A note on: North x North West Poetry Tour part 2 - Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool

All info and funbatch on this tour is here www.stevenjfowler.com/nxnw and allll videos www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest

Leeds was fire. I’d heard it was a quiet town for the avant garde or literary poetry but this proved untrue, or we got unlucky. In the wharf chambers we had over twenty poets and from many different scenes and backgrounds. From first time readers to folk like Ian McMillan and Robert Sheppard, it ran the gamut. I got there early, in the snow, to be met by Ian in fact, whom, ever the gentleman, helped me shift 100 chairs into the basement punk venue. So many poets I was excited to see and meet for this one, and there was a uniformly playful tone, with a noticeable investment by many. For my own work with Patricia Farrell we wrote a collaborative poem and then I played with some ideas around memory and recitation, recording her poems onto my phone, popping in earphones and reciting from that audio file at parts, and at others, just trying to copy what she had said. Nearly 100 crushed in all told and some of these collaborations will be long remembered, everyone was buzzing

Sheffield was interesting. Again there was talk of a quiet gig but our room at Bank Street Arts was chocked, even dangerously so with much of the gig standing room only with people blocking my camera or stepping on each other’s feet, literally. Some great works here, punctuating a range of stuff, from the high literary to the amusing. At times it leaned into the self-referential, the audience having its favourites / friends, which is really the opposite of the deliberately open Enemies mode, but this is inevitable with such an intense room and a single city scene.

To be honest for me, the whole time in Sheffield was clouded by hearing of the death of Tom Raworth, who was a great influence on me and a friend. I wrote a piece remembering him, feeling emptied and deeply sad, in a Travelodge in the city, having travelled from Leeds and so it was a melancholy day. It took me many attempts to write the piece, I was feeling quite out of sorts. We ended the event with Chris McCabe and I reading some of Tom’s poems and this I will never forget, to have the big audience to read Tom’s work to, a day or two after his passing.

Liverpool is a city I love and this sprawling reading in the beautiful Everyman playhouse, who could not have been more generous as a venue, brought together many friends and great poets from across the region, being the final gig. I had the grand pleasure of working with Nathan Walker, whom I respect immensely and our improvised sound poetry vocal piece was a joy, though it was maybe too intense for the audience. Some fine works here but it was a rare misfire over all in terms of the Camarade tradition. Not quite sure why, but there was an imbalance in the works overall, perhaps a lack of identity in the event, a lack of successful experiment, or engagement with liveness. Happens sometimes.

Certainly I left the event happy because it was the summation of the project, and the final moments of that were spent with my friends, Tom Jenks especially, a brilliant poet and a great person to work with. As ever it’s a privilege to do this work, to such large audiences and such enthusiastic and varied writers.

Published: a collaboration with John Hall in the Clearing

A lovely legacy of the South West Poetry Tour this past summer the excellent Clearing magazine are putting out a series of the new works the tour instigated. My contribution is my work with the brilliant John Hall. An honour to be alongside him in e-print. The work is entitled The 7th Poet.

 https://www.littletoller.co.uk/the-clearing/uncategorized/south-west-poetry-tour-3-sj-fowler-john-hall/

A note on: South West Poetry Tour - Bath, Bruton

The final two legs of the tour, in Bath and Bruton. All the blog and documentation www.stevenjfowler.com/southwest 

In the end the evening was frantic, the largest number of poets and an excellent attendance, with some tech demands in between hosting and all the usual responsibility of organising an event. Camilla and I's work seemed to respond to this, and was contextualised, and perhaps amplified, with a more literary feeling for the majority of the collaborations being shared. It allowed us to play, to use the space, to make our performance a dance of sorts, but also a playfight of another sort - a physical poem alongside our text - not entirely, and deliberately, careful, not entirely graceful, but full of something close, intimacy perhaps. A really resonant experience for me, working with Camilla, extending our curatorial collaboration with such proximity and tactility, and begin a conversation with her work, one I've definitely benefited from being exposed to....

Bruton - August 7th Our final stop, the week passing, predictably, with alarming speed. We were able to stay close to the extraordinary gallery and gardens of Hauser and Wirth, everything that so many on the tour had told me it would be, enjoying local hospitality in some style. It allowed the poets who had seen through every leg of the tour to really spend some memorable time together, not only travelling in mini car flotillas, often through the dense English countryside and its receptionless roads, in the middle of the night, but around dinner tables and long after that, talking. A privilege to get to know some brilliant, warm-hearted, talented and wise human beings through the excuse of reading poetry, part of the experience that will stay with me longest I think.

The reading itself was pretty remarkable, over 150 people climbing the gentle incline of the garden in the Hauser & Wirth complex, up from the gallery itself into what seemed a giant ant pod, or upturned paper-mache tugboat. I thought it an installation on first approach, only to discover it was hollow and airy, allowing us to pack an enormous audience in the space for our 18 poets and our final event. Some brilliant work on display here, and I had the chance to read with Annabel Banks. We built our poem on abstracted meta-references, to the tour and its happenings, and then wrote it out to the other four who had been on the road, to engage multiple voices, to surround the audience, in a kind of mini-play. 

A high point to bow out upon, drawing poets and audience from the surrounding area, Bristol and beyond, and to be in such a special place. We ate together then finished our last proper day of the project saying farewell at train stations or around a dinner table, talking very late into the night. A really resonant, generous, memorable week in the south west, a time that will be hard to forget, made up by people I am better off for having worked with and lived beside.

A note on: South West Poetry Tour - St Ives, Falmouth, Dartington

For latest blogs on the tour visit www.stevenjfowler.com/southwest 

A collaborative poetry tour of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset spread over a week in August 2016. A project I co-curated with Camilla Nelson, bringing over 70 poets together over 5 nights, the first Enemies project style tour I've done in England, writing new works every night with core poets JR CarpenterJohn HallMatti SpenceAnnabel Banks and Camilla herself.  It was a memorable week, a return to old places and friends, and the beginning of new ventures. For much more information and documentation visithttp://www.theenemiesproject.com/southwest

St Ives - August 1st 2016

I was born in Cornwall, in Truro, and I grew up as a small child in Newquay. This was the first reading I'd ever given in the county and the first time I had been back since I was a teenager. St Ives, famous for its artistic community, welcomed us with torrential rain. Annabel Banks drove me from London, picking up other poets on the way, for a rare and joyful road trip south. We arrived at night, nearly ten hours on the road, and accommodation famously being at a premium in one of the UK's summer tourism hotspots, I jumped out of the car in a dark lane to enter a property called the hobbit hole, which was a shed with a bed in a garden. Actually quite fun to live, briefly, like a hobbit.

The reading itself was held at the Barbara Hepworth museum, and supported by Tate St Ives. I was told afterwards that we were in the very room in which Barbara Hepworth died of smoke inhalation. Surrounded by her sculptures, it was an unforgettable space to read within. I met many poets for the first time, some after long correspondence, met the core touring poets as a group for the first time, and had the great pleasure to read with John Hall. His work has been influential on my own ever since I began to trace the line of my own interests back through British poetry to the 60s and before. He published his first book in 1968, and his rare poise, presence and judgement as a poet and a person was great to share, if briefly, as we read our piece in such a special room. I tried simply to follow his rhythm, his play with silence and pause and I felt very comfortable in that space, almost not like a reading for me, closer to a performance of reading.

St Ives provided a fascinating beginning to the tour, quite intense in a strange way - the weather, the tourists, sleeping in a shed, bombarded with new faces and hearing new poetry and being responsible for that. Already a sense that things are moving quickly, picking up steam, switching modes to performance and travel, and to start this near the very foot of the country, to work north, as feels natural to me.

Falmouth - August 2nd 2016

A journey across Cornwall, weather lightening, energy rising, travelling with Camilla, a remarkable poet and immensely organised and responsible as a co-curator. Luxurious accommodation too, with a landlady who even came to the reading and insisted on baking me vegan cookies. We were housed at The Poly for the event, with young, helpful, accommodating staff. And I got to work with Matti Spence, a fascinating and generous man, a fine poet. I first met him after he returned to London from some years away in Australia and after he had studied a UEA. Completely assured and singular, while being essentially warm hearted, Matti is a peer to learn from. We wrote a poem I was very happy with and decided then to turn it performatively, breaking the fourth wall, and using the assumed context of the reading against the audience, in a light-hearted way. A lovely touch for me was that my old friend and collaborator Thomas Duggan attended, his studio being deep in the Cornish countryside, and I hugged him mid reading. Everyone seemed lifted by the event, the format of collaboration once again creating ties and bonding people from different scenes and styles. 

Dartington - August 3rd 2016

Back into Devon, driving up with Camilla and Matti, skirting Dartmoor, crossing the Tamar, heading to Schumacher College, near where I grew up as a teenager in Exeter. Another strange return, but realising on the tour that it isn't a return when the company and purpose is utterly new. And in Dartington it felt the most fresh, like I had not been to this part of England before. This is perhaps because Schumacher College is so unique, set apart in the countryside, an ecosystem unto itself. Staying in dorms too, cells, made the experience feel really embedded and somehow enclosed. This was a remarkable evening of poetry too, a full house again, with some brilliant collaborations highlighting an evening that felt complete, energised, memorable. It was inevitable the lineage of Dartington College of Arts would cast a spell on the reading, and so many in the room had ties to that institution (more here on that), and multi-disciplinary practise and performance art was a key feature of the collaborations. 

Collaborating with JR Carpenter was a blast. We took a text she had generated with her computer, basically three simple phrases and then, introducing ourselves with a little bit of water pouring, on theme, used repetition to build an improvisational structure. I love this kind of work, completely open, free and high pressured. It requires time and expertise to do well, and can be a dud on the wrong night. This wasn't, it flowed, as we leaned into each other, swaying slightly, the clear purpose of the work was well expressed, well received and seemed all the more satisfying to me because in a way, it was a small work, miniature and light. It represented the moment, it was of the space, and very much a product of the tour.

We finished the evening in the White Hart, where Dartington College of Art, before it's merger with Falmouth University in 2010, held many events, many long nights. I sat with John Hall, who taught at the institution for 34 years, and he told me of the poets who had read in the room and the history of the place. It felt a very special privilege to hear that from him and to imagine our event as a small, brief, resurgence of that tradition in the area.

A note on: Summer performances in Europe 2016 - a tour of sorts

 

I am really lucky to have the chance to visit various European nations across May and June through a series of festivals and commissions. By chance, they've aligned around each other and allowed me good time to travel between countries and make a tour of it. More details on the below soon.

May 16th to 23rd – Tbilisi: Mtrebi: a Georgian Enemies project as part of the 2nd International Tbilisi literature festival with Eley Williams, Luke Kennard & co

May 27th – Istanbul: a reading at the DamDayiz Cultural centre with Efe Duyan & others

May 29th – Venice: a reading with Alessandro Burbank, Alessandro Mistrorigo & others

June 10th to 14th – Krakow: a commissioned collaborative performance from UNESCO City of Literature for the Milosz Festival with Tom Jenks, Weronika Lewandowska & Leszek Onak, responding to Aleksandr Wat's 'My Century'

June 16th to 18th – GrazForumstadtpark Conference curated by Max Hofler on poetry & politics

June 18th to 24th Omnibus Tour through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia

June 25th - Belgrade: Krokodil Festival 

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."

A note on: Globe Road Festival Walking Tour - November 15th 2015

A really open, generous, honest and fascinating morning, walking the length of Globe road in East London, from Mile End Road to Bethnal Green. I was so pleased to be leading the walking tour for the Globe Road Festival with Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener, Adam Bohman as the commissioned artists, each presenting extraordinary and varied works, from Adam's hand written scores of found language, to Gareth's lyrical poem, to Elaine's heartfelt conceptual poem, read just a stone's throw from her childhood home. The many people in tow, kindly sharing their morning with us, followed on into York Hall, for a small reading kindly arranged by Jonathan Mann, where Richard Scott and Stephen Watts also read. You can find out all the details and watch all the performances here http://www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad 

"A unique live walking tour performance experience, as part of the Globe Road Festival, the Enemies project presents a stroll down Globe Road itself, in the company of poets, sound artists and vanguardists. Stopping four times, at designated places on Globe Road, the artists will present a talk or performance completely original to the walk, in response to Globe Road. With their own lives entwined to the history and culture of this stretch of East London, this will be an original outdoor insight into the most interesting and often underground avant garde artists of contemporary London."

Upcoming: Four events - aWwW / EVP / Globe Road / Soundings

Nov 13th: A World Without Words IV
Nov 14th: Electronic Voice Phenomena
Nov 15th: Globe Road Festival Walking Tour
Nov 18th: Soundings III

November Friday 13th - A World without Words IV at the Frontline Club: 7pm
The fourth event in the series exploring neuroscience, aphasia, the brain and language, this time at the incredible Frontline Club. With a talk by Professor Barry Smith and the screening of a series of anthropological short films from Vincent Moon. Curated by Lotje Sodderland, Thomas Duggan and I. http://www.frontlineclub.com/screening-and-discussion-a-world-without-words/

November Saturday 14th - EVP Sessions at Shoreditch Town Hall: 8pm
Electronic Voice Phenomena hits London once again, I'll be presenting a new commission in full skeleton embodiment, exploring disembodied voice and death http://shoreditchtownhall.com/theatre-performance/whats-on/event/theEVPsessions

November Sunday 15th - Globe Road walking tour for the Globe Road Festival: 11am
A Sunday morning stroll up Globe Road in the company of Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener and the Bohman brothers, all of whom will present brand new performance commissions related to the road itself, finishing with a reading in York Hall with Stephen Watts, Richard Scott and Jonathan Mann www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad

November Wednesday 18th - Soundings III with Maja Jantar at St Johns on Bethnal Green: 7pm A collaboration with the incomparable Maja Jantar for a new sound poetry / avant-garde music performance as part of the Soundings project with Hubbub at Wellcome Collection responding to prompts from the Wellcome Library. St Johns on Bethnal Green, an early 19th-century church, is an amazing venue too. www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

Upcoming: November 2015 - Events, Performances & Projects

My 'A Language Art' course runs on Monday nights throughout November with sesssions exploring the intersections of avant-garde poetry and modern art in the galleries of Tate Modern and in the Tate stores.

November Wednesday 4th - Pugilistica at Apiary Studios
A chance for me to launch my book Fights, in it's 2nd edition from Veer Books, alongside some amazing journalists, novelists, poets and art historians, all exploring the literature of boxing. www.theenemiesproject.com/pugilistica

November Thursday 5th - Mondo: global avant-garde poetry at Poetry School
A new course at the Poetry School, this time exploring avant-garde movements from Japan, Nigeria, Canada, Brazil and Syria / Iraq. Still a place or two left! Book here

November Friday 6th - Symposium: Pulling Together/Pulling Apart: Forces in Creative Collaboration, OVADA, Oxford
Thanks to artists Brook and Black, I'll have the chance to discuss collaboration at OVADA, alongside Tamarin Norwood and others http://www.ovada.org.uk/arkitektoniske-kramper/

November Saturday 7th - Nemici: an Italian Enemies project at the Rich Mix
A really ambitious Enemies project I'm curating with ten Italian artists and poets visiting London, each writing new collaborations with British poets. I'll be presenting a new work with Alessandro Burbank. Should be special www.theenemiesproject.com/nemici

November Friday 13th - A World without Words IV at the Frontline Club
The fourth event in the series curated by Lotje Sodderland, Thomas Duggan and myself, exploring neuroscience, aphasia, the brain and art, this time at the incredible Frontline Club. With a talk by Barry Smith and anthropological short films from Vincent Moon. http://www.frontlineclub.com/screening-and-discussion-a-world-without-words/

November Saturday 14th - EVP Sessions at Shoreditch Town Hall
Electronic Voice Phenomena hits London once again, I'll be presenting a new commission in full skeleton embodiment, exploring disembodied voice http://shoreditchtownhall.com/theatre-performance/whats-on/event/theEVPsessions

November Sunday 15th - Globe Road walking tour for the Globe Road Festival
Happy to be leading a Sunday morning stroll up Globe Road in the company of Gareth Evans, Elaine Mitchener and the Bohman brothers www.theenemiesproject.com/globeroad

November Wednesday 18th - Soundings III with Maja Jantar at St Johns on Bethnal Green
So excited to collaborate with the incredible Maja Jantar for a new performance as part of the Soundings project with Hubbub at Wellcome Collection responding to prompts from the Wellcome Library. St Johns on Bethnal Green is an amazing venue too. www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings

November Friday 20th - The European Camarade at Freeword Centre
A mini festival of European poetry in collaboration, so pleased to have the chance to curate this night and present a new collaboration with Endre Ruset. Some of these poets are doing the most exciting work in their nations, not to be missed www.theenemiesproject.com/europeancamarade

bpichol.jpg



A note on: Soundings #1 with Emma Bennett

The beginning of Soundings couldn't have gone better. Not only because the performance was unique and well attended and went to plan, but because it was also completely idiosyncratic and unexpected for the audience, and enjoyable. Emma and I have known each for a few year now, and been in collective work together, but never performed a duo. The performance itself and the entire preparation period could not have been easier and more fluid. We met up numerous times to make our performance not only responsive to the materials given by the Wellcome Library under the theme of 'Restless Cities' but also to make sure we responded very specifically to the amazing environmental of Camley Street Natural Park.

We knew people's experience of what we did would be defined by the surroundings, and decided in fact to put on a walking tour, one that fused elements of performance and immersive theatre all rooted in something like a slightly alternative version of the contemporary 'landscape' 'cityscape' 'mindfulness' lexicon. Our performance was a mix of improvisation, preparation for this and written text that lay somewhere between poetry and satire.

In the end we had a remarkable audience, those very generously helping us, Harriet Martin, James Wilkes, Kim Staines, bringing together lots of people so that it felt quite a significant event, marching 50 or so people around the small stone clearings and ponds of the park. A strange experience for them, I hope, a great experience for us.

A note on: The Enemies project: Croatia - Zagreb, Grožnjan & the Wood Poets

The purpose of the Enemies project is to not only create the collaborations and the readings which accompany them across countries and generations and so on, but to also always acknowledge the context of how these things actually happen. That is they are created by people, and they really only work when generously founded. And this generosity tends to come from, or lead to, friendships. This is why I continue to do the Enemies project at such a pace, because, fundamentally, it is a way for me to know people from around the world, far beyond my own country, and for those people to become friends. This project in Croatia was so resonant because it was so personable, the character of the travel and the readings resembled the character of those Croatian poets who are so generous and open and enthusiastic – Tomica Bajsic, Damir Sodan and Maja Klaric. The Enemies project Croatia began, in friendship, in 2012, and since we have exchanged events and ideas, culminating in readings in London in July 2014, followed by this mini-tour of Croatia in August 2014. I was joined by Sandeep Parmar and James Byrne in Croatia, greater friends for it, and together, we were completely indebted to the Croats for an extraordinary week in Zagreb and Istria..

Day One: An eye bleed flight into Zagreb to discover a heatwave in the normally hot Croatian August, passing 35 degrees. Some time to explore the city again. A brutal run in the heat to Maksimovic park. Damir arrived and we all met together for the first time, James, Sandeep, Tomica, Damir and I, and we visited a gallery in Zagreb, run by an artist collective, in order to begin a discussion about collaborating with three young Croatian artists towards the publication of an innovative book that might lie somewhere between abstract art and poetry. Certainly a way for the collaborations between this brilliant generation of Croatian poets and those of us based in the UK to continue on in years to come. An evening in Zagreb, as ever, warm spirited and funny, the hospitality of Tomica, his family, Damir and the Croatian poets that keeps me coming back to this city.

Day Two: A massive bus ride, Zagreb to Rijeka on the coast with a quick stop over, and then on windier roads to Buje. 36 degrees outside. The time flew by when we were all in conversation. Then a minibus to Groznjan itself. An incredible place, mesmerising. High atop the seemingly endless forests of Istria. A walled town, tiny really, but a 1000 years old, and recently famous for its music, classical piano and drums can be heard from upstairs windows as you walk the cobbled sloping streets, yet it's quiet even in August, in the peak tourist month, as its hard to find, or reach, it seems. We have a few hours to relax and then again we are travelling, to the excuse we have to come here, to the Wood Poets reading, organised by Maja Klaric and her partner, the Forest Festival of Groznjan. We park up and follow candles through a small wood into a clearing where perhaps a hundred people congregate around a bonfire, with small torches littered around the landscape. It is lovingly put together, and immediately friendly. We meet poets from Hungary and Italy, and lots of local writers. There is music from Italy, percussion on something that looks like a barbecue. Readings follow that. I read some poems from my book {Enthusiasm}, maybe a bit harsh for the hippy vibe, but people are nice about them. James, Sandeep, Damir, Tomica read beautifully, the bonfire gets primed after each reading so it shoots up a flame when you’re done. After an hour goes by and no one else will read in English I retreat to the edge of the gathering, lie down in a field and listen to Italian and Croatian voices way past midnight, seeing the stars clearly in the sky for the first time in a year at least. The music follows, we don’t get back to Groznjan until 2am or so.

IMG_20150808_015128.jpg

Day Three: Morning in Groznjan, people are remarkably friendly, I go into a restaurant below where Im staying and they give me free coffee and food just because we talked while I ate, waving me away. There’s a reading in the centre of the town, all of the performers from the Wood poets the night before coming to join us underneath the Fonticus Gallery. There’s more music, some slightly strange audience participation, which I escape, and then a chance to read again and listen further. Great to hear Marco Fazzini read, he seems to have had and extraordinary life in writing. At the start of the poetry Tomica, Damir, Maja, James, Sandeep and I read our six way poem. Each of us provided a single line, then added a line to each other’s, making six poems written by six poets. Each of us then read one single six line poem. 

Dinner on the town, long afternoon conversation with James, Sandeep, Marco and the vast table of local poets and friends. Late afternoon I disappear into the hills outside the town for a few hours, first walking and exploring, then with a route, a chance to do some hill running. It’s not so hot so not so arduous as in Zagreb, but the chance to have the heightened experience of exercising surrounded by the immense panorama of these hills, olive trees lining them, a view unto the horizon, is exhilarating. We spend a long evening with pizza talking, to each other and the poets we've been lucky enough to meet in Istria. We return the next day, a bus ride down out of the hills, back to Zagreb and then London. An amazing, all too brief window into a truly beautiful place all excused by the chance of us all happening to write poetry, and more decisively, being open and enthusiastic to the friendships that can arise in that shared practise.

More on www.stevenjfowler.com/croatia

Blog #7: Gelynion in London - June 5th 2015

A bash to finish. All the core poets together for one last time (this time around anyway) as well as a host of people travelling from Wales and new collaborations from London based poets too. Still fresh of course, though in just a week it felt as thought the time in Wales itself has been long ago, it was lovely to feel the closeness of the tour exactly where we had left it in Hay. Real bonds have been made.

The first half of the night was dedicated to those we had met on the tour and those specifically asked to present new works for the night, who lived in London. It was a seismic split between quite lyrical poetry, some beautiful works from Sampurna Chatterji & Sharon Morris, David Berridge & Steven Hitchins, and some far wilder, more performance orientated work. I almost had to tackle Cris Paul for setting fire to the Conservative manifesto almost directly below a smoke alarm during his performance with Josh Robinson and this was very much the spirit we had allowed to be present in Gelynion, if people wanted it to be. 

The final part of the night saw Joe, Eurig, Nia, Rhys, Zoe and I do another showcase, roundrobin, where we read excerpts of our longer collaborations in quick succession. It was the best of what we'd done, which was always gratifying and of a high standard. Such brilliant writers and such generous people, if I am to have other experiences as rich and memorable as Gelynion I should live to be a lucky man.

visit www.theenemiesproject.com/gelynion for all the vids

Blog #4: Gelynion in Aberystwyth: May 25th

Nia, the commander, rightly so, led the way, kind enough to drive up the West coast of Wales with Rhys, Annwn and I in the backseat, travelling to Aberystwyth, one of the most isolated cities in the UK, and a beautiful place - a university town, sat on the sea. It possessed a completely different atmosphere to our previous stops on the tour so far. Eurig’s hometown, really the bastion for Welsh language studies and history, Aberystwyth seemed to possess the spirit of independence I had been fascinated to see, really Welsh culture. The seafront was lined with the flags of disputed or marginalised nations in a show of solidarity. I’d also been told our gig was highly anticipated. Really the places I have yet to travel to are the ones I await the most.

We travelled with Rhys' dog Annwn, who I instantly fell in love with and finally felt like there was someone on the tour I could really show my true feelings to. We all stopped by the sea in a small town on the way into Aberystwyth, and I tried to escape with Annwn, but he turned back, loyal to Rhys. A free day upon arrival, Joe, Nia and I ate out and spoke later into the night, the first real chance for the natural side effect of such a project as Gelynion to inculcate the exchanges that build friendships and rich collaborations. Joe and I continued to speak over breakfast each day, and getting to know him far better, a deep privilege, was an education as well as a pleasure.

For the reading, set up on the hills of Aberytwyth, in the University, I collaborated with Eurig, and it being his home town, I was fortunate to work with him. We decided to repair the besmirchment of the mythical Welsh hero Owen Glendower by rewriting Henry IV. Shakespeare remixed, and we dragged in Rhys, Nia and Joe as the performance became a kind of anti-amateur dramatics. The gig itself was packed, held at Aberystwyth Arts Studio, the University’s massive 70s concrete architecture housing the beautiful circular dome where we set up in the round. We had to find more chairs in the end, such was the turnout. The reading felt more like a workshop, such was the familiarity of the atmosphere. It was great to see Jemma King, Amy McCauley, Mari Sion, Kath Stansfield, and all the other poets, all of whom I had researched and many of whom were local through study and not birth, reinterpret the collaborative medium once again.

We all piled into a tiny Moroccan restaurant to close out the night, the real unity and cohesion of the group and the project becoming palpable. The first pangs that the whole thing has gone by too fast already.

Nicky Arscott & Kath Stansfield https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B0sRusEDJw - Mari Siôn & Elin Ap Hywel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgjrpZZ-bXg - Siân Melangell Dafydd & John Barnie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phtm6u8QzwY - Amy McCauley & Jemma L King https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUQmaWFTD3A - Joe Dunthorne & Zoë Skoulding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTVA7veibyc - Nia Davies & Rhys Trimble https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTslGiEnVHg - SJ Fowler & Eurig Salisbury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kJPjOpHePA

Check out www.theenemiesproject.com/gelynion or www.stevenjfowler.com/gelynion for all the blogs!

Gelynion: a publication by Hazard Press

Thanks to the remarkable skill and generosity of Jeremy Dixon, Gelynion was accompanied by a beautiful, handmade publication. A six way collaborative poem, where each of the core touring six poets - Nia Davies, Zoë Skoulding, Eurig Salisbury, Joe Dunthorne, SJ Fowler & Rhys Trimble - each wrote a line, and then, with names removed, each other poet added a line, wherever they wished on the page until six poems of six lines had been written. Each poem a truly collaborative work.

Jeremy, who makes such wonderful literary objects at http://hazardpress.co.uk/ then handcrafted just 60 copies for a limited edtion run. He had them waiting for us at the very first gig in Newport and they proved to be a great success throughout the tour. It's hard to convey their delicate and unique character, small and elaborately finished. A huge thanks to Jeremy, do visit Hazard Press and peruse their wares.

The poems within were read twice on the tour, including being the very last reading at the last Welsh gig, at the Hay Festival, where each of us six stood to read a poem each. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb40wuSWBxo

Gelynion: Enemies Cymru - Blog #3 Swansea

A homecoming for two of our core touring six, Swansea being the home of Nia Davies and Joe Dunthorne. So much is said about Swansea, or was said to me, as I expressed excitement to come here for the first time in my life. It's clearly a place that engenders strong feeling, of pride or criticism. Off the train, the cab driver, born and raised, told me how much he hated it, before dropping me off at a beautiful B&B with expansive sea views over clear blue skies, surrounded by cafes and shops in the Upplands. Meeting the other poets and driving back into town to the incredible venue, what used to be an Iceland Supermarket and is now the Volcano theatre, on the high street, minutes from the train station, I began to get the impression that while Swansea has its edges, it is also an energetic, distinct and striking city.

I collaborated with Joe, and we had written a poetic dialogue that diffused the notion of the nation of Iceland, and our respective visits to that place, with the Iceland Supermarket that once inhabited our performance space. We created an overlapping narrative, something written to be read, and it came together with incredible ease and speed. We also gave out cards with the names of foods sold in Iceland, the supermarket, to be shouted out between our reading, a kind of call to the frozen ghosts from the audience. 

The performance space was unique and like all of Gelynion so far, each of the pairs, 10 in all this night, took the commission extremely seriously and presented an array of differing and energetic works. And again the nature of the collaborations and the community feel created an open, generous and expansive atmosphere. We were joined again by our Indian contingent, Jeet Thayil and Sampurna Chatterji reading, and I finally got to meet and speak to poets I've read and followed from afar - Meirion Jordon, Aneirin Karadog, Lyndon Davies, Graham Hartill and John Goodby. Their work was brilliant, such strength in depth, such a wonderful representation of Swansea.

We had our first in Wales day off and I spent many hours walking along the seafront to the Gower and around the city, and attacking a long run on the particularly soft sand and up the particularly steep hills, in particularly hot sun, getting lost in seemingly endless winding suburbs, before we reconvened for a barbeque at Nia's house and I heard about the revelry that went on late into the post-reading night, after I had left getting ahead of the Friday night crowds.

a Cemetery Romance - March 28th at Kensal Green Cemetery

A Cemetery Romance   http://www.theenemiesproject.com/cemeteryromance

March Sat 28th : 2pm : at the Gates of Kensal Rise Cemetery : Free Entry
in partnership with the Czech Centre London http://london.czechcentres.cz/

To celebrate the visit of avant-garde Czech artist, and professional gravedigger, Miloslav Vojtíšek (otherwise known as S.d.Ch.) this special one off literary tour of the magnificent Kensal Green Cemetery, facilitated by a guide, will feature Miloslav explaining the art of exhumation while being joined by a host of British poets, who will also present their work on death and dying, including Emily Berry, Tom Jenks, Alex MacDonald, Scott Thurston & many more. We will visit the graves of JG Ballard, Harold Pinter and others, before exploring the Dissenters Chapel Catacombs.

The event is completely free to attend but please RSVP at info@czechcentre.org.uk

http://london.czechcentres.cz/programme/travel-events/miloslav-vojtisek-cemetery-poetry-reading/

The group will meeting at 2pm in front of the Kensal Green Cemetery main gate, near the intersection of Harrow Road and Kilburn Lane http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/ With thanks to the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery

http://london.czechcentres.cz/programme/travel-events/miloslav-vojtisek-cemetery-poetry-reading/

The group will meeting at 2pm in front of the Kensal Green Cemetery main gate, near the intersection of Harrow Road and Kilburn Lane http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/ With thanks to the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery


Yes But Are We Enemies? diary #4 - Cork

Time is bending, feeling like a lot longer than less than a week since we were in Belfast, and writing about things that have happened a day ago while doing things I'll write about in a day. Cork was perhaps the highlight of the tour so far. A city without anything overbearing it but itself, that is it felt like a real city, a fully one rounded one, and Billy's hometown. Again I was driven to Cork, passing the magical Bunratty and Ballygibbon, while Billy and I chatted about Ireland and Irish things, amongst poetry discussion. I got to see where he grew up, got to really about Cork before I explored it myself. We stayed by the University, and it was freshers week, but also near Fitzgerald park and the beautiful hidden riverpaths that lead East out of the city. The city was perfectly lovely, though I was stared at relentlessly. Long, strange, intent stares. Not sure why.The reading itself was a grand success. The venue, in the Triskel arts centre, was packed, 50 seated, at least another 20 standing. It really felt as if Cork's poetry scene was highly developed, full of festivals, visiting poets, an active community. It was lively discussions preceding the readings, and getting to meet Paul Casey, Afric McGlinchey, Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Sarah Hayden, Rachel Warriner beforehand, I realised they all organised readings, had their own presses, taught in schools, translated between languages and so forth. It felt much more like a Camarade event in London with each pair bringing an openness, a volume and an individuality that some other readings can't achieve because they feel like the first time the poets have been given the chance to collaborate and communicate in this way. Not so in Cork, all the 7 pairs delivered with a palpable sense of enthusiasm that spread through the attentive audience. Sarah Hayden & Rachel Warriner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS7UGRrOctg
Doireann Ni Ghriofa & Cal Doyle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRY5g9Jw_bI
Eleanor Hooker & Sarah Hesketh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2ZrvlKgyyU
Paul Casey & Afric McGlinchey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYwa8SwfYkY
Christodoulos Makris & Sam Riviere https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qefcQINZyI
Billy Ramsell & Patrick Coyle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdQmG16sfwk

Yes But Are We Enemies? diary #3 - Galway

The difference a three hour car ride through the north west of Ireland can make. The intensity of Derry for the easy gait of Galway. The change was pretty extreme. I rode in Billy Ramsell's car with Ailbhe Darcy, while the unfortunates got the bus. Nothing like a poet's road trip, and with Billy, a gentle education in Irish history (welcomed, asked for), Irish language (and it's poetry), and Trad music (which is uniformly beautiful). Galway itself was like a small, Leprechaun ridden Barcelona. The volume of tourists, tourist bars, tourist shops, students, and people in general was pretty surprising to me, and the hot weather (apparently extremely rare) made for a change of tone. But runs down on the seaside, against the atlantic, and the food and the friendliness of the people made it apparent why so many people love it as a place. Again the cohesion and care the group has for each other was palpable, we all ate together on what was really our first day without a reading.
A full day in Galway and then to the arts centre for the reading itself. Some beautiful contributions from Elaine Cosgrove, Anamaria Crowe Serrano, Susan Millar DuMars, Kevin Higgins, Eleanor Hooker, the wonderful Sarah Hesketh who'd come all the way from London to join us, and Sam and Ailbhe, the genuine talent of the latter bringing some non-ironic feelings out of the former for the first time in his life I'm sure. My performance with Christodoulos was a wee bit unexpected by the audience perhaps, a bit more performative, or contradictory, or combustible than they'd expected, and in contrast to the gentility of the fine poetry beforehand, it was noticeable, the discomfort. I am glad we did it, despite not wanting to make people feel awkward, I do believe that is a valid aesthetic reaction and guards against the complacency and comfort that often lazy lyrical poetry can bring. Moreover, it is a very real part of what this tour and project stands for, that the avant garde of Ireland has been smothered and needs its platform with the more 'poetic' poetry. By the time Patrick was utilising repetition as a humourous and interrogative tool against listeners complacency we had got a walkout! Strike one for the project. Elaine Cosgrove & Anamaria Crowe Serrano https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKMA65LAczM
Susan Millar DuMars & Kevin Higgins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4g7y-Tf0YE
Sarah Hesketh & Eleanor Hooker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tzhXDGmcZE
Christodoulos Makris & myself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pauNrHzFVo
Patrick Coyle & Billy Ramsell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9mkefRikHk
Ailbhe Darcy & Sam Riviere https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnmY5ek5WF

Yes But Are We Enemies? diary #2 - Derry

The feeling between the people on this project is already so exceptionally close and generous that it's really taken me aback. I always expect these things to be positive, but to go from space to space with such warmth and endless conversations between all those involved, to have such humour present, and for it to be so palpable, and so in the work, it's just wonderfully gratifying. All this set against the intensity of Derry was very engaging to say the least. It is such a distinct and powerful city, Derry, so tense though, it has to be said. The time I had there will stay with me, going from the Bogside area, the Free Derry museum, to the Guildhall, with it plantation history and its Londonderry Derry, there is such a such a historicity, of didactic opinion that, far more than my experience of Belfast, I felt it everywhere. I was staying in a heavily Republican area and even got into some conversations about my English accent, friendly ones, but real all the same. I found myself casually reading a book left out on a bookshelf for people to read in a cafe about the siege of Derry, called Never Surrender. I witnessed a march of orangemen through the city. The people are wonderful, hospitable and kind, and outwardly friendly, but the oft referred to history of the place is not a misnomer, not an ossified piece of some tourists myth. It is there, breathable, in the place, and in the poets too. All this is the context of such lovely times with Ailbhe, Billy, Patrick, Christodoulos, Sam and others.
The great strength of our event in Derry was the width and experimentation of the poets and their performances. So wonderful to see the work of Aodan McCardle, Ailbhe Hines, James King, Ellen Factor and others, all based in Derry, so experimentally vibrant and brilliant, complimenting the overall feeling of an Enemies event. This is the cutting edge of the Irish avant garde, that which should be far more prominent in the country and is thirsty for a chance to show itself it seems to me. The verbal arts centre was a wonderful venue and our event was part of the Irish wide culture night programme.
Aodan McCardle & Ailbhe Hines - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFOuyaTGC9M
James Kings & Ellen Factor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCvh120LEoA
Sophie Collins & Robert Maclean - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kUvGWTQhic
Sam Riviere & Billy Ramsell - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKvIQ0CjYdw
Patrick Coyle & Christodoulos Makris - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avfeSPNk7Ic