Published : Maintenant #101 with Maja Jantar

The Maintenant series was an enormously important stage in my autodidactic education in poetry. It not only opened up to me the extraordinary potential of contemporary European poetry in the 21st century, it gave me the chance to learn through direct contact with the poets I approached. Many became close friends, and still to this day educate me on the possibilities of my own work.

The first series of Maintenant run for 98 issues on 3am magazine. I left 99 and 100 free and empty in homage to two poets who were completing interviews at the time of their death, Anselm Hollo and Tomaz Salamun.

I have started the series up again, though it will run quietly and infrequently, on Versopolis - the European Review of Poetry, Books and Culture, and have begun the new century with the incomparable Maja Jantar.

https://www.versopolis.com/people/conversation/763/i-ve-always-believed-in-a-very-open-meaning-of-the-word-poetic

f we are to be able to create a discourse about European cultural and artistic traditions, practices we can speculate upon, historicise, and draw inspiration from, while avoiding nationalism, we eventually have to settle on something concrete to not lose ourselves to amorphousness. We need to think regionally, or perhaps equally banal though it might be, continentally. We have more reason to do this in 2019, being in Europe. What then, with poetry, might we consider European? Again in a reductive way, we might speak of a poet who speaks numerous languages but often performs in none, or all, depending on one’s perspective. We might speak of a poet who has lived in a dozen European nations, who crosses borders with her work as much as her person. We might speak of the best of European tradition being the ability to be critically minded but generous in action, being able to incorporate all that is decidedly not poetry (be that mark or fragment or gesture or other artforms, music, theatre, performance and visual art most distinctly, in this case) in order to make works more poetic than most can conceive. We are left with a poet like Maja Jantar, who for the past generation, has been performing, singing, fashioning and building her poetries across the continent, constantly shifting, reforming, transforming and collaborating, to the point where she now stands for a 21stcentury poetic tradition. One that is sensitive to the real material of poetry, a poetry that knows its past to be future facing. In the first interview of the Maintenant series second act, conversation #101, we present Maja Jantar. https://www.versopolis.com/people/conversation/763/i-ve-always-believed-in-a-very-open-meaning-of-the-word-poetic

Published : an an interview on Utsanga with Tim Gaze

https://www.utsanga.it/flower-intervista-a-tim-gaze/ They once called me Flower, which is beaut, but for now, this interview is a really generous act by Tim Gaze, a brilliant visual poet pioneer in his own right, as it allows me to consolidate and consider much of thinking and output around my Poem Brut publications

1 considering the variety of styles in Selected Scribbling and Scrawling, do you create in waves of similar work? Do you deliberately try not to repeat yourself?

I think I’m trying to consider the method of scribbling or the mode of scrawling, the hand-line, as an entire form, or creative universe. Something that is not an adjunct of poetry or text art but a way of making poems that one might spend a lifetime refining. I’d like to teach a course on scribbling. It would be more therapeutic than one about writing poems. So the selections for the book are from different periods of time, where differing concepts were prominent in my writing and so absolutely your question is well considered, these are bursts re-ordered, re-considered post facto. My favourite works are the intricate scribs, done usually on trains in London, with an hour journey given to each line, and then reworked over weeks. But others were done walking in Gdansk, upright with my eyes closed, for example.

2 how did you get into making things which are completely left of the field of vision of many readers who think they’re into poetry?

Pure chance, no childhood influences, parents who still don’t know what poetry is, working class people who didn’t even read for pleasure, and then in my early adulthood, randomly. This is the greatest gift to me, that I was already a half formed human before considering what poetry is and what it isn’t. And that I am still, 9 years in, plagued by questions unasked by most in the field but still strange and unanswerable to me. For example, surely, to separate poetry from text or conversation or opinion or prose or fiction, a poem needs only be language referent and then to seeking an answer to a self-situated paradoxical question. A poem aims then to be stating or saying the inexpressible. This seems the beginning of the medium to me. Why would just say something in a poem if we can say it anywhere else? Anytime, in any language chunk, any conversation? Advertising does this, speeches – why poem at all if one is going to state or lecture? From this comes many hundreds of natural follow up questions. Why are almost no poems published handwritten? Is there no meaning in the handwritten letter? Only if letters and words are secondary to emotion and opinion. But if this is the case then why poem? I bore myself saying this stuff.

3 is there an ideal reader who really “gets” what you’re doing, or is any response a good response?

Definitely the latter. I hope for negative aesthetics and so negative reactions, as we need to allow for that in what we’re doing, and I wouldn’t ever presume to know the endless strange idiosyncratic contents of another mind and therefore what they might think of the irrelevant doodles I throw out. That they respond at all is all.

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Published : EUROPOE - an anthology of European poetry

EUROPOE Groundbreaking poetry by sixty of Europe’s most original poets, translated into English, brought together for one remarkable anthology.
Kingston University Press (May 2019) Available to buy here enemiesproject.bigcartel.com/product/europoe 143 pages. Paperback.

This was a labour of love. Perhaps the word labour might flash red here. It has been designed to be connected to the European poetry festival I run and to be fundamentally ephemeral, as I’m not really into being an anthologist, as I believe it’s a vocation, a real commitment (see Jerome Rothenberg) and I don’t have that in me at all. In this case I choose the poets from my own tastes and contacts, so they are (obviously not, but in a deeper way) not representative of anything but that and I asked each poet to negotiate their own choice of poems / translations / translators / languages / methods / appearances with me. I hope the book proves exciting to those who read it, that’s all I’m after. https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/europoe

“Celebrating the grand resurgence in literary and avant-garde poetry that has marked the 21st century in Europe, poets from over forty nations present works developing the lyric, sonic, visual, abstract and conceptual traditions. A volume that seeks not to offer a taxonomy but a brief glimpse of the brilliance of so many poets working at the forefront of the language arts, this is a book unified by a fidelity to that which is truly contemporary, amorphously continental and generously innovative.

Featuring poems by Pierre Alferi, Tomica Bajsić Aase Berg, Volodymyr Bilyk, Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim, Ida Börjel, Serena Braida, Kristian Carlsson, Sophie Carolin-Wagner, Theodoros Chiotis, Iris Colomb, Efe Duyan, Federico Federici, Orsolya Fenyvesi, Mária Ferenčuhová, Frédéric Forte, Lies Van Gasse, Pavlo Grazhdanskij, Ana Gorria, João Luís Barreto Guimarães, Max Höfler, Niillas Holmberg, Zuzana Husarova, Maja Jantar, Ragnhildur Jóhanns, Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Frank Keizer, Anatol Knotek, Amadej Kraljevič, Gabrielė Labanauskaitė, Morten Langeland, Luljeta Lleshanaku, Léonce W. Lupette, Christodoulos Makris, Maria Malinskovskaya, Ricardo Marques, Immanuel Mifsud, Simona Nastac, Bruno Neiva, Eugene Ostashevsky, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Daniele Pantano, Astra Papachristodoulou, Cosmin Perţa, Jörg Piringer, Inga Pizane, Tomáš Přidal, Monika Rinck, Cia Rinne, Jon Ståle Ritland, Ekaterina Samigulina, Martin Glaz Serup, Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir, Muanis Sinanović, Morten Søndergaard, Esther Strauß, Kinga Toth, Nadia de Vries, Krišjānis Zeļģis.

EUROPOE, edited by British poet SJ Fowler and presented by European Poetry Festival in the UK, showcases those who are often on the margins of their own nations literary culture, precisely because their work is forward-looking and challenging, alongside some of the most renowned names in Europe. EUROPOE is an anthology as a unique document of poetry, marking a moment in time for a modern, and thoroughly European, means of experiencing literature.”

A note on : working with Robert Reid Allan w/ the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure to work with composer Robert Reid Allan for a new piece he is making with the BCMG, entitled Physical Education, as part of their apprentice composer in residence programme. The final piece he is making is performed in June:

https://www.bcmg.org.uk/Event/physical-education  A new work by BCMG Apprentice Composer-in-Residence Robert Reid Allan - Friday 21 June 2019, 7.30pm - CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Physical Education is a new work by BCMG Apprentice Composer in Residence 2018-19 Robert Reid Allan, in collaboration with filmmaker Sasha Balmazi-Owen and actor/dancer Richard Court.

