A note on: latest poetry on 3am magazine

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It's been a good time to be getting submissions for 3am's poetry section. Seems what I've been trying to do over the years has stuck a little, and so much of the work I'm getting is brilliant. So more than usual has been published, and this is in no small part down to the Poem Brut and Duos series, being the only poetry I'm accepting at the mo. As ever there's a big backlog, so much more to come soon. Since September 2017...

A note on: Duos & The Poem Brut - two new open calls on 3am magazine

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/submissions/

Poetry
Note: Poetry submissions are open only for the Duos and Poem Brut series. No other submissions will be read.

  • Duos: collaborative poems written / made by two poets. There is no criteria for the poems or process. Please send a single bio and single photo for both authors.
  • Poem Brut: poems exploring handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, visual poetry and material process, colour, scribbling, scrawlings, crossings out, ink, forgotten notes, found text, interaction between paper and pen, and pencil, geometric poems, inarticulate poems, minimalism, collage, toilet wall writing. No works produced on a computer.

A note on: Subcritical Tests, Cemetery poems & other recent happenings

Recent happenings from July 2017 : Two new publications, three great events in Kensal Green Cemetery, others at Ledbury Festival, National Poetry Library, Poetry Ireland & more.

Subcritical Tests: a new book from Gorse Editions
A pair of grand launches in a basement in Soho and a packed Poetry Ireland in Dublin for a book already making mushroom clouds on the Irish poetry scene. A beautiful thing Gorse have made, sharing Ailbhe Darcy and I's poems, three years in the writing. www.stevenjfowler.com/ireland

Landscape Learn : Growth & Decay
Part of my ongoing residency with award winning landscape architects J&L Gibbons, a day in Kensal Green Cemetery with speakers from Urban Mind, Museum of London and a debut screening for my collaborative film with Tereza Stehlikova. Follow Landscape Learn.www.stevenjfowler.com/gibbonsresidency

The Ecchoing Green
A reading with Chris McCabe and Tom Jeffreys in Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter's Chapel, part of the Wood Wood residency, a discussion of changing London and its cemeteries www.stevenjfowler.com/wormwood

Worm Wood Old Oak
Short fiction published by Sampson Low, a publisher founded in 1793. A weird story about a property developer terraforming London, available here https://sampsonlow.co/2017/07/14/worm-wood-old-oak-sj-fowler/

Ledbury Poetry Festival
Performing and curating the 87th event of the 21st international poetry festival in Ledbury, presenting a new collaboration with Harry Man. More here

Poem Bruts : Hotel Magazine
New art poems published in the brilliant hotel. Taken from an upcoming artbook 'New Prim' with Hesterglock Press. http://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler-Poem-Brut-ii

Illuminations II: Erich Fried
A brilliant second instalment of the Illuminations series, surrounded by friends and family of Erich Fried, presenting new performative and literary responses to his life and works. www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations

National Poetry Library Special Edition: celebrating Shearsman Books
A chance to read from my collection out this year 'The Guide to Being Bear Aware' alongside poets like Peter Riley, celebrating Shearsman who have been publishing for 35 years. www.stevenjfowler.com/bearaware

Interview with Jana Astanov A quick chat with the new york based Polish multidisciplinary artist about recent things. www.3ammagazine.com/3am/poetry-is-an-opportunity/

Some upcoming other stuff:
August 1st to 31st : An exhibition at Kensal Green Cemetery - Worm Wood, with Tereza Stehlikova
August 31st : Reverse Festival Copenhagen
September 3rd : Fiender - Swedish Enemies in Malmo
September 19th : WOW Festival South Korea
November 15th (to be confirmed) : Illuminations III - Peter Handke
November 22nd : The Poem Brut at Rich Mix - a new programme of events, exhibitions and talks begins, exploring art poems, pansemic writing, abstract portraiture - the intersections between brutalism, text, handwriting and abstract illustration.

A note on: an interview with Jana Astanov, published on 3am magazine

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/poetry-is-an-opportunity/ 

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 note on: top 10 for 2016 on 3am magazine

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/top-reads-2016-steven-j-fowler/

Vladimir Mayakovsky, Volodya: Selected Works, edited by Rosy Patience Carrick (Enitharmon Press)
I’ve been reading Mayakovsky my whole poetry life, which isn’t that long, but he’s always been important to me, but this volume, well I suppose it did what it was supposed to do – crystallise, refocus, intensify appreciation. It blew me away. I read it cover to cover, twice over, and dipped further. I bought copies for friends who don’t read poetry. It’s artfully edited, beautifully produced, and just the man’s energy, his range, his deep innovation, it sings from the pages. Huge credit to Enitharmon, always a great list – just look to David Gascoyne, Lee Harwood, UA Fanthorpe etc.. – the last few years have been especially exciting times from the Bloomsbury based press.

Vahni Capildeo, Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet)
The significance of Vahni Capildeo’s book doing so amazingly well with prizes and critics is that it is deeply, resonantly complex, intellectual and innovative. It is multifaceted and challenging, insightful but never cloy. This is the modern poetry I have been moaning has not been receiving its due for years. It is a brilliant book, like her last book from Shearsman Books, and the one before that from Eggbox. Suddenly it caught alight in people. I will now shut up about prizes overlooking the actually contemporary / modern / avant-garde. For a few months. Credit to Carcanet too.

Stephen Emmerson, Family Portraits (If P Then Q)
Emmerson is criminally underrated, he should be seen as a major, pioneering figure of the British avant garde and his work from publisher If P Then Q furthers that reputation. It’s a gesture in a book, an austere refusal of the indulgent lyric.

Harry Man, Finders Keepers (Sidekick Books)
A true collaboration with the artist Sophie (which places it close to my heart from the off), this is poetry that is actually mindful of its engagement with ecological themes. As ever with Harry Man the poems are hard to pin down into one literary tradition, he is an original, never obtuse but neither overtly complex. It’s a beautiful book and a real achievement as a project.

Diane Williams, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (CB Editions)
Charles Boyle Editions are a list I follow just on previous form (look to David Markson, JO Morgan, Will Eaves, Francis Ponge etc..) and I have to admit I hadn’t come across Diane Williams before I picked this up. Now I am in deep, her work is everything I look for, and this book really impacted my writing, it’s fiction but it’s poetry too, as I’d deem it – full of expert twists on banal detail, mishearing, disjunction and play. Sophisticated and really funny.

Jen Calleja, Serious Justice (Test Centre)
A great debut, another great book from Test Centre. Her poetry is a intricate, subtle, conversational fusion of Calleja’s expertise, without being reductive, which is punk music and the European high literary tradition. It’s original, vital, memorable, get it.

Tom Jenks, Sublunar (Oystercatcher Press)
Oystercatcher is one of those British presses poets know, and follow, their backlist is a resource and Sublunar from Tom Jenks is a 2016 highlight for me. Jenks is the most exciting conceptual poet I know, but his range is like his prolificism, to be admired. Still the rarified nonsense of publishing once every 7 years lingers around British poetry, just so romantic dinosaurs can insist on their genius as though their poems were faberge eggs made better by their scarcity. Jenks is doing the work to unpick this, publishing brilliantly and frequently. Get everything he’s done.

Luke Kennard, Cain (Penned in the Margins)
A wonderful book, beautiful to behold, dark in its way, witty too, of course, as Kennard’s work has long been lauded – he’s been a feature on the British poetry scene for a decade, massively to his credit traversing many different spaces and practises. This book is really so striking – conceptually clever, and gorgeously designed, as usual, from Penned in the Margins. It won a prize for design in fact. It should win for that which lies within the covers too.

