The Poem Brut Quintet
five art poetry publications
This series of publications emerges from my thinking around what I’ve termed Poem Brut, and turned into a curatorial project of the same name. Simply said, this has two strands of exploration. The first is the possibility of poetry when explored through alternative neurological, conscious and cognitive states, be that anything from dyspraxia, aphasia, dyslexia to drug induced states to mental illness to more abstract ways of thinking. The second is purely aesthetic, exploring the potential of handwriting, material, composition, visual meaning, found text, scribbling, scrawling, asemia, pansemia and abstract in writing poems and expanding their purview and meaning.
Click the link below to discover more about each book. Below that is a series of notes about these works, books, ideas, reviews and exhibitions, in chronological order.
I FEAR MY BEST WORK BEHIND ME (Dec 2017)
ALETTA OCEAN’S ALPHABET EMPIRE (Jan 2018)
SELECTED SCRIBBLING & SCRAWLING (May 2018)
CALLIGRAMMS (Jan 2019)
MEMMOIRS OF A HYPOCRITE (April 2019)
For more information on Poem Brut as a curatorial project, it’s events, thinking and publications, visit www.poembrut.com
Published : Calligramms with Penteract Press January 18, 2019
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) .”
Diamanda Dramm uses Scribbling & Scrawling for her touring solo show Violin Pieces : Holland 2018
Published: Bubble comb up on Perverse July 30, 2018
Chrissy Williams has recently started a brilliant and innovative new journal / e-mag endeavour entitled Perverse. It's a really engaged, open, direct, clever, complex way of sharing and reading poems, typical of Chrissy's work. I'm very happy to be in the latest issue, 1c, with some grand poets, and to feature a visual work which will be part of my last Poem Brut book, Memoirs of a Hypocrite, due out in November with Hesterglock press.
You can also save them as a single PDF here if you like. (You'll find the previous micro issues here.)
Contributor Note on ‘The Bubble Comb’:
“'The Bubble Comb' is part of a book of art poetry, Memoirs of a Hypocrite (Hesterglock Press), which is part of a series of publications entitled www.poembrut.com It is about the potential poetic possibilities of handwriting, material, colour and composition meeting the semantic meaning of the written word.”
"Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire is the more unreadable of the two. It contains mostly black and white asemic writing with the occasional "Picasso" blue page of asemic script. The art/writing has a storm like quality to it with lightning bolts of asemic writing. Other pages seem to contain illegible asemic animal tracks, and still others remind me of Morse code birch bark dashes. This book's main focus and general theme is the raw erotic power of creation of an excelled asemic mythology. AOAE is presented in a fine hardcover volume by Hesterglock Press and is limited to 40 copies.
I Fear My Best Work Behind Me is the slightly more legible of the two and is more colourful than Aletta. It has a spring-like playfulness and joy bringing qualities that makes me think of an asemic Kenneth Patchen crossed with finger painted art. There are a few more recognizable drolleries such as a deer's head and a crab, and the skulls on the cover art, but most of the text/art is nebulous. Fowler has acknowledged the influence of Christian Dotremont and Henri Michaux in this book, but from these predecessors he has developed his own calligraphic style and signature. The publisher Stranger Press has taken Steven's work and made an admirable codex which I will treasure.
Both works offer an excellent introduction to Steven J. Fowler's personal raw art poetry. This is Poem Brut in its finest form, a term I believed coined by Steven to describe the outsider poetry not created with a computer. It is refreshing to read/hold these handwritten books since they offer a respite and rest from the bloated techno-culture. Asemic books prove that we are not robots; they are the ultimate captcha. It is invigorating to read through these two works in a time when everything is being digitized, to have these two beautiful works of resistance now is essential. Find these books and you will know."
