Reverse Poetry festival in Copenhagen - August 31st - Sept 3rd 2017

My second time reading in Copenhagen, a visit to the Reverse poetry festival in Copenhagen. It’s a festival that exists because of a small group of dedicated people and it invites genuinely contemporary poets, clearly invitations that are the result some serious knowledge and research into the wider world of poetry. These festival days then were a concentration of much effort and attention and the Literatur Haus in the city was always busy. The highlight for me was meeting some really talented and good natured poets - Pierre Alferi, Derek Beaulieu, Ida Borjel, Jorg Piringer, to name but a few, and sharing a couple of what might be deemed anti-performances. Again I got visit the brilliant Ark books too, who are another volunteer led enterprise.

The night of my performance, the street of the Literatur Haus was closed and a small stage set up for Jorg, myself and a few others to read. It felt as though no many were there to see the poetry, which I can relate to, but as they milled in their black gowns and drank, which again, is fine, a DJ played us in. They DJ’d into my reading and before my performance I walked around introducing myself to strangers and handing them pieces of paper. They were genuinely contemptuous of me talking to them, perhaps this is why I have this lingering feeling now, writing this. Jorg did a wonderful set, technically brilliant, funny, captivating. Perhaps 30 to 50 people from the 200 or so on the street circled him, distantly, to listen. The rest continued to chat and drink, which again, is fine. I wasn’t really introduced, just took the mic when Jorg finished. I told the audience how about strange the experience is going to festivals like this – that you pass through so invisibly, its ghostly, often, and the travelling, the infrastructure of the amazing invitation, its often for a ten minute reading in a language foreign to the audience. So I wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t pretend they were going to listen. Instead I asked them to write down on those pieces of paper the name of someone they knew who had passed away. Then I said I’d sit in Ark bookshop talk to anyone who wanted to speak to me about that person, and write a poem about them, in memorial, if they wanted to.

So followed an hour I’ll not forget, a deeply sad and authentic series of conversations with very kind people who followed me into the shop, away from the crowd and its disinterest, and in the stories of dead lovers, parents, children, brothers, sisters, cats and poets, I made a corner of the world for myself.


The following day I had the grand pleasure to having lunch with many of the poets, thanks to the hospitality of my old friend Martin Glaz Serup. He is a wonderfully ebullient, funny and sweet hearted man, and this was another lovely hour. My final performance, which was supposed to be a talk, was perhaps even more memorable.

Sat on stage with Ida Borjel and Henny Hagerup, my chair was placed for me. The stage was in three parts, and the flanking pieces were an inch lower than the central piece. So when I shifted my chair just a few centremetres from the middle of the stage, to better see the moderator, it fell out beneath me. This in front of a full audience and with a series of glasses on that stage. I wasn’t embarrassed at first, nor overly shocked, but it was quite spectacular. I stood up and said ‘my arse is wet’, then someone pointed out to me my leg had been cut and blood streaked across my trousers. Indeed the glass had cut into my knee joint somewhat, though I was lucky to not have been really hurt. We finished the event, a fine chat about collaboration, and then I spent some time trying to wack plasters over the wound, in my pants, in the literature haus’ office. It was clear I had to go the hospital and luckily the festival folk and my dear friend Harry Man were on hand to help me there where I was sewn up brilliantly. So ended my time at Reverse, hobbling through the Copenhagen night, eating cinnamon buns with Harry on a man made mound next to a man made lake, my leg full of synthetic stitches.

Fjender in London: April 2014

Taking place over an entire month, Fjender featured 3 events, 1 exhibition and over 30 poets. At the heart of Fjender was the visit to London of 3 of Europe's most brilliant innovative poets; Morten Søndergaard, Cia Rinne & Martin Glaz Serup.

For the first time ever in London, the remarkable Wordpharmacy was be exhibited for the Fjender project. The Hardy Tree gallery was turned into a fully functioning poetic chemist’s, a pharmacy for the avant garde poet, replete with stocked shelves, white-coated pharmacist and a near endless supply of word-drugs. After these events in London the Fjender project then traveled to Copenhagen for readings of the nw collaborations in the Danish capital.

Without the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in London, Fjender wouldn’t have existed, so special thanks to Kirsten Hansen, and thanks too to the generosity of Kulturstyrelsen (the Danish Agency for Culture) as well Arts Council England, the Rich mix and the Hardy tree gallery.

Without doubt one of the best events I've put on, the best of 2014 so far, Fjender at the Rich mix was an intense and across the board brilliant evening of contemporary European innovative poetry. I was continually blown away by the quality of the original work and the performances of the poets I'd asked to contribute and the atmosphere of the evening was really generous and open, as it always should be. It was an epic two hour, twenty poet + event. I was really gratified to show the visiting Danes, all of whom I've admired and whose work I have been trumpeting for years, the quality of the poetry scene in London. 

Morten Søndergaard
Cia Rinne
Martin Glaz Serup
Prudence Chamberlain
Fabian Macpherson
Stephen Emmerson
James Davies
Mark Waldron
Philip Terry
Cia Rinne & Chrissy Williams
Peter Jaeger & Martin Glaz Serup 

it was really a joy to read with Morten too, though difficult at times to maintain the prosaic difficulties of organising and introducing such a complex array of events along with reading, but once the event was in full flow it really felt like everyone was in on it together, and it was easy to relax into it. 

And those dozen who've been kind enough to attend my Maintenant course at the poetry school gave a really beautiful reading of an immense collaborative, constraint heavy text, which just added to my feeling that the synthesis of organising / reading / writing / teaching can be fluid and organic if attended to openly. 

The second part of Fjender was as satisfying as the first. Where the event at the rich mix had the energy and the speed of the best of the kind of events I try to experiment with, this, at the Hardy Tree gallery, had all the familiarity, community and intimacy I hope my events always have. It was a genuinely considered and friendly and engaged reading, with the British poets writing new work that responded to Morten Sondergaard's remarkable Wordpharmacy installation and exhibition. Morten is such a sweet man, so so remarkably nice, it was a proud moment to see him touched by the efforts of the readers and the audience, those 50 or so bodies packed into the intimate space. The evening was defined by a series of intense and rewarding conversations with other poets for me, and a lot of whom Id not had read before expressed the feeling that they felt welcome and that there was a noticeable lack of standoffishness or posturing, which is what I want to always be the case. All 8 readings were wonderful, huge thanks to those who made it what it was, and who did so collectively and generously 

Fjender in Copenhagen 

D is soft in Denmark. Sondergaard is Sonnegoe, Kierkegaard is Kierkegoe, Knausgaard is Kenausgoe. A happy, strange week in Copenhagen to finish off the Fjender project for now. Really at the core of this offshoot of the Enemies project was the relationship between myself and Morten Sondergaard, and his hospitality, generosity and energy of ideas has made my time in Copenhagen memorable. To have the time to really communicate with someone, to refine ones ideas in the face of such openness and intelligence is a wonderful thing, the very physical actualisation of an approach I’ve tried to take to my writing, my events and all such things, where process is emphasised over product, with the hope that the positive former will take care of the latter.

My last day in Denmark was spent visiting the Asger Jorn exhibition at the national art museum, with Peter Jaeger and Morten, two wiser, kinder poets you couldn’t hope to meet. Having just taught Jorn as part of my Poetry School class a few weeks back, as he was a fundamental part of the CoBrA group, and been entranced by his work the further my investigations went, this was a perfect combination of things. Once in awhile an exhibition does what it is supposed to do to you. Once I had spoken to Morten and Peter at great length I found an arts supply shop, bought indian ink and paper and a scratch pen and took to finally completing a project of asemic writing I had begun years before. This is the purpose of all the stupid emailing bullshit, all the admin, the fraught running between working fulltime, training, teaching, organising – to open up days, like a aperture, where I am overwhelmed with the feeling of being fortunate to be able to experience life as a choice, to have the complete freedom to have experiences beyond my own small world, in new places, with new people, who are wiser and kinder and more intelligent than I, and to be able to create reflections of that experience without limitation.

Overall it was a week split in two, dark days and light days. The day at the zoo, commiserating with the surviving giraffes and spending hours by the bears, finding Kierkegaard’s grave by accident, visiting Ark books, who were hosting our reading and exhibiting my books and runic art, and then reading in the strange literature house with Morten, Peter and Martin Glaz Serup was wonderful. I am sure it will be the beginning of much, the Fjender project, rather than an end, and over the three events and month that it has lasted I have proven to myself that this mode of organisation, creating partnerships in writing across nations and languages has the potential for brilliance I thought it did.

Asger Jorn at National Gallery Denmark 

"I don't believe in any kind of profundity that cannot withstand being confronted with the banalities of everyday life" 1964

"Within Nordic art the picture exists before the word. Here, the image is the theme. The words are variations. Within the Latin Tradition things are the other way around. The word is the point of origin"

"A book of love bound in sandpaper, which destroys your pocket"

"not about ideas, but the concrete material, realities of art: wall, canvas, pigment"

"One is often better able to describe the struggle between people, the essential, by using fantastical animals, simple, primitive naked instincts than by painting a specific individual situation (...) we should describe ourselves as human animals"

"Art & handwriting are the same. An image is written and handwriting is images" 1944

The Jade flute / The girl in the fire / The Troll and the birds / Tallowscoop Waunderworker / Narcolepts on the Lake of Coma (titles)