Published : on Travelling for Versopolis, being followed by a corpse


The next, maybe last, of my poetic essay articles on themes for Versopolis, the European Review of Literature.

“The figure in the centre, who keeps pinching and pulling his shirt forward, to fan himself and allow the sweat to run into his shoes, declares that travel writing is the most ancient form of literature. He’s not being combative, it’s an event about travel writing, he has the audience in acquiescence. They have come to see him speak specifically, his name draws them in. Look to Ibn Jabaya, look to Marco Polo, he says. The novel is a far more modern invention, he says. The novel more modern, but perhaps, if we consider epic poetry to be its precursor, then not so, he adds, as an addendum. The travelling poet has a grand tradition. Look to Li Po. Look to Hessian. Poetry, yes, poetry is the oldest form of literature, it vies with travel writing, he says. Perhaps we can add a few since then to that list? Auden and Isherwood? I feel myself as likely to be in their company as I am to draw crowds at an international festival. I couldn’t draw crowds in a bar in my hometown. And all the gladder I am for that fact. Had I desire to be that man upon the stages, addressing the hundreds, I wouldn’t be a poet. I’d write something people actually read, like a young adult novel about a dystopian future, or magicians, or I’d write a travel book.”

Published : English PEN pieces on Elsewhere Journal

Thanks to the ever brilliant Ellen Wiles, Elsewhere Journal has been publishing the commissioned pieces made by Writers for the last English PEN celebration event that I curate. It’d grand they have found a home in print, as we’ve not done that before despite the event going for many years now.

You can read Ellen’s remarkable introduction here To take on writing a piece for another writer whose situation is so much harder than one’s own, and whose freedom is so much more limited, feels like a weight of responsibility as well as a privilege. Steve has described his feelings, when he co-curated the inaugural festival, on being presented with a pack of summaries of the lives of thirty English PEN-supported writers at risk: ‘When I received the files on the writers at risk… I was just about to board a long flight and so had the chance to read them in one go, over about nine hours, in the strange environs of a plane. It’s hard to describe the feeling afterwards, certainly the sense of responsibility, that I had sought out this project, enthusiastic from the off, but perhaps not truly prepared for the reality of the writers we would be writing about. It’s mawkish to speak of admiration, but coming face to face with such will, such commitment to principle… left me feeling as ashamed as I was inspired. Perhaps one can never really divorce oneself from the selfish question of whether I would continue to speak up in such circumstances, facing prison, torture, perhaps death. To risk my life and the lives of those I love.’

And my piece for Oleg Sentsov Second performance, June 2019 - For my second performance I once again nailed fruit and then ate it nailed, but this time with a black bag on my head while improvising some words about what Oleg Sentsov’s gesture of resistance, and life in general means to me, building on the six months between works I had to think about him. The principle that we might not be brave when called, and that even if, at first flush we may feel courage, it normally dissipates as reality sets in. This is an idea I have thought about my whole life. That it is easy to be what you hope to be when the weather is fair, but character is what happens when you realise days in you will be forgotten and your suffering, no matter how representative, symbolic or important, if yours alone. The man, Oleg Sentsov, is a giant. He has a giant soul. He embarrasses me into gratitude for my life, and that there seems no question on the horizon for my own principles like the one he has quite unbelievably answered.

Sam Jordison for Narges Mohammadi
Sara Upstone for Dawit Isaak
Paul Ewen for Behrouz Boochani
Ellen Wiles for Dina Meza
James Miller for Nedim Türfent

Published : an interview with David Spittle on Light Glyphs

An ambitious and generous interview on the part of poet, critic and cineaste David Spittle, as part of his Light Glyphs series, which has featured John Ashbery and Andrew Kotting

We discussed my new book I Stand Alone by The Devils from Broken Sleep Press, my feature length film The Animal Drums and many other things about my work, especially with film.

It seems logical that Steve Fowler’s poetry would find itself in, and as, film…at some point. Steve’s poetry has taken his roving attention into performance art and sound art; into and through elements of comedy and theatre; from concrete poetry and the sculptural towards the pictorial, chance-led, accidental, and ritualistic; and in acts of art / poetry (the slash being always present) that move hungrily out of discipline and into abandon…why would the filmic not be there? Fluttering or strobing, as a kind of inevitable encounter, film, and the intensity of its absorptive hold, seems a natural partner (sparring and / or dancing, fighting and / or loving) for a poet so inventively conscious of how a performance can befriend, baffle or challenge an audience.


Now, here, at the half-way point, let’s move from Drums to Devils: your latest collection, I stand alone by the Devils, and other poems on films, gathers together a selection of poems that are all directed from, or to, specific films. Firstly, I wanted to ask whether this idea had been around for a while or whether there was something in particular that recently (the completion of Animal Drums?) inspired this explicit tribute to cinema?

The collection has been around for years. This happens with a lot of my books; they begin with a single work, grow slowly and an unforeseen event speeds them into being. The unforeseen event in this case was not the Drums but a sudden spate of watching and rewatching films. I just feel back into it, regained the patience one needs. For the first time, I remembered when I was a teenager, a bit lonely, watching like five art films a day for two years. I had never once thought this might’ve been an influence on what I do now, for a living. Which seems stupid now.

Many of the directors you include (Ken Russell, Werner Herzog, David Cronenberg, Nicolas Roeg, Gasper Noe, Lars Von Trier,) and many of the films (Pasolini’s Salo, Vinterberg’s Festen, Zulawski’s Possession) are known for their extremity, shock, or supposedly transgressive nature. It seems clear to me that being drawn towards the challenge of discomfort and our own interpretations of threat and vulnerability are elements that needle through much of your poetry. Did these films help inspire those interests in your poetic practice, or was it more a case of them resonating with a pre-existing sense that art should advance into a troubled / troubling space in order to better question itself and the viewer/ reader?

It’s funny, while I do recognise these films are intense, I haven’t conceived them that way. It’s just what I’m interested in, that serious investment of attention should be met with challenge and complexity. I’d say your question is interesting because you didn’t mention that most of the films are European, especially the 'violent' ones. In European cinema, and European culture in general, it seems obvious that art must reveal the most awful truth of human behaviours, because they are true, through fictional means. This is difficult to experience, but not unpleasant. I know some people seem to think fictional violence is worse than the real thing happening on their street but it’s just my taste that films and art, that are serious, not intending to give you a nice brain fog, which has its place, should not comfort and reassure. So, I’d move the terms of the question and say these films aren't about violence but culture.

Could you say a bit about the process of writing these poems?

There are multiple methods at play but quite a few involved note taking, of dialogue, of scene description, of ideas happening in language while I was watching. So they are found poems in a sense, then blended through edits and additions. Translations in a weird sense, as much as responses. Others were written from memories of the films, what they come to represent for me, idiosyncratically. Others from research, post-watching, digging through books about the films or their makers. I saw myself as only trying to be faithful to each specific piece of cinema, and doing so by choosing not only the language of the poem and its machinery, but also the method of that.

A note on : Launching Unfinished Memmoirs of a Hypocrit at MayDay Rooms

It was the hottest day ever in London. It broke the record, 37 degrees. Everyone brave enough to come to this launch was melting through the floor. The floor of the MayDay rooms meeting place in Fleet Street. It was a very cool space to celebrate Paul Hawkins’ Hesterglock press and its list. I am very proud to be on the list with the folk who read this evening, though I was deflated.

My book UNFINISHED MEMMOIRS OF A HYPOCRIT I am proud of. And working with Paul is inspiring.

A note on: Nordic Poetry Festival NORWAY, coming this September

I recently got to announce the sister festival to the European Poetry Festival, coming this October and now I am very happy to announce that project will actually begin in Norway, with two events coming this September to the West coast of that country.

Events in Ålesund and Bergen this Sept 17th and 18th will feature some of the finest poets from across Europe, from Ireland, Russia, Belgium and the UK, performing and collaborating with some of Norway’s best. The project is curated by Jon Ståle Ritland, myself & Erlend Nødtvedt.

It’ll feature Hilde Myklebust, Kaisa Aglen, SJ Fowler, Jon Ståle Ritland, Harry Man, Maja Jantar, Endre Ruset, Dan Andersen, Eli Fossdal Waage, Christodoulos Makris, Maria Malinovskaya, and David Spittle. More on the link.

