A few days in Munich thanks to the hospitality of Elke Ritt and the British Council in Germany, this was a chance to develop a project that I hope will become a significant moment in contemporary British innovative poetry in Europe. Proposed by myself and Chris McCabe, it centres around an exhibition of English Concrete poetry in Munich, that will trace the visual poetry revolution of the 50s through to those making the work on the island now, whom are not greatly well known beyond the UK. It will connect to German vispo too, but vitally, it will show the range of poetic practise that has emanated from visual innovation. From performance, to conceptual work, from kinetic poetry to installation. These few days were spent discussing the idea, touring the beautiful city and meeting some brilliant folk. Discovering the Lyrik Kabinett was a revelation, a library gallery event space, with a really progressive understanding of poetry and art together, and visiting the grand Literaturhaus once again reminded me of what we’re missing, not having these institutions, in the UK. Once again, I’m lucky to be working with the British Council and after this beginning, hopefully this ambitious idea comes to fruition next year.
The second event as part of my residence at Kensal Green Cemetery, Worm Wood, a really resonant and communal night with Tom Jeffreys and Chris McCabe, all three of us sharing somewhat deeply intertwined reflections on London, cemeteries, psychological interactions with space and history. I took folk down into the catacombs during my reading of my new limited edition short story publication from Sampson Low - Worm Wood Old Oak. I am really happy with the little chapbook, its beautifully done and this was the right place to share it with the world. https://sampsonlow.co/2017/07/14/worm-wood-old-oak-sj-fowler/
Leeds was fire. I’d heard it was a quiet town for the avant garde or literary poetry but this proved untrue, or we got unlucky. In the wharf chambers we had over twenty poets and from many different scenes and backgrounds. From first time readers to folk like Ian McMillan and Robert Sheppard, it ran the gamut. I got there early, in the snow, to be met by Ian in fact, whom, ever the gentleman, helped me shift 100 chairs into the basement punk venue. So many poets I was excited to see and meet for this one, and there was a uniformly playful tone, with a noticeable investment by many. For my own work with Patricia Farrell we wrote a collaborative poem and then I played with some ideas around memory and recitation, recording her poems onto my phone, popping in earphones and reciting from that audio file at parts, and at others, just trying to copy what she had said. Nearly 100 crushed in all told and some of these collaborations will be long remembered, everyone was buzzing
Sheffield was interesting. Again there was talk of a quiet gig but our room at Bank Street Arts was chocked, even dangerously so with much of the gig standing room only with people blocking my camera or stepping on each other’s feet, literally. Some great works here, punctuating a range of stuff, from the high literary to the amusing. At times it leaned into the self-referential, the audience having its favourites / friends, which is really the opposite of the deliberately open Enemies mode, but this is inevitable with such an intense room and a single city scene.
To be honest for me, the whole time in Sheffield was clouded by hearing of the death of Tom Raworth, who was a great influence on me and a friend. I wrote a piece remembering him, feeling emptied and deeply sad, in a Travelodge in the city, having travelled from Leeds and so it was a melancholy day. It took me many attempts to write the piece, I was feeling quite out of sorts. We ended the event with Chris McCabe and I reading some of Tom’s poems and this I will never forget, to have the big audience to read Tom’s work to, a day or two after his passing.
Liverpool is a city I love and this sprawling reading in the beautiful Everyman playhouse, who could not have been more generous as a venue, brought together many friends and great poets from across the region, being the final gig. I had the grand pleasure of working with Nathan Walker, whom I respect immensely and our improvised sound poetry vocal piece was a joy, though it was maybe too intense for the audience. Some fine works here but it was a rare misfire over all in terms of the Camarade tradition. Not quite sure why, but there was an imbalance in the works overall, perhaps a lack of identity in the event, a lack of successful experiment, or engagement with liveness. Happens sometimes.
Certainly I left the event happy because it was the summation of the project, and the final moments of that were spent with my friends, Tom Jenks especially, a brilliant poet and a great person to work with. As ever it’s a privilege to do this work, to such large audiences and such enthusiastic and varied writers.
So happy to be co-curating another Enemies tour in the UK, this time with Tom Jenks, visiting cities in the North and North West of England. It is no exaggeration to say that the presses and poets at the centre of the current modern / avant garde scene in this region have supported and inspired my work as much as anyone else.
So many of the poets, publishers and organisers who have been based there during my time in poetry - people like Tom, Scott Thurston, Alec Newman, James Davies, Sandeep Parmar, James Byrne, Richard Barrett, Tim Allen, Mark Cobley, Nathan Jones, Robert Sheppard, Patricia Farrell, Nikolai Duffy, Philip Davenport, Ben Morris, Chris McCabe, Daniele Pantano - have been key in my development, both as a poet and as someone trying to understand the best way to organise events. The Other Room series was an early and pivotal inspiration for the Enemies project, and it reflects what I'd happily generalise for poets and readings in the region, that its defined by strong, complex, challenging work underpinned by a very dry sense of humour, and surrounded by unpretentious, friendly people, who believe in a community of writers without talking too much about that.
