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quality ii

Leaving aside ‘unreadability’, in performance or otherwise, if I can move the unconscious, lightness, of the poem, from the vehicle, figurative language, to the tenor, then we might wake up. My poems are a success in so far as they are just out of reach

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‘The English Strain’

Nice book so far. If he’s confessing to never being in love, then he should bloody well hurry up. Heavy on the S&M references, I have no complaints. Had originally thought the hoot went on too long without being funny, but I think that lacks subtlety. If I pay attention, Sheppard keeps reappearing, slightly altered and with no less aplomb. There are few lines that you can take seriously, not without being turned off sex from here on in. “Now / then: hate is when you’re feeling top of the pops”. Thatcher is all.


The next section is titled ‘overdubs’, and I liked the engagement with sonnet xxi of Milton’s (he sharpens it nicely), but feel let down by most of it. The last poem in this section, dedicated to “Lee” (could be Lee Harwood), ends “… Cast light

on this dimness of knowing, straining across

the expanse to take in tree or meadow or cottage.

This is a haunt of the living. Let it go.”

There are allusions / references which work in an unusual – i.e. satisfying – way; it reads somewhat like a medley of different, I suppose you could say, “songs” (at fist I balked at ‘Song Net’, just before this poem, felt let down again, but it’s funny). Incidentally “a haunt of the living” has just four google hits, topped by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society. And I’m guessing he’s addressing himself in the last sentence, but I am lost as to what he’s so angry about, if he feels e.g. cheapened by still being alive. So anyway, the problem I have with all this is his personality is a pain in the neck, and stamped heavily on all of these poems. Maybe Harwood liked his personality; your guess is as good as mine. Did you hear the one about Thatcher on a Brighton postcard?

These are fun sonnets that invariably close strongly, but I really want to engage with the “writing” more than ‘Sheppard’, which I cannot do, if only because of my unfamiliarity with the tradition. I am not being hyper-critical, Sheppard is meant to be one of the most important modernists still writing. Maybe you need some “trickster” theory…


The third section ‘It’s nothing’ is genuinely impressive. Sheppard’s humour is not entirely absent, but there is elegance to his references to e.g. “Lee”, and the poems seriously drag you in via cacophony and respite of its characters.

The book is a success.

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tears in the fence

obviously can’t blog or link to those two poems, but I will be in Tears in the Fence soon, I assume the next edition.

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Tattered by Magnets

144 poems, divided into 12 parts, each composed of 3 unrhymed tercets with unusual spacing within each line. The blurb says it was originally written to be read, which I’m guessing would be uncompromising, but I cannot find a recording.

I am half way through. What is being said, as well as what is incoherent, seems a matter of judgment, as nothing is entirely straight forward unless you read each block of text in a line as a single unit that does not combine with the others. Nothing seems to be going on exactly, but I have the faint sense Tim Allen is on holiday somewhere exotic and surrounded by people he hates.

The “ideogram” is mentioned in passing; I would consider every poem an ideogram, generated with surrealism shaped into a consistently soft song of rough units (incorporating all content softly into itself), about his own evil. Quite why Tim Allen is evil, I’m unsure about.

This only became clear by the third chapter (2:12 ends “curios”).


At first I thought that each spaced phrase was naming something, even with single words like ‘in’ or ‘and’, but there are also directions. I then suspected it was formed around the tension between a confession – one which draws you in – and the construction of a personality – due to fragmentation: “I’ve heard those lies before”. On those terms, there is a sense of a lament about his world: “Capitalism exists only behind the eyes”.

I then got stuck asking how anyone engages with language. I guess you just make your connections then get parodied: “the quiet mind is as bouyant as a plucky little craft escaping trees [2:3]”

It was only when I was happy with the world he was constructing that it appeared to be shaped around himself, his fleeting thoughts about himself – who is asking you to look – in different settings, and how that comes off as quite sad: “the turtle looks fed up”.


There is less humour than in the last book of his I blogged about (“snotty dawn” made me laugh), but I probably prefer this Tim Allen.


The last word is ‘diamonds’. Are they “forever” or “a girl’s best friend’? I like the polysemy, which the rest of the musical references lacked except at the high / low axis. Neither of those facts detract from the poem at all, and if there is a lightness here it is not gratuitous, but at that axis; make of that whatever.

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Grandiloquent Wretches

A4 chapbook which bases itself loosely on the Welsh metrical tradition. I know absolutely nothing about that, but the footnotes to the poems astonish me with the luminosity they grant the reference.

For me – and for sure I don’t speak for anyone else – the collection lacks joy, so that their, very taut, meanings can appear too heavy or too light depending on how you read, and I cannot reasonably connect the poems together.

But the collection has a genuine worth.

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Waking from sleep paralysis

I was trying a new approach to editing/shaping some of my recent poems, one based on visualising size (comprehension?) as impossible, a sort of folding up of affect/emotion into something of the same extent. OK, so the link to ‘egotistical sublime’ is prima facie fairly weak, but I need to find a means to move beyond the improvisation/generative technique I have learnt, to order its non-music. At this point, I am looking for poems that do – while expressing content, just as the improvisations expressed an idea – the above, perhaps via deconstruction. Quite how to do that, I’m unsure, if only because “deconstruction is not a method” (I assume this means it is a goal).

Does ‘waking from sleep paralysis’ deconstruct or just reverse a ‘false awakening’? I don’t suppose it matters at all, but if you want to take it literally – not just radically oppose two phrases – you have reversed nothing: a dramatic escape from sleeping does not mean we never failed to wake up – anymore than we will not dream again – but displaces dreaming with the world, allows us to think again their difference. If it seems otherwise, maybe that’s due to urgency to negation, not thinking through contradictions but forgetting one side, the dream, which we could begin to work with.

I suppose you could see both as a form of distraction. Anyway, this method (I would not go so far as to call it a “poetic”, which denotes more the network of ideas which make up its usefulness etc.) may have helped me focus intuitively on the form to ‘free verse’, opened that up a bit, so I am not forming sounds or words etc., but meaning. Whether or not they are any good depends I suppose on your poetic.

For me, they may work due to being difficult to successfully read aloud.

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Creative writing classes

I’ve sat a few, with mixed results. It was interesting to work with poets and find out how they engage with students. However, I have a theory that all they’re prepping you for, in poetry, in the main, is some kind of sensuous realism. So as it’s as if you were actually there as the protagonist leans into the screen and kisses his newest selfie.

Who knows.

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Brass iii

Who is the “father” in the 1st poem, ‘The Bee Target on his Shoulder’?

Be gentle with his streamy locks until he gets the wrapper off.

The most obviously ironic line in the poem. I would go with Meriones, from the Iliad (which I have read!). Why did Prynne choose that character to begin his collection with? I guess, because he organises the message to Achilles that Patroclus has died, thereby winning the war.

But actually why?

I think ‘with’ should be read as a promoted beat, rather than a beat on ‘his’, an emphasis which allows something close to love, a message to, independent of gender ‘man’ etc..

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what now?

So I have a book that no-one’s buying. I felt it had to be written; I might stop now. But there’s probably more to work with here. In this I try and close the gap between prosody and cadence

May be viable, I dunno.

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‘modernism’

I believe it is over, and that the onus is on anyone else to show otherwise.