A note on : The end of the Other Room

The Other Room has come to an end. Ten years of remarkable events that have led the way in a resurgence of decidedly contemporary forward thinking poetry in the North West have wrapped themselves up as of April 2018. The trio of curators, all markedly influential poets, publishers and educators themselves – Scott Thurston, James Davies, Tom Jenks – have worked together in putting on dozens of poets in dozens of events, publishing 10 anthologies and posting hundreds of updates online for events and publications across the UK. They have done the kind of work that acts as an invisible inspiration to generations that come up behind them, that create concrete connections between writers and happenings that influence the future of poetry in the UK, especially outside of London, and I for one have often made it known their very specific way of working events has been a massive influence upon me. https://otherroom.org/

I would say my experience reading at The Other Room in 2011 was the singular influence on the nascent Enemies Project then and has concentrated my focus ever since. What I discovered was that there isn’t a contradiction between a warm, welcoming, hospitable, funny, unpretentious atmosphere and poetry that is challenging, complex, oblique, idiosyncratic and strange. In fact, these two things are complimentary. This discovery made me realise the often experienced distance, coolness and hierarchy of many readings was a deliberate imposition fashioned in order to create for themselves a sense of exclusivity. The Other Room showed this to me, this vital realisation and in so doing eliminated any instinct I might’ve had for utopian projects in poetry, allowing me to focus on each night at a time, to be present with the poets on those nights, enjoy their company, listen concentratedly to their work and then have a laugh whenever possible. This is very likely the reason my events are still going, 8 years after they began. 

images (2).jpg

The Other Room also showed me that the superstition some poets have as a legacy from the last century, that organising too successfully blots out appreciation of your own poetry, a spectre of conflicting interests somewhere in the poetry ether (being a poet and editor is fine though apparently, and anthologising, and teaching) is also a myth. Scott, James and Tom are some of the most interesting poets writing in the UK, each with their own markedly original oeuvre and intellectual concerns, rendered in a multitude of forms and spaces, each with their own influence over many of their peers. Scott was one of the very first poets I met, and I listened to him carefully then, as I do now - his work offered me great possibility. James has done as much as anyone to make conceptual poetry in the UK its own separate exploration with its own decidedly British concerns, separate from the humourless aggrandisement that can be indicative of people’s understanding of that area of poetry. And Tom’s prolific invention, insight and deep erudition worn lightly has been a huge influence on my use of satire, humour and the balance between lyricism and found language. Tom, like Scott and James too, is such a clear thinker about poetry, has such a mind for the art, but carries this knowledge with great humility, always in a mode of learning, always open to new ideas.

The end of The Other Room is a loss for the UK poetry scene. I had always hoped similarly organic homes for interesting poetry would pop up in cities across the country, that it would procreate into more rooms of otherness, so that we could build a circuit that would be exponential, that would serve as a link for new poets coming through everywhere, doing what they have done for a decade, leading a way, lighting a path, providing a space. Yet, after this time, after such selfless labour, one can’t help but understand why it should end, so neatly, so that it doesn’t just dissolve as often the best things in poetry do, into something lesser, to disappear unnoticed. For my part, I’m grateful to them, they’ve run something powerful for longer than I’ve been involved in writing at all, and I hope as the next years pass The Other Room is remembered as a real moment in 21st British poetry.
 

A note on : Munich with the British Council

IMG_20171122_163833.jpg

A few days in Munich thanks to the hospitality of Elke Ritt and the British Council in Germany, this was a chance to develop a project that I hope will become a significant moment in contemporary British innovative poetry in Europe. Proposed by myself and Chris McCabe, it centres around an exhibition of English Concrete poetry in Munich, that will trace the visual poetry revolution of the 50s through to those making the work on the island now, whom are not greatly well known beyond the UK. It will connect to German vispo too, but vitally, it will show the range of poetic practise that has emanated from visual innovation. From performance, to conceptual work, from kinetic poetry to installation. These few days were spent discussing the idea, touring the beautiful city and meeting some brilliant folk. Discovering the Lyrik Kabinett was a revelation, a library gallery event space, with a really progressive understanding of poetry and art together, and visiting the grand Literaturhaus once again reminded me of what we’re missing, not having these institutions, in the UK. Once again, I’m lucky to be working with the British Council and after this beginning, hopefully this ambitious idea comes to fruition next year. 

