The Maintenant interview series

99 interviews with contemporary European poets, the Maintenant series aimed to evidence the continued pertinence of poetry for a new generation of talent from a diverse selection of European poetic traditions. The interviews, and the poetry that accompanied them, have shown the slow dissolution of stylistic recalcitrance, internal bias to gender and race, methodological snobbery and poetical jingoism. The fusion of poetic expression inevitable in a world of increased communication, access and political freedom is remarkable and cause for optimism where so often there is pessimism in poetry circles. The range and depth of poetry on display, and it’s standard, is a small representation of what each nation is producing.

The Maintenant dictum was to introduce poets that might lie outside of the Anglo-American scene, or be overlooked until they have reached the prominence of middle age. Though not an orthodoxy, I also aimed to introduce poets who might be considered experimental or seminal. The series was published at, before being republished by Poetry International, and each edition featured an extensive interview coupled with a selection of poetry of the poet’s choosing in English translation. Often new translations were commissioned for the series.

There were many highlights to maintaining the series, while it was active during 2010 to 2014. One of the last interviews with Tadeusz Rozewicz, exchanges with Nikola Madzirov, Ilya Kaminsky, Eirikur Orn Norddahl. and other contemporaries who will be future greats, and the introduction of so many young brilliant poets to far wider audiences.

Maintenant also promoted multiple reading projects where groups of poets from individual nations collaborated with innovative and established poets from the UK to perform in London. Romanian, Norwegian, Icelandic, Macedonian, Russian, Slovakian poets were engaged in workshops, anthology publications, readings and lectures during 2010 & 2011.

The accompanying poetry for each poet can be found at

#99  Rhys Trimble (Wales)

#98  Volodymyr Bilyk (Ukraine)

#97Tadeusz Rozewicz (Poland)

#96George Szirtes (Hungary)

#95  Ivan Hristov ( Bulgaria )

#94  Pierre Joris ( Luxembourg )

#93  Charles Simic ( Serbia )

#92  Jeff Hilson ( England )

#91  Gunnar Harding ( Sweden )

#90  Andrei Codrescu (Romania ) 

#89  Eric Suchere ( France )

#88  Sylva Fischerova ( Czech Republic )

#87  Eugene Ostashevsky ( Russia )

#86  Andras Gerevich ( Hungary ) 

#85  Gonca Ozmen ( Turkey )

#84  Maarja Kangro ( Estonia )

#83  Daniele Pantano ( Switzerland )

#82  João Luís Barreto Guimarães ( Portugal )

#81  Valerio Magrelli ( Italy )

#80  Arnoud van Adrichem ( Holland )

#79  Emanuella Amichai ( Israel )

#78  Damir Šodan ( Croatia )

#77  Maarten Inghels ( Belgium )

#76  Karlis Verdins ( Latvia )

#75  Anna Auzina ( Latvia )

#74  Ailbhe Darcy ( Ireland )

#73  Lidija Dimkovska ( Macedonia )

#72  Johannes Goransson ( Sweden)

#71  Lies Van Gasse (Belgium )

#70  Ilya Kaminsky ( Russia )

#69  Marton Koppany ( Hungary )

#68  Ulf Stolterfoht (Germany)

#67  Kirmen Uribe ( Basque )

#66  Valzhyna Mort (Belarus )

#65  Marcos Giovenale ( Italy )

#64  Željko Mitić ( Serbia )

#63  Colin Herd ( Scotland )

#62  Pekko Käppi ( Finland )

#61  Marcus Slease ( Northern Ireland )

#60  Luljeta Lleshanaku ( Albania )

#59Gabriele Labanauskaite ( Lithuania )

#58Nikola Madzirov ( Macedonia )

#57  Tomas S. Butkus ( Lithuania )

#56  Immanuel Mifsud ( Malta )

#55  Scott Thurston ( England )

#54  Tomica Bajsic ( Croatia )

#53  Yuri Andrukhovych ( Ukraine )

#52  Cia Rinne ( Finland / Germany / Sweden )

#51  Ulf Karl Olov Nilsson ( Sweden )

#50  Frédéric Forte ( France )

#49  Emilian Galaicu-Păun ( Moldova )

#48  Morten Søndergaard ( Denmark )øndergaard/

#47  Anatol Knotek ( Austria )

#46  Holly Pester ( England )

#45  Aleš Šteger ( Slovenia )

#44  Tadeusz Dąbrowski ( Poland )

#43  Christodoulos Makris ( Cyrpus )

#42  Aase Berg ( Sweden )

#41  Jón Örn Loðmfjörð ( Iceland )

#40Sergej Timofejev ( Latvia )

#39Efe Duyan ( Turkey )

#38Volya Hapeyeva ( Belarus )

#37Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir ( Iceland )

#36Georgi Gospodinov ( Bulgaria )

#35Ragnhildur Johanns ( Iceland )

#34Ann Cotten ( Austria )

#33Eugenijus Ališanka ( Lithuania )

#32Primož Čučnik ( Slovenia )

#31Paal Bjelke Andersen ( Norway )

#30Martin Glaz Serup ( Denmark )

#29Annie Katchinska ( England / Russia )

#28Luna Miguel ( Spain )

#27Zvonko Karanovic ( Serbia )

#26Juan Andres Garcia Roman ( Spain )

#25Jenny Hval ( Norway )

#24Audun Mortensen ( Norway )

#23Ana Bozicevic ( Croatia )

#22Kostas Koutsourelis ( Greece )

#21Marco Kunz ( Germany )

#20Adam Zdrodowski ( Poland )

#19Krystalli Glyniadakis ( Greece )

#18Agnes Lehoczky ( Hungary )

#17Agnieszka Mirahina ( Poland )

#16 - Endre Ruset ( Norway )

#15 - Adrian Urmanov (Romania)

#14 - Jan-Willem Anker (Holland)

#13 - Sam Riviere (England)

#12 - Jyrgen Rooste (Estonia)

#11 - Ruxandra Novac (Romania)

#10 - Donatas Petrošius (Lithuania)

#9 - Mária Ridzoňová Ferenčuhová (Slovakia)

#8 - Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl (Iceland)

#7 - Jan Wagner (Germany)

#6 - Tom Jenks (England)

#5 - Gerður Kristný (Iceland)

#4 - Monika Rinck (Germany)

#3 - Nigar Hasan Zadeh (Russia / Azerbaijan)

#2 - Elena Vladareanu (Romania)

#1 - Aki Salmela (Finland)

An article on the Maintenant series for Openned (2011) by SJ Fowler

I think the reason the Maintenant series exists is because it genuinely serves a purpose that is not being served elsewhere. I had no real desire to be pre-occupied in the manner in which I have been with Maintenant, I’m in no way a journalist by aspiration or by trade. Yet the series arose organically because in some minor way it appears necessary. I believe this fervently now, after reading hundreds of poets all over Europe whose work has hardly been translated let alone recognised due to an endless amount of factors – from Anglophone domination, to methodological snobbery, to the fact that people barely read poetry from their own language and country. Conducting an interview per week is obviously time consuming, but also rewarding. Poets want to engage in discussion about their work, they want to be challenged, they want to help people gain access to what they are doing. It is very easy to make contacts in every country in Europe, English being the language of currency and though I apologise as often as I can for my monolinguistic limitations, I am waved away and relentlessly supplied with new work, new recommendations. It a consistent experience of discovery and education searching for subjects for the series and now it has well past the point that I can include all the excellent poets I come across. The wealth of work that is being made available is staggering. It is not possible to flag them in pursuing the project. I am regularly made aware that so much brilliant poetry is being presented to me that I would simply never have come across were it not for Maintenant. It is then a positive feeling to know my experience can be in some way extended when the interview’s are published. I thought for quite a time, perhaps the first 20 editions, that barely anyone was following the series, that was until I visiting poets in Berlin and everyone I met, from poets to translators discussed with me each individual interview. What I have found is that there may not be a huge readership for Maintenant in the UK (although 3am is one of the most established and well read internet literary hubs both in the UK and America – so I could be wrong) but there is a very large one in Europe. For European poets it is an unusual gesture, for a British poet attempting to be inclusive and with a culture of poetry festivals and residencies across the continent, word of the series has spread. This is immensely gratifying.

A huge advantage of the dictum being as it is – European poetry in general, is that it is obviously so expansive that I can’t even begin to pretend it can be representative. I no longer even concern myself with the larger scheme of the series. I focus on each individual poet. Really the series is maintained on three principles, and they are corrective rather than subjective. One of the primary reasons I began the series was because so often the European poets I was able to find in translation were freshly dead or getting to that state. They represented the concerns of another generation and after awhile I began to wonder was there something amounting to a prejudice against contemporary poets, as though they could not be as valid because they had not reached the prominence of old age or death. Also I naturally hold the view that poetry is an expansive field. Good poetry is good poetry and in no way would I exclude poets who worked in fields that sometimes appear excluded from similar discussions, or included only by art communities. Sound poetry, concrete poetry and avant garde poetry in general speaks more often to contemporary Europe than it's more classical forebears.

The interviews tend to be balanced between critical commentary of the poet’s work, methodology and activity, and a contextualising of their countries poetry scene and tradition. This is almost purely as a means of self-education, it allows me to discover more about how poets view their own national tradition and how they respond to how others might perceive that tradition. Poets, for better or worse, tend to be highly educated and have maintained a relationship with poetry in their own language since they were children. So often such rich and interesting commentary is generated by simply asking them their opinion on a poet from the near past. Iconoclastic poets who wrote in the 20th century almost inevitably carry with them a cultural or political significance that cannot be understood outside of their home nation.

So far we have interviewed poets from Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey with Cyprus and Sweden soon to follow. It is obviously a goal to represent as many nation’s as possible, but equally it is not so important. The clear absence of France and Italy from the series so far is just a measure of how much time I wish to dedicate to those nations. In a sense, they are being saved. Moreover, they are places, perhaps surprisingly, but justifiably, where English as a language seems not to have the necessity as it does for poets from most other European nations. The only hostile responses I have had from interview requests have been from French poets, in their own language. I am very grateful to the handful of people who often act as colloquial translators in these situations across a gammut of languages, who are often cc’d into lengthy multi-lingual exchanges. 

My experience’s since instigating the series when travelling to other countries and meeting the poets in person has been a fundamental part of its growth. There is a vast community of poets throughout the continent that share such a distinct and valuable language between them, and often face the same dualisms and restrictions in their own poetry communities. However, perhaps what has been most important has been the realisation of the opposite, that the way avant-garde poetry exists in the UK is unique and often, unnecessarily negative. The reason why German or Swedish or Turkish poets who operate outside of formal poetical constraints are afforded as much attention and success to the wider public as those who don’t is a complex issue. I would measure that a huge part of it is the inheritance of previous avant-gardes, and how the major representational figures in national traditions denote those who will afforded reception now. Celan, Brecht, Trakl etc…stand in a rather different light to Larkin, Hughes, Auden when it comes to textual and poetical innovation, judgements aside. Whatever the reason, the result is all that matters. Innovation is not marginalised in many European nations and therefore need not be in the UK. So much of what stands as the formal / experimental dualism appears in a new light, as self imposed, as complacency and defensiveness. The most practical reaction to this situation has been in the poets I have invited to the reading series. Most recently, at the Icelandic embassy, I tried to invite young poets from the UK whose work will probably, bizarrely, never mix elsewhere. Faber & Faber pamphlet project participants and Eric Gregory award winners next to Goldsmiths’ art writing MFA graduates and musicians, sound poets, artists. There was nothing at odds in the reading. It was utterly complimentary, and a deeply enjoyable evening for the sense that everyone was able to recognise the quality in each others work. That is something I feel Maintenant can also strive to achieve in a minor way, the dissolution of factionalism.

We have also begun some fruitful partnerhips with the likes of Marek Kazmierski’s Off Press and Alexandra Buchler’s Literature Across Frontiers I hope to produce over 100 interviews and then an anthology, which has been discussed with a few publishers prohibitively. I would like the series to be exponential and 2011 will certainly see a regular series of readings, with not only our large scale projects with mulitiple poets from a single nation but an international exchange we have been developing. Essentially as the network of poets grows around Maintenant we have begun to offer any poets visiting London of their own volition the chance to read and promote their work. British poets will be invited to attend and perform at each event too, allowing the visiting poet a chance to meet peers and build relationships. This is slowly being extended to cities across Europe as poets offer a similar courtesy in places all across the continent. I hope, perhaps in 2012, this culminates in a small festival where poets from across Europe can read in one city, London or perhaps Berlin.