A note on: Poethetic Pathogens (a Michaux inflammation) : an exhibition

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Poethetic Pathogens (a Michaux inflammation) : an exhibition by SJ Fowler

Avivson Gallery : February 20th to 27th 2019 : 49 Highgate High St, London N6 5JX, UK.

Five new paint or asemic poems exhibited alongside, and responding to, an original work by 20th century poetical iconoclast, Henri Michaux.  I'm pleased to announce this week long exhibition at the Avivson Gallery in the heart of Highgate, London. 

A special view opening event on February Wednesday 20th, free entry, 7pm start, will feature performances  and readings by Christian Patracchini, Iris Colomb, Astra Papachristodoulou & Oliver Fox, Russell Bennetts and SJ Fowler, all responding to Henri Michaux and his life and work.

Gallery hours : Wednesday to Saturday 12.15 -18.00 www.avivsongallery.com/

The Henri Michaux poem to be exhibited >>

From the gallery “... Fowler’s work has become synonymous with a new generation of European poets following Michaux’s explorations into writing abstraction and handwriting art, and the possibilities of a more instinctive notion of what literature might be. The Michaux work in question evokes the microscopic bacteria that permeates our bodies beyond our sight, and it is this visible but unseen aesthetic that Fowler has pursued in his  artworks.”

A note on: The Liberated Voice sound poetry exhibition at Palais de Tokyo

I'm very happy to have a sound poetry installation in this upcoming exhibition - The Liberated Voice - at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which charts the modern history of sound poetry, and features works by poets like Henri Chopin, The Four Horsemen, John Giorno, Ernst Jandl, Jackson MacLow, Seiichi Niikuni, Gerhard Rühm, Carolee Schneemann et al. It runs March 22nd to May 12th. https://www.palaisdetokyo.com/

"In the 20th century, phonetic and then sound poetry always stood as an act of emancipation. Sometimes ready to abandon semantics, the avant-garde turned it into a spearhead of a struggle against systems, beliefs and dogmas. What is now left of their heroic combats?"

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A note on: After Animal Drums, David Spittle's article at Hotel Magazine

This poetic essay by David Spittle, responding to my feature length poetry film, Animal Drums, made with Joshua Alexander, is generous. It contains some of the most accurate, in my opinion, writing about what I’m trying to do with my work, in general. Good of Hotel Magazine to publish it https://partisanhotel.co.uk/After-Animal-Drums

“This is a poet whose art (in poetry/performance/the visual and audio) splits its energy between accident and intention to often explore an uncomfortable ambiguity between the offensive and its jagged critique or parody. The position or role of ‘offense’ is a potent drive behind much of Fowler’s fragmented questioning, as alive in his poetry as it is in the film. The problematic insistence on the ‘problematic’ in art has itself become increasingly problematic. The polarized bludgeoning of forces like Twitter have created a binary culture whereby the progressive and ongoing work to remove institutionalised prejudice and broaden inclusivity in art is damagingly conflated with a need to reductively limit art to moralising megaphones of ideology. Animal Drums splinters this conviction and instead opens up a troubling examination of where the troubled mind might go, anonymous and vulnerable or overlooked and dangerous, lonely or free, lost in a city equally beset by the drive to insist upon moralising cultural dedication at the very same time it deepens a perversion of those values. The plague doctor’s mask never slips but the film suggests that maybe the plague we are now confronted with is one of masks.” 

A note on: The Vienna Camarade

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This was a massive event in Austria with nearly 40 poets performing new collaborations as part of the European Poetry Festival touring about Europe this year. It relied entirely on the hospitality of the Viennese poetry scene, which was energised, enthusiastic and generous to me, as an outsider, a non German speaker, coming into their town and putting something together like this. They seemed to really feel it too, the ideas behind the Camarade, after the event.

I stayed for three days in Vienna, a place where I have many friends and this undoubtedly affected my decision to try to do this kind of work beyond London, because of the people I’ve met and worked with over recent years, and in Austria, with Max Hofler, Esther Strauss, Robert Prosser, Jorg Piringer, Thomas Havlik, Jorg Zemmler & co, that’s a legion of brilliant people. It was Robert who hooked me up with the venue, Einbaumobel, and Jopa Jotakin, who has run it for 12 years. He puts drinks on the bar for free, all night, for everyone, and more than a host of people said the event was made by the venue. In the arches of a railway line, a punk club, instead of a literary ballroom.

If you just have a quick glance here www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/vienna you can see the immense variation and energy of the works for the night. I discovered a lot of really interesting work but also was surrounded by friends who had travelled into Vienna from all over Europe. Something about this event really drew people in.

My own delicate collaboration (pictured) with Iris Colomb & Max Hofler was an experiment, had its moments, overall, for me, maybe a faulty piece. But not because the slight negative aesthetics, which did seem to wound the souls of a few in the audience, was combative. But because performance is, and should be, a risk. And when you do that, sometimes, the rhythm isn’t there. But both Max and Iris are amazing people, and we put it together a few hours before, as all of our partners had dropped out.

I spent my free days in Vienna sat in cafes, wandering, getting lost on a run and nearly dying of frostbite. I went to no museums, no literary places. I just spent time with some great people and talked about things other than poetry, as so much of that was crammed into this one night working.

A note on: Sam Jordison writes on English PENfest for Galley Beggars

A very generous reflection by Sam Jordison on the fest I organised for the latest Galley Beggars Press newsletter = “Not long ago, I attended an event held to raise awareness of English Pen and writers who are currently being held in prisons around the world. I had been asked to speak about a woman called Narges Mohammadi, a woman who was sent to jail for being a member of an organisation called “Step by  Step to Stop the Death Penalty” and for  “committing propaganda against the state.” One of the main focusses of that propaganda campaign was to stop the state killing juvenile offenders. Kids, in other words. She wanted to protect children. 

I could talk about this case for a long time, as well as the trials this woman  has undergone in jail - but it's probably more productive if you have a look for yourself at the web pages her supporters have set up for her - and also if you have a look on the English Pen website. If you like, you can also look at the talk I gave by clicking on this link. There you'll also see several other videos, each one of them moving and important. I'd especially urge you to look at the talk by Steven Fowler, who asked the troubling question of what it is about these writers that makes them speak out? Why don't they stay at home, have an easy life, protect themselves and their families? Why can't they shrug off injustice and oppression like most other people tend to do? Could we really blame them if they opted instead for safety? Could we even blame them, instead, for being so bloody difficult? There's clearly something about some writers, isn't there? They can't shut up. They won't shut up. If you're doing something wrong, they'll tell you - and if that rebounds on them, well, that's the price of truth. 

I realised when Steve was speaking that every single Galley Beggar writer would be in jail if faced with the right (actually, let's call it 'wrong') kind of oppression. I felt a faint flicker of amusement at the thought of trying to encourage Preti Taneja and Alex Pheby and Lucy Ellmann to keep quiet and do as they are told, but mostly, I felt pride and horror. Pride, for obvious reasons. Horror because of the realisation that those writers who are in jail probably have a great deal in common with our friends here, who have given us so much through their books and their lives. 

And I have to tell you that because you read this newsletter, and because you've read this far, you're probably in the awkward club too. So, I salute you, comrade! But I guess that my saying that you might also find yourself on the wrong end of the long stick of an absurd law is really another way of saying that English Pen is a fine organisation and it deserves our support. They're looking out for people like us, after all. I joined up after speaking for Narges and it felt good.“

A note on : English PEN Modern Literature Fest in Kingston

The 4th annual one night fest celebrating writers-at-risk supported by English PEN took place at the Bishop in Kingston, as part of Writers’ Centre Kingston. It saw 9 writers share new pieces of literature speaking for those writers around the world currently oppressed for their political actions or stances. It was a really generous and engaging night, with some grand readings by Sam Jordison, Ellen Wiles, Gareth Evans and more. All the videos are online https://www.writerscentrekingston.com/pen2019/

My own performance was for Oleg Sentsov, the filmmaker currently imprisoned in a penal colony for 20 years on trumped up charges by Russia. What struck me about him, which I wanted to represent, was his unearthly stubbornness, and insistence, and heart, and courage, and resilience. He clearly has an iron mind and is utterly principled, beyond any possible expectation in fact. I read his letter at the end of the performance but wanted to use the somewhat pathetic metaphor of eating nailed fruit as a way to represent the intensity of his refusal, when in court in Russia, to offer any submission.

