A note on: new BBC Radio 3's The Verb commission - An Incident of Originality

Very excited to appear on The Verb once again this week coming. Here is the page for the show : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08n24fc

I've written a new piece about the concept of originality, authenticity and fake-ness for the show, as this is the theme. I'll be appearing alongside poet Ira Lightman, novelist Delphine de Vigan and comedian Mark Steel. 

The last commission I was lucky enough to do for The Verb, The Worm in its Core, actually began a whole new series of texts and so with this piece, An Incident of Originality, I've happily kept a certain aesthetic connection to this piece, which can be heard here https://soundcloud.com/sjfowler/theworminitscore 

The commission will be a collaboration too, with a small group of poets from across Europe whom I admire. I've asked them to contribute short bursts of new text, like a dialogue. My text is literary but quite computational too – abstract at times, using more common speech but also quite disembodied. I think modernist theatrical writing has been influence, as I’ve been writing more theatre – Pinter, Beckett, Churchill certainly. It is written for a kind of monologue delivery, addressing an abstract other.

It’s about the impossibility of originality, or something like that. It was in earlier drafts about literal thinking, how that is the root of nearly all ethical malignancy, on both sides of debate nowadays certainly – the false binary that drives the left and right, the death of complexity and ambiguity in discussion and often in poetry too, and how this is connected to the myth of the original poem / poet, and the traditional, formal, metaphysical and romantic notion of the poet as producing original work, as though they invented language itself.

But with further edits, its become more about me burying this commentary in strange tonal and conversational shifts, though it is still about authenticity being a fundamental acceptance of authenticity’s impossibility and the paradox at the heart of that. 

Listen in this coming Friday night! 10pm BBC Radio 3.

A note on: Launching The Guide to Being Bear Aware at Swedenborg House

A beautiful room to launch my latest collection within, and in generous company, I turned out a performance with increasing levels of bear awareness, from a bear poster, to collaborating with my friend Emanuel the Bear, to bringing the room's bear to human ratio into line, to transforming myself into a bear. Very grateful to see so many friends there, to have Tony Frazer do such a fine job on my book and to read alongside the great John Hall. www.stevenjfowler.com/bearaware

A note on: European Poetry Night! May 6th in London

European Poetry Night : London
Rich Mix : May Saturday 6th : 7.30pm

www.theenemiesproject.com/epn

An opportunity to see some of the most exciting contemporary poets from all over Europe, as over 20 poets travel to London to share new collaborative poems, premiered on the night, in pairs, across languages, styles & nations. These are some of the most dynamic literary and avant-garde poets of the 21st century, celebrating the potential of collaboration to generate truly innovative poetry and work firmly against the divisive idea of a reduced closeness of spirit across our continent. Curated by SJ Fowler. 

European Poetry Night 2017 in London. May Saturday 6th: Rich Mix
7.30pm - Free Entry. 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA


Bas Kwakman & Jen Calleja  /  Kinga Toth & Simon Pomery  /  Endre Ruset & Harry Man  /  Alessandro Burbank & Max Hofler  /  Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir & SJ Fowler  /  Theodoros Chiotis & Vanni Bianconi  /  Tom Jenks & Weronika Lewandowska  /  Henriette Støren & Astra Papachristodoulou  /  Livia Franchini & Maarten van der Graaf  /  Frank Keizer & Dan Aleksander Ramberg Andersen  /  Damir Sodan & Tomica Bajsic  /  Iris Colomb & Serena Braida 

The European Poetry Night is supported by Arts Council England, NORLA, The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Dutch Foundation for Literature, Institut Francais London, Austrian Cultural Forum London and many generous others. www.theenemiesproject.com/epn


Presented by The Enemies Project, European Poetry Night is actually one of three events in three nights on the European theme, creating a mini-festival of sorts. This begins in Norwich Writers Centre on May Thursday 4th before going on to Libreria Bookshop on May Friday 5th. All events are free. Details below.

