A note on : Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, reflections on a fine course

Across five monday evenings in the new year of 2017 I had the chance to lead a course at Tate Modern, after hours, in the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition itself. With a remarkable group of people, ten hours were passed amongst the extraordinary range of artworks that made up this retrospective. All told I spent almost exactly twenty four hours in that space, most often alone or in a small group. I was able to really engage, in a way that is almost impossible in normal circumstance, with the lessons Rauschenberg's lifetime of art practise and general decency had to offer me. And I did feel it was a personal connection, feeling an immense kinship with his prolific and curious mode. 

I've generated an unwieldy volume of notes on his work that I intend to turn into an article or sorts, or a reminder for myself in smoother print, but for now, just fresh from the course's conclusion, I can only reflect on the generous human experience it provided. I must helped with quite some grace by curators Luisa Ulyett and Joseph Kendra, and I will admit at times the unique format of the after-hours adult-ed type format did provide challenges, I believe myself to be too conscious of every individual detail at times, trying to do all things at once, making sure everyone involved is satisfied in all ways, when this not possible and counterintuitive.  However the experience was resonant because of those generous enough to participate, really warm, intelligent, discerning people I had the chance to spend an extended time with, a ten hour conversation. Read more - http://www.stevenjfowler.com/tatemoderncourse

A note on: Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire, a book of marks

Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire : a book I am working a lot on at the moment, in the studio, with inks and experiments, for publication later in 2017 with Blart Books. AOAE will be one of the triology of poembrut books I release this year, and centred on the pansemic tradition, mark marking, material, sexuality, amoeba's and ... I'm writing essays for each of these three books too, to go in the back, not to explain but to discuss and am revisiting much Michaux and Bataille for AOAE.

A note on: Swedenborg Hall : April 11th : London launch of new poetry collection

Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury - April Tuesday 11th 7.30pm : Free Entry
www.shearsman.com/shearsman-reading-events 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

I'm happy to announce my new poetry collection will be launched in London at the home of the Emanuel Swedenborg Society, in Bloomsbury.  Part of the longstanding Shearsman Books reading series, The Guide to Being Bear Aware will be launched with a new performance relating to both book and place.

More info on the book www.stevenjfowler.com/bearaware and at the Shearsman site.

Also launching a new book on the night will be John Hall, who has been publishing extraordinary work for over fifty years in the UK and is a significant influence on myself and many of my generation. So come and see one real poet and I. 

A note on: Lightwave, performing with Lithuanian poets in London

If you try to please audiences, uncritically accepting their tastes, it can only mean that you have no respect for them.
 -Andrei Tarkovsky

A memorable night at Free Word centre, bathed in a dirty UV light I had associated with searching for bodily fluids in hotel rooms transformed a literary house meeting hall into a space for real performance literature. I was performing alongside Lithuanian poets Zygimantas Kudirka and Gabriele Labanauskaite and thanks to Zygi's suggestion we themed the evening around the Lightwave, all presenting new live works thanks to an invitation by the Lithuanian Cultural Centre tying into the London Book Fair.

I've known Gabriele for years now, she has always been a peer whose work I find motivating, one of dozens of folk beyond the UK doing the work I think we should be doing on the island, blending heavy skill in theatre, poetry and sound. She has an immense presence too, calm, clear thinking, warm. And Zygimantas was a revelation, having never seen him perform before, he was unique, capitivating, authentic, very funny. He made my improvised speaking performance, which involved rope lights nosed around my neck, flames held under my palm and rambling engagements with the theme of light, seem conventional.

The Free Word was kitted out differently too and there was a sensitive, engaged feeling in the audience. It all emerged from the intent, mindful curation of the Lithuanian Cultural Institute, Rūta Nanartavičiūtė and her colleagues were a joy to work with, with an unusual sense of play and a taste for the contemporary and strange. The intense feeling of post performance energy, of soft relief, was permeated this time with a sense of hoping hospitality had been shown to the visiting poets, and it felt as thought they had shared an evening with myself and others that would be long in the memory.

Published: Three poems into Dutch on Sample Kannon

Thanks to the brilliant Tsead Bruinja, three of my newer poems, coming from my new book The Guide to Being Bear Aware, have been translated into Dutch and published in the Sample Kannon journal. http://samplekanon.com/?p=3771

De Toekomst

De toekomst
als een eend met rubbertanden.
Een vakje dat uw reactie zal bevatten
op een gebeurtenis die u in de war heeft gebracht,
wat tot als gevolg heeft dat u gaat denken dat reactie een oplossing is.

Published: two poems into Hungarian in Szif

Thanks to the brilliant Orsolya Fenyvesi, two of my newer poems, coming from my new book The Guide to Being Bear Aware, have been translated into Hungarian and published in the Szif journal. http://www.szifonline.hu/?cikk_ID=679

Nem támadnak meg a medvék

Ez ólálkodik a sötétben,
a vegetarianizmus
barátságos története.

Livia azt mondja, kenyér van az orrban
és a torokban.

A note on: the last soundings, performing with the great Phil Minton

An amazing privilege it was to perform an improvised vocal work with Phil Minton last October at Kings Place in London. The video of that work is now public, beautifully shot by Ed Prosser.

For over fifty years Phil Minton has been performing, singing, vocalising around the world. He absolutely has shaped, even defined, free vocalisation and improvised sound poetry since WWII. To get to work with him for the first time, with no prior preparation, no conversation about what we'd do before the performance even, was such an honour, and beautiful / terrifying in equal measure. So important for me to feel I'm crossing over with the greats of previous generations

A note on: beginning production on Land of Scoundrels, new theatre at Rich Mix

I'm to write a new short play, called Mayakovsky, as part of a night of theatre at Rich Mix, commissioned for their Revolution 17 season, on the centenary of the Russian Revolution. It will be staged with an amazing set design by Thomas Duggan, who has designed for Vesterport's theatre's Faust recently amongst other things, and placed alongside new works by Austrian playwright Petra Freimund and Larry Lynch, who often works for the Belarus Free Theatre. We began our production proper this week and already the project is inspiring, I'm learning immensely from the experience of these three deeply intelligent people. Actors will be cast soon, a score written, and then we'll build to June 9th 10th 11th, which will be intense. www.stevenjfowler.com/mayakovsky

A note on: curating the 2nd English PEN Modern Literature Festival

Such was the resonance and enthusiasm around the first, the second had to come. It feels as though this is the beginning of a tradition. I hope so. There isn't another curatorial activity that has proved to be this engaged and purposeful for me. Once again my role really is to liaise between the brilliant, principled, pragmatic work of those at English PEN, again working closely with the inspiring Cat Lucas, and the thirty writers who have agreed, all of them with great willingness and humble trepidation, to write or perform a new work on April 1st, in service of another author.

Once again my experience was to spend time with authors around the world whose deliberate acts of decency, whose ethical drive, whose fundamental character, has led them directly into the kind of psychological and physical harm that leaves one weaker for knowing of it. To spend such brief time with these people, these peers, and to know in that trifling moment how little I can know of what they and their families are experiencing because of their writing, their journalism, their poetry. And so the English writers have expressed again this feeling of overwhelming responsibility. One so overwhelmingly as to be perhaps prohibitive. And for all its remarkable energy and galvanising intensity this is the one thing I have learnt from last year and that I have tried to pass on to this year. This magnitude is implicit. The authors from England should not apologise for their own fortune and comfort while celebrating the courage of another. They should celebrate them, write for them, to them, with them. They should be as modern, as experimental, as humorous as they are grave. They should take their responsibility to be in the investment aesthetically as well as emotionally. This is not a small detail. It is vital. Because by doing the day itself, by making something where perhaps there would be no connection between two writers across the world, that sense of shame, in a small way is being acknowledged. From that moment on, we must just have them in our minds, spread the word of their work and their actions, keep things alive.

Some extraordinary writers are involved this year, you can see the full list below or on www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen. The event is free, in three parts. What I hope happens is what I hoped for when we initially hatched the idea. Nothing impossible, nothing utopian. The create more members of English PEN, so that the political will of this time is directly forcefully behind the writers charity, who have the expertise, who are on the front lines of absolutely vital battlegrounds in our time, from surveillance to free speech, while also being a light in the dark for many writers abroad, thirty of whom we will celebrate on April 1st.