Published: Hotel Magazine issue 5

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Really generous of the remarkable Hotel Magazine to run a feature on my feature-length film The Animal Drums, made with Josh Alexander, in their 5th print issue.

This includes a found responsive poem by Iain Sinclair which was read at the premiere and written by Iain after watching the film. It also features a poem of mine used in the film.

There’s a pretty brilliant list of contributors too, and the magazine can be bought here https://partisanhotel.co.uk/Hotel-5

A note on : Teaching photography and poetry at Poetry School

a bit of man ray and paul eluard

a bit of man ray and paul eluard

Had another generous experience sharing ideas at The Poetry School, this time developing concepts I came up with in 2018 for a course at the photographer’s gallery, and moving them into more practical territory for poets. I spoke a lot about the possibilities of hybridity, and as before, really sought to pick people’s minds on what they thought were the reasons for these two arts overlapping with success so rarely. Some really talented folk in the room, it was a lovely few days down by Canada Water, and like with so many PS courses, I’m sure some of the poets will go on to become friends in the future.

Published: an interview with Paul Brookes on Wombwell

A new interview is out with Paul Brookes as part of his expansive, idiosyncratic online poetic conversation series https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2019/01/29/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-steven-j-fowler/ A few qs from the Interview

  1. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I actually have never felt dominated by older poets. Maybe because, also by accident, I found myself, early on, in a very specific tradition in the UK, what we might see as the British Poetry Revival and the older poets were really supportive and generous. More than poets my own age, but they were pretty grand on the whole too. But poets like Tom Raworth, Maggie O’Sullivan, Robert Sheppard, Iain Sinclair, Allen Fisher, Tony Lopez, Anselm Hollo and Tomaz Salamun, I can point to distinct moments with each of them when I had barely written / done anything and they took the time to encourage me. And poets a generation younger too, a generation on from me – Carol Watts, Jeff Hilson, Tim Atkins, Philip Terry, Peter Jaeger, they were also very very supportive. In fact I would say now this is something I take to be a responsibility. To teach the works of these older poets, to share them outside of the UK and to connect my students, those a generation younger than me, to the poets who have lived the life they might follow.

  1. What is your work ethic?

I enjoy working as I work now. I have spent years trying to fashion a work environment where I like what I do, working hard to get that, and now I have it, so I work harder, as it doesn’t feel like work. Both my parents were working class, they grew up in Liverpool during WWII. They grew up without education in bombed out buildings. They worked incredibly hard and taught me their ethic

Published : An article on drugs for Versopolis - Time Eats Drugs

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This year I'll be publishing a series of experimental articles on Versopolis because I'm full of suspicion (about articles) and confusion (about all things). The first, on drugs. https://www.versopolis.com/times/essay/721/time-eats-drugs

Time Eats Drugs

The disappearance of nefarious narcotic imaginings

by Steven Fowler

Why have drugs become so pharmaceutical? The ownership of the word that is the pills, juice, herb, liquid, has transitioned from something that passes over boundaries of insistence, towards legality, away from being cool, away from an expanded mind. Drugs are nowadays into something else. They ain’t so much into music or writing or fear. They seem more concerned with being hidden like the old people who once used them to such powerful and awful effect. They reside in stranger corners, less a temptation and choice, as some reversed signifier for a kind of personality or psychological damage. They are something not to be ashamed of, or worked up towards, with courage, or flouted, or inspired through. Do you remember E. The letter E. Beyond George Perec. I remember getting into a fight with a child at school because he insisted E didn’t stand for a drug, but for something else, that adults knew, that we weren’t allowed to know. This offended me so much, that we would be barred from understanding this lettered code, and that he was so naïve to think adults wouldn’t celebrate something we all knew to be bad, in popular culture even, that I fought him. It mattered. I’ve heard stories too of fools in the 90s getting into heroin because it was nonchalant and cool. For real? Jesus people were stupid back then. Xanax and pregabalin, well that’s something else…………………………………….. cont’d

Published : Nemesia #3 - Man Finds with Harry Man

Spanish online cultural journey Wazo has published the third in my series of new collaborations entitled Nemesia. This one is with Harry Man, who is a talented poet even if he is a tyrant as a person. Check it, it’s all found text https://www.wazogate.com/nemesia-3-man-finds/

Man finds tin heart in river

Man Finds A 2,700 Year Old City Under His Basement

Man finds hope after fire

Man ‘finds’ the nurse he met on Snowdon

Man finds English Lit GCSE ‘too hard’, takes up wedding photography

Published : Calligramms with Penteract Press

Grand to start 2019 with a new publication, and probably the only thing I’ve released that can be enjoyed by human animals of all ages. The brilliant Penteract press, who have been carving out more appreciation for formal and visual poetry over the last number of years, have released a selection of my animal Calligramms as a pamphlet. It’s beautifully produced, very delicate and elegant, a fold out document.

It can be bought here https://penteractpress.com/store/calligramms-sj-fowler

“‘The Calligrammes are an idealisation of free verse poetry and typographical precision in an era when typography is reaching a brilliant end to its career, at the dawn of the new means of reproduction that are the cinema and the phonograph.’ (Guillaume Apollinaire, in a letter to André Billy)

‘Animals are cute when they're not real, and my calligramms are forgeries.’ (SJ Fowler in a letter to Anthony Etherin) .”

A note on : reading at the Tomaž Šalamun Poetry Centre

Tomaz was a bit of a mentor of mine, along with Anselm Hollo and Tom Raworth I’d say his influence extended way beyond our brief friendship. In all three cases what I learned was really about the way I wanted to be as much as how I wanted to write. These things are inexorably intertwined, and you can’t realise that until you meet people who have lived it. He was very generous, and rightly, in Ljubljana, his place has been somewhat cemented by this amazing venue, which is really a reference library with all his books - that is his book collection - full of rarities. It’s a working library but also, thanks to Miha Mauric, an event space. I had the chance to read alongside friends too, Morten Langeland and Endre Ruset. Though in my actual reading I bored myself and had a weird sensation realising how hard I find it to just read nowadays, the evening was wonderful all told.

You can find more about the library here https://www.culture.si/en/Toma%C5%BE_%C5%A0alamun_Poetry_Centre

A note on: The Animal Drums premiere

It’s been a month since my first feature length film, made with (owed to) Joshua Alexander, premiered at Whitechapel Gallery Cinema. It was a strange night, satisfying, undoubtedly, but strange for me to experience sat the rear of the cinema, watching myself, my own film, on a huge screen. It was wonderful so many friends and people I don’t know came out, and the introduction by Iain Sinclair, where he firmly placed Josh and I in the tradition of Patrick Keillor et al, was pretty wonderful, as a moment of recognition. So the experience, as a night, was brilliant. And I feel the achievement of finishing a film is a thing to be left alone, to be enjoyed. However it was all uncanny because in watching the film in this way, the first time removed from Josh and I and editing, in a sense, I saw what it was really about, as a piece of work. And this was different than what I thought it was about. It was a little disturbing, but perhaps that’s best. And really we owe this night, and the momentum it’s given the film, entirely to Gareth Evans, a constant hero of the often hidden work that needs working in London. He was so helpful to us and continues to be.

I’m happy to say the film will go to some festivals in 2019 and Hotel Magazine will soon run a feature on it, with a new poem about the film by Iain Sinclair and a really generous critical article by David Spittle.

A note on : Writers Centre Kingston event on Myth

A really lovely start to the WCK programme for 2019 at The Rose Theatre. Max Porter, Winsome Pinnock and Catherine Humble were a mesmerising triplet of speakers, all presenting really powerful and alive pieces of literature, all pretty much shaped or new for the night. It would have been cool to have a few more in the audience but the battle I suppose is getting the work resonant and the people there feeling as though they’ve witnessed something special, and this was definitely the case. Grand too to see how much it meant to Marcia Knight Latter to launch her debut poetry pamphlet. All the documentation from the event is online at https://www.writerscentrekingston.com/myth/

A note on : European Poetry Festival 2019 initial programme

I am happy to say the European Poetry Festival will return in 2019 bigger than last year, which was exceptional. We have over 100 poets involved, with nearly 70 visiting from across Europe, and there will be 12 separate events. www.europeanpoetryfestival.com

Lots of the specific and concrete details are to follow for the official programme launch in February but for now we can confirm the dates and venues below and poets visiting will include:

Fabian Faltin, Maja Jantar, Leonce Lupette, Sophie Carolin Wagner, Morten Langeland, Jon Stale Ritland, Endre Ruset, Vilde Valerie Bjerke Torset, Katerina Koulouri, Iris Colomb, Serena Braida, Astra Papachristodoulou, Theodoros Chiotis, Michelle Steinbeck, Michael Fehr, Vanni Bianconi, Daniele Pantano, Patrick Savolainen, Simone Lappert, Olga Stehlikova, Andras Gerevich, Alessandro Burbank, Ricardo Marques, Amadej Kraljevic, Anastasia Mina, Muanis Sinananovic, Dragan Todorovic, Dovydas Laurinaitis, Simona Nastac and loads more!

Partners include Arts Council England, Austrian Cultural Forum, Pro Helvetia, Goethe Institut London, Latvian Literature, NORLA, National Centre for Writing Norwich, Manchester MET poetry library, International Anthony Burgess Centre, Lithuanian Cultural Institute, Balassi Institute and many others.

  • March 28th - Leaving-our-own-continent Camarade : The Gulbenkian - Canterbury, Kent

  • April Thursday 4th - Norwegian poetry in-focus at Writers' Centre Kingston : Rose Theatre, Kingston

  • April Saturday 6th : The European Camarade : Rich Mix, London

  • April Sunday 7th : Back into the Mouth - a celebration of Sound Poetry : IklectiK Artlab, London

  • April Monday 8th : Swiss poetry in collaboration : Poetry Society’s Cafe, London

  • April Wednesday 10th : Austrian Poetry in collaboration : Austrian Cultural Forum, London

  • April Friday 12th : Norwich’s European Camarade : The National Centre for Writing

  • April Saturday 13th : Manchester’s European Camarade : The International Anthony Burgess Centre

  • April Monday 15th : European Camarade at Riverbank Arts Centre : Newbridge, Co Kildare. Ireland

O it’s going to be great this year.

A note on : Intersemiotic Journeys between Media!

Really cool to have a new collaboration with Robert Prosser (we made it for the livenesses and it became new because we paged it, made it flat) in a beautiful academic tome entitled Translating across Sensory and Linguistic borders, edited by Ricarda Vidal and Madeleine Campbell that’s just come out with Palgrave MacMillan.

https://www.palgrave.com/br/book/9783319972435

Great to be in the book alongside folk like Vahni Capildeo and Jen Calleja and it’s a pretty groundbreaking collection, very much rooted into ideas that drive much of my collaborative practise and curation.

“This book analyses intersemiotic translation, where the translator works across sign systems and cultural boundaries. Challenging Roman Jakobson’s seminal definitions, it examines how a poem may be expressed as dance, a short story as an olfactory experience, or a film as a painting. This emergent process opens up a myriad of synaesthetic possibilities for both translator and target audience to experience form and sense beyond the limitations of words. The editors draw together theoretical and creative contributions from translators, artists, performers, academics and curators who have explored intersemiotic translation in their practice. The contributions offer a practitioner’s perspective on this rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary field which spans semiotics, cognitive poetics, psychoanalysis and transformative learning theory. The book underlines the intermedial and multimodal nature of perception and expression, where semiotic boundaries are considered fluid and heuristic rather than ontological. It will be of particular interest to practitioners, scholars and students of modern foreign languages, linguistics, literary and cultural studies, interdisciplinary humanities, visual arts, theatre and the performing arts.  “

A note on: editing the Sampson Low poetry series for students at Kingston Uni

Two things I sweared off early on - being a publisher and editing an anthology. I’m not really doing either here and somehow I’ve avoided all the pitfalls of being an editor by squeezing in between the gaps. In fact this project has been one of the most personally satisfying. Basically every year at the University where I teach, Kingston, I invite all students and alumni from the last five years, no matter their background, to send me short manuscripts, with an open call. Then I choose three and work with the brilliant publisher Sampson Low, which has been around for over 200 years and really are amazing to work with, Alban Low is a remarkable editor and publisher, to develop three young poets debut or near debut pamphlets. This series for 2019 is the third set. You can find them all here www.writerscentrekingston.com/sampsonlow

So it’s new work from Helena Artus, Marcia Knight Latter and Julia Rose Lewis and all three are beautiful works. Marcia has a rare energy, organically tuned into experiment and play without being an at all laden with theory, Julia is one of the finest poets working in the UK now in my opinion and Helena’s pamphlet, exceptionally, is entirely in sign language, being visual sign translations of her poems, drawing on her experience of BSL. The pamphlets will be launched at WCK events on Feb 21st and April 4th.

A note on: The Ljubljana Camarade and performing with Morten Langeland

A grand reading in Ljubljana, some amazing talent in the city I’ve been visiting for nearly 20 years now. In 2019 the European Poetry Festival will leave the UK a fair few times, always in its design to be moveable, to bring the collaborative model of the Camarade to cities across the continent and expand the connections between poets doing interesting work. That’s what this event did, connecting people in Slovenia who might not get to read together alongside a solid cohort of outsiders.

This EPF new wave started on January 12th with this event co curated with Muanis Sinanovic and bringing 20 poets together. It was a really relaxed and playful show. Many of the poets were new to me and its rare that an event mostly in a language I don’t speak holds my attention entirely, as this did. The event was in a beautiful venue too, Skuc, a gallery that’s been around for nearly 40 years, in the shadow of the castle.

I collaborated with the Norwegian poet Morten Langeland, whom I met last year in Macedonia, and we presented short research poems about the other poets reading on the night, which trod a fine line between satire and self-referentiality. All the videos are at the link below

https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/ljubljana

A note on : Revolve:R edition 3 - film responses to my poems

I recently wrote three new poems for the Revolve:R project, in its third edition. These poems were then responded to by three film-makers, which is something indeed. Links below to those films, which I am glad don’t show the poems, so one must read into them the oblique poetic translation process (the still here is taken from Daniel Smedley’s film)

Revolve:R is a pretty magical project curated by Sam Treadaway and is aboout = Revolve:R is a multidisciplinary and international collaboration which explores the transmission of ideas through collaborative forms of communication ranging from the physical and tactile forms of communication. Each Revolve:R edition is presented as a limited bookwork publication.

The Revolve:R, edition three bookwork has arrived. Here are links to films and soundscapes (3-5) from edition three, which are now Live on the website.

Revolve:R, edition three, Film:3, I Am a Slowly Deflating Balloon, by Daniel Smedley. Responds to artwork 265 by Sam Treadaway, and Poem:3 by Steven J Fowler. View here: http://www.revolve-r.com/index.php/edition-three---films/film3/

Revolve:R, edition three, Film:1, An Imposed Technique by Maria Anastassiou Responds to artwork 217 by Sam Treadaway, and Poem:1 by Steven J Fowler. View here http://www.revolve-r.com/index.php/edition-three---films/film1/

Revolve:R, edition three, Film:5, Out of Memory, by Alexandros Pissourios. Responds to artwork 310 by Sam Treadaway, and Poem:5 by Steven J Fowler. View here: http://www.revolve-r.com/index.php/edition-three---films/film5/