‘Warrant Error’ by Robert Sheppard, pub. Shearsman. 118pp, £8.95 / $16. ISBN 9781848610187
Here's the opening sonnet of 'Warrant Error':
Immensities blade rushes the wind and
grieves a full deck of bad luck.
A managed democracy dances in tune
to a spread-cleft litany, as the Queen's English
warbler, toned to death, unstrews his truth
The blind justice hangs his slogan. Stop.
Burgeon a burden for the chat laureate
entuning and consuming his own genius. The comedy
terrorist brags his mince as roast beef
No peace fries up on a multiple mind grill,
dithering states in desperate times; the sandy
trap-door promise of paradise rusted by frost.
The biggest part of self weakens its softest
option: its cast out old alibi song
This poem shows a mastery and a thorough understanding of the sonnet form; a tension between compression and expansive discursion, sudden switches of meaning, and a lyricism resulting from close-knit sound and expression. It reminds me of Geoffrey Hill in its tightness and allusiveness (a comparison Sheppard would probably be uncomfortable with); but the crucial difference is that, with Sheppard, there's no patriarchal persona running the show; instead, the borrowings and appropriated texts speak for themselves.
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