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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: more (or less) of the Keynote about Creative Writing for Edge Poetics part 5 (end?)

Blogpost 5

I’m not as stupid I look. I know that many will have to re-visit what I’ve just spoken but, at least, these demonstrably written words are on my blog, Pages. But I find I can’t say it any other way. (I may leave it out: it's too much, probably.) It isn’t poetics exactly, but it’s a teasing document for my poetics which has an important question for myself: what is the relationship between my critical writing, which provoked it, and the poetics which provokes my own creative practice? It’s not one I know how to answer, but there is a ‘bleed’ between the two, quite interesting for myself alone, I’d guess, but it opens up a general question for the subject of Creative Writing: what is the relationship between literary criticism and poetics? For our undergraduate students this becomes: what is the relationship between their ‘reading as a writer’ exercises and their ‘commentaries’ or ‘reflection’? To this (since I am going to conclude not with answers, but questions) I’ll add: How much of a literary critical perspective do we expect postgraduate candidates to have, when they sometimes find themselves examined with the intellectual instruments of a subject they haven’t sometimes studied, i.e. English Literature? Can poetics suffice? 

I interrupted Blogpost 1 some minutes back, because I wanted to delay its transmission until the end, because it transpired to become a list of similar questions. Ones which have washed around my head for some time and in the busy-ness of modern academic life (I am no ‘slow professor’, to be sure) I had no time to ask. I have time to ask them now, at least.

Blogpost 1 resumed: 

Please find the post here and the second part of it where it begins: ‘I was one of the only poets I knew in say 1980 who had studied Creative Writing. But now, it’s almost a given and there are problems I think; are they building individual careers rather than communities of writers? Do they only read each other?’ Etc. See what I mean: it’s a barrage of questions!

Of course, I will tidy this up, refine discriminations, hone the language, en-wave its rhythms and perhaps sharpen its arguments... Or dump the lot and start again. As I've said before.  



Read all parts of this draft of a keynote (or is it a Key Chord?):

Keynote Part one here:

Keynote Part two here:

Keynote Part three:  

Keynote Part four:
  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Alan Baker: Not the EUOIA: J.A. Torres Gutierrez (1925-1996)

J.A. Torres Gutierrez (1925-1996)



Gutierrez was overlooked for membership of The European Union of Imaginary Authors (EUOIA) in favour of the Catalan poet Cristòfol Subira, and maintained a bitter feud with Subira for the rest of his life. (More on Subira here)

Alan Baker has brought Gutierrez’ poetry to life, and, actually, the man too. Support your unlocal fictional poets! See information on the EUOIA here and here.

Gutierrez Select Bibliography
Canciones / Songs (1947)
Música de cinco / Music at Five (1955)
El legado / The Legacy (1962)
A Las Cinco de la Tarde / At Five O'Clock in the Afternoon (1968)
Medina Ramirez y El Diablo / Medina Ramirez and the Devil (1970)
El árbol marchito / The Withered Tree (1972)
Caminos que andan / Walking Roads (1975)
Rimas y Ritmos / Rhymes and Rhythms (1980)
Vigencia Lejanía / Validity Distance (1983)
Últimos Poemas / Last Poems (1991)


As for the anthology he does not appear in, Twitters for a Lark, my collection of co-authored fictional poets, will be published by Shearsman soon. Another set of proofs have just been read.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Sheppard: More notes towards that keynote at Edge Poetics

I’m now not so sure that I shall simply read these blogposts at the symposium, but I have synthecised a piece on poetics for it, perhaps (I hope, please please please) my last post (ha-ha) on the topic. I need to temper my need to define poetics (but it’s a real need, when we as a practice-led subject have to keep re-inventing the wheel for the powers that be). I’ve nothing to add, really, though I am glad I have co-edited Atlantic Drift as an anthology showcasing poetry and poetics, some of it new, and I would like to present some of that (possibly Zoe Skoulding’s piece) and even my own poetics, but I doubt if that’s entirely possible at the symposium, time-wise, but it might be. What I said I would do is this: speak ‘about why we teach innovative modes of writing’, rather than ‘how’. (I have a piece on how to start writing poems (haiku-imagism-objectivism); and I’ve written a chapter on experimental writing called ‘Taking Form’, but this is really just me writing up my lessons plans, and I hope they have been useful to the profession). Perhaps most teachers of Creative Writing teach what they like (and perhaps find more of what they like through teaching) and it is true that this curious passion (or passionate curiosity) must be the biggest driver in dealing with the basic problem of Creative Writing pedagogy: that our students do not read enough or widely. Our own passions (or our own editing: Atlantic Drift as James Byrne says in the introduction is partly the book we want to teach; and he is) will enhance that. Possibly we’ve never tried to teach reading through writing because we insist that reading should be primary. I’m sure I read most of the poets I first read I did so because I was already writing poetry, but I’ve never said so before. Perhaps there is a virtuous feedback loop encircling reading, writing and poetics that may be initially engaged at any point, should we allow it, even starting with poetics. The important thing is that the energy gets round the entire loop (and then continues). So that’s another potential avenue for this keynote that I can but raise!
            I mentioned earlier that a lot of mainstream poetry writing makes me feel ill, and I mean it viscerally: there are moments in poetry readings when I lose the will to breath, feel a leaden burden upon my genial spirits, as I listen to poetry so rhetorically constricting of its subject matter, so batteringly apposite in its battery of figurative language, so formally consistent and self-confirming, so air-tight as to be suffocating. The lyric tradition, for me, contains enough of such self-regarding artefacts (although they claim not to be artefacts). Yet it is also full of its opposite. As Christopher Middleton wrote decades ago:

To recapture poetic reality in a tottering world, we may have to revise, once more, the idea of a poem as an expression of the “contents” of a subjectivity. Some poems, at least, and some types of poetic language, constitute structures of a singularly radiant kind, where “self-expression” has undergone a profound change of function. We experience these structures, if not as revelations of being, then as apertures upon being. We experience them as we experience nothing else. (Middleton 1990: 283)

Muriel Rukeyser, in her poetics-poem, ‘Poem White Page White Page Poem’ announces that

            something is streaming out of the body in waves
            something is beginning from the fingertips

which asserts poetic rhythm as energy, waves, pulses, surges, which engender life: 

            the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
            something like light stands up and is alive (Rukeyser 1995: 268)

‘Announcing with the poem that we are about to change,’ as she says, might be a way to stay with the feeling of it; its fluidity becomes our fluidity. Its rhythms become our rhythms. (Rukeyser 1995or 4: XXX) The thing is, as Robert Kaufman puts it in an aphorism that I have quoted before in The Meaning of Form: ‘To make thought sing and to make song think,’ (Kaufman 2005: 212) as I believe Maggie O’Sullivan, Allen Fisher, Zoe Skoulding, Sean Bonney, Frances Kruk, Tom Jenks, Geraldine Monk, Peter Hughes, Cathy Weedon and Jeff Hilson, to name ten very different poets do, in their work, some of which I’ve written about critically, others I haven’t. What I’m not doing is identifying the elements of poetic artifice that cause these effects, as I would do, and as I have done, in critical discourse.
My most recent (possibly my last) critical book The Meaning of Form opens with an aphorism of its own. I say: ‘Poetry is the investigation of complex contemporary realities through the means (meanings) of form.’ (Sheppard 2016: ?) I continue:

The pun upon ‘means’ is intended to enact the supposition that if poetry does anything it does it chiefly through its formal power and less through its content, though it also carries the further suggestion that form is a modality of meaning in its own right. If we use the term ‘formally investigative’ of this poetry, we are also suggesting that the investigation of reality and the investigation of, experimentation with, form and forms, are coterminous, equivalent, perhaps not, in the final analysis, to be determined apart. (Sheppard 2016: ?)

I had best not pursue the formalist trajectory of that book as it traces the way forms, and acts of forming (and of losing form) operate in actual poems, following the careful lead of Derek Attridge’s The Singularity of Literature (a book I think all postgraduate students of Creative Writing should read). My identification of poetic forms (technique-spotting!) grounds my apprehension of processes of forming and meaning-formation, as they meet in an aesthetic response which is a material engagement of reader and text, another act of forming which is undertaken by the engaged reader. If there’s minimal engagement it’s not reading (as we might tell our students). 
I am going to read a 500 word statement of intent that may be a statement of poetics, or may be a theory of poetry, I’m not sure. I will display the 200 word version of the statement as I read it.

Read the 200 word version of 'The Formal Splinter' here or here

Read the 500 word version here.

All the thinking of The Meaning of Form may be accessed at the hub-post, one of the most accessed on this blog, HERE.



Read all parts of this draft of a keynote (or is it a Key Chord?):

Keynote Part one here:

Keynote Part two here:

Keynote Part three:  

Keynote Part four:

Keynote Part five:


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Edge Poetics Keynote: a performative encircling of the particulars of poetics

3. I have realised now that these blogposts are my keynote. That my method to get me going, the equivalent of the Creative Writing technique of ‘free writing’, is actually partly the content of my talk, that my keynote is about the process of assembling a keynote. This leads to two thoughts: one, that I have not actually a lot to add to what I have already written about poetics, but that it doesn’t do any harm to repeat myself, and, two, that I have also never said much, because I have never thought much, about the development of the teaching of innovative writing before. So, in the case of poetics, I might as well do, metaphorically, what the blogposts themselves do, which is to link with other posts which have dealt with the subject before. And in terms of the second question, about why we teach innovative modes of writing, rather than how we teach them (interesting questions, true, but essentially a list of things to do in the classroom; remember: I’ve retired from teaching), that question why must also bring us back to poetics, that is, the poetics of the practices of the writing I want to constellate for convenience around the inadequate word, innovative.

So in terms of the first question here are some of the previous writings that I collage to create a performative encircling of the particulars of poetics. But only some...

 The Necessity of Poetics was a text produced over some years, in different editions from Ship of Fools, but it is serialised, in one version, here:

http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/robert-sheppard-necessity-of-poetics-1.html

And my Inaugural Lecture here, continues it:


As does my more recent set of definitions, in my piece on Maggie O’Sullivan in When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry. There’s also my piece on the poetics of Pierre Joris and Adrian Clarke which appears here:



And in my thinking for the Introduction to Atlantic Drift here:


Friday, October 06, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Edge Poetics: a Dry Run for a Keynote: a False Start but a True Account

A dry run for a keynote: Edge Poetics: A Symposium on Innovative and Speculative Creative Writing Practices in Higher Education, 04/11/2017 (see here and here)

Apart from a term in 1979 teaching contemporary British poetry at UEA, I began teaching in Higher Education in 1996 at the then Edge Hill College of Higher Education as a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing. I have recently retired from the now Edge Hill University as a Professor of Poetry and Poetics. I have seen a lot of change since 1996, although one constant, except in title, is that I was appointed as tutor of the then MA in Writing Studies, though by the end I was Programme Leader of the MA in Creative Writing. All these changes of nomenclature – a sort of St Petersberg-Petrograd-Leningrad slippage – reveals the unceasing, anxious search for novelty and status, as well as the need for exactitude, in the profession.

I arrived as a linguistically innovative poet and left as one, more or less intact. That name, label, will do, as well as the institutional ones I’ve outlined. Such a term operates with correlatives, such as the British Poetry Revival, Underground Poetry, non-Mainstream Poetry, experimental poetry, concrete poetry, language poetry, performance writing, certain types of eco-poetics, and conceptual poetry (and there are more terms) – I am today happy with them all to roughly denote areas of operation in terms of poetry and poetics. I’ll stay with ‘innovative’ as a shorthand because it is used in the symposium’s title. I won’t have time to shift through these distinctions, which I have dealt with in my work as a literary critic, perhaps more in The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents 1950-2000 than in the recent The Meaning of Form which takes it as a given, and concentrates upon its acts of forming. I no longer define this practice against a perceived centre, or post-Movement Orthodoxy, which operates in the way Althusser says ideology does, though I am not one of those who thinks the divisions between mainstream and its Others have broken down, though they are admittedly more porous. I’ve been less concerned with this issue, because criticism has had to share 21 years with the unbelievable strain of balancing teaching, pedagogy, empty administration, and my own creative writing ‘practice’. I do not have time for poems that, quite literally, make me ill to read or listen to them, when I want to concentrate on my own writing, which I will also mainly leave to one side today. The day will finish with a reading and I hope to give some sense of what I do as a poet by showing it, rather than talking about it.

Let’s stick with names. When I arrived, for my students, I was Rob. Since I was made a Professor – rather too neatly halfway through my employment, in 2006 – my students think of me, initially at least, until they get to know me – as Professor Sheppard. They probably don’t realise that being a professor in a teaching-heavy and administratively-burdened institution doesn’t equate to power, or even influence. Or, in my case, as the institution grew, my diminishing influence, particularly in arguments concerning the nature of practice-led research which I have not been consulted upon for nearly a decade. Perhaps I missed the truth that one has to advocate for the nature of the subject repeatedly, that battles won one year are lost the next. What I call the ‘scribbly ceiling’ – the clear lack of senior managers or heads of department from a Creative Writing background – is probably responsible for….

(The Tesco woman arrived and we unpacked the shopping. Many bananas. Ostrich. Tins of sardines. The Thursday Chicken. The thought that the above won’t do, that it's another cough over the sink. I think I need to get stuck straight in. None of the above is wrong, as such, but it won’t do. As an account of the effects of 21 years at Edge Hill it partly works; as an introduction to my subject, if only I knew what that was, it doesn’t help. I hope somebody will find substance here: it's a true account. The remarks about the ‘scribbly ceiling’ are particularly pertinent. Except where the department only consists of Creative Writing, or of practice-led subjects, I bet there are few HODs from a Writing background if the other subjects are English or History or Film Studies.)

My leaving do: here

Links to Works on Poetics
Below are four very condensed accounts of poetics through the ages:
Part One: Poetics and Proto-Poetics
 Part Two: Through and after Modernism
Part Three: North American Poetics
Part Four: Some British Poetics
And my Inaugural Lecture here, which I seem to be re-tracing in the abandoned piece above.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Atlantic Drift: a second response: Clark Allison

Read here on STRIDE:


On Atlantic Drift, An anthology of Poetry and Poetics,
eds. James Byrne and Robert Sheppard (336pp, Arc/Edge Hill)

A compendium of poetry and poetics with 24 contributors, some US, some European, arranged alphabetically… This collection by Byrne and Sheppard has accumulated a number of statements on poetics, very useful.

And more.

