Maintenant! (an International Poetry Course)

Five sessions; five great, European avant-gardes. Explore contemporary innovations in European poetry with British vanguardist S J Fowler, and discover how their remarkable explorations in the written word often compliment, rather than antagonise, more formal writing practice. A course stressing the contemporary, Maintenant! will introduce 5 great poetic movements that will springboard you into new writing techniques, stressing the possibility amidst the history. Covering Oulipo, Austrian modernism, Concrete poetry, CoBra and the British poetry revival, this course – with the energy, dynamism and invention of the movements it explores – will enrich anyone’s poetry horizons. More at the Poetry School website.


Maintenant #98 –Volodymyr Bilyk

At the heart of a new Ukraine, as poetically as politically, the work of Volodymyr Bilyk, and it’s worldwide repute, as is tied to the new possibilities of technology in the 21st century as it is the quality and innovation that defines it. Bilyk is the new face of a nation whose poetic history is as often entrenched as its political, and his groundbreaking visual, minimalist, conceptual, sound and artpoetry has been published across the globe, due in no small part to his willingness to embed himself within internet culture and its potentialities. Moreover, his immediacy as a poet, as evident in his poetics as in his colloquially eloquent, unpretentious mode and manner, reveals itself as the expression of an individual willing to commit utterly to the ideal of democratic freedom in his homeland. This interview is conducted during the unyielding protests, and the resultant government violence and oppression, wracking the Ukraine in late 2013 / early 2014, of which Volodymyr Bilyk, the 98th respondent of the Maintenant series, is a central and formidable part.

Steven Fowler’s Maintenant Course at The Poetry School is now open for booking

This tremendous course starts in January…

Explore contemporary innovations in European poetry in Steven Fowler’s company and discover how their remarkable explorations in the written word often compliment, rather than antagonise, more formal writing practice. Over 5 sessions, 5 great poetic movements will be used as references to springboard you into new writing techniques, stressing the possibility amidst the history. Covering OULIPO, Austrian modernism, Concrete poetry, CoBra and the British poetry revival, this course – with the energy, dynamism and invention of the movements it explores – will enrich anyone’s poetry horizons. Steven will organise a post-course reading for students on this course.

Some more details, direct from Steven …I’m delighted to announce that in 2014 I will be teaching a course for the Poetry School called Maintenant! exploring post-war & contemporary European avant-garde poetry. It’s a bi-weekly course, five lessons over ten weeks, aiming to elucidate traditions that might be occluded in the UK, and explore how their innovations in writing can compliment people’s poetry in the now. The onus is on how these great moments in modern poetry can enrich writing practise, rather than dense historical analysis. It’s a rare chance to excavate avant garde work in such a setting, please sign up below if interested & in London.

Week One: January tuesday 28th – OulipoGeorges Perec, Jacques Roubeau, Raymond Queneau up to Frederic Forte and British Oulippeans like Philip Terry. The constraints that emancipate.

Week Two: February tuesday 11th – Austrian postwar modernismThomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek. How to deal with the legacy of Fascism.

Week Three: February tuesday 25th – Concrete poetryHansjörg Mayer, Bob Cobbing, The Vienna Group, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Marton Koppany up to Anatol Knotek. The visuality of the poem as its meaning

Week Four: tuesday March 11th – CoBrAAsger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky. Dutch, Danish, Belgian & beyond, poetry as art revolt & primitivism.

Week Five: March tuesday 25th – British Poetry RevivalTom Raworth, Bill Griffiths, Maggie O’Sullivan & many many more.

Those every British poet should know, our immense late 20th century Vanguard heritage. & near the end of the course, on March 15th 2014, at the Rich Mix arts centre, the students will get a chance to read some of the work they’ve produced during Enemies: Fjender, which explores contemporary Danish avant garde poetry in collaboration, with Cia Rinne, Martin Glaz Serup and Morten Sondergaard, who will also be exhibiting his remarkable Wordpharmacy Here is the interview series that inspired the course all 97 editions so far.