So it's important to me to keep going back to cities like Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, where I've been treated so well so often, as well reading for the first time in cities like York and Leeds. We've got over 60 poets involved, and we'll create over 50 new collaborative works. It's such a pleasure to do, and with the arts council supporting us, it's grand we can do it properly. Visit http://www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest for the full lineups
The Enemies Project & ZimZalla presents:
A collaborative poetry tour visiting York / Manchester / Edge Hill / Leeds / Sheffield / Liverpool
January 13th - February 11th 2017
The North by North West Poetry Tour features over sixty poets collaborating in pairs to produce brand new collaborative works for performance, commissioned for each event, over six nights in January and February 2017. Poets local to each of the six venues will perform on each night alongside a core group of touring poets, who will perform at every venue. These free events will aim to draw in the amazing, experimental, dynamic resurgence in literary and avant-garde poetry which has so marked the north and north west poetry scene over the last decade. For full details visit this link, or see below:http://www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest
The project is curated by Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler, with local curators Christopher Stephenson, JT Welsch, Linda Kemp and Robert Sheppard. The North West Poetry Tour is supported by Arts Council England.All events are free to attend with doors at 7.30pm for an 8pm start, unless stated otherwise. The poets, pairs and links continue to be updated.
January Friday 13th - York : City Screen
January Saturday 14th - Manchester : International Anthony Burgess Foundation
January Thursday 19th - Edge Hill Arts Centre
February Thursday 9th - Leeds : Wharf Chambers Co-operative Club
February Friday 10th - Sheffield : Bank St. Arts
February Saturday 11th - Liverpool : Everyman Playhouse
The most beautiful anthology I've been a part of, my poem is rendered wonderfully in this major achievement, summing up the best of 21st century concrete poetry. You can buy the book here http://shop.southbankcentre.co.uk/the-new-concrete-visual-poetry-in-the-21st-century.html & it'll be launched here http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/new-concrete/
This is the most significant anthology of concrete poetry of my generation. I'm delighted to be included, and alongside many friends / peers - Antonio Claudio Carvalho, Marco Giovenale, Tom Jenks, Sarah Kelly, John Kinsella, Anatol Knotek, Márton Koppány, nick-e melville, and Jörg Piringer & legends like Vito Acconci, Augusto de Campos, Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Ian Hamilton Finlay https://thenewconcrete.wordpress.com/about
"The New Concrete is a major new anthology of visual poetry edited by Victoria Bean and Chris McCabe and published by Hayward Publishing (July 2015). The book represents visual poetry published from 2000 to the present day and suggests ways in which the original concrete movement of the 1950s and ’60s has been built upon, developed and redefined by subsequent generations of poets and artists." You can buy it here http://shop.southbankcentre.co.uk/the-new-concrete-visual-poetry-in-the-21st-century.html
The anthology will be launched in a full whack 5 hours programme at the whitechapel gallery on July 25th http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/new-concrete/ I'll be performing "Join us for an afternoon of film and live performance showcasing some of the most exciting work in this field. The event brings together some of the most celebrated poets and artists working at the intersection of visual art and poetry."
This was a really lovely evening, expertly curated by the generous and eloquent Gareth Evans, putting myself and Chris McCabe into a program of some amazing contemporary American experimental cinema, reading American poets. The Whitechapel is always a good place to read, but to have cinema sit up close with poetry, and to be reading work like O'Hara and Starr Hamilton made it feel completely new to me. A very generous feeling between the filmmakers and film curator Jamie Wyld and us too, this is the kind of thing I'm always happy to be doing.
So pleased to be reading some American poetry to tie in with this remarkable screening of contemporary American artist filmmaking. I'll be reading alongside Chris McCabe on the kind invitation of curator and poet Gareth Evans, smashing out some O'Hara & more.
Screening some of the most creative and groundbreaking artist-filmmakers from the US; including Laida Lertxundi, Luciano Piazza and Ben Russell plus live poetry readings by Steven J Fowler and Chris McCabe. Curated by Jamie Wyld for Videoclub.
Thursday 12 February, 7 - 9pm Zilkha Auditorium
Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. We believe in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. We operate across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. pennedinthemargins.co.uk
The Museum of Debt is an exploration of the unspoken in a contemporary British workplace – most specifically a workplace where the task in hand is the preservation of dead objects – inanimate historical trinkets which pass on their own ossification to their watchmen & watchwomen, and breed a myriad of depressions. Between the concussion of photography and irony of poetries, so the Museum of Debt is about mortality, and a mild form of waking death. Both poet & photographer involved were involved doing the job they documented. A project of internal projection with an innately shared set of meanings and experiences. The photographs were taken then the poems were written