Walks from City Bus Routes – new work published in The New River

Walks from City Bus Routes is a web-based computer-generated guide ‘book’ which perpetually proposes plausible yet practically impossible walking routes through the city of Edinburgh and its environs using JavaScript developed by Caden Lovelace and images and text culled from a City of Edinburgh Transport Map published by the Edinburgh Geographical Institute in the 1940s and a pamphlet called Walks from City Bus Routes published by Edinburgh City Transport in the late 1950s.

Walks from City Bus Routes || J. R. Carpenter

Walks from City Bus Routes has been published in the Spring 2015 issue of The New River – a long-standing online journal of digital writing & art founded by Edward Falco with help from Len Hatfield in 1996. The New River posts new issues twice a year in December and May, and is currently hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Digital Discourse and Culture. This Spring 2015 issue is edited by Arian Katsimbras & Emily Dhatt and contains work by Alan Bigelow, J. R. Carpenter, Chris Joseph, J.P. Sipilä, Aaron Oldenburg, Jody Zellen.

Readers keen on web-based bookish-drifting-wander-walking may also be interested in Wanderkammer: A Walk Through texts, a web-based collection of hyperlinked quotations from great writing on walking. Wanderkammer first appeared Walk poems: A series of reviews of walking projects edited by Louis Bury Corey Frost published on Jacket2 in 2011.

Print iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl published in Fourteen Hills

Fourteen HillsNotes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (2013) has been published in print Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review, 20.2. The web iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl was first presented in “Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature”, curated by Dene Grigar & Kathi Inman Berens, at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Convention in Boston, MA, USA, in January 2013.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual events, locals, persons or texts are entirely intentional. This computer-generated narrative conflates and confabulates characters, facts, and forms from accounts of voyages into unknown seas undertaken over the past 2340 years. This ever-shifting text is composed of fragments of stories of fanciful, fluid, and quite possibly fictional floating places described or imagined in such diverse works as Tacitus, Agricola (97-98), Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries (1589–1600), and Eugene Field, Wynken, Blynken and Nod (1889). The title characters Owl and Girl are borrowed from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (1871). In my version, the passive Pussy-cat has been replaced with a Girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl || J. R. Carpenter

Girl and her lazy friend Owl set out, set sail, sail away toward a strange sea in a boat, craft, raft of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through is an assemblage of fluid floating places – discontinuous surfaces pitted with points of departure, escape routes, lines of flight. Five horizontally scrolling texts annotate this mythical, implausible, impossible voyage toward seas unknown, the northern lights, the fountain of youth.

Following the launch of the web-based iteration of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, I pillaged the JavaScript-generated narrative and four of the horizontally scrolling lines of text to create a script for live performance, which has since been performed during In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge at The Banff Centre, Banff, Canada, February 2013, and ELO 2013: Chercher le texte, Le Cube, Paris, France, 26 September 2013. The piece published in Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review, 20.2 is based on this script.

This print text comprises two distinct sections: narrative and notes. The opening ‘narrative’ section undermines the authority of an authorial voice by interrupting the linear narrative flow of its sentences with incoherence, indecision, vagaries, possibilities, and multiplicities by inserting some but not all of the variables contained in the JavaScript variable strings. For example, the first sentence of the ‘narrative’ section:

An owl and a girl most [adventurous’, ‘curious’, ‘studious’] [‘set out’, ‘set sail’, ‘sailed away’] in a [bottle-green’, ‘beetle-green’, ‘pea-green’] [‘boat’, ‘sieve’, ‘skiff’, ‘vessel’]; a [‘beautiful’, ‘ship shape’, ‘sea worthy’] [‘craft’, ‘raft’, ‘wooden shoe’], certainly, though a [‘good deal’, ‘wee bit’, ‘tad’] too [‘small’, ‘high in the stern’] to suit the two of them.

In the ‘notes’ section, fragments from the horizontally scrolling texts have been heterodyned, or forced together, into one long text. On the page, the different lines of Girl’s notes remain differentiated by indentation, which, alas, is not easily representable in blog formatting. You’ll just have to take my word for it. By my word, of course, I mean the girl’s.

For more information on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, take a look at Poetry Connection: Link Up with Canadian Poetry, an initiative of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah (2013) aimed at making experimental writing practices accessible to a wide audience through the distribution of YouTube video recordings of readings and PDFs containing discussion topics, writing ideas, and other pedagogical aids. Here is a video description and performance of Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (YouTube). And here are discussion topics and writing ideas based on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl (PDF).

There he was, gone.

Presenting: There he was, gone. A new computer-generated narrative dialogue published on Joyland Poetry. Many thanks to Joyland Poetry’s Europe editor angela rawlings, who solicited and encouraged this work, to Jerome Fletcher and Barbara Bridger, who provided much useful feedback during the creation process, and to all those who have lent their voices to poli-vocal performances of this work.

There he was, gone. has been performed by Barbara Bridger, David Prater, Christine Wilks and myself at Arnolfini, Bristol, UK during PW12 Performance Writing Weekend, in association with ELMCIP Seminar on Digital Textuality with/in Performance, 3-6 May 2012; and by Debra di Blasi, Jerome Fletcher, Judd Morrissey and myself at the Sorbonne, Paris, during &Now 2012: New Writing in Paris: Exchanges and Cross-Fertilizations, 6-10 June 2012.

