Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Positive Virtue: memories of Colin Scott, a friend from UEA days rediscovered

Nearly everybody had long hair at the University of East Anglia in 1974, even (or especially) the men, and Colin Scott was no different. (Here we are in my contemporary hand.)

He was different, though, in that he was older than the regular dishevelled bunch (myself included), and had worked in the library service and (I think) was quite content with the thought of returning to that noble profession after studying History for three years. He was serious without being super-studious, liked music, and we certainly attended some of the rock bands that toured the campuses. 

Before I move on from that reference to UEA concerts, I'd like to share an uncollected poem I wrote in 1976, and revised recently. I have dedicated it to Colin's memory because a. he might have been there (my diary mentions a mutual friend, and b. both the poem and Colin were lost (to me, not to themselves, of course) between the 1970s and now(ish). 

Midnight Air:

John Martyn with Danny Thompson, June 12th 1976


                                                i.m. Colin Scott, who may have been there


Ocean music flows over you

wailing where waves break

back upon the water’s edge

They strike up on form


Full moon rises to face you

accepting droning chants and spells

that drown the sense in magic


Somebody slides through the windowpane

having flown through the night


Cannabis spiral cracks open the sound

and its diamond shatters

each shimmering fragment

a swirling seawave at the end of unseen fingers


You rise from the waters

in the midnight air


1976/2021 (Of course, in the late 1970s, and later, Tony Parsons and I would sing 'May You Never', by John Martyn, a song that curiously leaves no space to breathe. Above is a video of JM and DT, as in the poem, and at the concert.) 

I re-read my copious diaries during Covid lockdowns and was surprised how much time I spent with Colin, going to concerts, drinking real ale, throwing snowballs (those Norfolk winters!) and smoking perfumed cigarettes (!), during my first year. I think he maturely organized the transportation of my drunken form from the pub back to my room on my 19th birthday. 

By our second year Colin moved to a house near a pub called The Boundary with his friend Jan. (It was he who is mentioned in my diary entry about the Martyn gig.) Whilst another UEA friend Trev Eales and I attended parties there (somebody had a dog called ‘Dog’, I remember, which is emblematic of the household, I think) we both saw less of Colin on a day-to-day basis. Trev remembers meeting Colin a lot on the bus to campus. Of course, he also had a settled life in his native Swindon, friends would come to visit him – and he returned to that (I think) after we’d all graduated. We kept in touch for a while but, like so many, lost contact, through the moving of addresses and the vicissitudes of life. He lost contact with Jan as well. (I kept in touch with Trev, as may be seen from this post: Pages: Trev Eales - photography and friendship ( (And here is a post about my slightly later UEA studies in Creative Writing: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Some memories of the Creative Writing MA (cohort 1978-1979) at the University of East Anglia )

I never forgot Colin – and always wondered where he was. There was a barman in Liverpool (where I had moved in 1997) of whom I remember remarking to my wife, Patricia, ‘See that man? I reckon that’s what Colin Scott looks like today!’ (The memory is interesting for the fact I didn’t need to explain to Patricia who Colin was.)

He obviously hadn’t forgotten me either. At one of his Positive Images meetings with the poet Leanne Bridgewater, probably in 2016, Colin asked, giving it a long shot, whether she knew a poet called Rob Sheppard that he was at university with. Leanne answered that she did. She and I had met a number of times; she had been taught Creative Writing at Salford by my ex-student Scott Thurston, and was part of the burgeoning creative and experimental excitement that surrounded The Other Room readings in Manchester. And so was I, from my outpost in Liverpool. (See one of her publications, here: 'adDICTIONARY' by Leanne Bridgewater (670 pages) | Knives Forks and Spo (

The highlight of my evening at the North by North-West Enemies reading in February 2017 in Leeds was supposed to be my co-performing my collaboration with Ian McMillan. 

That was terrific (or a terrific experience, see the video above), but I left the evening more overwhelmed by the fact that Leanne (who was also on the bill

see the video) led a small dapper man from the shadows and introduced him as Colin. (He didn’t in the least look like the man from the pub!) After a gap of 40 years, I don’t know what we spoke about, ‘catch up and conversations’ my diary relates unhelpfully. That wasn’t really the point: we were now in contact again, and I thank Leanne for engineering this meeting, which proved so fruitful, meaningful, and ultimately poignant. (On that evening, here: Pages: Ian McMillan and Robert Sheppard: Simultaneous Performance: Leeds Enemies (photo, video, set list and thoughts))


Our next meeting was also at a poetry reading and performance, but in June 2017 – as part of Positive Images, co-organised by Colin. Patricia read as well, Leanne compared, and I read too. I didn’t think Patricia and I went down particularly well (I should have read my skits on Boris Johnson), but Leanne was wonderful, playing the ukelele (and editing the video of the evening, which you may view above, and here's a post from nearer the time: Pages: Robert Sheppard and Patricia Farrell: Poetry from the Stage (Coventry) Saturday night ). Colin was much in demand as an organiser (I’d yet to fully register the amount of work he put into this vital community arts event) but we did get to talk after, at least about Coventry, which was new to me. Here is Colin introducing the results of a poetry competition: 

 Positive Images Peace Festival Poetry Competition Awards 2018. (

From then on, we corresponded regularly and he visited a number of times, once briefly before a beer festival. He was also deeply into CAMRA organisation, so real ale remained a (shared) constant among the decades of change. (He liked dark beers, I like light ones. He liked folk music; I like jazz!) We went on to Lancaster to meet Trev one day, and also all three convened around the time of my birthday, with Michelle (purveyor of fine chutneys, among other things.).

I found Colin contemplative and calm, after a busy career in librarianship, and he was full of quaint anecdotes. (One time he told me about a library book that disappeared from the shelves for years, then suddenly re-appeared; another time, he announced he'd just read in The Guardian that the reason older people can't retain new facts is that their brains are literally full!) He is the only person I know to have read Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, he always had a copy of the latest Positive Images poetry anthology from Coventry, but otherwise our conversations were not literary. He kept up his interest in history, visiting battle sites, for example. We were leisurely and relaxed. He never pushed an issue (though he must have been an effective committee man). He remained an enthusiast for the railways (he was from Swindon, after all) and sent me links about steam train excursions: I never got to show him Edge Hill station, the oldest in England. The leisureliness of our meetings meant we left whole areas of our lives unshared, unexplored, and possibly there was an unexplained reticence on his part. Of course, Leanne was a constant reference-point, our common factor, and his grief at her death was palpable and deep. Here he is introducing the Positive Images memorial reading for Leanne (and you can watch the tribute readings that follow): 

Late last year, just before Colin died, although he was tired after a busy summer itinerary of travel, he was thinking about another trip to Liverpool. That meet-up would have been an opportunity perhaps to have explored new themes or to have examined his quirky memories afresh. (He claimed there was a student called Jeff who lived on Trev’s corridor at UEA, a guitarist in the Al Kooper mode; since nobody else could recall him, he became a character of myth and mirth, reiterated in our frequent emails.) 

Herein lies my chief regret: I was really only starting to know him well, when he was taken so suddenly from us. I’m glad I got to know him again, and I treasure those meetings that redeemed time, collapsed decades, and reinforced friendship and kindness as the only positive virtue in our somewhat dark times.  


Locating Robert Sheppard: books: Pages: Robert Sheppard: seeing what's in print and what's not!; email:; website: Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter ; latest blogpost:

Friday, January 19, 2024

UNTITLED by Sarah-Clare Conlon and Robert Sheppard is published in Blackbox Manifold 31

UNTITLED by Sarah-Clare Conlon and Robert Sheppard is published in Blackbox Manifold 31. We’d like to thank the editors for taking our fugitive piece in from the cold salt-spray. 

Sarah-Clare and I collaborated as part of the special Eurovision European Poetry Festival in Liverpool, about which I wrote here: Pages: The Liverpool Camarade at Open Eye Gallery : May 2023: the videos of my collaboration with Sarah-Clare Conlon ( There’s a video of our original performance there too, but I include it below too.) That post describes the evening, and links to previous events in the series, in which both of us have played our separate and earlier parts.

I’m pleased to say that the text of ‘Untitled’ (I know!) is now published in the latest edition of Blackbox Manifold. This is a magazine I have been published in before, and you will find excerpts from the series ‘Flight Risk’ as well as most of my re-versions of the sonnets of Mary Robinson, but I don’t want to overload this post with links, so here’s just one to the Robinson: Pages: My 'Tabitha and Thunderer' is published in Blackbox Manifold (

Here is the link to our ‘Untitled’: Blackbox Manifold - ConlonSheppardBM31 (

Here is the video of Clare and I reading the poem at the Open Eye Gallery, down on the docks in Liverpool, a venue which almost forced upon us the theme of ‘Riverine Thoughts’ or ‘Riparian Observation’, to use two quotations from the poem that we might have used as titles. I’m glad we didn’t!


 Here's the video: Robert Sheppard and Sarah-Claire Conlon : EPF 2023 - Liverpool Camarade at Open Eye - YouTube

Set up your machine to follow the text and watch the video. WE may get the chance to perform it again, and will, we’ve agreed.

 Just to repeat, there are lots of links to other collaborations and to my critical writings on collaboration, via that first link above.

 The editors of Blackbox Manifold are pleased to announce the launch of the 31st issue of the journal:

featuring poems by Kyle Booten, Daragh Breen, Mark Byers, Sarah-Clare Conlon & Robert Sheppard, Hannah Copley, Michael Farrell, Adam Flint, Charlotte Geater, Paul A. Green, Oli Hazzard, Nicki Heinen, Doug Jones, Joshua Jones, Jee Leong Koh, Jazmine Linklater, Steve Noyes, Simon Perril, Flo Ray, Rahul Santhanam, Geoff Sawers, Kashif Sharma-Patel, Gary Sloboda, Jedediah Smith, Adam Stokell, Kenny Tanemura, John Wilkinson. 

 Adam Piette reviews Kelvin Corcoran and V.R. "Bunny" Lang. Zoë Skoulding reviews Ágnes Lehóczky. John Wilkinson reviews David Grundy & Sabeen Chaudhry.



Locating Sarah-Clare Conlon: Freelance Writer & Editor:  @wordsnfixtures | @sarahclareconlon . Her latest poetry pamphlet Lune is now available. See her books here: cache-cache & Marine Drive & Using Language. Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:


Thursday, January 18, 2024

My essay 'Inventive Re-workings' included in 'Caroline Bergvall's Medievalist Poetics'

I have an essay in this interesting book, Caroline Bergvall’s Medievalist Poetics: Migratory Texts and Transhistorical Methods, whose focus is described as ‘Bergvall’s celebrated trilogy of interdisciplinary medievalist texts and projects—Meddle English (2011), Drift (2014), and Alisoun Sings (2019)—documents methods of reading and making that are poetically and politically alert, critically and culturally aware, linguistically attuned, and historically engaged.’ (I hadn’t quite caught up with the last book of her trilogy, though I have written in detail on the first, and I saw a Liverpool performance of the second, to which I make reference.)

‘Drawing on the wide-ranging body of criticism dedicated to Bergvall’s work and material from Bergvall’s archive,’ the editors say, ‘together with newly commissioned texts by scholars, theorists, linguists, translators, and poets, this book situates the trilogy in relation to key themes including mixed temporalities; interdisciplinarity and performance; art and activism; and the geopolitical, psychosexual, and social complexities of subjectivity. It follows routes laid down by the trilogy to move between the medieval past and our contemporary moment to uncover new forms of encounter and exchange.’

Of course, such summaries are only summaries, and the list of contents on the webpage, may be accessed HERE:

Caroline Bergvall’s Medievalist Poetics - Arc Humanities Press (

My contribution is entitled ‘Inventive Reworkings: Transformation and Translation in Caroline Bergvall’s Meddle English’ and relates to work first began on this blog, which may be found here, Pages: Robert Sheppard: Caroline Bergvall and Chaucer, which developed, taking the work in one direction, into a half-chapter in my Meaning of Form¸ see here, Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form Bergvall and Moure, and pointing towards this new, related, piece that appears in this book.

It's always good to see an essay appearing in a recondite source, but it fills me with chagrin to realise the price of the book, and my bewilderment at finding, yet again, that if I want a hard copy of the book, I’ll have to buy one. If you are wondering why I write less literary criticism than I used to, here’s two major reasons. But at least my early thinking is alive in a rude and ruddy state, and freely available, on this blog.

I have just finished reading Marion Turner’s huge and recent Chaucer: a European Life, which is a magisterial, if slightly repetitive, life of Chaucer as a European agent, thinker and writer (and land agent and customs officer), and this put right some of my ignorance about Chaucer (too late for this piece, or the poem I mention below, of course). It cost me £4 in the Roy Castle Cancer Shop. A very fine account of Chaucer's writing, the European influences on it, and his position as a professional administrator and diplomat (in modern terms). A great sense of the demotic, popular, and rooted (geographically) nature of The Canterbury Tales. (Turner sees Chaucer in spatial terms.) Chaucer as an apostle of unfinish (in my terms).     

Here, in another article, I am demonstrating what I took from Petrarch in my ‘English Strain’ project, a parallel jump into the middle ages. While I was working on Bergvall, I read a lot of Chaucer: it rubbed off in the sonnet I wrote for the ‘Petrarch 3’ part of The English Strain, which is yet another version of his sonnet 3, this time into Middle English. Pages: Practice-Led piece on 'Petrarch 3' from The English Strain published in Translating Petrarch's Poetry (Legenda) ( takes you to my account of that book, AND a video reading of the sonnet, performed in my best Neville Coghill! If my new book Doubly Stolen Fire plays around with literary history, so does this poem. I claim to have written the first sonnet in English in 1401 (i.e. just after Chaucer’s death). Up yours Wyatt.


(I handle his versions of Petrarch too.) The English Strain, is available from Shearsman Books here:


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost: Or you could use a courier and donkey like Chaucer did.