A note on : Poem Brut will return with a new program of workshops and events later in 2019

Lovely news indeed that Poem Brut has been given funding by Serendip Studio in the US and Arts Council England. The hope is a new program of events, begun in a strong sense by the Poetry Society double exhibition we’ve had will be bolstered by two new things - a series of open access workshops and a set of new commissions. The project will increasingly focus on the neuro part of its concerns too, how different cognitive experiences affect how we read and write poetry. WWW.POEMBRUT.COM

A note on: Subverse by Diamanda Dramm features my poems


A new solo show by Diamanda Dramm continues her and I’s collaboration, as this time, at Mittelfest (IT), Wonderfeel Festival (NL), and Gaudeamus Festival (NL), she is presenting “an unrelenting solo violin set extending into the bass realm: Diamanda accompanies herself with her feet, using drums and organ pedal, uniting her whole physique into sound. She unfolds the sound of her violin, navigating its peripheries and pushing them out a little bit. The set designed uniquely for this program connects the sonic experience to its visual manifestation.” with music by Dramm, La Berge Dramm, Bach, Corelli. Purcell, Biber. and text by me. The text is taken from a new unpublished work, a book length work about CHIMPS. Diamanda recites it from her mind in between the proper music. This is strange and magical for those words.

Published : Unfinished Memmoirs of a Hypocrit

A new book of visual literature and handwritten poetry available now from Hesterglock Press

I'm happy to announce a new publication I've been working on for some years - Unfinished Memmoirs of a Hypocrit -  with more information

From the publisher - “Memmoirs presents the handwritten and hand-drawn as a viable means of fiction - poetry - writing - art that emphasises context alongside content and challenges restrictive definitions. A book certainly as strange and unfortunately amusing as living mostly is, this is a dispatch from a prolific and future-facing writer attempting to operate on multiple fronts, and failing with aplomb.”

“A considerable book of poetic inarticulation, swamping somewhere in between poetry, notation for future projects forever unrealised, forgetful scrawlings, childhood dream illustrations, erratic geometry, collage and quotation. UMOAH attempts to operate on multiple fronts, and fails, as is the history of such abundance conflict. It wishes to present the notebook as a finished poetry. It wishes to emphasise context over content, or at least blend and blind the two. It wishes to be as strange and unfortunately amusing as living mostly is. It wishes to be about where it was made (Spain, mostly) and what is was made from (a single notebook of bone coloured paper, a christmas gift, and some bad black pens, and some fingerpaint).”

"Truly Fowler's magnum ice cream"
- Russell Bennetts : Berfrois

Sample poems from the book have been published online at 
Hotel Magazine
Perverse http://perverse/perverse

“It is the fifth entry in SJ Fowler’s Poem Brut publication series, and strives to embrace environment affecting writing and writing affecting environment. It celebrates the obscure movement of the hand, writing, lining, drawing – deliberately plain, worked, smoggy. A book about the grid, the box, the cloud, the tree, where the words are meant to make you squint, to battle for legibility, rather than you be able to pinch and extend your thumb and forefinger against the page to get a closer look. Handwriting illustrates, it is more interesting than type, as are crossings out, as are notes, strange lines, grids made with rulers – constant gestures toward the homemade, the amateur, towards composition and motion. Towards liquid and wood, attractive ugliness, toilet wall draughtsmanship, doodled portraits, minor collage.”

Published : The New Prim and Proper essay on Tentacular

I am quietly pleased with this essay. It serves to not only bookend my new book UNFINISHED MEMMOIRS OF A HYPOCRIT, but also to cover a lot of ground in terms of my thinking, processing, methods and experiences around book making. I wish to do this accessibly (i want my articles to be clear, poems not so), concisely, but irreverently, with no real theory or fat language. I want this to be prose ish, snapshots, insights, ideas to share. I think maybe it lands, just about. Jonathan Catherall at Tentacular, a really fine publication, was generous to share it too

“The book is contextualised thus:

  • It was written using a single pen and a single notebook of a very distinct colour. Bone coloured paper. It was a Christmas gift from a family member who doesn’t know what poetry is. No work included was made without these two instruments.

  • It was written between December 28th 2015 and June 15th 2019.

  • It was ‘written’ directly after reading Stendhal’s ‘Memoirs of a Egotist’. Throughout the years since its beginning, I have made my way through every work I could find by the 17th French novelist. (Seek out Lucien Leuwen, parts 1 & 2 if you can, it’s his best and too little known in English). I realise an Egotist is not the same as a Hypocrite.

