A note on: Undergoing Rorschach testing live at Illuminations launch...

The Austrian Illuminations Anthology launch was a surprisingly intense evening. Always with launches things are smaller, there's nothing to make, the book is done, it's a ship being pushed out, so the energy and often audiences are lower, but in this case that slight reduction created concentration. David Fried's reading was especially intense I felt, personal and direct, and Iris Colomb is a gifted performer.

I read my fiction made of quotations story from the anthology, for Peter Handke, giving a far longer intro than I would normally do, explaining my habit of collecting quotes from novels and poems, which are past 11000 in total now, and how I intend to shape these into a novel one day.

Then came David Rickard's rather remarkable work. He suggested to me, as his piece in the book was the ink of a squid he has crushed in his original illuminations performance rendered as a Rorschach type piece of artwork, that he would follow this theme down a rabbit hole. He discovered the importance Klecksography and poetry to Hermann Rorschach original idea and how this overlap was too much to resist, so he contacted Doctor Marc Desautel, clinical psychologist and director of Rorschach Society. He invited Marc to participate in the event by analysing me live, before the audience. All I wanted to do is commit with full verity to the test, to not try and game or perform, and though we met briefly before, it was genuinely under the auspices of analysis that we did the test. I thought his insights about me were mostly true, all told. You can watch the videos of this below

A note on: Illuminations celebrating Thomas Bernhard - June 7th

Illuminations IV : Thomas Bernhard
June 7th 2018 : 7pm = 
Austrian Cultural Forum in London

Free Entry but booking suggested = Austrian Cultural Forum London - 28 Rutland Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PQ, UK

New pieces of literary art and performance responding to the life and work of the great Thomas Bernhard.

Perhaps no 20th century European author expresses so vitriolically, so powerfully and so truthfully, an utter disdain for pretension, intellectual and emotional laziness, and stupidity. Thomas Bernhard's immense output of novels, theatre and poetry is often marked singularly by a tone of contempt, unapologetically against hypocrisy and pompousness. Fully realised in Bernhard’s work is the irony of an author who felt compelled to demean publicly the very idea of culture and thereby provocatively offend the public’s complacent sense of cultural identity, and in so doing provide his own output with a meaning based on its lack of meaning. Bernhard’s genius was that, at great artistic risk, he achieved his aims by undermining his achievements. 

Featuring Maja Jantar, Raphaela Edelbauer, Tereza Stehlikova, Oliver Evans, Christian Patracchini, SJ Fowler and more. www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations

A note on: Wrestliana event at Burley Fisher Books

I had a lovely evening in discussion with Toby Litt to marks the release of his Wrestliana book, pulled in gently as the resident writer who knows about wrestling. We chatted about lineage, melancholy, regionalism alongside the wrestling in front of an intimate audience at Burley Fisher which is a really beautiful bookshop with a deserved following on Kingsland Road. Nice to be asked to do these kind of events, talking wrestling and boxing, as they are resolutely hobbies for me now, but the first things I truly loved to do, so will always be part of me, and seem even more important and attractive now I spend most of my time doing writing things.

Worth getting a copy of Toby's book here, it's really ambitious and energetic. https://www.galleybeggar.co.uk/shop-1/wrestliana

Published: The Austrian Illuminations Anthology is in the world

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The Austrian Cultural Forum and the design agency Polimekanos have done an extraordinary job bringing together 20 separate artists work drawn from the first three events of the Illuminations series. What really makes the book so brilliant is its beautiful design, its produced to such a high quality and the variation of work within. There's poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photography, visual art, conceptual -- all aligned, feeling cohesive and complimentary. It's a book I'm proud to have edited.

"Bringing to light the work of writers fundamental to the unique Austrian contribution to world literature in the post-war era, Illuminations presented three events in 2017, in London, with over 20 artists. By commissioning truly contemporary and avant-garde writers, poets, filmmakers, performers and artists, asking each make new work responding to the oeuvre or life of the celebrated figure in question – Elfriede Jelinek, Erich Fried, Peter Handke – the aim was to transpose the brilliance of the original into a new moment. One that would stimulate as well as illuminate. 

This anthology brings together those new commissions made for the project, from some of Europe’s most exciting artists. It transposes many live works onto the page, and is full of the originality and resonance of the project as a whole. New fiction, poetry, visual and conceptual art, translations, photography and drawing makes up this unique volume, the 17th edition of the Occasions series for the Austrian Cultural Forum in London."

