Publication Date: 15-Mar-08 | ISBN: 9781844712649 | Trim Size: 216 x 140 mm | Extent: 432pp | Format: Hardback
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Complete Twentieth Century Blues is the definitive edition of a long network of interrelated texts that the author wrote and assembled as a time-based project between 1989 and the end of the last century. Many of the texts have appeared before, in both pamphlets and in critically acclaimed full-length volumes, but this edition has been revised throughout. It also includes a previously unpublished book-length text on the paintings of Jack B. Yeats, as well as a number of shorter pieces. All now appear in their intended order, and with their connections to other poems made apparent via an index. At the centre of the book is the sequence The Lores, written according to a strict word count and introducing the politics and poetics of ‘creative linkage’ demonstrated throughout. It focuses upon fascism and resistances to it. Running through the volume are the ‘Empty Diaires’ which offer an alternative history of the twentieth century, told through a series of female narrators. Woven between these are poems on blues music, the first Gulf War, Stalin’s poems, failed utopias, the Earl of Rochester, a sci-fi elegy for the human, a translation from Horace, the ideology of Thatcherism, atheist hymns, a hilarious romp with a very rude Robinson Crusoe, homages to various other artists, and an elegy to Frank Sinatra. The hilarious Wayne Pratt spoofs find their final resting place here too. The prose-poem essay, ‘The End of the Twentieth Century’, brings the project to rest with a celebration of the complexity of our powers of human connection.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgements; Introductory Note; Preface: Melting Borders; 1: Smokestack Lightning; 2: Sharp Talk and Amended Signatures; 3: Codes and Diodes are both Odes; 5: Killing Boxes; 6: The Flashlight Sonata ; 1 Histories of Sensation Mesopotamia ; Schräge Musik; The Materialisation of Soap 1947; 2 Utopian Tales; 3 Internal Exile; 4 Letter from the Blackstock Road; 5 Coda; 8: Slipping the Mind; 9: Weightless Witnesses; 10: Soleà for Lorca; 11: Improvisation Upon a Remark of Gil Evans, for Miles Davis; 12:Seven; 15: Fucking Time: six songs for the Earl of Rochester; 16: Logos on Kimonos; 18: Poetic Sequencing and the New Untitled [net/(k)not-work(s)]) ; 20: The Overseas Blues (an Allusion to Horace); 21: Shutters; 24: Empty Diaries 1901-1990 ; 23: Empty Diaries 1901-1912; 7: Empty Diaries 1913-1945; 17: Empty Diaries 1946-1966; 22: Empty Diaries 1967-1990; 19: Empty Diary 1990; 25: Flesh Mates on Dirty Errands; 26: Living Daylights (Traversed by Swift Nudes); 27: Magdalene in the Wilderness; 28: The Book of British Soil ; The Lores ; 30: The Lores and Jungle Nights in Pimlico; 31: History or Sleep; 33: “The Crimson Word We Sang”; 32: For Scott Thurston; 34: Entries; 35: Ripping through Business; 37: Neutral Drums ; 36: Small Voice; 38: Report on Seaport; 39: Small Voice 2 ; 40: Variation and Themes; 41: Private Numbers from the Drowning Years 1985-1989; Dialogues ; 42: The Collected Works of Josef Stalin; 43: Ten; 44: Beginning with a line from a Chinese poem in an English dream ; 45: Sonoluminescence for All; 46: Armchair Adoption; 47: In Good Voice; 48: Dialogue between Created Pleasure and the Resolvèd Soul ; 49: Tin Pan Arcadia; 50: Towards a Neo-Diagonalist Manifesto; 51: In the Room of a Thousand Mute Salutes ; 52: Re:Entries; 53: Freeze It; 54: A Hundred and Eight Robinson Crusoes; 55: Downing the Ante; 56: Abjective Babble Expectorates Laugh of the Human; 57: Angel at the Junk Box; 58: Retitles: Three Overlaps for Jack B Yeats ; 1 Ocean Green-another homage to Jack B. Yeats; 2 Bruised Ground; 3 And Where Shall We Be Then?; 59: A Dirty Poem and a Clean Poem for Roy Fisher; 60: A Dark Study for Lee Harwood; 61: For the Continuity Terminator ; Wayne Pratt: Watering the Cactus ; 62: Watering the Cactus ; 29: Strange Meetings with Justin Sidebottom; 67: On the Death of Wayne Pratt by Justin Sidebottom; 63: The End of the Twentieth Century: A Text for Readers and Writers ; 64: 31 Basalt Wind-Chimes for the Window-Box of Earthly Pleasures ; 65: From the English; 66: The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham; 68:Say; 69: In an Unknown Tongue; 73: Catacaustic for Tom Raworth; 75: The Push Up Combat Bikini; Notes and Resources; 74: Links in Ink: Index to Twentieth Century Blues; Index
PRAISE FOR THIS BOOK
“Twentieth Century Blues offers an entirely new way of thinking through the nightmare intersection of history, ethics and desire. A dizzying array of techniques lays bare its construction – from word-count formalism to female narrators who ‘know’ they are narrated by a man. Production and reproduction are its obsessions: the radio, the microphone, the slogan; its totems. What emerges is nothing short of a re-education of the reader’s desire, constantly turning from the said to the saying. Courageous and unstinting, Sheppard writes with terrifying authority.” —
“Sheppard’s poems bite. A drive and anger, a vivid sexual and erotic violence, a grim Burroughs wit, and at times a marvellously raunchy humour, that is rare and very special.” —
“Reading Twentieth Century Blues in its complete assembly is an experience of a different order from reading the assured sorties of its earlier partial appearances. Sheppard's sustained concern with the technicalities and moralities of language in literary texts is a rigour that here generates freedoms of register, idiom and form. The poem's structure depends in fact on the introspective presence of occasional vortices of its own substance; but it is a cohesive work, outward-looking and rapacious.” —
Robert Sheppard was born in 1955 and educated at the University of East Anglia. Between 1989 and 2000 he worked on the network of texts called Twentieth Century Blues. Previous excerpts from the project include Empty Diaries (1998) and The Lores (2003). A recent volume is Hymns to the God in which my Typewriter Believes (2006), and a sonnet sequence, Warrant Error, is due for publication by Shearsman in 2009. His work is anthologised in Other and the Oxford Anthology of British and Irish Poetry, in which he is described as 'at the forefront of (the) movement sometimes called linguistically innovative poetry'. He is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Edge Hill University in Lancashire in the UK, and has also published criticism and poetics, including The Poetry of Saying (2005) and Iain Sinclair (2007). He edits Pages as a blogzine and lives in Liverpool.