Updated: Hubbub & Poetry School webpages

Finally I've filled up two sections of my site with all the relevant info that does them justice. My current and ongoing residency with the Hubbub at Wellcome Collection www.stevenjfowler.com/hubbub and the last few years teaching for the wonderful Poetry School www.stevenjfowler.com/poetryschool

Both include videos, blogs and general writings about my residential / pedagogical processes

The Poetry School: Maintenant - an international course & new website

I'm happy to say that in January 2015 I shall be once again teaching my Maintenant course for the Poetry School, this time as an International course. This means, as an interactive online course, it can be taken by anyone in the world and, I would hope, many from Europe as well as beyond. 

The course explores post-war & contemporary European avant-garde poetry, aiming to elucidate traditions that might be occluded in the UK, and explore how their innovations in writing can compliment people's poetry in the now. The onus is on how these great moments in modern poetry can enrich writing practise, rather than dense historical analysis. It’s a rare chance to excavate avant garde work in such a setting, please sign up below if interested.

http://www.poetryschool.com/courses-workshops/online/maintenant---an-international-poetry-course.php 

The course begins Monday 26th, in January 2015 and follows a bi-weekly format, with five movements covered over ten weeks, with poems and texts submitted by the participants every two weeks. The course is mediated through the Poetry School’s innovative social media platform Campus, allowing a remarkable accessibility to an assignment driven course, a credit to the innovative pedagogical approach of the school.

Week One:  – Oulipo

Georges Perec, Jacques Roubeau, Raymond Queneau up to Frederic Forte and British Oulippeans like Philip Terry. The constraints that emancipate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo

Week Two:  – Austrian postwar modernism

Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek. How to deal with the legacy of Fascism.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Handke

Week Three:  - Concrete poetry

Hansjörg Mayer, Bob Cobbing, The Vienna Group, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Marton Koppany up to Anatol Knotek. The visuality of the poem as its meaning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concrete_poetry

Week Four:  - CoBrA

Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky. Dutch, Danish, Belgian & beyond, poetry as art revolt & primitivism.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBRA_(avant-garde_movement)

Week Five:  - British Poetry Revival

Tom Raworth, Bill Griffiths, Maggie O’Sullivan & many many more. Those every British poet should know, our immense late 20th century Vanguard heritage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_poetry_revival -

I've also a new website www.stevenjfowler.com which can be navigated through a menu as well project pages, one of which is www.stevenjfowler.com/poetryschool which contains information on Maintenant: International as well as the first Maintenant course and the Vanguard course.

& here is the interview series that inspired the course http://www.stevenjfowler.com/maintenant all 97 editions so far.

Thanks for reading & happy festivus.

teaching Maintenant for the Poetry School in 2015 as an International course

I'm really delighted to say that in January 2015 I shall be once again teaching my Maintenant course for the Poetry School. This is exciting on two fronts:

The first is that this course, the first time round, was undoubtedly my most positive experience teaching, ever. I got very lucky with the group of people who came to share their thoughts, but also years of research, really from the start of my writing as a whole, as well as from the 98 issue deep interview series I ran here www.maintenant.co.uk, into contemporary European poetry came to bear. I knew more than I had thought I knew, and had a passion for much that I had forgotten. This in the ideas behind the movements more than anything - in teaching the course I came to realise so many of these brave, wondrous engagements with experimental literature on the continent since WWII had genuine and fully realised political, ideological and philosophical ideas driving them, and these were good ideas. Not at all pretentious or removed, so many of these movements were about responding to the horrors of the middle 20th century and could be gleaned for the unique problems, and opportunities of our time. So I realised more than I had that the European avant garde was wholly relevant to me, that I shared, often, its concerns, and so took much away in realisation of how and why my writing had become what it has. I think the 16 people who came every two weeks to speak with me at the Poetry school thought so too. So we engaged deeply with the potential of technology and writing, of political and social engagement, of collaboration and community. Their amazing energy and their desire to make these historical groups and movements new and real to them was palpable, and amongst other things, at one of my events celebrating Danish poetry, they did this:

The second reason in that this second go of Maintenant is an International course. This means it can be taken by anyone in the world and, I would hope, many from Europe as well as beyond. It's very exciting to be able to relate my ideas and my thoughts about these 5 great movements with people who have a wholly other perspective than my own. This accessibility is such an exciting prospect, and a credit to the innovative pedagogical approach of the poetry school and will undoubtedly produce a really interesting experience for me, as much as, I hope, those who take up the course. Moreover it means the course is assignment driven, i.e. writing driven, and this was always the hope, that the course would be a platform for others to create their own work, their own movements, or at least radical and personal ideas for themselves and their writing. Here is the syllabus:

Week One:  – Oulipo
Georges Perec, Jacques Roubeau, Raymond Queneau up to Frederic Forte and British Oulippeans like Philip Terry. The constraints that emancipate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo

Week Two:  – Austrian postwar modernism
Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek. How to deal with the legacy of Fascism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Handke

Week Three:  - Concrete poetry
Hansjörg Mayer, Bob Cobbing, The Vienna Group, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Marton Koppany up to Anatol Knotek. The visuality of the poem as its meaning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concrete_poetry

Week Four:  - CoBrA
Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky. Dutch, Danish, Belgian & beyond, poetry as art revolt & primitivism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBRA_(avant-garde_movement)

Week Five:  - British Poetry Revival
Tom Raworth, Bill Griffiths, Maggie O’Sullivan & many many more. Those every British poet should know, our immense late 20th century Vanguard heritage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_poetry_revival

You can also read an indepth interview with me about this course and other stuff here:
http://campus.poetryschool.com/maintenant-interview-s-j-fowler/

Zarez interview in Croatia with Marko Pogacar

MP: For the last couple of years you are very active in finding, elaborating and persuading new and original, or at least not very common and worn out methods of presenting poets and poetry. The effort seems to be rather efficient – a couple of projects with high public visibility had emerged out of that. Tell us a bit more...

SJF: A lot of factors led up to me doing this. The fact I didn't have a literary education as a child, and my rather late beginning to writing, and that I perhaps was able to see quite clearly, with fresh eyes, what was working and was not with contemporary presentations of literature was certainly the main one. So it seems natural to me to have poets explore collaboration with each and across the arts as a fundamental mode, to have them write to commission or responding to an idea, to make readings rapid and intensive, to borrow from performance art and so forth. I have also always emphasisedthat readings should be decidedly open and welcoming, that that effects the experience on the most originary level. So far, these ideas have received a lot of support.
 
MP: You have published six volumes of your own poetry in a rather short time as well. Again the texts and the performances tend to merge styles, strategies, arts and disciplines. The ‘good old’ paper-eye connection lost something of its strength within the everyday explosion of the spectacle? How much the general context determines our very ability to comprehend literature, especially poetry? Is it time for the new ‘aesthetic of the new’?
SJF: So much historical analytical repetition often obscures our view of questions like that. What I will say is that this moment is truly a new moment. The two enormous factors we must deal with is population increase across the globe, the explosion of human beings, doubling the planet's occupation at the same time as absolutely revolutionary technological changes. We live in a truly new moment and have to respond to that. Very idiosyncratically I have responded with a measure of speed.
 
MP: London’s poetry scene seems to be boiling at the moment – interesting names and venues seem to pop up non-stop. Anything binds them together, besides the fresh energy? Any dominants, recognizable generation characteristics? Does it, in the internet era, make sense to talk about the generation just age-wise?  
SJF: The great quality of London is its size. There are so many things happening at once, so many readings, so many new poets, that its very hard to feel a sense of hierarchy, which is traditional in literary circles. You can't be top dog, because there's always another group of poets, just a street down, who have never heard of you. So there are no dominants in London, just a nearly endless periphery. The great and good of the literary scene are not followed by the avant garde who aren't known by the spoken word etc..
 