Gabriele Tinti, Last Words (Skira)
Tinti’s book is a service – the project, to record and repatriate suicide notes, and one best received by poetry readers looking for insight often where it resides least, in the thoughts of those who think themselves professionally insightful. Tinti removes the barrier, it’s a difficult read because things are difficult.

Mark Waldron, Meanwhile, Trees (Bloodaxe Books)
Waldron is not underrated, as he’s properly well known, but I have this suspicion he is misunderstood, portrayed as casually, observationally misanthropic almost as though that’s token in a dayglow world of poetry about bees and mushrooms, written while the world burns. His work is intimidatingly poised, beautifully crafted, engaging, thoughtful, wears its intelligence in its technique, lightly and completely absorbing. A highlight from Bloodaxe this year.

A note on: New poets published on 3am magazine this summer

The submissions for 3am magazine have opened once again, from September 1st until January 1st, and the work coming has been the best I've ever seen in my five plus years in the magazine. Completely anecdotal, probably representative of nothing in the wider scope of literary trends, but finally a huge portion of the work, maybe 25% is innovative, interesting, original and a pleasure to read. I've decided to go with this and take more poets on than before, really try and build the magazine's poetry into something dynamic and energetic over the summer and in the coming months too. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/index/poetry/

Some exciting work published recently:

Maren Nygard http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/marennygard/
Jerome Rothenberg http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/jeromerothenberg/
Paul Leyden http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/paulleyden/
Sarah James http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/sarahjames/
Freya Harwood Bond http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/freyaharwoodbond/
Charlie Baylis http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/charliebaylis/
Pam Brown http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/pambrown/
Kathryn Maris http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/kathrynmaris/
Erik Kennedy http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/erikkennedy/
Alex Houen http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/letter-to-a-neighbour-other-poems/
Mischa Foster Poole http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/unboxing-teardown-other-poems/

Plenty more to come and here's every poet I’ve published as poetry editor http://www.stevenjfowler.com/3ammagazine

Published: five poems on Britain leaving Europe on 3am magazine

I love extinction if it’s me first
he stupid animals
get together
all the time
for gatherings.
Some even to mark the absence
of one of them
from the gathering.
Suspicious of the prolific
but otherwise
warm blooded pretending
that that blood cannot leave that which
currently contains it,
no matter what.
Might be true, we say.

 

A note on: Richard Marshall reviews {Enthusiasm} on 3am magazine

A really discerning review, one that roots my work in the world and gets to the heart of of much of my purpose. I have (or try to have) an ambivalent relationship to reviews, but then reviews are different from criticism. None the less the nature of my work means that I always feel lucky when someone seems to connect with it, let alone extrapolate what Richard Marshall has here. I can't pretend it's not enlivening, that it doesn't fill me with optimism, to read how clearly and incisively he's recognised the purpose and philosophical context of much of what I'm trying to do, especially in {Enthusiasm}. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/enthusiasm-review/

{The pictures below are my own, from various travels over the last year, a way of repositioning this text as a new thing in this new space.}


"Fowler works in the line of poetics that sees poetry as a way of changing its reader perhaps first put out in 1751 by Sam Johnson in ‘The Rambler’ where he writes of ‘the Force of Poetry’ being able to change and shape its readers. Pound writes of poetry’s rhythms being ‘forced onto the voice’ of reader’s speech. W.S. Graham, who haunts this collection as a lost poetic daemon, wrote in 1946 about a ‘poetry of Release’ which makes ‘the readers change.’ What Fowler is doing, it seems to me at least, is evoking a readership, seeing poetry as an activation in living and an intersubjectivity in reading. All sorts of things tug at this idea. JS Mill wrote of poetry being something overheard in contrast to being heard, a view resulting in the private vector of its influence;

‘ … the peculiarity of poetry appears to us to lie in the poet’s utter unconsciousness of a listener. Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude.’

Well there’s something valuable in this. Fowler’s war poetry – I’m labeling it thus just to exaggerate a point – can be read as ‘apostrophes directed elsewhere’, to use Coleridge’s useful phrase, to emphasise that Fowler’s poetry protects poetry’s special value, & is much much more than mere propaganda. Yeats as always helps: Fowler is assuredly quarreling with himself not others in this. Yet his imaginative links are nevertheless public too, as public as Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ or Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and if Mill helps there’s always the fear the definition pushes poetry further into the unheard margins. His poems require more from us than brooding reflection and mute feelings in domestic solitude. There’s a somatic demand: poetry urging us to rewire body and nervous systems as well. The disturbances of syntax and unexpected diction are ‘political engagements with consciousness’ to bring about the ‘making of the reader.’ And it’s not a one way street. As Auden writes in his Yeats elegy; the words of poets are‘ … modified in the guts of the living.’"

"Reading this collection in the context of terrorist threats, Syria, the inequality class wars, domestic hells, all the nightmares roosting, what we realize is that Fowler is our war poet, breeding his lilacs out of the blood soaked April ground of current history:

‘should I begin as if it were a story for in (not during wartime)/ they mistook a story for a poem as often as/I’m not saying you never had it so good/but that is a fact , isn’t it?’.

He’s grappling with the extreme consciousness of these mediated discharges of extreme violence, the weird collision of mutable elements of the everyday with an excessive, unavoidable degradation of sensibility constantly bombarded by violence and names of violence and symbols of violence and effects of violence and rumours, denials, gratuitous, unclear, unclean of such. ‘You’ve never had it so good…’ is where the war starts, and places the reader squarely there, ‘in’ not ‘during’. If taboos are a way of vanquishing violence from the everyday then our contemporary context is where taboos are being reversed. Fowler mixes actor and costume, mask and dance, plays choric master to the Dionysia of this reversal , is a voiced chorus of phallic tragedy played across the broken-hipped syntax of polyphonic marginal identities.

‘ how long would you like to fight? You pick the term/ for we are not under bombing we are facing it/what is feared is a story that explains itself/ so much it almost isn’t there upon its ed/the helicopter gun that’s known as birth control.’

This is chorus intruding the action, standing at the centre which years ago didn’t hold but imploded. So the fragmentary, uncentred is everywhere. It’s an ironic usage, ‘ prepared like a kidsaw in a cat’s paw/ happy hinged to lift a black eye..’, with domestic violence and domestic pressure nose to nose with helicopters and bombs somewhere else, but intimately ours nevertheless, addressed simply and partially as it disappears from view in the poem ‘done the line’ for example or ‘Black Eye’, for instance, an experiment as notable as Racine’s ‘Esther’ or Goethe’s ‘Faust II’. What’s the reason for saying there’s a chorus element here? Throughout the sequence there’s an interplay between actor speech and what, loosely, I’m thinking of as a chorus with richer imagery contrasting with the movement preceding. There’s often a pairing of actor voice and choral in the same broken-backed line, so we have ‘I have been to prison and patted down on the way in this sorry event…’ which then is infused with the chorus ‘…my being birth well blue/truffling up the treegrove…’ which seems to abandon its dramatic identity just for that moment before returning it, ‘… I missed my pet/>my training partners> friends>family>wife>children..’ and then letting go again to the margin where images crank up once more, ‘… who in the night were snowly peaks…’ This is interesting because the use of the chorus died out when private subject matter replaced the public. Fowler’s versatility is partly his recognition that the private and the public infiltrate themselves more than ever before, that we’re both bombarded with news of other’s lives whilst channelling private echo chambers of solipsistic narcissism.

"That the mind holds to illusions, that we are able to function as if there’s no horror happening just over the horizon, or even in the same room, is something that Fowler is drawn to again and again. The suffering that grows so deep you can’t bear to pay, though pay you must, is a central theme, and a conceit that makes his war poems resonate with a felt truth about our special kind of modern warfare, for our wars reveal ‘… the possibilities /of the human mind to pretend everything is fine.’ In a particularly subtle physicality his poem ‘the bleached is not a white’ takes the death of a whale as a way of showing the heartbreaking route away from civilization we’ve taken, a place that’s as public and as private as can be, a narrow road to the interior that is literally broken up:

‘… as it perishes it’s heart bursting in attack, the salt/ water damning its arteries, the whale turns eyes down/ to watch its deathplace rise into view…’.

There’s a marvelous, deadly, hard-won simplicity and directness in this that can evoke the physicality of his spiritual journey, a kind of Zen mixed with highest art, Basho’s journey to Oku recalibrated as allegoric caustic satire. He also evokes the elisions we remember from Emily Dickinson, perhaps her ‘a bird came down the walk’, as well as cumming’s ‘since feeling is first’ so like a child, like a foreigner, a joker, he plays, compares, couples, contrasts, double arranges, jams semantic enquiry into fragments, anti-paradigms, colloquial, dialectical, vulgar, irregular arrangements that seem to forget what they started or else never intended a main clause to have any fina closing heft, which after a while may be taken to be a political stance. In this at times he is Beelzebub in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ who refuses the conventional obligations to honour what he starts with a completion, ie; ‘ If thou beest he; But oh how falln, how changed/From him…’ Milton wrote to confound the poetasters of his day who would put together edifying verse for educative reasons: he deliberately wrote so that his poetry could not be easily chopped into such squeamish morsels. We’re reminded of Dylan here: whatever they’re up to, ‘its not wallpaper.’ Shelley moved towards the impenetrable, shifting expectations by removing closure commas, staying on the side of grammar but posing something unacceptable to the reader not wanting to think recursively.

‘The extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,/The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew/Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste.’

Shelley is asking the reader to puzzle with him, and reminds us again that language isn’t always, nor essentially, communication, but keeping a difficult score."

"So too the poems track dark nights of the soul where if we’re lucky it’s ‘the smaller death drive today, a near tendency’ and that nearness is the key, as if Fowler is drawing everything from a distance into a circle of reach, his ‘close shaves’ are those at hand and the dark enchantments he extracts are ways of bringing everything, no matter how huge and distant into his circle of intent. If anyone can restore the price of the stumbling block to poetry then Fowler, devouring whole the evil spirits in his figures and tropes, is our best last bet. An abbreviated tour of this road trip reveals the considered will of his haunted poems, the spectral momentum that comes with the names of animals and the numerous maledictions of children and child birth, as if birth was the fault and the gift immersed in the primal, maledicted horror of poetry’s elemental violence.

Our blind activities are overheard as chunks of patter in a public space. It’s like we get what Bruno Ganz’s angel in ‘Wings of Desire’ hears before he resigns himself to the voracity of the human: ‘… painted pink dips, the day of the dead… liver fluke packing ready bags…not born children… elicited sympathy… apart growing closer slower… frosted grass.. the recent meat… non-homo… empty space… new towns like Swindon… off limits… water rats… bear traps… salmon… ghosts of the civil dead… cut bone and cocktails… deaf dolphins… my human skull… cat’s paw… prison… Vietnam doubt/death/debt, bleeding nose and raw potato… comets… a lost jelly eye… your own regret/in gardens… further nosebleeds… vigilante justice… auditioning in szerz/with michelle wilde… born again, born again… the eyes of children… cutting off people’s heads… the venus nebula/is ever expanding… the gypsy wound… a tomb of trinkets… a baby dies in Bristol (if)… thinly veiled my dog is on the fellows… a baby is cruel… muslim.. is a hard hunter… eats the bed… god himself before social services let him down… Cristy’s clit… morals not changed from 2013 years ago in the middle eastern desert… baby mutu… the baby of the north… an alcoholic, unemployed + eating the fatty foods like chops… not good news, not good + abortion… choosing between money and life… the English longbaby made chain/mail redundant… baby men have always had murderers + mistresses… baby in the bath… baby bullet… bad parenting where the baby grows up to be a duck… baby bowie… she runs where once she crawled… a baby being made in the oven… a shoal of baby Orcas… butter my brother says/is very tatty… she’s descended/from sunflowers which is a bath of balls… death throes is not a dance… as ephemeral as it is a colon is not a delusion… day of the dead parade sober… figure hush in the crib… saw to Ealing as a planet earth… a Tetris elephant… the butt of an Angolan rifle smashed the natural eye from his head… older/in the last white sun… horsepower colonies… a filial son, how long would you like to fight? You pick your terms… weeping & smiling fits of those still asleep… Kaspars still dead is missing strings… a victimless act of catharsis… I have not killed a day so small… his black dolphin… spectre of miniature women… a nightmare about a millipede /with pistons… I sniffed the crotch the other girl soiled her underwear… the doctor stands by/fondling the crease… a sheep floats, is all but eight months old, into a black rubber bag… ancient karian on a bier east greek strictly frontal stance… quarter naked who dwarf… my prostation at gunpoint/& a small one… the rains of Castemere… Tatar. tamerline eats babies… slug trails… the will fall blinded…’ These voices convulse with disclosures that come from what is left behind, or is destiny, or a hiding for nothing. Fowler catches the protean energies that tune our sentiments and reasons: he’s showing us the decomposed contagions of our lively souls, their desire to touch and be touched without pacification."

A note on: my top poetry reads of 2015 on 3am magazine

Tom Jenks, Spruce (Blarts Books)
One of most overlooked poets in the UK, doing the work conceptualism should be doing, getting to the heart of uniquely British ennui through splicing methodology and jet black humour.

Sandeep Parmar, Eidolon (Shearsman Books) 
High modernism powerfully maintained and redeployed by one of the most interesting poets crossing the American / UK scene.

Tom Chivers, Dark Islands (Test Centre)
One of the clearest voices in British poetry in his finest work to date, beautiful rendered, written and designed.

Emma Hammond, The Story of No (Penned in the Margins)
Powerful for it’s immediacy, incredibly sophisticated for it’s lack of pretension in the face of profoundly personal poetry. Amazing book.

Christodoulos Makris, The Architecture of Chance (wurm press) 
This is the future of a poetry which reflects our world of language without dispensing with the expressionistic skill of interpreting that language. Found text lies with lyrical poetry, a thorough achievement to balance them to such effect.

Peter Jaeger, A Field Guide to Lost Things (If P Then Q press)
Clever, resonant and profound, as all of Peter Jaeger’s works are, a fine example of the possibilities of contextual, process-orientated thinking getting to the heart of contemporary poetry.

Bruno Neiva & Paul Hawkins, Servant Drone (Knives forks and spoons press) 
Brilliant collaborative poetry collection (of which there are far too few) taking on a necessary issue in necessarily disjunctive ways.

Michael Thomas Taren, Eunuchs (Ugly Duckling Presse) 
Best possible example of what is possible in contemporary American poetics of my generation. Excessive, authentic, ambitious.

Rebecca Perry, Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe Books) 
Reflective and observational in the most well conceived way, a clear poetic experience as a book, it accumulates and resonates as a collection.

Lee Harwood, The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon Press) 
The last work by one of the most interesting poets in the English language in the latter half of the 20th century, a typically beautiful book.

new poets on 3am magazine

Richard Marshall reviews the Rottweiler's guide to the Dog Owner on 3am magazine

A very humbling, incredibly generous piece of criticism from Richard Marshall. An artwork in itself that supersedes my book in places. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/the-rottweilers-guide-to-the-dog-owner-2/

"There’s no point in arguing against poetry like Plato did – not just because it would be barbaric but because we might say something forgivable and convincing. A pataphysicist might suggest reverting to inconsistencies just in case the imagination might addle. Which comes to asking : what’s best? – Useless information? Anxiety? Historical solutions awaiting their problems? Nihilist somethings for cute materialists? Poetry that is about the yearning for a moment you missed and couldn’t ruin, poetry that goes to an imagined community of real people who rightly fear the known, poetry that reverses justice, becoming the carrot with the stick taken out, poetry that comes out of bars as philosophy, that never forgets nor forgives Eliot, that is taller, that from afar can be mistaken for tomorrow and from a distance yesterday and from here neither yesterday nor tomorrow nor either proven until false nor shown to be true, poetry that is always losing the connecting verb, that arrives incognito by mistake, that, given a presupposition of well-being and confidence, resists opinions and clings instead to the inward silent atmospheres of Werner Herzog and Bowie’s ‘Heathen’/’Reality’/’Outside’, leaving a distant recorded message because it’s caught in traffic wanderlust or some indeterminate clause… the binaries all left undone and untidy. Somewhere SJ Fowler is sitting quietly at his desk avoiding the bands of deconstructionists on the march. His poems are strange arguments with conclusions missing the middle, are jealous myths that wish they didn’t know where they came from, where men ‘… are forever praying death/against one another’ and only the dead know the end of war.

Stephen Yablo quotes a joke from Wilde that gives a crank to his philosophy but also to Fowler’s poetry so far as we ask: what’s the subject ie what’s it about? So Wilde asks for a subject to pun and someone says ‘The Queen’ and straight back Wilde rebukes; ‘The Queen is not a subject.’ So Yablo riffs on this to show it’s a subtle distinction between Queen and the concept of ‘the Queen’ that’s in play, and the pun plays with just that and in doing so shows that what something is about doesn’t bring with it everything it contains. To talk about the Queen is not to talk about the concept QUEEN, even though it seems that you’ve got to have the concept to talk about that, ie that one, her, the doxie there! So what Yablo has recently argued is that we take too lightly the subject matter of what is being said. Theories of meaning have tended to ignore this matter and yet it’s what we need if we’re to make any sort of sense of sense. Sometimes often it’s only what its about that makes a sentence make sense as a kind of remainder subtracted from logical space. Rules of combination – fusing semantics and syntax, cry out for more and ‘aboutness’ is the missing factor.
Put another way, George Szirtes writes of Fowler’s poems as dealing with: ‘ … disjunctions and interjections. They present us with a world that moves fast and often violently , where the lyrical impulse flowers, breaks and flowers again, too briefly to assert its full syntactic argument. We have to trust our ears, both the music and the rush of fragments. Individual poems and sequences deal with personal feelings, with politics, and, are often engaged with other writers, other places. Fowler’s poetics are an open space packed with brilliant intensities. The reader has to live among them not to get blown away.’

Fowler’s aboutness is a fragmenting that gives us secret aboutness, a partial truth in every shard of language – partial in Yablo’s sense that part of it is true, cocooned in falsehood or secreted in irrelevance. So instead of building up into a big picture via the fragments – as earlier modernism did – Fowler’s fragments need to be reduced, constantly subtract parts of themselves – ‘eg so much/noise/at home’ is reduced to ‘(love; too brief)’. How the hell to know what the algorithm is for the reduction? But the line’s meaning shoots out in the opposite direction to how we might read Pound who over 50 years built and built up. Instead, Fowler’s cutting a content down to size, takinge back a subject matter out of the heap of cholera and cholera fly. The poems are the result of a studied logical subtraction with variations on the theme going to a silent intensity.
So Fowler’s allusive content comes out of sentences that overstate, shoots over and then pulls back from its noise, or winds out of a great dark pool lines like gleaming fish that dazzle briefly before falling back into a massy dark. We end up with fragments that are the end result of these processes rather than the foundations for something yet to come. This poetry is happening and gone. Whilst knowing that every thought is someone else’s and our passions are quotations Fowler is hanging on to what he’s about, deftly reinventing what Eliot noted of Milton, that ability to make each sentence ‘… an active complication, a complication deliberately introduced into what was a previously simplified and abstract thought.’ Sometimes something in the line is a part of that and other times it’s a mere consequence. New subject matter can change what you know and presuppose and so forth. Fowler’s aesthetic works with this, shaping his images into situations of deliberate functional obscurity.

‘There are more than twenty poems here’ implies there are numbers. Assertive content become’s whatever is left after identifying the subject matter. An anti-Platonist doesn’t think numbers exist. But she can say ‘there are more than twenty poems’ by focusing on the subject matter, the poems and dividing through to them, subtracting any commitment to there being numbers. Something is bridging the gap between literal content and what is being said. That’s what Fowler is doing. Who knows what’s making the trick work as poetry, but it does. There’s nothing stranger than what we say is what he says in his poems. It’s not clear any appeal to context is going to resolve what is happening. It’s not forced by the semantics of the words but it’s an elective process that readers engage with to work out what’s the matter. We have to enrich the content along the way that it’s already going and that’s always going to be a matter of tuning in and picking up on the atmosphere.

We hear things that conventional meaning disallows. We hear them in the night, on the streets, on tired trains and fucked dawns, and over that last, too long dream or drink. We hear the sentences and we hear extra things but the sentences don’t have in them the possible meaning we find are there. Eg ‘the dancing bear/teaches hibernation/how useful/on such a long journey’ – how do we know this is saying something the words disallow, or which is the truth surrounded by falsehood? Is there an incremental content – some adding to what was already understood – but there’s a sense in which incremental content only works with implications. But the assertive content is not part of the implied content or the presupposed content. The meaning is the result of that twisty dance from convention to elsewhere. Sometimes he’s pivoting off a presupposition and we have to follow. You pivot too far then there’s no way of grasping what is happening. But that can be ok when the primary thing isn’t to say but maybe to guide an atmosphere. Perhaps its best when metaphoric content needs explaining. This is poetry from a last chance saloon where it’s before the dawn and the drink and despair is thick on your soul.

Fowler’s in a world of dark play and his make-believe things specify what is to guide the imagination. The poems have a content dictated by props and rules based on properties of the props – the list is protean e.g. ‘ road, travel, perfumier, doctor, cat cancer, afterbirth, ambergris, lid, eye, hartpoon, whale, tourists, horse skin, cooking meat, animal shit, coffin pine, pommel horse, cruel portion, skips, blue overalls, young girls, red scarves, plaster casts of Venus, fruit stall, charred apples, orange steam, old woman, army coat …’ it is vast. Other writers emerge out of the dim lights and are allowed to float as gentle reminders that we’re playing with the world as it shudders. And the more we understand the world the harder everything else becomes. You could just enjoy meditating what could be the case and comparing it with the actual and how things would be different if there were fewer or longer adjectives. Or it might help to shed light on the properties of the props. You look to what is to be imagined to look to the real life. Where would I have to be to license that ceilings are horror, or answer the direct question, ‘how do you cope with your past?’ It’s what you have to plug into and what it gives you, to get what comes out of your mouth and the truth of it as something that’s more than just ordinary consternation. Sometimes the shortest lines are too long because so loaded with terror or pain of regret.

