Coming in November . . . SJ Fowler / HARD TO READ

HARD TO READ – Collected Paint Poems, Pansemia, Cinematic Drawings and Logograms
SJ FOWLER // Rich Mix Gallery – December 9th 2017 to January 6th 2018

Once we understand excess, then we can get really simple.
Robert Rauschenberg

From the gallery “Collecting together the art poetry of SJ Fowler, this solo exhibition aims to pose several questions of the poem as a concrete, visual thing in the world. What is in the shape of a letter and what images do words recall? What is the meaning of colour in poetry and text upon the page, and white space? How does the situation of a poem change its meaning? Why is composition not a concept that applies to a medium that is innately visual? In literature, why has content overwhelmed context? Why has product dominated process? HARD TO READ poses these questions and answers them poorly, playfully, with over 40 original works drawn from multiple publications and previous exhibitions – works that interrogate handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, scribbling, crossings out, forgotten notes, strange scrawls – the odd interaction between paper and pen, and pencil, and coloured words that randomly collide with image recalling words.

This is an exhibition about the page as a block, about geometry, about lines that sever meaning, about inarticulate shapes, about minimalism and collage. It is about making, gesturing towards the handmade poem, the amateur poet, the outside, liquid and paper, the absence of technology, and ugliness – toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess. It is a response to being called an artist in the poetry world, and a poet in the arts world.”

This is my second solo exhibition and will kick off The Poem Brut, a new project I’m doing which includes the books I fear my best work behind me (Stranger Press 2017), Aletta Ocean’s Alphabet Empire (Hesterglock Press), The Collected Scribblings of SJ Fowler (Zimzalla 2018). It’s also part of my time as Rich Mix Associate Artist.

HARD TO READ exhibition launch Dec 9 at Rich Mix 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road London E1 6LA

More info here

Coming soon : The Poem Brut

Four new limited edition art books and an exhibition at Rich Mix as well as, beyond my own work, a programme of books, events, exhibitions and installations that explores the visual and contextual character of poetry and text, and in so doing the overlaps between modern art and modern poetry.

The Poem Brut explores the language art, the art of poetry – handwriting, abstraction, illustration, asemic and pansemic writing, concrete poetry and more. This is an examination of words that are meant to make you squint, to battle for legibility, rather than you be able to pinch and extend your thumb and forefinger against the page to get a closer look. As a major part of our day becomes how much time to spend online, and a movement slowly arises to disengage from online existence, so The Poem Brut is also intended to be a tiny return to the obscure, inarticulate, child-like intensity of our making marks upon a page, pen, brush, pencil to paper, that which underpinned the art brut and all it was influenced by.

Drawing on the great post-war figures of avant-garde poetry and visceral text art, and so interrogating the limitations of these definitions, The Poem Brut will refer back to European figures still profoundly underappreciated in the UK, most especially in literature. Henri Michaux, Christian Dotremont, Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, the CoBrA group, Messa.

Works that explore language as markings, that return to the lost languages of linguistic history alongside the immediacy of groundbreaking art movements that used text freely and influenced practitioners from Basquiat to Twombly, will be created and brought into focus. Both those who pioneered such works in poetry and art will be brought together, from the last seven decades and the now.

I fear my best work behind me / Stranger Press : November 2017

A book of poem-bruts. A fractured, overwhelmed, handwritten victim of colour, brutalist child-like portraiture, abstract illustration and negative space. The works call back to the post-war and latter 20th century explorations of the CoBrA group – especially – Pierre Alechinsky, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel – who have been influential on my thinking and work. / Artworks have been published in Oxford Poetry, Test Centre magazine, Gorse Magazine, Partisan Hotel, Fractalia.

Aletta Ocean’s Alphabet Empire / Hesterglock Press : 25 November 2017

A book of pansemic or asemic writings, hand wrought, using indian ink, techniques edging around writing, vying with abstraction, watercolour. The drawings of Henri Michaux, the writing art of Christian Dotremont, others I can throw in, Yves Klein.

New Prim / Hesterglock Press : 2018

The obscure, inarticulate, child-like intensity of the movement of the hand while writing – deliberately rough, handworked. The words are meant to make you squint, to battle for legibility, rather than you be able to pinch and extend your thumb and forefinger against the page to get a closer look. Scribbling is more interesting than type, as are crossings out, as are forgotten notes, strange scrawls, gesturing toward the handmade, the amateur, the outside, a tiny gesture of mine towards paint, ink and paper, towards liquid and wood, ugliness, toilet wall draughtsmanship and mess.


The Originals book launches

Jude Cowan Montague launched The Originals at the Venice Biennale last week, with the help of Julian Firth and others.

Jude is also reading from The Originals at the following venues;

May 19 – The Albion Beatnik Bookshop with Alan Buckley, Jenny Lewis and Jude Cowan Montague, with improvised piano interludes from Henry Blyth. Doors at 7.00 for a 7.30 start, £5.00 entry.

May 26 – Scaledown at The King and Queen, 1 Foley Street, London W1W 6DL 7.00pm to 11pm

There is a further date in Paris, details tbc.

Jude Cowan Montague & SJ Fowler on The News Agents, Resonance FM

On the eclectic arts DAB radio station, Resonance FM there was a bit of a Hesterglock Press double-act today. Jude Cowan Montague’s special guest on The News Agents, experiments in news and arts this week was SJ Fowler talking about his new collection, ‘The Guide to Being Bear Aware’ which was published by Shearsman Books this week; presenting the idea of the Anthropocene, the world altered by the human presence. With live poetry/scores and composition.

And the connection?

We’re publishing the originals by Jude Cowan Montague in May and in November, The New Prim by Steve.

You can listen to the show in full here

New poetry . . .

Out now . . .

گل سرخDaDas Batshit Kapistillஇ௫உ – Rose Knapp more info
That Bird Loved – Kathrine Sowerby more info
Shopping For Punks – Mark Russell more info


The City Itself – Billy Mills more info
OUR LAND IN THE BEAK OF VULTURES – Francis Annagu more info


Cairn Almanac – Dan Eltringham more info

ANATHEMA #1 a new reading series for experimental writing in Bristol

ANATHEMA is a new reading series for experimental writing in Bristol,
curated by Moot Press + Hesterglock Press + Sad Press


Anathema #1

25 February at 19:00–22:00

Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY Bristol

Readings from:

JR Carpenter
Felix Bazalgette
Rowan Evans
Sarah Hayden
Lila Matsumoto
paul hawkins
Camilla Nelson
Tony White

BOOK TABLE + DRINKS // 7.00 for 7.30pm start // FREE // ALL WELCOME

more information

Kintsukuroi by Lucy Humphreys out May 15

front with text

“I could stand on their backs
and walk in the sky.”

As the title Kintsukuroi (‘to repair with gold’) suggests, Humphreys’ pamphlet is a collection of varied and vivid beautiful things made all the more beautiful by their brokenness. Her sharp images, strong characters, compelling contrasts and precise sounds open up the world and human relationships in intriguing ways, in poems that brim/sizzle with observation, implication and atmosphere. Reading Kintsukuroi is to be filled with the sense of: “I wish to take the colours home, | there is too much to know”. But there is also so much here to feel, beauty revealed alive and sparkling through cracks that send “nerves into shivers”.
Sarah James/ S.A. Leavesley

Often unsparingly stark, and yet, at the same time, strangely sumptuous, Lucy Humphreys’ poetry is the gold that lights up the cracks and scars of a sometimes utterly broken life and, in so doing, transforms it into something beautiful.
Tom McColl

Kintsukuroi is the debut pamphlet by poet Lucy Humphreys. Buy a copy for £6 + postage by following this link

Sarer Scotthorne interviews Michael Mc Aloran

An Interview with Michael Mc Aloran

breath(en) flux is a stunning collection of experimental writing by Michael Mc Aloran. He writes about flesh, meat and death, but this is over-simplified and does not give credit to the breadth of allusion or the breathtaking imagery that Mc Aloran conjures. It is beautiful and perplexing. I hope that by doing this interview I can pique the interest of readers to explore the writing of this intriguing poet. His narrative reached me on many levels. The more I read, the more I value Mc Aloran’s work. For those of you who are put off by the subject matter, I can only encourage you to have a read. His writing is tender, highly original and accessible. Actually not to be missed.

I was struck by Mc Aloran’s lyrical style, controlled rhythms and dark imaginings. The brutality of animals dying in an abattoir becomes an esoteric experience. His collection breath(en) flux is powerful poetry that caused me to consider the flesh on my own body and the value of my life with new insights. There are very few explanations as to how Mc Aloran came to write as he does. Until now the reader has been led to make of his writing what they will. I feel honoured to have this opportunity to ask some questions, to find out more.

Sarer: Can I call you an experimental poet or a symbolist poet, who writes about flesh, death and meat? How would you describe yourself as a poet? Do you use metaphors?

Michael: I don’t consider myself as being a poet, although breath(en) flux, however loosely, could be described as being the nearest I’ve come to poetry for some time. I don’t really know what a poet is, it seems like a label used by others, or some kind of snare used to define oneself, often born more of vanity than anything else. However I do write experimentally, and I try to do something different with each text and also with language, sometimes to the point where it breaks down altogether, and meaning is left redundant. It’s true that I write about death, meat & flesh, but also, or at least I did until recently, about futility, meaninglessness, dystopia and the ‘endworld’, all  bound together by an over-riding sense of there being ‘nothing’. So the work isn’t exclusively about meat, flesh, and death, it also deals with silence and breath. breath(en)… seems to me to also be a kind of shedding of metaphor, also, at least when I read it last.

Sarer: What made you want to write about flesh and death? Are there any life experiences that have influenced your fascination with writing in this way?

Michael: I experience finitude as both attendant and inescapable. Over the past two decades I’ve been exposed to quite a lot of it, in many forms. Of course, flesh is tied in with that, and I’ve written about atrophy, decay, etc. To say that is an unpleasant landscape to write through is a bit of an understatement, though I appear to be writing less about death these days. Flesh of course is also a means to an end, what we call pleasure and escape through flesh, yet still the horror of the flesh, almost a sudden shock awareness of its fate, is something that still assails.

Sarer: What sort of cultural experiences have influenced your writing. Are you influenced by religion, either Catholic, or Buddhism. Have you read The Tibetan Book of the Dead? What about eating the body of Christ? Mexicans celebrate the day of the dead? Is there a spiritual aspect to your writing? You write at times with such tenderness and mix the violence of slaughter with an almost religious rapture, as though the animals were involved with a crucifixion…

eats soil as if to dance/ in dressage of final
teeth drenched through sarcophagus/

Michael: I’m not at all religious. Thankfully, I wasn’t subjected to religious suffocation as a child and beyond. I did have a brief flirtation with The Tibetan Book of the Dead when I was in my early 20’s, before I started writing, but I don’t remember very much about it now, I will have to revisit it. The only animals involved in the more general text/s are human ones, or perhaps hyenas, as if they were death’s messengers/servants, as such. Which isn’t to suggest that I believe death to be some kind of over-seeing force or any such nonsense, I just happen to like to use desert imagery sometimes in my work. The idea of consuming anything related to Xianity seems absurd, unless of course one has raided the liquor cabinet in the church vestibule…

Sarer: Some of the language in breath(en) flux is almost bible-like and the descriptions of eyes remind me of painting on the Cistine Chapel, eyes rolled upward. Why have you written in this kind of way?

For example:

sky glance / unto rot/

ghost limbed rapture no/traipse till yet
un-afar a-light unlit light of silhouette dark
what dark/

yet not of a from unto
other than/(it is said

Michael: When I use the ‘eye’ it is often just awareness, perception, the upturned eye of transcendental suffering, or pleasure, however it may be defined.

Sarer: My mind is somewhat drawn to Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye. Are you familiar with this novelette? You refer throughout breath(en) flux to the eyeball and the last word in the second movement is

light dream of/ cracks eye/ egg/ bollock…

Michael: That is just an arbitrary reference that slipped out. I worked on the theme of eye/perception further in The Zero Eye (Oneiros Books 2014). The eye does appear quite frequently throughout my work though, whether frozen or otherwise.

Sarer: Have you read any Bataille? Why do you focus on the eye so much in this piece of writing?

Michael: I’ve read some of Bataille’s novels/novelettes: Story of the Eye, Blue of Noon, The Impossible. This was some time ago, though I do revisit The Impossible from time to time. I’ve also read some translations of his poetry (unfortunately, I don’t have the French and they’re possibly no good).

Sarer: The imagery also reminds me of the paintings of Francis Bacon, cut-up body parts; shapes represented in a grotesque way. Are you influenced in your writing by any particular painters, or styles of painting?

Michael: Mainly Bacon, and his idea about chance playing a key role in creation/existence itself (he was an avid gambler also). I also admire Soutine.

Sarer: I was particularly impressed by the poetry in the third chapter. There is a mercurial quality to your writing that is very difficult to pin down. Just when I think you are about to make clear your meaning it moves just slightly out of reach, a transient quality. Does this reflect your attitude to dying?

echoes out from some desire/ a soldered room/ a broken lock /measured out / for some non beyond/

Michael: The writing is instinctual, which affords me the capacity to become aloof as well as anything else for that matter. I can shift between meaning and an absence of meaning quite easily. I suppose the overall impact is what is important, the trace remaining to
some extent, yet with a measure of silence, perhaps the text wiping itself out as it moves towards its final conclusion, (or absence thereof).

Sarer: There is a powerful sense of longing in the writing, what would you say is the overriding emotional thrust of the piece?

Michael: The longing for something ‘other than’…

Sarer: What are the subtexts? Are there any?

Michael: I have no idea.

Sarer: Can you describe the narrative plot of breath(en) flux. There are three movements, where do you intend to lead the reader?

Michael: The text is composed of ‘silence/breath/meat’. I suppose I, loosely, wanted to explore for myself, in a concise manner, the aforementioned themes. Cioran maintained that silence was the only true reality, Beckett felt it to be language. Somewhere, in the midst of the text’s chaos there is perhaps an element of both. I offer no answers to any of the themes explored. They exist, that is enough for me…

Sarer: Is there a political aspect to your writing? The sense of waste and disempowerment is suffocating at times, as though the dumb animals were sacrificial?

Michael: I like to think I have avoided politics pretty well. I have no agenda in that respect that would be anything other than obvious. As for the creation of waste, it may indeed be one of our finest attributes.

Sarer: Your description of the animals journey towards death is full of fractured imagery. What are your thoughts about animal welfare? I don’t eat meat and was very struck by the sensitivity with which you dealt with the decomposition of their bodies.

etches into nothing that ever was/ blind-
sighted cavalcade/ stun laughter breakage
subtle tide

Michael: The idea of ‘abattoir’, its context, is as much about invisible sanctions, how we suffer invisibly, for the greater part, and bleed, hung out. There is no dignity in death and existence is degrading, meaningless, finite. This is my view. The laughter of the above quote may be laughter in the midst of madness, within the nothing of the ever if, blind-sighted and obliterated by death/nothing…

Sarer: The punctuation in the piece is made up solely of slashes. Cutting up the sentence with the skill of a butcher cutting prime loins. What did you aim to achieve by chopping up the language in this way?

Michael: The forward slashes serve as a replacement for commas, obviously a pause, also to fragment the lines and perhaps open up unto a different association other than being directly rational in approach. I suppose it could be described as a kind of rhythmical dissonance. I cut and delete the text as I go along.

Sarer: When I first read the manuscript I experienced it as an incantation of the flesh, tacit memories, whispers from the bones and muscles, eyes, teeth and jaws. It made me very aware of my own mortality. Is this your intention?

Michael: I rarely intend to do anything other than create a full body of text. The impetus can be arbitrary, and develop as I delve further into what appears to be driving it. I merely write my own awareness, though with breath(en)… it was perhaps more deliberate.

Sarer: What do you like to read for fun? What do you read to challenge yourself? May I ask who is your main influence is as a writer?

Michael: I read very little these days. Francis Bacon has had a large degree of influence, for example many of the landscapes that appear in my work are suffocating, dark, alienated chambers, filled with suffering and little else. More recently, Gherasim Luca, a Romanian Surrealist, E.M Cioran, Celan and Vasko Popa. I read a little Beckett now and then, but I try to keep that to a tight minimum.

Sarer: I would really love to hear you reading some writing from breath(en) flux, I know you don’t usually read at poetry nights, but would you consider recording some of the last chapter? I am totally intrigued to hear what your voice is like set to your writing. It isn’t just your accent… honestly…

Sarer Scotthorne

‘In a landscape of bland poseurs and safe, vanilla poetry, Mc Aloran cuts like a knife and writes in blood.’ AD Hitchin


breath(en) flux by Michael Mc Aloran is published by Hesterglock Press. It’s our first fully-bound collection and we’re very proud of it. You can read more about it and order a copy by clicking here.

Author bio

Michael is a prolific poet, writer and artist. Belfast born (1976), he is the author of a number of collections of poetry, prose poetry, poetic aphorisms and prose, most notably ‘Attributes’ (Desperanto NY 2011), ‘The Non Herein’ & ‘Of Dead Silences’ (Lapwing Publications 2011/ 2013), ‘Of the Nothing Of’, ‘The Zero Eye’, he’The Bled Sun’, ‘In Damage Seasons’ (Oneiros Books (U.K)–2013/ 14); ‘Code #4 Texts’ a collaboration with the Dutch poet Aad de Gids, was also published in 2014 by Oneiros.  He was also the editor/ creator of Bone Orchard Poetry, & edited for Oneiros Books (U.K 2013/ 2014). A further collection, ‘Un-Sight/ Un-Sound (delirium X.), was published 2014 by gnOme books (U.S). ‘EchoNone’ & ‘Of Dissipating Traces’ were also recently released by Oneiros Books.