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



to buy click here to pay by Paypal:


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

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

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

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 (

- Lowry online archive update, Bryan: progress so far. Do check it out: it's looking good:

I talk about the book as a whole, here: Pages: Doubly Stolen Fire (a new book of hybrid texts) is now OUT (, 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 (]

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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