My role is beautifully amorphous, and I hope all the more useful for that fact (certainly it is for me, I’ve learned considerably from Robert and the process, building on contemporary music work I’ve done with Philip Venables, Diamanda Dramm, et al). What Robert has been doing extends beyond his considerable work in composition and into text, poetry, language arts, and their fusion, with music, to themes of violence, cruelty, the adolescent body and institutional aftershocks (school in this case), and this is something I’ve been thinking / writing about for years. So it’s been a serious exploration between us, often about concepts and ideas, and pivotally, also about methodologies, about what music and poetry actually do, together and alone. I’ll have the chance to visit Birmingham for the performance and watch the final version of something I’ve had the privilege to watch gestate throughout 2019. http://www.robertallanmusic.com/

A note on : Recent Poem Brut publications on 3am magazine

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I’m very proud to be the poetry editor of 3am magazine still (which was started in 2000) after many years in the role, and I’ve turned the doom inbox of open subs into a joyous time with the constraint of making all incoming work Poem Brut suitable. Some of the poems that come in are inspiring, and so encouraging it is to know so many folk all over the world are exploring the material, the liminal, the handmade as a vital and necessary means of their poetics. I was not the only one confused at the absence of handwriting, colour, motleyness and so on. Here are some of the most recent works I’ve had the pleasure to publish, where we’ve been on a tear as of late https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/index/poetry/

poem brut #64 – a f briony published 27/04/2019 by Oliver Tong
poem brut #63 – an alphabet published 21/04/2019 by Susan Connolly
poem brut #62 – tape samples published 19/04/2019 by Jeff Bagato
poem brut #61 – estate published 03/04/2019 by Tony Rickaby
poem brut #60 – static gifs for broken musicianspublished 31/03/2019 by Nick Potter
poem brut #59 – forever now published 30/03/2019 by Kathryn Hummel
poem brut #58 – a house a silhouette a coco nutpublished 10/03/2019 by Suze de lee
poem brut #57 – coach house / belong published 08/03/2019 by Paul Hawkins
poem brut #56 – archive of disquiet published 03/03/2019 by Theo Chiotis
poem brut #55 – dogtags published by John Mancini
poem brut #54 – father published 02/02/2019 by Dovydas Laurinitis

A note should be made that when I published Tony Rickaby, whose beautiful work I took last year, I heard from his family that he recently passed away. He was a brilliant poet working for many decades to expand what we know to be poetry and it’s a grand and sad thing to have published his last work

A note on : Dramm violioning before my Scribbles in Indonesia

My ongoing and inspiring and feverish collaboration with the musician performer violionist Diamanda Dramm continues to bear prickly fruit. Recently Diamanda played at the Rewire festival and in Indonesia and utilised some of my Scribblings (poems taken from my Poem Brut book The Selected Scribbling and Scrawling published in 2018 by Tom Jenks’ Zimzalla press) as projected walls of backdrop in front on which she violioned, singing some of my hard words too, in the midst of sense. No larger compliment could be paid to my penning. https://zimzalla.co.uk/051-sj-fowler-selected-scribbling-and-scrawling/

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A note on : The Streetcake Magazine prize and free workshop in London (May 29th)

Nice to have been invited by Nikki Dudley and Trini Decombe to be a judge for the upcoming debut prize for experimental poetry and fiction, connected to their magazine, Streetcake. https://www.streetcakemagazine.com/streetcakeprize.html

Streetcake actually published me in my first year of writing, 2010 I think, and so how gratifying to be asked to be a judge for under a decade later. Nikki and are as open and industrious to new work and new ways of working in literature as I try to be, so it’s great to be involved with the endeavour, which feels really purposeful (though not necessary as prizes are perhaps weevil).

The submission period will be open from March 4th 2019 and close on 14th June 2019. There will be two age bands (18-21 and 22-26) in each category of short fiction and poetry, but go the link for more

Whitechapel Idea Store on 29th May (1:30-3pm) workshop

connected to the project, completely free and open for all, with a focus towards to those new to poetry, or to avant garde poetry, I suppose (though not necessarily).

The content will be multi-methological, built around four experiments / exercises that aim to explore how context can inform (if not emancipate / elucidate) content. Participants will be asked to create a poem using OULIPPEAN constraint based methodsbefore putting this poem through four iterations / versions / translations / drafts that engage with asemic / pansemic writing, visual / concrete poetry and sound poetry. These processes, lightly done, playfully explored, will be used as a means to discuss the history of these traditions and the reasoning behind them.

Performance #9 -  I am a puppet, the bear is real

My reading in Ireland featured a bear, who castigated me for reading and not performing, and told me some truths I needed to hear, and then a poem I had written that day, which listed out most of the poets who had been a part of the festival. A small snippet of the text below :

how like Maja Jantar to bring nobility back leaning forcing dignity back into the act of screaming at you

how like Fabian Faltin to bankwit, to make thorough masculinity as important too, you bibbles

how like Vilde Valerie Bjerke Torset to awake a night goat on fire who hits plastic cups with old men and destroys oranges

how like Han Smith to pigeon queen with feral one legged rubber message

how like Léonce Lupette to soul giant with a head of hair made of Drinking blood

how like Ida Börjel to ask me to choke her on stage without any warning whatsoever

how like Olga Stehlíková to be eyes alive all times and love audio video with winky pause

how like Inga Pizane to make everyother ape like mean while giving me chocolate truffles, thanks and on……………..

EPF 2019 Event #9 : at Riverside Arts Centre, Co.Kildare, Ireland

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The final event took place at the beautiful Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge. It was curated by Christodoulos Makris, with my supporting role not really needed, and put together thanks largely to his residency with Riverbank and Maynooth College. The venue was lovely, a theatre space, and the staff made everyone feel at home after we bussed in from Dublin. This was solo performances, a mix of locals and Europeans, and was something I had hoped to design into the finale - a calmer, more literary, more intimate event. I’ve done these absorbing intensive touring projects before and found myself closing them out sad and tired. I wanted, knowing this fesivalt to be so ambitious, to finish with something more careful and considered, with a lot of my goodbyes done, proffered out over the final days. The festival was designed to be roving, picking up and putting down as it goes along, with poets jumping in and out throughout, rather than within a block structure everyone has to attend. This was another concept which I think was proofed out, as the energy was always high, and the greetings and farewells added unsentimental poignancy to almost every day.

The readings were a mix of styles and standards, but some real highlights, Christodoulos himself was excellent, reading from his new book with Dostoyevsky Wannabe, and Damir Sodan, my old friend from Croatia, Endre Ruset, my old friend from Norway, and Sophie Carolin Wagner, who had been with the festival for the entire duration (the only one besides me) and did a mashup of all her collaborations, were also excellent. The final performance of the fest fell to Serena Braida, who, as ever before, was quite brilliant and lifted the energy before the final farewell.

EPF 2019 Event #8 : at Burgess Centre, The Manchester Camarade (april 13th)

It was great to be back at the Burgess centre, where I’ve performed many times, once sniffing Anthony Burgess’ ‘ashes’ from the stage floor. It began to feel like a tour, travelling to manchester from norwich with leonce lupette, sophie carolin wagner and the other portable europoets. We were given a warm welcome, not least by martin kratz and the other folk from the new manchester poetry library who helped make this event happen. The pairings worked very well, there was some remarkable collaborations, truly collaborative performances. Subjects included sycophantic poetry blurbs, obscure norwegian footballers, the human splits and spam emails, fruit destruction, handwritten t-shirt poetry, competitive collaboration and dire warnings about the future of england beyond europe.

All the videos and more https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/manchester

The only small downside was the relatively disappointing attendance – probably chance Saturday with easter holidays beginning – and that this led, organically, to a small sense of the poets, us, reading a bit to each other. This is cool, but when it becomes defining, it’s offputting. When readings or scenes are defined by their insider jokes it makes me feel I’m part of a secret society congratulating itself, which is the very opposite of what I want. I want everyone, sincerely, to feel welcome, included, even if they know no one in the room, and to be exposed to difficult, complex, ambiguous, amusing and often volatile work, all the more because the context of the content is warm and open. And in fact it was like this in Manchester, it just whiffed past the other feeling to me. On the Sunday following, as I was flying to Dublin, I reflected that I had probably finally gotten a little tired, a little less present and alive, for I was surrounded by real friends – Tom Jenks, Colin Herd, Christodoulos Makris, Harry Man, Leonce Lupette, Kim Campanello – people I’ve known well and deeply for many years, whom I respect greatly and it was an exceptional event.

Performance #8 - a post-europe guide for english poets with Tom Jenks

Tom has had to collaborate with me so many times now he has lost his marbles. This time, following our last explorations of the genius of danny dyer and nigel farage, we presented a helpful and practical guide to english poets once the eurocalypse happens. For poets have loved ones too, despite what people think.

Tom was really on fire, completely merked me with wit and charisma, and one must learn when to get out of the way of talent, as I did, and was pretty pleased with this. The interplay between the visual and the poetic, and the written and the improvised was neat.

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EPF 2019 Performance #7 - everyone loves the bios

My dear friend morten langeland and I did a version of this once before and had planned to maybe work this out for norwich until, unfortunately, he missed his flight like a cheeky poet. So I furiously spent the afternoon nicking and tidying the idea into a piece I could do solo. It was alright. What I really aimed to do was to open up a perhaps slightly more cautious audience than those we faced in London. I knew some of the poet performers who followed my opening remarks would be playing hard with what some people take to be live poetry so if this conceptual poem intro could set a tone, that would be a success for me, as an organiser poet. In the end, it seemed to land fine and was glad I did it, though I nearly didn’t right up until the last second.

EPF 2019 Event #7 - The Norwich Camarade in Dragon Hall (April 12th)

I was so happy with the works, attendance and energy of this event. We were welcomed really energetically and sincerely by the ever generous folks behind the National Centre for Writing, Peggy Hughes, Chris Gribble et al, and we all felt really supported, so many of us travelling in, and many poets actually arriving at the fest for this event. This was all furthered by the near 100 people who came out to the beautiful Dragon Hall on a Friday night. A very impressive turnout.

In terms of the pairs and works, I think we achieved a good balance of the European and the locals, many from a new generation of poets, leaning into experimentation. It was inevitably a more literary and measured happening than previous london gigs, but quite right too, it felt fresh for that contrast and everyone stayed together post reading for a midnight curry in a suprisingly purple norwich friday night city centre. / All the videos and more https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/norwich

EPF 2019 Performance #6 - Water Rituals with Krisjanis Zelgis

I’m proud of this one. Krisjanis and I had met just once before, got on very well but have notably different aesthetics, and yet weput this together on the day, meeting an hour or so before, with the poems being written in the week before. It captured something beyond itself, the resonance of the symbolism, the christian pagan water rituals, which was perhaps intended as irony, but came through partially sincere, surprised us both, I think, during and afterwards. It felt succinct and alive. It was something that opened up a proper friendship between us, as these collaborations so often do. And for me personally, what could be a more fitting personal farewell to London after this amazing week than having a latvian poet shampoo my hair on kingsland road?

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EPF 2019 Event #6 - Latvian poetry in collaboration at Burley Fisher (April 11th)

An absolutely packed Burley Fisher bookshop on Kingsland road, this event had its own character entirely, with a completely different tone and energy to the previous festival events. It was really distinct, the bookshop brought everyone into such proximity, it insisted on attention. The project itself was brought into being by the deeply welcome enthusiasm of the Latvian Literature staff, Inga Vareva and Ildze Jansone especially, and we had the luxury of four new collaborations driving the event. I had tried to make this event more literary, more communal, more local, and to open with short solo readings by lots of the visiting poets, as it was also the sendoff to London for the festival after a really rapid and brilliant seven days. All told, it couldn’t have gone better. Every reading and more pics are available here https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/latvia

EPF 2019 Performance #5 - The Next Step with Fabian Faltin

This is definitely in the top five best performances / collaborations I’ve done. And performance is what I’ve been working at the hardest the last few years, and collaboration the last 6 or 7. Fabian was extraordinary. We had met just the day before to put it together, in my studio, discovering and discussing a myriad of topics and possibilities. I was fascinated by the similarities in our overall concerns and the specific connections we have in performance style and concept, because of details in our lives, how we both found ourselves in this field. This kind of kinship, very unusual given how strange both of our work is, can make a mess, it’s a danger. It can create excess. So we worked hard in creating a shell and a set of roots for the performance, and then just improvised it. So much of Fabian’s work is so brilliant precisely because it utilises poetic, literary and performance methodology to explore that which is absolutely not connected to any of these things. This is something I also seek, to use these artforms as means of exploration, as context, not content. To scavenge and pick up with the tools, but not look at the tool themselves, in our hands. In the end we both felt an ironised but sincere engagement with masculinity was fitting and due as a subject matter, as a response to other works during the fest and general discussions around our own works and lives. Lots could be written about this, but perhaps another time, and to let the work itself speak. People’s response to it has been really gratifying, especially on the night but also since it took place. Fabian and I hope to use this as a beginning, rather than a finished dialogue. / and more of my writing on the fest at www.stevenjfowler.com/epf19

EPF 2019 Event #5 - Austrian poetry in collaboration at ACF (April 10th)

The ACF have been my biggest supporter in these European themed events over the last many years. I owe them a lot. I always want the events they host during the fest, and in general, to be special. Last year’s EPF ACF event was packed and very memorable. Somehow we topped it. This really was a satisfying night for me, to be 5 events in, with standing room only every night, and to witness, arguably, the most intense event happen beneath a chandelier in Knightsbridge. It’s proof of the festival being important / appealing, I think.

We had a set of solo readings by european poets, some weird powerful stuff from Keti Chukhrov, Andrea Stepec, Kon Papacharalampos et al, followed by three considerable collaborations. Really worth looking up the performances and more pics at https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/austria

EPF 2019 Performance #4 - Questions of Neutrality with Patrick Savolainen

I was very satisfied with this collaboration, not only given that Patrick and I wrote and planned it entirely on the day, but that it emerged, live, as far more subtle, layered, and playful than we could’ve thought. My instinct is often, in these events, to resist the entirely written, given liveness is a material, but it was such a good move to root this work in a text, and then to formulate it, first with my suggestion that we explore the theme of Neutrality and then with Patrick’s that we make it a strange, blunted and open ended Questionnaire. The final touches of the mimicry and dead pan gestures closed things perfectly. / more of my writing on the fest at www.stevenjfowler.com/epf19

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EPF 2019 Event #4 - Swiss Poetry in collaboration at Poetry Cafe (April 8th)

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An event to remember, entirely stuffed with people, we crammed nearly 100 into the basement venue of the Poetry Society, it’s cafe, in Covent Garden, for an event long mooted and brought together, thanks to Pro Helvetia and the team at Literally Swiss in London, finally, for the fest. Five new collaborations were at the core of the night, with six Swiss poets, that followed short solo readings by various poets visiting for the fest.

The range was really distinct, most especially across the collaborations, which were absorbed as representations of friendship and strangeness, which depicting the relations of the two poets in poetry and were embraced as this, in both directions. From Pantano and Fehr, close friends, but who mashed up entirely unconnected works, to Steinbeck and Calleja, close friends, who read diaries about first meetings of each other, to the clinical irony of Savolainen and I, to the fused fiction of Addonia and Bianconi, it was fascinating to watch these readings connected in one evening.

All the videos and loads more amazing pictures by Alexander Kell https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/swiss and more of my writing on the fest at www.stevenjfowler.com/epf19

EPF 2019 Performance #3 and a half - Being asked to choke Ida, Astra and Lina

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Of course poets know if I do choke them, they will survive. I must take it as a compliment that someone would put their neck in my hands, and thus I was asked twice, two nights running, while organising / announcing / performing to also stand up, during performances, in Ida’s case without any warning, completely improvised, and either slap on a rear naked choke or hold a pink rope around two poets’ necks.

With Astra and Lina, I really didn’t have to do much but not look like a douchebag. With Ida, who read part of a nighttime correspondence we had been writing since connecting last summer in macedonia, it was resisting the temptation to gently guide her into soft darkness. Some beautiful pictures of the act by Alexander Kell too.

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