  • It was made almost entirely in Spain, and because of that country. Specifically, in Gandia, a provincial town bifurcated on the east coast, near Valencia - part seaside trap, part old world abandonment. This was the home city of the Borgia family.

  • It was made knowing it would be published, on sight of initial works, in early 2016 (I think), by my fellow poet Paul Hawkins, who runs Hesterglock press, out of Bristol, with Sarer Scotthorne. I knew it had a proper home, a place where it belonged.

  • It was made as part of an overall project I have been running, called Poem Brut, and would be a publication in a series I have been doing exploring poetry’s potentials. I knew it had a role in that project and in that series.

  • It had three different titles before this one.

  • I was very taken also with book covers. My illustrations aren’t skilled, but I copied a few into this book, and this led me to other visual representations of existing artworks………………………….”

A note on : The Torriano Camarade

Second event in second days. This one I felt emptied out for but somehow the universe responded to that and allowed me to host / curate about a dozen remarkable performances. The level of commitment to each of these collaborations and the friendships the camarade seemed to create or deepen was evident and encouraging. And rarely do I feel such warmth and appreciation from those involved and watching as I did after this. My spirits rose from pointlessness to fair enough. There is something about this room, it’s history, it’s intiimacy, one of london’s disappearing special spaces. It all came together.

All can be witnessed

A note on: Poem Brut XII at Rich Mix

I was happy to have made space for such powerful weirdpoe. Some of the performances, if not all 11 of them, featured some heavy and proper originality. It was a night as strange as that which was happening outside of itself. The crowd was lovely, open, welcoming, if a little small as its summertime, and the work was a very fine mix. I was given an empty champagne bottle afterwards and used a huge brush to sweep up remnants of a smashed clock, party poppers and plastic sheeting covered in egg. It is poetry here happening I am happy I had a role in making happen, as I said.

The 12th event in the Poem Brut series and the 5th at Rich Mix, all videos and pictures can be seen

A note on : The Nordic Poetry Festival ... coming this October


Coming this winter, a brand new poetry festival celebrating the most innovative and dynamic contemporary Nordic poets with events in the UK - October 11th to 17th 2019 

I am happy to announce a brand new festival, the Nordic Poetry Festival, coming this October 2019. Featuring two dozen of the Nordic regions most exciting literary and avant-garde poets, the NPF will evidence the unique and powerful contribution Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, The Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Sami peoples are making to 21st century poetry.

With five events exploring collaboration and performance over one week, the festival will see events at Rich Mix and Burley Fisher Books in London, alongside visits to the National Centre for Writing in Norwich and York’s Jorvik Viking Centre.

Many poets still be announced and confirmed but so far the festival will host Morten Søndergaard, Endre Ruset, Iman Mohammed, Signe Gjessing, Tiina Lehikoinen, Sissal Kampmann, Inger-Mari Aikio, Ko Ko Thett, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Morten Langeland, Ragnhildur Jóhanns, Tommi Musturi (Finland and Ville Hytonen

Published : new ape poems in Prototype Anthology 1

Grand to have brand new poems about Apes (versions of works that will definitely be a pre-cursor to a new full book) in the very first Prototype Publishing annual anthology, edited by the amazing Jess Chandler.

You can purchase it here, with full list of contributors or sign up to a generous subscription scheme.

Published : Nemesia #6, a waterwalk with Krisjanis Zelgis

The sixth edition of my series with the generous Spanish online platform Wazogate, following collaborations with Pauli Tapio, Yekta, Harry Man, Ausra Kaziliunaite, Morten Langeland, presents my work with Latvian poet Krisjanis Zelgis. One of the works I was most proud of from the this year

K – Always flows
S – always needed, neverending, like the cleaning of a house
K – drips and soaks
S – wets
K – As a reminder

and you can watch it live

A note on : Translated into Russian on on Literattura magazine


Lovely to have a poem in Russian translated by the brilliant Maria Malinoskaya published on Literratura It’s part of a feature Maria has been generously running since her attendance at the european poetry festival this year. Worth checking out all the other poets too, she has done some incredible work.



