire – Glasfryn Project

Cost (plus postage and packing) UK £13; Europe £15.00; USA and the rest of the world £17.00 

To buy click here to pay by Paypal: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/8459/robert-sheppard-doubly-stolen-fire/ 

or send a cheque - made out to Aquifer Books - to

Aquifer Books, Glasfryn, Llangattock, Powys, NP8 1PH


http://aquiferbooks.co.uk



It looks great, and I’d like to thank Lyndon Davies, the publisher of Aquifer, for his hard work, and recommend all the books he’s published to date. (See the website for a full account of his many activities: Glasfryn Project: a hub of literary/artistic activity in rural Powys )

Mixing and matching hybrid modes – memoir, essay, creative non-fiction, fiction, fictional poems, psychogeographical derives, footnotes, poetics and even jokes – Doubly Stolen Fire examines authorship, real, fictional, hoaxing, as well as my own, from multiple viewpoints.

Whether a woman named Anonymous, or a mongoose called Gef, a fictional Austrian poet whose lockdown diary records her poeticizing mannequin, or some version of me in 1979 tracking the paths taken by novelist Malcolm Lowry, the book hosts a cast of unstable actors. Yes, I know that means that I’m one of them, and I acknowledge my attack of total global amnesia in one of the many labyrinthine footnotes. The characters keep returning to the scenes of their literary crimes, Liverpool mainly, though their guilty fictions float out to Berlin, the Isle of Man, Sussex and even to Ern Malley’s Australia.

You can re-write the history of post-War British poetry if you listen to your mannequin, it seems. You can put in a call for ‘creative literary history’ and all manner of alternatives appear. You can make Larkin and his crew disappear! All this in a volume bulging with mercurial humour and wily wit, and crawling with my creatures! What more could you want?


Contents

 Introduction: by Jason Argleton (he’s a fictional poet; he seemed appropriate)

One

Anonymous (a true short short about meeting a woman of that name)

Doubly Stolen Fire in his Prosthetic Voice: The Ern Malley Hoax and Fictional Poems in Liverpool (an essay coming out of the difference between hoaxes and fictional poems, and about some Ern Malley celebrations in Liverpool)

Thirty Russell Road (essay-poem-collage-piece about a strange event on the Isle of Man in the 1930s; previously unpublished)

Vestigial Gestures: The Fictional Poetry Project (in which Sophie Poppmeier communicates with her mannequin and produces English language fictional poems from the 1950s to rival Larkin and That Lot; and then I meditate upon current and previous fictional poets (who have appeared in the two books mentioned below. But also check out the EUOIA website for details of them: European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) - Home (weebly.com) )

The Novel (not a novel but another short short about (not) writing a novel; a fable of (non) creativity.)

Two: Malcolm Lowry’s Land

The Lowry Lounge (a short poem concerning Lowry or the Lowryesque, short enough to read on video, as I do here):




Malcolm Lowry’s Land (an account of visiting Lowry’s grave in 1979, mediated through attempts at a poem on that subject written then and read in the ‘now’ of the poem, 2009; previously published in the pioneering LUP/Bluecoat volume Malcolm Lowry: From Mersey to the World)

 Cablegram to Dale St (a fantasy poem about Lowry and Liverpool)

 Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five (All of the pieces in Part Two have been performed at the annual Lowry Lounge events held in Liverpool every year: I write about those meetings AND about this poem, a recent one; there is a link to the text there too: Pages: Circle of the City published now on Osmosis/New book coming soon (robertsheppard.blogspot.com))

Read about the Liverpool launch of the book, here:  Pages: Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

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 Doubly Stolen Fire is a visionary glimpse into Robert Sheppard’s ‘inventory of the invented’. To begin with he is King Hoax, trickster offspring of Pessoa and Enderby with a smatter of W.C. Fields and Alfred Jarry. Curator of a fugitive archive of writings by and about imaginary authors, Sheppard is shapeshifter, saloon huckster, cabaret comedian, laugh out loud funny. The second part is a Firminist investigation into the Malcom Lowry labyrinth –psycho(somatic)geography, raw response, fragmented memory recovered. The work is imbued with loss, inky with fingerprints, words like haunted Kodaks.

