A note on: my collaborators for European Poetry Festival 2019

As part of the oncoming European Poetry Festival I have the opportunity to collaborate six times with six poets from six places. With Maja Jantar, Patrick Savolainen, Fabian Faltin, Morten Langeland, Krisjanis Zelgis and Tom Jenks. From April 6th to April 13th, one week, I do six new performative collaborations. It is one of the most exciting parts of the fest, this constant collective creative output, in live settings, making new things, writing them, negotiating in cafes, changing plans minutes before the event starts, having to also announce the lineup, help all the other poets, work the venue, then perform too. Making new friendships also, I have never worked with Patrick, Krisjanis and Fabian before. Cementing friendships too, Tom, Maja and Morten are all very close and dear friends. It is obvious terrible for them they have to work with me but sacrifices must be made on the altar of poetry.

Check out when and where here www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/programme

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.
 

A note on: article for Literaturhaus Europa on CROWD bus tour

The Elit article series runs very regularly from Literaturhaus Europa's base in Austria and always has some fascinating insights into the wider European literature scene from writers, organisers and journalists. I've written for them a few times before, and they asked me to pen a short piece on the CROWD Literature bus tour which I partially participated in this summer. I wrote about my experience of being at the Krokodil fest in Serbia during Britain's exit from the EU. http://www.literaturhauseuropa.eu/de/observatorium/blog/crowd-literature2019s-omnibus-project

A note on: writing an introduction to Volodymyr Bilyk's Heartbeat, Footclick, Machine Gun Vocalises

A privilege to write the introduction to Volodymyr Bilyk's new work out with the brilliant M58 press edited by Jez Noond and Andrew Taylor, based in the UK. It's a hugely important work of avant-garde visual poetry emanating from real purpose and I've scanned (wonkily) my introduction in below. You can buy it here for £5 and I urge you to do so. http://www.m58.co.uk/post/141316776709/heartbeat-footclick-machine-gun-vocalises-by

A note on: The English PEN Modern Literature Festival - Full Line up announced

Rich Mix Venue One: April 2nd 2016 - 2pm / 3.30pm / 7.30pm. 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Free entry but signing up for membership appreciated.
http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen

A privilege to announce a major new project - 30 contemporary writers present new works, each celebrating a writer from around the world who is currently part of the English PEN Writer's at Risk programme. Each of the 30 English writers will present brand new poetry, text, reportage, performance and film on the day that celebrates and evidences the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity. The full line up of authors is below.

The one day mini-festival takes place at Rich Mix Arts Centre, just off Brick Lane, London, 2pm til 9.30pm, in 3 sessions throughout the day. All are free to attend but attendees are encouraged to join English PEN or donate to the charity if they are already members. 

2pm to 3.30pm
Harry Man on Maung Saung Kha
David Berridge on Dawit Isaak
Kirsten Irving on Nurmuhemmet Yasin
Jen Calleja on Gao Yu
SJ Fowler on Khadija Ismayilova
Dave Spittle on Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury
Prudence Chamberlain on Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong
Robert Hampson on Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace
Adam Baron on Can Dündar and Erdem Gül

4pm to 5.30pm
Eley Williams on Tsering Woeser
Sam Winston on Zunar
Lucy Harvest Clarke on Liu Xia
Stephen Emmerson on Dina Meza
Alex MacDonald on Alaa Abd El Fattah
Drew Milne on Omar Hazek
Oli Hazzard on Enoh Meyomesse
Sarah Kelly on Nelson Aguilera
Caleb Klaces on Jorge Olivera Castillo

7.30pm to 9.30pm
Caroline Bergvall on Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor
Emily Critchley on Mahvash Sabet
Andrew McMillan on Ashraf Fayadh
Andra Simons on Amanuel Asrat
Allen Fisher on Mamadali Makhmudov
Nathan Walker on Mohammed al-‘Ajami
Michael Zand on U Zeya
Mark Waldron on Zhu Yufu
Mark Ravenhill on Mazen Darwish and Yara Bader
Emily Berry on Raif Badawi
Tom McCarthy on Liu Xiaobo

The festival is intended as a call to membership for writers, artists and readers in a time where we face perilous challenges to our freedom of expression and fundamental rights and hard fought liberties, both internationally and here in the UK. As the world changes so remarkably, and so rapidly, and on a global scale, it is vital the political will of our time and this generation of young, dynamic writers is directed purposefully to the work of English PEN, the writer's charity. The hope is this festival, away from creating at least 30 new members of PEN, begins involvements and connections which will have exponential resonance for decades to come.

Please join English PEN
You can join English PEN here http://www.englishpen.org/membership/join/ and if you are a writer, poet, artist, scholar, academic, reader or someone who is passionate about defending our fundamental freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, please take the time to do so and become a part of the future of this extraordinary organisation. 

If you are outside of England, please visit http://www.pen-international.org/ and join your national branch of PEN. You can find more about each writer's work responding to this project on their individual sites, for example Harry Man, and a blog on my website on the process of curating the festival

Thanks to Cat Lucas, Hannah Trevarthen and all the remarkable staff at English PEN. Follow the project on twitter using #penfestuk

Kiwi avant gardist Iain Britton in the UK

Im really happy to say that the wonderful, groundbreaking Kiwi poet Iain Britton, whom Ive had the honour of publishing at 3am, and whose works have graced many of the avant garde presses that have also featured my own, is giving a long overdue reading in London next month. It takes place at Birkbeck college, details here http://www.nzstudies.com/event/poetry-reading-iain-britton-friday-14-march-2014/ He will also read 5 days before at the Albion beatnik in Oxford, with the excellent Nikolai Duffy. Really worth taking the time to see someone doing the important work on the other side of the world, a brother to our endeavours. 
  • The Albion Beatnik Bookstore, 34 Walton St, Oxford, OX2 6AA. Sunday 9 March, 5 PM. With Nikolai Duffy.
  • Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, room MAL 151. Main building, entrance from Torrington Square. 14th March, 6 PM. Poster here.