A note on : The end of the Other Room

The Other Room has come to an end. Ten years of remarkable events that have led the way in a resurgence of decidedly contemporary forward thinking poetry in the North West have wrapped themselves up as of April 2018. The trio of curators, all markedly influential poets, publishers and educators themselves – Scott Thurston, James Davies, Tom Jenks – have worked together in putting on dozens of poets in dozens of events, publishing 10 anthologies and posting hundreds of updates online for events and publications across the UK. They have done the kind of work that acts as an invisible inspiration to generations that come up behind them, that create concrete connections between writers and happenings that influence the future of poetry in the UK, especially outside of London, and I for one have often made it known their very specific way of working events has been a massive influence upon me. https://otherroom.org/

I would say my experience reading at The Other Room in 2011 was the singular influence on the nascent Enemies Project then and has concentrated my focus ever since. What I discovered was that there isn’t a contradiction between a warm, welcoming, hospitable, funny, unpretentious atmosphere and poetry that is challenging, complex, oblique, idiosyncratic and strange. In fact, these two things are complimentary. This discovery made me realise the often experienced distance, coolness and hierarchy of many readings was a deliberate imposition fashioned in order to create for themselves a sense of exclusivity. The Other Room showed this to me, this vital realisation and in so doing eliminated any instinct I might’ve had for utopian projects in poetry, allowing me to focus on each night at a time, to be present with the poets on those nights, enjoy their company, listen concentratedly to their work and then have a laugh whenever possible. This is very likely the reason my events are still going, 8 years after they began. 

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The Other Room also showed me that the superstition some poets have as a legacy from the last century, that organising too successfully blots out appreciation of your own poetry, a spectre of conflicting interests somewhere in the poetry ether (being a poet and editor is fine though apparently, and anthologising, and teaching) is also a myth. Scott, James and Tom are some of the most interesting poets writing in the UK, each with their own markedly original oeuvre and intellectual concerns, rendered in a multitude of forms and spaces, each with their own influence over many of their peers. Scott was one of the very first poets I met, and I listened to him carefully then, as I do now - his work offered me great possibility. James has done as much as anyone to make conceptual poetry in the UK its own separate exploration with its own decidedly British concerns, separate from the humourless aggrandisement that can be indicative of people’s understanding of that area of poetry. And Tom’s prolific invention, insight and deep erudition worn lightly has been a huge influence on my use of satire, humour and the balance between lyricism and found language. Tom, like Scott and James too, is such a clear thinker about poetry, has such a mind for the art, but carries this knowledge with great humility, always in a mode of learning, always open to new ideas.

The end of The Other Room is a loss for the UK poetry scene. I had always hoped similarly organic homes for interesting poetry would pop up in cities across the country, that it would procreate into more rooms of otherness, so that we could build a circuit that would be exponential, that would serve as a link for new poets coming through everywhere, doing what they have done for a decade, leading a way, lighting a path, providing a space. Yet, after this time, after such selfless labour, one can’t help but understand why it should end, so neatly, so that it doesn’t just dissolve as often the best things in poetry do, into something lesser, to disappear unnoticed. For my part, I’m grateful to them, they’ve run something powerful for longer than I’ve been involved in writing at all, and I hope as the next years pass The Other Room is remembered as a real moment in 21st British poetry.
 

Writers' Centre Kingston : blog #2 - Sampson Low Poetry Publication series

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I would say of all the initiatives I've lined up for my new role at Writers' Centre Kingston, this one, a series of new limited edition poetry pamphlets for current students or recent alumni of Kingston Uni, is the one I'm most excited about. It gives me the chance to work closely with some remarkably mature, original and exciting poets and its the first series I've edited like this, only seven years into my own writing. Molly, Zakia and Dacy have all made my time at kingston in the last few years more engrossing because of the constant surprises and reassurances their work has provided.  https://www.writerscentrekingston.com/sampsonlow

The link has the place to buy the booklets, and anything that supports Alban Low's work at Sampson Low is worthwhile. His professionalism and attention to detail is remarkable too. Here's my statement accompanying the series

“Kingston University brings together students from all over the world, from as wide a range of backgrounds and cultures as can be found in the UK. It creates a community that cross pollinates influences and ideas, and this is inevitably reflected in the work the students create. The university does not get enough credit for this – it is, I have seen, a vibrant, harmonious environment where originality and difference can be transformed into exciting and innovative expression. The students are hungry for that which is innovative, that which allows them to express the true size and complexity of their experience and their community at the university. This series of poetry pamphlets reflects that. The work is utterly contemporary, it is exciting and energetic. It is, I hope, the best kind of representation of what Kingston University stands for – intelligent, unique and various in its character.”  
Series editor, SJ Fowler

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A note on: CapLet Anniversary reading: August 10th, with Prudence Chamberlain

Very happy to be reading at Jonathan Mann' CapLet series again in Bethnal Green, and to have another chance to perform with Prue Chamberlain, launching our book further into the world www.stevenjfowler.com/houseofmouse

CapLet was conceived as a community of readers and writers of poetry from a range of backgrounds and traditions. Since its launch last year, it has gone from strength to strength, hosting some of the most innovative poets around. Come and join in the discussions at this special event. Details about this event are available here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1705524116380796/

A note on: The The the, reading in Peckham - July 5th 2016

A really great job done by Mischa Foster Poole curating this reading series in Peckham. I had a great experience reading alongside Jen Calleja, Isabel Galleymore and some strong open mic poets. Completely relaxed and open vibe, everyone was really friendly and my reading, trying out some brand new poems I've written in the last month, when travelling, and then finishing with an interactive, conceptual twist, playing Jacques Brel while inviting people to write farewell messages to their own continent, seemed well received. 

collaborations with David Berridge & Tom Jenks on Cordite

Both these works are about to emerge in their entirety with Knives forks and spoons press, and really kick off the Enemies series, a selection of my collaborative works published as stand alone books in their full form. // http://cordite.org.au/poetry/collaboration/40-feet/ David Berridge and I wrote 40 feet, made of 40 poems over a year ago now, and it stands to me as a very specific representation of a time, and a city, before David migrated south.

now everything’s big, everybody’s mother
is bluer than blue, whiter than white
privileged as a dip in the car thief fame and muscling up
for money
sounds like a good deal to me
when I’ve become wealthy
I’m bound to be calmest
said a Giant, currently fashionable
if the screaming doesn’t end by sunday we’ll call a doctor, said the elephant

http://cordite.org.au/poetry/collaboration/1000-proverbs/ Tom Jenks and I took an unknown amount of time to write 1000 proverbs, and an unknown amount of wisdom. All of his are very very funny. 

Better an egg today than an egg nog tomorrow.
Better Butlin’s than a Russian prison. Better a scarf in Skegness than rubber gloves in Minehead.
Better a wrestler in the vale than in Bognor Regis.
Better a bugger in Bognor than a penis in Penistone.


Chris McCabe blogs on POW series 4 & my Vikings

a well needed and thorough review of the final part of Antonio Claudio Carvalho's masterful series.

p.o.w. complete series
The penultimate p.o.w. takes us directly into the heart of visual language and does so through a challenging emotive language.vikings by s.j. fowler is an anachronistic Anglo-Saxon poem spelt out through runic images. Fowler uses his biographical note to tell us that "he is of viking heritage, and his middle name is Bjorn, which means bear". The poems drives through an end-of-the-world landscape describing a violent love encounter with a woman called Erika. The poet captures the savagery of the viking death desire, as if language is the container in which all the offshoots of their hand-to-mouth struggles was captured in. This landscape of movement, uncertainty, lust and danger is propelled forwards through the compounded, a-syntactic language and the shifts in font type and size. The poem, it could be argued, represents a fierce and honest struggle with the self, although it concludes quite beautifully : "I shine only for you, dove / it's / time to introduce / my distant pres- / ent past into / the pres- / ent".

Less Than Three poetry reading- March 18th

Very pleased to be introducing this event, to be involved at all, on March 18th. It's an admirable beginning for a new reading series which has it's roots in a collaborative venture between many worthy endeavours / poets. 3AM press is the really admirable publishing foray that has shot out of the magazine whose poetry I am happy to wrangle, pioneered by Christiana Spens, a great novelist in her own right, and Susan Tomaselli, who is responsible for Gorse amongst other things. The Quietus, hugely established in terms of musicology, has shot out into contemporary poetry under Karl Thomas Smith, with a gentle crush, kindly publishing some of my work recently. And Alex MacDonald and Francine Elena are both poets peers whose work I actively follow and have had the pleasure of hosting at events and in 3am magazine past and present. Both extraordinary nice people too. Which does make a difference in the world. Come along, it's 2 quid.

Maintenant #98 - Volodymyr Bilyk - poetry from the heart of the Maidan & a new Ukraine

At the heart of a new Ukraine, as poetically as politically, the work of Volodymyr Bilyk, and it’s worldwide repute, as is tied to the new possibilities of technology in the 21st century as it is the quality and innovation that defines it. Bilyk is the new face of a nation whose poetic history is as often entrenched as its political, and his groundbreaking visual, minimalist, conceptual, sound and artpoetry has been published across the globe, due in no small part to his willingness to embed himself within internet culture and its potentialities. Moreover, his immediacy as a poet, as evident in his poetics as in his colloquially eloquent, unpretentious mode and manner, reveals itself as the expression of an individual willing to commit utterly to the ideal of democratic freedom in his homeland. This interview is conducted during the unyielding protests, and the resultant government violence and oppression, wracking the Ukraine in late 2013 / early 2014, of which Volodymyr Bilyk, the 98th respondent of the Maintenant series, is a central and formidable part.
“Q - As we finish this interview, on February 19th 2014, Europe awakes to the news that yesterday was the bloodiest day in the battle for Ukraine’s democratic future, with 26 dead by latest news estimates. There is the sense now that these protests, lasting months already will not just fizzle out and be swept away, like so many others have in Western Europe and America over the last few years. What is the feeling in Kyiv towards this and the immediate future?
A - I can describe it as “We shall overcome!” and “No pasaran!”. It is “the end of something” and “It's the beginning of a new age”....
At the foot of the interview there are multiple links to Volodymyr’s work online, I recommend you check it out, including this, previously published on 3am magazine http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/volodymyr-bilyk & here is a link to one of Volodymyr’s recent statements on the Maidan protests http://blutkitt.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/volodymyr-bilyk-statement-collaborations.html
& here, published almost exactly 3 years ago, my Maintenant interview, number #53, with another powerful Ukrainian poet, offering his own voice of resistance to the current protests, Yuri Andrukhovych http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/maintenant-53-yuri-andrukhovych
I would recommend reading Yuri’s recent piece for the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/opinion/love-and-hatred-in-kiev.html?_r=0

Maintenant #96 - George Szirtes


Conventional wisdom would suggest when a poet leaves their country of birth at a young age, for a new nation, they might bring to bear both traditions upon their writing. Perhaps it is possible, though arguably reductive, that the poet in question would be of neither nation truly - forever an immigrant in one and a stranger to another. What seems assured though, is that this sense of displacement, ambiguity of tradition and identity, this fundamental plurality of language and culture, would seem to find its proper place in the intangibility at the heart of a forceful and considered poetic, where such equivocality is not only welcome but perhaps necessary. At the core of the last century's European poetry tradition lies the notion of trace, of multiplicity, invention, migration and these are the defining characteristics of George Szirtes' oeuvre. His body of work, 40 years in the making and prolific in that time, has carried across forms, mediums, language and tones. It is the poetry of a singular individual extolling individualism, a poet whose responsibilities towards generosity and openness of spirit seem gracefully self-imposed across writing, translating, teaching, editing and anthologising. Moreover, it is the not the work of a man trapped between nations and histories, but one who has been emancipated by a lifetime's fidelity to poetry, never bound by a national dualism, despite the complications of being explicitly Hungarian and implicitly English. Author of over 20 collections, winner of numerous prizes including the TS Eliot, the Cholmondeley, the Gold star of the Hungarian republic and the best translated book award, George Szirtes is an immense poet and undoubtedly the greatest translator of Hungarian into English of the last century, if ever. In an wide ranging and generous interview, we present the 96th edition of Maintenant.


Alongside the interview, 3 new poems by George have been published, including one that forms part of his Camarade project commissioned collaboration with Carol Watts