Published: a new article on The Photographer's Gallery

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The first article relating to my course The Written Eye is now online alongside one of my photopoems from the sochi series I made in Latvia in 2015. 

https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/viewpoints/poetry-and-photography-essay

"An exploration of the intersections between poetry and photography is an act of defining terms. It is a process of identification. Of a question. But it does not entail an answer, necessarily. How does one align such disparity between mediums that can only be connected through recourse to metaphors? How does one move past the traditional alignment of image and word that tends to emphasise precisely this dislocation? To begin, we must ask ourselves what these mediums actually are, at heart, and then what they can be together? Finally, what is the purpose of their combination? What can they do together? And why is it relatively rare to see a cohesive combination of the two - with fidelity to poetry that isn’t just text, or discourse, or opinion, and photography that isn’t just pictorial?.........." 

A note on: Selected Scribbling & Scrawling launches June 6th

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My third artbook or art-poetry book arrives on June 6th with the remarkable ZimZalla. https://zimzalla.co.uk/ They have been putting out truly avant garde publications for many years and I'm pleased I get to launch it at the National Poetry Library as part of the Poem Brut event there that night https://www.poembrut.com/poetry-library

The scrawl or doodle is not a by-product of distraction; it is an active production of the mind when concentration moves downwards in the brain. It is the poetry of the mind’s rearguard, and it is more often a product of writing, pen in hand, than it is a visual art. So why should poetry, the language art, not have held scribbling to its chest? This volume of SJ Fowler’s collected works in the line let loose tradition attempts to return the wandering shapes of letters and words back to the front. Selected from over 1300 works spanning 11 & ½ years and touching upon asemic and pansemic writing, widely varying in tone, density, form and character, this selection of poems shows SJ Fowler’s fundamental impatience and childishness.

A note on : performing at Phonica in Dublin

Dublin has become one of my favourite cities in which to perform. I’ve had three brilliant experiences, in 2015, 2017 and now, for Phonica, in 2018. Every time the audience has been alive to what I’m doing, always generous and inquisitive. Phonica itself is a grand achievement by curators Christodoulos Makris and Olesya Zdorovetska, who have brought together cutting edge contemporary musicians with poets and literary performance.

I went on last for Phonica 8, spending all night up on the very highest flooring of a spiral staircase within the gorgeous Smock Alley Theatre, lying down, peeking down to the performance stage, listening, waiting. There were some great discoveries for me, Alyce Lyons and Justyn Hunia presented a wonderful filmpoetry collaboration, many years in the making, subtle in that connection between those arts. Alex Bonney presented a sound piece that was immersive and made me want to collaborate with him. And Diamanda Dramm, a remarkable performer, a violinist singing poetry amidst her playing.

I had the chance to follow them and did so with a mostly improvised piece, one of my recent Powerpoint performances, where I have nothing planned really apart from some aberrant slides that respond to the specific event / place. It went better than I could’ve hoped, I think, I don’t know, I discerned from the feedback. The performance was about self-awareness I suppose, about the conflation of self-knowledge where things can become so true they are false. It was also about performance itself, and poetry’s place in that. We all decamped after the event to an underground speakeasy bar by the river before I skulked back to my Airbnb happy.

Published : my essay The Online Empire : on sex and poetry on Versopolis

Nice to have this essay on sex and poetry published, forever locked onto the internet, readable in perpetuity, appropriately, by Versopolis, and the european review of poetry books and culture. It was written for my book Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire, which is tangentially about pornography and will feature in an upcoming volume of my selected essays too. 

http://www.versopolis.com/long-read/604/the-online-empire-on-sex-and-poetry


"The whole business of eroticism is to destroy the self-contained character of the participators as they are in their normal lives.            Georges Bataille

You can never discover for yourself what you’ve been given. Bodies and knowledge, both. The primary purpose of this book is to worry about the division between the experienced and the perceived, and what is lost between that ever expanding gap.

Bataille suggests that you try to imagine yourself changing from the state you are in, to one in which your whole self is completely doubled. He means this to be a disturbance. He reminds us, you would not survive this process since the doubles you have turned into are essentially different from you. Each of these doubles is necessarily distinct from you as you are now, as while you’ve split into two new versions of yourself, you cannot be the same, twice over. A kind of procreation is what he is suggesting and the metaphor is about writing, I think. To mark the pages then release them is to indulge oneself, fundamentally, in a productive onanism. Cells dividing, with some of that division escaping you. No wonder it feels sad, a let down, to release things into the world......"

A note on: Austrian Illuminations Anthology (launch May 10th)

Austrian Illuminations Launch - May 10th at 7pm

Free Entry but booking suggested www.acflondon.org/events/austrian-illuminations/
Austrian Cultural Forum London - 28 Rutland Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PQ, UK

Bringing together over 15 new literary artworks made by the artists and writers commissioned for Illuminations events celebrating Elfriede Jelinek, Erich Fried and Peter Handke, this beautifully designed limited-edition anthology will be launched in London with readings and performances from contributors. The anthology is issue 17 in the ACF's remarkable Occasions series, a publication project celebrating the groundbreaking work they do, and was designed by www.polimekanos.com in London.

Featuring live works by David Rickard, Iris Colomb, David Fried, Joshua Alexander, SJ Fowler and more. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations

EPF2018 #14: Collaborating with Rike Scheffler

I’ve wanted to work with Rike since I saw her first perform in Berlin. She is an ideal of whom I wish to work with, poets who will force me, within a warm and enjoyable process, to grow. So it was, Rike and I had a grand time collaborating. We mooted loads of ideas, often around the notion of space and performance, movement and reading, and then decided to write together too, with me writing new works responding to her pair of beautiful poems What It Is You Love. And arriving in Middlesbrough together from Manchester, chatting the hours across the Pennines away with Inga Pizane during a really resonant day, we stumbled into our venue in MIMA to see what the space itself would give us. It gave us a chess board built into a table, a gorgeous ornament. We decided then and there to structure our exchange around a full game of chess, which I haven’t played since I was about 12. Rike basically taught me the rules and as we chatted we decided also to include improvised chat with the poems and the chess. On the night something unexpected happened, the intensity of the game, the focus it requires, took over, somewhat blunting the play, but growing the collaboration into something utterly new, and even more pleasing for that. It was a game of chess that happened to feature poetry, rather than the other way around. And I won through dumb skill. I had worried it might’ve got a tad too long but the audience were very generous, saying they became as engaged in the chess as we had. Rike has challenged me to a yearly performance game and I will stake my European Poetry Festival chess championship once more in 2019.

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EPF2018 #13: The Festival finishes in Middlesbrough

Such a resonant ending to a wonderful festival, one that exceeded all my expectations, which were high. Thanks to Harry Man, local to Middlesbrough, we brought a small band of European poets to the North East, to work with local poets, at MIMA, a beautiful art gallery in the heart of the city. It was an intimate event in the galleries beautiful café space, The Smeltery, and the collaborations were really powerful, and the pairings some of the best I’ve been responsible for. So great to spend time with poets like Tom Weir, Bob Beagrie and Julie Hogg, alongside my Norwegian friends Endre Ruset and Jon Stale Ritland, all of them warm people and brilliant poets. The whole group decamped to a local bar, which was very civilised for Middlesbrough on a Saturday night and once more we chatted through the night. I’ll miss the festival this time with friends old and new. Far from being stressful it has been an immense privilege to put together, a really joyous time, and I hope to do it again in 2019, the year the UK officially leaves its own continent.

EPF2018 #12: Collaborating with Tom Jenks

Tom is a brilliant mind for poetry. Vastly underappreciated. I’ve tried to collaborate with him every year for the last half decade and this 2018 entry in our exchanges was a good un. We wrote an addendum to our 1000 proverbs book, the Nigel Farage post-brexit poetic proverb archival reflections. We spent the minutes before our time slightly concerned we might have misjudged the tone, but in the end, following a video of the man himself, our mix of Nigel’s actual sayings and our own interpretations of his poetic vernacular seemed to be well understood in the Burgess Centre. When he is our supreme leader one day I’m sure we’ll be well rewarded for this tribute.

EPF2018 #11: Hitting Manchester with the European Poetry Festival

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The International Anthony Burgess Centre in Manchester is one of the best literary venues in the UK I think, I’ve only ever had grand events and performances there, audience and enthusiasm wise. It seems to distil the cities energy for more innovative work into concentrated form. This is in no small part to the staff there, and to the work of poets like Scott Thurston and Tom Jenks, and many others, who have led the decade long resurgence of avant-garde poetry in the city. I brought the European Poetry Festival north in the second to last event, after running 8 events in 8 days, nearly all of which involving over 10 performances 20 poets and sell out audiences. No one was flagging. Poets from Norway, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, France, Latvia and elsewhere in European travelled with us and were mostly paired with locally based poets. Everyone was kind, generous, full of life for the project of the festival. The positive feedback from both poets, supporters and audiences has been the most consistent of any project I’ve ever done. As ever the atmosphere in Manchester was friendly, unpretentious, and the performances were varied in tone, the collaborations ranged from the conceptual and satirical to the intense and reflective. Robert Sheppard’s The European Union of Imaginary Authors was celebrated alongside 10 brand new performances for the night. As has been the case for every event of the festival, the poets were buoyant afterwards and stayed out into the night. There has been a palpable sense the festival, beyond my control or intention, has created a community of sorts, transitory but concrete. Friendships have begun, and I’ve had the chance, through the poets and the audience, to meet so many new people I'd like to work with again.

EPF2018 #10: Collaborating with Robert Prosser

The first time that I’ve had the chance to work with Robert and it will not be the last time. We had a plan when we met on the afternoon of the day of the evening event to develop the piece. It went out the window. The notion was intersemiotic translation but the format was about disturbance. I think we created something that worked on multiple levels and succeeded when it failed. It began with a natural pretence about being pedestrian, or about the differences in our performance style, which is varied with us both, and so we embellished, building from the literary and comedic into the archetypal and symbolic, all way into the mindfully awkward. We share quite a few interests and this emerged organically into translations that included stomach punching, rap, google searches, lullabies, cradling, atonement and guilt. People said it stayed with them, which is nice, but maybe not in a good way?

EPF2018 #9: Austrian focus at European Poetry Festival

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I loved this event. A really strange and intense night, another packed house came to witness, in the salon of the Austrian Cultural Forum near Hyde Park, an event of solo readings and new collaborations. I owe the ACF so much. They were the first to really have faith in the events I put on, the risks I try to take, and their vouching for me has led to things like the European Poetry Festival itself. It was like coming home. And through them I have met so many brilliant contemporary Austrian poets and Robert Prosser, Max Hofler and Daniela Chana are three of the finest.

The opening salvoes from Ana Seferovic, Claudiu Komartin, Giovanna Coppola, Anastasia Mina et al set everyone back in their seats as one after the next the poets brought intense, powerful work. It was really a special atmosphere. Then Robert and I kind of muddied the water before Daniela and Phoebe Power and Max and Iris Colomb finished the night perfectly. I hope every year I get to do a European Poetry Festival we have an Austrian focus event, their scene is really one of the best on the continent. www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/austria

EPF2018 #8: Versopolis at London Bookfair for European Poetry Festival

Entering the belly of the beast I had the pleasure to put together an event for Versopolis, a huge EU funded cross continental poetry platform, as one of the editors of their European Review of Books, Poetry and Culture. At the back of the massive Kensington Olympia, in the subsidy section, the poetry pavilion corner, I introduced Versopolis poets Marius Burokas, Hannah Lowe, Ausra Kaziliunaite and Sasha Dugdale – all writers I’ve worked with before. All poets I admire. A slightly dodgy sound scenario was overcome with notable readings, which forced close attention, and we finished the event with a quick discussion, which was quite insightful and starkly honest. Versopolis also produced a great little publication for the event. Anja Kovac was a great producer to work with too, the whole thing was smooth and it was fortunate to be able to bring the festival inside the bookfair.  www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/versopolis

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EPF2018 #7: Collaborating with Ausra Kazilunaite

Ausra Kaziliunaite is a really remarkable poet. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year, for the 2017 European Poetry Night, and when we had an unfortunate / understandable last minute collaborative dropout her and we put something together in a day I am proper proud of. Ausra sent me her poem written for the night, a piercing, elusive, allusive poem about England leaving Europe and I responded, literally following her words (which she wrote in English) and making small nudges in tone and order. It really came together in the reading, and it served to remind me despite my forays into performance that a reading, when done well, can keep attention with effect. I hope we get to work again in the future, the work she is doing in Lithuania is really important and she is a perfect example of the kind of person I feel lucky to work with in these collaborative poems

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EPF2018 #6: Lithuanian focus at European Poetry Festival

To have people queueing down the stairs of the poetry café, the poetry society’s home in London, was gratifying, and a packed house was the right vibe within which to celebrate three brilliant Lithuanian poets who had come to London as part of the London Bookfair Baltic celebration. The Lithuanian Cultural Institute were so supportive of the fest in general and this was a really memorable night, pleasing for me to deliver an event that really gave the poets a proper platform to show their works. We had some solo readings from a mix of visiting poets and European poets living in the UK (this blend integral to the festival’s remit) including Muanis Sinanovic from Ljubljana and Theodoros Chiotis from Athens, before new collaborations were presented by poets I had met teaching for the Poetry School on courses, both in person and online, about contemporary European poetry. They did me proud, and produced some remarkable live works. The night was finished with three new collaborations involving the Lithuanian poets and then everyone decamped to a covent garden pub. It was a really atmospheric night, the best I’ve ever put on in that venue.

See videos of every performance on the night and pictures too at www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/lithuania

EPF2018 #5: European Poetry Festival celebrates Sound & Performance at Iklectic Artlab

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An extraordinary venue and a grand night of innovative live poetry, from the sonic to the electronic to the vocal to the conceptual. Eduard and the team (including Tony the Cat) at IKLECTIK are doing an amazing job and were so hospitable, we really felt like we were in someone’s beautiful living room. The place was nicely full, a good 70 people sat in to watch a real range of works. It was the first time I got to put on poets I’ve admired for years like Rike Scheffler from Berlin, Sergej Timofejev from Riga, and it was great to have back on in London poets like Robert Prosser from Vienna and Kinga Toth from Budapest. Range was the key element here, again, and the works complimented each other. It was a little nubache for me to run all the tech from my laptop while also filming but worth it, this movement of poets across Europe worrying about liveness and sound and time needed to be acknowledged in its own space and place.

See videos of every performance on the night and pictures too at www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/performance