so says Jeff Young, author of Ghost Town, A Liverpool Shadowplay


Robert Sheppard’s curiosity, brilliance and mischief are entwined as closely as ever in this gathering of poetry and prose. Continuing his excavations of poetry from perhaps-parallel universes, the first part explores the potentialities of fiction in and as poetry (or vice-versa), with the famous Ern Malley hoax as a touchstone for further inventions. In the context of this probing of authorial identities, the second part, with its focus on the apparently real Malcolm Lowry, shimmers with alternative possibilities. However, what holds the double construction of this book together is the character of Liverpool, its street names and gossip and half-heard stories haunting the fragmentary speculations that unfinish themselves, here and elsewhere at the same time. Behind the dissolving characters, there’s a committed sociality in Sheppard’s writing that makes it thoughtfully open to others as well as to language’s scintillating play of otherness.

so says Zoë Skoulding, author of A Marginal Sea

Here's me opening the box of books.

I write about the first launch of the book, at the Lowry Lounge 2023 here:  Pages: Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (set list) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

This book is (or parts of it are) the third part of my ‘fictional poetry’ project. Although you don’t need to know them, they are also available, A Translated Man, which features the Belgian fictional poet Rene Van Valckenborch, and Twitters for a Lark, in which I collaborate with a number of other writers to create European poets. (See European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) - Home (weebly.com) for info on that; or see the two books here: Shearsman Books buy Robert Sheppard - A Translated Man and here: Shearsman Books buy Robert Sheppard (ed) - Twitters for a Lark, where you may buy those.




The availability of all my book-length publications may be accessed here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!

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Locating Robert Sheppard: email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com

 

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Launch of Doubly Stolen Fire at the Lowry Lounge 2023, Liverpool (set list)



I launched my new book Doubly Stolen Fire as part of the Lowry Lounge at the Bluecoat, Liverpool on Saturday 28th October. 

Full details of the book itself, and how you may buy it HERE: Robert Sheppard: Doubly Stolen Fire – Glasfryn Project .

 Aquifer – Glasfryn Project

 Cost (plus postage and packing) UK £13; Europe £15.00; USA and the rest of the world £17.00

 

Or, 

to buy click here to pay by Paypal: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/8459/robert-sheppard-doubly-stolen-fire/

 

or send a cheque - made out to Aquifer Books - to

Aquifer Books, Glasfryn, Llangattock, Powys, NP8 1PH

 

http://aquiferbooks.co.uk

See my hubpost on the book here: Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)


The Lounge started at the Bluecoat in the morning with a reading by me from Doubly Stolen Fire, originally subtitled reflections on authorship, real and imaginary, which includes my writings on Lowry. There were also be updates on other Lowry-related projects, including the new online archive in development, charting the arts centre’s 14-year (so far!) Lounge programme. In the afternoon, some folk walked to Hilbre Island on the Wirral. 

 


I write about a number of our previous meetings here: with links right back to 2009! Pages: The 2022 Lowry Lounge - a few thoughts (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)

- Lowry online archive update, Bryan: progress so far. Do check it out: it's looking good:  https://www.thebluecoat.org.uk/library/malcolm-lowry

I talk about the book as a whole, here: Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (robertsheppard.blogspot.com), but here's roughly what I told the audience, with an indication of what poems I read:

Doubly Stolen Fire is a book about authorship and one of the authors I consider is Malcolm Lowry. All of the other authors are, in one way or another, imaginary, even myself. Of course, Lowry is not exempt from the practice of concocting what I call fictional authors, Sigbjorn Wilderness, and so on. The second ‘half’ of my book contains my various responses to Lowry’s work, life and geographies, and, as we shall see, Lowry, or rather this Lounge, features briefly in the first part, which is about imaginary authors, fictional poets and hoaxes. I'm not going to read from two long pieces, one which features the famous Ern Malley hoax of the 1940s, and the second which showcases the case of the extra extra clever talking Mongoose on the Isle of Man in the 1930s. I wonder whether Lowry knew of either of these hoaxes, particularly the latter, with his interest in the Isle of Man: it was the stuff of interwar tabloid journalism. These pieces worry away at my distinction between hoaxes, which are usually malign, and fictional poets or imaginary authors – and I have constructed many of these, as I’ll reveal, for my many sins, albeit in passing today – which are benign but haunting presences in the literary imagination. They can’t be un-imagined. But first, I want to read you a complete but short real non-fictional story about somebody who could have been fictional – but wasn't. You’ll also notice that Liverpool is a persistent background theme in what I’m reading.

I read ‘Anonymous’, p. 11

I could not but read this poem that I wrote for Bryan Biggs some years ago. It came out of meeting the only actual Consul (of one of the world’s poorest nations) that I’ve met. I found him conducting consular business at the bar of a pub, very Firmin-like. He whisked away passports as I approached. A working title for this fantasia was ‘The Consul on the Smithdown Road’. It’s now appropriately called…

‘The Lowry Lounge’, p. 55

 


We’re now in the Lowry half of the book, which consists of three poems and a reprint of the hybrid prose piece I wrote for the From the Mersey to the World volume, edited by Bryan and Helen. This is impossible to read an extract from: it consists of bits of a poem I wrote in 1979 on my pilgrimage to Lowry’s grave in Sussex, plus descriptions of photographs I took on that journey, and my commentary on the whole thing, written in 2009. The piece is called ‘Malcolm Lowry’s Land’. [Extra info: ‘Malcolm Lowry’s Land’ (an account of visiting Lowry’s grave in 1979, mediated through attempts at a poem on that subject written then and re-read in the ‘now’ of the poem, 2009; previously published in the pioneering LUP/Bluecoat volume Malcolm Lowry: From Mersey to the World. See a review of it: 47-Lowry-book-review.pdf ; it says: ‘Robert Sheppard’s moving account in "Malcolm Lowry’s land" of his pilgrimage from Liverpool, the place of Lowry’s birth (and Sheppard’s present home) to Ripe, the place of Lowry’s death, and back again.' Miguel Mota.)] If my 1979 walking poem never saw the light of day my ‘Circle of the City’ did. It’s a series of interrupted haiku (my ‘pops’ this time, my ‘haiku-movie’) written (and read here) in 2021 while following the Liverpool perambulation taken by sailor-revolutionary Sigbjørn and his shipowner father as described by Lowry in his unfinished novel, written in the mid-1930s, In Ballast to the White Sea. Their walk starts (and ends) at Exchange Flags and skirts the docks, walks very close to this building, and rests at a cinema to view a Russian revolutionary film. They discuss politics and their culpabilities in the deaths of others. Like Lowry, I take in the messages of the urban environment I pass through: street signs, adverts, t-shirt slogans. There are, oddly, both in Lowry’s novel and my poem, references to Herbert Melville’s Redburn. The Liverpool ‘guidebook’ Redburn carried was 50 years out of date. My ‘guidebook’ was Lowry’s novel, 90 years out of date!

I read ‘Circle of the City’: p. 66: [‘Circle of the City: following in the steps of Chapter Five’ (All of the pieces in Part Two have been performed at the annual Lowry Lounge events: I write about those meetings AND about this poem, a recent one; there is a link to the text there too: Pages: Circle of the City published now on Osmosis/New book coming soon (robertsheppard.blogspot.com))]