A note on: Mayakovsky for Dash Arts dacha at The British Library - May 28th 2017

A brilliant project by Dash Arts, to erect a moveable Dasha outside the British Library, something they've done a fair few times and for this occasion, as part of the #Revolution17 season, I had the chance to be Velimir Khlebnikov for an hour, talking about my peer Vladimir Mayakovsky, in the summer of 1917, between the revolution's Russia faced that year. A really remarkable setting and atmosphere, the playful dictum that we were all from one hundred years ago, experiencing the momentous events of 1917 was a lovely conceit, it lended itself perfectly to mixed tenses and humour. I followed a rendition of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, pictured below, and began my guided conversation with Josephine Burton with a reading of Mayakovsky, stomping about the dacha. We then settled in to a long and fruitful discussion about the poet and the period, much of my research for my upcoming play, Mayakovsky, also for the #Revolution17, stood me in good stead. As ever Dash Arts doing fascinating work.

A note on: Moot, a videopoem from Iraq via Highlight Arts & The British Council

Almost exactly two years since I spent some time in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq, thanks to the amazing Highlight Arts and the support of the British Council, a video showing me reading one of the poems I wrote about the place and the trip specifically has been produced by Yasmin Fedda and hosted in a series of articles by Daisy Leitch on the British Council Website.

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2016/found-in-translation-part-2/
https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2016/found-in-translation/

Mahu: to Tom Raworth - June Tues 7th: the videos

eating a book for Enemigos: performing with the video Amanda de la Garza

A series of adaptations were required to complete this collaboration, one taking place on the first night of the London Bookfair, for an event I was hosting & curating, with Amanda de la Garza. In the end, the evening was genuinely beautiful, easy to put together, and the performance between a video Amanda & I was really resonant (to me, I wouldn't presume further than that.)

The British Council have been a great partner on this event, providing lots of support and the presence of the brilliant Carmen Buellosa, and I had some time at the bohemyth bookfair in the day before the evening, where I reconnected with lots of friends I met on my two visits to perform in Mexico. It was during that afternoon, strolling in the Olympia, that I received Amanda's video, and then, with crippling audio problems, at great speed, I rushed home and we hashed out a deliberately unsynched audio reading track which had pauses for me to read in, around her words, and then I came up with some actions, reflecting her own performance in the video, when the audience could see her extraordinary visage, looming large. I bit pages from the Enemigos anthology and crawled on the stage. The final result was gentle, unsettled and singular, I think. I was very pleased.

The evening gave life once again into what has been one of the most exciting Enemies projects, and to see Rocio Ceron, Holly Pester, Adriana Enciso, Fabian Peake, Nell Leyshon, all shine so cohesively, with such clear relationships emanating from the collaborations was satisfying. I can vaguely relax for the rest of the bookfair now, cold selling my cupcakes to the massive trade delegations who also feed on books.

You can see all the Enemigos videos here : www.theenemiesproject.com/enemigos

Enemigos - April 14th at the rich mix for the London Book Fair

Enemigos at the London Bookfair - April Tuesday 14th 2015 at the Rich Mix Arts Centre
ww.theenemiesproject.com/enemigos / @enemiesproject

Held in the Main Space - Free Entry - 7.30pm doors for an 8pm start.
http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/enemigos-poetry-from-london-to-mexico-city/

Join a host of Mexican poets and writers on the first night of the London Bookfair as they collaborate and exchange with their British counterparts in an original evening of literature, read and discussed as part of the Enemies project. Each of the four pairs of writers will present a unique collaboration, varying from art performance, translation, dialogue and discussion. It will be an evening of poetry and literature that is as original in content as it is in form.

Carmen Buellosa & Nell Leyshon
Rocio Ceron & Holly Pester
Fabian Peake & Adriana Diaz Enciso
SJ Fowler & Amanda de la Garza

Enemigos 2015 will also serve as the launch of the Enemigos anthology in the UK. This beautiful anthology of radical translation features new work from 16 poets who have worked in pairs to translate each other's work in aberrant and inventive ways. Available outside of Mexico for the first time, the anthology contains new work from:

Tom Raworth & Rodolfo Mata / Carol Watts & Enzia Verducchi / David Berridge & Alberto Blanco / Tim Atkins & Gaspar Orozco / Jeff Hilson & Pura Lopez Colome / Tom Chivers & Ana Franco / SJ Fowler & Amanda de la Garza / Holly Pester &  Rocio Ceron

Thanks to the British Council, Conaculta and the London Bookfair. More information on the 2015 Mexico market focus can be found here :http://literature.britishcouncil.org/projects/2015/the-london-book-fair-2015

Coming up for the Enemies project in 2015:
Feinde: Austrian Enemies – May 1st to 14th
a World without Words – May 6th
Unesco European Literature Night Edinburgh – May 14th
Gelynion: Enemies Cymru – May 19th to 29th
Mahu: an exhibition – June 6th to 27th
Enemies: a Berlin camarade – June 23rd

The International Literature Showcase in Norwich

An unbelievable week for me in Norwich, an incredible platform for my work and really another grand stage for the testing of my ideas, as an artist and a curator. I was very humbled to be there and lived it to the fullest. I wrote an in depth review of the whole experience here http://www.stevenjfowler.com/ilshowcase


Test Centre magazine : issue 5

http://testcentre.org.uk/product/test-centre-five/ well pleased to be inside this. my poems wait for you towards the end. they are the end, the buttress, the bookmark, six of them, from my upcoming book {Enthusiasm} which Test Centre are kind enough to be publishing.

The fifth issue of our fiction and poetry magazine, with new work by Test Centre regulars and an exciting selection of contributions from writers published by Test Centre for the first time.

Released in a limited edition of 250 copies, the magazine is A4 and stapled, with cover artwork by A. Selby and H. Dunnell.

Contributors: Sophie Collins, Rachael Allen, Harry Burke, Sam Riviere, Declan Ryan, Patrick Sykes, MC Hyland, Russell Walker, Thurston Moore, Tom Clark, Mark Prince, MacGillivray, Damian Le Bas, Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, Paul Buck, Iain Sinclair, Chris McCabe, Tom Chivers, SJ Fowler.

£8 + p&p. A4. Stab-stapled. 44pp. 250 copies. Cover: A. Selby and H. Dunnell, Untitled, 2014. Printed on Risograph by Studio Operative. Designed by Traven T. Croves.

new Veer books website

http://www.veerbooks.com/ Delighted to see a beautiful new website for Veer books, who generously published my collection Fights in 2011 http://www.veerbooks.com/filter/veer-books/Steven-J-Fowler-fights & edited by a collective of extraordinary poets, have put together one of the most important lists in 21st century poetry, including poets from around the world. I sincerely recommend you checking them out and buying their wares.
Plus there is a sale! 

International Translation Day - September 26th at the British Library

International Translation Day 2014

The British Library
Friday 26 September, 9am-5.30pm
£35 (£28 over 60s) & £25 (concessions)

Book tickets
View full programme
Ngugi wa Thiong'o talks to Amanda Hopkinson at ITD 2013

"English PEN invites everyone who is interested in the art and business of literary translation to join us at this year’s International Translation Day." 
I'm leading a session with Ricarda Vidal from Translation Games and chatting about Enemies! join us at the british library http://translationgames.net/?page_id=192

Vanguard: a course for the Poetry School

I’m really pleased to announce a new course I’ll be teaching for the Poetry School during their upcoming Autumn term - Vanguard http://www.poetryschool.com/courses-workshops/face-to-face/vanguard.php The course will be held on Thursday evenings at the Poetry School, in Lambeth, London. Here’s the info:
 
“Explore the expansive modern tradition of British experimental poetry, as SJ Fowler presents a necessarily idiosyncratic insight into the vibrant innovative poetries which have sought originality in the UK over the last 50 years.
 
Five bi-weekly sessions will explore the distinctive qualities of the British avant garde and chart a course through an enormous field of writing. Not formed by generation, region or faction, Vanguard explores characteristics that are possessed by, but in no way encompass, the work of many great British poets. These are qualities, and poets, chosen through the acknowledged limits of Steven's knowledge and interests, & representative of that alone.
Week 1 : October 23rd : Rapidity
Exploring immediacy, alertness; quickness; celerity, concision. Scalpel cuts at smugness / pomposity, seeking the fragmentary whole.
Drawing from the work of Tom Raworth, Maggie O'Sullivan, Denise Riley, Barry MacSweeney, Andy Spragg, Frances Kruk & others
Week 2 : November 6th : Proximity
Nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, or relation. Imbued with situation / location / historicity.
Drawing from the work of Iain Sinclair, Bill Griffiths, Geraldine Monk, Lee Harwood, Carol Watts, Roy Fisher & others
Week 3 : November 20th : Sonority
Excavations in sound, the condition of being resonant, multi & non lingual / vocal. Performativities. Technologies.
Drawing from the work of Caroline Bergvall, Bob Cobbing, Phil Minton, Hannah Silva, James Wilkes, Zoe Skoulding & others.
Week 4 : December 4th : JocosityUmour. Disjunction, juxtaposition, reappropriation - deftness, humour as disturbance, sublimation. Humour as a liferaft.
Drawing from the work of Tim Atkins, Holly Pester, Jeff Hilson, Philip Terry, Robert Sheppard, Tom Jenks & others.
Week 5 : December 18th : Destability
Undermining the oppressive in language / politics, situating complicity, interrogation / rejection of subjectivity. Externality and the refraction of worlds of language as a mode.
Drawing from the work of Veronica Forrest-Thomson, JH Prynne, Allen Fisher, Sean Bonney, Emily Critchley, Keston Sutherland & others.
During the course the onus will be on how these qualities in modern British poetry can enrich writing practise, rather than dense historical analysis, and how experimentation emerges from necessary innovations that are required for a poet to be truly contemporary in a rapidly changing society. Vanguard is a chance for students to diversify from singular, retrograde modes of writing and provides an all too rare insight into a world of poetry that is a profound part of our literary culture and heritage.”
 
I will organise a post-course reading for students on this course, and they will have the opportunity to attend a series of experimental poetry events during its duration, including Camaradefest II, to be held at the Rich Mix Arts Centre on Saturday October 25th, which will feature 100 poets in 50 pairs presenting 50 brand new collaborative works in one day.
 
Vanguard follows on from my Maintenant course http://www.poetryschool.com/courses-workshops/face-to-face/maintenant.php which explored post-war European avant garde poetry, which I’m happy to say was a grand success, due almost entirely to extraordinary group of students, who can be seen reading original work they collaborated to write during the course here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07uFwjvBHNg
 
As part of next year’s Poetry School Spring term I’m delighted that Maintenant will happen again, in its entirety, but as an interactive program of teaching this time, so anyone can join in, even if they live outside of London. You can read more about that course by clicking the link above and reading this interview, with Sarah Dawson http://campus.poetryschool.com/maintenant-interview-s-j-fowler/ More news on that next year.
 

Petrarch: a celebration of Tim Atkins, the videos

A magical evening, one of the best Ive been a part of, ever. It could not have been more joyous, funny, brilliant. It felt like a family, let alone a real community. All because of the human being Tim is, the way he has taught a generation of poets and peers to cut through the misanthropy to the warmth that permeates through his poetry and his persona. So proud to have been part of this evening, all 19 poets read so wonderfully, all worth watching. 

The Prolific Myth: Interview with Hannah Silva

I'm really pleased to have spoken with Hannah Silva recently at the British Library, she as generous enough to invite me to have an extended ramble with her for her exciting archival project there. Hannah has been a generous friend since we met on the EVP tour last year, and genuinely one of the people, one of my peers I suppose, whom I am constantly learning from and trying to follow. It sounds limited to say that, that I might not mean it, but her exactitude, her professionalism, her openness, her remarkable understanding of technology and the width of her practice are spectacular. I actively seek to work such different worlds of poetry, from spoken word to the avant garde, as I actively seek to wield technology, as I aspire to write for the stage. She is a model I can work from, learn from, meeting her, like so many others who have proven themselves brilliant outside the page or reading form of poetry, has been significant. So to be interviewed by her is pretty funny to me, an immense pleasure.
Interview excerpt found  http://hannahsilva.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/the-prolific-myth-interview-with-sj-fowler/
"I’m glad about that but I think that it would horrify some people, that this thing exists in the world that represents you, that’s got your name on it, and people can read it and you can be ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. That happened to me recently. Someone published an extract of one of my poems, and I was like, where did you get the title from? He said –it’s one of your poems, I said I’m pretty sure it’s not, but alright…I just don’t care about that. There’s poets who have done this, and might not be in the public’s consciousness, who I really admire. People like Pierre Joris and Tom Raworth who just pump out book after book, I’ve always believed in that. When I was interested in film, it was people like Bergman, who’d create radically brilliant, often different works, year after year. I admire that approach because they are I suppose professionals. That’s how they saw it/see it. It was a life engagement, not about dropping their rarefied thoughts on the world, but about grinding it out and if it pops out and it’s genius you can just see them smiling ‘oh alright that was genius, onto the next’ – that’s how I feel, if people say something I’ve done is rubbish, or brilliant, I don’t care. I care about writing, I love writing, it’s helped me be a better human being, it’s helped me mediate the world around me, it’s helped me sublimate really fundamentally aggressive energies in the world and I feel better for that. I’m not going to slow down or strategically launch the books so that people can take the time to actually read the work I’ve done in order to somehow mitigate the form…I think there’s a myth about being prolific, that it harms you, but I don’t think anyone will read me anyway and if they do I’ll be dead. Why not just do fifty books, and then they’ve got lots to read?
I’ve had some great conversations with people about their first collections, and I’m really interested in it, like Jack Underwood was in the faber young poets pamphlet and I don’t know what happened, something with faber, and now his next book is out, he announced on twitter it’ll be out in 2016, he announced this last year, and that to me is amazing because what that says to me is that …he’s going to get a huge reception and I hope he wins prizes, he’s a sweet man and he’s well known, he’ll do so well and he’ll be known by so many more middle class people than me!…But, the reality is that to me that says he’s going to spend the next year and a half not writing, because if he writes hundreds of poems in the next year and a half they’re just going to be in a dusty drawer…maybe not, but that’s just how it feels, that’s my instinct.
I’ve spoken to a poet who was told off by his PhD supervisor for publishing an extended chapbook because the guy was like: your first collection is the most important collection, you must go to these people and make these connections and slowly breed these relationships over five years and then launch your book when you get to around thirty. That to me just seems like an absolutely crazy backward view of what your work is......"

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #6

More eye bleed, happy not to sleep in order to do everything I can do, knowing how precious this time in Erbil is, and that while in it, things are so hectic that I won't be able to appreciate it until I'm gone. I finally got a chance to visit the city proper, though the bazaar and up into the citadel. Whereas the bazaar was alive, defined by its use, and the friendly, approachable people who populate it, the citadel, this incredible centrepoint to an 8000 year old city, a place assailed by Hulegu Khan, Timur, Alexander, is in the last ten years, finally defeated, stripped bare, renovated out of its appeal. In an amazing move, and it would seem against Unesco's wishes, the local government has decided to relocate the active, thriving community of people who lived within the walls of the citadel, in their own city within a city, and place them in a community elsewhere (called Citadel!) so that the ancient walls can be a pure tourist attraction. Walls are plastered, knocked down, rebuilt, the roads are dusty and empty, most paths are barred. So innately counterproductive to be breathtaking.

We managed to find the one ray of the light in an otherwise depressing excursion, the textile museum in the citadel. Really a beautiful, careful and honest enterprise, Hoshang met the curator, and discussed the programs they have to support the traditional methods of textile production and support the education of the Kurdish women who are preserving this dying art. Yasmin and I shot a video of me reading in the museum, my poem about Alexander and Diogenes. And I bought some beautiful crafts, all the money going back into the museum that is hanging on like a bastion of authenticity, at the heart of a project that has lost sight of itself/

Another brutal, drenched training session in the carpeted basement gym of the chawarchra, weird scaling the stairs back to my room dripping while all the glad handed, white suits shake and loiter. In the post gym fog, I worked further on my translation of Ahmad Abdel Hussein, and his wonderful declarative poem against the Qu'ran and the destructive legacy of Islam in modern Iraq. I had then the chance to read my workings on Ryan Van Winkle's podcast, where Ahmad and I discussed our exchanges and his courageous journalism. The more I know Ahmad, the more humble, gentle and considered he seems.
We were then invited out to a glitzy restaurant on the British Council, and took minibusses, like a proper tourist party, heaving me with flashbacks to childhood coach holidays. A nice evening talking outside, distracted by a giant screen showing football, but really picking Yasmin Fedda's brain about her documentary work and her thoughts on the medium. Dina Mousawi joined us a little later, having met friends of hers who have just relocated from Baghdad to Erbil. By their account, the difference is incalcuable. In Baghdad, a man and a woman cannot walk down the street together without being married and covered, and the army shakes down houses to rob them while pretending to search. This is not even taking into account the sense of lawlessness, and hopelessness, you get from anyone who lives and or has recently lived in that city. Horrible to hear, and yet, where I was once 'careful' about visiting Erbil, now I feel an urge to visit Baghdad, a very powerful one. This foolishness was dampened further when speaking to the British Council staff who live in Baghdad, and reside only in the International Zone, the old green zone, and see that tiny crop of guarded land alone, unless they are in a convoy of bullet proof suvs.

Night book making dominated the increasingly tested Reel team, they had to prepare a pamphlet of the translations between the pairs that were being read in the big event the following day, and it kept them up (perhaps fueled by Arak?) late into the night, formatting, sorting, printing. Impressive dedication while I swanned about, offering to help, and chatting to the BC pros and some weird poets in the bar before sack hitting far too late again.

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #4

The days are piling up so beautifully, everything has taken on its own rhythm, due to Dan, Ryan, Hoshang & co. I spent the morning in the very last translation session, this time working with Ahmad Abdel Hussein. What can I say about him? He is perhaps so remarkable to be a literary stereotype, in that you might imagine, in your most optimistic thoughts, that poets like him roam the places where they are needed, writing poetry that actually changes the way people think, that actually allows their secular and democratic predilections to not be alien and individuated and lost. He is a beacon of sorts. His work is outwardly critical of Islam, and all monotheistic religion. It dense and profound and full of remarkable paradox and metaphysics. The poem I had the chance to work on, live translated with Ahmed and the brilliant Lauren Pyott begins with the sarcastic invocation of allah, and goes on to pillory the hypocrisy of 'peaceful' religion and the empty promises of monotheism. My own work for this project, the Arbil Suite, maintains a similar innate criticism of what I deem the fundamental meta-fascism of a monotheistic god and it's shifts throughout the history of Kurdistan. Ahmad has twice had to flee Iraq for his safety, both for his outwardly secular poetry and for his investigative journalism, which at one point was heavily focused on uncovering a series of bank robberies in Iraq perpetrated by a religious political party that used that money as bribes during an election. Here are two links to more information about Ahmed's actions, one of them being his death warrant, written and published by a religious group. http://burathanews.com/news/72386.html / http://mail.almothaqaf.com/index.php/reports/4128.html What can one say in the face of such dignity and bravery? It was a true privilege, the admiration I hold for his courage and conviction, and for his unassuming manner possessed as he is with the kind of poetic talent that makes him exceptional, even amongst a generation that has more to write about than it should
Ahmad, Lauren & I
I squeezed one more gym session out of the Stars in Shaqlawa, truly a sweat drenched griefhole after my week of pain in there, before we bundled into a minibus and headed out into the land of the Kurds. Such beautiful countryside, we passed through a series of smaller towns, including Harir, a station on the silk route. I have a bit of a fear when it comes to wild driving, having been in a wreck in my younger years, and this journey, which took place during an epic lightning and rain storm, in a rackety bus filled with 16 bodies, with no seatbelts, on mountain roads, in traffic jams and s-bends leaden with massive dilapidated oil trucks, while immensely loud Choubi music blared from the stereo, to which most of the bus danced and waved tissues, while Hoshang had full conversations with the Kurdish driver, forever turning his head, made me most afeared. The music was good though, I am being won around to the driving beats and epileptic shoulder shrugging of the local musical cuisine. For example, I share with you some OF THE VERY FINEST POMEGRANATES 
We arrived at our destination, a waterfall, surrounded by plastic animal dioramas, in stead of full taxidermy, and proceeded to marvel at Dan and Ryan who floated on a dinghy around the pool beneath the waterfall until it became strange and mesmerising, see below. There was a sharpened cleaver next to the water and the man who controlled the dinghys often picked it up. Again I had some lovely picture requests from friendly, shiny dudes, like I was the new Aziz Waisy. Back on the road, Hoshang showed us the remnants of the road the British cut into the mountain rock, which was once the only way through to Iran, and looked like a perch of doom above the river, before we turned back another 3 hours drive to Erbil. The camaraderie in the van was a beautiful thing, these people, as often happens when one finds oneself held in a kind of benevolent camp environment, have become friends, not something I'd easily say, and taking pictures of Ryan and Dina sleeping, or discussing the title of Hoshang's first autobiography are the small things that will stay in the memory.
Slightly dishevelled we arrived in Erbil, and the hotel Chwar Chra, or something like that, and the Niniti literature festival. Right off the bat I got to meet some of the other writers, the festival being a bridge point between British and Iraqi poets on the whole, and in Kurdistan of course, some amazing Kurdish poets, including Choman Hardi, whom Ive wanted to meet properly for sometime. We had a quick fluff and preen before heading down to the welcome dinner where we were roundly welcomed. It feels like there is real affection and appreciation for the Reel project, for its care of concept and execution, and it also feels like we are the cool kids in the room, at the end of the diner. After the mega buffet we sat around talking until late, the genuinely charming, hospitable and gracious Ted Hodgkinson from the British Council offered me an education on contemporary Iraqi politics in between gently absorbing my stupid jokes. For the Niniti International Literature fest, or NILF, as Im calling it, he flew in from a friends wedding in Fiji. That is commitment. I finished the day in Ryan's room, being regailed with stories as the arak (a local spirit, like aniseed vodka) flowed freely and I sat on, teetotal, as I had spent most of the day, in fits.

