Thursday, April 19, 2012

"The Given" by Robert Sheppard

“The Given” by Robert Sheppard (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 40pp, ISBN: 978-1-907812-07-1 £5.00)

I recently reviewed the "Smartarse" anthology from Knives Forks and Spoons, which I thought was an example of what a good anthology should do, and one of my favourite current pamphlets is this one, "The Given" by Robert Sheppard. Like most KS&F productions, this pamphlet has a workmanlike feel to it, which seems appropriate for the contents, as we get the feeling that Sheppard has moulded his raw materials - the linguistic productions of his earlier life - into a rough-and-ready artefact. The work consists of four prose pieces, totalling forty pages. Section III ends with the following:

"Adrian Clark chalks on the board: 'MATERIALS (the given) + PROCEDURE ="

So 'the given' are the words, the blocks of language taken from old journals and notebooks. The procedure is summarised on the back cover by Scott Thurston:

"Part I attends to what writing has remembered that the writer has not ('I don't remember when I started writing poetry'); part II turns diary entries into questions ('How can he argue that feeling is structural?'); part III revisits the new sentences of Sheppard's 1985 'Letter from Blackstock Road' to process material from that period, whilst part IV alphabetises journal material written only in May, reprising Sheppard's Mayday texts and 'Report on Seaport' in his 'Twentieth Century Blues'".

To read the full review, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

“The Cost of Walking” by Shannon Tharp

“The Cost of Walking” by Shannon Tharp (Skysill Press, 80pp, £8.95 / $15.00. ISBN: 978-1-907489-06-8)

When I received this book, the latest from Skysill Press, I opened it at random and saw this:


as a flower
a split lark's

To present a six-line poem in which four of the lines consist of a single word is a brave move; there's nowhere to hide, so the words have to be right. In this case, 'graphic' is a striking adjective for 'flower', and even more so for the song of a bird. The word 'blooms' being a verb, serves to push the poem forward and 'split' is again, a striking word, applied to both the lark - where it suggests pain or parting, or some less definable rift - and to the stream of its song; which is 'minor' as in musical key, but with suggestions of smallness or insignificance. The title, 'Poem', suggests to the reader that this may be a poem about a poem, a piece of language, an object, which, in WS Graham's phrase, is "an addition to the world". This adds an extra dimension to the piece, where the word 'graphic' for example, implies a whole poetic ethos (which is distinctly American), from imagism onwards, and where the word 'minor', alluding to music, has a different sense when applied to poetry.

To read the full review on Litter, click here.