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 (porterfolio.com)

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 (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)).


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.