my selected Scribbling in Cordite magazine article by Tim Gaze - August 5, 2018
Tim Gaze is a visual and avant garde poet whose work I have followed for some years though we've not been in touch. I was therefore happy indeed that his recent article in Australia's Cordite magazine, which covers the gammut for Asemic poetry's entire purpose and history, mentions my selected scribbles, just before Michaux - http://cordite.org.au/essays/punk-calligraphy/
"Steven J Fowler’s Selected Scribbling and Scrawling (ZimZalla, 2018) is a collection of what Fowler calls ‘scrawlpoems, scribblepoems, asemic poems, pansemic poems, doodle poems and other messes’. His scribbliness is less extreme than some of the others listed above, and reminds me of handwritten visual poetry by the likes of Carlfriedrich Claus, Robert Corydon and Edgard Braga. Fowler takes handwriting for a run, and sometimes lets it off the leash." Scribble can be bought from ZimZalla https://zimzalla.co.uk/051-sj-fowler-selected-scribbling-and-scrawling/
4 poems on Asemics.com August 5, 2018
One of the net's key hubs for Asemic poetry and writing, edited by the brilliant Michael Jacobson, has generously published 4 of my #poembrut works, 2 taken from Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire and 2 taken from I fear my best work behind me. both limited edition and available on those links
Published : Selected Scribbling and Scrawling : - ZimZalla May 29, 2018
Available to buy here http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/sj-fowler/selected-scribbling-and-scrawling/paperback/product-23659470.html
My new asemic writing / art-poetry collection is now available from Zimzalla Press. It contains over 50 works of writing art, pansemic poems, doodles and scrawls, celebrating poetry that harries semantic content and explores the possibilities of the handwritten and illegible. The book contains essays by Tom Jenks and myself, and will be launched on June 6th at National Poetry Library for Poem Brut.
From the publisher "The scrawl or doodle is not a by-product of distraction; it is an active production of the mind when concentration moves downwards in the brain. It is the poetry of the mind’s rearguard, and it is more often a product of writing, pen in hand, than it is a visual art. So why should poetry, the language art, not have held scribbling to its chest? This volume of SJ Fowler’s collected works in the line let loose tradition attempts to return the wandering shapes of letters and words back to the front. Selected from over 1300 works spanning 11 & ½ years and touching upon asemic and pansemic writing, widely varying in tone, density, form and character, this selection of poems shows SJ Fowler’s fundamental impatience and childishness."
Published: Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire January 21, 2018
I'm happy to announce the release of my new art book, from Hesterglock Press, released in limited-edition hardback first-print of just 40 copies, 20 of which have sold so far. The book is available to purchase here - Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire from my bigcartel page.
"A book that asks, abstractly, are letters shaped like bodies? Can words evoke faces, captured in a screen? Who, or what, is assimilating, who or what? Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire is a collection of art poems, hand wrought in black, grey, silver and white, fashioned with indian ink, paint and pen, worked with techniques that edge around writing, vying with abstraction, constantly harrying semantic meaning and legibility.
Five years in the making, conceptually this is a book about sex, poetry and pornography and the disconnect between the former and the latter. These pages explore technology in its absence and aim to evidence the power of materiality and the body, and our hands, that are still required for touch."
Exhibition HARD TO READ Collected Paint Poems, Pansemia, Cinematic Drawings and Logograms
SJ FOWLER // Rich Mix Gallery - December 9th 2017 to january 6th 2018
From the gallery "Collecting together the art poetry of SJ Fowler, this solo exhibition aims to pose several questions of the poem as a concrete, visual thing in the world. What is in the shape of a letter and what images do words recall? What is the meaning of colour in poetry and text upon the page, and white space? How does the situation of a poem change its meaning? Why is composition not a concept that applies to a medium that is innately visual? In literature, why has content overwhelmed context? Why has product dominated process? HARD TO READ poses these questions and answers them poorly, playfully, with over 40 original works drawn from multiple publications and previous exhibitions - works that interrogate handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, scribbling, crossings out, forgotten notes, strange scrawls - the odd interaction between paper and pen, and pencil, and coloured words that randomly collide with image recalling words.