There he was, gone.

How do we piece together a story like this one? A mystery. The title offers more questions than answers. There he was, gone. Where is there? Who is he? Where has he gone? How is this sentence even possible? There he was, not there. As if “he” is in two places and in no place, both at once. The once of “once upon a time.” This story has to do with time. This story has to do with place. That much is clear. We time to look around the story space. What do we see? A corner of a map. An abstraction of a place too detailed to place, unless the places it names are already familiar. Is this a local story then? For locals, between locals… if we do not know the answer to this question, then we are not local. We seem to have stumbled upon an ongoing conversation. Listen. A dialogue of sorts. It’s too late. An argument, even. One interlocutor instigates. Can’t you feel anything? The other obfuscates. It’s only the spring squalls over the bay. All that’s not said between these two hangs in a heavy mist, a sea fret low over a small fishing boat turned broadside to a pack of hump-backed slick black rocks. This story is fishing inshore. Close to home. Tell me then. Where was he found? A litany of place names follows. No answers. More questions. Wait. Listen. This story keeps shifting. Slow scrolling lines of poem roll in. set sail on home sick ship shape house wreck. What help is that to anyone? We arrive and we have only just finished leaving. What use is a poem? We sift through the fine print, searching for clues. GALE WARNING IN EFFECT, Funk Island Bank. Weather conditions for today’s date. Wind northwest 25 knots diminishing to west 15 this morning and to light this afternoon. Is the disappearance hinted at in the title a recent one? There he was, gone. Whoever he was, wherever he went, this story springs from his absence. J. R. Carpenter 2012

View There he was, gone.

CityFish in soundsRite, a journal of online sound and writing, University of Western Sydney, Australia

CityFish has been published in Volume 3 of soundsRite, a journal of online sound and writing founded in 2009 by Hazel Smith and Roger Dean as an initiative of MARCS Auditory Laboratories and the Writing and Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney, Australia. soundsRite publishes selected new media work which includes words or sound or both, featuring sound works created for digital embodiment, including generative, interactive and multi-channel pieces, and showcasing writing which is kinetic, generative or interactive.


CityFish is a hybrid word, title of a hybrid work, tale of a hybrid creature. Part classical parable, part children’s picture book, CityFish is a web-based intertextual hypermedia transmutation of Aesop’s Town Mouse Country Mouse fable. Winters, a Canadian girl named Lynne freezes in Celsius in the fishing village of Brooklyn, Nova Scotia (Canada), a few minutes walk from a white sandy beach. Summers, she suffers her city cousins sweltering in Fahrenheit in Queens, New York (USA). By now Lynne knows everyone knows it’s supposed to be the other way around. Lynne is a fish out of water. In the country, her knowledge of the city separates her from her school of friends. In the city, her foreignness marks her as exotic. Meanwhile, the real city fish lie in scaly heaps on long ice-packed tables in hot and narrow Chinatown streets. CityFish represents asynchronous relationships between people, places, perspectives and times through a horizontally scrolling browser window, suggestive of a panorama, a diorama, a horizon line, a skyline, a timeline, a Torah scroll. The panorama and the diorama have traditionally been used in museums and landscape photography to establish hierarchies of value and meaning. CityFish interrupts a seemingly linear narrative with poetic texts, quotations, Quicktime videos, DHTML animations, Google Maps and a myriad of visual images. Combining contemporary short fiction and hypermedia storytelling forms creates a new hybrid, a lo-fi web collage cabinet of curiosities. The story of Lynne and the city fish unfolds in this strange horizontally scrolling world of absences and empty spaces – furious, intimate, and surreal.

More information on CityFish: http://luckysoap.com/lapsuslinguae/category/cityfish/

CityFish on soundsRite: http://soundsrite.uws.edu.au/soundsRiteContent/volume3/JRInfo.html

Best Behaviour – A Short Story Published in Dragnet Magazine

Dragnet Magazine Dragnet Magazine, a new online/eBook literary journal that “trawls the sea of stories for the best fiction,” has included a short story of mine in their very first issue. The story is called Best Behaviour. It’s fiction, obviously. Given my limited knowledge on the subject, the story is a short one, weighing in at just 879 words. It’s based on an even shorter story. My behaviour is improving in tiny increments year by year.

In 2005, the Montreal-based artist-run centre Dazibao – centre de photographies actuelles commissioned me to write the text for an exhibition called Pixelware, une sublime forgerie featuring new works of digital photography by Mathieu Bernard-Reymond, Sylvia Grace Borda, Sze Lin Pang and Penelope Umbrico. Dazibao encouraged a creative approach. Rather than produce a standard 1000-word catalogue essay, I wrote four 250-word stories, one for each artist.