MP: You’re poetry editor in 3AM magazine, you’ve followed poetry scenes all around Europe. Having a good insight, what can you recommend? Where do you find ‘the fresh blood’? What about Lyrikline? A couple of clicks away there is the world poetry treasure. How this kind of availability effects the production? Do we all start to write alike eventually?
SJF: I don't think there's any homogeneity happening at all, precisely the opposite. There are more writers and less readers, in perspective, than ever before. And I firmly welcome this, to tear down the hierarchical model of literature in favour of a more inclusive, democratic vision of writing as something that enriches the individual and cannot be generalised. Every nation has its depths, every nation its scenes and new writers and exciting moments. I've had the chance to travel a lot too, as well as research and all I can report is that though it is a huge part of my life, I have barely scratched the surface. As long as I know this, my head is in the right place.

Fjender

Without doubt one of the best events I've put on, the best of 2014 so far, Fjender at the Rich mix was an intense and across the board brilliant evening of contemporary European innovative poetry. I was continually blown away by the quality of the original work and the performances of the poets I'd asked to contribute and the atmosphere of the evening was really generous and open, as it always should be. It was an epic two hour, twenty poet + event. I was really gratified to show the visiting Danes, all of whom I've admired and whose work I have been trumpeting for years, the quality of the poetry scene in London. 
Cia Rinne & Chrissy Williams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JwIWWX5ezk
Peter Jaeger & Martin Glaz Serup https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osVyEpJ0jHI

It was really a joy to read with Morten too, though difficult at times to maintain the prosaic difficulties of organising and introducing such a complex array of events along with reading, but once the event was in full flow it really felt like everyone was in on it together, and it was easy to relax into it. 
And those dozen who've been kind enough to attend my Maintenant course at the poetry school gave a really beautiful reading of an immense collaborative, constraint heavy text, which just added to my feeling that the synthesis of organising / reading / writing / teaching can be fluid and organic if attended to openly. 

Maintenant #98 - Volodymyr Bilyk - poetry from the heart of the Maidan & a new Ukraine

At the heart of a new Ukraine, as poetically as politically, the work of Volodymyr Bilyk, and it’s worldwide repute, as is tied to the new possibilities of technology in the 21st century as it is the quality and innovation that defines it. Bilyk is the new face of a nation whose poetic history is as often entrenched as its political, and his groundbreaking visual, minimalist, conceptual, sound and artpoetry has been published across the globe, due in no small part to his willingness to embed himself within internet culture and its potentialities. Moreover, his immediacy as a poet, as evident in his poetics as in his colloquially eloquent, unpretentious mode and manner, reveals itself as the expression of an individual willing to commit utterly to the ideal of democratic freedom in his homeland. This interview is conducted during the unyielding protests, and the resultant government violence and oppression, wracking the Ukraine in late 2013 / early 2014, of which Volodymyr Bilyk, the 98th respondent of the Maintenant series, is a central and formidable part.
“Q - As we finish this interview, on February 19th 2014, Europe awakes to the news that yesterday was the bloodiest day in the battle for Ukraine’s democratic future, with 26 dead by latest news estimates. There is the sense now that these protests, lasting months already will not just fizzle out and be swept away, like so many others have in Western Europe and America over the last few years. What is the feeling in Kyiv towards this and the immediate future?
A - I can describe it as “We shall overcome!” and “No pasaran!”. It is “the end of something” and “It's the beginning of a new age”....
At the foot of the interview there are multiple links to Volodymyr’s work online, I recommend you check it out, including this, previously published on 3am magazine http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/volodymyr-bilyk & here is a link to one of Volodymyr’s recent statements on the Maidan protests http://blutkitt.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/volodymyr-bilyk-statement-collaborations.html
& here, published almost exactly 3 years ago, my Maintenant interview, number #53, with another powerful Ukrainian poet, offering his own voice of resistance to the current protests, Yuri Andrukhovych http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/maintenant-53-yuri-andrukhovych
I would recommend reading Yuri’s recent piece for the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/opinion/love-and-hatred-in-kiev.html?_r=0

An interview with the Poetry school for my upcoming course Maintenant

http://campus.poetryschool.com/maintenant-interview-s-j-fowler/ Text below taken from the beautiful Campus layout the Poetry School has set up, very generous interview on their part...
Has any other poet thrown himself into curating and collaboratively creating contemporary poetry with the same enthusiasm as S J Fowler?
Publishing five collections in three years is an achievement in itself, but there’s also something admirable about the way he draws other artists and poets into his creative orbit, whether that be by collaborating with them as part of his Enemies project, (which culminated in the Enemies book, published by Penned in the Margins), publishing them in 3:AM Magazine, or interviewing them for his Maintentant series, now almost at a hundred articles. Students on his spring term course, also called Maintenant!, will become part of his collaborative circle, writing poems inspired by key 20thcentury experimental poetry movements and performing them at an end of term reading. We asked Steven for advice on exploring experimental poetry and collaborating fruitfully…
Your course will be covering Oulipo, Austrian postwar modernism, concrete poetry, CoBrA and the British Poetry Revival. Can you explain how you came to be interested in these movements?
S J: I think because I came to poetry quite recently, only four years ago really, and very much fell into it, my reading habits, my influences, are not really formulated along formal lines. I wasn’t handed classical poetry as a child, didn’t listen to whatever was taught at school, didn’t grow up valuing a certain tradition or style or form, I have just read continuously, whatever I could where I could. For years I was completely isolated in my reading too, being led into it by philosophy, which I studied, and as such I was in a bubble, didn’t have the chance to develop any sense of prejudice against poetry in translation, or avant garde work, as somehow otherly. That’s perhaps why I read this kind of work alongside poetry that might be better known in this country in equal measure.
Moreover, each movement that I’m going to be covering in the course has its own special place in my own development as a poet. The Oulipo showed me how structural freedom can actually be more restricting than formal structures and concepts, because that freedom is mediated by very specific influences and tropes. Austrian postwar modernism is the example par excellence of avant garde writers writing for a purpose, and not as a self-indulgent stance against something, and that is to expose the ever present instincts of fascism in a nation that had tried to plaster over in immediate history and responsibility. Concrete poetry showed me that language is not mediated only by its content, but by its appearance, by the material it appears on – it has multiple dimensions, it is art as well as language. CoBrA really exemplifies the very best of what post-war European poetry aims to achieve – collectivity, collaboration, dynamic experimentation. And the British Poetry Revival, well this was a seismic discovery for me. An entire legion of incredible writers, writing about my country, writing works of genius, completely hidden from the mainstream reader.
In the course description it says that the techniques used by the poets you’ll be covering can, ‘compliment, rather than antagonise, more formal writing practice’. Could you expand on what you mean by that?
S J: I think there’s a territorial, self-defeating dualism that seems to permeate through people’s perception of the experimental, that it requires a philosophical or political praxis to be part of their writing. That it is against something, more than it is for something. This isn’t true, fundamentally. Experimentation is about finding the authentic way to express a very certain content. And that’s why a lot of formal poems fail in my opinion, because they are using the wrong form, because it is familiar or it is all the writer knows, to express their content. I hope to just humbly, gently, suggest that these movements show us new worlds of form and method toward content we might want to access and express.
You’re responsible for the Enemies collaboration project – will you be encouraging poets to collaborate on this course?
S J: Absolutely. It is wholly beneficial for any poet to engage in collaboration in my opinion, it allows one to step beyond one’s comfort zone, it forces the poet to be generous and generative and it mediates sociality beautifully, through the creative act. Plus you can blame failures on the other person! Best not to say this out loud of course. I hope the class will be defined by an atmosphere of communication, exchange and that the collaborations will be utterly organic, the genus being in the shared new ideas and discoveries which happen for everyone in the room.
In the Enemies book, was it a purposeful decision not to demark whose contribution is whose in many of the projects? What effect do you think this has?
S J: It was, and in the most instinctual way, this was primarily to commit to the work as a wholly new thing, a child of two poets, and not the spliced remnants of two individuals. So much of the poetry in Enemies, I really can’t remember whose line is whose. This is the most beautiful rediscovery, to have given so much to the style and brilliance of another writer that you and they are entwined in the work toward the same goal. I hope the effect of this is for readers to be taken by the content and not the authorial presence, which is often an obscuring force, a context we can rarely remove.
Why do you think collaborations succeed or fail? Do you have any tips for successful collaborating?
S J: It’s all about generosity as a mode, about perspective, and I think it goes right to the roots of one’s view on aesthetics, on poetry and its purpose, and one’s view of communication. If you see poetry as a reflection of your external experiences, internalised through the unique nexus of your millions of experiences and emotions and knowledge, then the act of collaboration is replacing the stimulus of your life with the specified stimulus of another human being, and their unique way of refracting the world. It becomes very easy to allow this to move you. If you see poetry as the effect of a muse like inspiration on your defined subjective soul or being, then you’ll probably want to protect that ‘inspiration’, and you won’t be so free to share, sacrifice and risk. Collaboration is all about generosity, it is an act of giving, a process of sacrifice.
When you collaborate with an artist, is it always a case of the images already existing and you responding to them, or have you worked in other ways?
S J: Every collaboration has been completely different. I’ve perhaps undertaken about 70 different collaborations to date, across every medium I could, and each time I try to get the collaborator to build the process with me, and to let them begin. I worry I can be a demonstrative person at times, overbearing, so I try to impose a deference upon myself when collaborating, and so far, it seems to be a good instinct. With visual images, photography and art as the like, often it does become tennis, but as often as not, it is my poems which generate their art, as well as their images generating my poetry.
I’ve always struggled to write poems that respond to visual images, do you have any advice for poets who want to respond to visual art in an original way?
S J: Being fidelitous to the grammar of visual images can’t be literal. One has to be familiar with the process of the artist or photographer, even if in the most material or shallow manner, and then, most importantly, what their intention is. Often the physical result does not achieve the intention for you, or for other viewers of the work. But if one then approaches that intention from your own poetic, your own abstract understanding, then a natural kinship will develop. I think so anyway. Museum of Debt, which is in Enemies, features portraits of museum workers by Alexander Kell, and Alex and I had both worked at that Museum, we didn’t even need to talk, we both created at the same time, with no dialogue, and the images and the poetry is imminently fused. It is about boredom, about the quiet desperation of a job that leads nowhere. The subject spoke, our intention was entwined.
Tell me more about the event that your students will have the opportunity to read at…
S J: It’s a very exciting programme. Three of the most innovative poets in Europe, Cia Rinne, Morten Sondergaard and Martin Glaz Serup will be visiting London for a week, for events with Rich Mix arts centre, in Brick Lane, and for an exhibition at the Hardy Tree gallery in Kings cross. The Danish agency for culture are supporting the venture, called Fjender, part of my Enemies project. They will be collaborating with myself and two other British based poets, and thanks to the Arts Council here I will be visiting Copenhagen to read our collaborations in Denmark too. The students will get to read on the big night in London, share some of their work with those poets and the public, if they want to.
Can you think of any good anthologies our students could buy to familiarise themselves with some of the poets you’ll cover? Or any good sources of information online, (aside from your wonderful Maintenant series of interviews)?
S J: Certainly, I can never speak highly enough of the Poets for the Millenium anthologies, by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. Get the first two volumes. Mind blowing, the scope and the width of the poets and the superlative editorship, this is what anthologies should be. Online, check out www.lyrikline.org. Quite formal poets, but a great resource for translated work across languages. Also Ubuweb, if you haven’t been on there, well that’s a good ten years of material for all of us.
If you think you could do with catching some of Steven’s contagious enthusiasm, you can book your place on Maintenant! online, or call 0207 582 1679.

Maintenant! a course for the Poetry School

I'm delighted to announce that in 2014 I will be teaching a course for the Poetry School http://www.poetryschool.com called Maintenant! exploring post-war & contemporary European avant-garde poetry.

It's a bi-weekly course, five lessons over ten weeks, aiming to elucidate traditions that might be occluded in the UK, and explore how their innovations in writing can compliment people's poetry in the now. The onus is on how these great moments in modern poetry can enrich writing practise, rather than dense historical analysis. It’s a rare chance to excavate avant garde work in such a setting, please sign up below if interested & in London.

The course will take place at the Poetry School London office, 79-83 Lambeth Walk. 2 hour lessons – 6.45pm to 8.45pm

Week One: January tuesday 28th – Oulipo
Georges Perec, Jacques Roubeau, Raymond Queneau up to Frederic Forte and British Oulippeans like Philip Terry. The constraints that emancipate.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo

Week Two: February tuesday 11th – Austrian postwar modernism
Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek. How to deal with the legacy of Fascism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Handke

Week Three: February tuesday 25th - Concrete poetry
Hansjörg Mayer, Bob Cobbing, The Vienna Group, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Marton Koppany up to Anatol Knotek. The visuality of the poem as its meaninghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concrete_poetry

Week Four: tuesday March 11th - CoBrA
Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky. Dutch, Danish, Belgian & beyond, poetry as art revolt & primitivism.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBRA_(avant-garde_movement)

Week Five: March tuesday 25th - British Poetry Revival
Tom Raworth, Bill Griffiths, Maggie O’Sullivan & many many more. Those every British poet should know, our immense late 20th century Vanguard heritage.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_poetry_revival

& near the end of the course, on March 15th 2014, at the Rich Mix arts centre, the students will get a chance to read some of the work they've produced during Enemies: Fjender, which explores contemporary Danish avant garde poetry in collaboration, with Cia Rinne, Martin Glaz Serup and Morten Sondergaard, who will also be exhibiting his remarkable Wordpharmacy http://www.wordpharmacy.com

You can download the entire Poetry School London programme here: http://www.poetryschool.com/resources/ps-brochurespring14-printerfriendly-3.pdf

& here is the interview series that inspired the course http://www.maintenant.co.uk/ all 97 editions so far.

Emigrating Landscapes - an interview with Marek Kazmierski of Offpress

http://emigratinglandscapes.org/2013/06/12/emigrating-landscapes-interview-steven-fowler/
eMigrating Landscapes Interview / SJ Fowler
eML / Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to poetry, your cultural background (are you English English, and is it as simple as that?) and how you see the trajectory of your literary journey shaping up?
 
SF/ I came to poetry in my mid twenties, less than five years ago. So … an immensely truncated version … I grew up in south west England, really all I was interested in was martial arts and wrestling. I travelled widely in the year after school learning martial arts, was a doorman too – quite a violent lifestyle. Then I went to university and barely studied, just scraped through. I fought professionally during that time and that was my life. I was in a pretty bad car crash and that lost a lot of money and time, and after having to do some heartless jobs to make things meet I went travelling again. That was a long, lonely trip and I happened, by pure chance, to take with me some books I bought in a charity shop while waiting for a train, Penguin’s modern European poets Gunnar Ekelof and Tadeusz Rozewicz. It changed my life, I had nothing else to do but read them, over and over. My beginnings in poetry were always translated! More than that I was immediately drawn to the avant garde through my studies in Philosophy, I returned to undertake my masters in London. My work immediately started to look beyond the UK, and this wasn’t even really a dualistic notion, England / Abroad, because I don’t really enjoy England beyond London and I don’t know what it is really, and London is not ‘England’. This is a global city of global poets. Oh, and I have Swedish and Welsh ancestry as well as English, but I am 100% monolingual, sadly.
 
The Maintenant Project – it’s success is so richly satisfying, if you hadn’t invented and driven it forward, the poetic landscape around us right now would be much the poorer. How did it come about and has it turned out as you expected?
 
When I starting out I got to read in different countries quite early and it really just made me realise how much work that was contemporary was being occluded in the UK because it was contemporary, and how much people proffered work from beyond their language only when it had reached the unfortunate respectability of middle age. It stunned me in fact, that so much incredible work was unavailable. Moreover, I learned so much about the possibilities of community from these experiences outside of London, it informed so much of what I wanted to achieve with the readings. So I began the interviews to really represent what I thought was grossly under appreciated – contemporary European work and an understanding of just how radical and wide ranging and exciting poetry has become in the new millennium. I actually put on the first reading to impress a girl, who was from the country of the poets (it worked, in the end) but while I was a little unwilling at first, the process became so informative to my own work and practice it was actually hard to stop. I never really saw the series as featuring 100 poets and interviews and so many events as we’ve done. I try to resist my natural urge to formalise and systemise such things, I’ve just gone with the flow and having met so many deeply interesting and generous poets and people the project blossomed.
 
What is your relationship with the English language? How has working with so many different tongues and translation projects affected your own practice?
 
It is the only language I possess in any real or cogent manner. Hard not to sound flippant in print, as it were, but I deliberately under-conceptualise ideas about my relationship to the language. I realised early on that until the moment comes that I possess another language I am blind to all meaning outside of English and this is something that can produce great value if embraced, rather than resisted. There is something to be said for revelling in a certain kind of ignorance. I smash English, I break syntax, meaning, sentence structure – I write in every different way my subject requires me to write in – I work with sound poetry, attacking the roots of meaning, I work with concrete poetry, making the visuality of letters the meaning of the poem. This gift to not be precious, to not fetishise, or romanticise, my own tongue has undoubtedly been influenced by the plethora of languages I’ve worked with in Maintenant, the volume of poets and translators and how English is all their unifying speech.
 
How do you perceive the world of poetry being affected by the vehicle that is the internet? Is it all a rosy picture when it comes to self-expression and communication between individuals and cultures?
 
I think the fundamental news is good, but purely in the realm of access and communication. The world of 30 years ago is truly unrecognisable because of the internet, and its possibilities. It has firmly made history historical when it comes to the reasons, influences, ideas and culture of poets. The thing about the internet, it’s inherent character, is that it is so immense and ever growing that all one can do when commenting on its potentiality and effect is to make weak assertions. The internet is a space of community and many are hermetically sealed by its members – it is also a place of change, and what those changes will bring to our writing and our world I don’t know.
 
Do you think poetry is changing in response to current developments within society? Is it becoming part of what is being termed “the Third Culture” and as a result more relevant or engaged or any other term you might choose to define arts which are getting to grips with their own alienation from mainstream reality, hence becoming more connected with events outside of the cultural milieu? 
 
I do, absolutely, but that supposes I know how poetry was, before I was around, or that I can possibility understand it now. With the brackets on, I think poetry has not moved anywhere, the mainstream has moved. In a very short space of time, fifty years here, less elsewhere – the dominant taste of culture has shifted to a democratised model. The majority of people make up the majority of taste. Their taste is not for poetry, not for something that should be complex, as life is complex, that will not offer ease, that will not turn away from expiry, confusion and so on. Poetry is not an escape downwards, into the cellar. It allows you up, onto the roof, but you have to fucking climb to get up there. People don’t want to do that, and that’s completely fine by me. The people who like poetry now, generally speaking, are the same in relative number and education and character (both good and bad of course) who did one hundred years ago, it’s only since then the rest of society has been allowed to have their say. So poetry is not alienated, to me. It is an utterly personal pursuit, wholly about the individual and their attempts to understand, when reading, or express, when writing, the infinite ambiguous complexity of their thousands / millions of experiences, sensations, emotions that make up their life and their being. This is a completely secular and profound engagement with our possibility, and it is for us, alone, to mulch through life with poetry. When we share ideas or meet to read, well then it’s about people first, people who share an interest, but it ends there. And so poetry, again just for me, has its limits and expansiveness built within it, and questions of its place within or without culture are arbitrary, I don’t care about them at all, because I’m happy alone with my books, humbled by their immensity.
 
 
Interviewed by Marek Kazmierski

maintenant #97 – tadeusz różewicz

A poet who changed the face of twentieth century poetry, Tadeusz Różewicz is a giant of Polish literature and undoubtedly one of the most important poets the country has ever produced. Still writing in his 91st year, his lifetime engagement with groundbreaking poetry, fiction and plays has spanned, and often encapsulated, the seismic tumult of the past century in his home nation. His poetic is the rarest of things, an anti-art that resides still within the realm of the explicable, and the ethical, striding between the utterly personal and the political – often brutal in its beauty and intensity, it is an aesthetic that is wholly his own, unique and unwavering. His first poems were published in 1938, before he served in the Polish underground home army in WWII. His brother, Janusz, also a poet, was executed by the Gestapo. This desolate chapter in our collective European history produced few artists and writers able to even begin to make sense of such destruction, but the eruption of poetry and dramaturgy that followed the war experiences of Tadeusz Różewicz has set him aside as one of the most respected innovators and stylists in modern European history. In the decades since the war he has continued to produce extraordinary literature, winning the Nike prize, the Griffin prize and the European literature prize, and now, on the eve of a brand new translation, into English, of his work ‘Mother Departs‘ by Stork Press, we are proud to elevate the Maintenant series with the inclusion of Tadeusz Różewicz, our 97th poet.


Far and away this is the edition of Maintenant I am most proud of, Różewicz's work being so fundamental in the beginnings of my own. I want to thank and acknowledge the tireless work of Joanna Zgadzaj for making this interview possible, and draw attention to the extraordinary celebration of Różewicz's work and life that happened last Saturday evening at the Southbank centre, as part of their literature festival, and for the launch of the brand new translation mentioned above. Here is a podcast the Polish institute produced about the event I was so sad to miss, being in Norwich, finishing off the EVP tour 

Maintenant #96 - George Szirtes


Conventional wisdom would suggest when a poet leaves their country of birth at a young age, for a new nation, they might bring to bear both traditions upon their writing. Perhaps it is possible, though arguably reductive, that the poet in question would be of neither nation truly - forever an immigrant in one and a stranger to another. What seems assured though, is that this sense of displacement, ambiguity of tradition and identity, this fundamental plurality of language and culture, would seem to find its proper place in the intangibility at the heart of a forceful and considered poetic, where such equivocality is not only welcome but perhaps necessary. At the core of the last century's European poetry tradition lies the notion of trace, of multiplicity, invention, migration and these are the defining characteristics of George Szirtes' oeuvre. His body of work, 40 years in the making and prolific in that time, has carried across forms, mediums, language and tones. It is the poetry of a singular individual extolling individualism, a poet whose responsibilities towards generosity and openness of spirit seem gracefully self-imposed across writing, translating, teaching, editing and anthologising. Moreover, it is the not the work of a man trapped between nations and histories, but one who has been emancipated by a lifetime's fidelity to poetry, never bound by a national dualism, despite the complications of being explicitly Hungarian and implicitly English. Author of over 20 collections, winner of numerous prizes including the TS Eliot, the Cholmondeley, the Gold star of the Hungarian republic and the best translated book award, George Szirtes is an immense poet and undoubtedly the greatest translator of Hungarian into English of the last century, if ever. In an wide ranging and generous interview, we present the 96th edition of Maintenant.


Alongside the interview, 3 new poems by George have been published, including one that forms part of his Camarade project commissioned collaboration with Carol Watts