A note on: The Essex Book Festival - Sunday March 20th 2016

About as nice a way as one can spend a Sunday. I had the pleasure, thanks to the generosity of Philip Terry, Ros Green, Jo Nancarrow, those behind the Essex Book Festival and University of Essex, to curate a Camarade event for the festival. I had the chance to bring poets from London and Manchester to Colchester, but also draw on lots of local talent. In the end, the works were held in an amazing venue, a huge auditorium in the Firstsite Gallery, and the performances were really distinct and interesting, all very complimentary, a range of voices and styles. 

It was especially satisfying to see so many poets discover new poets, and to reconnect to those who live in Essex whose work I admire so much like Townley and Bradby, who I had the pleasure to work with in a performance in 2015, who did a brilliant performance with their family, and Isabella Martin, Vicki Weitz, Justin Hopper, Lucy Greeves and many others. All the performances are available here www.theenemiesproject.com/essex

European Literature Night Edinburgh videos

More to come from the various and ambitious readings that took place across the city of Edinburgh on May 14th, but a good selection can be found here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/eln 

Including Colin Herd & I's launch of the collaboration poetry book celebrating the life of Oskar Kokoschka - Oberwildling. 

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.

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/

Festina Lente - fun was had with Zuzana Husarova in Paris

An awesome performance I had in Paris with the amazing Zuzana Husarova. A whole new section of my website dedicated to Festina Lente now, as it was the 2nd year in a run I performed. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/festinalente

Festina Lente 2015 - March 7th : Societe de Curiosities 

"Festina Lente is an extraordinary sound poetry event series and festival curated by Martin Bakero in Paris. I've had the pleasure to perform there in both 2014 & 2015, and it has really been a pivotal space for me to develop my performance art & sound poetry, and to meet, and collaborate with, a real community of European sound poets, from Maja Jantar to Julien d'Abridgeon.  

For 2015, Festina Lente was held at the Societe de Curiosities on the Rue de Cligancourt, and I had the opportunity to finally perform as a duo with Zuzana Husarova. The result was one of my favourite works, entitled Ibunka, it was a fusion of sound poetry, improvised language and anti-dance. 

Zuzana is about what I am about. She is forward thinking, discerning, works incredibly hard to develop expertise while always being hungry to learn and grow, and go outside of her comfort zone. Moreover she is funny and humble and a joy to work with. We developed Ibunka conceptually and then, in person, reconstructed it completely, to draw upon my background in grappling martial arts in order to facilitate a physicality in performance that was never violent, never overbearing or threatening, or overemphasising my maleness over her femininity. This is so so hard to achieve, and I believe we did achieve it, creating something playful, playfighting, energetic but still serious and considered. Her technical brilliance underpinned the work, for its first act and I'm sure it'll be the first of many times we work together, in our collective TRYIE, hopefully all over Europe.

I spent a whole week in Paris around this work, in a city I always find inspiration in but am not directly inspired by. It's scene seems ossified to me, hard to penetrate and institutionally divided, like elements of the city itself. It drowns in its own history, theory, beauty and poise. A heartbeat for my personal understanding of the city over these last two visits has been Martin Bakero, the Chilean sound poetry pioneer who curates Festina Lente, the most interesting thing I've been a part of in Paris by some way." 

Kakania III - the videos

The third installment of Kakania was held in the legendary avant-garde hub the Horse Hospital right in the heart of Bloomsbury London. It featured some of the most interesting live artists from across the continent, including Joerg Zemmler, Caroline Bergvall, Martin Bakero and Damir Sodan. You can watch the videos from the performances here www.theenemiesproject.com/kakaniaevents

 

Kakania at the Horse Hospital - February 19th

Another extraordinary lineup of contemporary artists presenting new works responding to figures of Habsburg Vienna one century ago marks our third Kakania event, this time taking place at the iconic Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, London. A host of artists I am very proud to present, coming from Vienna, Paris, Zagreb & elsewhere just for Kakania. Doors 7pm, for a 7.30 start.
 
Caroline Bergvall on Gustav Klimt
Martin Bakero on Arnold Schoenberg
Colin Herd on Oskar Kokoschka
Marcus Slease on Max Kurzweil
Damir Sodan on Gustav Mahler
Joerg Zemmler on Karl Kraus
Stephen Emmerson on Rainer Maria Rilke

 
Tickets, at £8, on the door, with info available here: http://www.thehorsehospital.com/now/kakania-iii/

More news soon on the launches of the Kakania anthology and Oberwilding: on the life of Oskar Kokoschka, both original publications made for the project, now in print and presented for the first time at the Freud Museum. As well as our last event on March 26th at the Austrian Cultural Forum, who must be thanked for their generous support of this project. www.kakania.co.uk / www.acflondon.org
 
I would also like to draw your attention to the awful news that the Horse Hospital, an endlessly innovative and generous home for avant garde artwork in London, for 20 years now, is in the process of being sold off. There is a campaign against this http://www.thehorsehospital.com/horse-hospital-to-be-sold/ Please support the HH in anyway you can.

Mount London should be climbed

Sometimes the publication of such a beautiful book as Mount London goes by, and is properly celebrated, as this one has been, but it still feels somewhat improper that it passes by so quickly. The volume looks as it is, which is an all too rare quality in life; a truly unique achievement by Tom Chivers and Martin Kratz. The essays, which are as varied and agile as the subject matter, are utterly complimentary for their difference, and some of the writers have been real discoveries for me, as Ive read through the volume. Im also very happy with my piece in the book, being as it genuinely represents something about me, my style here is my subject. I thoroughly urge it upon people. The launch was really wonderful too, fine readings from Joe Dunthorne, Chrissy Williams et al. It felt like the heart of London's most spacially aware writing community had convened
 http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2014/03/mount-london/ 


my performance in a Parisienne circus for Festina Lente

I've read in Paris before, but I read, and I hope, relatively speaking, those days are temporarily coming to a close. Now is a time to read in public far less, and perform more. So this was an invitation I was grateful to receive from the amazing and intense Chilean poet Martin Bakero, who lives in Paris and curates the Festina Lente in the Circus Electrique, part of the Pantheon of Poets festival in the city. This was all sound poets and sonic artists, and as I've felt with the art writers of my generation in London who've influenced me so much, and are now friends (Pat Coyle, Holly Pester, Hannah Silva etc) this is a real community in Europe. After meeting Jorg Piringer and Heike Feidler last year, here I got to connect to Julien d'abrigeon and the wonderful Maja Jantar, whose performance was spellbinding and I learnt masses from just by watching. It's a privilege to be part of that community, if even peripherally, it is defined by exciting work, by real exploration and intensity and I feel very welcome by the people who seem to be defining it.

My performance piece, mort & homme, was an attempt to utilise mantra like repetition through different vocal ranges, beginning with something like murky song into ulluation and finishing with doom. That was to be contrasted against electronic chinese music, and then a conceptual element Ive wanted to do for awhile, book sawing. I don't really care if the result is a success, but it was a satisfying experience, as I had to go out of my comfort zone, and that's all I want to do at the moment. The piece was new, an experiment and a departure with the only goal that it didn't seem that way. I'm not interested in thinking about the quality of the work, just the experience of making it. I had a wonderful time. Video below. I also managed to snag some videos of some of the other amazing performances that made up the day, one of a series now set up in Paris over the next few years.
Maja Jantar & Martin Bakero https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rdM9zGA2hY

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. 

Fjender

I'm very proud to announce Fjender: a Danish Enemies project. Taking place over an entire month, Fjender will feature 3 events, 1 exhibition and over 30 poets. At the heart of Fjender is the visit to London of 3 of Europe's most brilliant innovative poets; Morten Søndergaard, Cia Rinne & Martin Glaz Serup. I’ve been trying to get them to the UK for sometime, and thanks to the Kulturstyrelsen (the Danish Agency for Culture), they are coming, for Fjender, to share their work.

Fjender - March Saturday 15th at the Rich Mix Arts Centre

The flagship event of the Fjender project, featuring new collaborations from Martin Glaz Serup & Peter Jaeger, Cia Rinne & Chrissy Williams and
Morten Søndergaard & I. The Danes will also share their own work, and there will be a series of brand new commissions from UK based poets, in response to the concepts and themes of Morten’s amazing http://www.wordpharmacy.com

New work by James Davies, Prudence Chamberlain, Philip Terry, Claire Trevien, Fabian MacPherson and Stephen Emmerson, who will present his Neurolinguasulphate.

This packed evening of avant garde poetry will also feature a collaborative group reading from 13 students from my Poetry School course Maintenant. http://www.poetryschool.com/courses-workshops/face-to-face/maintenant.php

Wordpharmacy at the Hardy Tree gallery

For the first time ever in London, the remarkable Wordpharmacy will be exhibited for the Fjender project. The Hardy Tree gallery will be turned into a fully functioning poetic chemist’s, a pharmacy for the avant garde poet, replete with stocked shelves, white-coated pharmacist and a near endless supply of word-drugs. Situated just behind Kings Cross St Pancras, the exhibition will look something like this ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE1rBI06szI

Wordpharmacy reading / special view
March Thursday 20th, 7.30pm, at the Hardy Tree gallery. Free entry

To celebrate the Wordpharmacy exhibition a half dozen British based poets have been commissioned to write, or conceive of, original works that respond to the ideas and concepts of the project. On this evening brand new work from Alison Gibb, David Berridge, Claire Trevien, Andy Spragg, Prudence Chamberlain, Fabian MacPherson & of course, Morten Søndergaard himself will be shared.

Fjender in Copenhagen
April 7th at Ark books. 7.30pm. Free entry.  http://www.arkbooks.dk/

Sharing the work of Peter Jaeger and I, as well as the original collaborations between myself and Morten Søndergaard, and Peter Jaeger and Martin Glaz Serup, a reading will take place in the Danish capital, featuring local poets and accompanied by a short run exhibition of the Enemies project. More TBA. Made possible by Arts Council England International Development fund.

I’m very excited to present this month of events, and for more information on the poets, you can read my Maintenant interviews with Cia, Morten and Martin here: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/maintenant-52-cia-rinne/


Without the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in London, Fjender wouldn’t exist, so special thanks to Kirsten Hansen, and thanks too to the generosity of Kulturstyrelsen (the Danish Agency for Culture) as well Arts Council England, the Rich mix and the Hardy tree gallery.

Interview for the European Poetry Forum project

Led by Ars Poetica curators out of Bratislava, Martin Solotruk and Zuzana Husarova, the European Poetry Forum is a really admirable new resource of critical discussion and interviews. 
http://poetryforum.arspoetica.sk/ The questions to the many respondents are uniform, which is quite revealing to the essential view of poetry of those answering, who include some great figures in contemporary poetry like Jorg Piringer, Heike Feidler, Jan Wagner, Andras Gerevich, Jeff Hilson, Ian Davidson. You can read the project's mission statement here http://poetryforum.arspoetica.sk/project and my interview is here http://poetryforum.arspoetica.sk/archives/423 or belooow:
1. Poetry, a little alien? Why care about it?
The asking of the question is the important moment. The why of poetry is the ethical moment, to actually lay into the body of the thing, to see its worth before you, and to understand that it must always be amorphous and subjective. This is the vital realisation, in my opinion, we cannot ever draw wider conclusions about the value of poetry, this is not objective ground. It’s becoming clearer with time that I am active in writing and curating and organising in poetry precisely because, at heart, I believe less than many of my peers in the transformative power of poetry. That isn’t to say I believe poetry isn’t transformative at all, of course I do ascribe it such potential (to me personally, naturally, it is utterly and immensely transformative), but I refuse it the power to go beyond my own personal subjectivity.
I refuse the idea that poetry is improving in and of itself. There is a tension here, maybe even a paradox. I have both feelings at once, that poetry is both nothing and everything. Yet I do believe, somehow, without articulation, in the Brodskyite notion of poetry being the most important art form because of its relationship to the profundity of language, because of its engagement with what fundamentally constitutes all other creativity and discussion. It is impossible for me to escape the feeling that this relationship is wholly individuated, and so at the very same moment — poetry is nothing, a game for the initiated, the distraction of a select.
My poetry, academic research, and my efforts in organizing events are about stripping away a glib assumption that poetry is profound. I suppose to get to the private profundity, which I do believe is utterly closed and personal. My activities are about not overvaluing poetry because poetry is nothing next to people, to health, to life — it is a component of a well-lived life, for me — a component of humility — but only alongside, or below, a mindful and constant engagement with emotional erudition — love, courtesy, care and respect for other people in the most immediate, difficult and practical circumstances. What is poetry next to that? A luxury, and thus we should celebrate it for that, as often as we can, because we are lucky to have the facility to even consider it. I am at pains to stress too that I’m speaking only for my personal experience in my place, in my time. This not supposed as a general rule; that is precisely the point I am trying to make.
In my writing, in my organising, I try to always focus on a notion of process. Is the process making me feel satisfied / joyful / contented? If it is, the result will follow without overanalysis and I will know, always, why I care to spend my time thusly.
2. Who are (is) you as a poet?
I hope to never be still enough to know. I’ve published prolifically in order to not be known for one book, one effort, one form or style. Every book I’ve written has been subject led, not collected as a series of independent poetic bodies. I write to task, write quickly, in volume. This means, by and large, no one knows me for the same body of work. With my performances, experiments, collaborations and many other distinct facets of my practise, each new person who encounters me has an individualised, incorrect notion of my output, and this is what I seek.
3. What kind of literary tradition, particular authors or modes of literary thinking have you found inspirational for your work?
The avant garde, the vanguard, the experimental, the innovative. It is not a mode, not a stance, not a philosophy of theory, to break ground, to renew, recreate, innovative. It is a necessity. To keep pace with your own world you must rip from the past but always be at service to the future, otherwise you are simply an echo. We are all echoes in this way, of course, but to pay homage to those who ripped up the floorboards in language and begun again, if one is really listening, is to want to do the same for your own time. I feel my experimentation is a conviction, without it, I wouldn’t write at all. I don’t even real feel I am experimental. So many have influenced me, it’s impossible to cover it – British modernism, the British poetry revival, Dada, Surrealism, Oulipo, Nouveau Roman, CoBrA, Gruppe 47, Austrian postwar modernism, Absurdism, performance arts… I read as much as I can and everything I can.
4. Please give several examples of contemporary European or international poets that you believe are most significant (in any possible sense) and comment briefly on their merit.
Too many to list, but perhaps Tadeusz Rozewicz, for actually responding to the unfathomable experience of WWII in a form that somehow recounts it. Tom Raworth, for reinventing the speed and urgency needed in the English language in the 20th century. Tomaz Salamun, for showing experimentation in language is a graceful, dignified, necessary position. Eirikur Orn Norddahl for reigniting the possibilities of sound in poetry through a pure authenticity to his culture. There are too many for me to name, European poetry is why I am writing poetry.
5. If asked about transnational influences in today’s international or European poetry, what examples would most readily account for?
Depends what you mean by influences, whether individuals or ideas or social realities. I think change is what binds us together, its beauty and its difficulty. The world has increased in pace and knowledge and connectivity exponentially over the last century. This is often hidden in its admission, through buzzwords and certain technological misnomers. But it is happening, and it is providing us with a common ground. Moreover, we live in an era dominated by capitalism, and it’s social products, the brutality and dehumanising competitive materialism that pervades most societies when capitalism isn’t balanced by socialism. We all need to face these structures with our language, to insist upon a humanity against them, in poetry, for the human experience of the artform. What influences this generation, or the next, is the ever changing paradigm of their lives and the world they live in, and its language.
6. In all likelihood, some of the innovative patterns in contemporary poetics have not yet reached the acknowledgment of either the national or international literary canon. Can you provide some examples of specific authors or poetics that you believe are still undeservedly flying below the radar screen of broader critical community? What makes these patterns innovative and makes them supersede established modes of writing and/or reading?
I could write a list that would never end, I could go country to country and bring dozens and dozens of writers and artists who are poets, dynamic poets, to the fore, who have been unduly overlooked because of the complexity of their work. I mentioned Tom Raworth, he is one of an entire generation of English poets lost to many readers who deserved them, along with Allen Fisher, Bill Griffiths, Maggie O’Sullivan…
We could do a tour of contemporary Europe too, France (Fred Forte), Germany (Monika Rinck), Holland (Arnoud van Adrichem), Belgium (Lies van Gasse) Denmark (Morten Sondergaard), Sweden (Par Thorn), Norway (Jenny Hval), Finland (Pekko Kappi), Iceland (Eirikur Orn Norddahl), Poland (Grzegorz Wroblewski), Belarus (Volya Hapeyeva), Ukraine (Volodymyr Bilyk). I could go on and on…
Innovation in poetry does not supersede anything, it is the very thing, all poetry has been innovative, it all lasts but decades in the consciousness of writers, and then, naturally, a form comes to an end. We are witnessing the death of forms of writing as we speak, and what comes in its place is not better or worse, but a child, a sister to that previous form, and even that is a limited and truncated and naive way to describe the process. It is fluid, beyond analysis, held down only by the critical, analytical impulse of the last few hundred years of Western, Eurocentric academic culture, which is a bizarre anthropology at best. Poetry is language orientated around the infinitely complex experiences of individual humans on a planet of many billion humans – it is endlessly complex, and as Existence is complex, so poetry should be too. That is why this poetry is so necessary and powerful, and paradoxically, why it is also often ignored. People go to poetry to relax, and they shouldn’t bother, we have other artforms for that now. Poetry is growing, whether certain types of writers are with the growth or not, it is irrelevant, it is happening as it always has before.
7. Are there any influences or inspirations emanating from the poetries and poets from the former “communist countries” that you have been able to recognize as having an impact in the countries of “the West”? If yes, how would you describe this inspiration and the possible reasons for it receiving acclaim or resonance in certain artistic or social communities?
There is an obvious influence through American academia, which is continued even now through the brilliance of poets like Ilya Kaminsky and Eugene Ostashevsky. And the great migrations of the 20th century have indelibly fused Eastern European sensibilities to the American and so forth, if we can make such limited and blunt assumptions about an endlessly complex thing. And again, of course, there is a fetishising in the West, of poetry written against direct oppression, which is harmful to the pretensions of many Western poets, who are not under direct oppression. Like all things, if there is an influence, it isn’t always positive. It is based on a notion of inherent meaning, that poetry that was the voice of the repressed, that was the very vehicle of hope, of rebellion, in the most sophisticated of forms, that was against a totalitarian repressive government system needs no search to find its purpose. It is inherently imbued with a meaning that poetry in the West must search for. That is not to see that horrific injustice does not take place in the West, that needs speaking of in poetry, but that the fundamental roots of existence are not held together by that oppression. Therefore, often, poets in the West have tried to adopt the tone of that necessary poetry from the oppressed Eastern bloc, to lift its sincerity, and in so doing, in my opinion, made themselves all the more insincere in their reflection and whimsy.
8. How do you see the poet–reader relationship’s current state and its evolution in the contemporary cultural landscape? Please share any possible examples of that very relationship as being alienated, or, on the opposite side enlivened, re-energized, or newly franchised.
I can only know my own relationship with reading, and thus only make a generalisation that each relationship to poetry, from an individual, is just that, subjective and individualised, and a product of their ever changing experiences of literature. In the most facile sense, taking the question as a ‘book fair’ kind of question, my opinion is that nothing has changed with readers reading poetry, and all who say the relationship is alienated assume more people were reading poetry than actually were. Certainly in England, which is the only place I should speak of, there used to be a system in which the majority of the country were illiterate and oppressed and would never read a poem their whole lives, and so only an elite could engage with literature. Now when culture is a democracy and working class people also have a stake in the book market, and in poetry, of course there will be a massive rise in poetry that is accessible, or is ‘slam’ or mainstream wistful pap, or whatever other simplified version of the possibilities of the art happens to be around, making it seem like high art poetry is almost hidden. It always was in terms of volumes or readers or reception or appreciation. It’s just the world has changed around it. Thankfully, it has.
9. What kinds of fresh genres or types of poetry do you see emerging in today’s international landscape? Can you see any identifiable new kinds of “ars poetica”?
In an obvious sense, there is the emergence of poetries that respond to the specific newness of the ‘international landscape’ and its language. Wherever language generates itself into a new shape, new poetry is responsive to it. Otherwise I don’t believe enough in my own powers of perception to see such newness. Perhaps that’s because I hope I’m in the middle of it, and not on the outside, looking in, analysing.
10. Both the discourses of poetry and politics seem to carry an aspiration to win human hearts and minds, or even change lives. What examples do you see of fruitful interaction between political and poetic discourses and agenda?
