A dynamic public facing project from J&L Gibbons, Landscape Learn is an exciting venture that Ive been able to be involved with through my residency and tie into my time at Kensal Green Cemetery, with Tereza Stehlikova, with this event. A one day mix of cemetery tour via geology and lost rivers, to talks on the bones of the city, the urban mind, neuroscience, landscape architecture and finishing with a screening of a film I have small part in, made by Tereza. Tickets were sold to a group of nearly fifty and the day felt really communal and engaged, I met so many really interesting people, all of whom shared a complex and intensive interest in their city and its changing environment - often changing for the worst, as the discussion of the nearby Old Oak Common development seemed never too far from the discussions. It's inspiring for me to work with people such as Jo Gibbons and Neil Davidson, this is the kind of day that feeds into my work, takes it into new places, where it needs to be, always growing.
The second event as part of my residence at Kensal Green Cemetery, Worm Wood, a really resonant and communal night with Tom Jeffreys and Chris McCabe, all three of us sharing somewhat deeply intertwined reflections on London, cemeteries, psychological interactions with space and history. I took folk down into the catacombs during my reading of my new limited edition short story publication from Sampson Low - Worm Wood Old Oak. I am really happy with the little chapbook, its beautifully done and this was the right place to share it with the world. https://sampsonlow.co/2017/07/14/worm-wood-old-oak-sj-fowler/
A really brilliant magazine is Hotel, and they've once again generously published some of my new art poems or poem bruts which will form the major output of my work over the next year or so, with a series of events at Rich Mix and four new limited edition books. These three works are taken from the book New Prim.
I am aware it’s easy to project one’s hopefulness onto places other than where you live, and in the context of launching books and doing events, its true in London I tend to rack them up, so perhaps numbing the experience for myself. But what a beautiful reception in Dublin for the launch of Subcritical Tests. Maybe it was the presence of Gorse as a really brilliant journal birthed by the city and its literary history somehow, or Ailbhe Darcy returning to her city. Maybe it was Poetry Ireland behind it, hosting it in the most grand of buildings. But we had a good hundred people, many students from American university summer schools, around the Dublin literary faces behind and supporting Gorse. And people listened close. We did a reading, just a reading, something I do resist nowadays, feelings its limitations like nails on a chalkboard a lot of the time, feeling oversaturated with the mode, and feeling few are honest about what it can do, and what it can’t do. But here, it was perfect. Ailbhe and I were succinct, in our last moment of a long, three year writing journey, a friendship in a book, reaching a peak of some sort. And as Christodoulos said in his intro – it is a difficult book, a gorgeous thing thanks to Gorse and Niall McCormack’s illustrations, but the content is dense and modern as well as lyrical. It’s not a book to whizz through certainly, not in its making or tone or subject. And then on top of that its collaborative, which seems to distance people for some reason. This was an evening really about friendships, and a community, in a place where it seems to me poetry is taken seriously, perhaps that isn't where I belong- a place I should just visit. All told, it was a really memorable evening, a fitting end to a three year writing and collaborating journey.
Well where else but the basement of a pub in old soho to launch a poetry book about the nuclear bomb / apocalypse / threat / possible sweet release from all the puff? A weird and wonderful night in a dark corridor with people I am so fond of it comes close to a fraternal love - Christodoulos Makris, Susan Tomaselli, Ailbhe Darcy - and some new folk who will become friends. We spent a good five hours down there, relaxed, talking and reading and into the world was launched Subcritical Tests. Watch on on the video for the very end, where the performative urge just nearly just nearly got the better of me. Ailbhe is a sport. www.stevenjfowler.com/subcriticaltests
Ledbury Poetry festival is an internationally renowned fest, one entering its 21st year in fact, and for my first time attending I was happy to perform and organise a small Camarade with poets local to the festival or tied to it in some fashion. Set in the beautiful Malvern hills its very much a festival aligned with the more formal in British poetry than myself and the Enemies project, but as I’ve repeated a lot -my tastes and work is what it is for my own ends but that can only exist within the range and width and panoply of traditions, and it’d be hypocritical to not seek out difference in poetry, to not always be open to generous invitations, and be ready to listen and learn and discover what people are writing. I found the festival to be utterly welcoming, hospitable and full of interesting work. Myself and 11 other poets in the Camarade were treated so well, we had a lovely audience in the Market Theatre, a great space and in fact were asked to be the very last, 87th, event of this 10 day incarnation of the festival. My work with Harry Man, one of my closest friends in poetry, went down well and though my visit was brief, it was a really positive experience.
The second of the Illuminations series took place at Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter’s Chapel this past Thursday. It was unique for a number of reasons. The first, is that it celebrated Erich Fried. His poetry has been special to me since I began reading poetry because it is indelibly tied to where I have lived for a decade, West London. He was recommended to me by Sheila Ramage of the legendary Notting Hill bookshop, one of the very many writers Sheila gifted me and so many others over many decades, and then, by chance, exploring Kensal Green Cemetery, just over the canal from where I live, I came across his grave, by accident. Pure chance led me to find his burial site and then go deeper, beyond the Calder books of his love and political poems, into exploring his life. For years his presence has been there with me, writing poetry as I have done, in the cemetery and being concerned with the middle European post war aesthetic more than any other. Then this past year the very generous Austrian Cultural Forum allowed me to develop the Illumination series, and I choose Fried immediately.
What followed deepened the aforementioned connection even further. I was able to secure the Dissenter’s Chapel through my collaborative exhibition with Tereza Stehlikova, so host the event in the place of Erich’s burial, which he choose over Austria, as London was his home in exile. I ran the entire event alone, getting in early to set up projections, seats, switching off alarms and locking catacombs. It was well worth it, the audience was able to take in the most beautiful view of the cemetery after hours, sneaking in through a small gate on Ladbroke grove. And vitally, the connection Stephen Watts gave me to John Parham and then David Fried and Kathy Fried, Erich’s children, allowed me to bring the Fried family to the event. Generations of the family were there, with even Maeve Fried contributing, two generations removed from Erich.
A personal affair for me, one tied intimately to the west London literary history I am value so much and feel myself to be in the lineage of. And the performances were really great, full of different, not too reverential to Erich, but not completely oblique either. All the videos can be seen here www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations and some pictures too by Madeleine Elliott who was kind enough to attend and document.
A deep poetic compliment from a peer and friend, referring to my 2014 book, - a new poem! as part of The Learned Pig's Wolf Crossing season, which is as excellent as this poem http://www.thelearnedpig.org/rottweilers-guide-dog-owner/4855
"If you were a fruit,
what fruit would you be?
Black banana, fruit flies,
les ananas ne parlent pas,
(a little song of two children learning french on Canadian TV)."
a new collaborative poetry collection by Ailbhe Darcy & I, the first book by Gorse
I'm happy to announce my latest collaborative book, written with Ailbhe Darcy, will be published as the very first Gorse edition - Subcritical Tests. Available here to buy, do go here and click links and purchase it, why not? It's a difficult book but a rewarding one, certainly the parts Ailbhe wrote, which are mashed up with mine now completely, to the point where I genuinely don't know who wrote what, which is perhaps as it should be with a collaboration? gorse.ie/book/subcritical-tests/
London launch of Subcritical Tests
Monday 10th July 2017, 6.30-10.30pm, Sun & 13 Cantons, Soho
with readings from Niven Govinden, Susana Medina, Colm O’Shea followed by the launch by Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler. [RSVP]
Dublin launch of Subcritical Tests
Wednesday 12th July, 7pm-8.30pm, Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Sq East
with Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler, introduced by gorse poetry editor Christodoulos Makris. [RSVP]
About the book
"The nearness of nuclear holocaust, always just one clumsy accident away, forms an entry point into this record of a friendship. The poems in Subcritical Tests stubbornly make connections, ever conscious of the impending threat of annihilation. Oblique, modern, lyrical, humorous, these poems represent the range of Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler‘s individual practices, modulated and melded through the collaborative process." www.stevenjfowler.com/subcriticaltests
Gorse have established themselves as one of the finest literary journals in Europe, if not the world, and so to have this book open their venture into publishing standalone books is an immense privilege. The book is beautifully illustrated and cover designed by Niall McCormack.
3:AM: I recently had the pleasure of reading your four collections of poetry: the latest “The Guide to Being Bear Aware”, Enthusiasm, published in 2015, The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner, from 2014, and your first book, Red Museum, published in 2011. How is “The Guide to Being Bear Aware” different from your previous works?
SJ Fowler: Thank you. I’m sorry you had to slog through four of the, one is normally enough for people. As you probably picked up, each one is very different from the next – different style, method, tone, subject. You couldn’t tell they are from the same person, I’ve been told that anyway, and I take that as a badge of honour. The language I reclaim from the world and plop down on the page is not supposed to represent me as an individual but just some of my mental activity and inquiry. The Guide is different as it’s a return to more literary ground, it’s more notably poetic. That’s because I only discovered poetry in 2010 and this kind of writing, post war European poetry, is what got me into the field. So for the first time I feel I’ve been reading that work long enough to let it speak out. And I’ve also been more active with really experimental pieces of performance, visual art and theatre over the last few years, and so I felt, organically, my poetry could be a little more lyrical.
3:AM: In this collection you begin most of the poems with quotes from a wonderfully curated list of European poets. Could you explain the concept behind this?
SJF: When I first began reading poetry I would take out huge anthologies from Senate House Library in London, big dusty things from the 60s, 70s, 80s that no one else was looking at, and I would spend all day reading them, stopping only to write down lines from poets, both known and obscure, that struck me intensely. It sounds untrue but back then I would read poetry for six or seven hours a day, I was so excited to have discovered it. So for this collection I raided this old word doc of stolen lines. I assigned the epigraphs randomly, often, and I know people hate epigraphs, they take it to be the poet being a prick, showing off their learning, so I thought if I put one for pretty much every poem that’d be quite funny. It’d also force people to look for meanings between the poem and the epigraph which perhaps don’t exist aside from their own analysis, which is also nice. .... CONT'D
A grand evening at National Poetry Library celebrating Shearsman Books and their 35 years in publishing, constantly and carefully putting out books of brilliant modernist poetry from around the world. The library was full and I had the pleasure of reading alongside multiple Shearsman authors, including Peter Riley, who has been writing for over 50 years and someone whom I've been reading with great admiration for many years.
Celebrating Erich Fried / The Ecchoing Green / Landscape learn : Growth and Decay - all at Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel. Three unique events taking place in the first half of July, each in the remarkable grade II listed Dissenter's Chapel of Kensal Green Cemetery in West London. 391 Ladbroke Grove. London W10 5AA. Entrance via Cemetery door on Ladbroke Grove
July Thursday 13th : The Ecchoing Green with Chris McCabe, Tom Jeffreys and SJ Fowler.
Time: 7:00 PM - Free entrance www.poetrylibrary.org.uk/events/readings/?id=13145
This event will celebrate Chris McCabe's ongoing publication project with Penned in the Margins, following In The Catacombs and Cenotaph South, with new work responding to Kensal Green Cemetery. // This event will see the launch of Worm Wood, Old Oak, a new piece of short fiction by SJ Fowler, published by Sampson Low, written about the Cemetery and its impending neighbour, the Old Oak development. // This event will explore Tom Jeffrey's Signal Failures, published by Influx Press, which provides, through a walk along the proposed route of HS2, a wide-ranging critique of humanity’s most urgent failures. - An evening of readings and discussion with three of the UK's most interesting presses, poets and writers.
July Saturday 15th : Landscape Learn - Growth and Decay
Time: 12:15–15:30 Tickets £10 on Eventbrite
Landscape Learn is a new prototype for learning and engaging with the landscapes around us. Landscape Learn will use the seasonality of nature to structure our approach to adaptive and immersive learning. A pioneering new project from J&L Gibbons.
Growth and Decay will explore how our identity and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to the socio-geographic context of our lives. Co-hosted by Poet SJ Fowle, the Kensal Green Cemetery, forms a distinguished and biodiverse context for a discussion on health and wellbeing in a changing city. e will walk through Kensal Green Cemetery, and look back to look forward with Museum of Londo osteologist Jelena Bekvalac who specialises in reading the bones of dead Londoners. Neuroscientist Dr Andrea Mechelli of King's College Londo, Michael Smythe of Nomad Project, Jo Gibbons and Neil Davidson, Urban Min collaborators will discuss citizen science and realtime collection of data on state of mind in the city. Dr Tereza Stehlikova' film pieces of a disappearing neighbourhood will be screened in the Dissenters' Chapel.
July 6th: Illuminations II: Celebrating Erich Fried
Time: 7:00 PM - Free Entrance
These events will follow new performances, readings, artworks and films by David Fried, Robert Prosser, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, John Parham, Stephen Watts, Joshua Alexander, SJ Fowler and more, all celebrating the great Erich Fried, one of the great political and love poets of the post-war era.www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations The illuminations series is supported by Austrian Cultural Forum London.
All three events are part of Worm Wood, an exhibition and residency in Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel throughout the summer by Tereza Stehlikova and SJ Fowler www.stevenjfowler.com/wormwood
This is the link, https://sampsonlow.co/2017/07/14/worm-wood-old-oak-sj-fowler/ why not visit this link and spend 3 english pounds on this limited edition edition?
My first piece of fiction published in some time, this limited edition chapbook from Sampson Low is part of my exhibition and residency at Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel and explores the role of the Developer as some sort of ambiguous agent for catastrophic change in contemporary London, referring to the Old Oak development in West London, just minutes from the cemetery and where I live, which will utterly level and 'modernise' the entire area and its history and community. www.stevenjfowler.com/wormwood
Sampson Low have been publishing since 1793 and under the editorial guidance of Alban Low are releasing some beautiful chapbooks with contemporary poets and writers. Worm wood old oak will be available to buy https://sampsonlow.co/ soon or at the reading on July 13th at Kensal Green Dissenter's Chapel.
Special to be in this new anthology - "Atlantic Drift publishes twenty-four poets from the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada in an exciting partnership between Arc Publications and Edge Hill University Press. This anthology seeks to highlight new and existing writing and to define/redefine the discussions between poets from both sides of 'the pond'. By developing a dialogue between English-speaking traditions, Atlantic Drift will include some of the most exceptional poetry and poetics written in the twenty-first century" https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/university-press/poetsreveal/
So lucky to be part of this newly developed scheme with Rich Mix. I've been working with them for 7 years now and this wonderful endeavour will really boost my work I am sure.
"We’re delighted to introduce our six Associate Artists for 2017-18. These organisations and individuals are working closely with us to deliver creative programmes throughout 2017 and beyond, with public-facing events, new commissions and learning and engagement programmes with young and local people. They have been selected because they represent the breadth and depth of our artistic programme, working across the artistic disciplines and with diversity at the heart of what they all do. https://www.richmix.org.uk/news/introducing-our-associate-artists-2017-18
The Associate Artists are Arts Canteen, Baluji Shirivastav OBE and Inner Vision Orchestra, Dash Arts, Numbi and SJ Fowler. Sixth associate artist Tomorrow’s Warriors and Nu Civilisation Orchestra is joining Rich Mix as our first ever resident orchestra.
Artistic Director Oliver Carruthers explains that"[they] are all artists we’ve had the privilege to work with over the years, and we think they deliver outstanding work. That’s why we wanted to change our relationship a little bit, so that we can offer more support to them with our building, resources and time."
Poet and playwrite SJ Fowler responded "without the generous, agile and mindful support of Rich Mix I simply would not have been able to evolve as an artist in the way I hope I have over the last seven years. To be an associate artist in 2017 is an immense opportunity, I'm proud to be associated with the place and staff, and what it stands for."
We look forward to sharing the work we create with our Associate Artists over the year ahead.
Find out more about our Associate Artists here. https://www.richmix.org.uk/about-us/associate-artists
What I've tried to do, with this play, is fulfil the dictum that a good work of art can only create the opposite effect of its intention - that is I set out to lie based on truth, so that the audience would feel truth based on lies. It was a generous process - ground up, collective, energetic, exciting. And I think, amidst the obvious density of the play, people to get the gist.
The experience of writing and directing Mayakovsky (for the Land of Scoundrels night of theatre, at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, for the Revolution 17 season, which opened this past Friday June 9th) has been a privilege, especially to be commissioned to do so. And It has not yet worn off, the experience of having good actors perform words I’ve mangled, and there is something undoubtedly intoxicating about theatre, as a practise, way beyond poetry and something before performance. It is so fundamentally collaborative, reactive, uncontrollable, inaccurate … it’s entirely alive and human, and the smallest change or development or gesture – be it physical or linguistic or intellectual – can shift entire narratives of meaning. It is a playground in that sense, in begins in failure and needs trust. These are things I am attracted to.
This play is modernist in its dialogue, it uses poetry and found text and slight disjunctions, but has a more theatrical, playful, physical tone - its definitely the most accessible thing I've written for the stage.. It’s about death, a very certain kind of nostalgic, faux romantic death, the death of a poet, who like the martyr he became, might not have needed to actually exist to serve his purpose. I’m always sure of what kind of writing I want to do for theatre, I feel confident in my purpose, but every time I do notice some in the audience sag under the weight and intricacy of what I'm trying to do, I do feel conflicted, if not saddened. There's something not quite there yet, I've not yet written anything brilliant. I just find realism and exaggeration and melodrama so offputting, so frightening, that I suppose at times I must be overcompensating.
Petra Freimund, a very experienced dramaturg has been a great person to share a double bill with, her experience invaluable, and my old friend Thomas Duggan has produced the most incredible set. His work has made my play. It is a spectacular sight, fitting for any theatre in the world.
The actors have been amazing, all of them generous and insightful, all of them taking the characters to the point I imagined and often beyond. Really it’s one the very best experiences I’ve had with a group of actors – they have worked so hard, so mindfully, with a real energy and dedication. Simon Christian, Edie Deffebach, Rebecca Dunn, Alec Bennie. They all have engaged with my text with great respect and on the final night, which was the best of three very good performances, I felt a sure sense of comfort that the characters had reached past what might’ve been expected. That perhaps there was some moments of brilliance in this work, and it was thanks to them.
Overall a grand thing, these three days of performances, and the short time in preparation, no more than a few meetings really, in what has been a production of extremely limited resource. Perhaps it has been so resonant because of this fact. Everyone is in it because they wish to be.
Such a great group of people to work with Seryu Oh, Chaikwan Lee and all the folk from the WOW festival who will host myself, Hannah Silva and Luke Kennard in September following this duo of events in London at the start of June. Check it out proper here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/southkorea
Friday night was a panel talk in the very jazzy Korean Cultural Centre in central London. It was crazy at times, 2 hours or more of winding chat, swearing, funny questions, in a hot basement without a break, but the discovery of the poets from South Korean in the project - Kiwan Sung, Minjung Kim and Hwang Yuwon - was fantastic, so talented and sooo funny all three of them. Such a great vibe immediately upon our meeting, a great laugh, and Kiwan and I worked out our collaboration that night.
Saturday night was the big event at Rich with loads of pairs. Kiwan recorded my heartbeat live, then his own, merged them with a live coding programme the audience could see before I sounded out the consonants our our alphabet and he did the vowels, while I held the camera. Was peachy. All the pairs were great in fact and we went out afterwards to solidify our new poet friendship over tapas. What more can one ask for?
I had a blast performing in Sigmund Freud Lecture Theatre at Institute of Psychoanalysis! It was for The Poetry and Psychoanalysis Conference: Creative Borders and Boundaries brilliantly organised by Kathryn Maris, Catherine Humble and Susanne Lansman. Much to say about my performance, it was a conceptual satire on conference papers perhaps and the normative urge in poetry and psychoanalysis to 'fix' or to begin a discussion about these fields with the assumption that such 'fixing' is possible. Anyway I had fun and people seemed to enjoy my tomfoolery. https://psychoanalysis.org.uk/civicrm/event/info?id=531
July Thursday 6th : 7pm : Free Entrance
Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel : London
Illuminations II : celebrating Erich Fried
New performances, readings, artworks and films by David Fried, Robert Prosser, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, John Parham, Stephen Watts, Joshua Alexander, SJ Fowler and more.
Erich Fried, one of the great political and love poets of the post-war era, whose strikingly beautiful and immediate poetry found no contradiction in those themes, is celebrated on the grounds of Kensal Green Cemetery, where he rests. Fleeing Vienna to make his home in London during WWII he left a profound impact on both places, celebrated by readers through his life and into the current day in Austria especially, this event aims to shed new light on a great poet of Europe.
The illuminations series is supported by Austrian Cultural Forum London and curated by SJ Fowler. .... Watch this TV Documentary from 1988 featuring the Austrian born Poet Erich Fried: 6 May 1921 - 22 November 1988 who fled Nazi occupied Vienna for London in 1938.
Really pleased to have the closing poem in the new Long Poem magazine, issue 17. It's the third time I've been in this wonderful poetry mag, to be enjoyed by fowl and huumans alike.
My poem is about the things that happen after bad things happen and it's part of a series. http://www.longpoemmagazine.org.uk/