This is a Picture of Wind

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of a new, web-based work called This is a Picture of Wind. This work expands upon a series of short texts written in response to the winter storms which battered South West England in early 2014, resulting in catastrophic flooding in Somerset and the destruction of the seawall and rail line at Dawlish in Devon. Following the news in the months after these storms, I was struck by the paradox presented by attempts to evoke through the materiality of language a force such as wind which we can only see indirectly through its affect. I began to explore weather in all its written forms.

Part poetic almanac, part private weather diary, and part live wind report for the South West of England, this work attempts to call attention to climate change by picturing through variations in language the disturbances and sudden absences left in the wake of wind.

This is a Picture of Wind || J. R. Carpenter
This is a Picture of Wind || J. R. Carpenter
This work is designed to be read on phones. It calls on live wind data. A new text will be added for each month of 2018. A text about this work written by Johanna Drucker will be published in March 2018.

This is a Picture of Wind was commissioned by IOTA: DATA, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Initial research for this project was made possible by a Dot Award for Digital Literature, from if:book and the New Media Writing Prize.

Many thanks to Mireille Bourgeois, Chris Meade, Kay Lovelace, Johanna Drucker, Michael Saunby, Peter Dickinson, and Jerome Fletcher for walking into the wind with me.


I’m going back to school this week, for the first time in a very long time. I’m excited. What took me so long? I graduated with a BFA in Studio Art from Concordia University in Montreal in 1995, the year Netscape came out. Remember Netscape? No? Well it was a really big deal at the time. It changed my life, anyway. I have been using the internet as a medium for the creation and dissemination of non-linear inter-textual hyper-media narratives ever since.

I never got around to doing a masters degree, mostly because I could never figure out what on earth to do one in. It seemed silly to go get another degree in the same subject I just got a degree in. But the more work I did in areas I had never studied the less qualified I seemed to be to pursue those subjects academically. Yes, Creative Writing MA, I’m talking to you. Categories confuse me, as do departments and disciplines. Some of my best friends are academics. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just never met the write, I mean right M(F)A for me. Besides, I’ve been busy. The past fifteen years have been full of thinking and making and teaching and showing and writing and trying all kinds of things in all kinds of forms and forums, by writing into them, learning from them and watching them shift and change.

Things have changed muchly lately. For one thing, the non-linear inter-textual hyper-media narrative thing I’ve been slogging away at for so long is now an actual real thing. The electronic literature community has been incredibly good to me. And much of the electronic literature community’s activity is academically based. Increasingly, the opportunities, communities and collaborations I engage in are aided and abetted by academic institutions in some way. I’m cool with that. I like research. I like conferences. I especially like going to conferences and meeting fascinating people who have research labs in fascinating places which then sometimes invite me to and if I can go I get to meet even more neat new people and all the while I’m hearing about new work and talking about my work and selling everybody zines. No really, sometimes it really happens that way.

In May 2009 I went to an E-Poetry conference in Barcelona and met someone from the Performance Writing area at Dartington College of Art in the UK. Within a few months I was teaching an electronic literature workshop in the Performance Writing area at Dartington and thinking: Wow, electronic literature basically IS Performance Writing. And damn, if I had heard of the MA in Performance Writing at Dartington I would have done it years ago. But I am really glad I didn’t. Because now Dartington College of Art has merged with University College Falmouth in Cornwall, and I have been awarded a studentship to do a three-year practice-led PhD research degree at University College Falmouth in partnership with University of the Arts London. I will live in South West England, where it hardly ever snows, travel here and there, use the heck out of the nation’s libraries, meet lots of new people, try and sell them all zines and keep on doing the thinking, making, teaching, showing, writing and trying all kinds of things that I’ve been doing all along, only with funding, structure and support.

Now seems a fine time to go back to school.

Story Generation(s) Launching at PW10, Arnolfini, Bristol

Sotry Generation(s) - J. R. CarpenterI am pleased to announce the launch of Story Generation(s) at PW10 Performance Writing Weekend at Arnolfini, Bristol, May 8-9, 2010. Story Generation(s) are a series of short fictions generated by Python scripts adapted (with permission) from two 1k story generators written by Nick Montfort: .

I began tinkering with these story generators in June 2009. There are currently three stories in the series: Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, I’ve Died and Gone to Devon and Auto-Autobiography. This will be their first public exhibition.

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR documents my adventures with Ingrid Bachmann’s hermit crab Pookie, also known as Pookie 14, during June of 2009. Of Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, Nick Montfort writes:

“J. R. Carpenter, author of Words the Dog Knows, Entre Ville, The Cape, and other fine works of e-lit, print, and xerography, has delightfully re-purposed one of my 1k story generators to have it tell stories involving her and a hermit crab named Pookie. The program has grown to about 2k, but it uses the same simple (and surprisingly effective) method as my first generator does: It simply removes all but 5-9 sentences from a sequence, eliding some of what’s been written. Sometimes the reader is left to wonder who the hermit is.” Nick Montfort,

In July 2009, NYC-based artist/programmer Ravi Rajakumar ported the Python script into Javascript to create this web browser friendly version of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Here’s a screenshot from the Rajakumar iteration:

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR


I’ve Died and Gone to Devon re-purposes the same Python script as Excerpts from theChronicles of Pookie & JR to tell (and retell) the story of an arrival and first impression of Devon. Most of the sentences in this story were adapted from Twitter posts written during a five-week visit to Devon, August – September, 2009.
Here is one example of a story generated byI’ve Died and Gone to Devon:

I’ve died and gone to Devon.

In North America, roads this narrow wouldn’t even count as driveways.

If this is the wrong side of the road, I don’t care what’s right.

If this is the driveway, then I can’t wait to see the house.

We can’t hear the river from the house, but we can see it.

Everybody insists we’re by the seaside. I can smell but not see the sea.

Flotsam on a tidal river is a strange mixture of oak leaves and seaweed.

This is an achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.


Auto-Autobiography adapts a different Python story generator script by Montfort to generate a quasi-autobiographical story by segments. This script chooses sentences from pools of stock autobiographical statements: “I was born…” I come from…” “In retrospect…” This format was suggested to me by a passage from Anne-Marie MacDonald’s novel, As The Crow Flies:

“If you move around all your life, you can’t find where you come from on a map. All those places where you lived are just that: places. You don’t come from any of them; you come from a series of events. And those are mapped in memory. Contingent, precarious events, without the counterpane of place to muffle the knowledge of how unlikely we are. Almost not born at every turn. Without a place, events slow-tumbling through time become your roots. Stories shading into one another. You come from a plane crash. From a war that brought your parents together.”
Anne-Marie MacDonald, As The Crow Flies, Toronto: Knopf, 2003, page 36.

The notion of autobiographical veracity is undermined in Auto-Autobiography, by leaving key gender signifiers such as Mother/Father to computational chance.
Here is one example of a story generated by Auto-Autobiography:

Here is my story:

I was born in wedlock – for some reason, this surprises me.

I come from a war that brought my parents together.

My mother had a long memory and a short fuse.

I live in a wonderful house.

I work hard at not having to work too hard.

I wish I’d said that differently.

My best friend kept insisting I learn to play guitar.

In retrospect, she read way too many Russian novels.

I love it when we lie in bed plotting the downfall of our enemies.

Next year, let’s forget every single thing we learned this year.

In future, we will know many beginnings and no ends.


Viewing Instructions:

Download the python file to your desktop and unzip. On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a Terminal Window, typing “cd Desktop”, and typing “python”. Hint: look for Terminal in your Utilities folder. These Python story generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: version 2.6.5. Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press ENTER a new version of the story will appear.

PW10 Performance Writing Weekend at the Arnolfini

I will be presenting digital work in PW10 Performance Writing Weekend at ARNOLFINI in Bristol, UK, May 8-9, 2010. PW10 is part of Lingua Franca, a series of exhibitions and events looking at intermediary language, linguistic translation and the subjectivity of language presented by Arnolfini during 2010.

As part of the Lingua Franca season, ARNOLFINI has collaborated with the Performance Writing and English with Creative Writing fields at University College Falmouth to create PW10: a weekend of performances, talks, readings, digital and audio / visual work exploring interdisciplinary approaches to language, textuality and environments for writing. PW10 artists and writers include Ric Allsopp, Emma Bennett, J.R. Carpenter, Nisha Duggal, Drew Milne, David Prior, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Tony Lopez, Marianne Morris, Nancy Reilly-McVittie, Redell Olsen and Aaron Williamson.

A two-day workshop exploring the theme of writing and water, accompanying the PW10 Performance Writing weekend. Led by University College Falmouth lecturers Jerome Fletcher and Simon Persighetti, this practical writing project will use the floating harbour adjacent to Arnolfini as a site to explore the relationship between writing and water.

PW10 will run May 7-9, 2010. These dates coincide with the opening of a major re-site of a text/audio installation by Caroline Bergvall and Ciarán Maher, “Say Parsley,” running for 8 weeks in the ARNOLFINI Gallery, Sat 8 May – Sun 4 July, 2010.

“Say Parsley” is a sparse sound and language installation by London-based French-Norwegian writer Caroline Bergvall and Irish composer Ciarán Maher. Organized across a number of spaces, the installation becomes a place for mishearings, recognition, assumptions, misattribution. You hear what you want to hear. You hear what you think you hear. The background to Say Parsley is the biblical ‘shibboleth’, a violent event where language itself is gatekeeper, and a pretext to massacre. The pronunciation of a given word exposes the identity of the speaker. To speak becomes a give-away. Are you one of us, not one of us? How you speak will be used against you. The most recent example of a large scale shibboleth was the massacre of tens of thousands of Creole Haitians on the border of the Dominican Republic in 1937, when the criteria for execution was the failure to pronounce ‘perejil’ (parsley) in the accepted Spanish manner, with a rolling ‘r’.

PW10 May 8-9, 2010
16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA

Wild Party – Skype Tea with World Tea Party at Centre A

Part slumber party, part jungle party, WILD PARTY goes on 24/7 in a bedroom in an 18th c country house in South Devon, England. The kettle is always on in this wilderness of laptops, iPods, data projectors, bad puns, random theories, tea trivia, tea lights, throw pillows, paper cut-outs and painted plywood trees. Drop in on a fiction writer in stripy dressing gown, a teenager in a wolf suit, a butler in track pants, a stuffed cow in a plush coat and a panda in a bikini for a cup of Wild Berry Tea.

J. R. Carpenter, Aphra Kennedy Fletcher, Jerome Fletcher, Mooey and Panda, with guest appearances from Couch Potato (who is basically a potato) and The Zebra Socks, will broadcast one hour of their ongoing WILD PARTY live via Skype from Sharpham House, South Devon, England, to Centre A, 2 West Hastings St., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, February 13, 1400 PST / 2200 GMT

Celebrations of global Tea Culture
Presented by Centre A
February 12-28 & March 12-21, 2010
Gallery Hours: 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Free admission before 6:00pm
Opening Reception: Friday, February 12, 7:00 pm

Centre A is pleased to present World Tea Party, animated by lead-artist Brian Mulvihill (aka Trolley Bus), one of the world’s leading tea masters and calligraphers based in Vancouver. Mulvihill is producing a special Olympiad edition of The World Tea Party.

Previous versions have been presented for large publics at the Winnipeg Pan Am Games, the Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Canada, the Hollywood Bowl, the Eiffel Tower and other venues. The project is based on the notion that humanity shares in the drinking of tea a spirit of generosity and understanding that both celebrates and transcends our cultural diversity. Tea is the most common beverage in the world community.

The World Tea Party is a “social sculpture” that involves the creative empowerment of the audience and the general public. Its interactive aspect makes the World Tea Party an effective vehicle for a debate about the relationship between the Olympics and the Downtown Eastside.

Free Tea and Large Scale Video Projections
During gallery hours, tea is offered for free, both inside the gallery and at times on the street, while video projections are shown on the building’s exterior windows daily from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

Two 5,000 lumen video projectors will be used to project images 40 feet wide across the front windows of the gallery. Content will include works by commissioned artists, live images of performances, pre-recorded tea images, documentation of the World Tea Party in different contexts

Special Events
The World Tea Party features a number of special events, including Skwxumesh First Nations artist Cease Wyss, who will host a First Nations welcome event on Sunday, February 14, featuring indigenous herbal teas. On Saturday, February 20, Jun Oenoki, who is Associate Professor, Communication Studies, Tokyo Keizai University and artist-in-residence at Centre A, will produce a teleconference with partners in Yokohama which will be streamed live to the Internet and edited for outdoor display. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is presented by the Urasenke society of Vancouver. The relaxed atmosphere of the World Tea Party invites conversation and informal performances. New additions to the line-up will be posted to the website.

Local Network – “Bright Light” partnership of 10 DTES arts groups
World Tea Party is key station in the City of Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program: Bright Light, an initiative that provides pedestrian friendly light-based public art works, projections and performances along Carrall Street, Hastings Street and in the neighbouring area. The project brings together a consortium of 14 creative partners, including Access, Helen Pitt, Downtown East Cultural Centre, Artspeak, LIVE, UBC Architecture and others. Centre A acts as a hub and meeting place for Bright Light.

Come have a cup of tea!

Please see these websites for complete event schedule:
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Guest Lecturer at de Montfort University, Leicester, UK

The week of January 25, 2010, I’ll be a Guest Lecturer in Kate Pullinger’s Fiction Module in the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at de Montfort University, in Leicester, England. I’ll deliver the lecture from South Devon, England. Students will tune in from Oman, Vienna, Oxfordshire, Lublijana and the USA. I mention these diverse locations because they fit in so nicely with the theme of the lecture, which is: the conjoined notions of memory and place in The Cape. Not Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. That’s a real place. The events and characters in The Cape are fictional. I built the web iteration of The Cape over the course of 10 days in August 2005, but some of the sentences in The Cape have been kicking around in my brain since the early 1990s. The Cape: The Backstory charts their migration through visual art, installation, theory, print, digital and zine forms.

[print-out used to create the web iteration of The Cape]

In November, 2008, I delivered a guest lecture to the online MA Creative Writing and New Media at de Montfort on Mapping Web Words. That and many other online lectures delivered as part of the MA from 2006-2010 are now online in The Creative Writing and New Media Archive. In these lectures, delivered online by leading practitioners across the world, via video, Skype, chatrooms, slideshows, websites and plain old-fashioned discussion boards, the speakers outline the realities of working in new media; detail the rigorous creative and theoretical challenges, and celebrate the sheer pleasure of breaking new artistic ground in this dynamic medium. Their legacy and influence still continues in the work of CWNM students as they graduate and begin their careers.

The Archive represents an important snapshot in the history of new media writing and will be of use to researchers, teachers, writers and readers. For more information, please visit:
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Darting Stories Remix

As E-Writer-in-Residence at Dartington College, in Devon, England, this fall, I led a workshop on electronic literature with a concentration on literary mapping with first year Performance Writing Students. Over the course of the workshop students generated short texts for zines, postcards, epitaphs, blog posts and web maps. Though written separately, these texts explored common themes of place, mapping, the River Dart, Dartington and the past occupants (fictional or otherwise) of Dartington Hall. The workshop exercises and the texts they produced are archived on a group blog: Darting Blog. These texts are presented collectively as a final project on a Google Map: DARTING: A Collective Story Map

The last session of the workshop focused on remixing. I created a Darting Stories Remix by taking sentences from the various (and varied) texts archived on the Darting Blog and fed them into one of Nick Montfort’s Python story generators. I had used this same method earlier in the year to create Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR.

For the purposes of this Darting Stories Remix, I shortened some of the sentences or selected excerpts from longer sentences to fit into the Python story generator format, and changed them all into the present tense and first person. Otherwise, these remain sentences written separately by separate authors remixed by a Python script to make collectively authored stories.

To read the Darting Stories Remix, download this file to your desktop and unzip: On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a Terminal Window, typing “cd Desktop”, and typing “python”. Hint: look for Terminal in your Utilities folder. This Python story generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: version 2.6. Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press Return a new version of the story will appear. For example:

Here are a few more examples of stories generated by this script:

Darting Stories:
How do I write an epitaph about myself in the first person?.
Through the depths of the water I reflect far and wide.
Hadrian’s Wall might have mostly come down, but it’s there in spirit.
Mad, that’s what they call me.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Striving to connect with something natural.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
At the start, I look for the lights.
What do names matter when worlds whirl together?.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I pass out in the dirt-floored cellar most nights.
Sunlight barely reaches the stone floor.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
The sea is a place I understand is rather nice.
Introvert, extravert, ingreen.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I stride up hill holding hands with a friend named for the greatest flower.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I scare their dogs by trying to speak with them in their own language.
Graceless truths of tears clutch at the mirage in my room.
The ponies look more listless and less majestic.
It gets so muddy here; no wonder all the cows around here are brown.
The wind gives the landscape something of a facial peel.
Splash water into mud, trip me.
Smouldering timber and melancholy permeate my lungs. I stick to the path.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
On this hill the world as we know it collided.
Intoxicating tongues speak of Giants, Merlins, Padfoots and Beasts.
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s accounts are unfounded, possibly fabricated.
The clay on the wheel beneath my fingers, whirling a world on its axis.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Fear and bliss live with me and the room contains me.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
Black looms in the distance, the air thick with distaste.
The Waters of the Dart run across stones fallen from foreign clouds.
Map the most important places around the River Dart.
Exmoor, outmore, out the door, more doors.
More floor, less flaws, less cause, pour, pore, sweat, regret.
Skip over Kandinsky pavement, follow the water.
Flotsam on a tidal river is a strange mixture of oak leaves and seaweed.
To be continued…
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DARTING: A Collective Story Map