I really hope my poetry doesn’t try to win hearts, there is at least three of four ethereal stages between a poem and its experience and a new vision of the world, new perspectives, which might change an individual’s life. I’m not sure there is fruitful interaction between political and poetical discourses in the modern age. I can’t speak of the past, I wasn’t alive. But now, politics is obviously about the lowest common denominator, about deceiving well, perhaps as a result of massive population booms and the fright of essential human nature in a world where everyone just assumes that sex, violence, greed and power shouldn’t be the predominate characteristic of our species (?). Whereas poetry is an art, a language art, probably. The two exist in separate realms in my world, and where they intercede it is perhaps antagonistic. I’m not sure I’d even go this far, or be able to locate an understanding of either which is concrete enough to do so. Certainly, there is some truth, to me, that poetry should be against formalised politics to be poetry in the same way any true philosophy has to be atheist.
11. How would you envisage an optimal cohabitation of the two “pos” (poetry & politics) that would be beneficial to your co-citizens?
I’m not sure any cohabitation is necessary, or beneficial, necessarily. Perhaps a poetry that resonates deeply with individuals who through that experience become more familiar with new ideas and experiences and languages and emotions, which allows them to expand somewhat in their understanding of not understanding much about existence, and how this isn’t possible anyway, which allows them to take on more humble, more balanced, less protective, vindictive, egocentric views of other people and society and the world and existence, which makes them act with more kindness and generosity and creativity?
12. What kinds of values and qualities do you think media poetry (sound poetry, visual poetry, kinetic poetry, digital poetry and poetic performance) can offer in comparison with poetry conceived of as a traditional written fixed text form? Please exemplify.
The values of originality, to a certain extent, because they are perhaps newer forms? Perhaps that in and of itself brings a whole set of pioneering qualities, a desire for change, for newness, adaptation? I don’t know though, as the written fixed text form is also an endless playground for newness. I would never counterpoise the two ideas. They are not separate. Each idea for a poem has its form, the ideas are kin.
13. How would you describe the difference between the kinds of creative inspiration that you may experience as generated by your imagination as opposed to the potence emanating from the appropriative process of handling meaningful contexts and patterns already existing?
I’d probably answer this question with a series of questions, mainly about how one understands the inspiration of the imagination, what that means and how it differentiates itself from things that are already existing? All I’d say is that to me, everything the poet generates comes from without, and not within. There is no within that was not built by the without. We represent our endless experience on the earth, all the language, emotion, sense of existence is filtered back in a tiny, pinpoint sliver in our poems. So imagination is built of that which is already existing, they collide, they are mutually dependent.
14. Would it be fair to say that we have witnessed a gradual shift in a broader understanding of the very notion of (creative) writing due to the rise of the media and programming?
I don’t think so really, it’s the same apparatus used by the media as was by previously literate societies. It just reaches more people because we have more people on the planet. I don’t know what people once thought of writing, and don’t know either, so hard to compare.
15. What kind of unique experience does media/experimental poetry mediate to you (your mind and body) that you would not be able to find otherwise?
Any poetry which is authentic to a subjective experience allows me further perspectives on my own experience, and therefore allows me to grow, and allows me to attempt to be a more creative, enterprising, and I hope, generous, human being. This applies to all poetry, no matter it’s constitution as experimental or otherwise. The reiteration of this distinction is not really useful. It is either a product of the experimental wanting to be exclusive or the traditional wanting to fetishise difference. Work that is complex or original or lies beyond banal conversational language or method or form represents experience and is authentic to a life that is complex or original or lies beyond banal everyday experience. Some perceive themselves as attracted to such complexity, some don’t.
Media allows for technological experimentation which was not previously possible, for example the notion of digital recording allows for perfect repetitions of sound and voice modulation, but to a certain extent the most obvious modes of use of these technologies arise when they are born and then become used up and passe. I’ve heard many sound performers decry the use of loop pedals for example, finding them a cheap trick, easily mastered. The technology which is exciting is the technology that is new, brand new, or allows for the mastery of multiple levels of sense perception, things that are very difficult to wield. They can present new levels of aesthetic experience not previously accessible.
16. What do you think poetry stands for today? Has the recent advancement in the natural sciences and humanities influenced our very understanding and possibilities of poetry?
I don’t know what it stands for, and I don’t believe anyone can know. We represent a tiny sliver of experience, a tiny enclave of knowledge, and cannot valuably generalise about what an entire, amorphous, ambiguous artform stands for or means. We are left with only adding to the complication of the picture, from our own miniature bulwark.
17. What makes a poem a poem? Has this apparently notorious question been in any sense reinvigorated or revisited in the wake of the rise of the global and globalized civilizational experience?
An answer can only be given if the question is qualified beyond the question. What is a poem? The impossibility of an answer is no different after any moment in history. The answer is the posing of the question as much as anything else, or the question remaining unanswered. A poem is made and called a poem, it communicates. Only now, perhaps, it has the potential to travel farther than before, but that is irrelevant to its being.

Enemies Slovakia videos

Ars Poetica – Bratislava / diary of a magic weekend / poetryfest

One of the best things I’ve done, getting poetry to travel me. I try and only do things that somehow lead to a generative experience that somehow lead to some ambiguous feeling of fulfilment that equates to being happy and positive towards other human beings in the face of the obvious arbitrary coldness and fragility of being alive etc… To be flown, housed, fed and exposed to an amazing city, generous people and wholly authentic expressions of living in language all because Ive written some stuff down is absurd enough to render ridiculous the notion that I might not be buoyed by the experience and I was and am. The beginning of many new things and a multitude of experiences that only leave me better.

So much to admire about the way the festival was run and the poets who attended, and those involved in the program.  The festival has been running for over a decade, and really has established itself through the work of Martin Solotruk, Peter Sulej and others, as a space in which generations mix as much as styles of poetry. All too rare a thing, to see formal poetry readings in translations sitting alongside experimental poetics, electronic poetics and collaborative practise. For me personally, with my desire to see the same breadth and difference in poetry events, to actualise a variance and a pluralism in organisation, it was especially gratifying. Moreover, there was a indelible sense of being part of the city somehow, that the content of the festival was fused directly to the happenings of Bratislava. The support staff with the festival were really energetic and generous, and the venue for the readings was the perfect balance of size and grime.

DAY ONE: arrived, looked after, sent to the floating hotel, the Botel, on the Danube, with Mariano Peyrou, a Spanish poet who I’ve known about for years but never met. Really a great person to begin the thing with, as he’s unpretentious, honest and clever. I need to visit Madrid, sounds like an immense amount happening there. Shown to the restaurant where we can get free meals all week. Beerhall northern European meatcheesedumplingbrown. I’dve ballooned into a full chunk if I ate there all the days, so I didn’t. Meeting all the poets, from as far as India, I’m the only Britisher, thanks fuck.

First night reading, I’m 3rd on the 1st night. Before me, two young Bulgarian poets, Nevena Borisov and Ivan Landzhev, who would genuinely become friends over the days. Really kind, generous, warm hearted and erudite people, and really good to discover so many poets in their 20s here. My reading was fun, felt very relaxed, took some snaps of the audience while the Slovakian translations of my poems were read by Lubo Bakovy, who covered the actor-who-reads-translations-at-poetry-festival ground without melodrama, which normally makes me retch a fair bit. Lubo was ice blood, suited me well. I read some poems from my book out next year, Rottweiler’s guide to the Dog Owner, as it’s a little more palatable for translation. People seemed happy enough, so I was too. Got to witness Mariano give a typically honest reading, and Helena Sinervo too, from Finland, and Prafull Shiledar, all the way from Mumbai. He is a banker in India, but he seemed nice all the same (!). After the vanilla readings were done there was a space every night for new commissions in innovative poetics. This was the highlight for me, as a viewer, and Zuzana Husarova’s collaboration with video, sound, dance artists, a five piece ensemble, really blew me away. It is so hard to make two mediums sink in together, to pretty much pull it off flawless across four is amazing. I wish I spoke fucking Slovakian. I’ll definitely work with Zuzana and her chocolate cookie in the future I reckon.

DAY TWO: Took a tram out into the suburbs of Bratislava and then walked back in. Pretty repetitive, but the parks were really peaceful and full of modernist sculpture. Lots of sexshops and coffee shops. Loads of them in fact, a few each road. Had two lovely meetings, one with the dynamic people from LitCentrum, that pushes Slovak literature abroad. Took me ages to find their office, it was actually in what equated to a literature museum and I felt an intense sense of déjà vu when standing on that road, not realising til I was up in their office that that was where I stayed the last time I visited Bratislava, sleeping in my friends car as we drove across Europe. Two nights sleeping in the front seat. A bit different for this visit. Then I met the brilliant poet Maria Ferencuhova, who I had over for Camarade last year and wrote with Frances Kruk.

The readings were again quite memorable. Robert Rybek, a Polish poet, front kicked the mic off its stand before cursing out the audience and really digging into some weight. Really breathtaking, it was completely genuine, completely authentic. Kato Djavakhashvili read, all the way from Tbilisi, Tozan Alkan from Istanbul, Gerhard Falkner from Berlin and then the electronic poetry performances – Jorg Piringer was a force of nature with his visual concrete animation soundwork, and Heike Fiedler, a revelation from Switzerland, mixing languages and improvising with great aplomb.

DAY THREE: I upped early again and walked an hour or two down the Danube before cutting in to the outskirts to visit the Botanical gardens, and then one of the best fucking Zoos Ive ever visited. I got quite emotional meeting the bear. I got to touch a fucking baby meerkat. There was a white tiger and a red panda. The whole thing was mental. And they had a dinopark was animatronic dinosaurs that could only move one appendage. Must have cost a bomb. So weird it was one of the happiest mornings I can remember, pumped on coffee, music in, animals right in my fat face.

I hiked over the hills back into the city and had a really lovely lunch with Louis Armand. Whatever I aspire to do in London, Louis has done it in Prague, having lived there over 20 years, originally from Sydney. He’s published a boatload of novels and is the man behind the microfestival, VLAK, Equus and all that amazing stuff that wouldn’t exist with innovative poetics in Czechland, along with David Vichnar. Really good to shoot breeze with him, finally, after being an associate editor of VLAK for awhile.