Звучит захватывающе не иметь солнца даже внутри солнца. (нет солнца внутри солнца)
Не иметь излучения для оттенков. Только природный цвет. (лучший по природе, новый)
Всего-то фиолетовая полоска – цвет труда в провале солнца. (провал в черноту)
Лучше оставаться в убежище, оставаться внутри. Читать. (76 книг в год)
Лучше быть копателем могил, чем их наполнителем. (запах мерзкий)
Лучше быть сыном мёртвого, пошедшим вразнос. (я тебя вздрючу)
Обжёгшиеся на молоке всё галдят, повторяя (люди никогда не заткнутся)
если ты не знаешь, как плавать, ты утонешь. (еврейская поговорка)
Лучше быть искусным в формах, искусным в сделках. (проулыбать себе выход из неприятностей)
Лучше получить второй паспорт. (ирландский везунчик)
Защита заученного застилает все горизонты (ведомым)
Нувориши есть нувориши, не важно, сколько они трудятся. (свободное время)

A note on : An Invisible Poetry - my solo show at The Poetry Society


An Invisible Poetry : SJ Fowler The Poetry Society Cafe
July 1st to 27th 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
Opening Hours 11am to 10pm everyday bar sunday.

A pleasure to have my third solo exhibition (I’m actually really happy with it) in London take on the walls of the Poetry Society in Covent Garden, in their Poetry Cafe. The exhibition brings together new and existing poems, drawing together my explorations in the hand-made since late 2017.

Waaaay more info

“A visual poem should be visible, yet it seems it’s often not so. In this solo exhibition of new painterly poems, SJ Fowler asks questions so manifest they are almost indiscernible. What is in the shape of a letter and what images do words recall?

A note on the installation of An Invisible Poetry : June 30th 2019 On the morning of June 30th, installation day, early on a sunday after the hottest day of the year, the poets who are kindly contributing to the Poet Brut group downstairs, friends and peers, were not only gracious and kind in the setting of their show, but immensely helpful with my own. They stayed for hours helping me create it, truly. For I am terrible at installations and such things, I rush them and cannot judge spatial meaning without falling into the desire for it to be deliberately messed so viewers think it accidently. The eyes and hands of Astra, Simon, Vilde, Patrick and Imogen made what should have been a chore into a really fun experience. All of this was really underpinned by the hospitality of Michael Sims, of the Poetry Society. He really deserves great praise. He could not have done more to help and facilitate ideas and offer advice. He made me feel my work was welcome in the space, and the institution, which isn’t a small thing.

A note on : The Poet's Brut exhibition at The Poetry Society

It felt not only natural but somewhat selfish of me, in taking on the Poetry Society Cafe space for my exhibition, to split levels, and use the upstairs for my own doodles and downstairs for the serious work of a group show. Those I asked to be a part of that are all singular for the face of their independed minded methods and styles in the visual poetry and poem brut fashion. Patrick, Astra, Karen, Vilde, Simon, Paul and Chris all do their own thing and have come to what some might call innovative methods purposefully, personally and organically. I wanted to bring them together precisely because they are each so unique and individual and characterful in their work. Moreover, they are all lovely humans, a joy to work with, as generous as they are talented.

Go visit the exhibitions, if only for their work. July 1st to 27th, mon to sat, 11am to 10pm.

A note on : Tickets on sale for Cinema Museum launch

It’s going to be grand to launch my new poetry volume on films at the Cinema Museum, a completely unique and beautiful space directed to the theme on August 29th. Alongside readings by myself and others including David Spittle, Yvonne Litschel, Jonathan Catherall, we will be screening Peter Greenaway’s exacting 1993 film The Baby of Macon.

"The Baby of Macon is a sumptuous-looking tale of manipulation, greed, and religious fanaticism set in Peter Greenaway's favorite era, the 17th century."

A note on : coming this October - NEMESES - selected collaborations Volume 2

Very chuffed that this October I’ll be releasing a new selected collaborations, entitled Nemeses. It’s going to be an ambitious volume, including lots of text collaborations with UK based poets and writers like Colin Herd, Prudence Chamberlain, Tom Jenks, Max Porter, Joe Dunthorne, Luke Kennard, Eley Williams, as well many around the world like Maja Jantar, Pauli Tapio, Shimon Adaf, Robert Prosser, Morten Sondergaard, Ausra Kaziliunaite. It’ll also try to reveal on the page collaborations which are anything but, like my works with composers and musicians like Claudia Molitor and Diamanda Dramm as well as lots of performance, like the ones I’ve done with Phil Minton and Max Hofler. It’s the follow up to my 2013 book Enemies. October 26th it shall be out, with Haverthorn press, who have put out some beautiful books over the last few years.