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Review of SJ Fowler’s ‘{Enthusiasm}’

My review of SJ Fowler’s collection {Enthusiasm} is published on Sabotage. This has taken me months to finish, so I’m grateful (as ever) to the patience of my editors. It’s an interesting book coming in what seems to be an exciting time for Test Centre, who are publishing consistently good stuff. I’m glad it exists.

In the review, as well as discussing the ‘mainstream’ as a necessary fiction, I describe what I think a real contemporary successor to the historical avant-garde would be: weird and uncool; written by/representing the marginalised; probably unconcerned with the rarefied theorising that weirdos like myself enjoy; and, most importantly, coming from within a broader context of political activism within the literary community in a way that addresses poetry’s position in society. I also look at the troubles with contemporary poetry that positions itself as ‘avant-garde’, and how that positioning, almost in itself, demonstrates the problem of its institutionalisation. In short, I argue that a contemporary avant-garde (or, rather, poetry furthering the avant-garde’s historical aims) might be possible, but that {Enthusiasm} isn’t it.

It’s perhaps a little unfair of me to use a review as a starting point for a discussion that ultimately condemns the book in question, when, for the review itself, the book deserves to be praised. However, Fowler’s book, and his positioning of his work, are a provocation towards some useful thinking. Hopefully it’s not just me who’s interested.