Final night of readings, quite a male lineup, chest puff. But Ville Hytonen! Ive wanted to meet Ville for ages, hearing of his great work through Pekko Kappi, one of the best performers Ive worked with on my events. Great to hear his brogue, Anselm Hollo resurrected quickly. Ville is in Talinn now, Im definitely going to visit him next summer, and probably write with him too. Daniel Cundari was amazing too, a dapper gent from Calabria, living in Granada, he really upped the emotion with some severe youthful panache. Jason Mashak, an American living in the Czech Republic was great too, such a decent bloke, very humble, and his work was graceful and funny. And Louis read, growling out some jazz work that capitivated. After the break Erik Simsik, who seems to be right on the front of the younger avant garde in Slovakia and then Olga Pekova, who created a beautiful, vulnerable / inverted penetrative moment to end the fest with, collaborating with nudity and a boxharp.

On the last night, and across the whole fest, the sociality, arguably the most important subjective factor of any meet, which I actively select or deselect, being as it is often laden with nervousness and alcohol, was wholly generous – friendly, but not overbearing, dedicated to the readings and arts performances, but always personal and conversational. Often very funny too. People had a sense of humour heavy with dark corners. A rare thing for me to stay out late night after night from desire, dry as a bone, increasingly comfortable in lighting everyone up. Slovak poets and artists, on the whole, seem not to regard themselves haughtily, they seem hungry and dynamic, but unpretentious, and the visiting poets too, definitely diamoned the talking without being at all self regarding.. The locals are really interested in work from outside Slovakia but remain in touch with their own authenticity. This is perhaps the word I would best use to describe the people and the majority of the work at the festival, and the atmosphere. There was little pretence, it was uniformly friendly. They also all speak English and I was able to get away with my monogloticism, though frequently apologising to people who speak five languages plus.

It is not always the case that thirty or so poets, dropped into a city together, will gel. I often think the immaterial nature of our creative connection is overstated in terms of predicting how people get on, its just about whether people are kind and humble or not. For an undertaking this size, the connections made between the poets were really inspirational. I had so many generative conversations with those attending and discovered so much new work from across Europe and even beyond. I feel like some relationships were the first step into friendships / collaborations / correspondences that might span my life, and so if poetry is the vehicle of that, all the better, as long as it happens on and again. Im fortunate to have gone, to have been exposed to what I was and will remember Bratislava all lit up by the best circumstances I could imagine.

The Blue Bus - reading with Sarah Kelly - June 18th, Bloomsbury

The Blue Bus is pleased to present a reading by matt martin, Nicolas Spicer and Sarah Kelly, with S J Fowler, on Tuesday 18th June, from 7.30 at The Lamb (in the upstairs room), 94 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1. This is the seventy-seventh event in THE BLUE BUS series. Admissions: £5 / £3 (concessions).

Sarah Kelly is recently back in the UK after a couple of years living in Argentina. She has contributed to the anthologies 'Better than Language' (Ganzfeld Press) and 'Dear World...' (Bloodaxe), alongside many magazines. She is the author of two chapbooks, 'locklines' (KFS) and 'Ways of Describing Cuts' (KFS), the latter a collaboration with Steven Fowler who will be joining her to read some extracts. Examples of her current work, exploring text and handmade paper, were displayed at the 'Visual Poetics' exhibition (Poetry Library).

S J Fowler, who will be reading alongside Sarah Kelly in the second half of this event, is a poet and artist living in London. He's published four collections of poetry including Fights (Veer books) and Minimum Security Prison Dentistry (AAA press), and has collections forthcoming from Penned in the Margins and Egg Box Publishing. He has been commissioned by the Tate, the London Sinfonietta and Mercy and has read and exhibited across Europe. He curates the Enemies project, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, and Maintenant, a series of reading and interviews focusing on contemporary European poetics and collaboration. He is currently undertaking a PhD at the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Birkbeck College and is an employee of the British Museum.www.sjfowlerpoetry.com www.blutkitt.blogspot.com www.weareenemies.com

Forthcoming events will include Johan de Wit and Antony John (16th July), Chris McCabe, Andrew Taylor and David Miller (20th August), Simon Smith, Anthony Mellors and David Rees (17th September), Laurie Duggan, Andrew Spragg and Peter Philpott (15th October), and Richard Berengarten, Cristina Viti and Michael Zand (19thNovember).