A note on: an interview with Kathryn Lloyd for Jerwood Open Forest

A great interview with Kathryn Lloyd up on the Jerwood Arts website, speaking to David Rickard primarily, with me in a wee bit, about the Jerwood Open Forest. More info on that here www.stevenjfowler.com/openforest "

KL: Steven, collaboration also seems to be a vital part of your practice. Would you be able to discuss this a little bit — in terms of what sort of role collaboration can play in poetry and performance?

SJ. Fowler: Collaboration is pivotal to me. So much to say here, but to cut to the quick, collaboration is not a method; it is human interaction, just with a creative goal as the excuse. Friendship, love, family — this is collaboration. I wish to spend my life in the company of people happily making things, being challenged by their intelligence and thoughts, being provoked into that which I wouldn’t have seen alone. It in no way eats into the solitary process — one so exclusively associated, bizarrely, with poetry, it often seems. In this specific case, with David’s gesture, to open his project up to a stranger, I took it be an extraordinary act of hospitality, of generosity, of humility, that he and I shared some essential methodological appreciation of collaboration, and so I felt responsible to really commit to the work, in all ways. It has proved to be a really brilliant time — all of it positive, a real highlight of my year.

KL: David, your proposal incorporates text through the use of Steven’s poem. How do you associate with the role of writing — do you also like to write? Or is text something that you find more natural to incorporate when written by someone else?"

http://www.jerwoodvisualarts.org/writing-and-media/returnings-kathryn-lloyd-conversation-david-rickard-sj-fowler/

A note on: Jerwood Open Forest exhibition opening

A privilege to be part of the 2016 Jerwood Open Forest Exhibition at the Jerwood Space in London, thanks to my collaborator, David Rickard, and the staff at Jerwood, who have all been exceptionally generous in supporting my work.

David was shortlisted earlier this year for the project and invited me then to work with him in producing new texts for his proposal, and as the process of the project moves towards the award being granted, the Jerwood Space hosts an exhibition with representations of the works being proposed by each artist. David created a wholly new work for the exhibition, conceptually connected to the Returnings idea, that saw him source an out of commission memorial bench and gently dissect it into its constituent parts. I then wrote a poem / text responding to this work, a word for each piece of the exhibited bench skeleton. My words are beautifully projected in the gallery against a wall, becoming a kinetic poem, the entire text on loop, revealed over exactly three minutes.

The launch event was lovely, so great to spend time in that space, meet the other artists, and see my work exhibited in a gallery I often visit and admire. David and I also had a chance to appear on Resonance FM talking about our work on the day of the opening. A wonderful collaboration that I hope spawns lots more work with David in the near future.

A note on: Open Forest Exhibition at Jerwood Visual Art

November 2nd to December 11th at Jerwood Visual Arts, London.
171 Union Street. Bankside. SE1 0LN / jerwoodvisualarts.org
Gallery hours: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm / Saturday & Sunday 10am – 3pm

I'm pleased to have a newly commissioned text responding to, and collaborating with, the work of artist David Rickard on exhibition at Jerwood Visual Arts as part of their remarkable Open Forest project. The work explores the notion of dissection, the breaking down of things into their component parts and the fragmentation of recollection, all expressed by way of a deconstructed memorial bench. The installation is part of a wider work entitled Returnings www.stevenjfowler.com/returnings

The Jerwood Open Forest exhibition brings together the work of David Rickard and the four other shortlisted artists for 2016, with new bodies of work spanning installation, film, ceramics and performance on display. Jerwood Open Forest is a collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Forestry Commission England with the support of Arts Council England. http://jerwoodopenforest.org/

A note on: Jerwood Open Forest with David Rickard - Part #1

Over the last few months I've had the opportunity and pleasure to work with the artist David Rickard, in quite an inspiring context. David, whose remarkable career as artist has been marked by a particularly complex and deft relationship to space, object, architecture and process, has been shortlisted for the Jerwood Open Forest scheme.

