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: The Ecchoing Green, part of Worm Wood at Kensal Green Cemetery

The second event as part of my residence at Kensal Green Cemetery, Worm Wood, a really resonant and communal night with Tom Jeffreys and Chris McCabe, all three of us sharing somewhat deeply intertwined reflections on London, cemeteries, psychological interactions with space and history. I took folk down into the catacombs during my reading of my new limited edition short story publication from Sampson Low - Worm Wood Old Oak. I am really happy with the little chapbook, its beautifully done and this was the right place to share it with the world. https://sampsonlow.co/2017/07/14/worm-wood-old-oak-sj-fowler/

A note on: North x North West Poetry Tour part 2 - Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool

All info and funbatch on this tour is here www.stevenjfowler.com/nxnw and allll videos www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest

Leeds was fire. I’d heard it was a quiet town for the avant garde or literary poetry but this proved untrue, or we got unlucky. In the wharf chambers we had over twenty poets and from many different scenes and backgrounds. From first time readers to folk like Ian McMillan and Robert Sheppard, it ran the gamut. I got there early, in the snow, to be met by Ian in fact, whom, ever the gentleman, helped me shift 100 chairs into the basement punk venue. So many poets I was excited to see and meet for this one, and there was a uniformly playful tone, with a noticeable investment by many. For my own work with Patricia Farrell we wrote a collaborative poem and then I played with some ideas around memory and recitation, recording her poems onto my phone, popping in earphones and reciting from that audio file at parts, and at others, just trying to copy what she had said. Nearly 100 crushed in all told and some of these collaborations will be long remembered, everyone was buzzing

Sheffield was interesting. Again there was talk of a quiet gig but our room at Bank Street Arts was chocked, even dangerously so with much of the gig standing room only with people blocking my camera or stepping on each other’s feet, literally. Some great works here, punctuating a range of stuff, from the high literary to the amusing. At times it leaned into the self-referential, the audience having its favourites / friends, which is really the opposite of the deliberately open Enemies mode, but this is inevitable with such an intense room and a single city scene.

To be honest for me, the whole time in Sheffield was clouded by hearing of the death of Tom Raworth, who was a great influence on me and a friend. I wrote a piece remembering him, feeling emptied and deeply sad, in a Travelodge in the city, having travelled from Leeds and so it was a melancholy day. It took me many attempts to write the piece, I was feeling quite out of sorts. We ended the event with Chris McCabe and I reading some of Tom’s poems and this I will never forget, to have the big audience to read Tom’s work to, a day or two after his passing.

Liverpool is a city I love and this sprawling reading in the beautiful Everyman playhouse, who could not have been more generous as a venue, brought together many friends and great poets from across the region, being the final gig. I had the grand pleasure of working with Nathan Walker, whom I respect immensely and our improvised sound poetry vocal piece was a joy, though it was maybe too intense for the audience. Some fine works here but it was a rare misfire over all in terms of the Camarade tradition. Not quite sure why, but there was an imbalance in the works overall, perhaps a lack of identity in the event, a lack of successful experiment, or engagement with liveness. Happens sometimes.

Certainly I left the event happy because it was the summation of the project, and the final moments of that were spent with my friends, Tom Jenks especially, a brilliant poet and a great person to work with. As ever it’s a privilege to do this work, to such large audiences and such enthusiastic and varied writers.

Upcoming: a language art - a course at Tate Modern

A Language Art: a course at Tate Modern

Avant-garde Poetry & Modern Art, in the galleries

Mondays, 26 October – 30 November 2015, 18.45–20.45,
session on Monday 9th November at Tate Britain
£150, concessions available

Book online using this link: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/language-art-avant-garde-poetry-and-modern-art

I'm delighted to be leading a course for Tate Modern this winter, where over six weeks, we will explore the intersections between the post-war traditions of modern art and avant-garde poetry.

Discovering poets and artists from the Tate collection who make use of language, sound, space, printing and writing, this course reveals how these practises are fundamental to both arts. A detailed course breakdown is available here: http://www.stevenjfowler.com/alanguageart/

Sessions are based within the galleries of Tate Modern in the presence of works by Gerhard Richter, Li Yuan-Chia and RB Kitaj amongst others, which bring to light some of the great moments in modern art and poetry that have enriched the traditions of both writing and art-making. Each week participants are also introduced to contemporary examples of work inspired by those held in the Tate Collection, as well as encouraged to create and share their own avant-garde poetry and text art in the extraordinary environment of the museum. One session is held at Tate Britain and includes the chance to explore Tate’s Prints and Drawings Rooms.

This course is for people interested in developing their own skills and understanding of experimental poetry and modern and contemporary art practises, and the onus of the course is on how these great moments in modern art and poetry can enrich writing and art-making practise, rather than dense historical analysis. It’s a rare chance to excavate avant- garde poetry in such a setting, and each week participants will have the chance to create new works in the extraordinary environment of the Tate Modern’s galleries.

my poem in the New Concrete anthology

The most beautiful anthology I've been a part of, my poem is rendered wonderfully in this major achievement, summing up the best of 21st century concrete poetry. You can buy the book here http://shop.southbankcentre.co.uk/the-new-concrete-visual-poetry-in-the-21st-century.html & it'll be launched here http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/new-concrete/

The New Concrete anthology: launch at the Whitechapel Gallery - July 25th

This is the most significant anthology of concrete poetry of my generation. I'm delighted to be included, and alongside many friends / peers - Antonio Claudio Carvalho,  Marco Giovenale, Tom Jenks, Sarah Kelly, John Kinsella, Anatol Knotek, Márton Koppány, nick-e melville, and Jörg Piringer  & legends like Vito Acconci, Augusto de Campos, Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Ian Hamilton Finlay https://thenewconcrete.wordpress.com/about

"The New Concrete is a major new anthology of visual poetry edited by Victoria Bean and Chris McCabe and published by Hayward Publishing (July 2015). The book represents visual poetry published from 2000 to the present day and suggests ways in which the original concrete movement of the 1950s and ’60s has been built upon, developed and redefined by subsequent generations of poets and artists." You can buy it here http://shop.southbankcentre.co.uk/the-new-concrete-visual-poetry-in-the-21st-century.html

The anthology will be launched in a full whack 5 hours programme at the whitechapel gallery on July 25th http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/new-concrete/ I'll be performing "Join us for an afternoon of film and live performance showcasing some of the most exciting work in this field. The event brings together some of the most celebrated poets and artists working at the intersection of visual art and poetry."

Reading American poets at the Whitechapel gallery with Chris McCabe amidst American cinema

This was a really lovely evening, expertly curated by the generous and eloquent Gareth Evans, putting myself and Chris McCabe into a program of some amazing contemporary American experimental cinema, reading American poets. The Whitechapel is always a good place to read, but to have cinema sit up close with poetry, and to be reading work like O'Hara and Starr Hamilton made it feel completely new to me. A very generous feeling between the filmmakers and film curator Jamie Wyld and us too, this is the kind of thing I'm always happy to be doing. 

Stateland: reading Feb 12th at the Whitechapel Gallery

So pleased to be reading some American poetry to tie in with this remarkable screening of contemporary American artist filmmaking. I'll be reading alongside Chris McCabe on the kind invitation of curator and poet Gareth Evans, smashing out some O'Hara & more.
http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/stateland-american-artists-filmmaking-now/

Screening some of the most creative and groundbreaking artist-filmmakers from the US; including Laida Lertxundi, Luciano Piazza and Ben Russell plus live poetry readings by Steven J Fowler and Chris McCabe. Curated by Jamie Wyld for Videoclub.

Thursday 12 February, 7 - 9pm Zilkha Auditorium

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

In the Catacombs by Chris McCabe

Dead Poets' Society: A radical new work of literary detection re-imagines the English canon. What makes a writer a great writer? Why are some books read and loved long after their creation, and others forgotten - lost to the archives? Will anyone remember us when we are gone? In the Catacombs, released today, is the first instalment of a literary project to map London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Poet-librarian Chris McCabe takes us off the main track of English literature and asks why the works of Tennyson, Hopkins and Emily Dickinson are still read above those buried in a suburban enclave of south London.
Join McCabe on the hunt for a great lost poet, as he walks the winding Gothic paths of West Norwood Cemetery and makes an unexpected discovery underground in the catacombs. The stories of those loved and dismissed by Charles Dickens are carefully uncovered; those who influenced Lewis Carroll and Winston Churchill; and those whose burial in the common ground has not been enough to silence them.

London literary magus Iain Sinclair has called In the Catacombs "a fine, achieved work, close-woven, elusive, engaged." Its author is a leading light in a new generation of British poets breaking new ground with their sharp, witty and intelligent writing. A startling and original work of literary detection, In the Catacombs is written in a hybrid form - part literary criticism, part Gothic fiction- and places West Norwood Cemetery and its dead poets back into the foreground of the cultural psyche.

Chris McCabe was born in Liverpool in 1977. His three poetry collections are The Hutton Inquiry, Zeppelins and THE RESTRUCTURE. He has recorded a CD with The Poetry Archive and was shortlisted for the 2014 Ted Hughes Award. McCabe's prose has appeared in numerous places including Poetry Review, Manhattan Review and Unbound. His work has been described by The Guardian as 'an impressively inventive survey of English in the early 21st century.' He works as the Poetry Librarian at the Saison Poetry Library.

Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. We believe in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. We operate across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. pennedinthemargins.co.uk

Poetry in Collaboration exhibition at the Poetry Library closes

The brilliant photographer Alexander Kell joined me as I visited the Poetry in Collaboration exhibited I've curated over the last two months at the Saison Poetry Library with Chris McCabe just before it closes. Im very proud of the exhibition, its carefully chosen, beautifully presented and easy on the eye. Its been a pleasure working with Chris too, and to have had so many people see the work is a wonderful thing, it's the premiere place to have a show like this in London. Hopefully not the last time Ill get to work with the library and its amazing collection.

Poetry in Collaboration: an exhibition at the Saison Poetry Library

Really delighted to announce I’ll be co-curating this summer’s Saison Poetry Library exhibition at the Southbank centre with Chris McCabe, entitled Poetry in Collaboration.
 
 
The exhibition furthers and re-contextualises the concerns of the Enemies project (www.weareenemies.com) in panoramic scope, drawing from the vast collection of the poetry library to reveal a small sliver of the modern history of poetry in collaboration, to evidence, in microcosm, just how fundamental a shared practise can be to poetry.
 
On display will be new works commissioned by the Enemies project, including book art by Ragnhildur Johanns and Iain Sinclair, as well as collaborations by Ian Hamilton Finlay and John Furnival, Ron King and Roy Fisher, Anne Waldman and Joe Brainard, amongst many others. There will be an extensive reading table, an audio station with live collaborative recordings of the Beats, and videos of works by Robert Desnos and Man Ray, as well as footage from the Camaradefest, held last year at the Rich mix arts centre in London.
 
The exhibition runs from 6 May 2014 to 6 July 2014 and is free to attend at the Saison Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall
 
As part of the exhibition, a special view Camarade event will be held on May Tuesday 20th. As well as a quick introduction to the exhibition itself, around a half dozen pairs of poets, some of the most memorable from previous incarnations of Camarade, will read original collaborations, including James Byrne & Sandeep Parmar, James Davies & Philip Terry, Sam Riviere & Joe Dunthorne, Samantha Walton & Jo Walton. Please rsvp at specialedition@poetrylibrary.org.uk as space is limited, but entrance is free.
 
 
Multiple special events and commissions will happen during the exhibition, including a chain, or renga poem, written by five poets (including Matthew Gregory, Livia Franchini, Sarah Howe +) over the two month duration of the exhibition to be published in VLAK magazine later in the year. More details to come.

Chris McCabe blogs on POW series 4 & my Vikings

a well needed and thorough review of the final part of Antonio Claudio Carvalho's masterful series.

p.o.w. complete series
The penultimate p.o.w. takes us directly into the heart of visual language and does so through a challenging emotive language.vikings by s.j. fowler is an anachronistic Anglo-Saxon poem spelt out through runic images. Fowler uses his biographical note to tell us that "he is of viking heritage, and his middle name is Bjorn, which means bear". The poems drives through an end-of-the-world landscape describing a violent love encounter with a woman called Erika. The poet captures the savagery of the viking death desire, as if language is the container in which all the offshoots of their hand-to-mouth struggles was captured in. This landscape of movement, uncertainty, lust and danger is propelled forwards through the compounded, a-syntactic language and the shifts in font type and size. The poem, it could be argued, represents a fierce and honest struggle with the self, although it concludes quite beautifully : "I shine only for you, dove / it's / time to introduce / my distant pres- / ent past into / the pres- / ent".

Museum of Debt online

Emanating out of Chris McCabe's groundbreaking collaboration course for the Poetry school, a new web resource for collaborative poetical material has been set up and features some of my work with the photographer Alexander Kell, called the Museum of Debt. http://newcollaborations.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/s-j-fowler-alexander-kell-museum-of-debt/

