Upcoming events / exhibitions / publications

Some upcoming events, publications, exhibitions, including the launch of my new poetry collection with Test Centre (June 3rd) and a performance at Tate Modern (July 18th), plus a few things that’ve happened in 2015.

May 2nd – Celebrating Jackson MacLow’s Light poems, reading at the Wellcome collection. 

May 8th – Feinde: Austrian Enemies, collaborating with Jorg Piringer at the Rich Mix.

May 13th - reading at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, for an event discussing Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s relief The Wrestlers, drawing on my work for the Tate.

May 14th - for UNESCO’s European Literature Night Edinburgh, I’ll be launching my collaborative poetry collection,Oberwildling: on the life of Oskar Kokoschka, with Colin Herd, at the Sutton Gallery.

May 15th –a reading at Little Sparta, the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay.

May 17th – a reading at Five Years Gallery, for the ‘How to write’ project 

May 18th – a reading at Cog Arts, Dalston

May 19th to 27th I’ll be reading in Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Bangor & Aberystwyth in Wales, as part of the Enemies project: Gelynion, collaborating with Joe Dunthorne, Nia Davies, Zoe Skoulding & co 

May 29th – Reading at the Hay-on-Wye festival to close Gelynion in Wales.

June 3rd - I’ll be launching my new poetry collection {Enthusiasm} published by Test centre on June 3rd in London. 

June 5th – Gelynion in London, at the Rich Mix Arts Centre.

June 6th – Stoke Newington Literature Festival, reading with Iain Sinclair & Tom Chivers for Test Centre.

June 6th - My solo exhibition, Mahu, opens on June 6th at the Hardy Tree Gallery in Kings X. 10 events follow in the 3 week run.

June 11th - a reading at the Garden Museum, London, for my residency with J&L Gibbons Landscape Architects

June 21st – Reading at the Berlin Poesiefestival.

July 18th – a performance & discussion at the Tate Modern 


A recent interview on Sabotage Reviews, by Will Barrett, a comprehensive discussion of the purpose behind my work. http://sabotagereviews.com/2015/03/10/its-all-one-enormous-blancmange-an-interview-with-s-j-fowler/

In February I attended the Salzburg Global Seminar for a program called the Neuroscience of Art: what are the sources of Creativity & Innovation? A report http://www.stevenjfowler.com/salzburgglobal

I attended the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, produced by the Writer’s Centre and the British Council, speaking on a panel about technology & literature. My writeup here.

Since January I’ve been in part-time residence at the Hubbub at the Wellcome Collection, which is exploring the nature of rest through neuroscience, social science & aesthetics. 

I performed with Zuzana Husarova for the Parisian sound poetry festival Festina Lente in February.

I attended the Lettretage conference in Berlin, in January, giving a presentation which describes the history and purpose of the Enemies project.

I now have a page on the Poetry Archive

I launched my collaborative book 1000 proverbs with Tom Jenks, at a Liverpool Camarade event, published by Knives, forks & spoons press.

For Wrogowie: Polish Enemies, I performed with Milosz Biedrzycki, celebrating the work of Tomaz Salamun

For Enemigos: Mexican Enemies, I collaborated with Amanda de la Garza, via video.

I read at the Whitechapel Gallery with Chris McCabe, for Stateland, curated by Gareth Evans.

Fourfold, a press in Glasgow, published my collaboration with Ross Sutherland, nick-e Melville, Ryan Van Winkle & Colin Herd: the Auld Fold.

The new Penned in the Margins 2015 programme features details on my first play, a scratch of which is scheduled for October.

an interview with Will Barrett at Sabotage reviews - a turning point

I decided in this interview to be more direct about my aesthetic opinions than I had ever done before. Why that is so is extremely complex. All I will say is this is result of years of considered thought, many missteps, much doubt and a constant desire to pressure test my ideas. I have finally reached the point that I believe firmly in these notions and that I can stand by them, they have been mettled. Of course revisions will come, but this seems the truth, as far as my opinion goes.

I have received a remarkable volume of heartfelt messages of support from people after the interview, and to those people I am exceedingly grateful. And I am grateful to Will too, and to Sabotage. And to everyone who has disagreed, and who has done so acknowledging, as I hope I have, that people are more than poetry.

The interview runs over 5000 words, so I won't post it all. In fact just the first question. It can be found in full http://sabotagereviews.com/2015/03/10/its-all-one-enormous-blancmange-an-interview-with-s-j-fowler/ Please do check it out.