After being shortlisted for his idea David, very generously, began a conversation about how poetry might find a place in his idea. His proposal was to engage with Fielder Forest in Northumberland and create a trail throughout unmarked woods. The rail would be made of a reclaimed house or building, stripped and dissembled into the very rawest wood of a structure, bare planks, and on each of these planks, following a carefully selected route, would be inscribed one word. This trail would then be read as it is followed, neither a narrative, or a poem, or a story, but all of these. And then, vitally, the trail and its posts would rot, become once again the forest, and so my words would be edited by the very forest itself.

From the Jerwood Open Forest blog, David wrote: "Returnings: 29 Jul 2016 - So far my search for a forest has been headed simultaneously in two very different directions. Firstly, for a growing, photosynthesising cluster of trees, a forest in the current tense and secondly for a building with timber bones, a forest in the past sense. Eventually these two will come together, but for now they are poles apart. The living forest will be a plantation, established and grown for the eventual yield of its timber and Kielder Forest has been identified as the prime candidate – an expanse of 600 square kilometres of forest stretching across the northern half of Northumberland.

In parallel there have been conversations with demolition contractors, with names like Titan and Redhammer, and the hunt is on to establish how we can find a suitable building that will form the fabric of the installation. It will be a timber structure that has come to the end of its functional life and is ready for a return trip to its place of origin.

Carved into the surfaces of the beams and boards will be words.  One word on each piece, which together form an expansive poem with no beginning or ending; a meandering narrative that flows through the circuitous journey that the timber has taken. The voice of these words will be S J Fowler, a contemporary English poet that has agreed to collaborate on the creation of ‘Returnings’. Now there are fragments; a forest, a hunt for a building and words. There’s still a lot to do before these fragments combine to form a work."

A note on: The Enemies project: Croatia - Zagreb, Grožnjan & the Wood Poets

The purpose of the Enemies project is to not only create the collaborations and the readings which accompany them across countries and generations and so on, but to also always acknowledge the context of how these things actually happen. That is they are created by people, and they really only work when generously founded. And this generosity tends to come from, or lead to, friendships. This is why I continue to do the Enemies project at such a pace, because, fundamentally, it is a way for me to know people from around the world, far beyond my own country, and for those people to become friends. This project in Croatia was so resonant because it was so personable, the character of the travel and the readings resembled the character of those Croatian poets who are so generous and open and enthusiastic – Tomica Bajsic, Damir Sodan and Maja Klaric. The Enemies project Croatia began, in friendship, in 2012, and since we have exchanged events and ideas, culminating in readings in London in July 2014, followed by this mini-tour of Croatia in August 2014. I was joined by Sandeep Parmar and James Byrne in Croatia, greater friends for it, and together, we were completely indebted to the Croats for an extraordinary week in Zagreb and Istria..

Day One: An eye bleed flight into Zagreb to discover a heatwave in the normally hot Croatian August, passing 35 degrees. Some time to explore the city again. A brutal run in the heat to Maksimovic park. Damir arrived and we all met together for the first time, James, Sandeep, Tomica, Damir and I, and we visited a gallery in Zagreb, run by an artist collective, in order to begin a discussion about collaborating with three young Croatian artists towards the publication of an innovative book that might lie somewhere between abstract art and poetry. Certainly a way for the collaborations between this brilliant generation of Croatian poets and those of us based in the UK to continue on in years to come. An evening in Zagreb, as ever, warm spirited and funny, the hospitality of Tomica, his family, Damir and the Croatian poets that keeps me coming back to this city.

Day Two: A massive bus ride, Zagreb to Rijeka on the coast with a quick stop over, and then on windier roads to Buje. 36 degrees outside. The time flew by when we were all in conversation. Then a minibus to Groznjan itself. An incredible place, mesmerising. High atop the seemingly endless forests of Istria. A walled town, tiny really, but a 1000 years old, and recently famous for its music, classical piano and drums can be heard from upstairs windows as you walk the cobbled sloping streets, yet it's quiet even in August, in the peak tourist month, as its hard to find, or reach, it seems. We have a few hours to relax and then again we are travelling, to the excuse we have to come here, to the Wood Poets reading, organised by Maja Klaric and her partner, the Forest Festival of Groznjan. We park up and follow candles through a small wood into a clearing where perhaps a hundred people congregate around a bonfire, with small torches littered around the landscape. It is lovingly put together, and immediately friendly. We meet poets from Hungary and Italy, and lots of local writers. There is music from Italy, percussion on something that looks like a barbecue. Readings follow that. I read some poems from my book {Enthusiasm}, maybe a bit harsh for the hippy vibe, but people are nice about them. James, Sandeep, Damir, Tomica read beautifully, the bonfire gets primed after each reading so it shoots up a flame when you’re done. After an hour goes by and no one else will read in English I retreat to the edge of the gathering, lie down in a field and listen to Italian and Croatian voices way past midnight, seeing the stars clearly in the sky for the first time in a year at least. The music follows, we don’t get back to Groznjan until 2am or so.

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Day Three: Morning in Groznjan, people are remarkably friendly, I go into a restaurant below where Im staying and they give me free coffee and food just because we talked while I ate, waving me away. There’s a reading in the centre of the town, all of the performers from the Wood poets the night before coming to join us underneath the Fonticus Gallery. There’s more music, some slightly strange audience participation, which I escape, and then a chance to read again and listen further. Great to hear Marco Fazzini read, he seems to have had and extraordinary life in writing. At the start of the poetry Tomica, Damir, Maja, James, Sandeep and I read our six way poem. Each of us provided a single line, then added a line to each other’s, making six poems written by six poets. Each of us then read one single six line poem. 

Dinner on the town, long afternoon conversation with James, Sandeep, Marco and the vast table of local poets and friends. Late afternoon I disappear into the hills outside the town for a few hours, first walking and exploring, then with a route, a chance to do some hill running. It’s not so hot so not so arduous as in Zagreb, but the chance to have the heightened experience of exercising surrounded by the immense panorama of these hills, olive trees lining them, a view unto the horizon, is exhilarating. We spend a long evening with pizza talking, to each other and the poets we've been lucky enough to meet in Istria. We return the next day, a bus ride down out of the hills, back to Zagreb and then London. An amazing, all too brief window into a truly beautiful place all excused by the chance of us all happening to write poetry, and more decisively, being open and enthusiastic to the friendships that can arise in that shared practise.

More on www.stevenjfowler.com/croatia

European Literature Night: Edinburgh – May 14th: the full whack

European Literature Night 2015 will be a unique evening of live contemporary literature in Edinburgh, with over 30 poets performing at five events, from a dozen European nations, all on one night. www.theenemiesproject.com/el

Part of the continent-wide European Literature Night program, held in 75 cities during mid-May, and supported by the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature trust, our program brings together some of the most forceful European avant-garde, literary and sound poets, to share their work, to read alongside and to collaborate with a swathe of Edinburgh’s equally brilliant poetry scene.

Four simultaneous events take place in the early evening of Thursday May 14th, around 6pm, with solo readings, before all poets and audiences will congregate at Summerhall for the epic finale of the night, with 11 pairs of poets presenting brand new Camarade collaborations, starting around 8pm

Every event is free of charge, so join us at The Fruitmarket Gallery, The Saltire Society, The Sutton Gallery and The Forest before seeing the night in at Summerhall, with poets from France, Spain, Iceland, Austria, Germany, Sweden and of course, Scotland. 


European Literature Camarade! Summerhall - 8pm doors for an 8.30pm start - Free entry. In the Demonstration room http://www.summerhall.co.uk/2015/unesco-european-literature-night-edinburgh/ 

Following the amazing success of the Auld Enemies project in Summerhall in 2014, we return to the Demonstration room for the grand finale of this ambitious evening. Brand new collaborative work will be presented by pairs of poets from across the continent. Featuring:

Colin Herd & Iain Morrison
Ryan Van Winkle & Calum Rodger
Graeme Smith & Andres Anwandter
nick-e melville & Anne Laure Coxam
Valgerður Þórodds & Katy Hastie
Esther Strauss & Ann Cotten
SJ Fowler & Jorg Piringer
Max Hofler & Robert Herbert McClean
Eduard Escoffet & Martin Bakero

JL Williams & Jessica Johannesson Gaitán 

The Saltire Society Caesura on Sound poetry: supported by the Scottish Poetry Library
6pm - Free Entry https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/connect/events/caesura-31-spl-saltire-society Enjoy some of Europe's most dynamic and pioneering sound poets, coming together for one night to present their innovative musique concrete, from Paris, Barcelona and Vienna. Featuring Eduard Escoffet (Barcelona), Martin Bakero (Paris) Jorg Piringer (Vienna) & curated by Graeme Smith (Edinburgh) as part of the Caesura series. 

The Sutton gallery on 20th century art:
6pm - Free entry http://www.thesuttongallery.com Join us for performance art from Esther Strauss (Vienna), readings from Tomasz Mielcarek (Poland), Robert Herbert McClean (Belfast), and the launch of Colin Herd & SJ Fowler's collaborative book Oberwildling: on the life of Oskar Kokoscka, published by the Austrian Cultural Forum all in the environs of one of Edinburgh's most beautiful galleries.

The Fruitmarket Gallery on Possibilities of the Object:
6pm - Free entry http://www.cityofliterature.com/event/european-literature-night-fruitmarket-gallery/ 
At one of Edinburgh's cultural hubs, The Fruitmarket Gallery, hear readings from Valgerður Þórodds (Reykjavik), Max Hofler (Graz), nick-e melville (Edinburgh), Jean-François Krebs (Paris/Edinburgh) and Iain Morrison (Edinburgh), all responding to the exhibition on display. 

The Forest Café on Activism / Craftivism
6pm - Free entry http://www.cityofliterature.com/event/european-literature-night-the-forest-on-activism-craftivism/ At an Edinburgh staple, join Ryan Van Winkle and other Scottish poets, alongside Austrian Ann Cotten, for readings on the theme of activism. Featuring Thomas MacColl, Ed Smith, Rachel McCrum & Ryan Van Winkle (Edinburgh), Katy Hastie & Calum Rodger (Glasgow) & Ann Cotten (Berlin) 

European Literature Night is supported by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Scottish Poetry Library & many others.


Poetry at Little Sparta - May 15th 2015 

"Set in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, Little Sparta is Ian Hamilton Finlay’s greatest work of art. Imbued with a high idea content, the garden is created from the artistic fusion of poetic and sculptural elements with those of the natural landscape which is shaped and changed to become an inherent part of the concepts realised at Little Sparta.” http://www.littlesparta.org.uk 

The day following European Literature Night, we will be presenting this unique poetry event at Little Sparta. The performances will begin at 2.30pm and finish 4.30pm, taking the form of a series of short readings given as a tour of the gardens. This will be a unique mini-festival poetry celebration of one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Britain with an amazing array of contemporary European poets.

Readings & acoustic sound performances from Andres Andwandtner, Martin Bakero, Eduard Escoffet, Graeme Smith, Calum Rodger, Ryan Van Winkle, SJ Fowler, Colin Herd, Iain Morrison, Esther Strauss, Katy Hastie, Robert Herbert McClean, nick-e melville, Valgerður Þórodds & more.

Please note entrance to the garden is £10 and if you can't make your own way, you can join the poets on a pre-booked coach to the location by emailing me at steven@sjfowlerpoetry.com. The coach will meet at 1pm in Edinburgh city centre, at Waterloo place, and depart Little Sparta at 5pm. All are welcome. Thanks to the Little Sparta Trust, Calum Gardner & Graeme Smith.