Fowler: ‘tomorrow it will be herbs/on the moon’. This alerts us to Wittgenstein; ‘it’s five o’clock on the moon’ which we should understand, everything in it makes sense, but the combination is senseless, so we don’t. Yablo quotes an Einstein story to illustrate – I loosely recall it:

‘Man: I don’t understand how telephones work.
Einstein: Think of a giant dog with its head in Hamburg and its tail in Munich (or wherever). The message goes from the head to the tail.
Man: But it’s the wireless phone I don’t get.
Einstein: The same only without the dog.’

Wittgenstein’s explains the intention to lift your arm as lifting your arm but without the arm going up. There’s some kind of pretence going on. And we don’t know what to make of these but the strangeness is that we seem to know what literal content would require and what it would be to know what is being said. ‘Five o’clock on the moon’ is that sort of illusion. In our everyday world it’s strange but totally normal. In Fowler he finds it out as a tricky process, as in: ‘ I bring you seaweed/emotional/ and yet, you just want tea…/ this will not work out’ and what we always have to do is see that something is being pivoted from literal understanding and it gets us somewhere else, includes a whole lot of things with a single sentence, like a whole lot of metaphorical meanings from a single sentence, where the person giving seaweed is like giving tea but without actually giving tea. And there’s the distress of our modern world where what we want is to be at peace without, you know, stopping war. Like wanting war to be lost in the post. Fowler: ‘today there are hands I love/ yesterday it was an ape’ Piggybacking on a pretence (hands I love – His? Hers?) and pivot on a presupposition (All men are apes, all lovers, all are barbarians outside love). There are missing links that are crying out, but from outer space – these are, after all, poems and there’s nothing required here except some occasion being created to allow us to plug in props so the game can begin. And you can’t pretend if all you’re doing is describing what the game would be, saying ‘this is a hold up’ without pointing your finger like it’s a gun and without expecting the others to stick their hands up – or start firing back. Poetry is where living works even if the end of the world is in the next minute. This is what the last scene of Lars von Trier’s ‘Melancholy‘ shows.

Fowler’s poetry is sometimes just brinkmanship with prose, as life is with suicide, walking with falling over. Sometimes his poetry is prose. The sections of prose are form without form, which is to say they have form in the same way that prison cells have ‘breathtaking views’. The worlds we extrapolate from Fowler’s world is what we might have already taken advantage of. There are certain ways that carry falsehoods which are compatible with them being true. We are being pushed beyond boundaries. One eyed poets dish it out but can’t see it back home, whereas Fowler is at home with the remainder, the stuff that is left when we just obtain what is right. He has ten eyes, like certain spiders. As in his question: ‘were it not for the spines/ would it rather not be a fish backwards?’

Each poetic fragment is a life gesture: a life gesture is unambiguous, perfect in itself, and yet is hollowed out by what Lukacs, writing about Kierkegaard, says: ‘The gesture alone expresses life: but is it possible to express life? Is this not the tragedy of any living art, that it seeks to build a crystal palace out of air, to forge realities from the insubstantial possibilities of souls, a bridge of forms between men? Can the gesture exist at all, and has the concept of form any meaning seen from this perspective of life?’ – so many times there are moments when Fowler in a flash of energy catches the shape of a disappeared gesture: ‘ an easy way to loose a leaf/to drag bird shaped rocks from coal, as a cloud/& assuming , nothing will now abstain from grief/& mischief filth/a lost dog still must ‘strain its greens’/as fingers that remain attached/were not meant to remain/clean/moving in, as a profession marching/& now not to bring sheets/but plenty for the stuffing/the greened/unbroken//& brown flitter, the dropped/Water/a mattress made of what is dead’… here in this brief extract there is in some ways the backdrop, the gesture, the dire multiplicity of a concrete life presented as a place where monumentality has ended in psychology and materialism, a fist of shitty stuff and an allure that is mortally wounded, maybe dead, certainly unseeable. In Fowler we go to the gym ‘to learn how to fall…’
Class is what you need to beat people who look like you at the moment they’re making you disappear. There are poems where we have the characters, plots, asides but no one’s fat enough to be playing the part of Jerusalem. This is where he’s playing, in a fictional place , ‘… at the start/ of Alien on the eve of Prometheus… ‘ where great beauty is being timed by incoming horror. You don’t need to be a cannibal to know clowns taste funny. We read; ‘is it remarkable how much pain the bodies can endure?/the spiny po/cket puffer granade/the oligarch, raping the maid…’ You know these lines are squaring up to the crapola of our dissolving world and then going out, further than the premise, and we know it’s about that maid and that oligarch and then all of them.

What’s Fowler about? Burial at sea will fuck over anyone wanting to dance on your grave. There are two styles: the one we read and the one we can’t. Who knows whether the invisible ink ran out? Die quietly sleeping, not screaming like your passengers. Fowler knows the quickest way to the heart is with something sharp enough. What kind of an achievement is it to have a disease named after you? These poems don’t always care what they’re about but sometimes they’re about what else they could have been about, like the way men aren’t interested in the programme they’re watching but the programmes they’re missing. We’re all approaching a certain age but god knows from which direction; our time is nothing if not ambiguous. Well, we know that writing’s a mug’s game because you’re never as good as what can’t be written. Some poets don’t get writer’s block and can write anytime – best choose early 20th century –or Elizabethan/Jacobean.
I deliver my criticism in earnest – they’d prefer it in prose. Whoever discovered milk from cows raises the creepy question of motivation. Fowler is deadpan: ‘sarcastic Chinese/asking/why…milk?/ because of breats/& because udders just hang there’. Fighting fire with fire ain’t what the fire brigade are looking for. Fowler isn’t looking to put out any fire. If the world is bleeding he knows it’s because that’s what it’s for. That doesn’t mean he likes it. Some things you need a reason; other things a place. When it gets too cold flashers just draw a picture and hope the thrill carries in the line. Morality, recall, is like art in that it means drawing a line somewhere. It’s a cold time in the world and it’s all about money, disease and violence. No beauty therapy took place in a museum nor library. Beauty’s not truth. So Fowler, amidst chaos, works a fresh modernism with a gimlet eye, hard and flash, and the intention of high serious calling, the poet who knows ‘this is this’, our idiot mortal dangerman. His ‘aboutness’ is the curse of prayers being answered.

Fowler shuffles his business cards to cause discomfort. If they don’t want poetry to do more than entertain then what are they saying?- the rape, sodomy and drug addiction they can get at home? The peril of the modern time is a clear conscience. It catastrophically indicates memory loss. Ever asked how many poets stop writing one day because they don’t know how to conclude? Not enough. Fowler resists the call of the age to be temporary and new. He has discovered – or is in the process of doing so – a way of not being new, of not being a beginning. To be satisfied with just being the start of something, to not draw a conclusion, that is the pitch of what Kierkegaardian derision labeled the ‘premiss-author.’ Fowler is an anti-premiss author.

When Eliot said ‘Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality’ he made sure that what was being subtracted remained as its hinterland: ‘But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.’ It’s like snoring: if you’re going to, do it whilst not asleep. Or else like what Van Gough took from Dickens, which was that an artist should use the model but not make it the purpose. Fowler has an enormous capacity to resist spectatorship, to take instruction from the modernist moment. One element is done as Rimbaud: ‘one must be absolutely modern’ and ‘inventions from the unknown demand new forms’; and Marinetti : ‘Why should we look back?’ ‘destroy syntax’ and ‘parole in liberta’; and Hugo Ball ‘Poems without words’: whilst another element is done as Eliot, Pound, Rilke, Montale, as Saba arguing for an ‘… historical sense … not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence;’ ‘the poem that is absolutely original is absolutely bad; it is, in the bad sense, ‘subjective’ with no relation to the world to which it appeals;’ and Graves : ‘ …the divorce of advanced contemporary poetry from the common-sense standards of ordinary intelligence;’ and Yeats: ‘…this love of allusion;’ and Valery’s ‘I banish myself’ . Well, this is a wide learning curve, like he’s got a sequence of Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’ doing a thing thing of Rilke with a bunch of Acmeist stuff too ie Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Gumilev et al captured all at once and refusing to talk. Reading, you keep waking up each line, each word, with a jolt, so that the modernist poetics of a century is always there, in the margin that surrounds them, the special atmosphere he’s always asking to prove itself.

He also reverses modernism’s predilection for pride, elitism and self-indulgence (in this he’s the desert poet Dante with Virgil outside the city of Dis , the only place Virgil can’t enter unimpeded in the ‘Comedia’ imagine, the city of the Epicureans whose great sin is a damning intellectual pride) via the technique (cold word that, but you get the idea as in e.g. ‘disappearance of the poet as speaker’ in order, to quote Mallarmé, ‘… to unravel the word into qualities belonging to inner realms.’ For Pound technique is ‘ a test of a man’s sincerity’; for Stevens it extends to ‘ the poem of the mind in the act of finding/ What will suffice’) of a partial intensity of feeling wrapped in one and a half truths. The universal intensity of the poetic machines Fowler runs is felt through what may well be superfluous, crazy, particular, peculiar and personal wiring. Fowler has adopted the paratactic method of Pound’s ‘Cantos’ – a process-orientated form of writing that stretches over great time that’s not ultimately about history but is rather a juxtaposition of various legacies – public and private, concerned and bottled, reminding me of the Scottish modernist MacDiarmid who wrote poetry as ‘.. a stand made against intellectual apathy/It’s material founded, like Gray’s, on difficult knowledge.’

As a rule I never get involved with possessed people but to be fair it’s more of a guideline than a rule. Like the rest of us, sometimes I worry about beige fanatics. ‘I told the truth once and they didn’t believe me so what the hell, I’m not telling anyone anything anymore.’ That’s actually the last line from ‘Lost in Translation’ that the actor Bill Murray says to the actress Scarlett Johansson. What we see is him whispering but we never hear the line. It is a secret that Murray revealed later in an interview. It is a heroic line, a fragment of reality that is possessed neither by the film nor its characters and yet finds a way, a realm that weaves a different history, time, existence, eloquence and reality into an elegant modernist spirit. Similarly ‘Fire Walk With Me’ was the name of the David Lynch sequel to the ‘Twin Peaks’ tv series. Lynch revealed that it was what Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper, had tattooed somewhere on his body in the film ‘Blue Velvet’. Hopper didn’t know this. It’s never shown in the film. Hopper, needless to say, had no such tattoo. It was Lynch’s secret. Both the secret Murray line and the secret tattoo add meaning to the world in a mysterious addition of aboutness. They are metaphors for the inward silence of poems, their atmosphere and sensibility. They are versions of hidden allusiveness. Allusion is a form of inheritance, as Christopher Ricks reminds us, that alleviates the poet’s loneliness.

What’s Fowler about? It’s impossible to generalise. You’re unique like everyone else. Language undermines itself, self reference conjures some a kind of spandrel. Will fake poetry fail if no one pretends to like it? Wanna look glamorous? Be symmetrical. We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know. I like long walks taken by other people. The mediocre are always at their best. You try and fall into the arms of poetry without falling into its hands. Best advice: be obscure clearly. No one is a vegetarian once they start leaning towards the light. I was his imaginary best friend, next door to Pete’s only twin. Live to 150 and you’re made – no one has ever died after that. Some things you wear just to know when you’re upside down. Some things you read to realize you were dying all along. I’m as loyal as my options. Most poetry is based on a dare. Don’t address the necessity of the superfluous.

If this is the poetry of film rather than music then it includes videogames. Topically we might mention Okinawa and Chris Marker’s film ‘ Level Five’ because the horror of that is just the kind of knowledge presupposed by Fowler throughout, as in e.g. ‘when a hole in them/like a tree syrup did leak out & they died’ . What the poems do is gather us the instruments – earlier I called them props – same thing – to investigate properties of our world. We know about modern war via its videogames: Marker’s film begins the necessary process of thinking hard about this. We know about oligarchs, people trafficking, modern slavery, darkpornographic history and empires through video games, action films and snuff documentaries. Fowler’s poems make us think hard about this condition. The video game and the film give us abstract mannerisms. They allow us to do something passively. Fowler wants a definite thought out there, against the inflexible empirical facts that we know and absorb and skip away from, wants the ‘faded mythology’ of Schelling that emerges in the fact, as Andrew Bowie puts it, that ‘…neither language nor mythology is consciously invented, but both are crucial to how sense is made of things. Metaphors give us one way of seeing what he means: some metaphors will be cashed in and become literal, but others live from the way they, as Davidson puts it, make us notice new things, even though we couldn’t say what they literally mean.’

Subject matter in Fowler comes within the blurred visions of logical space as if we are seeing this space from a distance. This cashes out the idea – we find it in Schelling, in Heidegger and that lot – of ‘ground’ and ‘light’. For Schelling language is grounded in a fixed number of signs but expands beyond the pure syntax rules of combination to be able to speak into the world where we actually are now. Heidegger’s dasein is a kind of ‘hello’, I’m here.’ The actual world is in some blurry cell near the world where the sentence is really really true. The actual condition of the subject matter is totally cool with it being totally true. Fowler is working in these distant logical spaces.

Puritanical attitudes towards truth miss what poets are doing in extremis and what the rest of us do all the time whenever we even just speak according to Stephen Yablo. Truth isn’t just a style, and there’s no need to be skeptical, but when truth puritans think only total truth is truth Yablo’s unhappy and compares them with kids who haven’t yet learned what Klein the child psychologist says they actually learned at about 4 months, that what pleases them and what doesn’t can be the same thing. This ends black and white thinking, which must be a kind of relearned fault education puts back on the table, the kind of thing we get in the kid who wants to know whether the Shrek donkey is good or bad, or the adults who want to know the same about Putin or whatever. We’re uncomfortable with this in the moral sphere, preferring nuance, but when it comes to truth there’s a black and white thing going on that seems regressive. Saying everything’s either true or not is, from this perspective, like being brilliant with people with hangovers over toast.

A poetry of partial truth isn’t used to downgrade truth. But what we have here is the William James thought that we need to let false beliefs in so we can get to true beliefs unobtainable without the falsehood. James wasn’t thinking that some truths come wrapped in falsehoods in the same sentence. But Yablo’s thought – that some propositions can’t be assrted if there is no sentence to express it – is that thought – like using numbers in a sentence without believing numbers exist, for example which is where we are overshooting the bar, saying something false in order to say it. The linguistic flux in Fowler isn’t that he’s forgotten the English language, as Leavis famously said of Milton, whose ‘… departure from the English order, structure and accentuation … produces passages that have to be read through several times before one can see how they go through…’. Fowler is continually pivoting and piggy-backing – whichever is required, relying on whatever will cue you in to the truth of the thing. The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner is funny because of what we know we are expected to know about Rottweilers ( huge sinister kill dogs), guides (sensible, over-focused doggy geek manuals) and owner’s of Rottweiler’s (huge sinister kill folk wannabees) but also we cue the fact that it’s poetry, where we can get, for quick starters, rot for a while and Kurt Weil which we can swiftly morph into a world where rotten time, Denmark, Hamlet, death,Threepenny Opera, Bowie singing ‘Port of Amsterdam’, all sorts of miracles, become the truths of the collection as a whole from the off. Is France hexagonal? Partly; it’s about an approximate shape minimizing non –overlap with minimal number of shapes to choose from. Same with the title.

Boundaries get shifted – ‘there’s nothing in the fridge’ stays true only so long as people don’t start shifting the line and counting the smear of butter, for example – boundaries shift readily out but not inwards. In Fowler there is the constant allusion to some things without them being the subject matter – ‘it is better to be a thing of wool/and rag/that provokes freedom from fear/than a golden couch that brings trouble and woe.’ The allusion is to the golden fleece of course but that fleece didn’t exist any more than Pegasus did. So its an impossible reference. Perhaps impossibility doesn’t entail impossible to certain constraints. Things are impossible in virtue of certain items. Bachelor is unmarried but being a male who’s unmarried doesn’t mean I have to to make it being about a bachelor. How can Fowler refer to the Golden Fleece if there isn’t one? Perhaps we’re talking about the poetic mental state so the part of reality we’re talking about is true. Or the golden fleece is a fleece in the same way as a wooden duck is a duck.

Yablo says translation schemes tell you in what world would make the model true and how it then maps onto the real. But the apple falls once; it doesn’t harbour the faster fall implied by the law of nature. There’s just one fall. Where gravity calls the shots Gallileo is right. But it never did here. Ever. Everything that exists plays a role and can be a disqualifying property. Pure maths is false but we want keep on saying things with numbers. But what’s the true part of pure math? Does a hand prove there is an external world? I lock the door so evidence that I didn’t is misleading. It’s five after five so I conclude the watch is accurate if it says it’s five after five. I’ll be reading Fowler next year so I won’t die before next year. The closure principle is that knowing a thing puts you in a position of knowing the entailments. Deduction extends knowledge. This where the fun starts trying to grasp the difficult knowledge in the poems, and how he stays fluid without the fatuity of smooth.

So Fowler: ‘the clumsy odd/a family friend for fourteen years/now plant stalks your daughter’ – so do you lose your nerve, pay respect to confident deduction, adding conjuncts – you know the implication before the implier? It’s already there, or what? Or is it outside? That is, are there things we should be presupposing that then we’ll pivot off, like a dancer, or piggy back onto, like Billy Childish playing dinasaurs with his boy? If you know a thing you know its parts. Unless someone throws in a new subject matter. Then new subject matter makes new vulnerable flanks of its meaning, so we have to be careful. Don’t add anything that would make it false; make sure what is added is added to make it true. Presuppostions in hearing this make it a very dark saying for there are now new ways for it being false. As Fowler comments, ‘this is not anxious to please the mob,/for what pleases them, it does not know,/and what it does not know is far removed from their comprehension.’ Fowler understands that in his poetic act there are dangerous counterpossibilities. We can be a witness to the odd etc but not more stuff ie the biographical detail implied entailed or just contingently the fact of the matter. What confirms the belief about ‘the clumsy odd’ isn’t all counterfactuals, because there are new possibilities they might give which we’re not talking about here. Fronting and backgrounding makes a difference to implication. ‘it knows that when flesh cries aloud,/not possessing flesh/it is unnatural that the mind should cry aloud too./ a silent stomach communicates in sweeping thoughts.’ What will calm each reading down is grasping what it’s about when read from another, truer space than this one.

For the line: ‘on the banks of the yellow & black/don’t live in leeds/beat quarter’ would Manchester be a counter-possibility? What if there is no beat-quarter in Leeds? Nevertheless the matter isn’t that but living. We can divide back and avoid the falsehood. The partial truth is the bit we care about. Let’s fudge what is being noticed here, what beliefs, a part is not assured if it requires greater sensitivity to new subject matter. I can have Leeds beat quarter without a beat quarter, or know it’s Leeds and it’s this way, it’s like this … without knowing whether there’s a beat quarter, whether this is it, whether it’s one of those ie a beat quarter.

All my dreams are not this lifelike. Allusion accommodates two way traffic when we draw on myths, as in, say, Pounds ‘Cantos‘ 39 and 47.

These restless poems are wondrous strange and mysterious. Fowler’s astonishing ‘Maintenant’ series of interviews with poets here at 3:AM gives his work a contemporary international and cosmopolitan flavour that adds to the excitement of the atmospherics in his works. As we’re told by the publisher’s: ‘The collection is made up of 13 different sequences or commissions, including works written for VerySmallKitchenZimzallaThe Enemigos projectLush and the Wortwedding gallery. The book also features works that call on, or celebrate, the poetry of Anselm HolloTom Raworth & Jack Spicer.’ This is a significant addition to his already impressive and growing oeuvre. There is much more going on in the poems than I’ve managed to chew on. There are going to be new things discovered on each reading . It’s about noticing closure features that weren’t counted first time round, like inverting cartoon image Nietzsche to eyebrows rather than moustache, for example. What I think I like best is the way Fowler manoeuvres the language to create patterns of impact rather than straightforward logical or grammatical sequence, and there’s a constant downward movement that seems brilliantly attuned to the inward silence his poetry is about.

Poets recently published on 3am magazine

The editorial duties at 3am remain something I am very privileged to have, very proud I am to be associated with the magazine. That being said, as I've always said, the thing is tempered by reality. 30 subs a day on average, many of which are resolutely in their derivation. Yet, though I have slowed in my responding to them, it is worth it when I claw out some genuine brilliance from people from all over the world. Here are the recent few: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/index/poetry/

Christodoulos Makris - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/chances-are/
Nikki Lee Birdsey - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/nikkilee-birdsey/
Steve Komarnyckyj - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/steve-komarnyckyj/
Alex MacDonald - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/alex-macdonald-everything-is-fine/
Lauren Hilger - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/lauren-hilger/
Daisy Lafarge - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/daisy-lafarge/
Prudence Chamberlain - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/steubenville-other-poems/
Alison Gibb - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/alison-gibb/
Andy Spragg - http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/andy-spragg/



my summer reading on 3am magazine

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/summer-reading-steven-j-fowler/ 

summer reading: steven j. fowler

By Steven J. Fowler, Poetry Editor
@stevenjfowler
Poetry:
Stephen Emmerson’s Comfortable Knives
Colin Herd’s Glovebox
Tim Allen’s Tattered by Magnets
James Davies’s Two Fat Boys
Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water
Tom Jenks’s On Liberty, Repressed and Crabtree
Anna McKerrow’s Regressive Poetics
Tom Chivers’s Flood Drain
Chris McCabe’s in the catacombs 

Essays 
Tom Chivers & Martin Kratz’s Mount London 
Fiction
Tomaz Gonzalez’s In the Beginning was the Sea

Less Than Three poetry reading- March 18th

Very pleased to be introducing this event, to be involved at all, on March 18th. It's an admirable beginning for a new reading series which has it's roots in a collaborative venture between many worthy endeavours / poets. 3AM press is the really admirable publishing foray that has shot out of the magazine whose poetry I am happy to wrangle, pioneered by Christiana Spens, a great novelist in her own right, and Susan Tomaselli, who is responsible for Gorse amongst other things. The Quietus, hugely established in terms of musicology, has shot out into contemporary poetry under Karl Thomas Smith, with a gentle crush, kindly publishing some of my work recently. And Alex MacDonald and Francine Elena are both poets peers whose work I actively follow and have had the pleasure of hosting at events and in 3am magazine past and present. Both extraordinary nice people too. Which does make a difference in the world. Come along, it's 2 quid.

some brilliant new poets up on 3am magazine

Richard Marshall discusses Red Museum in his Eric Auerbach essay

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/time-history-and-literature/ Humbling to be mentioned by the extraordinary literary critic and scholar Richard Marshall in his epic essay on Eric Auerbach, which covers a multitude of interweaving subjects, and ends up discussing my first collection, Red Museum, which was launched in 2011. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Museum-S-J-Fowler/dp/1907812431

"...In the Middle Ages Dante’s poetry is described as a true umbra, a shadow of the truth. This suggests figura was Dante’s theory of inspiration. Auerbach suggests that ‘… we can say in Europe , the figurative method goes back to Christian influences, the allegorical to ancient pagan ones, and that the first is applied for the most part to Christian materials, the second, rather, to ancient ones’ but then admits that this is too neat and in the High Middle Ages ‘ the Sybils, Vergil, and the figures of the Aeneid, indeed, even the characters from the cycles of mythic sagas from Brittany (Galahad in the Quest del Saint Graal, for example) were absorbed into figurative readings.’

SJ Fowler’s poem ‘Benedict IX, elected Pope at the age of ten, shocked the sensibilities of the pagan age’ from his ‘Red Museum’ collection is a fiercely brilliant example of a contemporary poet working sensuous vigor into death, echoing Capaneo in ‘Inferno 14’ ‘I am in death as I was in life’, refusing the ascetic demand to sacrifice particularity even when in these vast poetic vaults of fantastic prodigousness. Fowler’s collection first strikes a reader as the imaginings of a cunning Gothic primitive, presenting a massive net of barbarian gothic figura. He’s picking up unmediated vital forces and threading them with legacies of late antiquity coupled with ideas and fantasies frozen in time immemorial to swarm across the page like their own ghastly phantoms. His voices span that gulf between allegory and history where, as Schelling says about Dante, individuals ‘… become timeless because of the positions in which the poet has placed them, positions that are themselves timeless.’ The grim sculptural visions Fowler achieves are a result of the synthesis of a vernacular pulse plus the imperishable spheres of locality as vivid and tragic as he judges necessary. Fowler is our contemporary tragic realist poet, capable of infusing passion with erotic hum as well as Auerbach’s ‘zealous and domineering egoism… ambition… gloire.’

The last stanza of ‘Canados’ from the same collection is this:
‘We are not a drought,
We need an artificial lake.
I have a book I would like to sell you, he says.
He whips back his long grey coat;
Its buttons stitched in blue thread,
And from within produces a book
As deep as a ribcage.’

I like to think the book is Dante but it’s just as likely to be some woman who, as in the Bowie song, ‘makes you feel so lonely you could die.’ The goal is not to enjoy individual details in quiet contemplation but to get caught up in the dynamic movement of the plenum like a fish in a net, struggling for a last astonishment."

it remains sonic occultation - an interview with Will Alexander for 3am magazine

http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/interview-will-alexander/ Any lineage one might trace to the poetry of Will Alexander could only be made up of those who defied formal influences – originators – Will Alexander is firmly in the tradition of the pioneer. More than that, more than just being original, he is authentic. And more than just being a resonate, profound, distinct voice in American poetry over the late 20th and early 21st century, his poetics are so grand, exponential, luminous and visionary, that his singular voice, unmistakable as it is, is the all the more remarkable for its rootedness. No less than expanding beyond consciousness, beyond prosaic dimensions of language and understanding, his praxis is exploration – through art, physics, botany, history, astronomy, architecture, all becomes poetry, mulch for refraction through the poet, who is made up of the endlessness of language and experience. His is a poetry ever growing through the page, through the expectations of poet and reader and on into something else, which cannot be so easily defined or described, lest it not be poetry. To celebrate his visit to the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Birkbeck college, London, to share his work with European audiences, we present an interview with Will Alexander.

3:AM:A profound achievement of your work I think is to make an identity purely through your language and its content in flux, rather than the positing of your own authorial presence. Many achieve the occlusion of the authorial identity, but few are able to form something that takes its place through the sheerness of their work, through the language becoming its own identity. Is this an active process in your writing?

Will Alexander: To say it succinctly language is life and life being motion what follows is the intuitive understanding that creative language cannot be plotted by contiguous, or what I would call verbal architectural planning. For me it is suffused with explosive electrical motion, wayward, encyclopedic, seismic – alive by means of seeming disorder. Which does not allow for the controlling posture of “the author”, anchored as he or she is by extrinsic classification....

plus a poem, original to 3am magazine, a Nexus of Phantoms http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/anexusofphantomswillalexander/

James Byrne & The Becoming in 3am magazine

Very proud to publish to exceptional works of poetry on 3am today, The Becoming is an excerpt from a longer work being released by Calamari press http://www.calamaripress.com/Becoming.htm a towering Bosch tectonic shuffle of language that is as relentless as it is entralling. Inspirational  work from an anonymous author. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/the-becoming/

Meanwhile, new work from James Byrne, a wonderful poet and a gentleman, who has been involved in my Camarade series with Sandeep Parmar on multiple occasions. He's someone whose poetry, and whose presence, in British poetry, I admire very much. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/james-byrne-drin/


Iain Sinclair's 4th book of Suicide Bridge on 3am

Without doubt the highlight of my editorial career at 3ammagazine, and an enormous privilege to publish extracts from the 4th book of Iain Sinclair's legendary Suicide Bridge. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/iainsinclairbookfour/ Without doubt, if anything ensures my opinion that the post war British avant garde has an ethical, human, social streak running through it, it is my personal experiences with the likes of Will Rowe, Tom Raworth, Anselm Hollo, Iain Sinclair and others. 

From the first time I sidled up to him at a lecture in Kings college, having heckled the rest of the panel, from the Balkans, about the turgid lack of experimentation in their works, he has been uniformly kind, supportive and generous. Hard to imagine how practically busy he must be, and having a lifetime of brilliance behind him in poetry, fiction and new genres of writing, it is indicative of the man that always makes time for younger writers, not only in gesture but action. He was one of the only writers who really acknowledged the existence of my debut collection, Red Museum, and his collaboration with Ragnhildur Johanns has spanned my event organising career. Moreover, Suicide Bridge and Lud Heat were direct inspirations to me when I first began reading properly, and when I first came to London. I used the map in the granta book to explore the city in fact, and then found the original publications from the Albion Village press in the Poetry Library. These works are from the books of Suicide Bridge, not published, until now, coming out soon with Skylight press. See below for details and buy a copy.

the poets of 3am magazine under my reign

The poets I have published since my editorial stint began at 3am in 2011. It is a strong list. A list I am proud of. Open submissions are hard work but evidently worth the (extensive) effort. What better way to link up with brilliant pets from across the earth that I never would have known otherwise. And what a job those at 3am have done to make the magazine so respected, with such reach and power while still maintaining an intellectual but non pretentious aesthetic. Hard to do, harder to maintain.

Roberto Garcia de Mesa (trans. Mario Dominguez Parra) http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/nausinoos-roberto-garcia-de-mesa/