Wednesday, January 10, 2024

More returns of Little Albert - the music I play, the music I listen to, the music I write about

(Hartington Rd) Blues Brothers - Motherless Child Blues 2024 (

That’s Steve on keyboards and myself on vocals and harp. After a number of years off, we revived our New Year ‘concert’ at Maggie’s party, December 2023, into 2024 by the time we recorded this. (We met here in 2005!) This year, we had the pleasure of a keyboard in tune (which meant I could play harp). As ever, Steve gets the phone out to film us after we’ve been at it – hard, this year – very late, when I am vocally and physically exhausted, and ready to stop. I stayed sitting down. (I’ll not link to the 2016 video I’ve just found; my voice has clearly ‘gone’ on that one.) This year we added new songs, though there are no rehearsals,  including one of my favourites ever, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Corcovada (Quiet Nights)’. Here's the recording of that: you can see that I'm battling the dance music in the adjacent room; hand over ear, I begin shakily, I can't hear the key. Again, I'm tired... 

This last year, also, has been a return to other kinds of singing, performing in the small-scale Ern Malley Orchestra: but no recordings of our Cambridge gig have surfaced, but there is an account here, with a photograph that makes it look as though there is no audience, which was far from the truth! Pages: Performance of the Ern Malley Orchestra and launch of Doubly Stolen Fire (

I find there are other recordings on this blog from the New Year’s Eve gigs from over the years: Pages: Little Albert returns for one night only (

And the same ‘Motherless Child’, whose provenance I explain, here in the text, was on my lips a decade ago: Pages: Singing in 2013: Motherless Child Blues ( I had more energy left on that recording.

Here I am ruining my own 60th birthday with a snippet of a performance of me on guitar/harp/vocals (ruining it for myself I mean; I should have been chatting to guests):

Pages: If Dylan can release his back-catalogue, so can I... ( 

I’ve never quite felt I’ve been recorded at the right moment - although there are endless cassette recordings (and a reel-to-reel from the 1970s) of Little Albert Fly from the 1990s that are OK: too late, too tired, too little. The version of one of the Ern Malley poems lined up by David Whyte for an album of the Ern Malley Orchestra might be the pristine recording, as it should.

Music is important to me as something I do (intermittently), something I listen to (not nearly enough), and something I write about (occasionally but quite a lot). Those three areas are often overlappingly distinct. I published a group of texts about music in this fine anthology: Yesterday's Music Today, edited by Mike Ferguson and Rupert Loydell: 

Pages: Robert Sheppard: Poems in YESTERDAY'S MUSIC TODAY co-edited by Rupert Loydell & Mike Ferguson OUT

I have a plan to assemble a book totally concerned with music. I might assemble a sample of earlier poems, including those in Yesterday's Music Today, both poems for musicians (e.g., Philip Jeck (that’s here: Pages: Philip Jeck 2022 (, and about musicians (a Ray Charles poem, for example, 'The Hippest Man on the Planet', originally from Liverpool Hugs and Kisses, but now out of print). 

I’ll probably include the revised texts from the ill-fated collaboration with Trev Eales (about rock music festival performances), (See here on its fated ills: Pages: Whatever happened to the book Charms and Glitter? ( 

More recently, in the last 10 months, I’ve been working on a long poem about the blues, called ‘Crossing the Desert for the Blues’, which comes out of re-reading sudden-purchase Paul Oliver’s marvellous The Story of the Blues, and was partly nurtured via Tom Croft’s sessions at the Belvedere (there was one on NYE before we went to the party to join Steve and his keyboard; it got me in the mood).

I have just written a poem about listening to Hendrix' 'Voodoo Child' during a radiotherapy session, my first poem of 2024 as it happens. This was about my treatment for prostate cancer in 2022. (Men: check yourselves:  Check your risk in 30 seconds | Prostate Cancer UK))

I know I want to write about jazz, too, but new jazz. When you ask folk what they like in jazz they say, for example, ‘Miles Davis’ (so do I: poem here, also in Yesterday's Music Today: Pages: Robert Sheppard: Poetry and Jazz and approaching Monk (Geraldine, not Thelonious)) or ‘John Coltrane’; they never say Rob Luft or Lakecia Benjamin (unless I’m talking to my friend Jazz Ian – the clue’s in the name! – or Patricia). I want to focus on contemporary players (possibly only women), but I don’t want to write about their music, but through it, round and about it. I haven’t found a method, for that’s what it needs, I feel. I'll probably choose a core of albums.    

Likewise (see the last link above, again) I never managed to get that critical book on poetry and jazz together. That’s a chimera haunting me. So be it. Aldon Lynn Nielson does a fantastic job without me, and his recent book The Inside Songs of Amiri Baraka is a fascinating account of all of AB's recordings. 


Locating Robert Sheppard: email:  (don’t use the Edge Hill email); website: Follow on Twitter (or X): Robert Sheppard (@microbius) / Twitter  latest blogpost:; live: who knows where next? In some smoky bar on the dark side of town?