Celebrating Bill Griffiths

Without doubt, Bill Griffiths is one of the most powerful, impactful and deeply underappreciated poets of the post war era in England. It was an honour to put together the reading that celebrated the second volume of his collected poems, edited by Alan Halsey and published by Reality street. The turnout was lovely, and the readings excellent, some coming from living legends of the avant garde, the friends and peers of Bill, like Alan, Geraldine Monk, Allen Fisher and Harry Gilonis. It's extremely important to me to try and connect the lineage of my writing, and the culture of 21st century British vanguard poetry, to those figures of the recent past and present who have already walked that path that I am somehow, often accidentally, blindly stumbling down. Clearly the prolific and dynamic use of language, and the subject led, innately innovative poetry that Bill Griffiths produced is something I am often aping, and hoping to come close to achieving. He died just before I came onto the scene, in fact the launch of the 1st volume of his collected poems was the first reading i attended in London. Read more 

Ahsan Akbar talks 21st century British poetry in the Dhaka tribune

I had to pleasure or corresponding with Ahsan Akbar recently over an article he was penning for the Dhaka Tribune about contemporary British poetry and the trends, or lack of, that define this moment in poetry when Im about and abounding. It's a really fine article, and Ahsan was kind enough to use a little fragment of my Recipes book taken from the Dear world anthology edited by Nathan Hamilton. 

In the collection, the poets who rang my bell were SJ Fowler, Rachael Allen, Sandeep Parmar, Sam Riviere and Joe Crot. From Fowler’s ‘Recipes,’ we get lines that take you far from gastronomy, such as
(from a recipe for Caeser Salad)
a weak wrist, nobel peace prize for two Liberian women
a suckling fix, cutting it out of the stomach to determine its gender
a limp salad marriage;
You can read the article here http://dhakatribune.com/arts-amp-culture/2014/mar/02/letter-london & the whole issue http://www.dhakatribune.com/sites/default/files/issue/2014/03/Arts_&_Letters_2_3.pdf.pdf

Archive interview at British Library / Seminar interview at St Martins college

Two ephemeral and pleasurable things I've done in the last week, intertwined with two powerful powerful friends / peers. First I stopped off at the British library to speak at length with Hannah Silva, who is working with the BL archives to conduct research into performance in 21st British poetry and other such things. Though it's uncomfortable at times, putting into words my own approaches to work, so much of which is deliberately kept expressionistic and instinctual, for lack of time, and for a desire to keep rooting things in their experience of being made, rather than their result (believing the latter will emerge from the former, if done right, without too much of a heavy editorial hand), the process is undoubtedly good for me. If only to realise where I am heading, and why that is happening. We also chatted more widely about performance poetry, and my dislike of it. Hannah is such a remarkable performer, and she has such possession of her ideas, it makes working with her in any capacity a beneficial experience. The interview will be in the library's records until the end of the world apparently.

Then later in the week I was part of a seminar series for undegrads at St Martins, taught by Diane Silverthorne, whose amazing work Ive got to know over the last few years and who has become a friend and great influence on my reading and dwarfish erudition. We chatted through my root into poetry, and then art performance in front of around 40 students, most of whom were impeccably dressed (St Martins is like a fashion show, so beyond being a trendy enclave, its become something bizarrely retrograde in its futurism. It is often like walking through a successful genetic experiment, some benign social engineering program, where only beautiful and attractive young beings mope about concrete stairwells) and possibly interested, though it was hard to tell until I spoke to them. I talked about audience participation, nearly forced them to participate, then showed some vids of my boxing performances. It was again a funny experience, one where I learned something by being forced to waffle about what I do and am trying to do. The people were lovely, very gentle with me. And it always feels a privilege to be inside an institution like this, if only for a day, to watch multitudes try and inculcate creativity. It also doesn't hurt to realise how old I have become.