A note on: Lightwave: New Performance in Lithuanian Literature

Wednesday March 15th / 6:30pm doors for 7pm start / Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road. EC1R 3GA : Free Entry but online booking requested here

A unique event celebrating Lithuanian’s new generation of literary artists, featuring brand new readings and performances by Gabrielė Labanauskaitė-Diena, Žygimantas Kudirka and SJ Fowler, a British poet connected to their innovative, collaborative practise.

Both Labanauskaite and Kudirka have carved out reputations across Europe for remarkable writing and live performances to match. This is a rare chance in London to witness poets who are breaking ground in the new European scene.

From Lithuania’s powerful lyrical and formal tradition has grown a culture of experimentation and in this event curated for the London Book Fair, the Lithuanian Culture Institute brings to light the best of Lithuania’s new generation of poets and performers.

Speakers Žygimantas Kudirka is a writer, artist and performer of interactive poetry, artificial languages and electronic music. Kudirka’s first poetry collection, XXI a. Kudirka (The Twenty-first Century Kudirka), is made up of interactive verses, literary remixes, internet poetry, and texts of unusual graphic forms and content. He is also a performer of avant-garde rap and one of the pioneers of poetry slam in Lithuania, representing the country in European slam poetry championships. His works have been translated in different languages and part of them can be found online herehere or here. / Gabrielė Labanauskaitė-Diena is a text producer. She combines poetry, drama, essay and other texts with interdisciplinary arts, enjoying her roles as writer, performer and organizer. Gabrielė also appears in classical forms – as a playwright in theatre, lecturer at Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy, human being in everyday life. Find out more here and here.

The Guide to Being Bear Aware : my new new book

I'm happy to announce my latest poetry collection will be published with Shearsman Books. The Guide to Being Bear Aware.

More info on the book www.stevenjfowler.com/bearaware and at the Shearsman site.

The book will be launched in London on April Tuesday 11th, 7.30pm, at Swedenborg House in Bloomsbury, with further launches in York, Bristol and Kingston.

"... advice for living in a world gone awry. Wry, violent, contemplative, political, intimate and raucous by turns, these are poems that laze on your lap only to get their claws in. Morphing into unfamiliar shapes beneath the watching eye, these refreshing, quizzical, well-traveled poems forge a world entirely their own”   Sarah Howe

You can read a poem from the book published by Poetry Magazine online here: The Robin Hood Estate : Poetry Magazine October 2016 

"In SJ Fowler’s work, which surprises & delights by turns, I’m fascinated throughout by the fast moves he makes, quick on the draw & changing rapidly from image to image, meme after meme as it were. His is in that sense a markedly original enterprise, but one which carries with it another thrust – toward sharing, even collaboration – that has been central to much of his earlier work.  Here every poem starts off with the words of some other poet (present or past, close or distant) before his own voice enters & takes over, with those other voices, spirits, hovering around.  It is all new as I read him, all special, and I’m drawn to follow him now wherever he takes us."                             Jerome Rothenberg

About the publisher: Shearsman Books, who for nearly three decades have been a home to some of the most extraordinary high modern and literary poets the UK has produced since WWII, have published many poets profoundly influential on myself, from Cesar Vallejo to Fernando Pessoa in English, as well many peers whose work has given me much, from Vahni Capildeo to John Hall.www.shearsman.com

A note on: The University Camarade II

The future is in good hands if this event is any indication. Though ostensibly about pairing students across the country, and allowing them to experiment / collaborate / create new friendships, what it is really about is giving a platform to younger poets who might be locked into the boundaries that come with being a 'creative writing' student or in a university. It's just a way to discover people, to see them shine, and they were really remarkable on this occasion, all 22 poets, from all over the UK. A really resonant evening, all the videos are here www.theenemiesproject.com/unicamarade worth watching.

