Sunday, February 02, 2020

Thoughts on Collaboration 5: Literary Collaboration part two

Note: all posts in this 'Collaboration' strand may be accessed via this link to the hubpost here:

Steven (SJ) Fowler at Dragon Hall

The Enemies Project was started in 2010 by the poet and events curator S J Fowler. He is the second Mr Collaboration. He has organised over 600 events across Britain, and beyond, and, has according to the project’s website, involved over a 1000 poets, writers and artists. ( accessed 20th January 2020). Typically events have involved the pairing of poets (and others). They will have had a limited time to prepare their performance, usually working over email to agree a text. The understanding is that the work is especially written for the event, or is, at least, recent. There has been some funding to commission a few of the performances, particularly on regional tours. Some poets (SJ Fowler himself and Tom Jenks, for example) have collaborated regularly; others, say Scott Thurston and Simona Nastac did not meet until the evening of the performance (Manchester 2019), although they did (unusually) have time for a rehearsal and sound-check. Often there is less preparation. The format is actually quite a standard cabaret arrangement; each act performs for less than 10 minutes. There have been tours of particular areas (the South West, the North West and Wales; I was at some of the last two), other ‘Camarade’ events, as they are also sometimes called, often at the Rich Mix arts venue in East London, and even a student ‘Camarade’, involving pairs of Creative Writing students from different centres, from James Byrne’s Edge Hill University to Fowler’s own Kingston University. The European (and Nordic) Poetry Festival follows the same format, but involves pairings of British and European (or Nordic) poets. Readers have included well known figures such as Ian McMillan and Iain Sinclair, as well as emerging poets, such as Joanne Ashcroft or Jazmine Linklater, with a tendency towards the innovative or experimental end of British poetry. The performers tend to be young, with the odd old bastard (me!) thrown in for good measure (and so I have to struggle on my ruined feet to mount the stage). Outside London, venues range from events halls (such as the Anthony Burgess Centre in Manchester or Dragon Hall in Norwich) to converted pie factories in Leeds, from traditional outstairs rooms of English pubs to modern Welsh cafes.  The work that results (and this is where my EUOIA work is different, as I shall show in the next post) is often ephemeral, sometimes does not get collected in subsequent volumes, although SJ Fowler himself has assembled two volumes of his collaboratively-written texts for the page. (As I write, the second volume has not arrived yet.) All performances are vidoed and catalogued on the website. Of course, elements of performance may occur: readers in the crowd, the use of props (an orange squeezed to smithereens), projected video on screen, etc.

I have been very pleased to be involved with these events (thanks Steven!) and I’d like to describe all of them (excluding for a moment my fictional poet work, the EUOIA, which had its showings (and origins) at some of these Camarades!)

Working very fast, Jeff Hilson and I wrote ‘Honda Hands’ for the 2012 Rich Mix Collaboration. The performance may be seen and heard here. I really enjoyed this one and we still need to publish the text whole. Part of it appeared in an edition of Vlak but some lines (or verses, even) were missing. Later, I would collaborate again with Jeff. In both cases, we wrote a certain number of lines each. The necessity of performance means that the division of labour was visible. It was almost as though a collaborative text was turned back into a dialogue (a fact worth pondering in the work of others, for my essay).

With Robert Hampson I wrote Liverpool Hugs and Kisses (published in 2015). See
here for details and video. Unfortunately, I was ill so I wasn’t able to read it at the Rich Mix. That's Chris Gutkind being me. This is a pamphlet (still in print) of separate poems about my adopted, and Robert’s familial, home city. Out of my work in it, I only really like the poem about Ray Charles playing the London Road Odeon in 1964. (I wasn’t there!).

I was really honoured to be paired with Ian McMillan. (We have more than a poetry world connection. The man who started him writing poetry was my old colleague from Surrey, Rob Brown, who, incidentally, was responsible for one of the revivals of my music career.) We were quite a wow for two old blokes in jumpers. The text is available here. Or rather our texts in their intertwinedness, may be read on 3am Magazine. These two improvisational texts were written simultaneously between the hours of 19.00-20.00 on Monday 23rd January 2017, one in Liverpool, the other in Barnsley.

And then subject to simultaneous rendition at the Leeds North by North West at the Wharf Chambers, Leeds on February 9th 2017. It was a hit or miss technique, but we pulled it off, by sheer force of the audacity of its anarchistic method.

As part of the European Poetry Festival, in April 2018, in Manchester, I was paired with the Lithuanian poet (and translator) Rimas Uzgiris. (He was a real Lithuanian, unlike my fictional ones. We wrote one poem for the event in Manchester, and an account of the event, more on Rimas, and a video of our short poem, see here. We began, without a plan, other than we’d write 4 lines each. I hadn’t met him before the reading, but he was a gentle, generous man, and we got on well (if only for that short time). He was happy to publish the poem on this blogzine, here.

Patricia Farrell and I have not often worked on textual collaborations, but here's one from April 2019, our versions of Marlowe and Raleigh's 'Shepherd' 'collaboration'. Oddly, even though we live together, we used email to exchange our verses, one each, through the transformations of these originals (guided by Burgess’ brilliant A Dead Man in Deptford; the reading was at the Anthony Burgess Centre, Manchester).

I also wrote a collaborative text with Zoe Skoulding for a Camarade. That’s almost another story, and it’s certainly another post.

Remember: all posts in this 'Collaboration' strand may be accessed via this link to the hubpost here: