The Elit article series runs very regularly from Literaturhaus Europa's base in Austria and always has some fascinating insights into the wider European literature scene from writers, organisers and journalists. I've written for them a few times before, and they asked me to pen a short piece on the CROWD Literature bus tour which I partially participated in this summer. I wrote about my experience of being at the Krokodil fest in Serbia during Britain's exit from the EU. http://www.literaturhauseuropa.eu/de/observatorium/blog/crowd-literature2019s-omnibus-project
I had the chance to attend Krokodil through CROWD Literature’s Omnibus project, which takes 100 poets, on a bus, through Europe, changing poets with the countries and readings, on a weekly basis. And as I mentioned, my fifth visit to Serbia. It was one of my favourite places to explore when I was in my early twenties, twice I took public transport through the whole Balkans, from Slovenia into Greece. What charmed me then about the Serbia was the very things that wore me down on my last few visits – the bluntness, the brusqueness, the self-awareness, the intense historicism and the combustible nature of some of the people I met. This trip completely flipped that on its head, I benefited from some of the most generous hospitality I can recall, twice being given meals for free, many times engaging in conversations with strangers. And the whole atmosphere of the festival was an extension of these lovely experiences, the audience always patient, intelligent, intellectually lively and friendly. This with both nights of the festival running to over three hours, with many poets from all over Europe and interviews and music.
I've written a full travelogue here www.stevenjfowler.com/belgrade
The Forum Stadtpark in Graz is a unique place. I’d heard about it for a few years before I met those who mastermind the institution in 2015. Not a gallery or venue, more of a communal centre in the heart of Graz, for all arts and all kinds of discussions and meetings, set the idyllic second city of Austria, it has a reputation for supporting some of the most avant-garde work in Europe. The word they seem to use, the warm hearted, playful, endlessly hospitable people who seem to wander in and out of the stadtpark, is transgressive or provocative, alongside everything all else that might be interested in the now or the future. A chance to visit here, to speak and perform was granted to me by virtue of the CROWD omnibus project and a two day symposium called Text World World Text, bringing poets and organisers from all over Europe. The symposium was led by Max Hofler, a friend and a text artist I admire so much and was essentially about poetry and politics, and whether there was a connection between the two.
I've written a whole webpage dedicated to the trip with detailed travelogue. Please visit http://www.stevenjfowler.com/graz
Great to be part of CROWD's groundbreaking and ambitious European Omnibus tour across Europe this summer. It's a mad, brilliant project, huge swathes of poets in stints from northern Finland all the way down to Cyprus. Loads of wonderful people involved, and I get to travel from Graz to Belgrade over a week in late June. http://crowd-literature.eu/omnibus-2/
CROWD: A 3 month bus tour from May to August 2016, featuring around 100 authors from all over Europe in 15 European countries and more than 40 cities and about 24 associated organizers and dozens of local events.
Here's a feature on me on the CROWD site, with a short interview http://crowd-literature.eu/one-crowd-steven-j-fowler/
"There have always been interactions and disputes between the discourses of poetry and politics. Do you see possibilities of emancipatory strategies concerning contemporary interactions between poetic and political discourses and agendas? How can/should/do these literary strategies look like?
I think, often, these questions are answered by people who show a fundamental assurance I cannot relate to. I find most problems, most questions, confusing, and more complex than I can understand without serious consideration and time. Therefore the answers to these questions are way beyond me. That doesn’t mean I’m left inert in the face of very real challenges. In fact, by acknowledging my changing, confused perspective, a certain kind of pragmatism tends to come to the fore, and I am free to be active.
If I have to answer, and briefly, then I’d simply say there are interactions and disputes between politics and people, politics and culture, politics and language. Poetry is a tiny, all but irrelevant part of these interactions and disputes. Poetry has no more claim or power over these discourses than baking or gardening. People who write poems can be powerfully influential on politics and culture and people, but not exclusively because they write poems. There is nothing innately useful in poetry for positive change in political terms, apart from maybe a sensitivity to language (which might manipulate us), but you need not be a poet for that.
My opinion then, following from this, is that a strategy for change with literature is about people over poetry, process over product, context over content. That’s why I think organising collaborations with poets from all over the world, organising readings and projects – this is a political act that actually is inclusive and positive and makes changes. Others talk of being political with poetry, being liberal, with an ethics based on empathy, and then they isolate many humans who happen not to share their exact political opinion, and cause divisions and bitterness and fallout. So I’m interested in real space."
Thanks to everyone who has made 2015 so special, a few highlights, upcoming, for 2016
The final a World without Words event takes place January 9th at Apiary Studios featuring a host of neuroscientists and artists.
I'll be on BBC Radio 3's The Verb with a new commission responding to the Hearing the Voice project in January.
Ovinir - The Enemies Project: Iceland, includes a big Camarade reading in Reykjavik where I'll be collaborating with Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir, supported by Reykjavik UNESCO city of literature. Then a reading in London, on January 30th, with over 30 poets, where I'll be presenting a new work with Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir
February sees a reading in Buenos Aires, hosted by El tercer lugar, curated by flavia pitella, thanks to the British Council.
The Soundings project will continue with 7 new collaborative performances including works with Tamarin Norwood (February), Sharon Gal (March), Patrick Coyle (April), Phil Minton (June), all responding to prompts from Wellcome Librarians.
I'll be attending the StAnza festival on the weekend of March 5th, speaking at an event on the body and poetry, responding to a film about bp nichol and leading a workshop / curating a Camarade collaborative event.
I'll be curating the English PEN Modern Literature Festival over one day on April 2nd, featuring 50 writers writing new works responding to some of PEN's writers at risk cases. Free to attend, but signing up for membership encouraged!
Very happy to be attending the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature in May 2016, thanks to the British Council, Writers Centre Norwich and the International Literature Fund, beginning a Georgian Enemies project: Mtrebi, which will return to the UK in July, where it'll visit the Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Rich Mix in London.
I'll be curating a Camarade for the Essex Book Festival on March Sunday 20th and I'll be curating further innovative Camarade events, including the University Camarade, on April 23rd, where students from five different creative writing departments (including my own at Kingston) create new collaborations across institutions.
I'll be attending the Milosz Festival in Krakow in June, writing new collaborations with Polish poets / artists, thanks to UNESCO Krakow City of Literature, The British Council & co.
The Kakania project will return with readings in Berlin and London, from February to September 2016, all featuring new commissions of poets and artists responding to figures from Habsburg Vienna.
I'm happy to be part of the ambitious CROWD project, which crosses Europe next summer, travelling from Finland to Cyprus, over many months, with lots of interchanging poets on a bus. I'm doing Graz to Belgrade in June 2016.
Lots more publications, events and projects to be announced next year.