Monday, February 26, 2024

Robert Sheppard: an 'Empty Diary' poem in the Broken Sleep MASCULINITY anthology

I’m pleased to say that I have a poem in the new Broken Sleep anthology, Masculinity, edited by Rick Dove, Aaron Kent and Stuart McPherson, to whom, many thanks. It is one of the more egregious examples from the egregious ‘sequence’, ‘Empty Diaries’, ‘Gooner, Going, Gone: Empty Diary 2022’.  I read it at my recent Peter Barlow’s Cigarette reading (See here for the reaction to it: Pages: Robert Sheppard and two others at Peter Barlow's Cigarette 24th October 2023 (set list)) Usually narrated from the point of view of a woman, each of these now-annual 'Empty Diary' poems focusses on sexual politics (though sometimes just sex and sometimes just politics, occasionally neither), I write about the sequence (1901-1990, which first appeared in a 1992 book of that title, and later as the ‘spine’ of Twentieth Century Blues) here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: The last two Empty Diary poems are published on Stride : and I include links to earlier poems, and videos of the 2019 and 2020 poems which precede this one. This poem is unusual in being narrated by a man. And what a man, a gooner no less.

This anthology (there are too many contributors to list here, may be purchased at:

Masculinity, an anthology of modern voices | Broken Sleep Books


Masculinity: an anthology of modern voices’, the publisher says, ‘is a book of poetry which aims to showcase the diversity of what it means to be a man and what it means to embrace its multitudes. These poems emphasise that masculinity is not a monolithic concept, but a dynamic, evolving force that can be shaped by culture, society, and personal experiences. Including poetry from Andrew McMillan, Ian Duhig, Michael Pedersen, Andre Bagoo, Pádraig Ó Tuama and [many] more, [and it's good to see friends like Andrew, Daniele Pantano, David Ward, Gregory Woods and others there] this is a powerful, visceral reminder that masculinity is so much more than the sum of its parts, and a call to open up a dialogue about masculinity that is inclusive, progressive, and affirming.’

I approve of this, though I’m pretty sure my poem, which is about super-toxic incel masculinity, which I (suppose I) satirise, is not at all 'affirming', and shouldn't be. My narrator rather literally plays with the ‘sum of his parts’! (The 'Empty Diary' for 2023 is about a conspiracy theorist; what shall I ‘do’ this year? No answers on a postcard please: something will offer itself, I don’t doubt!)

If you are wondering about the 2021 'Empty Diary', it was published in Tears in the Fence: Pages: Two new poems published in Tears In the Fence 78 (