This is an exhibition about the page as a block, about geometry, about lines that sever meaning, about inarticulate shapes, about minimalism and collage. It is about making, gesturing towards the handmade poem, the amateur poet, the outside, liquid and paper, the absence of technology, and ugliness - toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess. It is a response to being called an artist in the poetry world, and a poet in the arts world."
This is my second solo exhibition and will kick off The Poem Brut, a new project I'm doing which includes the books I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press 2017), Aletta Ocean's Alphabet Empire (Hesterglock Press), The Collected Scribblings of SJ Fowler (Zimzalla 2018). It's also part of my time as Rich Mix Associate Artist.
Published: a new essay on The Learned Pig January 21, 2018
As part of my new series of art book publications for Poem Brut I've written a series of essays. Each one acts as a kind of contextualised full stop to the books and their otherwise un-explained content, but they aren't explanations, just ruminations. The brilliant online journal The Learned Pig have kindly published the essay On Time and Mess, which closed out I fear my best work behind me, with selections of the work from that book
Once we understand excess, then we can get really simple. – Robert Rauschenberg
Exploring poetry’s absent indispensable character
"Because poetry is not a thing that lives, to put it mildly, upon the regulation and control of grammar and correct spelling, in the final preparations for the publication of my book, ‘I fear my best work behind me,’ an exploration of the rudimentary character of poetry – that is letters and words – there was only one correction to make for my editor. Only one deliberate error, with all the obsequiousness that this phrase entails, for him to find and for me to defend. The title. I fear my best work is behind me. Remove the is. Then perhaps, to those dozen or so reading the title, and those few within the dozen who are concentrated by interest, the absence of the is will take on its proper significance. The primary significance I would posit that poetry has, outside of letters and words, is purposeful semantic omission.
I do not imagine my best work is behind me, literally, but in those whom I’ve discovered – and that is the right word to use (for they have to be unearthed, do poets, in England) – who have given me permission to make such works as those that often litter my pages, they are behind me, and are the best work, for they were and are not making what can be mine. What they have made was original, or based on poets they have buried with themselves, as I shall not do........"
Published : I fear my best work behind me December 5, 2017
I 'm happy to announce the release of my debut art book, in a limited edition, from Stranger Press. Available to purchase here I fear my best work behind me Produced to a remarkable standard by Stranger press, I fear ... is a book exploring poetry as a fractured, overwhelmed, handwritten victim of colour, brutalist child-like portraiture, abstract illustration and negative space.
I'm just messin' about, Karel Appel once said. Nothing was further from the truth.
I'm just messin' about, says SJ Fowler. Nothing is further from the truth. Bas Kwakman, Director - Poetry International Rotterdam
The works call back to the post-war and latter 20th century explorations of Henri Michaux, Jacques Racquet and the CoBrA group especially – Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky, Asger Jorn, Lucebert, Gerrit Kouwenaars, Karel Appel. This book is a reconnection to their principles and practises, knowing it to be familiar ground, but one rarely tread and increasingly necessary in a still predominantly colourless medium.
The volume features works published by Oxford Poetry, Test Centre magazine, Gorse Magazine, Fractalia and others, and an example can be found online at Partisan Hotelhttp://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler The book is closed by an essay, soon to be published on The Learned Pig.
i fear my best work behind me presents raw simulation of tentative and tender frailty. The respondent stares at fragments of attachment comprehension lost comprehension, becomes involved in a relationship of mark facture and scripted text applied sequentially or contemporary with each other, scripted in tandem or over the smudge. It is as if the intent has been hidden and that there rests an implicit coded discrepancy in each smudge demanding a decode, a search in the rubble, a decipherment that matches the pages of fleeting uncertainty and assured presentation without transcription. The work shakes with an engagement with these conditions. Allen Fisher poet & artist
Partisan Hotel : 6 poem bruts from 2 books
A really brilliant magazine is Hotel, and they've once again generously published some of my new art poems or poem bruts which will form the major output of my work over the next year or so, with a series of events at Rich Mix and four new limited edition books. These three works are taken from the book Memoirs of a Hypocrite. https://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler