A note on: The Krokodil Festival: Belgrade, Serbia – June 24th & 25th 2016

I had the chance to attend Krokodil through CROWD Literature’s Omnibus project, which takes 100 poets, on a bus, through Europe, changing poets with the countries and readings, on a weekly basis. And as I mentioned, my fifth visit to Serbia. It was one of my favourite places to explore when I was in my early twenties, twice I took public transport through the whole Balkans, from Slovenia into Greece. What charmed me then about the Serbia was the very things that wore me down on my last few visits – the bluntness, the brusqueness, the self-awareness, the intense historicism and the combustible nature of some of the people I met. This trip completely flipped that on its head, I benefited from some of the most generous hospitality I can recall, twice being given meals for free, many times engaging in conversations with strangers. And the whole atmosphere of the festival was an extension of these lovely experiences, the audience always patient, intelligent, intellectually lively and friendly. This with both nights of the festival running to over three hours, with many poets from all over Europe and interviews and music. 

I've written a full travelogue here www.stevenjfowler.com/belgrade

A note on: CROWD - the Omnibus Tour

Great to be part of CROWD's groundbreaking and ambitious European Omnibus tour across Europe this summer. It's a mad, brilliant project, huge swathes of poets in stints from northern Finland all the way down to Cyprus. Loads of wonderful people involved, and I get to travel from Graz to Belgrade over a week in late June. http://crowd-literature.eu/omnibus-2/

CROWD: A 3 month bus tour from May to August 2016, featuring around 100 authors from all over Europe in 15 European countries and more than 40 cities and about 24 associated organizers and dozens of local events.

Here's a feature on me on the CROWD site, with a short interview http://crowd-literature.eu/one-crowd-steven-j-fowler/

"There have always been interactions and disputes between the discourses of poetry and politics. Do you see possibilities of emancipatory strategies concerning contemporary interactions between poetic and political discourses and agendas? How can/should/do these literary strategies look like?

I think, often, these questions are answered by people who show a fundamental assurance I cannot relate to. I find most problems, most questions, confusing, and more complex than I can understand without serious consideration and time. Therefore the answers to these questions are way beyond me. That doesn’t mean I’m left inert in the face of very real challenges. In fact, by acknowledging my changing, confused perspective, a certain kind of pragmatism tends to come to the fore, and I am free to be active.

If I have to answer, and briefly, then I’d simply say there are interactions and disputes between politics and people, politics and culture, politics and language. Poetry is a tiny, all but irrelevant part of these interactions and disputes. Poetry has no more claim or power over these discourses than baking or gardening. People who write poems can be powerfully influential on politics and culture and people, but not exclusively because they write poems. There is nothing innately useful in poetry for positive change in political terms, apart from maybe a sensitivity to language (which might manipulate us), but you need not be a poet for that.

My opinion then, following from this, is that a strategy for change with literature is about people over poetry, process over product, context over content. That’s why I think organising collaborations with poets from all over the world, organising readings and projects – this is a political act that actually is inclusive and positive and makes changes. Others talk of being political with poetry, being liberal, with an ethics based on empathy, and then they isolate many humans who happen not to share their exact political opinion, and cause divisions and bitterness and fallout. So I’m interested in real space."

Novi Sad Poetry Festival - a diary

Not 100% this actually happened. Not sure how to situate myself fresh off another near week away, this time in Novi Sad, in the north of Serbia. It did happen of course, but bracketed, as these things often are (lots of strangers, together, in a hotel of fading glory, in a place some find exotic, some intimidating etc..) but more so. More so than normal for me, and I often seek these things out, their intensity of exchange and potential for private experience and exploration very attractive to me. I can meet new and interesting poets, people local to the place, retire early each night, write a lot, and feel engaged in quite a profound way. But this trip was somehow more and less intense.
My 4th time in Serbia, and the first for poetry, the first I didnt pay loads to get there etc... and I'm older now. It made a difference somehow. Difficult to convey the subtle change in my perception of a place I was once very enamoured with. Silly of me to make generalisations, but I spent this trip seeking conversations and contact, and made them, and found many to be contradictory or even worrying in places. Moreover, while I had told friends this might be a trip that sits to the Right of my practise, an Old poetry festival, 9 years old (2005 beginning) and so starting just in the midst of a new era of Serbia, perhaps the reality of that being true did take me slightly aback. The grandeur of poetry and those who think themselves grand in that light is quite bearable, more funny for its absurdity than offensive, but still, not a cushion to my proclivities. And I enjoyed hospitality and kindness, but I also experienced a palpable sense of obstinate assuredness and martyrdom from young Serbs I had assumed to be the ideal liberal voices. Yet the whole experience was very joyful, I felt very present in Novi Sad, ate amazingly, ran the length of the Danube, spent a half dozen hours a day in conversation, and as ever a privilege to be invited and to engage with a new place and people, and travel, through the mad irrelevance of what I write.

I was delighted to be there with Mark Waldron, a friend through poetry, but how much do we know these kind people we meet at readings? I got to really know him in Novi Sad, for that alone, all was magical. We shared many meals, many British complaints as gentle shows of affection, many jokes, and wide ranging discussions on many things I don't often speak about. He is as humble as he is brilliant. I also got to meet some extraordinary poets from around the world, Mexico, Poland, Colombia, Denmark, and on. And some of those involved in the festival were hard pressed and lovely, overworked and bright and friendly and hospital. It was a human experience. Novi Sad itself looks beautiful to my eye, more Habsburg than Belgrade, and it was boiling hot. And I got to walk the banks of the Danube in yet another city. I climbed the hills to the fortress, perused the communist museum, rambled into the suburbs and housing estates. 
We read in a public square, under a massive chinese arch, to mixed audience, public and poets, small and large. I tried to entertain during my reading, but only between the normal miserablist / disjunctive poetry. It was gently, quietly received. On the final night, Mark read and then we were shuffled to the national Serbian slam championships, and I was slowly tortured before reading myself and deadening the crowd with my lack of emotion. It was a firm summation of the whole experience of the festival, a place too full of nostalgia that can't help but pass some of that onto you, and that's a vivid emotional experience, even if its one I often resist.

my bio in Serbian

С.Џ. Фаулер(1983), савремени је авангардни енглески песник и уметник. Рођен је у Труроу, Корвнолу, и студирао је на Универзитетима у Дурхаму и Лондону (Беркбек колеџ). Објавио је шест збирки песама, од укупно двадесет и једне публикације, међу којима су књиге у кутијама, песнички памфлети и постери. У свом представи значајне европске песнике и филозофе 21. века. Од 2011. главни је уредник Лириклајна за Британију и часописа 3АМ. Збирке поезије: Ротвајлеров водич за власнике паса (2014), Непријатељи: избране сарадње С. Џ. Фаулера (2013), Рецепти (2012), Зубар у затвору минималног обезбеђења (2011), Борбе (2011), Црвени музеј (2011). Живи у Лондону. * стваралаштву бави се асемантичком, конкретном и звучном поезијом, соничком уметношћу, инсталацијама, перформансом, визуелним уметностима и прозом. Примио је наруџбине од Тејта, Мерсија, Укљештених на маргини, Лондонске синфониете, Војсворкс пројекта и Ливерпулског бијенала. Његова дела су преведена на тринаест језика, наступао је на бројним манифестацијама широм света, укључујући и Вигморску салу, Рич микс арт центар, Салу св. Џорџа, Модерни торањ, Сејџ, Лабораторио арте алмаеду (Мексико сити) и Арс поетику (Братислава). Предавао је у Саутбенк центру, Школи песништва бербечког колеџа, Колеџу св. Мартина и Британској библиотеци. Куратор је пројекта Непријатељи, покренутог 2013. године, у оквиру кога ради на оригиналним заједничким перформансима, сарадњи међу сликарима, фотографима, вајарима и другим ствараоцима. У намери да развије могућности сарадње и писану реч, овај пројекат јеукључио преко две стотине стваралаца и добио нагрaде од Уметничког савета Енглеске, Џервудске фондације, Британског савета и Креативне Шкотске. За часопис 3АМ 2010. године почео је серију интервјуа "Одржавање" која до данас има око 99 наставака, у намери да енглеској публици и песницима