One of the things about curating an event is that you are fundamentally responsible for where it takes place. So when you arrive at a venue and it's locked and dark and down an alleyway next to the Thames off Kingston's market square, and it remains so for an hour, right up until people start arriving, you are aware that it might irk those who have made the effort to come out on a thursday night. That being said, as the event was a Poem Brut performance, it did seem to some that it was a deliberate act on my part, a conceptual investigation of what a literary event is. Some thought I planned it so performances would happen in the dark, in the cold, by the river. They were thrown when I walked the entire audience across the town like a grumpy pied piper to a new venue I had rustled up on the spot. To the endless credit of the audience, it seemed to do something positive to the proceedings, bonding people, creating a peripatetic unity. The performances that followed were brilliant, five new works in the poem brut style - challenging and inventing upon the possibilities of literature made live. Ink spitting, dog translations, mannequin pinning and canvas shredding. The poem brut events I have been running have restored my excitement for curating events, which I perhaps do too often, and it was grand to bring this energy to Kingston Uni for the Writers' Centre and the students. I'll do it again for the next year of events, as I realised, as the night unfolded in a rather clinical lecture theatre, that Iris Colomb gobbing ink onto a page and then reading it was perhaps the exact antidote to the lectures that had left there trace in the room. All the videos www.writerscentrekingston.com/poembrut
A final event in the Fiender project, a Swedish collaborative enterprise that Harry Man and I put together, 12 poets presented new collaborations in Malmo, one of the most interesting cities in Sweden. The event was really thanks to Kristian Carlsson, whom I had met in Georgia in 2016, a remarkable activist and publisher living in the city, he was our key co curator.
We took over the Poet on the Corner shopfront venue for one night and poets from Mexico, Iran, Uruguay, American, England and Sweden trod the boards, a signifier of Malmo’s international character. It was an intimate, gentle, often quiet, even timid, Camarade, but as ever, meeting the poets and discovering new spaces, especially alongside old friends like Harry and JT Welsch, was rewarding. My collaboration with Iranian poet Naeimeh Doostdar was a literary work, quite careful, but opening into some interesting textual spaces at times. We always seemed at a remove from each other, no matter what I tried to do to allow her the space to define the context and content it always seemed gentle, generous but not really collaborative. A rare thing for me nowadays, and a lot to take from it, certain barriers can’t be crossed quickly, these things are miniature friendships and that takes time. So Naeimeh and I got on well, but it was merely a beginning.
Malmo is an interesting place but it didn’t reveal itself immediately, felt metaphorically connected to the limitations of the event and my collaboration. It appeared obvious or residential on its surface, but clearly promised a great deal. This is attractive in a sense, enticing if not immediately gratifying. Certainly finishing another rare visit to Sweden, where I have blood ties and a quarter of me is actually from, sat around a dinner table with friends old and new, is something to prize.
Ledbury Poetry festival is an internationally renowned fest, one entering its 21st year in fact, and for my first time attending I was happy to perform and organise a small Camarade with poets local to the festival or tied to it in some fashion. Set in the beautiful Malvern hills its very much a festival aligned with the more formal in British poetry than myself and the Enemies project, but as I’ve repeated a lot -my tastes and work is what it is for my own ends but that can only exist within the range and width and panoply of traditions, and it’d be hypocritical to not seek out difference in poetry, to not always be open to generous invitations, and be ready to listen and learn and discover what people are writing. I found the festival to be utterly welcoming, hospitable and full of interesting work. Myself and 11 other poets in the Camarade were treated so well, we had a lovely audience in the Market Theatre, a great space and in fact were asked to be the very last, 87th, event of this 10 day incarnation of the festival. My work with Harry Man, one of my closest friends in poetry, went down well and though my visit was brief, it was a really positive experience.
Fiender: Swedish Enemies in London - Rich Mix : Saturday January 28th 2017
Free entry 7.30pm - 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA
Brand new collaborations of poetry and text for one night only, written by pairs of poets commissioned for this unique literary event. Visiting Swedish poets will present new works of avant-garde and literary poetry with their British counterparts alongside other 'Camarade' pairs especially for the evening.
Featuring: Aase Berg & SJ Fowler - Harry Man & Jonas Gren - Elis Burrau & Holly Corfield Carr - Kathryn Maris & Patrick Mackie - Fabian Peake & Jeff Hilson - Nick Murray & Joe Turrent - Prudence Chamberlain & Eley Williams - Hannah Lowe & Richard Scott - Annie Katchinska & Mark Waldron & more
Fiender: Swedish Enemies is multifaceted transnational collaborative poetry project engaging poets from both Sweden and the UK. Taking place in both nations across 2016 and 2017, Fiender is an ambitious, exploratory engagement with contemporary poets across Europe.
Curated by Harry Man and SJ Fowler, with curatorial assistance from Emanuel Holm and Madeleine Grive. Supported by Arts Council Sweden. www.theenemiesproject.com
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.
Visit www.theenemiesproject.com/fiender for more specific info
"With this year’s Jubilee Festival we wish to draw attention – with gravity, sensitivity and intellect – to poetry in its many shapes as a living and constantly changing art form through which we peer inwards into the human mind and outwards unto the incredible Universe. Our aim has been to present a succinct but also light programme, where each individual reading and performance gets the focus it deserves whether it is poetry, music, dance or talks. Come along with us inside the theatre house and move freely between programme points, the beautiful theatre foyer, the bar and the restaurant!
.... We have invited poets from South Korea, Colombia, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Great Britain. We present the result of a workshop that is running during the festival – the unique performance Fiender (Enemies), with three British and three Swedish authors. AKT UNG! – the scene for young, Swedish poetry – has its fifth anniversary and will show how very lively the young poetry is. We present poets that have been with us from the start, but also many new voices, who will take poetry into the future. Welcome to enjoy three days of literary art! = Madeleine Grive, Artistic Director and Editor-In-Chief"
Programme - Tuesday 22 November - 9 pm
Poetry Performance: Fiender (Enemies)
Six innovative poets from Great Britain and Sweden have collaboratively written poems that are performed in pairs in a unified performance: Aase Berg (SWE) and Steven J Fowler (UK), Jonas Gren (SWE) and Harry Man (UK), Elis Burrau (SWE) and Holly Corfield Carr (UK).
An eclectic and frequently glorious tour of Western Norway in the late summer of 2017 saw me fortunate to travel with friends and poets Endre Ruset, who was responsible for the venture, and Harry Man. After flying to Bergen and reading in the cities Bibliotek, thanks to the brilliant poet Erland Nødtvedt, I read at the Bjørnson festival in Molde, celebrating the work of Arne Ruset. A chance to further my relationship with contemporary Norwegian poetry, which began in 2010, and more than that, share some extraordinary fjords, mountains, seas and times with great folk.
Bergen is famed for its rainfall, but we were fortunate, flying in from London, to have a day to acclimatise in beautiful sunshine, and I was able to roam all over the city, across the university campus, the old docks and up into the hills around the harbour. The first time I had spent time in Bergen since 2002, when I lived in Oslo for many months for a very different reason than poetry. Endre travelled to meet Harry and I from that city, overnight, after a translation deadline encroached on his always intense schedule. That made all three of us pretty much sleepless, which was a theme for the trip, and added the often creative, underwater quality to the journey. We then linked up with local poet Kristian Heggernes, a really fine poet, and prepared our reading, which would see us present new collaborations in revolving pairs, in a sort of miniaturised Enemies project. The Bergen library is so beautiful, and we were so well treated, spirited out of the rain after a guided tour of the city, that the experience felt more personal, more intimate than a normal reading....
Read the full travelogue here http://www.stevenjfowler.com/norway
Very pleased to be in this journal based in India, in a special issue edited by Harry Man. My poems http://www.theenchantingverses.org/sj-fowler.html
and the full issue http://www.theenchantingverses.org/issue-xxiii-august-2016.html featuring
ob Beagrie, Ana Brnardić, Les Wicks, Cia Rinne, Eley Williams, Ella Chappell, Hannah Lowe, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Jon Stone, Holly Corfield Carr, Julia Rose Lewis, Abigail Parry, Matt Bryden, Selina Nwulu, Stephan Delbos, Sarah Hesketh, Rishi Dastidar, Simon Pomery and Sanjeev Sethi
So happy to have been commissioned by the amazing pioneering Forumstadtpark in Austria, curated by the equally groundbreaking Max Hofler, to produce a videotext work, part of their Glory Hole series. This series has been going for years and involves a video with text projected against the side of the Forumstadtpark itself, blown up like a bat signal, in the middle of a huge, beautiful park in the middle of the city. Loads of people see it, and for my work, which runs throughout April, this is true as its being screened while a film festival goes on. Really i had fun making it too, they promote my kind of work. You can see all the glory hole commissions here : https://vimeo.com/forumstadtparkgraz, some great ones, and my edition, the 31st, below
Kakania in London – March 31st 2016: 7pm at Austrian Cultural Forum, London www.theenemiesproject.com/kakania2016
The Event: 7pm – Free Entry / The Symposium: 2pm – Free Entry / 28 Rutland Gate, London SW7 1PQ www.acflondon.org
The Kakania project returns to the Austrian Cultural Forum for a night of brand new performances, each from a contemporary artist or writer responding to a figure of Habsburg Era Vienna. The great, groundbreaking personas of 100 years past are made new by some of the most dynamic and innovative performers and thinkers of our day, without nostalgia, but with faithful invention and intensity. Visit www.kakania.co.uk for more information on the project.
Featuring Harry Man on Erwin Schrodinger ~ Daniela Cascella on Hugo von Hofmannstahl ~ Steve Beresford on Arnold Schoenberg ~ Thomas Havlik on Walter Serner ~ SJ Fowler on Robert Musil ~ Declan Ryan on ...
