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This review is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

TWENTIETH CENTURY BLUES ROBERT SHEPPARD, The Flashlight Sonata (Stride) £5.95
Pages 219-238: Adrian Clarke ed Robert Sheppard £3 or £12 for the series of 12
JOHN SEED AND ROBERT SHEPPARD, Transit Depots/Empty Diaries (Ship of Fools) £4.99
Active in Airtime #1, 2, 3, 4 ed Ralph Hawkins, John Muckle, Ben Raworth £3.50; three-issue sub £10
MAURICE SCULLY, The Basic Colours (Pig Press) £6.95
MAURICE SCULLY, Over and Through (Poetical Histories) £3.50
DARIA VILLA, Tra Le Ciglia/Between the Eyelashes translated by Villa and Tom Raworth (Active in Airtime)
RALPH HAWKINS, Writ (Active in Airtime)
RALPH HAWKINS, Routes and Abrasions (Poetical Histories) £3.50
RALPH HAWKINS, Without & Within (Silver Hounds)
RALPH HAWKINS, Flecks (Oasis/Permanent)
DREW MILNE, How Peace Came (EqUipage)
DREW MILNE, Sheet Mettle (Alfred David Editions) £6.50
MAGGIE o'SULLIVAN, In the House of the Shaman (Reality Street) £6.50

Robert Sheppard commenced operations just as Margaret Thatcher took command, and an uneven power struggle ensued. As a postgraduate, Sheppard edited a unique cassette magazine that featured early work by Gregory Woods alongside Bill Griffiths and Stefan Themerson; and the excellent Rock Drill, whose first number included an incisive article by musicologist Peter Stacey ('Literary criticism is dogged by a sloppy and undisciplined use of the word "music"'). Pages started out in the late eighties as a magazine of what, having auditioned several other labels, Sheppard now insists on calling 'the linguistically innovative poetries'; each issue consisted simply of two or three folded A4 photocopies, but its strike rate was unusually high.

The new series consists of 'resources' for the work of twelve poets (one per issue), including a general introduction, new poems, critical comment and a bibliography. It's a worthwhile project, though Adrian Clarke is an unfortunate opener, and Out to Lunch's comment a defensive rehearsal of the thinnest of arguments: 'Next to Clarke's texts, the mainstream… is made to appear homogenised, predigested, as if its constituents have been chewed to collusive cud'. In fact it backfires, for a flick through Floating Capital, the anthology of 'new poets from London' co-edited by Sheppard and Clarke, reveals an oppressive homogeneity from which only Maggie O'Sullivan escapes: 'almost hallUcinatory the shifting/enigma I'm still around/on each black canvas/vocable on vocable encrusted/the Magnetic I sails forth/to name the bigger light/seeking advantageous terms/and a subject to predicate' (four lines of Clarke ...


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