A note on : performing at Phonica in Dublin

Dublin has become one of my favourite cities in which to perform. I’ve had three brilliant experiences, in 2015, 2017 and now, for Phonica, in 2018. Every time the audience has been alive to what I’m doing, always generous and inquisitive. Phonica itself is a grand achievement by curators Christodoulos Makris and Olesya Zdorovetska, who have brought together cutting edge contemporary musicians with poets and literary performance.

I went on last for Phonica 8, spending all night up on the very highest flooring of a spiral staircase within the gorgeous Smock Alley Theatre, lying down, peeking down to the performance stage, listening, waiting. There were some great discoveries for me, Alyce Lyons and Justyn Hunia presented a wonderful filmpoetry collaboration, many years in the making, subtle in that connection between those arts. Alex Bonney presented a sound piece that was immersive and made me want to collaborate with him. And Diamanda Dramm, a remarkable performer, a violinist singing poetry amidst her playing.

I had the chance to follow them and did so with a mostly improvised piece, one of my recent Powerpoint performances, where I have nothing planned really apart from some aberrant slides that respond to the specific event / place. It went better than I could’ve hoped, I think, I don’t know, I discerned from the feedback. The performance was about self-awareness I suppose, about the conflation of self-knowledge where things can become so true they are false. It was also about performance itself, and poetry’s place in that. We all decamped after the event to an underground speakeasy bar by the river before I skulked back to my Airbnb happy.

A note on: Launching Subcritical Tests in Dublin

I am aware it’s easy to project one’s hopefulness onto places other than where you live, and in the context of launching books and doing events, its true in London I tend to rack them up, so perhaps numbing the experience for myself. But what a beautiful reception in Dublin for the launch of Subcritical Tests. Maybe it was the presence of Gorse as a really brilliant journal birthed by the city and its literary history somehow, or Ailbhe Darcy returning to her city. Maybe it was Poetry Ireland behind it, hosting it in the most grand of buildings. But we had a good hundred people, many students from American university summer schools, around the Dublin literary faces behind and supporting Gorse. And people listened close. We did a reading, just a reading, something I do resist nowadays, feelings its limitations like nails on a chalkboard a lot of the time, feeling oversaturated with the mode, and feeling few are honest about what it can do, and what it can’t do. But here, it was perfect. Ailbhe and I were succinct, in our last moment of a long, three year writing journey, a friendship in a book, reaching a peak of some sort. And as Christodoulos said in his intro – it is a difficult book, a gorgeous thing thanks to Gorse and Niall McCormack’s illustrations, but the content is dense and modern as well as lyrical. It’s not a book to whizz through certainly, not in its making or tone or subject. And then on top of that its collaborative, which seems to distance people for some reason. This was an evening really about friendships, and a community, in a place where it seems to me poetry is taken seriously, perhaps that isn't where I belong- a place I should just visit.  All told, it was a really memorable evening, a fitting end to a three year writing and collaborating journey.

Published: new artpoems in the latest Gorse issue 8

I've said before that I think Gorse to be one of the finest literary journals in the world. I read their impeccably produced issues cover to cover and feel the journal to be edited as beautifully as it made. To have some of my art brut poems, from my upcoming I fear my best work behind me book with Stranger Press in the latest issue is wonderful, not only to share that work, aberrant as it would be to most publications, but also because I knew how beautifully they would present the works. They look amazing on its pages, I couldnt be happier.

You can pick up issue 8 here http://gorse.ie/book/no-8/

A note on: my Poetry Magazine reading list for October 2016

I'm very lucky to be in poetry magazine this month and they ask the poets in the issue to provide a small writeup of a reading list (where everyone presents their fancypants list in the month they happen to be published). I am no different. I'm down there past ken chen and between calvin forbes and daisy fried. americans have good poetry names apparently.

 https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2016/10/pm-reading-list-october-2016/

S.J. Fowler
Offering me the chance to write this has made me realize I barely finish books anymore. I read chunks and snippets of lots of things at once. I mostly read non-fiction but no one here wants to hear about that I’d imagine. With poetry and text I’d consider poetry I’m always sniffing around for things to nab, so that’s a very different kind of reading, often splicing and lifting, robbing the tombs of the dead and snaffling the aesthetic of contemporaries. It’s a great moment for British modern poetry (what others might call avant-garde), I think, and I’m deep in Tom Jenks’s Spruce (Blart Books) and The Tome of Commencement(Stranger Press), Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation(Carcanet), Stephen Emmerson’s Family Portraits (If P Then Q), and Denise Riley’s Say Something Back (Picador).

Beyond the U.K., I tend to look to mainland Europe, and I’ve gotArchitectures of Chance by Christodoulos Makris (Wurm Press), Zuzana Husarova’s Liminal (Ars Poetica), and Max Höfler’s wies is is(Ritter) on the go.

I’ve also been at Enitharmon Press’s new selected Mayakovsky, entitledVolodya, edited by Rosy Patience Carrick. It’s extraordinary, and has led me back to a load of Russians I’d been given years ago, Fyodor Sologub’s The Little Demon, A Novel Without Lies by Anatoly Mariengof—a memoir about Sergei Esenin and how loopy he was,Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh, poems by Gumilyov, Khlebnikov, I’ve been trying to pick up threads all over.

I’m also putting final touches to a book of asemic poems and artworks due out next year and that’s thrown me back into Henri Michaux’s amazing Untitled Passages (Merrell), as well as Christian Dotremont, Constant and Asger Jorn, supreme poets all, huge for me anyway, all were in the CoBrA group. That’ll do. Thanks for asking."

Published: Prism in Gorse: No.5

One of the very best literary magazines in Europe, if not, without hyperbole, the world. The extraordinary Gorse, genuinely cutting new ground in 21st literature has been kind enough to take some of the very first poems from my new sequence about Edward Snowden and GCHQ, entitled Prism. So lovely to be in the journal alongside some wonderful writers and with such production quality. A thanks to Susan Tomaselli and Christodoulos Makris.

Buy the journal here http://gorse.ie/

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.

Yes But Are We Enemies? diary #6 - London & farewell

There were tears shed at the very end of it. Often the London event, following the time spent in the country of question on Enemies tours can feel like an afterthought, a rounding up. This was all its own thing, packed with people, full of great performances and full of its own energy. What can be said about #YBAWE? It was perhaps, overall, the best thing I've been a part of in the project so far. So good was the time in Ireland, in the cities and travelling, with the beautiful core poets and the local others we met along the way. So good was the work, the poetry, and so satisfying the feeling at the end as at the beginning. Not the last time Ireland will be in my thoughts for poetry I am sure.
Pascal O'Loughlin & Marcus Slease https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnZ7JsYRQ90
Kim Campanello & Kit Fryatt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsV6VJ2CXdM
Christodoulos Makris & SJ Fowler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeUG10BuZBA
Ailbhe Darcy & Patrick Coyle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FrbwJDo0rA
Sam Riviere & Billy Ramsell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI1qJD4Dwys

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.

on Enemies by Christodoulos Makris

http://yesbutisitpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/on-sj-fowlers-enemies.html 


"On SJ Fowler's Enemies

It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that SJ Fowler has charged the poetry scene in London (and elsewhere) with a fresh vitality. Since he entered the ring of writing, editing and, particularly, event-organising some years ago, the diverse factions that poetry habitually splinters into seem to have converged that little bit. The scene(s) have brightened that little bit. It's probably for his relentless curatorial efforts that he is known best - for Steven a worthy and totally valid way to grapple with poetry. The byproduct being that he has created fertile ground for those working under the umbrella of avant-garde and literary writing to begin conversing anew.

His poetics, residing squarely in the avant-garde, are not altogether distinct from his role as event organiser. Enemies, his recently-published book from Penned In The Margins, which collects extracts from his numerous collaborations, is a comprehensive statement on his perspective on writing. Benefiting from coming to poetry on the back of what are on the surface unrelated longstanding concerns, Steven's nonlinear and outward-looking approach offers a route out of the insularity typifying much of it. It punches a hole through poetry's preciousness. His commitment to collaborative practices is also a way out: out of the poetic ego - as he writes in his introduction to Enemies, "a testament to my refusing to be alone in the creative act." It's also a "record of friendships." Steven refuses to see writing as a way of separating himself from other people, whether these people are fellow artists or readers/audience.

His numerous collaborators over the years, some featured in Enemiessome not, range from poets to visual artists to photographers, musicians, illustrators, sculptors, filmmakers... He strays not only from English (linguistic & national) territories but also from accepted literary patterns of expression in order to seek appropriate modes for a confluence of form and content - in what seems to me an attempt to get closer to something crucial. There's a healthy lack of respect for convention; at the same time there's deep respect for the avant-garde tradition. He is frighteningly prolific. The seemingly inexhaustible energy he pours into arranging events - the list seems to be lengthening year on year - to showcase the work of so many of his contemporaries and forerunners in experimental poetics, and to encourage innovation with processes of composition, is also evident in his publishing endeavours. Humility and generosity are recurring themes. The quickness of mind he displays on stage, whether in the role of producer or performer, is a vital element of his writing. Fretting about inserting the right word at the right place seems not of overriding importance or interest: if an element doesn't materialise at the primal compositional stage then there's probably no reason for it to be there at all. In this sense, his work is as close as you will get to live literature on the page - and the results are incisive, exhilarating and bursting with potentiality. The key lies at the pre-compositonal stage: already pregnant with a conceptual turn, and with a mind in perpetual take-and-give-back-in-spades mode, the act of writing becomes, in Steven's work as much as anybody else's, the content itself. This is at the core of what we get and what's inspiring in this book of collaborations, as has also been the case with previous books like Minimum Security Prison Dentistry or Fights.

Since he wrote to me a few years ago seeking to feature my work in his 'Maintenant' series for 3:AM Magazine, Steven and I have worked together several times (apart from one or two occasions, our relationship consisting of him showcasing or promoting my work...) so much so that on greeting me at the book's launch the publisher ofEnemies congratulated me on being part of it, which I'm not. "Probably better off not being associated with me," according to Steve! Nevertheless, plans are afoot for us to work together as curatorial partners and, in extension, as writers: in Yes But Are We Enemies?, part of the 2014 programme of Steven's extraordinaryEnemies Project, we will be bringing poets in/from Ireland together with poets in/from England to produce and perform new work in rolling cross-border collaboration. Format, dates, venues and participants TBC. Watch this space."