Monday 2nd August was publication date for Bastard Poems, a substantial collection of collage poems by SJ Fowler. We celebrated the occasion with an evening of incredible readings and performances at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, bringing a bit of mad energy to that august establishment!
I felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to publish Steve’s book, and to take part in such a vibrant launch event, my first in-person reading since before the pandemic.
You can watch all the performances from the launch here. And then you really should buy Bastard Poems, one of the most original, funny, provocative, nonchalant, playful, heterogeneous, gestalt, paradoxical books of visual poetry you are likely to find.
Submissions are open for our slim volume series, Milk Teeth.
What we want We’re looking for innovative, visually striking, semantically rich collections of visual poetry, of up to 32 pages. There is no set page size or orientation; book formatting will be determined by content, not the other way round.
How to submit Please send your finished manuscript as a PDF or Word document to James Knight at email@example.com. You should also include a brief cover letter, explaining the thinking and methodology behind your submission, as well as why Steel Incisors is the right home for your work.
This new collection could be considered the legitimate offspring from SJ Fowler’s two previous works this year – Sticker Poems from Trickhouse Press (“playful shock treatment for arthritic literary convention”) and Come and See the Songs of Strange Days: Poems on Films from Broken Sleep, a majestic rumination on modern life seen through the prism of cinema. With Bastard Poems, it’s as if the indefatigable avant-garde artist (poet just doesn’t cover it) had temporarily run out of words and images but *still* had plenty more to say… and where else would a Dada disciple look for raw material than his own trash?
Shitty ads, torn and bastardised classifieds, tacky stickers and gloppy animal photography ripped from god-knows-where. The superb print quality from steel incisors only accentuates the lurid detritus that Fowler has retrieved, with no apparent concession to style or theme, and no effort to beautify or make elegant. Just seemingly random quotes and extracts from a deluded (sub) culture:
The sixth child / yours sincerely / remember your father was mental
I fear my best work behind me…
THE AWFUL TATTOOS OF MY CONFORMIST GENERATION
But from this Zooropa-like wasteland of nihilistic numbness emerge deeply affecting voices… sometimes profoundly moving – Isn’t she ever coming? – often very funny – ALL ERRATA IS INTENTIONAL AND THIS WORK HAS BEEN THOROUGHLY PROOFED – and frequently imbued with a mile-wide streak of melancholy – Is it not unfair to say that a city is a collection of humans? – from a writer who just can’t help but find beautiful poetry wherever he looks
THE FAT BULLDOG
IN FRONT OF
THE AIR CONDITIONER
And as the book rolls forward, Katamari-style, Fowler’s (possible) modus operandi emerges: he’s not trying to find profundity in the junk, he’s trying to speak through it. It’s as if he’s emerged, spitting and choking from the shitstream of “bright, stupid images” we (you and I) live in, and tried to speak (the truth) for the first time, only to find his mouth full of lame emojis (Fiercely Cute!) dumb-ass stickers (Jellicious) and empty reader surveys (How to Overcome Your Difficulties in Making Friends). It might all mean nothing but it probably means something and maybe even everything, given that Fowler himself is the bastard progeny of Duchamp, Grand Master of Serious Play.
The final evidence? A suspiciously earnest extract informs us that Fowler’s work “ebbs between accuracy and forgetfulness… language experiments sewn together into a new whole…” Its serious and worthy blurb that could happily adorn any Susan Howe book of the last two decades, except that in Bastard Poems, the copy is squashed beneath a lazily torn photograph of a gigantic fucking bear, complete with pink pawprint smudges.
So not Susan Howe then, but very much our very own SJ Fowler, as serious and fun as ever.
Our first publication is (dis/re)membered by James Knight.
(dis/re)membered explores the relationship between a growing, ageing body and the spaces it inhabits. Themes such as time, metamorphsosis and memory (and its lapses) are played out over 42 visual poems that could be considered parts of one vibrantly colourful narrative.
Visual poet Richard Biddle generously wrote an afterword for the book. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Imagine a library of self-help tomes, lifestyle magazines and science journals, jammed into a liquidiser with several pints of the author’s own blood, seasoned with wit and cynicism and you have James Knight’s epic poem…
Our first publishing venture is a print anthology of apocalyptic visual poetry, which will be published in January 2021.
Please email up to four visual poems to James Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make sure your work connects strongly with the theme of the apocalypse, and displays the daring, imagination and technical skill we are looking for.
Each visual poem should be a high resolution PNG or JPEG.
We welcome work in colour.
The file name of each piece should be the title.
Please write a brief cover letter, including the following:
• The title of each piece
• The materials used to make each piece (e.g. tablet computer, printed materials, acrylic paint, etc)
• A brief explanation of your thinking behind each of your visual poems (no more than 30 words per piece).
• A brief author bio, in the third person.
Deadline for submissions is 30 November 2020, after which poets will be contacted regarding the status of their submissions.
The anthology will be published in January 2021, through a print-on-demand service. The purchase price will cover printing costs only, so no profit will be made and no author royalties generated. I’m doing it this way because I want to make the anthology as affordable as possible; given the economic consequences of Covid-19 and Brexit, affordability is an issue the publishing world cannot ignore. I am afraid that I am unable to offer free copies of the anthology to the poets whose work is included in it, but they can of course purchase it at cost price. I really want people to get involved in this project out of love for visual poetry and a desire to create dangerous, exciting work, rather than a desire for remuneration.