By Clark Allison

The first review by Ian Brinton is here



Here is a hub post to all my other posts about Atlantic Drift: launches and reviews and editorial processes

Monday, October 02, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Notes Towards a keynote for EDGE POETICS

I’m delivering a keynote at 'Edge Poetics: A Symposium on Innovative and Speculative Creative Writing Practices in Higher Education' on 04/11/2017. (See here.) I’ve turned the Kylie Calendar over to October (gold boxing gloves, if you’re interested) and I realise it’s time to get down to this. Of course, I will tidy this up, refine discriminations, hone the language, en-wave its rhythms and perhaps sharpen its arguments,but I'm going to use serial postings as the way to assemble it. I’ve seen the list of speakers and it’s very impressive. But my keynote is at 10.00 and it kicks the whole thing off, so I thought I’d better be setting the right tone for everybody else. I certainly think I could write about the state of Innovative Poetry Education (no caps needed) today. I like the call for papers and the quote from Deleuze (I leave him to Patricia these days, because I don’t think non-philosophers can read him accurately); it says:

In the late essay, ‘Literature and Life’, Gilles Deleuze expands on ideas from his earlier work about the ways literary writing can open up ‘a kind of foreign language within language, which is neither another language nor a rediscovered patois, but a becoming-other of language, a minorization of this major language, a delirium that carries it off, a witch’s line that escapes the dominant system.

We are asked: ‘Is there a value in teaching students to find the kind of delirium Deleuze writes of?’ It’s a tall order for second year Poetry at 9.00 on a Thursday morning after the student drinking night the day before. They have their own delirium, clearly. But seriously: it IS difficult to entrain anybody in that kind of state of mind. It’s a bit like telling them they need ‘duende’. Read Lorca's essay and develop it: you can’t. How can you teach that? But there is a material practice suggested in Deleuze’s words here: a ‘becoming-other of language’ might be possible to engender in terms of a defamiliarisation of language through certain teaching strategies, collagist practice, for one. The cfp continues:

Till relatively recently, Creative Writing in Higher Education has been dominated by a set of techniques and tropes derived from realism, and also by the expectations of mainstream literary fiction. Increasingly, however, aspects of innovative and speculative poetics are finding their way into the classroom.

An interesting assertion, and true, I think, on the whole. One thing I might do, is become historical on this, autobiographically. About how alone I felt in the creative writing world 21 years ago. How the paradigms were certainly not those I shared (having developed my OWN poetry and poetics (another issue) outside the academy: some of the delegates will remember that, I think). I talk about that in my inaugural lecture and I might re-visit that. (See the link below.) Apart from some sense that Dartington was ahead of the game, there was nobody to consult, hence the reason for NEWT – the Network of Experimental Writing Tutors I set up briefly. (See https://newtwork.blogspot.co.uk/ ) A self-help organisation that was made immediately redundant because about that time (worth checking when that was) people seemed to popping up everywhere, doing the linguistic innovative thing… But before that it was a lonely course. Interestingly I didn’t face the hostility I’d assumed existed (and that probably made me cautious): from students, other staff members, from the profession generally. That they’d close this stuff down! In fact I found that the profession was itself not hostile, and that the self-expressive paradigm was not pervasive. (Indeed, in my work on Supplementary Discourses in 2003, with Scott Thurston, I found a willingness among very different writers to myself to engage with reflection on the act of MAKING.) The Poetry Wars didn’t break out! But I must admit I did my biggest professional push in the area of POETICS. (See here, but also the links below)

Was this an avoidance of radical practice? I hope not, though it might have been an (unconscious) attempt to make an institutional cover for it, somewhere for it to develop, in the sense that while I advocated (and still do!) poetics as a necessary act for creative writers (of all kinds), it is also true that poetics operates centrally in innovative circles. So I was fostering an activity that would allow innovation to occur while supporting its use for ‘the expectations of mainstream literary fiction’, which seems to me to be absolutely clear.

There is something to be said (still) about poetics. And I will, I think, and perhaps use Atlantic Drift as a (new) vehicle for that.

There are other questions: The symposium asks: ‘What does it mean to be a writer interested in such traditions who also teaches Creative Writing in academe?’ I’m not sure I understand this question, but there certainly are questions about how one is positioned. Perhaps somewhere I need to say I’ve retired and that means some of what I say is truly reflective. And perhaps I might air some of the questions I have about what we do: what are we doing if we create lots and lots of linguistically innovative poets? There ARE a lot these days, and there are questions to be asked about the ‘poetry scene’ that develops out of this, in the way it didn’t in my day. Did we win the Poetry Wars? Probably not; there are still a lot of mainstream poets about, dully doing their thing. But they are not the concern of this paper.

I was one of the only poets I knew in say 1980 who had studied Creative Writing. But now, it’s almost a given and there are problems I think; are they building careers rather than communities of writers? Do they only read each other? Does the workshop method close down innovation, by creating unconscious paradigms? Writers in their 30s complain to me that writers in their 20s seem inhumanly ambitious. (This is not just in the innovative camp.) Is Ken Edwards right when he says innovation has lost its edge as ‘poetry’ becomes just another career? Is this the result of the spurious employability agenda. Do the CW-produced writers have a sense of history? (Something I’m aware of the lack of) Is Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘uncreative writing’ a reaction to the uniformity of CW practices? He says so, but then he is ignoring (wilfully) the widely varied innovative poetry that has been nurtured (some of it conceptual, some of it not) under the banner ‘Creative Writing’… But it is interesting he identifies it as analogous to the gallery system in art. Conversely, does too much of the published work look like creative writing exercises? Does that carry over into practice? (It is certainly easier to teach conceptual writing than it is the new lyric, and perhaps easier to write it.)

These are some of the questions I have, though I’m not sure I have answers.

But this might get me going in a personal and reflective way. I’m not sure I can be academic about it. In fact, it might be my last pot-shot at this before I launch out into new areas.

I have another question which I want to think about one day, but it might not be in this talk: what is the relationship of my critical work to my creative work (probably outside the area) and (not outside it) to my pedagogy.

Practice as Research is interesting in at least three ways. The development of the Creative Writing PhD is an interesting hybrid phenomenon. The categorisation of creative work there (research questions and methodology) and also in the REF documentation by teachers in the academy. Does that create an ennobling but not an enabling language? Practice as research presentations too, such as there will be later in the day: are they bigging up work instead of merely presenting it? Is there really anything to teach and to learn by that method?

I want to avoid the academy vs. the real world rhetoric, but questions about the effect of the massive expansion of creative writing are vital. As ever, I suspect there are positive and negative aspects to this.

1st October 2017

 Links to Works on Poetics

Below are four very condensed accounts of poetics through the ages:
Part One: Poetics and Proto-Poetics
 Part Two: Through and after Modernism
Part Three: North American Poetics
Part Four: Some British Poetics
And my Inaugural Lecture here: 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Atlantic Drift: first review on Tears in the Fence

We're pleased to announce that Atlantic Drift has received its first review, from Ian Brinton. Cheers!

Read it here:



Here is a hub post to all my other posts on the book.

Watch the interns and editors speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Plus links to Sean Bonney’s reading, here

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Charlotte Smith's Petrarch with Boris' big poetic gaffe!

I have recently moved onto Charlotte Smith's versions of Petrarch in my search for (in)appropriate models for poems about Brexit (well, that seems to be the dominant theme, though there are others in these trans translations). Of course, Smith was a Sussex poet and this feeds into the 4 I've written, being a Sussex poet myself (see my autrebiographies here and here.). But the fourth (and which, like my Earl of Surrey versions, stayed online only a short while) seemed topical enough to warrant immediate temporary posting. I was faltering with it, actually, but then Boris Johnson so richly came the rescue by doing somethin' stupid. So he went straight in. In the spirit of: don't criticise him: quote him! This is what I did in Oh! place me where the burning noon which begins with the line: 'Set me down on the Downs where Brexit beacons blaze...' I listened to the gaffe as it appears in a Channel 4 documentary on Johnson's ambitions (but which I hadn't seen before I wrote the poem) and included it, along with the ambassador's minatory words:

‘The wind is in the palm trees and the temple bells they say ...’
“You’re on mic Boris. Not a good idea.’ ‘What?’ ‘Not appropriate!’

Then I realised that, of course, BoJo misquotes Kipling, significantly for a Conservative, so here is the current version:

Or as frigid as May defending the bankers and Bonkers Boris;
‘The temple bells they say … er … come you back you English soldier ...’
“You’re on mic. Not a good idea.’ ‘What?’ ‘Not appropriate!’
Johnson mis-quotes (it’s ‘British’ not ‘English’) the Sussex poet Kipling about Burma, as Charlotte Smith, in my first four poems from her 'Elegiac Sonnets', is ventriloquising Petrarch. The narrator is the Earl of Sussex, a sort of take on Surrey. Kipling’s ‘colonial-era poem’ (to quote the media) was judged an inept recitation during Johnson’s official trip to Myanmar (before the genocide of the Rohingya, it is worth recording, as is the genocide).

Of course, this was before his gaffe about sweeping the bodies away in Libya to build a Western casino. Perhaps he could say something similar or similarly crass about the Las Vegas shooting. Oddly both Kipling's poem and the shooter's hotel were called Mandalay. I read nothing into this. Other than the boundless possibilties of stupid ennunciations by our FO in dangerous times. Of course, he is now professing loyalty, because he has to. But...



See Bo at it here:




See here and here and here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater press in its 'map' edition. Read the 'original' translation (if you see what I mean) and the doggie version here. Then buy it, if you haven't already.

The first review of Petrarch 3 by Alan Baker may be read on Litterbug, here. The second response, by Martin Palmer (blog to the right!) here.
A general piece on my sonnet-writing may be read here. See another sonnet, this time an 'overdub' of Milton, in International Times here: http://internationaltimes.it/avenge


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Robert Sheppard: from Petrarch 3 : Petrarch on National Poetry Day

Here’s the final poem from Petrarch 3. That sequence was the beginning of a new adventure in sonnets. One premise of the 14 variations of Petrarch’s sonnet 3 is that they were set on a particular day (Good Friday in Petrarch and Black Friday, VE Day etc. in mine). And I couldn’t resist the dreaded National Poetry Day. (Every day is poetry day.) Over to you, Pet.

You Know

It’s National Poetry Day again. Duffy’s
droning on the radio (again) and you’re on
at the Poetry Society, whither I am headed
to undress your double offbeats with my ears.

But you’ve got a face like a spanked arse;
you’ve got a voice like a spanked arse. But
I clap along with the rest of the clowns relieved
when the prize-giving’s over. You won (again)

with your thumping Great I Am in clumping iambics.
You can’t beat a posy conduit for poesy’s soft con job;
yet neither can you beat off love’s stiff competition.

Heads you win the laurels; tails I lose Laura;
my name is reduced to a rhyme-scheme you use:
the clapped-out alternative to you-know-whose.


See here and here and here and here for more on my Petrarch obsession/project, including how to purchase Petrarch 3 from Crater press in its 'map' edition. Read the 'original' translation (if you see what I mean) and the doggie version here. Then buy it, if you haven't already.

The first review of Petrarch 3 by Alan Baker may be read on Litterbug, here. The second response, by Martin Palmer (blog to the right!) here.

A general piece on my sonnet-writing may be read here. See another recent sonnet in International Times here: http://internationaltimes.it/avenge

I am currently writing through Charlotte Smith's versions of Petrarch, Sussex poems, in fact. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form published a year ago today

It's a year since my latest critical volume was published. See here. For a full description and for links. Much of the early thinking occurred on this blog, so look out for those posts too; see HERE  


You can also purchase individual chapters in e-format...

 Introduction: Form, Forms and Forming (see here)
1. Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Poetic Artifice and Naturalization in Theory and Practice (see here)
2.  Convention and Constraint: Form in the Innovative Sonnet Sequence (see here)
3. Translation as Transformation: Tim Atkins’ and Peter Hughes’ Petrarch (see here)
4. Meddling the Medieval: Caroline Bergvall and Erín Moure (see here)
5. Translation as Occupation: Simon Perril and Sean Bonney (see here)
6. Rosmarie Waldrop: Poetics, Wild Forms and Palimpsest Prose (see here)
7. The Trace of Poetry and the Non-Poetic: Conceptual Writing and Appropriation in Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanessa Place and John Seed (see here)
8. Stefan Themerson: Iconopoeia and Thought-Experiments in the Theater of Semantic Poetry (here)
9. The Making of the Book: Bill Griffiths and Allen Fisher (see here, where else?)
10. Geraldine Monk’s Poetics and Performance: Catching Form in the Act (see here)
11. Form and the Antagonisms of Reality: Barry MacSweeney’s Sin Signs (see here)


For those who can buy the book, or order it for libraries, here are the places to go to:

Here is some book data:
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-34045-6
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-34045-6
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-34044-9

If anybody wants to review it, let me know on shepparr@edgehill.ac.uk.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Empty Diary 2016 published in the 50th edition of Erbacce

I have just (actually it appeared a while ago but the copy has only just reached me) been published in the special 50th edition of Erbacce, edited by Andrew Taylor (see here and here) and Alan Corkish.



They were both students of mine, as were a number of the invited poets for this special celebratory edition: Natasha Borton (who has featured on Pages a couple of times here and here), Rick Lee, Ursula Hurley, and Jacqui Dunne, among many others!

They have published ‘Empty Diary 2016: Send in the Worms’.

Empty Diaries is a long sequence that ran through Twentieth Century Blues and into the current century's poems: 1901-  and ongoing (again after a break of a decade)! The first eight of Wiped Weblogs: ED 2001-14 appeared in The Literateur. Find them here or here.  The final six appeared in a wonderful edition of Blackbox Manifold. See here.

The 2015 one has a touch of the bossa nova about it: see here: Empty Diary 2015

Empty Diary 2016  has a touch of doing the boss a favour about it! It’s a 100 word sonnet (see here for more on that form) but I cheat since the compound word ‘polysexual-Trumptrampled-sissyslut-feminization’, supposedly from the lexis of BDSM, is used at one point, and counts as one. But to read the rest of this exploration of contemporary sexuality, you will have to buy a copy of Erbacce 50.

Individual copies of erbacce (including this one) cost £4.00 or $6.00. The editors produce four editions each year for either £15.00 or $23.00. You may also subscribe for a year post-free.

Editors: Alan Corkish and Andrew Taylor

Cheques payable to Andrew Taylor should be sent to:

                                         Andrew Taylor
                                         5 Farrell Close
                                         Melling
                                         Liverpool
                                         L31 1BU
                                         UK

Or visit the website: http://www.erbacce.com/

Another sequence of 100 word sonnets, 'Breakout' is in preparation. There is one in Robert Hampson's Purge.

I’m currently thinking about writing Empty Diary 2017.Thinking with lines like:



It’s strange to feel him writing through me once more
after some years of, if not autonomy, random indication,
Google-sculpting skin-flicks and outtakes of Chicklit.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Captain Beefheart Poetry reading/performance: 11th November 2017 Bluecoat Liverpool

The Captain has been here before (as can be seen from this picture that is, in Liverpool anyway, pretty iconic), but a whole day is being dedicated to him, and Patricia and I are both reading (she's the big fan; I'm more of a bluesman, quizzical at his cubist appropriations of the tradition) at the kind invitation of the co-organizer, Chris McCabe.I'm pleased to say we've both submitted our poems for the zine that will be produced; now we've got to figure out ways of performing our very different poems. 

The full details are available here

http://www.thebluecoat.org.uk/events/view/events/3717

At the event on Saturday 11th November we'll each have a slot of of four minutes to read our poems (it's a megalist of readers but I'm not sure I can reveal it yet) and also to talk about any aspects of the process, or anything we want to say about Beefheart. I might blow a little of dat harp man (I have Strictly Personal as my album and it starts with a version of Son House's 'Death Letter Blues', by sheer coincidence a song I used to sing with Little Albert Fly) but I have nothing to say. Patricia is also on a panel to discuss the Captain's poetry earlier in the day.

Our event will take place between 5-6.30pm, but the day will begin at 11am with the Beefheart symposium and a chance to see an archive display and films that will run at Bluecoat. There is music in the evening. (The Magic Band is playing elsewhere the night before...)

I'm listening to Raphael Roginski as I type this up. Somehow right. He's playing Purcell...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Atlantic Drift Launch (a short video)

See here a short video about our launch in Edinburgh. It is obviously aimed at students but it does give a good idea of what the anthology is about and about the processes behind getting it published (at incredible speed), and the hard work of editors, poets and interns, all of whom speak so eloquently about it.


You may see it again here, along with another video about the Edge Hill Short Story prize event: with colleagues and students.  

To purchase a copy of Atlantic Drift follow the link to Arc Publications’ website: https://www.arcpublications.co.uk/books/james-byrne-atlantic-drift-an-anthology-of-poetry-and-poetics-567

Many thanks to Arc for their partnership. 

This is an anthology of Transatlantic poetry - and poetics: each poet offers his or her own writerly speculative discourse. (See here on poetics.) 

Stay tuned to EHUP with its Twitter and Facebook .




It's nice to have got this splendid anthology out; at the moment, though, I'm working on the EUOIA anthology Twitters for a Lark. (See here for an account of the recent EUOIA night, but read about the odd coincidences of working on both books at once, here. One coincidence not catalogued there is the strange purple light that seemed to creep from the Edinburgh launch into photos of the Manchester night a few days later!) This book may be bought (eventually) here: http://www.shearsman.com/ws-shop/product/6460-robert-sheppard-ed---twitters-for-a-lark

NB Here are two more videoes, of  Sean Bonney reading:


Friday, September 08, 2017

Robert Sheppard|: Thoughts on Edge Hill Poetry and Poetics Research Group

The PPRG was formed with the hope that discussion of poetry and poetics would further the practice and  thinking behind innovative poetry. It became more than that with the interaction of the people within it. It became a society of friends of the art of writing poetry, which was gratifying. It unconsciously recruited some local writers to Edge Hill's PhD programme. It is difficult to remember a time before that when there was no sense of vital poetry scenes in Liverpool (or the North West) or a thriving research culture at Edge Hill. The PPRG played its part in developing all of this. When I arrived in Liverpool in 1996 there was literally nobody there: Geoff Ward and Sean Bonney had left the city; somebody mentioned a Cliff Yates in Skem. We corresponded. Its current state again combines postgraduates, staff and poets outside the university. It's a deliberate loose fit.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Robert Sheppard: Behind Blue Eyes: John Ashbery and Lee Harwood

John Ashbery and Lee Harwood in 1965


Lee Harwood’s first book-length publication in Britain was The White Room (1968), published by Fulcrum Books. The section collecting the poems from The Man with Blue Eyes, his award-winning New York publication, which appeared from Lewis Warsh’s and Anne Waldman’s Angel Hair Books in 1966, opens with Harwood’s first mature poem, ‘As Your Eyes are Blue’, dating from 1965; while it is influenced by the New York school of John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, a good many of the salient features of Harwood’s subsequent work are also displayed here. (I analyse it elsewhere.) In a short piece Harwood recalls the US volume from which the poem came, and seamlessly moves from outlining influences, including Ashbery, to outlining his own Ashberyan poetics:

There was Tzara, Dada, shaking language up, piling things up, which I’d never seen done before. And Borges - where he writes stories which pull you in, and then he pulls the rug from under your feet. So you’re continually not sure, and you’re having to think it through yourself, so that you are always involved in these processes.I had all that to feed into, but I couldn’t use it effectively in my own writing. And then in the mid-sixties, meeting John Ashbery, suddenly it clicked into place with his approach to writing: that idea of creating a text which is meant for other people to use, and where the ‘I’ and ‘you’ and all that, were floating and shifting around. As Ashbery said in that 1972 interview in the New York Quarterly: ‘The personal pronouns in my work very often seem to be like variables in an equation. “You” can be myself or it can be another person, someone whom I’m addressing, and so can “he” and “she” for that matter and “we”, sometimes one has to deduce from the rest of the sentence what is being meant and my point is also that it doesn’t really matter very much, that we are somehow all aspects of a consciousness giving rise to the poem and the fact of addressing someone, myself or someone else, is what’s the important thing at that particular moment rather than the particular person involved. I guess I don’t have a very strong sense of my own identity and I find it very easy to move from one person in the sense of a pronoun to another and this again helps to produce a kind of polyphony in my poetry which I again feel is means toward greater naturalism.’

