|'Robert Sheppard' in Brussels|
Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Isle of Wight have all had their say.
We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people (who were wrong) for these little decisions, and the poets who sing them.
We not only have a parliamentary democracy (with an unelected upper house and a hereditary monarchy), but on questions about the arrangements for how we've made stanza breaks and enjambements, there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves (although they are not sovereign as they are in a country like Ireland) and that is what we have done.
The British people have voted with their poetic feet to leave the European Union of ImaginaryAuthors and their will must be respected. I’m off.
I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside national differences to poeticize in what they believe was the national interest and let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionately murderous case that they made. (This doesn’t include Hermes, of course, or Matus Thingybobby from Slovakia, who could at least have got out of bed for the vote. More here.)
The will of the British poets is an instruction that must be delivered. And re-delivered at a convenient time, if there’s nobody in.
It was not a decision that was taken slightly, not least because so many rhymes were said by so many different poets about the significance of this decision.
So there can be no doubt about the result. (Hang on, what was the result?)
Across the world people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.
I would reassure those literary markets and editorial investors, publishers and poetry lovers, that Britain's poetry is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure British poets living in European countries and European poets living here there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances (but make sure you have sturdy suitcases and rolls of US dollars in pairs of socks).
There will be no initial change in the way our poets can write, in the way our poems can move, or the way our books can be sold. (Well, you don’t actually sell poetry.)
We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union of ImaginaryAuthors.
This will need to involve the full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland poets to ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced.
But above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership of the EUOIA.
I'm very proud and very honoured to have been president of the EUOIA for six years, since the disappearance of Rene Van Valckenborch (into drift-sands according to the latest theory).
I believe we've made great steps, with more people in work as poets than ever before in our history, with reforms to poetic hygiene and creative writing education, increasing people's life story chances, building a bigger and stronger anthology, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the book and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality or poetic orientation, but above all restoring Britain's poetic strength (while stamping out doggerel and rhyme).
And I'm grateful to everyone who's helped to make that happen.
I have also always believed that we have to decide to confront the big ducks.
That is why we delivered the first collaborative poetic epic in 70 years, to bring our body poetic back from the ceasura.
It's why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland (where the makars voted to stay in; whoops: news just in: they want another referendum).
And it's why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union of Imaginary Authors and to hold the referendum on our membership and have carried those things out. (Maybe that wasn’t my best decision, but there you go.)
I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to lisp tuneless numbers directly and passionately about what I think and feel - head, heart and soul. My head is a sponge, my heart is a pump and my soul is the man-made part of a toy cat (as Roy Fisher says somewhere).
I held nothing back, not even my unbent tummy banana: I was absolutely clear about my belief that British poetry is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union of Imaginary Authors and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone - not the future of any single poet including myself (or Hermes).
But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the Union requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.
I will do everything I can as President to steady the spaceship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the cosmonaut that flies our poets to their next inter-planetary destination.
This is not a decision I've taken slightly but I do believe it's in the literary interest to have a period of prosodic stability and then the new laureateship is required (please don’t vote for Hermes).
There is no need for a precise timetable today (whoops: news just in from Brussels: they want me to go immediately) but in my view we should aim to have a new president in place by the Robert Sheppard Symposium at Edge Hill illUniversity, on March 8th next year. (That’s not imaginary, by the way: see here.)
Delivering stability with hemstiches and balanced periods in duple rhythm will be important and I will continue in post as president with my not so-solid crew of literary co-productions for some while. I expect to be removed from the main body of the anthology to the appendix, which, since I am at the end of the book anyway, effectively means simply moving the border (I mean section break) between the main body and the appendix.
The 27 remaining poets (including those deceased) will meet on Monday, the Governor of the Blank Verse of England is making a statement about the steps that the Blank Verse and the Literary Golden Treasury are taking to reassure poetry markets.
We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before the meeting in Malmo of the Imaginary Authors in the European Laureate’s Speech. (That’s SophiePoppmeier, who is also professionally known as Angela Merkin, but that's another story.)
And I have spoken to Ms Poppmeier this morning to advise her of the steps that I am taking.
A negotiation with the European Union of Imaginary Authors will need to begin under a new president and I think it's right that this new poet-shaman takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EUOIA.
I will attend the EUOIA council next week to explain the decision the British people have taken and my own decision, and I shall remind them of the slim margin of victory for the Brexiteers.
The British people have made a choice, that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument - myself included - should help to make it rhyme.
Britain is a ‘special’ country - we have so many great advantages - a parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate, a great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity, respected the world over, and UNPOP testifies to that. (That is: the United Nations Platform of Poetry (UNPOP), which is drawn from the approximately 200 nations (and disputed territories) of the world.)
And while we are not perfect (though we have perfect beauty and perfect pitch) I do believe we can be a model for the multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, that people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their writing talent allows.
Although leaving the EUOIA was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible writerly strengths. It's back to a thin slice of parkin and a slim vol by Larkin! (See here)
I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union of Imaginary Authors and indeed that we could find a sonnet or two to ennoble ourselves.
Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help, so long as Hermes is not elected as my replacement. (Read his effusions here.)
I love this country house and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great anthology we have assembled together to succeed. We are marching forward to the completion of the project very shortly, and nothing Hermes can do will wreck it now. Be assured we stand firm.
Thank you very much for the Aintree Iron. Thank you very much, thank you very very very much.
‘Robert Sheppard’, president of the European Union of Imaginary Authors. (Read about the other Robert Sheppard's books here.)
Read Hermes' response to this post here.
PS Read Tom Jenks' post-Brexit poem here.
I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology. It will be called Twitters for a Lark and will appear in June or July, in time for the EUOIA evening at The Other Room, Manchester.