I fear my best work behind me : Stranger Press (2017)

An art book exploring poetry as a fractured, overwhelmed, handwritten victim of colour, brutalist child-like portraiture, abstract illustration and negative space. Published by Leeds-based publisher Stranger Press, who have championing contemporary underground avant-garde British poets in the north west and beyond, I fear my best work behind me marks a point of natural growth besides and away from the formal domination of clean, centre aligned poetry in the UK into a new field for my work, increasingly text as much as poetry. https://strangerpress.com/

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 Hotel http://partisanhotel.co.uk/S-J-Fowler
Oxford Poetry www.stevenjfowler.com/blog/oxford-poetry
Wazo magazine http://www.wazogate.com/wm10-1-orange-i-fear-my-best-work-behind-me/

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 – who have been enormously influential on my thinking and work. 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.

Three works from the book were published as a Limited Edition postcard set by Stranger Press for the Poetry Book Fair in London, September 2017.


Excerpt from interview with Poetry Spotlight: November 2017

I understand you have a new artpoem book coming out next year with Stranger Press too entitled I fear my best work behind me featuring illustrations, logograms, and asemic writing. Do you subscribe to the notion that breaking down semantics in this way is an exercise in examining and questioning what exactly constitutes a poem?

I do, and I’m excited about it. Stranger Press is a really good press to work with, Christopher Stephenson does a grand job. I fear my best work behind me is primarily illustrated artworks, brutalist, child-like, comical paintings or abstracts, each with their own handwritten poem built into the work.

Just the fact that the poems are handwritten, often in coloured ink, might, in some people’s minds, make them visual art, rather than poetry. A lot of my work in this area is about my own curiosity. I can’t resist the idea that if I do something as banal as handwrite a poem, rather than print it, in a book, its meaning will change to readers exponentially and be considered experimental.

Context is absolutely equal to content, and yet the common understanding or perception of poetry at the moment, in the UK at least, is entirely focused on the content. Generally we have the same book, paper, font, letter size, language etc. But on that page the white space has meaning, the place of the abstract marking we’ve ascribed meaning to, has import. The logical conclusion of this basic realisation, which permeates all other arts (think film-editing, material and composition in painting etc) is that the poet has the potential to interrogate the context of their language.

So the book explores how image affects language, how they are interconnected, dead space, handwriting and its own aesthetic meaning, and so on. This is old stuff, I know that. I’m deeply interested in poets like Henri Michaux or the CoBrA group, and I’m aware they covered this fifty years ago or more. But it’s exciting to me and hopefully the book has more of a sense of humour than my answer. http://poetryspotlight.com/sj-fowler/