A note on: Curating the Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition

I conceived of this exhibition for multiple reasons. The first, I wanted to invest in the place. I've been teaching at Kingston University for a few years and wanted to create a platform in the area, outside of London (just) where those living or studying local felt that not everything was east of them, in the city, that there was some focus on the place as other than a place to visit, but to reside, creatively. Second because I wanted students and faculty from across departments to connect, from across ages and years and practises, and I wanted this to happen in the context of the many brilliant poets and artists who were also not associated with the Uni. Too often we're all in our own boxes, in all things, but especially in the pace of teaching or studying. Thirdly, I had hoped new friendships and collaborative relationships would begin and by placing students work next to those who are ostensibly professionals, that many students would take inspiration from that, would get permission to experiment, to follow their own noses, and that it would as a project show them they could go into spaces beyond the university. This is often a problem too, that students feel too safe at university creatively, and this comes to bear painfully when they graduate. Fourthly I had built some fantastic connections with a specific group of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate whom I felt deserved the opportunity to do something special, or unique certainly, and I knew I could rely on them to help me, to make it a collective enterprise. This proved true. And finally, I wanted the actual aesthetic content of the exhibition to be innovative, to explore the potential of text beyond the book, or the visual to be read as a text. In the end we had 40 works of a really striking standard, the exhibition looks genuinely engaging, original and beautiful.

Museum of Futures themselves, Simon Tyrell and Robin Hutchinson, introduced to me by the brilliant Lucy Furlong, were amazingly supportive, doing great work. Myself and the student co-curators, especially Molly Bergin, Olga Kolesnikova and Matt Navey, had a laugh putting it all together on a windy Wednesday in Surbiton. There is real camaraderie to be found in this kind of project. And the opening night was amazing, gratifying. The room was so full someone feinted. Packed to the gills we listened to a host of new collaborative readings I had commissioned for the night and I got to make new friends as well as seeing some of my favourite people, old friends and talents like Thomas Duggan, Alexander Kell and Camilla Nelson. The readings were great and the sense of community, of purpose and excitement was palpable. A special project all told.

All the reading videos and pictures are, or will be, here www.theenemiesproject.com/futures

Published: 3 poem-bruts on Partisan Hotel

Very happy the brilliant Partisan Hotel magazine have published a set of three of my poem-brut artpoems, all taken from my upcoming Stranger Press book 'I fear my best work behind me' due out in the summer. http://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler

From the magazine bio "These works are taken from his trilogy of books in the poem-brut tradition, exploring ready writing materials, the composition of handwriting and mark making and the role of illustration and legibility in determining poetic meaning. The three books are to be published in 2017 and are entitled I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press), New prim (Hesterglock Press) and Aletta Ocean Empire (Blart Books). A sequence of Fowler’s poems will appear in Hotel #2."

A note on: The Cast of the Crystal Set - X marks the bokship record

The Cast of the Crystal Set: Readings, Radio, Recordings, Interviews and Performances from: / Jenny Moore & House Music, Sinkhole, Marcia Farquhar with Anne Bean and Judy Clark, / Drawing Room Confessions, Maia Conran, Jessica Worden, SJ Fowler, Denise Hawrysio and Kriswvyd.

The Crystal Set was an evolving structure oscillating between a sound studio for recording and an open stage for live listening events. Between June – August 2015 at X Marks the Bökship & Matt’s Gallery, it hosted a series of recording sessions, workshops and performances. The invitation to a cast of artists and publishers was to use the studio as a resource to translate material from the printed page into sound. This record is a collection of extracts from some of the readings, live radio and interviews all recorded or performed in The Crystal Set.

The Cast of the Crystal Set / 12" Vinyl Record / Published by X Marks the Bökship, 2016 / Edition of 200 / Price £10 http://bokship.org/xaudio.html

