## READ WRITE GARDEN ## – an erasure poem un-written in RUBY code comments

Nearly a year ago the American book-artist Karen Randall invited me to contribute to an an international anthology of poems involving computer languages, especially the RUBY language, in honor of the Millay Colony‘s ruby anniversary. The result is The Ill-Tempered Rubyist, pictured below. I can safely say that this is the most physically beautiful book I’ve ever been a part of.

The Ill-Tempered Rubyist
– photo by Karen Randall

The cover collage was created in PhotoShop, then transferred to polymer, and printed by letterpress. The text is printed on Reich inkjet paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer. The volume is bound using the Japanese side-slab method. The finished book is housed in a clamshell case covered in red cloth.

– photo by J. R. Carpenter

When Karen first wrote to me I happened to be ensconced on a water-lily farm in the south of France. I had gardens on my mind. The only bit of RUBY code on hand I had on hand was written by Cornwall-based performance writer and programmer Caden Lovelace. Struck by the repeated mention of gardens in Caden’s extensive code comments, I began carving out the following erasure poem. Note that in real life, as in code life, this poem has a fairly strict system of indentation. In blog life, however, these indentations seem determined to disappear.


# erasure by J. R. Carpenter
# source by Caden Lovelace

$dir = File.dirname(__GARDEN__)

def read_texts()
return Dir[$dir+”/texts/*.txt”].map do |garden|

#### we want to split
#### our text into units
#### punctuation marks allow us
#### to treat them as words
#### consider the ellipsis
#### for example
#### spaces
#### on either side of certain

def tokenize_texts(texts)
return texts.map do |text|
text.gsub!(/(\w)([,.:;\/?!]|\.\.\.+)(\W)/i, ‘\1 \2 \3’)
text.split(‘ ‘)

#### words often come
#### after other words
#### we walk through our garden
#### counting pairs

def generate_frequency_table(tokenized_texts, n)
frequency_table = {}
tokenized_texts.each do |text|
text.each_with_index do |word, i|
if i+2 < text.length # is there a word after this one? end end #### we write by deciding #### which path to take #### #### say we have three words #### say we know their probability #### #### [‘walk' => 3, ‘garden’ => 2, ‘words => 4]
#### we sum these numbers
#### we pick a lesser number at random
#### is the probability of ‘walk’
#### greater than random?

last_word = last_words.join(‘ ‘)
if freq.has_key?(last_word)
# have we any paths to take?

#### here we separate
#### the punctuation
#### make it a word
#### put it back

def fix_punctuation(text)
return text.gsub(/ ([,.:;\/?!]|\.\.\.+) /, ‘\1 ‘).gsub(/ ” /, ‘” ‘)

#### here we use all
#### we’ve written there

frequency_table = generate_frequency_table(tokenize_texts(read_texts()), 2)

# here ‘2’ means word-pairs

#### here we set our seeds

seeds = [“I know”, “I was”, “I have”, “but I”, “if we”, “of his”, “that she”, “allow us”, “the text”, “the other”, “the same”, “what is”, “on the”, “of the”, “in the”, “through the”, “we have”, “we know”, “the probability”, “the frequency”, “a word”,­­­­­­ “here we”, “we sum”, “we set”, “our seeds”, “we want”, “we walk”, “we separate”, “we run”, “we read”, “we write”, “our garden”].map {|seed| seed.split(‘ ‘) }

seeds.each do |seed|
10.times do


In addition to being stunningly beautiful, The Ill-Tempered Rubyist contains contributions and collaborations from an impressive list of well-known code poets, performers, and authors of digital literature from around the world:




TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing

A print extract and brief description of my computer-generated narrative dialogue TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] has been published in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, a new anthology from &NOW Books.


The book has two front covers (though one looks more front-like than the other). It can be read from either direction. The introductions to both sides state: “There are two ‘sides’ to the book. These ‘sides’ mirror each other, except when they do not.”

The page numbers don’t quite bear this out, but somehow I suspect I have Nick Montfort to thank for my inclusion in this anthology. Roughly the other side of the book from TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is Nick’s contribution to the volume – a page each of output from the Latin and Cyrillic versions of “Letterformed Terrain,” from Concrete Perl, a set of four concrete poems realized as 32-character Perl programs. The source code of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is adapted from another of Nick’s pieces, The Two, so whether intentional on the part of the editors or not, these two pieces are engaged in a conversion of sorts.

In any case, I’m delighted to see print anthologies endeavoring to represent experimental digital literature, and I’m honoured to be included in this book, in such great company.

Here’s what the publishers have to say:

This second volume of The &Now Awards recognizes the most provocative, hardest-hitting, deadly serious, patently absurd, cutting-edge, avant-everything-and-nothing work from the years 2009–11. The &NOW Awards features writing as a contemporary art form: writing as it is practiced today by authors who consciously treat their work as an art, and as a practice explicitly aware of its own literary and extra-literary history— as much about its form and materials, language, as it about its subject matter. The &NOW conference, moving from the University of Notre Dame (2004), Lake Forest College (2006), Chapman University (2008), the University at Buffalo (2009), the University of California, San Diego (2011), and Paris (Sorbonne and Diderot, 2012)—sets the stage for this aesthetic, while The &Now Awards features work from the wider world of innovative publishing and serves as an ideal survey of the contemporary scene.

&NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing is edited by Davis Schneiderman. It will be available for purchase from Northwestern University Press and from Amazon as of 25 May 2013.

More information about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Along the Briny Beach included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature

My web-based computer-generated narrative / poem / performance machine, Along the Briny Beach, is included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature, edited by Maria Engberg, Talan Memmott, and David Prater. The anthology officially launched with the distribution of USB drives at the ELMICP conference Remediating the Social, which took place in Edinburgh, 1-3 November 2012, and is now available online: http://anthology.elmcip.net

ELMCIP Anthology USB

Of Along the Briny Beach, the ELMCIP Anthology editors have this to say:

Using scripts both generative and performative, the work is a continuous rewriting of itself. Though much of the text is appropriated from other sources –Conrad, Carroll, and Charles Darwin – we can still call Carpenter the author of the work due to the intentional selection of appropriated texts and their rearrangement, or reconfiguration as Along the Briny Beach. From the consistency in selected works – all have to do with the sea – to the sea foam green color palette; Carpenter presents text as integration between writing, function, and design.

The ELMCIP Anthology contains works by 18 authors, as well as a selection of videos, essays, syllabi, and other teaching materials pertaining to Electronic Literature. For more information about ELMCIP, visit: http://elmcip.net/


If I were in Montreal tomorrow evening, Wednesday, November 11, from 5 pm to midnight, I would be at Librairie Le Port de Tête (262 Mont-Royal E) for the long awaited launch of Le Livre de Chevet. In English, this book might go by the name The Bedtime Book of Falling Asleep. In it are gathered powerfully hypnotic, narcotic and somnambulic texts from 24 writers. I have contributed a text called Les huits quartiers de sommeil. Those of you already familiar with La Table de Matières productions (design by Feed) will have an inkling of how gorgeous this book is. www.latabledesmatieres.com

Le mercredi 11 novembre prochain, de 17h00 à minuit, LE LIVRE DE CHEVET, troisième et ultime ouvrage de la collection La table des matières, apparaîtra de ce côté ci du sommeil, au Port de tête, librairie sise au 262, Avenue du Mont-Royal Est. Il est publié à l’enseigne du Quartanier.

Vous êtes conviés à son lancement, qui est aussi celui de deux ouvrages amis, et anglais, EXPEDITIONS OF A CHIMAERA, livre bicéphale de Oana Avisilichioaei et Erin Moure, et THE ROSE CONCORDANCE, d’Angela Carr, tous deux publiés par l’éditeur torontois BookThug. Si LE LIVRE DE CHEVET était anglais, il s’intitulerait THE BEDTIME BOOK OF FALLING ASLEEP, mais non.

Quelques précisions et encouragements: il y a deux années et demi que je travaille à la réalisation, avec mes complices du studio FEED, du LIVRE DE CHEVET. L’ouvrage, qui fait suite à CITÉ SELON, sur la ville (il faut bien habiter quelque part) et LA TABLE DES MATIÈRES, sur la nourriture (il est mieux de manger quelque chose) est encore une fois consacré à un sujet véritablement universel, accessible à tous, grand public et tout : dormir. Les deux ouvrages précédents se sont mérités quelques trophées de design, ce qui aide ou n’aide pas les ventes, on ne le sait pas vraiment.

Lorsqu’elle se penche sur des sujets d’intérêt public comme le sommeil, la littérature, contrairement à ce que l’élite populiste voudrait nous faire croire, apparaît comme l’affaire de tout le monde. Vous entendez le langage passer en vous? Maintenant, voyez comme il peut avoir fière allure, lorsque vous vous y attardez un peu plus. D’ailleurs, le conseil d’administration de La table des matières croit fermement que tout le monde, et surtout les insomniaques, peut trouver son compte dans LE LIVRE DE CHEVET: le livre, dont le papier est doux comme la lumière d’une veilleuse, plaira même à ceux qui préfèrent ne pas lire.

LE LIVRE DE CHEVET, comme une princesse de conte, a sommeillé longtemps, s’additionnant peu à peu la substance rêvée de 24 textes, librement associés à 12 collages (Annie Descôteaux) et 12 dessins (Pol Turgeon), 2 paysages improbables (Annie D et Pol T), 2 schémas, 4 photos (Daniel Canty) et 24 calligraphies (Léon Lo), le tout distribué sur 240 pages dont la substance emprunte à celles du jour et de la nuit. Vous verrez. Les littérateurs vous l’avaient dit: la nuit est parfois d’encre. Et on verra, grâce au LIVRE DE CHEVET, qu’elle sait tomber partout, même entre les pages d’un livre. Les fantasmes d’un pornocrate sans emploi, dans un cahier à la tranche scellée, étanche à la curiosité infantile (sauf si l’enfant est habile et sait manier le couteau), complètent le tout.

LE LIVRE DE CHEVET ressemble à un livre pour enfant qui aurait grandi, mais qui se souvient, oh se souvient, des nuits passées à rêver la vie à venir, à la lumière d’une lampe de poche.

La lumière est comme de l’encre.
Tout ce que je dis est vrai.
Vous êtes des dormeurs.
Soyez des nôtres.



De 17h à minuit, le mercredi 11 novembre,
au Port de Tête, 262, Mont-Royal est
Lectures entre 19h et 20h
Concert de fin de soirée: 44 Ensemble

Visitez www.latabledesmatieres.com

. . . . .

Book Launch Tonight: Leonard Cohen You’re Our Man

I have a poem in this fine book. If I were in Montreal I’d be reading at the launch tonight. If you happen to be in Montreal, check it out.

7:30 PM
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009
Westmount High School Auditorium
4350 Ste. Catherine St. West
Westmount/Montreal, Quebec
Tickets are $5 and available at the door.
Doors open at 7 P.M.

Poets reading tonight include:

Ann Weinstein, Jason Camlot, Ann Lloyd, David Solway, Donna Yates-Adelman, Michael Mirolla, Jeffrey Mackie, Angela Leuck, John Fretz, Grace Moore, Meredith Darling, Rona Feldman Shefler(a classmate of Cohen’s,) Sue Borgersen(arriving today from Nova Scotia,) erika n. white, Sandra Sjollema, Ryan Ruddick(Westmount High teacher,) Brian Campbell, and Eleni Zisimatos, Ehab Lotayef, Lesley Pasquin, and standing in for Margaret Atwood will be Westmount High Student, Elisha Hill, reading Atwood’s poem, “Setting Leonard to Music.”

Proceeds from this event will support the Foundation for Public Poetry’s “Leonard Cohen Poet-In-Residence” program at Westmount High(Cohen’s old high school.) This initiative is a collaboration between Westmount High School, the Foundation for Public Poetry, and the Westmount High Alumni Association.

Books are $25 and will be available for sale and signing.

More info: http://publicpoetry.wordpress.com/
. . . . .

Air Holes

In 2006 my short story “Air Holes” was one of the three winners of the CBC/QWF Quebec Short Story Competition. The competition called for short stories under 1200 words, my favourite category. “Air Holes” weighs in at a wee 930 words or so. The story was broadcast on Cinq à Six CBC RadioOne July 2006.

In 2007 the competition changed its name and rules and regulations. Now now short fiction, travel writing and memoir all fall into one category, which seems like a cruel and unusual thing to do to short fiction. Oh well. Every three years Véhicule Press still publishes an anthology of winners and honourable mentions. “Air Holes” appears in the most recent of these anthologies, In Other Words: New English Writing from Québec, launched last weekend at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal. Here is the opening paragraph:

“The tide will go out at two today. The kids and I will go down to the beach. Between the tidemarks, beneath our feet, tight-lipped steamer clams will burrow sandy deep. But we’ll find them. Their air holes will give them away.”
J. R. Carpenter, “Air Holes”

. . . . .

The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1

THE CAPE – a recent web art fiction – has been included in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1, edited by N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, and Stephanie Strickland, now available in CD-ROM format and online: http://collection.eliterature.org/

The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 features 60 digital literary works by: Jim Andrews, Ingrid Ankerson, babel, Giselle Beiguelman, Philippe Bootz, Patrick-Henri Burgaud, J.R. Carpenter, John Cayley, M.D. Coverley (Marjorie Luesebrink), Martha Deed, David Durand, escha, Damien Everett, Sharif Ezzat, Edward Falco, Mary Flanagan, Marcel Fr’emiot, Elaine Froehlich, geniwate, Loss Peque~no Glazier, Kenneth Goldmith, Tim Guthrie, Richard Holeton, Daniel C. Howe, Jon Ingold, Shelley Jackson, Michael Joyce, Aya Karpinska, Robert Kendall, Deena Larsen, Kerry Lawrynovicz, Donna Leishman, Bill Marsh, Talan Memmott, Maria Mencia, Judd Morrissey, Brion Moss, Stuart Moulthrop, Jason Nelson, Marko Niemi, Millie Niss, Lance Olsen, Jason Pimble, William Poundstone, Kate Pullinger, Melinda Rackham, Aaron A. Reed, Shawn Rider, Jim Rosenberg, Megan Sapnar, Dan Shiovitz, Emily Short, Alan Sondheim, Brian Kim Stefans, Reiner Strasser, Dan Waber, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Rob Wittig, Nanette Wylde.

The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 is an initiative of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), a non-profit organization established in 1999 to promote and facilitate the writing, publishing, and reading of electronic literature, headquartered at The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland, College Park: http://eliterature.org
AUTOSTART – A Festival of Digital Literature – will celebrate the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 in a series of workshops, discussions, readings and jams at the Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA on October 26 & 27, 2006: http://writing.upenn.edu/wh/autostart.html

WARNING: Cape Cod is a real place, but the events and characters of THE CAPE are total fiction. The photographs have been retouched. The diagrams are not to scale. Don’t believe everything you read: http://Luckysoap.com/thecape
. . . . .

Lust for Life Launch Tonight

I’ll be reading “The Prettiest Teeth” tonight at the Montreal launch of Lust for Life: Tales of Sex and Love at the Sergent Recruteur (4801 St-Laurent, corner Villeneuve).

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m., and will feature readings by contributers: Matthew Anderson, J.R. Carpenter, Tess Fragoulis, Harold Hoefle, Nairne Holtz, Neil Kroetsch, Mark Paterson, Neil Smith, and Barry Webster.

See you there!
. . . . .

The Prettiest Teeth

One of my short stories called “The Prettiest Teeth” has been published in the anthology Lust for Life, edited by Claude Lalumière and Elise Moser and published by Véhicule Press, January 2006.

“The Prettiest Teeth” is not about boys or girls or love or lust or sex or sexuality. It’s really all about the teeth. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Beth Wharton sits across the aisle from me. She has the prettiest teeth in the sixth grade. My teeth are a mess. One eyetooth is misshapen and the other one never came in; one front tooth pokes through my lips if I smile, so I try not to. I try to keep my mouth shut altogether, but it’s a losing battle. I can’t stop myself. I crack lame joke after lame joke on the off chance that Beth Wharton will crack a smile.”

