Published: Versopolis Poetic Articles #2 - Animals as Humans, can only monkeys laugh?

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The second in my series of articles that are prose poems that are anti-opinion / anti-conclusion / anti-journalistic. It’s an interesting challenge, a long form poetic reflection, for an English person anyway. This one, following the theme of Drugs, is on the theme of Animals.

https://www.versopolis.com/times/essay/730/animals-as-humans

“Things obviously to be regretted in the future. The way humans educate their children. The way humans treat and consider their own planet, their own environments, their own place. The way humans treat and consider animals, as meaningless, stupid, brainless nothings. As food, to be made and unmade for a belly that might be full of whatever it likes. 

What the bloody hell is this massive weapon? It protects us, splits us homidiae from the pan pongo interface. Yet we cannot know each other’s self-consciousness, let alone that which lies in the grey brain of other creatures. A funny assumption begins a history. 

The octopus compared to the human. The chimpanzee compared to the human. The otter compared to the human. The bear compared to the human. 

The human glad in misadventures, harsher and more ravenous than anything you ever heard, anything in all other creatures born days.

Dogs. That perpetually dogs the footsteps of humans. Dogs as a verb. Dogs a best mate. Dogs as a fetching machine. Dogs who need defending. Dogs who defend homes. Dogs eaten in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Nigeria. “

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: my article on Home, in Dutch, published in Terras

very happy to have some of my journalism published in Dutch for the first time, featuring the latest issue of the respected Terras magazine. The magazine was founded by erik lindner and the article emerged from a commission for European Lliterature Night Amsterdam, thanks to the British council.

The full Dutch can be read here http://tijdschriftterras.nl/thuis-2/ and it was translated by Anne Tjerk Popkema

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"Het zijn onze vormende jaren op deze aarde die bepalen hoe we ‘thuis’ opvatten. Of het nu de plek is waar onze wieg toevallig stond, de plaats waar we opgroeiden of waar onze ouders vandaan komen: de omgeving van onze jeugdjaren vormt ons thuis. Althans, dat zeggen ze."

... and from the essay in English, an excerpt"I have always been distrustful of those who speak of home, actively, keenly, when they are young. Those who stay in the same town in which they were born. Home then becomes a word equivalent to repression, a soft claw coming up out of a bungalow, wrapping itself across my mouth.

London is my home, because I have no home. London is the world. As angry and lovely and populous as our world. As the population of our planet has doubled so London has become the biggest it has ever been, just recently catching the population of the pre-war era. I am one of these millions, delighted, against where I was raised, to be amongst the people of the world. I am home, briefly, with those I love, in a city which is not celebrated enough for being truly global, where I have never seen people in conflict because they are from different homes. Because everyone is from a different home here, almost no home is home when in London. So it is all of ours. Does this paradox qualify? Perhaps not, it cannot be a paradox if I say it is my home."

Published: an article of "The Poetry Reading, Literary Performance & Liveness" for Norwich Writers Centre & ILShowcase

http://litshowcase.org/content/reading-in-public-is-always-a-performance/

"READING IN PUBLIC IS ALWAYS A PERFORMANCE

SJ Fowler explores the role of poet as performer and artist

Cautiously declaring a desire to be severed from the tendon of smugness often associated with the avant-garde, be it in writing or performance, I will begin rather by saying my interest in this kind of writing is really not about literature first, but about three things, two of which seem relevant to the notion of liveness and poetry.

The first is the future – a desire to be future facing, in a moment where the world is so different than it ever has been before, so much so that it is beyond previous imagination. By this I mean the world population of human animals doubling in the last forty years, climate apocalypse, the internet as a language based human nervous system emerging in the last three decades etc… No more on this, but to me the avant-garde gives poets more in the way of preparatory strategies than the classically fascinating, formal, history-facing poet. I’ve been asked why it is important to be future-facing. To know the past, as I try to do, reading as much classical poetry as I can (ought to?) is useless without having a stake in the future. It is undeniable that the default mode of contemporary British poetry is conceptually, theoretically and methodologically facing backwards, over its shoulder, resisting what might lie ahead.

The second is potential. What is the possibility of the page? Does it stop at times new roman size 12 left aligned grammatically correct first person narrative anecdotes of emotional insight, as most poetry books are? No. White space, paper stock, colour, font, language as material - this is the domain of the poet, if any kind of artist. The poet is a language artist, and these material concerns are not just for the graphic designer, or text artist etc… This is all a frame of mind, a mode.

The third, most importantly to me, is my naiveté as it relates to poetry. I have only been writing, performing, painting, for a sixth of my life, or thereabouts. It all, for better or worse, flooded in at once. Before, and since, I am fundamentally confused, about most things, about poetry. Why is what might be taken for a normal, everyday sentence, describing an event or incident or anecdote, but given line breaks, called a poem? And speaking most generally, I find existence relatively adversarial, within the comfort I’m lucky to have (again I mean macroanalytically thinking, life is adversarial as its fundamentally degrading before expiry etc…) And this is often the state of avant-garde work. It is confused, can appear inexact, or exacting, it is equal to life, it does not control the uncontrollable, it mirrors it. It presents questions to questions, not unlikely answers......."

A note on: In Other Words: The Journal for Literary Translators Winter 2016

Very happy to have a short article in the beautiful and vital In Other Words journal, which is published by Writer's Centre Norwich and the translation centre. Do go get a subscription, it's a brilliant journal http://www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk/about-us/wcn-publications/

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My article gives an account of how I happened to be in Serbia as the UK's exit from Europe happened, and the inevitable disquiet around that experience. I was helped by editor Sam Schnee in putting it together, she did a wonderful job with me and with the whole issue, which features Gabriel Josipovici, Chris Gribble, Jen Calleja and many other talents.

Published: How I Did It - ‘The Interrupters’ my article for The Poetry School

http://campus.poetryschool.com/how-i-did-it-the-interrupters/ An intriguing series from the Poetry School, hosted on their Campus platform, where they ask poets to discuss the process of writing a specific poem of theirs. Some previous editions were really interesting, but more often than not made me realise how different my process can be from the norm. So this article, where I discuss my poem The Interrupters from my recent collection {Enthusiasm} published by Test Centre, is an attempt to honour the article's remit but still maintain a true reflection of my actual methodology.

"I suppose each collection I have published has been an attempt to relate a style, or form, or concept, to a subject. Not the other way round. No collecting has been done after the fact, the fact has been established and then the collecting. My process is one toward a changing ideal. I don’t denigrate those who are consistent, or whose evolution is subtle, but I personally find the notion of radical growth, or variance, to be something I aspire to. It comforts me that my work is different book to book, that I produce things that bear not a singular stamp of my authorial ‘voice’, for I find that idea unrepresentative of my experience of being. It is not a metaphor to say we contain a multiplicity. I am a different person depending on my mood, my company, my job… As such I am a different poet, I have a different voice when writing about boxing than I do when writing about prisons, or when I’m using collage technique as opposed to visual poetry. And most especially when I’m writing mostly at night, as opposed to the morning, or when I’m reading mostly one poet as opposed to another."

a lovely report on the 1st a World without Words event on Bold ideas

Thanks to Dan Davies & Catalina Bolozan

"A World Without Words, an ambitious new project by three, London-based experimenters: writer and filmmakerLotje Sodderland, in collaboration with poet and curator SJ Fowler, and Thomas Duggan, an artist and material engineer, invites us to explore human language in staggering and intimate depth. Language theory walks hand-in-hand with neuroscience and sensory aesthetics to investigate how our brains map meaning. With such an incredibly broad scope you might be forgiven for wondering how anyone would go about tackling such a vast and complex subject matter, and perhaps question their motivation. In this case, the answer is disarmingly personal. With the World Without Words programme unfurling over the coming months, certainly into November 2015, there will be plenty of time to engage with and enjoy this truly multifaceted project."

Christodoulos Makris' article on contemporary Irish avant garde poetry

http://jacket2.org/article/monoculture-beer-no-more a few excerpts of a brilliant and timely article

a criticism of performance poetry everywhere is that it suffers from an anti-intellectualist attitude, which leaves the work rooted in the safe realm of the populist. Another is that it places too much emphasis on identity writing with an over-reliance on flourish or a clearly defined, easy-to-follow narrative. Essentially, on manipulating its audience into assent. These are fair criticisms to extend to the Irish spoken word scene. In general, an easily identifiable agenda surrounds the performance poem in Ireland. It brooks no uncertainties regarding its ideological position. In its eagerness to become understood and accepted at once, it eschews nonlinearity or complexity and aims to flatten experience into a series of cause and effect connections. A sense of interrogation taking place in the process of composition is lost through its collapse into a single dimension.

*  With concrete or visual, sound, and, especially, forms of poetry that make use of conceptual writing strategies having remained stubbornly rare in Ireland, it’s mystifying how little attention has been paid to poets who have at one time or another adopted them. Evidence that, when prompted, writers here would be keen to engage more with experimental writing processes was seen during the UpStart collective’s poster campaign in the run-up to the February 2011 general election. Many of the text-based material erected then among the party political posters were clear examples of concrete or conceptual poetry. Context and medium were crucial; these were understood, by their authors and readers/viewers, as forms of slogans, with questions of politics, protest, public art, and temporariness vital to their acceptance as poetry.

Cordite: a feature on collaboration for the Australian Journal

Cordite is one big publication out of Oz, and I was delighted to be asked to put something wide together for a special issue on collaboration. I adapted some words on collaboration itself, as it is as part of my practise and tied this into five excerpts from brand new, never before seen collaborations. They are all works I'm really excited to share, all part of a continuation of my work with others since the publication of Enemies. I'll be blogposting excerpts from these works one by one, but for now.

Here's the full issue: http://cordite.org.au/content/poetry/collaboration/

Here's the link to my article: http://cordite.org.au/guncotton/in-collaboration/

& from that "These five collaborations are no more or less representative of my overall collaborative output than any other five I could’ve chosen. Rather, I choose them, as I do my collaborators, because of a sense of who these people are and the creative and social energy they have exchanged with me. I write this in fact on a tour of the Scottish islands, writing new collaborations every day, to be read in the evenings, to small audiences on Orkney and Shetland. The collaborative process is ever in flux for me now, and so these five works also seem new to me, as though they were written this morning too.

Yet the work with Tom Jenks, ‘1000 proverbs’, was built over a year period or more – and readied by rapidly batted back and forth email – for publication as a separate book with Knives Forks and Spoons Press. Too, ‘40 feet’, is a poem where David Berridge and I tried to embrace the failure of encapsulation, writing 40 poems that were about themselves, over a 40 day period. ‘Samurai’, with Andrew Spragg, is new … begun this year and currently growing poem by poem as we both research a randomly chosen topic and warp it through our shared poetics. ‘La dominate’ was written and rendered artistically by Ariadne Radi Cor in Venice – both of us part of a collaborative project with a university there – as part of a project called Crossing Voices, one expertly curated by Alessandro Mistrorigo and James Wilkes. And ‘Oil’, with William Letford, was written for reading, for this current tour, and read in Aberdeen, Scotland on 15 July, 2014, after an exchange of stanzas lasting a few weeks. Our processes produce the content, and that’s where the joy is, in making sure a process is the thing of it all.
To date I’ve engaged in over 100 collaborations..."

Sarah Lester's article on Electric Dada

http://www.electronicvoicephenomena.net/index.php/the-voices-in-the-radio-sj-fowlers-electric-dada/ ....... click to read the full whack

As the centenary of Cabaret Voltaire looms ever closer, poet SJ Fowler has been adopting Dadaist methodologies as a way of questioning our own preconceived notions. Drawing on Dada’s own sense of terror and menace, Fowler’s “Electric Dada” asks the audience to consider what it might actually mean to make contact with the dead. Or, rather, what it might mean for the dead to contact us. Far from hearing the comforting voices of our dearly departed, Fowler conjures up a profoundly more painful and unsettling affair. “Death has a language”, he sinisterly declares onstage, then, without waiting for an invitation, continues: “I will give you that sound.”

As Dadaists superceded formal language to engage with subjects that could not be understood outside of the abstract or the absurd, Fowler’s own sound poetry urges the listener to make their own connections between word, sound and meaning.   Transcending a language concerning death that is overfamiliar to us, Fowler’s ritual-esque vocalisations evoke magical incantations and otherworldly seances in words from a language of his own invention.  Fragmentary phrases, fields of invented words can bypass the author’s own associations and trigger new ones in the listener – it’s a Dadaist technique that was deployed in an attempt to overcome the subjective (bourgeois) ego.

If art appeals to civilised sensibilities and genteel good manners, Dada is the opposite. Dada – anti-art – was intended to offend. The performance experiments at Cabaret Voltaire (and beyond) did not lend themselves to polite rounds of applause, rather they stood for a rigorous critique of prevalent systems. Even so, when Fowler outlines the specific details of an artist’s exemplary suicide case for the benefit of all those in the audience who have refrained from committing suicide “for fear of making a mess” there’s no riot exactly, but there’s more than a ripple of nervous laughter. Like the audience of Henning’s performance of Totentanz, we’re not quite sure how to react.