Writers' Centre Kingston : blog #2 - Sampson Low Poetry Publication series

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I would say of all the initiatives I've lined up for my new role at Writers' Centre Kingston, this one, a series of new limited edition poetry pamphlets for current students or recent alumni of Kingston Uni, is the one I'm most excited about. It gives me the chance to work closely with some remarkably mature, original and exciting poets and its the first series I've edited like this, only seven years into my own writing. Molly, Zakia and Dacy have all made my time at kingston in the last few years more engrossing because of the constant surprises and reassurances their work has provided.  https://www.writerscentrekingston.com/sampsonlow

The link has the place to buy the booklets, and anything that supports Alban Low's work at Sampson Low is worthwhile. His professionalism and attention to detail is remarkable too. Here's my statement accompanying the series

“Kingston University brings together students from all over the world, from as wide a range of backgrounds and cultures as can be found in the UK. It creates a community that cross pollinates influences and ideas, and this is inevitably reflected in the work the students create. The university does not get enough credit for this – it is, I have seen, a vibrant, harmonious environment where originality and difference can be transformed into exciting and innovative expression. The students are hungry for that which is innovative, that which allows them to express the true size and complexity of their experience and their community at the university. This series of poetry pamphlets reflects that. The work is utterly contemporary, it is exciting and energetic. It is, I hope, the best kind of representation of what Kingston University stands for – intelligent, unique and various in its character.”  
Series editor, SJ Fowler

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A note on: Swedenborg Hall : April 11th : London launch of new poetry collection

Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury - April Tuesday 11th 7.30pm : Free Entry
www.shearsman.com/shearsman-reading-events 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

I'm happy to announce my new poetry collection will be launched in London at the home of the Emanuel Swedenborg Society, in Bloomsbury.  Part of the longstanding Shearsman Books reading series, The Guide to Being Bear Aware will be launched with a new performance relating to both book and place.

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

Also launching a new book on the night will be John Hall, who has been publishing extraordinary work for over fifty years in the UK and is a significant influence on myself and many of my generation. So come and see one real poet and I. 

Published: a collaboration with John Hall in the Clearing

A lovely legacy of the South West Poetry Tour this past summer the excellent Clearing magazine are putting out a series of the new works the tour instigated. My contribution is my work with the brilliant John Hall. An honour to be alongside him in e-print. The work is entitled The 7th Poet.

 https://www.littletoller.co.uk/the-clearing/uncategorized/south-west-poetry-tour-3-sj-fowler-john-hall/

A note on: South West Poetry Tour - St Ives, Falmouth, Dartington

For latest blogs on the tour visit www.stevenjfowler.com/southwest 

A collaborative poetry tour of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset spread over a week in August 2016. A project I co-curated with Camilla Nelson, bringing over 70 poets together over 5 nights, the first Enemies project style tour I've done in England, writing new works every night with core poets JR CarpenterJohn HallMatti SpenceAnnabel Banks and Camilla herself.  It was a memorable week, a return to old places and friends, and the beginning of new ventures. For much more information and documentation visithttp://www.theenemiesproject.com/southwest

St Ives - August 1st 2016

I was born in Cornwall, in Truro, and I grew up as a small child in Newquay. This was the first reading I'd ever given in the county and the first time I had been back since I was a teenager. St Ives, famous for its artistic community, welcomed us with torrential rain. Annabel Banks drove me from London, picking up other poets on the way, for a rare and joyful road trip south. We arrived at night, nearly ten hours on the road, and accommodation famously being at a premium in one of the UK's summer tourism hotspots, I jumped out of the car in a dark lane to enter a property called the hobbit hole, which was a shed with a bed in a garden. Actually quite fun to live, briefly, like a hobbit.

The reading itself was held at the Barbara Hepworth museum, and supported by Tate St Ives. I was told afterwards that we were in the very room in which Barbara Hepworth died of smoke inhalation. Surrounded by her sculptures, it was an unforgettable space to read within. I met many poets for the first time, some after long correspondence, met the core touring poets as a group for the first time, and had the great pleasure to read with John Hall. His work has been influential on my own ever since I began to trace the line of my own interests back through British poetry to the 60s and before. He published his first book in 1968, and his rare poise, presence and judgement as a poet and a person was great to share, if briefly, as we read our piece in such a special room. I tried simply to follow his rhythm, his play with silence and pause and I felt very comfortable in that space, almost not like a reading for me, closer to a performance of reading.

St Ives provided a fascinating beginning to the tour, quite intense in a strange way - the weather, the tourists, sleeping in a shed, bombarded with new faces and hearing new poetry and being responsible for that. Already a sense that things are moving quickly, picking up steam, switching modes to performance and travel, and to start this near the very foot of the country, to work north, as feels natural to me.

Falmouth - August 2nd 2016

A journey across Cornwall, weather lightening, energy rising, travelling with Camilla, a remarkable poet and immensely organised and responsible as a co-curator. Luxurious accommodation too, with a landlady who even came to the reading and insisted on baking me vegan cookies. We were housed at The Poly for the event, with young, helpful, accommodating staff. And I got to work with Matti Spence, a fascinating and generous man, a fine poet. I first met him after he returned to London from some years away in Australia and after he had studied a UEA. Completely assured and singular, while being essentially warm hearted, Matti is a peer to learn from. We wrote a poem I was very happy with and decided then to turn it performatively, breaking the fourth wall, and using the assumed context of the reading against the audience, in a light-hearted way. A lovely touch for me was that my old friend and collaborator Thomas Duggan attended, his studio being deep in the Cornish countryside, and I hugged him mid reading. Everyone seemed lifted by the event, the format of collaboration once again creating ties and bonding people from different scenes and styles. 

Dartington - August 3rd 2016

Back into Devon, driving up with Camilla and Matti, skirting Dartmoor, crossing the Tamar, heading to Schumacher College, near where I grew up as a teenager in Exeter. Another strange return, but realising on the tour that it isn't a return when the company and purpose is utterly new. And in Dartington it felt the most fresh, like I had not been to this part of England before. This is perhaps because Schumacher College is so unique, set apart in the countryside, an ecosystem unto itself. Staying in dorms too, cells, made the experience feel really embedded and somehow enclosed. This was a remarkable evening of poetry too, a full house again, with some brilliant collaborations highlighting an evening that felt complete, energised, memorable. It was inevitable the lineage of Dartington College of Arts would cast a spell on the reading, and so many in the room had ties to that institution (more here on that), and multi-disciplinary practise and performance art was a key feature of the collaborations. 

Collaborating with JR Carpenter was a blast. We took a text she had generated with her computer, basically three simple phrases and then, introducing ourselves with a little bit of water pouring, on theme, used repetition to build an improvisational structure. I love this kind of work, completely open, free and high pressured. It requires time and expertise to do well, and can be a dud on the wrong night. This wasn't, it flowed, as we leaned into each other, swaying slightly, the clear purpose of the work was well expressed, well received and seemed all the more satisfying to me because in a way, it was a small work, miniature and light. It represented the moment, it was of the space, and very much a product of the tour.

We finished the evening in the White Hart, where Dartington College of Art, before it's merger with Falmouth University in 2010, held many events, many long nights. I sat with John Hall, who taught at the institution for 34 years, and he told me of the poets who had read in the room and the history of the place. It felt a very special privilege to hear that from him and to imagine our event as a small, brief, resurgence of that tradition in the area.

A note on: Globe Road Festival Walking Tour - November 15th 2015

A really open, generous, honest and fascinating morning, walking the length of Globe road in East London, from Mile End Road to Bethnal Green. I was so pleased to be leading the walking tour for the Globe Road Festival with Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener, Adam Bohman as the commissioned artists, each presenting extraordinary and varied works, from Adam's hand written scores of found language, to Gareth's lyrical poem, to Elaine's heartfelt conceptual poem, read just a stone's throw from her childhood home. The many people in tow, kindly sharing their morning with us, followed on into York Hall, for a small reading kindly arranged by Jonathan Mann, where Richard Scott and Stephen Watts also read. You can find out all the details and watch all the performances here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad 

"A unique live walking tour performance experience, as part of the Globe Road Festival, the Enemies project presents a stroll down Globe Road itself, in the company of poets, sound artists and vanguardists. Stopping four times, at designated places on Globe Road, the artists will present a talk or performance completely original to the walk, in response to Globe Road. With their own lives entwined to the history and culture of this stretch of East London, this will be an original outdoor insight into the most interesting and often underground avant garde artists of contemporary London."

A note on: The EVP Sessions & The Black Dinner performance - November 14th 2015

The original EVP tour was a major turning point in my work with performance, being able to tour the UK with really wonderful artists like Hannah Silva and Ross Sutherland, and with the support of Nathan Jones and Tom Chivers (www.stevenjfowler.com/evp) When the opportunity to do a one off commission for the same project, at Shoreditch Town Hall, I had a clear thought to what I might do, melding both my original work for the project with a tradition I've had for three years now, being painted as a skeleton on or around the Mexican Day of the Dead. I first did so in Mexico City and try to do so every year in homage to my friends in Mexico, and because much of my work is about the symbology of death.

For this performance I was really lucky to have the amazingly generous artist and make up artist Amalie Russell paint my face professionally. I had then spent a few days covering a whole banquet of food in black paint and lacquer, and my performance, a fluxus meal of sorts, was to set the table and invite diners to join me. I waited outside the fire exit of the venue on a typically vapid Shoreditch saturday night and felt it appropriate to wait in the rain. The performance was accompanied by a track made in collaboration with the remarkable musician Alexander Kell, who did an incredible job mixing my reading of Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, one of the authors I had discovered in Mexico.

"Electronic Voice Phenomena returns with a series of electrifying live sessions featuring the very best in hauntology, spoken word, glitch noise and performance. The EVP Sessions takes its inspiration from Konstantin Raudive’s notorious Breakthrough experiments of the 1970s, in which he divined voices-from-beyond in electronic noise. Enter the labyrinthine basement of Shoreditch Town Hall and experience a “mind-boggling”, “perplexingly good” avant-garde cabaret of human, ghostly and machine voices. http://www.electronicvoicephenomena.net/index.php/shoreditch-town-hall-london/"

Upcoming: November 2015 - Events, Performances & Projects

My 'A Language Art' course runs on Monday nights throughout November with sesssions exploring the intersections of avant-garde poetry and modern art in the galleries of Tate Modern and in the Tate stores.

November Wednesday 4th - Pugilistica at Apiary Studios
A chance for me to launch my book Fights, in it's 2nd edition from Veer Books, alongside some amazing journalists, novelists, poets and art historians, all exploring the literature of boxing. www.theenemiesproject.com/pugilistica

November Thursday 5th - Mondo: global avant-garde poetry at Poetry School
A new course at the Poetry School, this time exploring avant-garde movements from Japan, Nigeria, Canada, Brazil and Syria / Iraq. Still a place or two left! Book here

November Friday 6th - Symposium: Pulling Together/Pulling Apart: Forces in Creative Collaboration, OVADA, Oxford
Thanks to artists Brook and Black, I'll have the chance to discuss collaboration at OVADA, alongside Tamarin Norwood and others http://www.ovada.org.uk/arkitektoniske-kramper/

November Saturday 7th - Nemici: an Italian Enemies project at the Rich Mix
A really ambitious Enemies project I'm curating with ten Italian artists and poets visiting London, each writing new collaborations with British poets. I'll be presenting a new work with Alessandro Burbank. Should be special www.theenemiesproject.com/nemici

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

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

November Sunday 15th - Globe Road walking tour for the Globe Road Festival
Happy to be leading a Sunday morning stroll up Globe Road in the company of Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener and the Bohman brothers www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad

November Wednesday 18th - Soundings III with Maja Jantar at St Johns on Bethnal Green
So excited to collaborate with the incredible Maja Jantar for a new performance as part of the Soundings project with Hubbub at Wellcome Collection responding to prompts from the Wellcome Library. St Johns on Bethnal Green is an amazing venue too. www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

November Friday 20th - The European Camarade at Freeword Centre
A mini festival of European poetry in collaboration, so pleased to have the chance to curate this night and present a new collaboration with Endre Ruset. Some of these poets are doing the most exciting work in their nations, not to be missed www.theenemiesproject.com/europeancamarade

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performing with Townley & Bradby & co at The Minories, Colchester - April 11th 2015

Wonderful to be involved in a staged reading of a family dinner time refracted through an avant garde music score, for the closing date of the Townley and Bradby exhibition at The Minories in Colchester on April 11th. I'll be alongside great artists I've never worked with before too, Vicki Weitz, Rebecca Hall, Isabella Martin and Jamie Wilkes (who I have worked with a lot, and who is responsible for me getting to meet such brilliant artists).

We rehearsed together recently (pic above, check out my green socks), and it was a wonderful experience, a really cohesive, warm spirited and generous exploration of sound, voice and collaboration, all the mode of the artists trying to mediate expression through their direct experience, that is family life and the ebullience of kiddies around the dinner table. It should be great, please come along on April 11th at 2pm http://www.colchester.ac.uk/art/minories/exhibitions/townley-and-bradby-everything-all-once-all-time & you can read more about Townley & Bradby here http://www.axisweb.org/p/townleyandbradby/

Pictures from EVP in Liverpool

Pictures from EVP in Liverpool. The same site also published a review of the show, which was rightly glowing about Hannah Silva and Honor Favin, and included this snippet "The evening was compered by London-based poet SJ Fowler (main image), who through a series of vignettes attempted to channel a retching spiritualist's progressive decline into suicidal despair. While amusing, and Fowler has obvious talent and performance skills, it was impossible to banish images of Derek Acorah from my mind (albeit during his little documented laudanum phase), and although thematically relevant, we found it hard to understand how the piece contributed to the promised exploration." An amazing link, Acorah is the kind of underground avantgarde television personality whose authenticity I often have felt I am aping on this tour.
http://www.peterguy.merseyblogs.co.uk/2013/05/electronic-voice-phenomena-fea.html