Preceding the evening’s performances there will be a symposium on Habsburg Vienna, through the kaleidoscope of Kakania’s inventive approach, led and curated by Dr.Diane Silverthorne, a leading voice in Habsburg Viennese studies. The Symposium will feature informal and academic talks about the era, interspersed with poetry and text art readings from poets and writers involved in the first year of the Kakania project, who will also give context to their process. The Symposium will also see a screening of the acclaimed film Altenberg: The Little Pocket Mirror. The schedule is thus:
2pm - A talk by Dr. Diane Silverthorne on expressionist landscapes in music and art and talk by Dr. Leslie Topp, on madness, architecture and Vienna.
3pm - A talk by Jamie Ruers on Cabaret Fledermaus / A talk and reading by Eley Williams on Broncia Koller-Pinel / A talk and reading by Vicky Sparrow on Margarethe Wittgenstein / A talk by Stephen Emmerson on his multi-part performance art response on Rainer Maria Rilke. / A talk by Marcus Slease on writing a new poetry commission on Max Kurzweil. / A screening of Joshua Alexander’s experimental film on Paul Wittgenstein, commissioned for Kakania
4pm - A screening of ALTENBERG: The Little Pocket Mirror A documentary by David Bickerstaff and Gemma Blackshaw | 54 min
Following a brilliant first year in which 40 artists made 40 new commissions, 5 events in 5 venues took place in London and 2 original books was launched, Kakania returns with events in Berlin and London. The project is thoroughly documented here: www.kakania.co.uk and the project is only possible through the generosity of the Austrian Cultural Forum London.
Always a beautiful thing to be around people like Lotje Sodderland, Harry Man and Malinda McPherson, such is their intelligence and generosity of spirit. We presented our second www.aworldwithoutwordsevent.com in the Hardy Tree Gallery, during my exhibition, Mahu. Everyone followed on from the themes of the premiere event, and I had the chance to speak about my experiences in martial arts and my research on CTE and brain damage. Lotje and I has a structured chat too. A fine time was had by all.
I'm delighted to announce a new project: a World without Words, exploring the nature of human language, bringing together contemporary practitioners & pioneers in neuroscience and sensory aesthetics, to offer a fascinating and playful exploration of how words form our world. www.aworldwithoutwords.com
Co-curated by writer & filmmaker Lotje Sodderland and artist & material engineer Thomas Duggan, a World without Words will present artworks, installations, performances, talks, discussions and readings that call into question how meaning maps into the brain over a series of events throughout 2015 & beyond, taking place in bespoke venues across London.
Across artform & discipline each event will explore that notion that while language is considered perhaps the most characteristic ability of the human species, very little is known about it. When curator Lotje Sodderland had an unprovoked brain haemorrhage, she woke to find a familiar stranger inhabiting her body, where her 'self' used to be. Unable to read, write, speak, or think coherently, she used this unique opportunity as a lens through which to explore the everyday assumptions of how we wield words to express ourselves, bringing a profoundly personal perspective to the contemporary Copernican revolution of neuroscience. A World Without Words is the latest in Lotje's body of work around visual perception and neurolinguistics, and you can read / see more about her previous work in the Guardian & in the film, My Beautiful Broken Brain.
The first event takes place at Apiary Studios May 6th 7pm - 10.00pm
458 Hackney Rd, London E2 9EG. Entrance is free. http://www.apiarystudios.org/
The event will feature:
Noah Hutton & Ben Ehrlich: founders of The Beautiful Brain, a website that explores the juncture between neuroscience and art, based in New York. They will present on the theme of discontinuity in neurobiological, cultural, and linguistic systems. As well as discussing The Beautiful Brain, Noah will show a brief clip from his most recent documentary film Deep Time (SXSW 2015) and Ben will share from his research about the life and work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, "the father of modern neuroscience."
Harry Man: will lead an artistic examination into dyslexia and its potential advantages including identifying black holes and visualized data based on research by Dr Matthew H. Schneps at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. Using gravitational wave detection data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration, Harry hopes to illustrate how dyslexia might be an advantage to those studying the origin of the universe.
Malinda J. McPherson: a neuroscientist and musician who studies the link between emotion and musical creativity. Malinda will be discussing the human ability to ascribe meaning to sound, as well as the connections between abnormal brain states and creative musical expression.
Nick Ryan: a multi award winning composer, sound designer, artist and audio specialist, widely recognised as a leading thinker on the application of emerging and future technologies to the creation and performance of sound and music.
Lotje Sodderland: artist, writer & filmmaker, who present framed artworks created after she lost the ability to communicate with words, exhibited in Apiary Studios. An excerpt from her documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain will also be screened as part of the evening's program.
a World without Words will present further events in June, August, October & December, with more details to come.
The project is generously supported by Arts Council England