Over a period of five weeks a collective of writers of the River Dart worked collaboratively on a web-based writing project about the River Dart and the history – fictional or otherwise – of Dartington Hall. A series of short texts were written separately, for zines, postcards and blog posts. These texts were then collected, found texts and images were added, and all were collated onto this Google Map:,-3.841095&spn=0.538733,1.454315&z=10

For more information on how the writers of the River Dart came to collectively create DARTING: A Collective Story Map, visit their blog:
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To See The Sea

On a clear day, and there aren’t very many of those, from a spot at the top of the drive you can see south to the sea. This is confusing, because the sea appears to float above a wave of hills. A thin strip bluer than the sky.

Lower down the drive, a view of the River Dart opens north to Totnes. I would say this driveway boasts the best views in England, but so far it’s the only driveway in England I’m familiar with.

[The Dart from the Sharpham Drive, North to Totnes]

Sometimes I lie awake and think about the river carving its path through the night, north to Totnes, south to Dartmouth. North to the Dartmoor, south to the sea.

Amanda said, For some reason I imagine if you’re thinking about it you can hear it and the thought of the sound of a river makes me happy today.

Linda said, I went for a walk by the ocean yesterday, the sound and smell makes me happy, too.

I can’t hear the river from the house, but I can see it from the bedroom. Last week there were gale force winds and rain for two days. When the storm stopped in the night the silence was so sudden it woke me. I lay awake and thought about the rain-swollen river opening its muddy mouth to the sea.

On Sunday I said, I’m going to the seaside to see the sea.

Sonia said, Please do sell some sea shells.

I confessed to Sonia that I was sorely tempted to wheel a wheelbarrow through streets wide and narrow singing cockles and mussels alive alive oh. But, this being Devon, there were no streets wide, only narrow.

Nora said, How bout a beautiful pea-green boat?

There are Owls roosting all up and down the River Dart. But no Pussycats.

And I am a Carpenter, after all. As such, I assured Nora, when the Walrus said, “The time has come to talk of many things,” I immediately brought up the subject of the beautiful pea-green boat, but he kept going on about shoes and ships and sealing-wax, cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

[The sea at Blackpool Sands, South to Slapton Ley]

This photo of Blackpool Sands came out kind of dark. Possibly because the beach has black in its name. And, although the sun was shining on the sea, shining with all his might, this was odd, because it was the middle of the night.

The Walrus and I were wearing wellingtons and walking close at hand; we wept like anything to see such quantities of sand.

Nora wondered, as did the Walrus, ..if seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year, do you suppose that they could get it clear?

Wait, I said to Nora. Is one of those maids my Bonnie? My Bonnie lies over the ocean, and, if you’ve seen her, could you please bring back, bring back, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me?

The Bonnie bit may seem a bit tacked on after that Walrus and Carpenter bit, but Amanda, Linda, Sonia and Nora all lie over the ocean, and that’s what made me think of it.
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E-Writer in Residence, Dartington Campus, UCF

This fall I am the Performance Writing E-Writer in Residence at University College Falmouth’s Dartington Campus, located on the Dartington Hall Estate, a 1,200 acre mixture of arable and pastoral farmland, woodland, residential and commercial accommodation. Written records of this site do not begin until the thirteenth century, but there is evidence of considerable activity in the area during the Roman occupation and the manor of Dartington is mentioned in a Royal Charter of 833 AD. The buildings and structures situated on the estate range in age from Deer Park Wall and Earth Works at North Wood which date from the Bronze and Iron Ages, to the main Hall which was built in 1388, to those properties which were built by the Elmhirsts in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The site has been continuously occupied for well over a thousand years, but this is the last year that Performance Writing will be located here, so I feel most fortunate to be here at this time.

My duties at E-Writer in Residence mostly involve sitting in my office, working on my work. The above photo is not a view from my office, thankfully, or I’d be too busy staring out the window to get any work done. One of my favourite things about the campus is how, to get from one side of it to the other, you have to walk across part of a cow pasture with actual cow pats in it (not pictured). I do this sometimes just to go to the library to visit the copy of my novel that they have there. I’m also leading an electronic literature workshop with the Performance Writing undergraduates, with a concentration on literary mapping. And I’ll do a public reading on the Dartington Campus Thursday 3 December, 7.30pm in Studio 3 (free). This will be the last in a series of three performances dedicated to readings featuring innovative and dynamic writers. For more information on this event, visit The Arts at Dartington.
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