European Poetry Night : Norwich - Writers' Centre Norwich
May Thursday 4th : Doors 6pm for 6.30pm start. Entrance Free. 
Dragon Hall, 115-123 King St, Norwich NR1 1QE www.theenemiesproject.com/norwich

EPN Norwich features brand new collaborative works of poetry from pairs of poets drawn from different European nations visiting for the event and as well as many local to Norwich too. Supported by Writers Centre Norwich and the International Literature Showcase. Featuring:

Martin Glaz Serup & Jeremy Noel-Tod  /  Endre Ruset & Rebecca Tamas  /  Jonathan Morley & Dan Aleksander Ramberg Andersen  /  Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir & SJ Fowler  /  Alison Graham & Matthew Gregory  /  Chris Hamilton-Emery & Richard Lambert  /  Zein Sa'dedin & Sarra Said-Wardell  /  Doug Jones & Sam Jordison  /  Andrew Wells & Nathan Hamilton  / Emily Willis & Olivia Walwyn


May Friday 5th : European Poetry at Libreria
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm / Free Entry / 65 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP
http://www.theenemiesproject.com/libreria
Readings from some of Europe's most innovative and dynamic poets, visiting London from a half dozen European nations. This event will celebrate the shared literary tradition of our continent with truly contemporary readings and performances in one of London's most beautiful bookshops. 

A note on: reading in Amsterdam this May 10th at Brakke Grond

Well pleased to be repping the UK for Eunic's European Literature Night in Amsterdam on Wednesday May 10th. https://www.brakkegrond.nl/en/agenda/eunic Kind of the British Council to have me over too.

"What does 'home' mean in today’s multilingual world? When you try to explain to another person what that word means in your language, you step into a labyrinth whose passageways don’t necessarily lead anywhere. A dozen writers and poets from across Europe discuss their idea of 'home' during the Night of European Literature, as well as how to convert that idea into another language. And which language, then, is best suited to expressing themselves?"

A note on: appearing on Resonance FM with Jude Cowan Montague

I spent a fine hour talking with Jude Cown Montague as the only guest on her The News Agents show, a longstanding highlight of Resonance's saturday programming. Jude is a really interesting writer, poet and musician, check out this for example, amongst many things. We talked about hmmmmm The Anthropocene, Education, Animals, Snobbery, Ethical Perspective, Language, Consciousness, Mortality, Epigraphs, Russian Revolutionary poets and soooo many other things, including some talk of my new book, topically, The Guide to Being Bear Aware. It was a lovely experience and I'm hoping I don't sound pretentious, certainly Jude was anything but and even made a new piece responding to one of my epigraphs https://www.mixcloud.com/Resonance/the-news-agents-8th-april-2017/

A note on: Launching my new book at Arnolfini in Bristol

Another grand launch, the third of four, at the world renowned gallery Arnolfini in Bristol. I read alongside friends and peers Holly Corfield Carr, Paul Hawkins, Matti Spence and John Hall, who is a great influence on my work, and Phil Owen, who is a curator as well as a writer, and was immensely hospitable to us. Shearsman Books and Tony Frazer, the editor, were on site too, being local, and it was a inviting, intellectually agile, open evening with some really fine readings. The weather in Bristol was beautiful, people sat along the dock before the Arnolfini and I had time during the day to really take it in, enjoy my book as an excuse to see friends, leave London and spend time busied with good things

A note on: Launching my new book at Kingston Writing School

I had brilliant fun creating a performance at Kingston University, as part of David Rogers longstanding Kingston Writing School series, 'directing' a film or montage while sharing poems from my new book The Guide to Being Bear Aware. It's a performance Im strangely pleased with, trying to find the right balance between concept, improvisation, spacial exploration, humour, complex undertone and actual poetry.

The experience was particularly gratifying, a really lovely, resonant evening, as my students from my Experiments and Innovations module, the mainstay of my teaching at Kingston Uni, read with me. Coming at the close of their degrees and my teaching year, it was their first chance to share a stage with me and I suppose engage with my work. They are a remarkable group of young poets, some of whom are featured in my performance. 

A note on: after the second English PEN Modern Literature Festival

An extraordinary day at Rich Mix, surrounded by around thirty poets and artists, the remarkable staff of English PEN, a handful of volunteers and all told, over a few hundred people watching on. I arrived around noon, to soundcheck and set up the theatre space where the performances would take place, and i left the building, conversations still beginning and growing behind me, around eleven hours later. Exhausting, physically, of course, but resonant in every way, from the originality and range of approaches to the deliberately overwhelming task facing the English writers, to the evocation of those we were celebrating, always somehow present, both comforting and confrontational to ourselves.

This last part cannot be escaped, and again, as last year, it did fold in on some of those presenting their work. More than once it was said into the microphone, 'I couldn't write poetry about this', or something to that effect. With this I respectfully take issue. Indelicacy, obstinacy, clumsiness - these are at work whenever some experience in the world is rendered in words, always failing to grasp the thing, always lessening. It is not true that someone's sacrifice or pain when reflected upon in text is made worse. It is true that bad poetry will perhaps, lightly, do this, seem insulting to the profundity of the thing it seeks to literally describe. But no one in this festival thinks with such formulaic reduction and for the most part the work that was shared was most powerful when oblique, evocative, strange, menacing and beautiful in its idiosyncrasy. We had Chloe Spicer for Dina Meza, with her imaginary cut out friends, bounding into the audience, Hannah Silva for Narges Mohammedi building a soundscape around her poem, Kate Wakeling knotting for Nurmuhemmet Yasin. We had Nelson Aguilera's son in the audience, approaching Jeremy Noel Tod just before he began to present a piece for his father. All the performances can be seen on the site here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen and I would urge a perusal of this resource, it carries some of the spirit of this very special, very intense day.

It almost goes without saying that I hope this happen again, the second festival becoming a tradition in the third. At times one feels hollow, that it is just this, a day of removed solidarity. But this doubt must be expected, embraced, pushed aside, and when Tony White presented his marvelous dialogue with Ahmed Naji, he said what I, deep down, had hoped to hear. He said though it might feel like what you are doing makes no difference, when the writer a continent or ocean away from you, facing censure, oppression and pain, hears of you mentioning them, celebrating them, thinking of them, it gives them great heart. I wish for no more, ever, from any work I should do. From giving another human, if only just one, if only for a moment, an inflection of solidarity, warmth, courage, I am myself encouraged to keep up the little this festival is. 

A note on: Illuminations - a new series with ACF beginning with Jelinek

Illuminations I : celebrating Elfriede Jelinek 

Wednesday April 26th / 6:30pm doors for 7pm start
Free entry
(booking required, link here)
Austrian Cultural Forum. 28 Rutland Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PQ
www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations

New performances, readings and artworks by Hannah Silva, Jen Calleja, Patrick Coyle, SJ Fowler, David Rickard and Esther Strauss

Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most powerful literary figures in Europe, a novelist and playwright of remarkable authority. Her work is marked by its purposeful originality and cutting exposure of bourgeois sensibilities. Profoundly appreciated by readers in continental Europe and beyond, Jelinek's work is not only vitally contemporary, it is ever more relevant in the UK.

This event, by commissioning contemporary artists, writers, poets and theatre makers to each make a new work responding to the works or life of Jelinek, aims to transpose her brilliance into a new moment – one that will stimulate as well as illuminate.

A note on: Performing at York Literature Festival

An exceptionally resonant time in York, thanks to the hospitality and curation of Kim Campanello, York St John University and the York Literature Festival. I love the city, having visited a lot as a kid, with viking familial roots, in the stink of the Jorvik centre, and having been there just months before for the NXNW tour. This time just Antony Dunn and I performing at a showcase event, the audience was amazing, the students brilliant, the whole impact of the event rare and memorable. There was a sense of juxtaposition in the event, between Antony as a poet in the lyrical tradition and me in the more experimental, but that proved not be conflicting but generative. Similar people with slightly different experiences and tastes in poetry. It created something valuable, something to riff off against. Antony was brilliant to watch read and to chat with in the Q&A, and I thoroughly enjoyed auctioneering for the first time, as well as book eating for perhaps the third. 

They collected some feedback from the audience, quite enjoyable to read.

'Fantastic event, thoroughly enjoyed'
'Loved the contrasting styles'
'Polar different takes on poetry and yet shared values'
'Love Dunn's poetry about the everyday and Fowler's combining of words and other media'
'Brilliant to witness these poets up close and their eclectic personalities. Very inspiring.'
'Performative nature of both poets was eccentric and exciting'
'Cheered me up!'
'I got a free poem [he didn't eat the whole book].'
'Didn't like book-eating, but appreciated SJF's reason given for eating book.'
'Perfect pairing of poets'
'Brought to life the poetry and contextualised it within the world'

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.