Published: a new essay on The Learned Pig

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As part of my new series of art book publications for Poem Brut I've written a series of essays. Each one acts as a kind of contextualised full stop to the books and their otherwise un-explained content, but they aren't explanations, just ruminations. The brilliant online journal The Learned Pig have kindly published the essay On Time and Mess, which closed out I fear my best work behind me, with selections of the work from that book

https://www.thelearnedpig.org/on-time-and-mess/5477

Once we understand excess, then we can get really simple.

– Robert Rauschenberg

Exploring poetry’s absent indispensable character

"Because poetry is not a thing that lives, to put it mildly, upon the regulation and control of grammar and correct spelling, in the final preparations for the publication of my book, ‘I fear my best work behind me,’ an exploration of the rudimentary character of poetry – that is letters and words – there was only one correction to make for my editor. Only one deliberate error, with all the obsequiousness that this phrase entails, for him to find and for me to defend. The title. I fear my best work is behind me. Remove the is. Then perhaps, to those dozen or so reading the title, and those few within the dozen who are concentrated by interest, the absence of the is will take on its proper significance. The primary significance I would posit that poetry has, outside of letters and words, is purposeful semantic omission.

I do not imagine my best work is behind me, literally, but in those whom I’ve discovered – and that is the right word to use (for they have to be unearthed, do poets, in England) – who have given me permission to make such works as those that often litter my pages, they are behind me, and are the best work, for they were and are not making what can be mine. What they have made was original, or based on poets they have buried with themselves, as I shall not do........"

 

A note on: The Night-Time Economy exhibition & special view in London

A lovely evening celebrating the exhibition Kate Mercer have produced this year, photography and poetry beautifully balanced, after visiting Newport, coming to London, with a good few dozen folk down in the basement gallery of Rich Mix, near Brick Lane, on one of the hottest days of the year. 

Great to have Nia Davies, Ghazal Mosadeq and Marcus Slease read too, all with new works responding to the themes of our work. Visit www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy and www.stevenjfowler.com/nighttimeeconomy

A note on: The Night Time Economy: an exhibition at Rich Mix Gallery - July 18th to 29th

The Night-Time Economy: an exhibition
by Kate Mercer and SJ Fowler in London at Rich Mix Gallery
www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

July 18th to 29th 2016 (Monday - Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
Address: Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre, 35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Special View - July Tuesday 19th 2016. Readings & performances from SJ Fowler, Nia Davies, Marcus Slease, Vanni Bianconi, Ghazal Mosadeq & others.

A collaborative exhibition of photography and poetry exploring the often fractious energy and environment of Newport, Wales' nightclubs and pubs. Conceived and created in close collaboration between photographer Kate Mercer and poet & artist SJ Fowler, this exhibition will play off the complimentary possibilities for expressive abstraction in both visual and linguistic mediums, all centred around the complexity, energy and intensity of Newport on Friday and Saturday nights.

On July Tuesday 19th there will be a special view and reading from 7pm in the Gallery, which is adjacent to Rich Mix Cafe. For the evening multiple poets will present brand new work responding to the exhibition and its themes. https://www.richmix.org.uk/events/exhibitions/night-time-economy

A detailed description of how the project came to be, by Kate Mercer, can be found here http://katemercer.co.uk/funding-support-by-arts-council-of-wales-the-night-time-economy-with-s-j-fowler/ and an interview with Ben Glover of the Wales Arts Review, which explains further the exhibition and its process can be found here http://www.walesartsreview.org/24536/

The exhibition comes to London after a successful run at The Riverfront Arts Centre in Newport this past April. The poetry in the exhibition will be presented in English and Welsh, the latter translated by Eurig Salisbury. The project is possible thanks to the generous support of Arts Council Wales.

A note on: opening The Night-Time Economy exhibition in Newport, Wales

A wonderful night to open my new exhibition in collaboration with photographer Kate Mercer, we had a lovely crowd come out to the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre in Newport to see readings and discussions. More on the exhibition www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

Kate has done an incredible job in producing such a beautiful exhibition, the production was really extraordinary, with my poems beautifully framed alongside her wonderful photographs. Good to meet so many friendly local artists and well wishers who came out to support our project, and we managed to fit in three readings as well as a Q&A. A great beginning, the exhibition runs until the end of April and then comes to London, at Rich Mix, in July.

Published: Night-Time Economy in Poetry Wales

Great to have another collaboration in the brilliant Poetry Wales, being masterfully guided by Nia Davies at the helm. This time poems from my exhibited collaboration with Newport based photographer Kate Mercer feature, with my poems aligned with her pictures. These poems appear in the magazine in unique versions that won't appear elsewhere, deliberately rendered for the publication. 

A great issue too, Volume 51 Number 3 for Spring 2016, full of fine poets. You can buy it here http://www.poetrywales.co.uk/currentissue/

A note on: an interview with Kate Mercer for Wales Arts Review on Night-Time Economy

In the run up to the opening of the Night-Time Economy exhibition in Newport April 6th 2016, Ben Glover of the Wales Arts Review has interviewed Kate Mercer and I on our collaboration. The full interview is here http://www.walesartsreview.org/24536/

"Welcome Kate and Steven, I was hoping initially to find out a little bit about your project The Night-Time Economy. What drew you both to explore the night-time economy?

SJ Fowler: For me, it was meeting Kate, and discovering her work when visiting Newport for a poetry reading last year. I believe collaborations fundamentally grow from relationships between people, creative friendships, and a desire to see them grow, and the concept or direction comes as a secondary focus. Undoubtedly what became the subject of our eventual collaboration emerged from experiences I’d had in years past, things that have shaped my experience in much wider ways, but none of this would’ve been actualised into this exhibition without it being a shared point of contact between Kate and I.

Kate Mercer: I have to concur with Steven. It started from a shared experience that Steven and I found we had much to talk about and identify with. When we began discussing the respective roads we’ve since travelled, for example, pursuing poetry and photography as our careers, it struck us both how pivotal these experiences had been on us as individuals, but equally how far apart these two mediums are with regard to how they communicate with others, either explicitly, emotionally or figuratively. Whilst the experiences, anecdotes and observations we have shared have been helpful through out his project, it has as much as anything been an exploration of the capabilities and limitations of the others’ medium, developing a creative partnership therewith.

How to you think that previously working in this environment has influenced this project?

SJF: I think working in such environments changes your perception. This is true of all work perhaps, that one gains new perspectives when you are present for money and not pleasure. And Britain’s nightlife, it’s social culture, is extraordinarily intense. I think witnessing that intensity, the release people seek in such environments, has formed the underlying impetus for the whole project – because I think we’re not trying to document, nor judge, nor comment even, but rather encapsulate this intensity and its ambiguities.

A note: The Night-Time Economy, an exhibition in Newport with Kate Mercer - April 6th to 30th

Newport: The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre April 6th to 30th 2016. (Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
Address: Ground Floor Gallery, The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre, Kingsway, Newport. NP20 1HG
Special View - April 6th 2016. 7pm. Readings & performances from SJ Fowler, Nia Davies & Eurig Salisbury, followed by Q&A

London: Rich Mix Gallery - July 18th to 29th 2016 (Monday - Sunday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
Address: Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre, 35 - 47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA
Special View - July 19th 2016. Readings & performances from SJ Fowler, Nia Davies & more, followed by Q&A

A collaborative exhibition of photography and poetry exploring the often fractious energy and environment of Newport, Wales' nightclubs and pubs. Conceived and created in close collaboration between photographer Kate Mercer and poet & artist SJ Fowler, this exhibition will play off the complimentary possibilities for expressive abstraction in both visual and linguistic mediums, all centred around the complexity, energy and intensity of Newport on Friday and Saturday nights. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

A detailed description of how the project came to be, by Kate Mercer, can be found here http://katemercer.co.uk/funding-support-by-arts-council-of-wales-the-night-time-economy-with-s-j-fowler/

Both Special View events on April 6th and July 19th will feature events celebrating the exhibition with new performances and the presence of Poetry Wales. The poetry in the exhibition will be presented in English and Welsh, the latter translated by Eurig Salisbury.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS and THEIR COLLABORATION:

From two completely different sides of the UK, S.J. Fowler and Kate Mercer identified with each other through a shared experience of working in the night-time economy. With Steven previously employed in nightclub security, and Kate as a bar manager in Newport, both felt an intense connection to the alternative reality of this world, and through this exhibition, reflect on how this environment changed them and their work.

The project's primary focus has been Newport, but not as an exception. The Night-Time Economy reflects Newport without judgement or irony, it is documentation in image and abstract language. With Newport undergoing a period of regeneration and redevelopment, the exhibition aims to recognise the role that the arts can play in celebrating the city, by its very presence. This project focuses on the multifaceted components of Newport's Night-time economy, pursuing a neutrality of topic whilst preserving a loyalty to the place.

This project has been made possible through a ‘Research & Development’ grant by the Arts Council of Wales with support from The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre (Newport) and Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre (London) for which the artists express their thanks.

A note on: Upcoming performances & events in March and April

March 3rd: Praxis at Parasol Unit, London
Performing a new work responding to Julian Charriere's amazing exhibition, alongside Maja Jantar, Sharon Gal, Simon Pomery and others. http://parasol-unit.org/poetry-innovations-praxis

March 5th & 6th: Stanza Festival, St.Andrews, Scotland
On a panel exploring poetry and the body, responding to a film about bp nichol, and leading a workshop about collaboration, alongside two performances. http://stanzapoetry.org/festival/poets-artists/fowler

March 18th: Soundings IV with Tamarin Norwood
A performance work for video, situated in Wellcome Library itself, responding to materials given by the librarians for the artist Tamarin Norwood and I to respond to. http://www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

March 20th: The Essex Book Festival, First site Gallery, Colchester
Curating a Camarade with 10 pairs of poets for the festival, and reading with David Berridge, to launch our book, 40 feet, from Knives forks and spoons press. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/essex

March 24th to 26th: The Iskele Kibatek International Poetry Festival in Cyprus
Part of the 7th Annual Iskele Municipality Culture and Art Days, this festival sees poets from around Europe present their work, including Nurduran Duman and Jennifer Williams.

March 31st: Kakania returns at Austrian Cultural Forum, London
Kakania in London once again, with new commissions in the evening and a symposium of new presentations in the day. New work from Steve Beresford, Diane Silverthorne, Declan Ryan & more. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/kakania2016

April 2nd: The English PEN Modern Literature Festival - Rich Mix, London
30 English writers celebrate 30 writers at risk currently supported by English PEN with brand new works of literature. 2pm til late, all over one day. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen

April 6th: The Night-time Economy Exhibition opening - The Riverfront, Newport, Wales
A new exhibition between myself and the photographer Kate Mercer, poetry and photography exploring the fractious energy of Newport's nightlife. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/nighttimeeconomy

April 23rd: The University Camarade
Curating a Camarade which pairs 20 students from creative writing departments of 5 different universities to create 10 new works in pairs. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/unicamarade