Lowry makes an unexpected, unscheduled appearance in the longest shaggy-dog story section of part one! I thought I was presenting my thoughts on my ‘fictional poetry project’ in the form of the lockdown diary of one of my creations: she has a talking mannequin, as you do, that starts spouting English poetry from the 1950s, a prophylactic to the poisonous ‘Movement Orthodoxy’. You’ll have to read her account in the book, which is on sale today. I also reflect on my most extensive ‘fictional poet’, René Van Valckenborch, a Belgian, who writes in both Flemish and French, and reflect on how ‘fictional poets’ feel so real to some readers that ‘if they had not been invented, they would have to exist’. Another important fact is that I wrote a ‘fictional’ introduction (something my new book also has!). Then this happened. It involves this Lowry Lounge intimately, and a copy of the Van Valckenborch book: A Translated Man. (Also on sale.) With this I shall finish.

I finally read ‘A Great Gift’: p. 48

Ailsa Cox, who had generously introduced me,  led the Q and A. I don't know whether it was nerves, or not, but I don't remember a single question (or my answers).

Thanks, Firminists and Bluecoat and Aquifer (Lyndon Davies) for a great day (at the end of a great week: another reading and a lecture/reading on poetics!).


The launch...


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Locating and contacting me: email: Please do not use my old Edge Hill one; it doesn’t work: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Poems of Mary Robinson 9: another drop out poem from my selection

During the proof-reading process, I have discovered another poem that I am removing from my selected poems of Mary Robinson. I have been writing about her poetry, about her life, and about my processes of selection on this blog for some months, and there is a hub post that contains links to the other pages. The life and the account of the poems is probably the place to start. Here’s the hubpost: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 1 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) . Here’s how I first encountered, and creatively transposed, her poems: this editorial project came out of my own use of her sonnets ‘Sappho and Phaon’ (the whole of which is in my selection) for my ‘English Strain’ project, which I explain here: Pages: My 'Tabitha and Thunderer' is published in Blackbox Manifold (robertsheppard.blogspot.com), 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) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). Oddly, I’m still referring to her work (and life) in my work. She appears in the poem I wrote for Iain Sinclair’s 80th birthday (Pages: I'm in IS80 a book for Iain Sinclair at Eighty (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) – at least Simon Kovesi picked up on my reference), and in my new poem on the blues. (See also my complaint to the Slavery Museum in Liverpool about their misrepresentation of her relationship with Banastre Tarleton (‘Thunderer’ of my sonnets): Pages: The Poems of Mary Robinson 7: anti-slavery poems and Slavery Remembrance Day (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). He pops up in my poem about the blues.


Here is another removal, then. This poem I probably selected because of its bold replacement of image by words in a so-called ‘portrait’. Mary was literally much painted (as well as caricatured by the likes of Gillray). So it seemed fascinating to see that revisionary process at play, inner qualities elevated over physical beauty. However, re-reading it revealed it to be quite a thin poem, indeed a thin disguise (!), in that its unabashed ‘portraiture’ seemed self-serving (if intended unironically), even disingenuous. I wondered whether it was one of her persona poems. I could imagine Tabitha Bramble writing this ‘frank’ portrait. But evidence doesn’t suggest it was originally one of those. It first appeared in 1793, and the version I have is the shorter 1806 one, according to Judith Pascoe’s detailed bibliography. It’s probable this later version is censored, but I haven’t checked, since my editorial method dictates that I work solely from Mary’s 1806 POEMS. I’ve decided to leave it out. It’s biographically interesting, but as a literary artifice, rather than a biographical one, it’s not strong (and a selected poems must be strong, while evidencing writerly range). It’s worth reading, though. I still like the lines ‘When coxcombs tell me I’m divine,/I plainly see the weak design,’ though I think the final lines particularly uninspired.



Stanzas to a Friend Who Wished to Have My Portrait


E’EN from the early days of youth,

I’ve bless’d the sacred voice of truth –

   And candour is my pride:

I always speak what I believe;

I know not if I can deceive –

   Because I never tried.

 

I’m often serious, sometimes gay,

Can laugh the fleeting hours away,

   Or weep for others’ woe:

I’m proud! this fault you cannot blame,

Nor does it tinge my cheek with shame:

   Your friendship made me so.

 

I’m odd, eccentric, fond of ease,

Impatient, difficult to please;

   Ambition fires my breast:

Yet, not for wealth or titles vain;

Let but the LAUREL deck my strain,

   And dullness takes the rest.

 

In temper quick, in friendship nice;

I doat on genius, shrink from vice,

   And scorn the flatt’rer’s art:

With penetrating skill can see,

Where, mask’d in sweet simplicity,

   Lies hid the treach’rous heart.

 

If once betray’d, I scarce forgive;

And tho’ I pity all that live,

   And mourn for ev’ry pain,

Yet never could I court the great,

Or worship fools, whate’er their state;

   For falsehood I disdain.

 

I’m jealous, for I fondly love;

No feeble flame my heart can prove,

   Caprice ne’er dimm’d its fires:

I blush to see the human mind,

For nobler, prouder claims design’d,

   The slave of low desires.

 

Reserv’d in manner, where unknown;

A little obstinate, I own,

   And apt to form opinion;

Yet, envy never broke my rest,

Nor could self-int’rest bow my breast

   To folly’s base dominion.

 

No gaudy trappings I display,

Nor meanly plain, nor idly gay,

   Yet sway’d by fashion’s rule;

For singularity, we find,

Betrays to ev’ry reasoning mind,

   The pedant or the fool.

 

I fly the rich, the sordid crowd,

The little great, the vulgar proud,

   The ignorant and base:

To sons of genius homage pay,

And own their sov’reign right to sway –

   Lords of the human race.

 

When coxcombs tell me I’m divine,

I plainly see the weak design,

   And mock a tale so common:

Howe’er the flatt’ring strain may flow,

My faults, alas! too plainly show,

   I’m but a mortal woman!

 

Such is my portrait now believe;

My pencil never can deceive,

   And know me what I paint.

Taught in affliction’s rigid school,

I act from principle, not rule,

   No sinner, yet no saint.


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Locating Robert Sheppard: email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com

Monday, October 02, 2023

The Poems of Mary Robinson 8: An Excerpt from The Progress of Liberty

Here is a link that takes you to the hub post linking all my posts on my selection of Mary Robinson: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 1 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com). How I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

 


‘The Progress of Liberty’, a late poem, from 1797-9, is also one of Mary Robinson’s more ambitious poems, a two-book epic in fact. She salami-sliced it for excerpt-poems in magazines, and in other selections of her work, the poems are presented in this way. I decided I wanted to give it a go as a complete work, but, of course, there’s not enough room, and I still had to excerpt. I chose the final sections of each book, and then thought I might smuggle in another part. Alas it doesn’t work, quite, but I want to post that smuggled passage here, as a taster for the whole.  

In ‘The Progress of Liberty’ superstition and servitude are several times rhetorically swept away, and a uniquely British sense of ‘liberty’ is proposed: a rational constitutional settlement of the separation of powers, as prefigured in, and enacted by, Magna Carta: ‘When her bold BARONS ratified their deed,/ Freedom has smil’d triumphant and secure.’ In the poem, superstition (despotic Catholicism allied to absolute monarchy, though it is never named as such) is attacked, but so are the tithes the British peasantry was obliged to pay to lords and landlords. (Her radicalism is pre-Industrial, of course, and a long way from that of the London Corresponding Society, for example, who had been unsuccessfully tried, somewhat chaotically, for treason in 1794.) The emphatic reference to ‘laws/ FORM’D FOR THE PEASANT AND THE PRINCE ALIKE’ may bring her former lover Prince George to mind (check out my 'life' here: Pages: Selecting for a Selected: The Poems of Mary Robinson 2: The Life of Mary Robinson (robertsheppard.blogspot.com) but it is a more general point about the ideal (if not actual) equity of the law. The presiding ‘Nature’s God’ is difficult to completely reconcile to the Christian deity; ‘he’ is more of a Romantic pantheistic energy as he manifests frequently in the poem, an instrument of a universal reason that is aligned to, but is not distinguishable from, liberty. ‘The Progress of Liberty’ is an impressive political poem, and being cast in epic form, its ending (conventionally) invokes the Muse:

                        REASON, pow’r sublime!

Accept the strain spontaneous from the MUSE,

Which nurs’d on Albion’s cliffs, delights to sing

Of LIBERTY, and thee, her ALBION’S boast.

Ultimately, for Robinson, it is poetry that will proclaim ‘REASON ratified’, ‘Shall bless her BRITISH shores’, and ‘BRITAIN’S sons,/ The sons of REASON! UNAPPALL’D and FREE!’ With these words, the two book epic ends, bringing reason to rest with freedom. However, its historical narrative occasionally can be specific; ‘Marat and Robespierre’ are referenced in footnotes to the lines ‘Two arch demons, the phalanx led /Lawless and cruel,’ but this welcome political specificity is rare. As expected, for a poem working at an epic level, its least effective and less affective lines are those in which abstractions are addressed directly and personified. Abstractions are not merely inert but are replete with the energy of live political debate, especially when animated by narratives of struggle and community. At the same time, the poem contains some of Robinson’s best-written and elevated blank verse (Miltonian in derivation, precursorily Wordsworthian) which carries the rational but passionate message across the rhythmical waves of its verse paragraphs. Here’s that passage from Book One. In it, Robinson presents a political prisoner or prisoner of conscience, as we say now, who is condemned to death. (In the previous lines the reader is presented with a deservingly condemned murderer.) His dedication to reason and freedom, virtues of the entire poem, gives him inner strength.

                         In his low cell

The patient child of persecution sits,

Pensively sad. His uncomplaining tongue,

His steadfast eye, his lean and pallid cheek,

Grac’d with the stamp of dignified disdain,

Wait the approach of death. No haggard glance

Ruffles the placid orb, whose lustre, dimm’d

By dungeon vapours, like a dewy star,

Gleams ’midst surrounding darkness. On his lip

Smiles innocence, enthron’d in modest pride,

And eloquently silent! On his breast

His folded arms (shielding his guiltless heart

From the damp poisons of a living grave),

Are firmly interwoven; while his soul,

Calm as the martyr at the kindling pyre,

Holds strong with resignation. Who will now

Breathe the contagious mischiefs of his cell?

Who quit the gorgeous splendours of the sun,

To watch with him the slowly-wasting lamp,

Dim with obtrusive vapours? Who will share

The bread of misery, and with the breath

Of sympathy more palatable make

The cup of human sorrow? Who resign

The midnight revelry of happier scenes,

Turn from the banquet and illumin’d hall,

The throne of flaunting beauty, gaily deck’d,

The costly shows of life, to count with him

The silent hours of anguish? Tell, O TRUTH!

Thou heav’n-descended judge! what has he done?

Has he refus’d to bend the flexile knee

Before the blood-stain’d foot of ruthless pow’r?

To fawn upon the bloated, lordly fool,

Who claim’d his vassalage? Has he refus’d

To load the groaning altars of the church;

Libell’d, by truth, some wanton, courtly dame;

Or, like an arrogant, rebellious knave,

Dar’d talk of freedom? Say, O vengeful MAN!

Are these thy destin’d victims? Is it thus

Thou deal’st the meed of justice? Dost thou think

Thy petty rage will sever them from HIM,

Whose attribute is mercy, and whose grace

Mocks all distinctions? O! let NATURE speak,

And with instinctive force inform thy soul,

That LIBERTY, the choicest boon of heav’n,

Is REASON’S birth-right, and the gift of God!...


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Locating Robert Sheppard: email: robertsheppard39@gmail.com  (don’t use the Edge Hill or the supanet emails); website: www.robertsheppard.weebly.com Follow on Twitter: Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com