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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

EUOIA: Gelynion (Bangor Reading): Alys Conran, Robert Sheppard and others (set list) including Cristofol Subira

Alys Conran and I took part in the Bangor leg of the Enemies Project/Gelynion last night. See more details here.

Bangor: May Tues 26th at the Blue Sky Cafe: details of the venue here.  
We created the works of the EUOIA Catalan poet

Cristòfol Subira (1957-)
Other pairings were:

Nia Davies and SJ Fowler
Zoë Skoulding and Eurig Salisbury
Joe Dunthorne and Rhys Trimble
Sophie McKeand and Fiona Cameron
Karen Owen and Sian Northey
Ifor Ap Glyn and Ghazal Mosadeq

The reading also featured a performance by Welsh folk musician Elan Mererid Rhys, who also accompanied SJ and Nia.
I began: Robert: The last time I read in this room I was a Belgian. I was billed as the creature who features in my book A Translated Man, Rene Van Valckenborch. It was all Zoe Skoulding’s fault. It was slightly embarrassing – I remember Rhys Trimble compering and he said, staring straight and ironically at me, ‘After the break we’re going to have a fake Belgian,’ – but it suited me fine: I was reading Van Valckenborch’s supposed poems anyway, the ones he wrote in Walloon and the quite different ones he wrote in Flemish.

Before he starts to disappear at the end of the book he invents his own poets, 27 of them for each member state of the EU; the EUOIA, the European Union of Imaginary Authors. I wrote a few of these for the book, but Zoe again made me re-visit the complete list when we were asked to compose a collaborative poem for the Manchester Camarade by Steven Fowler. Thus Gurkan Arnavut was born.

That tipped me over into the madness of doing the lot as a curated and co-created anthology, and I am pleased that Alys Conran has agreed to join me in co-creating the Catalan poet Cristòfol Subira. We’re going to read one poem each, one from his Spanish side, and one from his Catalan side (he is a weird mirror of Van Valckenborch in that sense only), and it’s appropriate to read them first in bilingual Wales. But we want to emphasise that we both wrote both poems.

And now Alys is going to tell you about our creature, the little we (or the world) know of him.    

Alys: Cristòfol Subira was born in 1957 in Barcelona. He worked for many years as a street performer and living statue in the tourist districts of the city. Between 1980 and 2007, Subira produced four collections of poetry, alternately in Catalan and Spanish, but since then, his poetry has not appeared in print except for several unattributed poems inscribed on the paving of cul-de-sacs in the city, recently acknowledged as his work. There was one doubtful sighting in Brussels in the summer of 2010.

Robert: Freeze Block Station (from the Spanish)

Alys: Performance Between Two Points (from the Catalan)



I want to thank Alys for playing along with the EUOIA project and for bringing her linguistically and rhythmical tightness to the project. I think we both felt we'd made Subira happen. The other readers were wonderful; here’s one to give you the feel for the evening, and to demonstrate inter-lingual imagining of a different kind by Ifor Ap Glyn and Ghazal Mosadeq.


 All the performances may be accessed here.

 Sophie McKeand and Fiona Cameron
Karen Owen and Sian Northey
Ifor Ap Glyn and Ghazal Mosadeq
Robert Sheppard and
 Alys Conran
Nia Davies, SJ Fowler and Elan Mererid Rhys
Zoë Skoulding and Eurig Salisbury
Joe Dunthorne and Rhys Trimble
Elan Mererid Rhys (solo)

Subira was last heard of in my Shearsman book A Translated Man in Annemie Dupuis' dubious diary, which finishes off the book, and Van Valckenborch, and her. Which is why the 'sighting' is 'doubtful'.

Thursday 12 August 2010

I’m sitting in the dock, moist hand clinging to grimy rail. The courtroom of some Eastern European capital. Standing beside myself I know this is a dream.
         I’m accused of people-trafficking, but I don’t know why.
        Questioned through an interpreter, it strikes me. I have made up a fictional national poet– his name at least – by combining the forename and surname with the most diacritics in the language, the least vowels. But it’s also the name of a villain. The unshaven giant with the scar down his face whispering curses to a solicitor in a bursting shiny suit. The police must have found my notes, tangles of names.
          I realise the improbability of my alibi, the impossibility of communicating this. The interpreter squints at me, lost.
          I hear my name mispronounced by the judge in his frayed crimson gown. I am nudged to my feet. He looks through me.
Sophie Poppmeier of Austria, Erik Canderlinck of Belgium (Wallonia), Paul Coppens of Belgium (Flanders), Gurkan Arnavut of Cyprus, Jitka Průchová of the Czech Republic, Lucia Ciancaglini of Italy, Jurgita Zujūtė of Lithuania, Hubert Zuba of Malta, Maarten De Zoete of Holland, Trine Kragelund of Denmark, Cristòfol Subira of Spain (Catalunya). Yes, yes, stop there, at that one.
I wake in a spray of sweat.