See more at:

Maintenant #96 – George Szirtes

Conventional wisdom would suggest when a poet leaves their country of birth at a young age, for a new nation, they might bring to bear both traditions upon their writing. Perhaps it is possible, though arguably reductive, that the poet in question would be of neither nation truly – forever an immigrant in one and a stranger to another. What seems assured though, is that this sense of displacement, ambiguity of tradition and identity, this fundamental plurality of language and culture, would seem to find its proper place in the intangibility at the heart of a forceful and considered poetic, where such equivocality is not only welcome but perhaps necessary. At the core of the last century’s European poetry tradition lies the notion of trace, of multiplicity, invention, migration and these are the defining characteristics of George Szirtes’ oeuvre. His body of work, 40 years in the making and prolific in that time, has carried across forms, mediums, language and tones. It is the poetry of a singular individual extolling individualism, a poet whose responsibilities towards generosity and openness of spirit seem gracefully self-imposed across writing, translating, teaching, editing and anthologising. Moreover, it is the not the work of a man trapped between nations and histories, but one who has been emancipated by a lifetime’s fidelity to poetry, never bound by a national dualism, despite the complications of being explicitly Hungarian and implicitly English. Author of over 20 collections, winner of numerous prizes including the TS Eliot, the Cholmondeley, the Gold star of the Hungarian republic and the best translated book award, George Szirtes is an immense poet and undoubtedly the greatest translator of Hungarian into English of the last century, if ever. In an wide ranging and generous interview, we present the 96th edition of Maintenant.

Alongside the interview, 3 new poems by George have been published, including one that forms part of his Camarade project commissioned collaboration with Carol Watts

Maintenant #95 – Ivan Hristov

An instrumental figure at the core of 21st century Bulgarian poetics, Ivan Hristov’s poetics are as variable and layered as the modern history of the country itself. As an educator and organiser, Hristov has been the driving force behind the Sofia poetics festival, bringing poets from around Europe to witness and interact with a surging new generation of poets emerging from the city, and as a poet himself, his connection and fusion with English language poetry has produced a unique style and cadence within his output which has gained plaudits from across the continent and America. Another figure in European poetry who conceives of organisation as a responsibility alongside his own practise, we are pleased to introduce Ivan Hristov as the 95th respondent of the Maintenant series.

Accompanying the interview are three of Ivan’s poems, translated by Angela Rodel.

Maintenant #94: Pierre Joris

Via Steven Fowler:

“There are figures in poetry whose contribution to the understanding of the medium is so immense it cannot be properly appreciated when they are still practising their thought as a poet, let alone as also a prolific critic, anthologist, teacher and theorist. All the more is this true when their work is as enormous, and relentless, as it is subtle, generous and deft. Even more so again when they have been at this work for over forty five years. Who would hope to engage more in the roots and edges of poetics in one lifetime than Pierre Joris has over his? He has published over forty books. He has translated hundreds of poets, not just offering new understandings of their work in his translations, but often resurrecting, if not creating, an appreciation in the Western World. He is as exceptional a polylingual translator as the late 20th century has seen and is inarguably seminal in his own work for the revelation of multi-lingual writing amongst other things. He has taught thousands of students, never once comprising the fundamentally ethical, rigorous and complex ideas behind his work and his understanding of poetry in general. He has written numerous articles on his contemporaries, and having lived across Europe, Africa and the United States, those who have constituted his peers are an exceptionally plentiful group. Add onto that his editorial co-presiding over one of the most important anthologies ever conceived, the poems for the millenium. His dexterity and depth of understanding is matched only by his generosity, and the immense legacy he has already cemented. It is a great pleasure, in our 94th edition, to introduce our first Luxembourger poet, by birth, who is rather obviously, a citizen of everywhere and nowhere.

Pierre was kind enough to allow us to publish four poems alongside the interview.

Maintenant at the Poetry Parnassus

Four events at London’s Southbank Centre:

Tuesday 26th June 7pm – 9pm in the Blue Room
Maintenant celebration reading I: Pekko Kappi, Christodoulos Makris, Damir Sodan, Endre Ruset & more poets to be announced…

Friday 29th June 5pm – 6pm in the Level 5 Function Room
Maintenant: Poetry from the Balkans – Damir Šodan, Ana Ristovic, Doina Ioanid, Taja Kramberger, Luljeta Lleshanaku & more poets to be announced…

Saturday 30th 7pm-9pm in the White Room
Maintenant: a celebration of the avant garde & the experimental: James Wilkes, Holly Pester, Kirsty Irving, Sam Riviere, Vahni Capildeo, Audrey Brown-Pereira, Rocío Cerón & more poets to be announced…

Sunday 1st July 1pm – 2pm in the Clore Ballroom
Maintenant celebration reading II: Donatas Petrosius, Agnes Lehoczky, Immanuel Mifsud, Gerdur Kristny, Nigar Hasan Zadeh & more poets to be announced…