A note on: Poem Brut at National Poetry Library

Fun was had in the wonder library of london. I love this library. It is a pure space. A space of generosity and discovery. I had the pleasure too to work with my friend pascal o'loughlin and the lovely jessica atkinson, librarians, in developing a special edition event. This time the event was part of my poem brut series, which asks poets often on the margins of what people think poetry is, to produce works that entirely concerned with liveness and material. Liveness in time, in language, in motion. Proper performance. Organically weird then, weird in a way that the world is weird. But also weird in such a range of ways. Saradha Soobrayen, Chrissy Williams, Patrick Cosgrove, Maja Jantar, Harry Man. They were all magic. And we had a packed out house, a nice audience of people, some of whom were suspicious, but in a way that made me trust them all the more.

My performance was a little naff, but something playing with ideas Ive had for awhile. I used a friend of mine, a chatimal, to repeat back words that I had said, to undercut the pompous tone of the recital. I read from in the stacks. I tried to asphyxiate myself. It was a good time.

A note on: in the Conceptual Poetics exhibition at Saison Poetry Library

A series of videos from the Enemies project video library have been included in this extraordinary exhibition running at Southbank Centre in London, at the Saison Poetry Library. It includes my performance with Amanda de la Garza and a series of brilliant publishers, who make up the heart of the exhibition, with whom I've been working with for years. A must see, go visit it while you still can! (Photographs of the exhibition below generously provided by Pascal O'Loughlin)

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/conceptual-poetics-1001501

A note on: Global Cities at London Literature Festival & Londonist Article

A great pleasure to host and curate an event for the London Literature Festival in partnership with Southbank Centre and Literature Across Frontiers last night. The panel included Iain Sinclair, Livia Franchini, Jana Purtle Srdic and Karlis Verdins and we had a really busy crowd on a friday night. www.theenemiesproject.com/globalcities In reference to the event, Kyra Hanson wrote a small writeup for the Londonist https://londonist.com/2015/10/do-you-feel-like-an-outsider-in-london

"In cities like Paris, Berlin and Mexico City the nature of 'belonging' is well defined. In London you have the whole world crammed into a city. This is the view of writer SJ Fowler, who suggests that in London there are few outsiders, purely because everyone is an outsider.

Despite growing up in Devon and curating over 150 events in 18 countries Fowler feels most at home in London. His latest event Global Cities, created for the London Literature Festival, suggests that London is a city shaped by those who venture here. "Iain Sinclair, the absolute archetype of a Londoner is actually Welsh," says Fowler, "yet he's more rooted in defining contemporary, artistic and literary ideas about London than nearly anyone else."  

In Fowler's experience, the only way you can become an outsider is to make yourself one. "That feeling," he says, "can only relate to how that person defines the insider, so it's always about perception." But what of the crucial aspect of language? What if English is only your second, or third, or fourth language? Doesn't that make you an outsider in London? "It's a paradoxical advantage if you come to London and you speak English," says Fowler, "you're not really speaking 'Englishness', you're speaking the world language.

"You're learning the way to speak to someone from Serbia, Japan, China." Personally, Fowler can't resist the allure of Polish shops and likens walking down a London street to travelling. "Growing up in Devon might be the reason why when I'm walking down a street and see a Polish shop I go in and talk to the person." "It's like being surrounded by growth, different cultures, different backgrounds, different childhoods, different languages, different approaches to thinking." 

On 9 October Steven J Fowler comperes a discussion with writers Iain Sinclair, Jana Putrle Srdic, Livia Franchini and Karlis Verdins about London from from an outsiders/insiders perspective. Global City London Inside Out is part of London Literature Festival at The Southbank Centre. 

A note on: Reading at London Literature Festival, Southbank Centre for Moby Dick Live

Great to read one of my favourite chapters of Moby Dick, a book I revisited and closely read just a year ago when meeting Philip Hoare, chapter 110 Queeqeg's Coffin, as part of Southbank Centre's Moby Dick Live event, where the entire novel was read out loud in ten minute chunks for four days for the London Literature Festival. http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/moby-dick-unabridged-1001129

You can read the chapter in question here: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/42/moby-dick/791/chapter-110-queequeg-in-his-coffin/and it is well worth doing so. I managed to cut together the audio of my reading with images from illustrations of Moby Dick, which can be seen above.

"An awe that cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who were bystanders when Zoroaster died. For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books. And the drawing near of Death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell. So that- let us say it again- no dying Chaldee or Greek had higher and holier thoughts than those, whose mysterious shades you saw creeping over the face of poor Queequeg, as he quietly lay in his swaying hammock, and the rolling sea seemed gently rocking him to his final rest, and the ocean’s invisible flood-tide lifted him higher and higher towards his destined heaven." 

Caroline Bergvall's Drift opens Poetry International Festival at the Southbank Centre on Thursday

Caroline Bergvall DriftA remarkable new performance work hits London's Southbank Centre on Thursday evening. Drift brings together the unique vocal talents of London-based Norwegian poet Caroline Bergvall with the experimental soundscapes of Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, and opens this year's Poetry International Festival before touring the UK in the Autumn.

Drift is a moving meditation on exile, sea travel and migration that takes its inspiration from the ancient pool of English and Nordic poetry as well as the lyrics of pop songs. Bergvall's cutting-edge texts also reshape damning reports into contemporary sea migration disasters; and the 3D treatment by Swiss visual artist Thomas Koppel transforms the narrative into an abstract canvas of drifting language mass.
Date & time

Thursday 17 July 6pm Venue The Purcell Room Southbank Centre London SE1 8XX
Tickets £10 BOOK ONLINE NOW

audio installation at Poetry International at the Southbank centre

Happy to say some audio recordings of me reading my own work and some classic anglo saxon poetry texts will be part of the listening wall, to be installed at the Southbank Centre as part of Poetry International The installation is called I Leave This At Your Ear. Poetry International takes place from Thursday 17th - Monday 21st July, and from Friday 18th I Leave This At Your Ear will be open for the public to sit at and listen to the recorded poems.  The wall will be installed on the Clore Ballroom floor of the Royal Festival Hall (level 2, entry level). Full details can be found on the Southbank website. Go and spend your summer days listening to my radio voice.

Poetry in Collaboration: an exhibition at the Saison Poetry Library

Really delighted to announce I’ll be co-curating this summer’s Saison Poetry Library exhibition at the Southbank centre with Chris McCabe, entitled Poetry in Collaboration.
 
 
The exhibition furthers and re-contextualises the concerns of the Enemies project (www.weareenemies.com) in panoramic scope, drawing from the vast collection of the poetry library to reveal a small sliver of the modern history of poetry in collaboration, to evidence, in microcosm, just how fundamental a shared practise can be to poetry.
 
On display will be new works commissioned by the Enemies project, including book art by Ragnhildur Johanns and Iain Sinclair, as well as collaborations by Ian Hamilton Finlay and John Furnival, Ron King and Roy Fisher, Anne Waldman and Joe Brainard, amongst many others. There will be an extensive reading table, an audio station with live collaborative recordings of the Beats, and videos of works by Robert Desnos and Man Ray, as well as footage from the Camaradefest, held last year at the Rich mix arts centre in London.
 
The exhibition runs from 6 May 2014 to 6 July 2014 and is free to attend at the Saison Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall
 
As part of the exhibition, a special view Camarade event will be held on May Tuesday 20th. As well as a quick introduction to the exhibition itself, around a half dozen pairs of poets, some of the most memorable from previous incarnations of Camarade, will read original collaborations, including James Byrne & Sandeep Parmar, James Davies & Philip Terry, Sam Riviere & Joe Dunthorne, Samantha Walton & Jo Walton. Please rsvp at specialedition@poetrylibrary.org.uk as space is limited, but entrance is free.
 
 
Multiple special events and commissions will happen during the exhibition, including a chain, or renga poem, written by five poets (including Matthew Gregory, Livia Franchini, Sarah Howe +) over the two month duration of the exhibition to be published in VLAK magazine later in the year. More details to come.

Poet as a Boxer - my reading & talk

The worst possible conditions to hold a poetry event might be during a city wide tube strike and a torrential rainpour. The poet as a boxer event was sold out weeks in advance, 100 plus people, and then disaster struck. But it really didn't matter in the end, such was the positivity of those who did come, the commitment they showed to the idea and the concept really shone through. I had some of the most gratifying conversations afterward that Id ever had following a reading, actually made friends with people, connections that will last I think. Its because those who came seemed to inhabit the same space as I do, they are not academics, not journalists, not boxers, and yet they really think on the sport, and are in love with it. They are afficionados, but not the boxing sweats, not the old school, but perhaps a wee bit more reflexive and interrogative about the sport. Anyway, I had a wonderful time after initial worries, and Gabriele Tinti, who curated the event, was brilliant, sharing his work (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OkbNh-Agdw), and the work of others, and the dramatic readings of his poems with leading actors from America (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_dNumsOkhs). I spoke briefly about my concerns with boxing and then read from my book fights, video below:

The Rest is Noise is over! my talk on British 21st century poetry

The rest is noise festival is over. I've been pretty lucky to be involved, considering my lack of erudition and learnedness next to those who have also been teaching and lecturing and so forth. Im not being overmodest either, events with Tom Service, Gillian Moore, Diane Silverthorne, Sophie Mayer, Tony Benn, Harvey Cohen, world renowned educators have been punctuated with discussions with artists like Steve Reich and John Adams etc... This last event I was involved in, this past thursday, was a study evening, and I was alongside Mark Titchner, the remarkable artist and Gillian Moore, who is the head of music at the Southbank. It was, like all the study evenings, really mesmerising listening to others speak, as the environment is unique, they are allowed to speak to what they truly find engaging and tend to be very passionate and original. I waffled about 21st British poetry and stealing huge swathes from others ideas, talked about capitalism and the internet. I took a shit recording of it below. A lovely way to end a great year of lecturing and teaching in a really amazing program, Ive cut my teeth on it. http://therestisnoise.southbankcentre.co.uk/#1 

Teaching Beckett for the Rest is Noise study evening at the Southbank centre

Teaching Beckett is frightening. Teaching Beckett at the Southbank centre, in the QEH hall, as part of the groundbreaking Rest is Noise festival, at a free evening study course open to the general public for free is even more so. Teaching alongside Tom Service and Charlottle de Ville, even more so yet again. But it went proper well, a small generous group of people, amazing support staff at the Southbank, and my focus on the ethical engagement /disengagement of Beckett through paradox and disjunction in language was well received, not having the skill or expertise to make a proper ham of historical fact or textual analysis. I just waffled with purpose and read excerpts from Worstward ho! It could hardly go wrong. Charlotte and Tom were both inspiring to hear, I genuinely spent hours after the evening, which felt an easy 150 minutes (!) researching what they were speaking about. I hadn’t come across Tom Service before, but his work is really amazing with the BBC radio and the guardian, and I was at Wigmore hall just a few days later, rediscovering my discovery of classical music.

Rest is Noise festival - on Thomas Bernhard & the Black Mountain college

A day of two halves. The first, a bite talk, 15 minutes on Thomas Bernhard. It was a failed experiment. I overwrote the content, wanting it to be so good because of the passion I have for Bernhard, and was far too loyal to the text. I was boring. The art of lecturing is a practice I am engaged in learning. You learn more from a 'loss' I suppose. Still annoying to speak so poorly about an author I love so much, and if anyone stayed awake through my monotone the actual content had some moments of insight I hope. / I then went on to chair a panel on the Black Mountain college with Alyce Mahon from Cambridge Uni, and my old friends Tim Atkins and Peter Jaeger. It was a brilliant hour, fluid, insightful and balanced. Each speaker brought information from differing perspectives, and were all very generous with their thoughts. Peter offered real insight into John Cage and Zen, Alyce opened up the history of the school with its creative spark offset by administrative suicide, and Tim told everyone that poets killed the college. The list of alumni or teaching staff is unbelievable - Duncan, Olsen, Williams, Cage, Cunningham, Albers, Twombly, Creeley, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Dorn. The questions were also very positive, and we ended up talking about the modern state of the education system and how restricted it is, against such a hotbed of radical innovation and collaboration as the BMC. / The rest is noise is an awesome opportunity to open up so many discussions that rarely get such a platform. Next up, Walter Abish and Jack Spicer in November

Rest is Noise festival, Britten weekend - on post-war avant-garde British poetry & BS Johnson, and witnessing Anthony Blee

I was especially frightened by these two lectures. The bites format of 15 minutes is as engaging for the audience as it is troubling for the speaker, and these talks would have a fine audience indeed being a part of the Southbank centre's remarkable recapturing of 20th century cultural history through the Rest is Noise festival. Judging how deep to go, or what to cover, becomes a serious issue, and my two talks were on things very close to my heart. I felt a responsibility to do them justice.

The talk on the Avant garde poetry of Britain around the Era of Britten was one of my most gratifying public speaking performances. Not because it was good, but because everyone was saying afterward how the information was new to them and it was easily accessed and understood. And it is important information, to me, that can't be spread wide enough. You can hear it here:

The real highlight of the day was the other speakers though, all genuinely more powerful and clever than I. Diane Silverthorne has inspired me since the first time I saw her speak, I even dedicated a poem to her about Mondrian, and Sophie Mayer is a peer I really admire as a poet and an intellectual. But thank god I asked to switch the original running order just moments before the events began, which I initially was supposed to conclude, because if I hadn't I would've followed the absolutely remarkable Anthony Blee, and fallen quite flat upon myself. 

He is an architect, one of the finest our country has produced, and he was speaking about his work on Coventry Cathedral, a world renowned project he began working on at 24 years of age in 1956. I can't express the brilliance, humility and grace of his account of this time in his life. It was genuinely emotional to watch him recount stories of Sir Basil Spence and Yehudi Menuhin, and breathtaking to see this building, this cultural hub, this national pride, grow from his personal slides and memories. To watch a man who has spent a lifetime at the service of a professional artform, and shone so brightly through that life, reduced me to feeling like a very fortunate, very embryonic and very humbled, witness. I had the chance to meet his whole family afterward, who were as gracious and warm as he was, who were unduly kind about my piffling talk, and the experience left me feeling struck in the most organic and valuable of ways. They seemed people truly open, collaborative, kind and able to navigate these very real qualities through their art / practise. This article reflects some of the man, and I'm definitely visiting Coventry cathedral soon. http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/feb/27/anthony-blee-geoffrey-clarke-coventry-cathedral

For the earlier session, I spoke on BS Johnson, and I refused the lecture format, as he would've liked, I think, and cut up quotes that were relevant and let people pick the order from a box. A lecture in a box. All can be heard here: