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From the late 15th century onwards, a flurry of voyages were made into the North Atlantic in search of fish, the fabled Northwest Passage, and beyond into the territories purely imaginary. Today, this vast expanse is crisscrossed with ocean and wind currents, submarine cables and wireless signals, seabirds and passengers, static and cargo ships.

In her long-awaited poetry debut, award-winning digital writer and artist J.R. Carpenter transforms the dense, fragmented archive of the North Atlantic into an astonishing sea of fresh new text. Cartographic and maritime vernaculars inflected with the syntax and grammar of ships logs and code languages splinter and pulse across the page.

Haunting, politically charged and formally innovative, An Ocean of Static presents an ever-shifting array of variables. Amid global currents of melting sea ice and changing ocean currents Carpenter charts the elusive passages of women and of animals, of indigenous people and of migrants, of strange noises and of phantom islands.

This book is made of other books. The texts in this book are composed of facts, fictions, fragments, and codes collected from accounts of voyages undertaken over the past 2,340 years or so, into the North Atlantic, in search of the Northwest Passage, and beyond, into territories purely imaginary. The texts in this book are intended to be read on the page and to serve as scripts for the live performance of a body of web-based works. These texts retain traces of the syntax and grammar of code languages.

Portions of this work first appeared, often in very different forms, in the following contexts:

Once Upon a Tide was published online as a generative text in The Junket 14 and in print as a script for live performance in Arc Poetry Magazine 82 and the anthology Wretched Strangers. It has been performed at The March Hare literary festival in Newfoundland, the Miriam Allott Visiting Writers Series at Liverpool University, Reading the Internet at the Camden People’s Theatre in London, Anathemaa in Bristol, and Entropics in Southampton.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl was exhibited as a web-based work in Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New 'Born Digital' Literature at MLA Boston and published in print in Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review. It has been performed at The Club at The Banff Centre, Le Cube in Paris, and Trapped in the Ice, Frozen in Time at British Library. The work was featured in Poetry Connection: Link Up with Canadian Poetry, an initiative of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah.

There he was, gone. was published online in Joyland: A Hub for Poetry which is sadly no longer online, and in print as an essay in code comments in German translation in Code und Konzept. This essay is available in English in the source code of the web-based work. The work has been presented as a poly-vocal performance in four voices at Performance Writing Weekend 2012, Arnolfini, Bristol; &Now Paris; and In(ter)ventions at The Banff Centre.

Instructions and Notes Very Necessary and Needful to Be Observed in the Purposed Voyage for Discovery of Cathay Eastwards was born of a web-based work co-authored with Barbara Bridger which was published online in The New River: a journal of digital writing & art and exhibited in Writ Large in Santa Cruz, Next Horizons in Victoria, and MozEx, a collaboration between Mozilla Festival, Tate Exchange, and V&A. Excerpts of the print iteration which appears in this book have been published in Oxford Poetry xvi.iii and para-text 4.

Ten Short Talks About Islands... and by Islands I Mean Paragraphs was published online in The Island Review and Drunken Boat 20, and in print in Journal of Writing in Creative Practice 7.1. It has been exhibited in Chercher le texte in Paris and performed at Modular Form at Roehampton and Écris-tu? at the Écomusée du Fier Monde in Montreal.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] was published online in French translation as TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE] in bleuOrange 07 and exhibited in Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints. Print iterations have been published in &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing and A Global Visuage. The work has been presented as a poly-vocal performance in three voices at Arnolfini in Bristol, Perdu Theatre in Amsterdam, and In(ter)ventions at The Banff Centre.

Etheric Ocean was commissioned by Electronic Voice Phenomena. The web-based work was exhibited in No Legacy at UC Berkeley. It has been presented as a performance in two voices at The Museum of Water in London and at The Other Room in Manchester. A performance paper based on the work was presented at Sound Studies: Art, Experience, Politics at Cambridge University, and published in English and French as Etheric Ocean : un environnement sonore sous-marin et multimédia in HYBRID 3. Excerpts of the print iteration which appears in this book have been published in 3:AM Magazine, The Other Room Anthology 8, and The Goose.

Along the Briny Beach was published online as a generative text in Boulder Pavement by The Banff Centre Press. It has been anthologised in Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3 and ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature. It has been exhibited in Shapeshifting Texts, Electronic Literature: A Matter of Bits, and Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints. The work has been presented as a performance in two voices at Words in motion at De Balie in Amsterdam, E Poetry at SUNY Buffalo, and In(ter)ventions at The Banff Centre.

Portions of this work were created with the financial support of a PhD Studentship from Falmouth University, an Open Studio Residency from Struts Gallery, a Visiting Fellowship from the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, and an Exploratory Writing grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Research for this book was undertaken at The British Library, the Marconi Archives at the Bodleian Library, the Telegraph Museum Archives in Porthcurno, and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University in St John’s. Many thanks to the librarians, archivists, and curators who patiently fielded my wide ranging queries.

And finally, many thanks to the family, friends, collaborators, developers, editors, publishers, producers, performers, curators, and event organisers who have helped to chart this ocean of static in various ways, especially: Elisabeth Belliveau, Steve Boyland, Mez Breeze, Barbara Bridger, Tom Chivers, Aphra Kennedy Fletcher, Jerome Fletcher, SJ Fowler, Bertrand Gervais, Phil Hatfield, Tom Harper, Jhave, Peter Jaeger, Tom Jenks, Nathan Jones, Kurtis Lesick, Kay Lovelace, Nick Montfort, Erin Mouré, Camilla Nelson, Mary Paterson, Jörg Piringer, James Purdon, angela rawlings, Lisa Robertson, Ariane Savoie, Steven Ross Smith, Phil Stenton, Alice van der Klei, and Fred Wah.
An Ocean of Static || J. R. Carpenter
An Ocean of Static
[ ocean of ocean of ocean of [noise......................].
[ If you can't hear sound here, it's possible that your computer or browser doesn't support the sound file format. Or, that you have your speakers turned off. Or, that you are a land mamal bending you ear to hear sounds deep under water. ]
[ # penned in the margins 2018 ]




FIFTY Nothing

FIFTYONE Nothing because not there

FIFTYTWO Nothing because of Xs

FIFTYTHREE Very weak unreadable

FIFTYFOUR Very weak partially readable

FIFTYFIVE Very weak readable

FIFTYSIX Weak unreadable

FIFTYSEVEN Weak readable

FIFTYEIGHT Weak partially readable

FIFTYNINE Moderately strong unreadable

SIXTY Moderately strong readable

SIXTYONE Moderately strong partially readable

SIXTYTWO Strong unreadable

SIXTYTHREE Strong readable

SIXTYFOUR Strong partially readable

SIXTYFIVE Being jambed

SIXTYSIX Jambing overcome

DELETA Primary of jigger



BOOMBRAND Send programme

EMBARGADOS Send programme

JACUNDA Send programme

RATS Condensers

BOBINAS Turns of secondary jigger

CORDATED Inductance


INGROTTA Insulation

INDURRO Millimeters

INDOVINI Centimeters