Published : The Wrestlers

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I'm happy to announce the release of my latest poetry collection - The Wrestlers - from Kingston University Press, is available to purchase here The Wrestlers

From the publisher "Wrestling, the world’s oldest sport, has been used by artists, poets and sculptors as a metaphor for the internal struggle of the human mind for millennia. In the poems of SJ Fowler it becomes an action verb, a metaphorical crux which reflects not only upon the contradictions of our interior selves, but also the endless proliferation of entrenched argumentation in our contemporary world. Finding its origin in a commission from Tate Britain, where Fowler’s poetry responded to Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s extraordinary eponymous relief, The Wrestlers is an accomplished collection from one the UK’s most thought-provoking poets, often playful, surreal, satirical and ambitious." www.stevenjfowler.com/thewrestlers

The book will be launched in London on July 12th at Burley Fisher Books http://burleyfisherbooks.com/event/triple-launch-vahni-capildeo-steven-j-fowler-and-zaffar-kunial/ A further launch to follow at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, in September 2018.

Produced to a remarkable standard by KU Press, it collects together poems from a five year period, including poems published in Gorse Magazine, Test Centre magazine, 3am magazine, The Wolf, Poems in Which, The Honest Ulsterman, The Bohemyth, and the anthologies The Long White Thread: poems for John Berger (Smokestack Books), Millets (Zeno Press), Dear World and Everything In It (Bloodaxe Books), Hwaet: Ledbury Poetry Festival (Bloodaxe Books) and Shifting Ground (J&L Gibbons) alongside commissions by The Hay Festival : Arequipa, Peru and Tate Modern.

The Guide to Being Bear Aware : my new new book

I'm happy to announce my latest poetry collection will be published with Shearsman Books. The Guide to Being Bear Aware.

More info on the book www.stevenjfowler.com/bearaware and at the Shearsman site.

The book will be launched in London on April Tuesday 11th, 7.30pm, at Swedenborg House in Bloomsbury, with further launches in York, Bristol and Kingston.

"... advice for living in a world gone awry. Wry, violent, contemplative, political, intimate and raucous by turns, these are poems that laze on your lap only to get their claws in. Morphing into unfamiliar shapes beneath the watching eye, these refreshing, quizzical, well-traveled poems forge a world entirely their own”   Sarah Howe

You can read a poem from the book published by Poetry Magazine online here: The Robin Hood Estate : Poetry Magazine October 2016 

"In SJ Fowler’s work, which surprises & delights by turns, I’m fascinated throughout by the fast moves he makes, quick on the draw & changing rapidly from image to image, meme after meme as it were. His is in that sense a markedly original enterprise, but one which carries with it another thrust – toward sharing, even collaboration – that has been central to much of his earlier work.  Here every poem starts off with the words of some other poet (present or past, close or distant) before his own voice enters & takes over, with those other voices, spirits, hovering around.  It is all new as I read him, all special, and I’m drawn to follow him now wherever he takes us."                             Jerome Rothenberg

About the publisher: Shearsman Books, who for nearly three decades have been a home to some of the most extraordinary high modern and literary poets the UK has produced since WWII, have published many poets profoundly influential on myself, from Cesar Vallejo to Fernando Pessoa in English, as well many peers whose work has given me much, from Vahni Capildeo to John Hall.www.shearsman.com

A note on: performing with Phil Minton

An amazing privilege to perform an improvised sound poetry piece with the legendary Phil Minton on October Friday 7th 2016 at Kings Place, London.

For over fifty years Phil Minton has been performing, singing, vocalising around the world. He absolutely has shaped, even defined, free vocalisation and improvised sound poetry since WWII. To get to work with him for the first time, with no prior preparation, no conversation about what we'd do before the performance even, was such an honour, and beautiful / terrifying in equal measure. So important for me to feel I'm crossing over with the greats of previous generations. This was a real landmark for me. There's more pictures like this beautiful pair below by Ed Prosser on www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

A great night overall too, closing out the Hubbub residency in a sense, with some fine work from James Wilkes, Emma Bennett, Phaedra ensemble and others making it a varied and intense evening of performance.

 

A note on: Rest and Its Discontents exhibition at the Mile End Arts Pavilion

A beautiful job has been done, the exhibition runs until October 31st and is really well worth a visit. Some wonderful and works and installations by some brilliant artists and thinkers. http://hubbubresearch.org/event/rest-discontents/

DATE & TIME 30 September – 30 October 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
VENUE: The Mile End Art Pavilion  Mile End Park, Clinton Road  London, E3 4QY United Kingdom

A note on: The Anatomy of Rest with Claudia Hammond on BBC Radio 4

Pleased to contribute to the first of three programmes by Claudia Hammond, entitled Anatomy of Rest, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this week past. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07v07p0

Claudia visited me during a training session, boxing and we discussed the notion that relationship of rest to its inverse state - exhaustion. This has been a major preoccupation of mine, pragmatically, my entire life, being someone who is high energy / agitated and having always found great solace, relief and control in more intensive forms of exercise. It has been a fundamental way of mediating my creative energy too, and meeting Arne Dietrich in Salzburg in 2015, where he talked of down regulation of the pre frontal cortex during exercise, I have spent the last year or two, reading more deeply into the subject. I am also reminded of Sam Harris' comments about weight training, that if we didn't choose to do so, the pain of such conditioning would be akin to torture.

Pleasingly, post programme, where I sounded a bit weird because my hearing had altered a bit, genuinely tired from training and unable to hear myself speak (a mercy), an article has been written by Alex SoojungKim Pang, referring to my remarks and the concept in general. Visit http://www.deliberate.rest/?p=1068

A note on: Soundings #6 with Sharon Gal

The Soundings project comes to an end for the time being this October with the 7th instalment and the end of the Hubbub residency and I've had an extraordinary time collaborating with 6 artists so far, the latest being Sharon Gal, a major figure on the London experimental music scene since the late 80s.

This is a work I'm very proud of. Sharon's work has been a real influence on me, so it was brilliant to work so closely with her developing a series of performances, embedded in some unusual and industrial / suburban hidden spots of west london, for film. Again working with Ed Prosser, who has filmed most of soundings to great effect, we spent a brilliant day roaming from Kilburn to Kensal, along the grand union canal and into wormwood scrubs, playing with soundscapes, found sounds and instruments. We utilised the possibilities of film, performing in scenes of a sort, to create something original in the edit. Such a privilege to have this opportunity, and once again responding to materials given by Wellcome Library in response to prompts given by Hubbub curators.

A note on: filming Soundings #6 with Sharon Gal

The Soundings project comes to an end for the time being this October with the 7th instalment and the end of the Hubbub residency and I've had an extraordinary time collaborating with 6 artists so far, the latest being Sharon Gal, a major figure on the London experimental music scene since the late 80s. Sharon's work has been a real influence on me, so it was brilliant to work so closely with her developing a series of performances, embedded in some unusual and industrial / suburban hidden spots of west london, for film. Again working with Ed Prosser, who has filmed most of soundings to great effect, we spent a brilliant day roaming from Kilburn to Kensal, along the grand union canal and into wormwood scrubs, playing with soundscapes, found sounds and instruments. We utilised the possibilities of film, performing in scenes of a sort, to create something original in the edit. Such a privilege to have this opportunity, and once again responding to materials given by Wellcome Library in response to prompts given by Hubbub curators.

A note on: the final States of Mind event at Wellcome Collection

A real high point for me as a curator, and a major step forward in this area of interest. A really wonderful night, brilliant talks from Srivas Chennu, Lotje Sodderland, Sam Winston and Barry Smith, so full of insight and so remarkably balanced together. I had such a resonant and engaged experience working with Wellcome on these events, do visit www.stevenjfowler.com/statesofmind for more.

A note on: Launching House of Mouse with Prue Chamberlain at Poetry School Camarade

So lovely to release a new collaborative book into the world, written alongside the brilliant Prue Chamberlain. We performed at The Poetry School Camarade, an event I curated at Rich Mix alongside 8 other pairs of poets, in what was a fine night all told, by alternatively reading, blindfolding, spinning and sticking noses on an olaf the snowman poster. The spinning was my favourite part of it, which perhaps goes some way to evidence my current feeling toward reading, but everything Prue and I have done in collaboration has been energising, such is her humour, intelligence and adventurousness. Buy our book please www.stevenjfowler.com/houseofmouse

A note on: States of Mind events I & II at Wellcome Collection: July 7th & 14th

A highpoint to speak and curate at Wellcome Collection for these three events as part of their States of Mind: Tracing the edge of consciousness exhibition. I've had the chance to bring together some of the finest neuroscientists, psychologists, artists, speakers and thinkers working today, and curate these evenings as complimentary in their differences, letting new questions be asked through the presentations, rather than trying to tie together complex threads on a very complex issue - consciousness itself.

The first event focused on poetry and consciousness, language really, and the second on sound and consciousness. Both were a pleasure to put together and amazing to witness. Daniel Margulies, Noah Hutton, Jen Calleja, Maja Jantar, Nick Ryan, Vincent Moon and John Gruzelier have all spoken wonderfully, insightfully and the sold out audiences have seemed engaged and pleasantly surprised by the variance of expertise.

I also had the chance to speak at the first event, talking about poetry and consciousness, which has been a concern of mine for sometime, in the sense that I studied philosophy with an emphasis on phenomenology towards the end and am always trying to probe at the why underneath my practise and the genre in general, especially through recent teaching experiences. Unfortunately during this talk I had to wear a headset and look like a member of a 90s boyband, but you can't have it all. I looked how I felt. 

A note on: Gorse publishing Subcritical Tests by Ailbhe Darcy & I in 2017

Wonderful that the hugely respected literary journal, Gorse, has announced it will begin publishing outside of its magazine format in the near future, beginning a press, and even more wonderful, that one of its first few titles, and its first poetry book, will be my collaborative collection, Subcritical tests, written with Ailbhe Darcy. The announcement was made here with an interview by Tristan Foster http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/interview-with-gorse/

Gorse is a perfect place for our book, the situation could not be more fitting and pleasing, can't help but give Ailbhe and I, wading through the poetry sandpit, renewed energy and optimism. Susan Tomaselli, who founded Gorse, is someone who has helped me from within months of my starting writing, and with Gorse, the respect her erudition and activity has always commanded has been quite properly expanded, which is so gratifying to witness.

Gorse’s poetry editor, Christodoulos Makris, is one of the finest poets, innovators and organisers in Europe. His work has been an influence on my own, and to have the chance to work with him directly as an editor is exciting. These relationships should never be underestimated. And Ailbhe, such a remarkable poet. We met on the Yes But Are We Enemies? tour of 2014, beginning writing then about what we felt was pressing, for various reasons - a potential nuclear holocaust, and for well over a year beyond that brilliant few weeks we had been bonded by writing more and more poems on the same theme together, always in correspondence. We discovered how ubiquitous nuclear testing has become since WWII, how truly close the world has come to nuclear destruction, often from snaffus and clumsiness as much as aggression, and how poetic is the process of naming each one of these bombs. The perfect source material to mulch through. And Ailbhe's mulching, so different than mine, maybe not even a word eater as I am, she's an actual poet - so persuasive in her always exacting, intricate graceful work, that she's pulled me, in this book at least, into being more careful, more fixated, and perhaps, by osmosis, I have done the opposite to her, dragging her into the radioactive mud.

More on this soon, an exciting announcement and in the meantime visit, and buy, Gorse http://gorse.ie/.

Published: The House of Mouse by Prudence Chamberlain & I - Knives Forks & Spoons press: July 2016

To be launched as part of The Poetry School Camarade on July 17th 2016 at Rich Mix &The CapLet 1st year anniversary reading on August 10th at St Margaret's House, both near Bethnal Green.

I'm always interested in collaborating as a form of learning, growing as a poet and a person through the intelligence and idiosyncrasies of my collaborator. This book, and my ongoing collaborative work with Prudence Chamberlain, is a great example of that. These poems are unique for me, drawing me into new ways of writing, and this is such a beautiful book, dotted with new artworks by a variety of visual artists. Hopefully the humour, the intensity and the style will show through to readers too.

From the publisher: "Discursive, playful, obscene and satirical, The House of Mouse is a collection of ten poetic collaborations written by British poets SJ Fowler and Prudence Chamberlain - each responding to a famed cartoon, each uncovering the bizarre overt and covert symbols and signs of these pervasive animations. 
 
Dotted with original illustrations by contemporary artists like Lizzy Stewart and Duncan Marchbank, this unique collaborative collection aims to show that maybe the only thing stranger than corporate cartoon animals is avant-garde poetry."

One of the texts, Bambi, was published by the online poetry journal Country Music, edited by Scott Abels, in March 2016 is available to read below. http://countrymusicpoetry.org/index.php?pr=chamberlain-fowler

A note on: States of Mind - 3 events in July for Wellcome Collection

States of Mind: Tracing the edges of consciousness
3 events in July 2016 at Wellcome Collection

Great to be speaking at and curating three events for Wellcome Collection's exhibition on consciousness, States of Mind. These events will bring together expertise from a wide array of fields, from neuroscience to performance art, from philosophy to filmmaking, in order to explore the notion of consciousness through the concepts of language, sound and narrative. www.stevenjfowler.com/statesofmind

Through informal academic talks alongside newly commissioned artworks, the variance of speakers, with their uniformly exciting and innovative approaches to the notion of consciousness, will ensure three remarkable events, free to attend, this July, in London.

https://wellcomecollection.org/exhibitions/states-mind-tracing-edges-consciousness Tickets available from late June.

The Poetry of Consciousness

Thursday 7 July, 19.00-20.30

FREE | TICKETED at Wellcome Collection

From the perspective of the neuroscientist, the poet, the translator - a discussion of the role of language in constituting our consciousness, presenting talks and newly commissioned works for performance on the night.

Featuring: Daniel Margulies, SJ Fowler, Noah Hutton & Jen Calleja.

The Sound of Consciousness

Thursday 14 July, 19.00-20.30

FREE | TICKETED at Wellcome Collection

This event asks what role sound takes in shaping our experience and understanding of consciousness and offers artist’s reflections on the pivotal role sound has in the firmament of our daily lives, drawing from the worlds of neuroscience, anthropology, film, composition and sound poetry.

Featuring: John Gruzelier, Nick Ryan, Vincent Moon & Maja Jantar.

The Narrative of Consciousness

Thursday 21 July, 19.00-20.30

FREE | TICKETED at Wellcome Collection

Within and without language, how does the notion of narrative define our experience of the world through consciousness? An event featuring some of the most dynamic contemporary artists, neuroscientists and writers, exploring how narrative interacts with consciousness and what happens when this begins to break down, whether through trauma or conditions like aphasia.

Featuring: Lotje Sodderland, Srivas Chennu, Sam Winston and Barry Smith.

A note on: Soundings IV with Tamarin Norwood

The next instalment of the Soundings project, this time in Wellcome Library itself, with the brilliant Tamarin Norwood. The piece was fashioned just for the camera itself, a closed performance, intended to respond to and interrogate the notion of film editing or performance video, and how it relates to notions of authenticity and naturalness, while all the while following the process central to Soundings, that we respond to Wellcome Library resources provided to us by the librarians and 'sound them out' in conversing. Thanks to Ed Prosser for his brilliant camera work too. www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

A note on: The first Respites - a claimant's day off: February 29th 2016

Respites is a carefully curated series of day-long gatherings, exploring ideas and activities about rest, pleasure, contentedness, critical thinking and creativity. It is aimed at being a generative and respectful series of engagements with people who need and deserve more respite than they receive.  Each Respite sees a group of specially selected people share their expertise in workshops and breakout sessions, covering everything from meditation to martial arts, from poetry to music, aiming to create a cohesive and generous experience for those who attend. Respites was curated by Ayesha Nathoo, Lynne Friedli and myself, and was supported by, and part of, the Hubbub group, in residence at Wellcome Collection. www.theenemiesproject.com/respites

The first Respites brought together people claiming benefits for a day of exploration, creativity and solidarity at the Hub at Wellcome Collection, where myself, Ayesha Nathoo and Lynne Friedli met, all being residents and where Respites, as a concept, was conceived. We spent many months developing the project, really trying to maintain the open, pragmatic and inviting aesthetic we had agreed upon from the first, and the extraordinary expertise and intelligence of both Lynne and Ayesha made me absolutely confident that the day itself would be a success. 

The day itself was structured with a series of workshops which those attending could drop into at their leisure. A careful balance was given to the contents of each, and how they sat around each other, taking the group from relaxation techniques to martial arts, which I had the pleasure to lead, into poetry, theatre and finishing with meditation. There was a sure sense of community from everyone involved, most having never met each other before, and a firm sense that the indirect aims of the project, to support without generalising everyone with their circumstance, to provoke and engage, without ever being heavy handed, created an environment of kindness and generosity. 

In due time attendees expressed their insights and frustrations at the situation they experienced but this was part of the day and it's achievements. Rather this was expressed when it was good for them and everyone else to do so, and otherwise, we were just all people, getting to know each other, sharing a beautiful lunch, talking a whole day through with physical and intellectual ideas and pursuits. It was really a lovely, intimate, careful experience for me, one I savoured and felt very pleased to be a part of, to have begun new connections with people and to learnt much in a short space of time.

A note on: launching 40 feet, a new book, written with David Berridge

As part of an event at the Essex Book Festival, a Camarade I had the pleasure of putting together, I got to read with my friend and collaborator, David Berridge. We launched our book 40 feet, which has been published by Knives Forks and Spoons press. http://knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/ 

40 Feet is a poem in dialogue. 40 poems as 40 moments, 40 fragments, 40 conversation starters / enders. It is a poem deliberately broken, misheard, overheard and overlapping. It is a record of meeting, writing, witnessing; mulching and reflecting London in 2013, where both of us lived and frequently met. 40 Feet is the events of that time and the character of that place, fixed in the subjective, the miniature, the specific - through an open-ended poetics of expression and conversation. 

We wrote the book over a year ago and revisiting it in Essex was a beautiful thing, to feel the book as a record of a friendship in poetry but also a marker of a time in my life.

And you can read more about David's work here http://verysmallkitchen.com/ 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming: Four events - aWwW / EVP / Globe Road / Soundings

Nov 13th: A World Without Words IV
Nov 14th: Electronic Voice Phenomena
Nov 15th: Globe Road Festival Walking Tour
Nov 18th: Soundings III

November Friday 13th - A World without Words IV at the Frontline Club: 7pm
The fourth event in the series exploring neuroscience, aphasia, the brain and language, this time at the incredible Frontline Club. With a talk by Professor Barry Smith and the screening of a series of anthropological short films from Vincent Moon. Curated by Lotje Sodderland, Thomas Duggan and I. http://www.frontlineclub.com/screening-and-discussion-a-world-without-words/

November Saturday 14th - EVP Sessions at Shoreditch Town Hall: 8pm
Electronic Voice Phenomena hits London once again, I'll be presenting a new commission in full skeleton embodiment, exploring disembodied voice and death http://shoreditchtownhall.com/theatre-performance/whats-on/event/theEVPsessions

November Sunday 15th - Globe Road walking tour for the Globe Road Festival: 11am
A Sunday morning stroll up Globe Road in the company of Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener and the Bohman brothers, all of whom will present brand new performance commissions related to the road itself, finishing with a reading in York Hall with Stephen Watts, Richard Scott and Jonathan Mann www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad

November Wednesday 18th - Soundings III with Maja Jantar at St Johns on Bethnal Green: 7pm A collaboration with the incomparable Maja Jantar for a new sound poetry / avant-garde music performance as part of the Soundings project with Hubbub at Wellcome Collection responding to prompts from the Wellcome Library. St Johns on Bethnal Green, an early 19th-century church, is an amazing venue too. www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

A note on: Soundings #1 with Emma Bennett

The beginning of Soundings couldn't have gone better. Not only because the performance was unique and well attended and went to plan, but because it was also completely idiosyncratic and unexpected for the audience, and enjoyable. Emma and I have known each for a few year now, and been in collective work together, but never performed a duo. The performance itself and the entire preparation period could not have been easier and more fluid. We met up numerous times to make our performance not only responsive to the materials given by the Wellcome Library under the theme of 'Restless Cities' but also to make sure we responded very specifically to the amazing environmental of Camley Street Natural Park.

We knew people's experience of what we did would be defined by the surroundings, and decided in fact to put on a walking tour, one that fused elements of performance and immersive theatre all rooted in something like a slightly alternative version of the contemporary 'landscape' 'cityscape' 'mindfulness' lexicon. Our performance was a mix of improvisation, preparation for this and written text that lay somewhere between poetry and satire.

In the end we had a remarkable audience, those very generously helping us, Harriet Martin, James Wilkes, Kim Staines, bringing together lots of people so that it felt quite a significant event, marching 50 or so people around the small stone clearings and ponds of the park. A strange experience for them, I hope, a great experience for us.