For the whole story, drop by the Toronto and/or Montreal launch events or visit: http://luckysoap.com/publications.html
Lust for Life - The Prettiest Teeth
The Toronto launch will take place on Saturday, February 11th in the upstairs pool room at Rivoli (334 Queen Street West) at 7:00 and will feature readings by: Nalo Hopkinson, Barry Webster, J.R. Carpenter and Harold Hoefle.

The Montreal launch will take place on Monday, February 13th at Sergeant Recruteur (4801 St-Laurent) at 8:00 and will feature readings by: Matthew Anderson, J.R. Carpenter, Tess Fragoulis, Harold Hoefle, Nairne Holtz, Neil Kroetsch, Mark Paterson, Neil Smith and Barry Webster

Véhicule Press says: Lust for Life is a smart, witty, and fascinating anthology celebrating the diversity of the human sexual experience. These stories are daring, playful, funny, romantic, genderbending, sensual, mysterious, and sexy, and explore and celebrate love and sex in all its forms. It includes stories from Matthew Anderson, Catherine Lundoff, Neil Kroetsch, Robin Evans, Mark Paterson, Ashok Banker, Dan Rafter, Scott D. Pomfret, Neil Smith, Tess Fragoulis, Vic Winter, Harold Hoefle, Joel Hynes, Nalo Hopkinson, Nairne Holtz, Barry Webster, Ray Vukcevich, Holly Phillips, J.R. Carpenter, Maya Stein, and Ian Watson and Roberto Quaglia.

For more information about the anthology visit: Véhicule Press
. . . . .

Searching for Volcanoes

Search for my poem Searching for Volcanoes, recently published in Future Welcome: The Moosehead Anthology X, edited by Todd Swift (Montréal: DC Books, 2005).

Future Welcome comes 50 years after 1955. In his introduction to the anthology editor Todd Swift notes: “1955 saw: the opening of Disneyland; the publication of Lolita; ultra-high frequency waves produced at M.I.T.; Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment; the introduction of the first fluoride toothpaste, Crest; the International Air Pollution Congress (held in New York City); the debut of Scrabble; B-52s put into service; Ray Kroc’s acquisition of McDonald’s; Elvis’s TV debut; Salk’s polio vaccine; a time bomb on United DC-6 flight; Glenn Gould’s “Goldberg Variations”; Eisenhower’s upholding of the right to use nuclear weapons in defence; US Congress ordering all American coins to read “In God We Trust”; the deaths of James Dean, Wallace Stevens and Albert Einstein; and the birth of Bill Gates.”

Where are we now? Certainly not where we thought we’d be. Swift writes: “I wanted poems and prose both of our moment, and yet imbued with the same sense of retro-kitsch that popularly defines the 50s–works about the future, robots, space travel, technology, and sci-fi terror.”

Searching for Volcanoes tells the not-quite-sci-fi-terror tale of trying to do Internet research on a dial-up connection. It’s hard to believe that the Internet didn’t exist in 1955 and yet, in 2005, a 56k connection is utterly antiquated. Volcanoes are a good analogy. As my brilliant friend Norman T. White pointed out to me: “Funny thing about erupting lava – it’s brand new, but it’s also ancient.”

Here’s an excerpt from searching for Volcanoes:

takes forever to fill
collapsed craters
with blue-screen-blue
caldera lakes.

Line by line
the sky downloads:
progressive jpeg descends
a strafe of cloud dithers,
geological time passes –
falls toward mountain…

Future Welcome includes new writing from David Wevill, Sina Queyras, Raymond Hsu, Robert Minhinnick, Annie Freud, bill bissett, Patrick Chapman, Meredith Quartermain, Jason Camlot, Liane Strauss, Todd Colby, Jennifer K. Dick, John Hartley Williams, Louise Bak, Hal Sirowitz, Adeena Karasick, Mike Marqusee, Kavita Joshi, Stan Rogal, Tammy Armstrong, Richard Peabody, Jenna Butler, Ali Riley, Jon Paul Fiorentino, David Prater, J. R. Carpenter, David McGimpsey–plus many more.

For more information on or to order Future Welcome vist DC Books

For more information on editior Todd Swift visit his web sites: http://www.toddswift.com/ and http://toddswift.blogspot.com/
. . . . .