 

WB I think for this interview we should stick mostly to your collection The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner, which came out last year on Eyewear. For anyone completely new to your work, and this book, what advice would you give them as readers? Let’s assume they’re not very familiar with 20th or 21st century poetry.

SJF Okay, so I’m going to hit you with a deluge. Do forgive me, please take it as me taking your questions seriously. The advice I can give is theoretical rather than contextual, in that if you have what is a traditional, or shall we say dominant, notion of what poetry is, my poetry won’t mean much to you.

There is a profound error made about what poetry is, that pre-dominates in the UK, and beyond, but definitely in the UK right now in 2015. Poetry is made of language, not of emotions. Its building blocks are letters and words and the often fractious relationships to the meanings we attribute to these materials. This is the starting point of any poem, any text. Moreover, the poem exists as a physical thing, first seen, then read. Its context and its appearance, has great power, alongside its meaning. Language is the material of conversation, and of thought (perhaps, somewhat), and poetry, unlike music, has to work within the material of its own consideration and concept. What I mean by this is that poetry uses the thing we use to conceive and express all things. Music, visual art, sculpture – they do not. That is, unfortunately, their advantage in our time.

Therefore, very simply, poetry is, to me, the thing we do that uses this language material for something other than conversation or declaration. How is it, then, that the majority of poetry, or what most people know poetry to be, is essentially a conversation with oneself? Most poetry is first person ‘I’, narrative, subjective, descriptive, anecdotal and sentimental. It enforces a singular, limited notion of self-hood (one authorial voice) and employs language for its everyday function. It conceives emotional expressiveness, or ‘insight’, as the last moment of poetry, the crowning moment. Whereas, in reality, it is the first moment – an adolescent urge to express one’s feeling, one’s emotions and experiences, directly, often quite literally. Assuming a myriad of things, perhaps worse of all, the assumption that is interesting to other people. It brooks no ambiguity of meaning in its content, and it mistakes realism, or descriptive narrative (with occasional adjective flourish or familiar metaphor) for reality. It emphasises the romantic notion that the poet has a god given gift, that they are inspired by a muse, an essentially theological aesthetics (the poet alone with their god). It is Calvinist, the lucky few are born chosen. Moreover is represents a bizarrely specific type of writing, one we have come to know as ‘poetic’, one that is of a very certain time, and world of language, and that is now, horrifically retrograde.

For me, poetry is about the human animal in wonderment about the very possibility of language at all. It should be about refracting and reflecting and mulching the endless and idiosyncratic world of language, its materials, its meaning and the expression of that which surround us all differently. The poet’s ‘gift’ is the skill, attention and uniqueness of this refraction. This then is a poetry that reflects our world. It is one that keeps pace. It allows for a poetry that takes in data, algorithms, the changing nature of speech, the changes in our very cognition due to technology and so on. It is a poetry that allows us to be the multiple people we are, from our varying moods, to our varying languages, to our feelings in and out, and at the edges of expression. It does not hoot the same horn for forty years. And it is a poetry where the meaning is not closed. The reader should complete a poem with their world of meaning and language and understanding. The poet confronts the material of all conception and displaces and displays it for others to understand.

This is probably reads as shrill, but it is not a myth. If the situation we have in poetry was applied to other artistic fields it would be as though painters in 2015 could really only be known for painting pastoral landscapes, or contemporary composers could only write melodies in order to gain widespread acclaim. Of course they could toil away in obscurity, trying to respond to the actual world around them and not the romantic tradition hundreds of years deep, but we’d call them ‘experimental’, and gently shift them to the margins. This first-person anecdotal mode of poetry is the absolutely dominant in prizes and festivals in the UK. The fact is, there are thousands of poets in this country and around the world that have reacted to the same stimulus as those in the art world, the developments of thought, and of life, in the post-war era. They are just not known. They certainly have not been lauded or recognised here.

This comes down to a few simple factors, and this is the best way to introduce my work, through its aspiration. Rich aesthetic experience, be it poetry, music, art – requires attention. It requires context, theory and concentration to engage with it, to appreciate it, to develop a taste for it. It requires investment. A Rothko takes time to understand, to reflect itself back onto you, to represent the majesty of the non-literal – the moods that escape description in conversational language. A Schoenberg piece requires multiple listens, to attune oneself to the layering, the brilliance that sits in between the complex sounds that lie outside of our ordinary ear. Why is a poem expected to offer gratification immediately? I am attracted to that which requires me to work toward understanding, and that requires me to grow in perception. How have we come to value reduction? To mistake a flowery speech or an anecdote broken into lines as a poem?

To my eyes, most poems are bad speeches, and this is where spoken word sits even further beyond what I take poetry to be. It is most often a speech, given in exhortation, performed in a contrived rhythm. It allows for no misunderstanding of meaning, brooks no ideological inquiry and tells its readers or listeners what they already know, and by and large agree with. It takes for granted that language has situated, static meanings and it mistakes speech without rigour for poetry, and couches this in affectation. If I asked what differentiates a dominant/traditional or spoken word poem from a sentimental anecdote or a banal political speech you could perhaps point to the former being in lines and the latter being a block of words. There is no difference, generally speaking, otherwise.

And before you think this is just aesthetic malingering, all of this is underpinned by a fundamental, ethical choice about how we see existence. When confronted with the unknowable, adversarial, immensity of life – just take mortality itself, that everything is permeated on our absolute certainty of aging towards expiry – you can either admit your limitations and be grateful for life itself, a life lived in confusion, or you can try and make up an answer to all, and pretend you have control. The traditional, dominant mode of poetry is founded upon the notion that the poet can control language to represent the profound experiences of life. In so doing they employ means which are less than the things they wish to represent. In anecdotes, observation and conversation, and with sentiment, they reduce the world onto their pages. They transfuse life. Faced with overwhelming complexity, the response is assuredness. This is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worst. The contemporary, or what is called experimental poet, is making what is immensely complex in existence equally complex in language. This is what my work is about.

 

a review of Yes But Are We Enemies? Cork by Rosie O'Regan on Sabotage reviews

"Yes, but are we enemies is the intriguing title for a refreshingly eclectic group of touring and local  poets. The TDC (Theatre Development Centre) at Triskel was a very suitable venue for this well attended event in Cork. It’s about twenty by sixty feet of windowless dark grey painted stone and concrete with a modest but adequate lighting rig. I call it the cave. It’s perfectly conducive for intimate happenings in theatre and poetry alike. All in all there were about fifty bums on seats (that’s bums attached to legs and spines as opposed to bus shelters and park benches) and another fifteen or so leaned on the wall or sat on a platform at the back, an impressive turnout for an experimental poetry gig.
Steven J Fowler and Christodoulos Makris who have co-curated the Irish leg of this innovative and ambitious project, graciously introduced the evening. S.J Fowler has already brought the project to four other countries, his stated aim being to encourage experimentation through poetry in collaboration, to question how we read or listen to poetry and to find new ways of composition. The Irish poets, Ailbhe Darcy, Billy Ramsell and (Dublin-based) Christodoulos Makris, along with English poets Patrick Coyle, Sam Riviere and S.J Fowler, are now coming to the tail end of the Irish tour  which has included Belfast, Derry, Galway, Cork and Dublin. It will finish in London on Saturday the 27th at 7pm at the Rich Mix Arts Centre. In each city they visit, they are joined by six local poets. The collaborative combinations are ever changing, so each event, while relating to the theme, is its own animal.....
The person responsible for inspiring so many excellent poets with the undoubtable worthy concept ‘Yes, but are we enemies’ was next to take the stage. Steven J.Fowler was joined by Ailbhe Darcy. They delved into the theme of a nuclear holocaust, managing to lighten the severity of their subject with a dark wit. Ailbhe spoke ‘imagination is the worst part of torture’, to which Steven quipped ‘the redemption’. I saw a mischievousness in Ailbhe. Steven had a steady self assuredness, ‘one golden boy’ appearing totally at ease with his audience. I wasn’t quite sure where the poetry was taking me, however. Like I said my attention span was wavering. I did feel safe in their hands and took this line home, ‘inundated by rude people as though we were computers and they numbers’.
Christodoulos Makris and Sam Riviere engaged in a clever letter writing exchange. It was a game of top dog that lightened the mood and inspired much laughter from the audience. ‘What is the use in talking to people who think they know better?’ None I suppose, but listening to two trying to prove the same is entertaining. When one of them piped up with ‘ignoring women is the only thing that turns me on’, I thought to myself, now that’s good comedy. Why? Because with some women it might just be a good strategy. I was happy to be introduced to Christodoulos and Sam, two new voices. Their straight talking made the overall experience a bit more playful around the concept of ‘enemies’. ‘savages come from everywhere’, yes indeed and ‘every arrival is the story of a departure’.
Patrick Coyle and Billy Ramsell were a great combination to round off proceedings. They put the performance into the poetry that was perhaps a little lacking with others who relied solely on reading from the page. Patrick had an energy to him that was buzzing. He was having so much fun himself that it couldn’t not be felt. ‘Oh de do da day’ yay! His approach was spontaneous in that he incorporated seven syllables from every other reading of the night to his, ‘do da do da’ and when he took out his smart phone, used the taping tone of the digits to emphasise a line, I was fully with him. I relished in the daftness of ‘orange rhymes with orange’ and ‘these camp-town racists who sing that song, oh de do da’ gay racists? I suppose it takes all kinds of enemies to make this special, spatial planet. Billy Ramsell who probably won’t like me at all for putting his name after that last sentence was a worthy candidate to end with. No one else enunciates quite so deliberately. He gives every word its full shape, started into his poem slowly, tasted the snap of every consonant, then gradually found himself swaying, eyes closed and words flowing. It was about memory, memory extraction, harvesting and transfer. It was memorable."

Billy Mills reviews the Whale Hunt on Sabotage reviews


 "The whale hunt in the title of SJ Flower’s excellent chapbook is of the Viking variety, these being Viking poems. There is no clear evidence that the Vikings actually hunted whales, although whales and Vikings did most definitely co-exist and the one scavenged the carcasses of the other when such carcasses washed up on convenient beaches. Indeed, the limits of Viking whaling may well have been to injure whales in the hope of facilitating such scavenging. Sadly the Sagas are relatively silent on the matter.

Tilikum the captive orca, on the other hand, very definitely exists and is reasonably efficient as a people hunter, having killed three of them. Maybe he mistook them for Vikings? Together, Viking whale hunts, real or otherwise, and Tilikum the angry orca form the warp and woof of Whale Hunt.
*
As an object, this is the kind of chapbook that pleases my senses greatly. Its A6 page size is perfect for pockets, and the choice of a crisp serif font more than compensated for the small point size, meaning that the blocks of text are clearly readable. These untitled blocks, or poems, are nine in number and vary in length from eleven to seventeen lines, giving the whole the feel of a sonnet sequence. The inclusion of three interestingly complimentary illustrations, combining photomontage and angular line drawings, by publisher Nick Murray and the good-quality paper used add considerably to the pleasure.
The language of the poems is suitably jagged, given the Viking substratum:
Sparrows above, they are the size & colour of seagulls
Jokke saw they are so delicate, said their beaks
I told him & we throw rocks at them & eat them
with the preponderance of single-syllable words and fricative consonants combining highly effectively to create a suitably Nordic soundscape.
In a recent interview, Fowler mentions Pierre Joris and Tom Raworth as exemplars of the kind of poetic practice he admires. Anselm Hollo, a poet often associated with them, gets a name-check in the first of these poems; ‘now a skald in Valhalla’. On the evidence of Whale Hunt, what Fowler’s work most has in common with these older poets is speed. Speed of perception, of movement from one object to another, of language: these are the dominant characteristics of these poems. They are fast, disjunctive and unsettling of readerly expectations:
when war walked upright on the waves
bearpaw blackfish           red arts admin.
that I surely shouldn’t do the recorded ruins
resurrected in Englishness tracery
intact in the tombing, parted company
heat dissolving delicacy, bound up
clow clear framing everyward to be heard
There is an additional undercurrent of animism running through the poems. Fowler’s whales and other animals are shape-shifting totemic creatures inhabiting a world in which ‘Time began with a bear then it became a Viking’. The bear is almost as much a presence as the whale; indeed they cannot really be distinguished:
Becoming Bear from Whale
Turns out the Whale is a Beaver
Bear > Beaver > Whale
Like Housman’s hunter and sailor, whalers, even putative Viking whalers, come home in the end. In fact, ‘home’ is the final word in both the first and last lines of the ninth and final poem in the set. For poet and Viking alike, it’s a hard-won landfall, ‘famished but alive’, wearing an Orca skull as helmet, home at last. It’s a neat resolution for such a restless sequence, final but somehow lacking finality, home until the next time, language, for the moment, at rest."

Saboteur awards 2014 - vote for Enemies

Very happy to discover the day after I didn't win the white review prize that Enemies had been nominated for the Sabotage review awards this year, for best collaborative work. http://sabotagereviews.com/2014/05/01/
saboteur-awards-2014-the-shortlist/ 

If you follow the link you can vote for Enemies near the bottom. Please do 

Also perhaps a vote well spent is one for Penned in the Margins for most innovative publisher, and Electronic Voice Phenomena for best spoken word show (!), and POW for best one off night? perhaps perhaps

Enemies reviewed with care & skill by David Clarke on Sabotage reviews

-Reviewed by David Clarke-
The Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin once argued that the distinguishing feature of the novel was its multi-voiced-ness. This distinguished it from the lyric mode, which, he claimed, addressed the reader as a single, undivided voice. Whereas the lyric is a mode of identity, Bakhtin suggested, the novel is multiple, orchestrating an array of discourses, none of which can lay claim to ultimate authority. Avant-garde poetics in its various forms sharply calls such a distinction into question: to the extent that a lyric I is performed by such texts, they delight in deconstructing that I as a mere site through which many discourses pass, a disjointed or even fragmented voice which refuses to resolve itself into univocal meaning. This is as true for that swathe of the avant-garde referred to as modernist as it is for post-modernists like Ashbery or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets like Bernstein. Referring to prose, Bakthin called this effect dialogic, and I was put in mind of this notion repeatedly when reading Enemies: The Selected Collaborations of SJ Fowler, a handsomely produced volume from the excellent Penned in the Margins.
This is a compilation of some of the collaborations which Fowler has undertaken with over 150 artists, writers, sculptors and musicians in a project funded by the Arts Council and the Jerwood Foundation. The scale of the work has been enormous and is a testament to Fowler’s commitment as a kind of impresario of the avant-garde (or vanguard, as he prefers to call it): alongside this anthology, numerous discreet publications have emerged with small presses. Many of the performances associated with the project can also be found on-line (see http://www.weareenemies.com/ and Fowler’sYouTube channel).
The dialogic aspect of the book, in a banal sense, is clear in the material presented, which includes samples of work from 29 of the collaborations. Many of these take on the form of a dialogue between text and image (i.e. where Fowler has written text to accompany visual material), but there are also entirely text-based exchanges: for example, an exchange of e-mails with Sam Riviere and a series of poems written by Fowler and Claire Potter in which the poets have exchanged YouTube links and asked each other to respond. With other co-produced texts, it is less easy to reconstruct the exchange which took place, although Fowler provides notes which give a broad outline of the process.
However, I would argue that these texts are dialogic not merely in the sense that they are the products of artists exchanging work and responding to each other, but in the more important sense that the exchange and the work it produces enter into an unresolved relationship, in which the reader is also implicated. This contrasts with more established notions of how poetry responds to other works of art, or indeed to other poems. The ekphrastic tradition, for example, records the response of the poet to a work of art. She may see something new in that work, bring a new interpretation to it, for example, as Auden famously does with Brueghel’s Fall of Icarus; yet this kind of dialogue with others produces above all a new meaning which the reader is invited to consume. The dialogues taking place here do not follow this pattern.
To take two of the collaborations which set up a dialogue of text and image, we can see how this works in practice. Fowler and Alexander Kell’s ‘Museum of Debt’ juxtaposes monochrome photographs of employees of the British Museum with short poems. The photographs themselves refuse any fly-on-the-wall documentary aesthetic: in fact, it is unclear in most cases what kind of work the individuals pictured actually do. Their poses jar with the context, pouting or apparently larking about in the way people might do in a Facebook photograph, yet the texts equally refuse either to illustrate the images themselves or to comment on the workers’ everyday experience. There is a clear parodic intent, sending up the many residencies offered for poets by workplaces of all kinds (not least galleries and museums), yet it is in the unresolved dialogue between image and text that the real interest lies. In the second poem in this sequene, ‘tooth of the Nile’, for instance, we see a photograph of a young woman grinning exaggeratedly up at statue which cradles another, smaller statue in its arm. The text reads as follows: ‘the ark of the covenant / baby hercule / an asp, a thesp / a guided tour /of softcore’. The text, read together with the image, allows a number of possible meanings to emerge: perhaps this is Hercules we see cradled in the statue’s arms, but what covenant could this represent, in what sense is this an erotic image? Or is our looking at the young woman as she looks at the statue potentially erotic? The reference to theatre is apt, since the image seems self-consciously staged, yet this may also establish a link with the guided tours that museums offer, which are theatrical experiences in themselves. I hesitate to resolve the ‘meaning’ of this poem as it emerges from its relationship with the image, because I ultimately feel that this is not the point. Neither image nor text claim any authority over our interpretation of the museum space, although the interpretations which could emerge from our own interaction with text and image are clearly rich. Even from this one example, however, we can see that the demand for engagement on the part of the reader articulated by this collaboration, for all of its tongue-in-cheek wit, is considerable.
‘Animal Husbandry’, a series of inkblots and accompanying texts by Fowler and Sian Williams, calls upon the reader to make sense of the relationship between inkblots of the kind used in psychiatry and texts made up of tentatively associated (but often very beautiful) fragments of language. Again, rather than simply offering an interpretation of the inkblots, the texts set up a loose chain of associations which do not finally resolve themselves into a final meaning. The reader’s dialogue with abstract image and mysterious text is all the more disquieting when we look at the context of the inkblot test, a psychiatric technique for uncovering unspoken desires. It is unclear whose desires are failing to reveal themselves to the reader here, but the inkblots themselves are an invitation to the reader to make their own interpretation, which will necessarily interfere with that (not) to be found in the text.
Although in subtly different ways, the text and image collaborations in the volume follow similar patterns. The pieces based on exchanges of text, however, make similar demands of the reader in terms of their dialogic construction. For example, ’40 Feet’, written with Dave Berridge, emerges from an exchange of blocks of text (none of which are marked as belonging to either author), which produces a kaleidoscopic vision of London made up of fragments of real events and apparently disconnected thoughts. The reading experience made me feel a little like one of Wim Wenders’ eavesdropping angels in Wings of Desire, but without the privilege of their omniscient point-of-view. ‘Dead Souls Like’, with Chris McCabe, produces a similarly multiple, wildly associative piece of flaneurism or psychogeography on the city of Liverpool.  In ‘Videodrome’ with Claire Potter, the exchange of texts about YouTube videos which we cannot actually see, involves the reader in a disturbing act of imagination, particularly given the hints at violence contained in Potter and Fowler’s texts: I will admit that I have not dared to open the links, although I would not mind betting that their relative harmlessness is part of the joke. The key point in all of these, however, is not so much the space left for the reader in these dialogues, but that any (ultimately unrealisable) attempt to pin down the meaning which these conversations set in motion is the reader’s alone: none of the many voices in these collaborations is going to relieve the reader of that responsibility.
For me, this is the significance of the title that Fowler has chosen for his project. His collaborations are not friendly: neither in the sense of seeking to arrive at a position of harmony between those producing the work, nor in the sense that a finished artistic product offers the reader any easy answers. In fact, these collaborations are the opposite of a ‘finished’ product: they remain open to a dialogue with the reader, indeed to many dialogues (as in many re-readings) with the reader. In his introduction, Fowler acknowledges that he has been told that ‘this book is dense and mysterious, full of challenging material, and shifts in tone.’ This is certainly the case, and the volume requires not just a careful reader, but a ‘writerly’ one, as Roland Barthes would have put it. Some of the texts leave less space for this. The series of invented proverbs Fowler produces with Tom Jenks, although amusing, are more easily consumable, and the e-mail exchange between Fowler and Riviere circles around the latter’s typical concerns about the role and identity of the poet, as well as exploring the very possibility of collaboration itself. A kind of meta-collaboration then, or a collaboration about collaboration, but sometimes a little too close to shop-talk.
This volume fulfils a further function in setting out the stall of the avant-garde in contemporary British poetry. While anthologies of recent years have situated the avant-garde as one feature of a ‘pluralist now’ (as in Roddy Lumsden’s anthology Identity Parade) or have made the argument that younger poets have bought into avant-garde techniques without necessarily sacrificing the motivation to express personal concerns (as in Nathan Hamilton’s recent Dear World and Everyone in It), this book will serve as an introduction to the full provocation of today’s ‘vanguardist’ poetics, for which Fowler is a vocal and eloquent advocate (see, for example, various talks on his Soundcloud page). Fowler’s co-ordinating presence has an impact on the themes which emerge most strongly in the collaborations: issues of criminality, marginality, sexuality, and control and surveillance noticeably echo elements of Fowler’s own Minimum Security Prison Dentistry, for example. Nevertheless, this is a volume whose primary function will be to engage contemporary audiences with the ramifications of the avant-garde’s undiminished challenge to the reader.