A note on : The Poetry Society annual lecture with Jan Wagner

The first time I've attended the Poetry Society annual lecture, given by Jan Wagner at Kings College, after a short national tour. I met Jan for the first time in Berlin, travelling there as a tourist many years ago, having barely written much, just emailing him from nowhere really. He came to meet me, showed me around Berlin, was immensely hospitable and generous to me. Such things are not to be taken lightly, the gesture belying his great humanity, humility and talent. His lecture was really remarkable, rang powerfully true to me. Over an hour in length in covered enormous ground so i don't wish to do it a disservice by merely focusing on a few likely misunderstood or misrepresented points but his deft exploration of influence, how we carry our poetry forebears and heroes with us, where this becomes lost in our work, though still present in our own minds, is very important to me, having written of those who hold such sway over me often (Mayakovsky, Pessoa, Hollo, Raworth, Salamun and co). What I should say rather than recounting the lecture, soon to be published in the Poetry Review and available as an audio file, is that it seemed to me represent Jan as what I aspire to be - a human being working through life with poetry, and not the other way around. Not a poet working through being a human being. Though our work is markedly different, though I share his passion for form (I have no gift for it), I feel an immense kinship with his method, his contextual sensitivity and his sure sense of lineage and deep reading. Moreover he is an immensely decent person, and this is enormously important, fundamental to what I deem a necessary modern turn we should seek in connecting poetics and ethics. I would recommend those interested seek out his book from Arc publishing too, https://www.arcpublications.co.uk/books/jan-wagner-self-portrait-with-a-swarm-of-bees-532 It is no small thing too that the Poetry Society choose a European poet to give this lecture too, the first time since its inception I'm told, an important and marked thing at this time in our island's political climate.

Published: Oxford Brookes Poem of Week : Snow Bunting bay bay

Well nice of Oxford Brookes poetry centre at the University to publish my poem Snow Bunting as their weekly poem. The poem was commissioned for the amazing Birdbook 4 anthology from Sidekick Books, who are equally brilliant publishers. http://www.brookes.ac.uk/poetry-centre/weekly-poem/weekly-poem-for-21-february-2017/ I put a good bio on this one

SJ Fowler is a poet and artist. He has published five collections of poetry and been commissioned by Tate Modern, BBC Radio 3, The British Council, Tate Britain and Wellcome Collection. He is the poetry editor of 3am magazine, Lecturer at Kingston University, teaches at Tate Modern and is the curator of the Enemies project. He is a high functioning vegan bear, befriends birds and will protect their eggs with electric technologies. Currently he is writing an autobiography of the famous Hyde Park Mud Crow. Find out more about his work on his website.

Notes from Sidekick Books: With this poem we continue our selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on theSidekick website.

A note on: Asemic Exhibition in Minnesota

Asemic Writing: Offline And In The Gallery: an Asemic Writing exhibit at Minnesota Center for Book Arts opens March 10th and runs till May 28th 2017. Curated by Michael Jacobson http://thenewpostliterate.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/asemic-writing-offline-and-in-gallery.html

Featuring Asemic Writing & Book Art from: Tim Gaze, Rosaire Appel, Luigi Serafini, Carlos M. Luis, Israel F Haros Lopez, Paul A Toth, Alain Satié, Jose Parlá, John M. Bennett, Marco Giovenale, Cecil Touchon, Scott Helmes, Derek Beaulieu, Brion Gysin, Satu Kaikkonen, Cheryl Penn, Raymond Queneau, Logan K. Young, Steve McCaffery, Xu Bing, Geof Huth, Gene Kannenberg Jr., Christopher Skinner, Max Ernst, Timothy Ely, Charles Stein, Gazaliel, Lucinda Sherlock, Volodymyr Bilyk, Catherine M. Bennett, Henri Michaux, Spencer Selby, Jim Leftwich, Louise Tournay, Abdourahamane Diarra, Joe Maneri, Michael Jacobson, Robyn Ellenbogen, Donna Maria De Creeft, Marilyn R Rosenberg, Francesco Aprile, Bill Beamer, Nuno De Matos, Lynn Alexander, Tony Burhouse, Scott Ross, Axel Calatayud,  Henry Denander, Jean-christophe Giacottino, Lin Tarczynski, Tom Cassidy, Ricky Brett, Edward Kulemin, Phil Openshaw, Kerri Pullo, Anneke Baeten, Benji Friedman, Laura Ortiz, John McConnochie, Kimm Kiriako, Sam Roxas Chua, Steven J Fowler, Tatiana Roumelioti, Ekaterina Samigulina & Yuli Ilyshchanska, Nico Vassilakis, the unknown author of  The Voynich Manuscript, all the authors & artists in Asemic Magazine, everyone in John Moore William's asemic issue of The Bleed, & including everyone in Paul A. Toth'sALPHA BET A TEST: The Eye Am Eye Asemic Anthology: Language In The Act of Disappearing.