From BAD IDEA: overdubs of the sonnets of Michael Drayton in his 1619 sequence Idea
The condition of his tenants and of his political party – he was a regular Kentish Tory – lay heavy on his mind. He spent hours every day in his study, doing the work of a land agent and a political whip, reading piles of reports and newspapers and agricultural treatises; and emerging for lunch with piles of letters in his hand, and that odd puzzled look in his good healthy face, that deep gash between his eyebrows, which my friend the mad-doctor calls the maniac-frown.
Your wind-up Easter bunny taps across my desk,
Nodding as I hammer out my manifesto.
My ribcage rattles as though I were clockwork:
Hate is the fossil fuel of my polluted heart.
I bellow each bellicose belly-slapping belief,
Maundy money doled daily to the deserving riche.
While Labour’s pains never cease, I’ll profit.
Your moaning passion passes over my bloated pledge!
Leadership, Local, Euro, General – what election is it?
I’ve been up so late voting no to everything
My eyes are scorched with scoring zero. And who
Are you in bunny ears? Amber? Esther? Cinders? Laura!
I’ll just scroll through these endless death-threats
And fling a few inflammatory mots into circulation.
Maundy Thursday 2019
XLI Love’s Lunacy
Why do I speak of Remain or write of Leave
if every repeated word now fills me with horror,
when Haewei or Putin harvest my spluttered woes
and May’s ministers leak like recycled nappies?
What’s to say, or do, when Brextinction Rebels
glue themselves to May’s every utterance?
Business as Usual is Death! That’s a no-brainer,
now every loony signs up as Euro-Candidate!
But still distracted to distraction, I rail
against Idea’s materialistic cartographies,
her postnational Euro-spatiality. First I call
her an utopian, then an atopian; now I’m lost for words.
Only her echo remains; Next I’ll curse her
as a traitor; then I’ll bless her little cotton socks!
XLII The Michael Drayton Companion (1619)
When, by thy bright Ideas standing by,
I found it pure, and perfect poesy.
Some like my multiform methods,
and commend my social poetics.
Some say I’m a funny old translator,
‘expanded’ like a supersized codpiece.
Some that I excel in explicit vitality.
But others call this strange ventriloquism
‘unsuccessful and overheated, loud and repetitive.’
Ignore my grudge over the ‘esquire’ thing. Now
Duffy’s off, poets leave the laureateship alone.
Am I not best remaining bard for Brexit’s long betrayal,
the ‘better spirit’ that even Shakespeare envied,
before I drank him to death with fat Ben?
I’ll knock one out for the local elections. Free.
Flick through the only Companion I need: you.
Why should your fair eyes and soothing words
dispense such grace upon every acetic voluptuary,
while I crouch in the darkness of Euro-univeralism
and get no glancing postnational illumination?
No wandering star messes with Mallarmé’s constellations,
or screams across the face of Gomringer’s icons,
nor unsettles Adorno’s negations of Old Europe’s
fraudulent freedoms. O! Theory, join up the dots.
Oh, why does your beauty suggest a customs-union
as Labour’s only way out of the European Union?
Let’s not be as ignorant as at the last referendum,
but (please!) let the next be the last referendum!
In this pause to think, I pause to think ill:
how not to get the blues while singing the blues.
9th May 2019
While my weekly sonnet should eternize Idea,
every daily Brexit debate is Time she won’t get back!
She makes a map of my wrinkled misery, charts
our disgrace, to navigate the EU elections, the terrain
they dare to name ‘a consequence-free environment’.
Tyrannising Time trips May’s world-outwearying
span. Her fourth defeat shall be her final deal.
Then it’ll be time for a last visa-free Euro recess:
British disdain amongst the scattered hegemonies.
But then: imagine Green youth returning rejuvenated
to remain and reform. Or: black age to leave, ruling
oppressive lines, to reproduce its repression eternally.
I’ll keep her, enfleshed in words, from Albion
and its grave. My name will fuck hers forever!
Robert Sheppard’s collaboration with the photographer Trev Eales, Charms and Glitter, has just appeared from Knives, Forks and Spoons. Before this, from Red Ceilings Books, was a series of micro-poems, Micro Event Space. The pamphlet Hap: Understudies of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch, from KFS, is part of ‘The English Strain’ project, as is ‘Bad Idea’, which appears here. Sheppard is rather presumptuously ‘transposing’ the English sonnet tradition, and is currently at work on the Romantics. His selected poems, History or Sleep, was published by Shearsman, as was The Robert Sheppard Companion, edited by James Byrne and Christopher Madden, essays on his work. He lives in Liverpool. Also a critic (The Meaning of Form and other works), he is Emeritus Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Edge Hill University.