Friday 13 August 2010

I laugh in a spray of sweat, swallowed by pillows, buoyed by the churned mattress.
Post-coital, soft and confessional, Cristòfol murmurs that he writes poems in Spanish as well as Catalan. Quite different ones, as it happens. I take a quick shower. I must avoid this again, affect indifference, even cruelty. I return rubbing my hair. When he presses into me, I bite his tongue. There’s blood.
It works.
Within hours I’m moved out. The stone dog on the corner of rue des Chartreux cocks its leg higher as I dip into the dark interior of a white car.

See here for more on the EUOIA.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bob Cobbing's ABC in SOUND: a new edition from Veer with an introduction by me

'This 8th edition of Bob Cobbing’s 1965 ground-breaking polylingual sonic abecedary unites Jennifer Pike Cobbing’s cover design for its original publication as Sound Poems with the typeset text of later printings and a new introduction by Robert Sheppard which investigates its character, pre-history and subsequent realisations in performance.' (Adrian Clarke)

Veer Publication 067 [ISBN: 978-1-907088-76-6]
A5 size. 72 pages. March 2015. £6.00

Buy it here.

My introduction begins:

Bob Cobbing’s ABC in Sound is the nearest thing we have in English to Kurt Schwitters’ Ur-Sonate (1923) which it resembles in being an extended, structured text, designed for sound poetry performance, although the mode of structuring is not musical, like Schwitters’ ‘sonata’, but fundamentally lexical, in being based upon the alphabet. As such it resembles various non-concrete alphabet poems (see, for example, Peter Mayer’s anthology Alphabetical and Letter Poems), but the alphabet is more often, though not exclusively, a cause of alliteration and consonance, less an occasion for semantic or logical ordering. Cris cheek calls it ‘a plurilingual abecedarian tour de force’.

My footnotes contain some web links which, of course, work better on this platform. They are
The present location of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop version of the ABC, and state is: ‘In the BBC Sound Archive on tape TRW 6373: “ABC in Sound: Alphabet Poetry (o o-Montage). 3 reels: 1: Makeup; 2: Premaster: 3: Sono-Montage. Completed programme inserts (master).”, although it exists in several archives of electro-acoustic music. (from (accessed 5th October 2014)

Cobbing's extended performance called ‘Variations on a Theme of Tan’ (and other works) may be heard at (accessed 5th October 2014)

A group reading of the ABC at The Other Room, Manchester in 2012 may be accessed at
Four individual performances of the ABC by Jennifer Cobbing made in 2013 may be seen at these sites:;;; (all accessed 5th October 2014)

I write about the Third ABC in Sound here:

and more generally about Bob Cobbing's work here:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Patricia Farrell and Helen Tookey at Bank Street Arts NOW until May 30th

Patricia Farrell’s artwork is currently exhibiting at the Bank Street Arts centre in Sheffield, in poet/artist collaborations to coincide with the South Yorkshire Poetry Festival. The new exhibition at Bank Street Arts. Includes the pairings
  • Brian Lewis and Andrew Hirst
  • Harriet Tarlo and Judith Tucker
  • Helen Tookey and Patricia Farrell 
  • and another pairing I think...
as well as this year's instalment of the Postcard Poems project.  Here's a link to more info about each of the exhibitions.  It's looking pretty awesome, and will be open during SY Poetry Festival events and Weds-Sat 11am-4pm.

Closing Event 2pm on Saturday 30th May.  The bar will be open, and there'll be short artist talks about each of the installations. Patricia and I will be there. I'm assuming Helen will. And I hope Harriet Tarlo will appear, always a pleasure. And you, gentle blogger.