The Museum of Debt is an exploration of the unspoken in a contemporary British workplace – most specifically a workplace where the task in hand is the preservation of dead objects – inanimate historical trinkets which pass on their own ossification to their watchmen & watchwomen, and breed a myriad of depressions. Between the concussion of photography and irony of poetries, so the Museum of Debt is about mortality, and a mild form of waking death. Both poet & photographer involved were involved doing the job they documented. A project of internal projection with an innately shared set of meanings and experiences. The photographs were taken then the poems were written

xxxiv. the thin blue line between front of house &  back of house
short devil
o how I often want to bite my fingers off
when attending Events I must attend
that I hesitated to attend
my inner race, my struggle (translated)
my emotional poetry reading & racing
I’m pregnant, inseminated while winning
every rugby match that has ever taken place
so tired, in pajamas, with a boy
how he bites my clitoris, I believe a bear trap
is a forceful face in shadowy water
you tall devil, I
surrender

poem for Chris Weidman

whether legs parallel will sit closely with LEFT hook
that decent dip / switch rather 10th fight over the greatest
ever that has been known because it took you lightly & gladder stoked I AM
LEGITIMATE / not even needing
fucking wrestling to know you can be
too fucking relaxed AS the human tower builds LV
around a dirty bomb & I cannot bell the end
switched / won't back written by jeff lynne
& TOM PETTY on jersey new run in the heat
I find myself screaming AT A COMPUTER ON SUN
morning // off to celebrate haha. you are a artiste
beneath your hands-on-hips im-too-down-to-earth-to-be-outwardly-
-repelling-chris--facade THE WAR IN THE RING
not out A GOOD DAY FOR sipping laps of Wormwood Scrubs / I am sorry again, Im glad the experience was a pleasant one. Ive long since lost the thread of the place's obvious majesty. One day it will return to me and I will consider myself to have been blind.

666 blows, one break at Open Work

If I'm doing what might be seen as art performance, and I'm happy for it to be seen as that, then it needs to be something that I feel is authentic to me. I need to feel an absolute internal assurance that the work is genuine, whatever that means. It might have heavy conceptual ideas behind it, but it can't be founded on them. Otherwise I feel I risk pretentiousness in a way I am not comfortable with, and this because I always feel a sense of exposure and a combative relationship to audiences. This performance, 666 blows one break, is another that calls out my martial arts background, looking to transpose a life practice into a new context in order to make it performative. The piece is supposed to be about a faux vedic ritualism, guttural voice, masculinity turning into emasculinity because of exhaustion and the dance like movement of muay thai pad repetition. All things wither, lose their lustre and decay in one form of another. Hopefully what begins here as shiny, blood covered, pad booming manliness devolves into emptied, failing, exhausted humanity. 

I enjoyed the experience very much, though so much of it was actualised very late in the day and we had to stay simple to make it work. I owe a huge debt to those I collaborated with on the piece. Chris Page, who trained with me for quite awhile and is a great musician and old friend, was amazing holding the pads, bringing back my mcguffin dragon mask and generally taking the power with aplomb. David Kelly, my best friend and oft collaborator, who created the fundament of the piece with his buddha box soundscape. Robert Hitzeman, who is rapidly becoming someone close to me who I admire very much as an artist and a person, who curated the show along with Mohammad Namazi and Emily Purser

Moreover, those in attendance were uniformly warm and qualified with their opinions, offering many different interpretations of the piece but all sensing that the work was just a process of transference from the practise of my life into the practise of my artwork, if it is that at all. The work featured in the show was also of a fine quality, a real interesting mix, and the space, at the very end of Kilburn Lane, quite close to my west london homestead, was a unique slightly emptied old leisure centre turned artspace. I was able to walk there and back, enjoying a night in the city with my pads and warpaintbloodbag and little incense elephant. Check out  http://www.openworkproject.com/ this is the first of a proposed series of shows.

The Poetry School: a cameo

http://www.poetryschool.com/ The Poetry school is an intriguing thing. An admirable endeavour, but one, perhaps because of my background in the avant garde (or towards it, a bit more than some), that I haven't encountered often. My first such tryst came thanks to Chris McCabe, who kindly invited me to join him for the last hour of his penultimate class on collaborations. Set back on Lambeth walk, amidst boutique shops and a few housing estates, the evening was spent chatting with genuinely engaged and interesting people about Enemies, Camarade and my opinions on collaboration in and outside of poetry. I brought some books, books in boxes and anecdotal stories along with the theories. Then I joined the group in a frightening local pub afterwards... The hope, of course, in such a class is that the teacher is just leading the flow of an organic exchange, rather than being demonstrative. In this situation, where those attending were so erudite, artists and poets of significant merit in their own right, and the teacher was so capable and multifaceted as a poet himself, this was the inevitable result. It is really considerable that people will pay to attend such a focused programme about poetry, and collaborations at that! after working a full day, and bring so much creativity, energy and enthusiasm. Respect to everyone involved. I'm sure the relationships began on the night will bear fruit in the future. Here is a link to one of the students in the class speaking with the Poetry School too. http://www.poetryschool.com/courses/featured-student--sophie-herxheimer.php