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.
Well where else but the basement of a pub in old soho to launch a poetry book about the nuclear bomb / apocalypse / threat / possible sweet release from all the puff? A weird and wonderful night in a dark corridor with people I am so fond of it comes close to a fraternal love - Christodoulos Makris, Susan Tomaselli, Ailbhe Darcy - and some new folk who will become friends. We spent a good five hours down there, relaxed, talking and reading and into the world was launched Subcritical Tests. Watch on on the video for the very end, where the performative urge just nearly just nearly got the better of me. Ailbhe is a sport. www.stevenjfowler.com/subcriticaltests
a new collaborative poetry collection by Ailbhe Darcy & I, the first book by Gorse
I'm happy to announce my latest collaborative book, written with Ailbhe Darcy, will be published as the very first Gorse edition - Subcritical Tests. Available here to buy, do go here and click links and purchase it, why not? It's a difficult book but a rewarding one, certainly the parts Ailbhe wrote, which are mashed up with mine now completely, to the point where I genuinely don't know who wrote what, which is perhaps as it should be with a collaboration? gorse.ie/book/subcritical-tests/
London launch of Subcritical Tests
Monday 10th July 2017, 6.30-10.30pm, Sun & 13 Cantons, Soho
with readings from Niven Govinden, Susana Medina, Colm O’Shea followed by the launch by Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler. [RSVP]
Dublin launch of Subcritical Tests
Wednesday 12th July, 7pm-8.30pm, Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Sq East
with Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler, introduced by gorse poetry editor Christodoulos Makris. [RSVP]
About the book
"The nearness of nuclear holocaust, always just one clumsy accident away, forms an entry point into this record of a friendship. The poems in Subcritical Tests stubbornly make connections, ever conscious of the impending threat of annihilation. Oblique, modern, lyrical, humorous, these poems represent the range of Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler‘s individual practices, modulated and melded through the collaborative process." www.stevenjfowler.com/subcriticaltests
Gorse have established themselves as one of the finest literary journals in Europe, if not the world, and so to have this book open their venture into publishing standalone books is an immense privilege. The book is beautifully illustrated and cover designed by Niall McCormack.
Vladimir Mayakovsky, Volodya: Selected Works, edited by Rosy Patience Carrick (Enitharmon Press)
I’ve been reading Mayakovsky my whole poetry life, which isn’t that long, but he’s always been important to me, but this volume, well I suppose it did what it was supposed to do – crystallise, refocus, intensify appreciation. It blew me away. I read it cover to cover, twice over, and dipped further. I bought copies for friends who don’t read poetry. It’s artfully edited, beautifully produced, and just the man’s energy, his range, his deep innovation, it sings from the pages. Huge credit to Enitharmon, always a great list – just look to David Gascoyne, Lee Harwood, UA Fanthorpe etc.. – the last few years have been especially exciting times from the Bloomsbury based press.
Vahni Capildeo, Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet)
The significance of Vahni Capildeo’s book doing so amazingly well with prizes and critics is that it is deeply, resonantly complex, intellectual and innovative. It is multifaceted and challenging, insightful but never cloy. This is the modern poetry I have been moaning has not been receiving its due for years. It is a brilliant book, like her last book from Shearsman Books, and the one before that from Eggbox. Suddenly it caught alight in people. I will now shut up about prizes overlooking the actually contemporary / modern / avant-garde. For a few months. Credit to Carcanet too.
Stephen Emmerson, Family Portraits (If P Then Q)
Emmerson is criminally underrated, he should be seen as a major, pioneering figure of the British avant garde and his work from publisher If P Then Q furthers that reputation. It’s a gesture in a book, an austere refusal of the indulgent lyric.
Harry Man, Finders Keepers (Sidekick Books)
A true collaboration with the artist Sophie (which places it close to my heart from the off), this is poetry that is actually mindful of its engagement with ecological themes. As ever with Harry Man the poems are hard to pin down into one literary tradition, he is an original, never obtuse but neither overtly complex. It’s a beautiful book and a real achievement as a project.
Diane Williams, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (CB Editions)
Charles Boyle Editions are a list I follow just on previous form (look to David Markson, JO Morgan, Will Eaves, Francis Ponge etc..) and I have to admit I hadn’t come across Diane Williams before I picked this up. Now I am in deep, her work is everything I look for, and this book really impacted my writing, it’s fiction but it’s poetry too, as I’d deem it – full of expert twists on banal detail, mishearing, disjunction and play. Sophisticated and really funny.
Jen Calleja, Serious Justice (Test Centre)
A great debut, another great book from Test Centre. Her poetry is a intricate, subtle, conversational fusion of Calleja’s expertise, without being reductive, which is punk music and the European high literary tradition. It’s original, vital, memorable, get it.
Tom Jenks, Sublunar (Oystercatcher Press)
Oystercatcher is one of those British presses poets know, and follow, their backlist is a resource and Sublunar from Tom Jenks is a 2016 highlight for me. Jenks is the most exciting conceptual poet I know, but his range is like his prolificism, to be admired. Still the rarified nonsense of publishing once every 7 years lingers around British poetry, just so romantic dinosaurs can insist on their genius as though their poems were faberge eggs made better by their scarcity. Jenks is doing the work to unpick this, publishing brilliantly and frequently. Get everything he’s done.
Luke Kennard, Cain (Penned in the Margins)
A wonderful book, beautiful to behold, dark in its way, witty too, of course, as Kennard’s work has long been lauded – he’s been a feature on the British poetry scene for a decade, massively to his credit traversing many different spaces and practises. This book is really so striking – conceptually clever, and gorgeously designed, as usual, from Penned in the Margins. It won a prize for design in fact. It should win for that which lies within the covers too.
Gabriele Tinti, Last Words (Skira)
Tinti’s book is a service – the project, to record and repatriate suicide notes, and one best received by poetry readers looking for insight often where it resides least, in the thoughts of those who think themselves professionally insightful. Tinti removes the barrier, it’s a difficult read because things are difficult.
Mark Waldron, Meanwhile, Trees (Bloodaxe Books)
Waldron is not underrated, as he’s properly well known, but I have this suspicion he is misunderstood, portrayed as casually, observationally misanthropic almost as though that’s token in a dayglow world of poetry about bees and mushrooms, written while the world burns. His work is intimidatingly poised, beautifully crafted, engaging, thoughtful, wears its intelligence in its technique, lightly and completely absorbing. A highlight from Bloodaxe this year.
Great to officially launch my pamphlet Tractography, and more importantly, celebrate Owen Vince's Pyramid Editions at an event in London, by the grand union canal, at the beautiful Archivist venue. Pyramid Editions published four works this year, all by younger poets, all featuring three poems, conceptually united. I read with the three other authors on the list, Alison Graham, Sophie Essex and Andrew Wells, but more than this the evening was a generous, intimate, conversational exchange, more social than performative, and appropriately so, as this project, driven by Owen, taking responsibility as he is for the curatorial space of poetry rising up beneath the UK scene from especially young and clear voiced poets, was a great example of the flurry of considered activity so prevalent in England at the moment. I was proud to be involved. Visit www.pyramideditions.co.uk
A rundown of recent publications, programmes, projects and performances from 2016 so far.
Commission: BBC Radio 3’s The Verb
The Worm in its Core was commissioned as a new poem / performance by Radio 3's The Verb in response to Hearing the Voice - a project which explores, and demystifies auditory verbal hallucinations. www.stevenjfowler.com/theverb
Commission: Forumstadtpark Graz - Glory Hole
Manners Maketh Man was commissioned by the Forumstadtpark in Graz as part of their public art series Glory Hole, projected onto a screen in the city centre. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/blog/gloryhole
Buenos Aires: Enemigos with El Tercer Lugar
One of the most extraordinary Enemies Projects so far, a week of collaborations and performances in Argentina; new collaborations with Julián López, Anahí Mallol, Camilo Sanchez, Leonce Lupette & Patrick Coyle. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/argentina
Beijing: CCTSS Conference & Festival
A poetry readings held in Beijing to mark the Chinese Culture Translation and Studies Support (CCTSS) global literary conference featuring poets from across the world http://www.stevenjfowler.com/beijing
Tractography, published by Pyramid Editions
A limited edition pamphlet of 50, the first of a new series of poems exploring neuroscience.
Forty Feet, published by Knives Forks & Spoons press
A new collaborative poetry collection written with David Berridge, 40 Feet is a poem in dialogue. 40 poems as 40 moments, 40 fragments, 40 conversation starters / enders. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/40feet
The Night-Time Economy Exhibition in Newport
A new collaborative exhibition in Newport with the photographer Kate Mercer, images & poetry exploring the often fractious energy of Newport's nightlife http://www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy
Lexicon: performance at Marsden Woo Gallery
Responding to the work of artist and sculptor Alida Sayer at the remarkable London gallery Marsden Woo http://www.theenemiesproject.com/lexicon
One of the UK's principle poetry festivals, a great week reading, talking, curating and collaborating in St.Andrews http://www.stevenjfowler.com/stanza
Cyprus: The Iskele Poetry Festival
A memorable week in Northern Cyprus reading at the 18th Iskele-Kibatek poetry festival http://www.stevenjfowler.com/iskele
The English PEN Modern Literature Festival
An amazing experience curating nearly 30 authors responding with new works to writers-at-risk supported by English PEN. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen Including my poems and performance for Khadija Ismayilova and appearing on BBC Azeri world service.
Reykjavik, The Library of Water and Ovinir: Icelandic Enemies
Ambitious Enemies Project collaborations in Iceland, a new self-drowning performance in the Library of Water in Stykkishólmur, and a remarkable London reading to a nearly 200 strong crowd. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/iceland
Kakania at Austrian Cultural Forum
A symposium and six new commissions at the Austrian Cultural Forum – contemporary artists responding to figures of Habsburg Vienna. All performances and my own on the great Robert Musil.
The Essex Book Festival
Great to curate a Camarade with 18 poets and one family performing new works for the day, from the Colchester area & beyond. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/essex Including my collaboration with David Berridge
& new poetry has appeared in Gorse magazine, Poetry Wales, Karawa (new translations into German), Poems in Which, Black Market Review, Country Music, For Every Year and Wazogate. Thanks to all the editors. And to everyone who has read this far down. Happy Springtime to you all, Steven
An incredible job done by Owen Vince and the team at Pyramid Editions, Tractography is a beautiful, fragile piece of work. Printed in a run of just 50 copies, it contains the first in my new series of poems that centre upon neuroscience and neuroscientific ideas, this time inspired by the work of my friend Daniel Margulies. My sincere thanks to Owen and Daniel, and you can pick up one of the few remaining editions here http://pyramideditions.co.uk/shop
Very pleased to see two new publications emerge in March.
Tractography is the first of a new series of poems, called Neurocantos, and is launched in a boutique limited edition by Pyramid Editions, edited by Owen Vince. The poem is partially built from the words of a paper by the neuroscientist Daniel Margulies. http://pyramideditions.co.uk/
40 Feet, written with David Berridge is to be launched at the Essex Book Festival Camarade, on March 20th 2016, 40 Feet is 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 poets 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.
An excerpt featured in Enemies: the selected collaborations of SJ Fowler (2013) and is now published in it's entirety by Knives, Forks & Spoons press. And you can read more about David's work herehttp://verysmallkitchen.com/
"Summertime – and though for poets and independent publishers the living isn’t exactly easy, it’s time to come out onto the street and play. Specifically: THE SHOP. For the first week of July, 1st to 7th, Eyewear Publishing is joining forces with CB Editions. We will be taking a pop-up shop in Portobello Road, London: number 201, a block along from the Electric Cinema. We’ll be selling books from our own presses and those of some others (Arc, Five Leaves, Flipped Eye among them, and not exclusively poetry), and there’ll be photographic prints by Ken Garland and other things. And balloons. The shop is essentially a shop, and is hardly the most comfortable of reading venues, but there’ll be events in the evenings and pop-up readings by various poets during the daytime."
The week features friends like James Byrne, Sandeep Parmar, Astrid Alben, Michael Horovitz and many others, please do wander down if you're free, I'll be bringing some books and a buddha box and smashing out some poetry on Boxing and Prisons.