Helen Tookey lives in Liverpool, teaches at JMU, collaborates with Patricia, publishes with Carcanet, and is one of those dreadful Firminists from Liverpool!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Robert Sheppard: Bobliography: Make Perhaps This Out Sense of Can You: symposium on Bob Cobbing (set list)

Chelsea College of Arts: Thursday 21 May 2015

Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) was a sound, concrete and visual poet, best known
for his performed works in which language was anarchically stretched through
shouts and hisses, interspersed between more recognisable tracts of spoken
word. He was also a prolific organiser and collaborator: one of the founders of
the London Filmmakers Co-op in the 1960s, manager of Better Books from
1965-7, and his imprint Writers Forum was amongst the first in the UK to
publish works by John Cage and Allen Ginsberg.

Make Perhaps This Out Sense of Can You contextualised Cobbing’s work as
a concrete poet as well as looking at his legacy as an organiser. What was surprising was the number of people there (130), mostly young and mostly none who knew or saw Cobbing. Although there was an emphasis upon Bob as a maker of images and maker of performances, there was less a sense of him as the maker of books (that the work wasn't art or music, but was literary). Paula Claire called Bob's texts 'triggers' rather than 'scores' and this distinction, made the night before, was referrred back to by a number of speakers. But the interest was encouraging. One fellow ex-Writers Forumite commented, 'Who would have thought this would happen?' (I like to think I would have.) It was good to meet academics like Fiona Becket who is coming back to this material, as is the wonderful Stephen Willey, and Rozemin Keshvani (the 'historian' of Better Books; see here), as well as muscians Hugh Metcalfe, whom I have not seen for years, and David Toop, who I met at Phil Davenport's pioneering Cobbing exhibition in Bury in 2005 (see a little-read post on that here), as well as Rosie Cooper and William Cobbing. Tim Fletcher who recorded late Bob; a man called Mark who has interesting plans, and the young man who liked my homage poems to Cobbing and who came to Bob's work through a secondhand LP! 

Robert Sheppard (set list)

I orginally called my piece (which I conceived and delivered as a performance):
We are both: a collage of writings about and for Bob Cobbing: autrebiography,
unwritings, poems, critical articles, stuff.

Then I called it 'Bits and Bobs'. Finally I entitled it BOBLIOGRAPHY.

I read pages, complete, from top to bottom of the prose, but the poems complete:

A: The Poetry of Saying p. 228
B: Far Language p. 61(includes my account of meeting Bob. Here's another.)
C: poem: Codes and Diodes are both Odes

Invent icicles dripping interference
and discover structural lift
in emergent interchange
opening like a clam – multiply coherent
shoals of desire. Flashes classic Hollywood shot
in erotic slippage exhaustion,
scorched doors for release. Desire
dances in the polyphonic
sentence, means a world, slips through
the signified, refunctioned
in our critical hold: jigsaw
scales, particle syntax admitting
intertexts and music of rhizomatic
diodes. Overlay of systems,
enough revealed delight to design
us all, while
magnetic words twin the
reader swiftly across echo’s edge.

D; from the Introduction to the Veer edition of ABC in Sound (newly published: buy here) p. 1 (a small fragment of it and more information and links here).
E: poem: The Magnetic Letter
F: ABC p. 2
G: Time Out for Words Out of Time Outtake for Bob Cobbing: (from my new book Words Out of Time):
I don’t remember writing to Bob Cobbing. I don’t remember that Bob Cobbing still wore knitted ties. I don’t remember Jeff Nuttall saying, ‘This place is death!’ as we cabbed it through Norwich. I don’t remember that William Empson had wind. Who is the American expert who predicts peace at least until 1985? Can he have guessed that Phil Minton would one day work with Bob Cobbing? Groundhogs ticket in his pocket: Cobbing plays him ‘e’. Exchange employment between time, shadowgraph, black holes. Lol Coxhill watches them perform, back against wall, bald head shining, Hawaiian shirt loose over white trousers, bottle in hand. Looking over the shoulder of the Angel of History.

H: ABC p. 3
I: poem: Verse and Perverse are Both Verses
J: ABC p. 4
K: poem: The Micropathology of the Sign. Which was the introduction to Bob's 'Processual'. Read here.
L: The Poetry of Saying p. 227
M: page from 'The British Poetry Revival', ening mid-sentence...

(The poems are from my first collaboration with Cobbing, Codes and Diodes,1991; our second collaboration, Blatent Blather/Virulent Whoops of 2000-2001, may be read here.) And there's a video of its last outing with me playing myself and Patricia Farrell reading the parts of Cobbing: here.

Bio for the occasion:

Robert Sheppard has just published Words out of Time, his autrebiographies
in which Bob Cobbing's knitted ties and his 'E' poem appear, from Knives
Forks and Spoons. A Selected Poems is due later in the year. Sheppard met
Cobbing in 1973 and has written on his work, collaborated with him, and
attended the Writers Forum workshops up until Cobbing's death. He has
recently supplied an introduction to the new Veer edition of ABC in Sound.

Read more about Cobbing here

Other contributors

Holly Antrum
CATALOGUE2014, film, 20 minutes
Moving our attention between the near and the far, seriousness and humor,
Jennifer Pike (93) recites ‘ABC in Sound’ (1964) by her late husband, Bob
Fiona Becket
The Poetics of the Machine: the example of Bob Cobbing
Fiona's paper addressed Bob Cobbing’s commitment to the
‘poetics of the machine’, and the relationship between the limitations and possibilities
of the technology in the formation of the text and its performance. , with plans to take
the exhibition to the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2017.
Karen di Franco
Karen Di Franco is an archivist and a curator, based at CHELSEA space,
Chelsea College of Arts.
Oscar Gaynor
Oscar Gaynor is a writer and artist currently studying Critical Writing in Art &
Design at the Royal College of Art. He reworked a text originally written in response to the Bob Cobbing exhibition staged at Chelsea Space in December 2014, that combines the
experiences and ramifications of working in the archives of the (neo-)avantgarde
with the sound and images pioneered by Cobbing. For the reading, he
was joined by Henrik Heinonen to interpret the text, an artist predominantly
using sound, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. It was all about worms.
Will Holder
Typographer Will Holder organises writing around cultural objects. Holder is currently developing a protocol and interface for a collectively compiled catalogue of the Bob Cobbing archive. He read conceptual writing drawn from Cobbing's fight with the housing people at the GLC.
Holly Pester
Low Loom Bleep Bleep
A play on sound poetry and poor language expression, in which Holly performatively explored the work of sound poetics in the context of deskwork.
David Toop
David Toop is a musician, author, professor and Chair of Audio Culture and
Improvisation at London College of Communication. He has collaborated with artists ranging from John Latham, Bob Cobbing,Carlyle Reedy and Ivor Cutler to Rie Nakajima, Evan Parker, Max Eastley and Akio Suzuki. He palyed recordings of Abana and Bob.  
Steve Willey
Poetry is not about death, dying only: the Event as a Mechanism of Survival in
the Work of Bob Cobbing. From Six Variations on Typestract One, made for the Destruction in Art
Symposium (1966), to the collaborative version of Chamber Music, produced
for the annual Swedish Text-sound festival in Stockholm (1968), events played an central role in directing and shaping Cobbing's poetic practice.
The symposium was organised by William Cobbing and Rosie Cooper.

William Cobbing
Starting from a sculptural sensibility William Cobbing’s artworks encompass a
diverse range of media, including video, installation and performance. Grandson.
Rosie Cooper
Rosie is Head of Programmes at Liverpool Biennial. She also has an independent curatorial practice, and with William Cobbing, she has co-curated a series of events, displays and publications titled Bob
Jubilé that examines the legacy of Bob Cobbing, through the family archive

The symposium coincided with the Raven Row event Bob Cobbiiiiiiiiing Live, an evening celebrating the work of Bob Cobbing, with highlight performances by Hannah Silva (brilliantly performing along to Bob's HANNAH pages from the ABC) and David Toop (and students) and Paula Claire (the Joyce Grenfell of Experimental Poetry). Hansjorg Mayer spoke, which was incredible. That was the night before. Wednesday 20 May, 6.30pm

Here is an early post on Cobbing's Third ABC and DANS.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form. A Note and Footnote on Disruption, Interruption and Disjunction

‘The dream of a suitable political work of art,’ Rancière says during an interview, ‘is in fact the dream of disrupting the relationship between the visible, the sayable and thinkable’ – the three essential regimes of his thinking – ‘without having to use the terms of a message as a vehicle’; instead producing ‘meanings in the form of a rupture with the very logic of meaningful situations.’ (Rancière 2004: 63) Dissensual rupture – which I interpret, or at least envisage, as a formal activity – is inherently meaningful. ‘Interruption’ – a word that contains rupture – ‘is one of the fundamental devices of all structuring,’ says Benjamin, a statement that has proved its efficacy in two chapters of this study already, in contexts as different as the multi-systemic theorizing of Lotman and the practical multiform book-making practices of Bill Griffiths and Allen Fisher. (Benjamin 1970: 153) [i]


Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Fontana, 1970.
Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics. London and New York: Continuum, 2004.
Rowe, William (Walton). ‘Violence and Form in Bill Griffiths’s Cycles’, in Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, forthcoming, 2015. 

 See other parts of The Meaning of Form project here.

[i] I use this identification in Chapters 4 and 9 of The Meaning of Form, but the quote from Benjamin is one of the ‘theses’ that opens my book of poets’ prose Unfinish, to be published by Veer. William Rowe, one of the editors at Veer (and much else!) prefers the word ‘disjunction’ to ‘interruption’, explaining: ‘The act of interruption does not bring a new ground to meaning into the frame, but on the contrary allows itself eventually to be subsumed.’ (Rowe forthcoming 2015) I read ‘rupture’ in the term, as my use here emphasizes, not intermission, as a synonym for disjunction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form: From the Temporal to the Spatial (and Kamau Brathwaite)

I was writing about

the gradual re-forming of many contemporary forms of poetry from the temporal axis to the spatial axis. The ubiquity and ease of new technologies has made the visual disposition of text simpler to manipulate, to create complex effects, and there is a growth in ‘visual poetry’ that seems to owe little to classic concrete poetry. Attridge says such poems ‘use spatial arrangement to create effects in part by resisting the expectation that poems occur in time,’ which might be a formal shift of some consequence. (Attridge 2004: 72)

And later I find myself writing this analogous passage:

But perhaps the future lies elsewhere, in the example of Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite’s combination of his rooted ‘nation language’ with his deconstructions of page and screen in what he calls his ‘Sycorax Video Style’, which, deliberately ‘anti-elegant in shape’, in the words of Joyelle McSweeney, presents ‘an array of pumped-up lo-fi typefaces’. (MacSweeney 2013: np) Often re-moding his earlier poems, he escapes received pronunciation and the decorum of British ex- and neo-colonialist speech and language, as well as breaking the formal bounds of the equally imperial iambic pentameter, by adopting the visual aspects of word-processing (this being another shift from the temporal to the spatial in contemporary poetics, as noted earlier with reference to visual innovative sonnets).

See the rest of The Meaning of Form project here.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Meaning of Form: Stefan Themerson on Belief and Knowledge

I was struck, reading my Chapter on Stefan Themerson, that I had included these summaries of his attitudes to 'belief', salutory words in a world in which the word 'faith' is treated with hushed reverence, as though its claims were beyond discussion (or ridicule).

The world of Themerson’s writing, like that of Lewis Carroll, is one in which logic and poetry wrestle, an antagonism that runs from the early French poem ‘Croquis dans les ténèbres’ (written 1941), in which the divergent languages of science and poetry contrast with the pedantic language of those who assume rather than seek truth (they are mere believers in Themerson’s taxonomy and thus dangerous), through to his penultimate novel The Mystery of the Sardine (1986) in which a Catholic priest neatly but pointlessly believes in God but does not believe in his belief. (1)

What appears to be ethical aporia at the end of his 'Semantic Sonata' (1945) is actually the first step towards a stance that will eventually match the summary Bertrand Russell gives of the ethics of Themerson’s novel Professor Mmaa’s Lecture (written 1942-3): ‘The world contains too many people believing too many things, and it may be that the ultimate wisdom is contained in the precept that the less we believe, the less harm we shall do.’ (Russell 1984: ii) This ‘wisdom’ leads to Themerson’s late belief – I use the word to emphasize the delicate irony of his position – that ‘All ideologies, all missions, all corrupt … Because, when all is said and done, decency of means is the aim of aims.’ (Wright 2005: ix.) Ends, historical or not, do not justify the means; only the means may ‘justify’ the means.

See also the website of the Themerson Archives, the British one at and the Polish at See also the site for Gaberbocchus Press at Three surviving films may be viewed at He may be heard on 1983 number 3,1977, a recording which I am proud to note that I co-published. (All accessed 25 March 2010).

See the rest of The Meaning of Form project here.


(1) Other freaks in Themerson’s work include Cardinal Pölätüo (whose very name is a typographical joke), the poet-phobic father of Apollinaire, who successfully engineers his offspring’s death, but who lives – ever slowing in his adjustable modernist chair in his Vatican palace – until he is 200 years old when, in 2022 he manages to teleport himself in duplicate form to several destinations in the US simultaneously. See Cardinal Pölätüo (1961).