‘As Your Eyes are Blue’ is a love lyric, addressed from a shadowy ‘I’ to an insistently addressed ‘you’; gender is unspecified, but certain clues suggest the poem is a covert homoerotic lyric. Hesitancy and textual discontinuity are both evident in broken utterance and syntactic rupture from the start.
The earlier gay lyrics in ‘Early Work’, ‘This morning’, for instance, inaugurate a theme of erotic longing at forced separation that haunts the entire oeuvre: ‘the pain of my leaving/ and my love for you’. This intensifies in ‘The Man with Blue Eyes’, the second section of The White Room, which heralded Harwood’s arrival in New York, thus initiating a transatlantic exchange that continued all of his life. An erotic liaison with John Ashbery (who he met in Paris in 1965), and a more general literary engagement with the New York poetry scene, engendered some of this deeply felt love poetry, including the one I mention above, one of the finest meditations upon clandestine gayness, erotic obsession and separation, ‘As your eyes are blue’, which Jeremy Reed has described as ‘a love poem as important to its time as Shakespeare’s androgynously sexed sonnets were to his’. During ‘its time’ homosexual acts were illegal, of course, something we are aware of in this 50th anniversary of decriminalisation. Note the restraint of the gay poems, not just with their lack of gender markers, but in their focus on detached parts of the body; ‘if only I could touch your naked shoulder’ could easily be read as non-gender specific, or as heterosexual by default, although like Polari (Lee was a great fan of Julian and Sandy on Round the Horne) it signifies to those ‘in the know’.
Harwood’s output of the 1960s is prodigious; 116 pages of the 500 pages of his Collected Poems were produced before he turned 30, in 1969. Exercises in extended New York mode suggest Harwood was in danger of becoming a card-carrying member of an already fading avant-garde. The death of Frank O’Hara in 1966 might be thought emblematic of its demise, despite the rise of the genius of the second generation, Ted Berrigan, and – in the 1970s – Ashbery’s rise to fame. (It’s difficult to remember a time when nobody was interested: but the 1970 Penguin Modern Poets, with Ashbery, Harwood and Tom Raworth rubbing shoulders, was a pariah volume in its day!) Harwood mirrors the insistent jocular name-checking, as well as the casual enjambment, of the school, but utters a longing for a British precursor, F.T. Prince:

Ted Berrigan has met Edwin Denby.
I don’t know anyone who’s met F.T. Prince.
I wish I could meet F.T. Prince.

Ironically, it was Prince – a stylish British poet admired by Ashbery – who issued the warning (when they did meet) that Harwood was ‘pattering on’. Harwood realised the danger: ‘You get a tone of voice going, and it’s very elegant and witty … and then it comes out as yards of material which you just reel off.’ This account is, however, slightly reductive. The best poems in The White Room extend their range beyond standard New York work into fictions about colonial vanity, military and naval disasters, outback life, the Wild West, the Muslim East - Harwood has spoken of these as modern mythologies - and even about the nature of poetry itself. Poets, characteristically for Harwood, ‘only ever fail, miserably –/ some more gracefully than others’, which is at least a better credo than the bitter Beckettian one of failing better, I feel, with the inclusion of that camp ‘grace’.  
One later work, The Sinking Colony, is a poem which offers up those British certainties to a textual disruption so great that they begin to turn into their opposites, into pastoral or romance, while yet the terror still pervades the text, the worse for being undefined. It is almost as although the words are punctuating silence, or scissored page space; it was influenced specifically by Ashbery’s collage ‘Europe’, a text which has tended to embarrass critics who want to turn him into a Wallace Stevens for our time. So in a sense, Lee followed the wrong John Ashbery.
But I also remember Lee Harwood being asked at a reading (somebody must have read an Ashbery poem) why there were narcissi in both poems (from the mid-1960s). Lee answered, ‘We were looking at the same landscape,’ which suggests the immediacy of the writing collaboration.
I only met Ashbery once, and for a brief moment, before a reading was about to begin: I had barely enough time to clock those blue eyes.

Robert Sheppard

PS This piece is a bitzer put together for the occasion but Ollie Hazzard has considered the Ashbery-Harwood (and Prince) nexus in more detail here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2016/12/a-real-though-pleasant-surprise-on-lee-harwood-john-ashbery-ft-prince

My review of Lee Harwood's Collected Poems in two parts here and here. On later works here; on recent works here. And an earlier gift to him here. A later 'Laugh' with Lee Harwood may be read here.

Access obituaries here. And news of the British Library Harwood Archive here. And a piece i.m. here.