In response to Penelope Umbrico’s series of photographs of images of mirrors and televisions take from mail-order catalogues, blown up to life size and hung on the wall again, I imagined a girl trapped – on display – in a catalogue-perfect living room trying not to ruin anything, scanning reflective surfaces searching for escape routes. This new story, Best Behaviour, speculates upon how the girl came to be in this room in the first place. I don’t think it’s giving too much of the story away to say that her overbearing yet massively insecure mother has a lot to do with it. Take the second paragraph, for example:

We’ve been living in a rented townhouse on the Forest Crescent for going on two years now, which is some kind of record for us. Twenty-two months we’ve baked in this avocado oven. Ninety-four weeks we’ve bathed in this goldenrod tub. Come over to this place that isn’t quite our place, and here’s the first thing my mother will tell you: “This wallpaper wasn’t our idea!” Floor-to-ceiling horns-of-plenty adorn the breakfast nook. A sandy seashell wainscot rings the bathroom. Renters can’t be choosers. We hang our pictures up wherever former tenants left nail holes.

This first issue of Dragnet Magazine contains some great stuff in it, including stories by Sheila Heti and Jacob Wren. You can read the issue on your computer, as a Website, Flipbook or eBook; on your tablet as a Flipbook or an eBook; or on your phone or eReader as an eBook. For links to all these formats, visit Dragnet Magazine online: http://dragnetmag.net/

To read Best Behaviour on the Dragnet Magazine website visit: http://dragnetmag.net/?q=content/j-r-carpenter-best-behaviour

Three Stories in Ryga: A Journal of Provocations

Three of my short stories appear in the inaugural issue of Ryga: A journal of Provocations, a new publication of The Ryga Initiative at Okanagan College, in association with the Okanagan Institute.

Ryga: A Journal of Provocations consists of a single or multiple works by writers whose work the editor considers worthy of readers’ attention. It is published as a 275-page book, on good quality recycled paper, with a full colour laminated cover, 4 times a year, and offered for sale at $20 each through the book and periodical trade, and on http://www.ryga.ca/.

Ryga editor Sean Johnston writes:

Carpenter’s quietly moving stories are about endurance in the wake of tragedy. They’re about the impossibility of fully understanding the world we live in. Bodies of water dominate the stories and the constant, rhythmic movement between the literal and the figurative undersurface emphasizes the fragility of human life.

The narrator in “Truth, Dare, Double-Dare, Promise to Repeat,” for instance, longs for the inevitable sexual knowledge of adulthood, but the sinister nature of the impaired vision, the silty water where she and her friends swim, makes the future dark and dangerous.

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Drunken Boat Panliterary Awards

Finally! Drunken Boat # 8 is now online!

This fat new issue features winners and finalists of the inaugural Drunken Boat Panliterary Awards, including my web art project How I Loved the Broken Things of Rome – a finalist in the Web Art Category.
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The Greyhound Eulogy

The Greyhound Eulogy

I’m back from Banff, caught up on sleep, reacclimatized to high heat and humidity and happy to announce that my short story The Greyhound Eulogy appears in Matrix Magazine #74, in stores now, in Montreal at least.

I can’t remember who, but someone said – Gordon Lish maybe, or John Gardner – that it’s impossible to write an unsentimental story about your grandmother. Even though The Greyhound Eulogy is about writing my grandmother’s eulogy on a Greyhound bus bound for NYC, it’s hardly depressing at all thanks to the unsentimental readers: Amy Hempel, Ibi Kaslik, Lilly Kuwashima and Kate Sheldon. Much thanks also to Matrix editors Rob Allen and Jon Paul Fiorentino.

Here’s an excerpt of The Greyhound Eulogy:

“In the town of Glens Falls, N.Y., the Greyhound passes through a protest in progress. On one street corner, amid a cluster of hand-printed placards one small sign stands out: ‘Another veteran against the war.’ On the other side of the street, a wind-warped banner reads: ‘America is worth fighting for.’ I write: ‘Always the optimist, she brought humour to every situation,’ and try to remember her favourite burning Bush joke.”

J. R. Carpenter, The Greyhound Eulogy, Matrix #74, Montreal QC, Summer 2006.
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Hennessey’s High Pasture

Hennessey's High Pasture
My short story, Hennessey’s High Pasture, appears in The New Quarterly, #98, Waterloo, ON, Spring 2006. This story used to be called The Bayley-Hazen Road. I began writing in 1996, and submitted it to at least a dozen journals since then. I am grateful to every editor who had the good sense to reject it before it was ready. My thanks to the Trautz family, for helping start the story off; to Jenn Goodwin, first reader; Amy Hempel, generous reader; and Kim Jernigan, The New Quarterly editor who turned up at end of the old Bayley-Hazen Road.

Excerpt from Hennessey’s High Pasture:

“Most nights the dogs and I walk up to Hennessey’s high pasture. You can see the whole King’s County from up there. Even when it’s dark you feel it, the earth curving away from you. But I’m not ready yet. I smoke a cigarette. No matter which way I hold it, the smoke blows toward Earl.”

J. R. Carpenter
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THE CAPE on BathHouse

My web/ art/ narrative/ project, THE CAPE, has been included in the Spring 2006 issue of BathHouse, online now.

Edited by current Creative Writing graduate students at Eastern Michigan University, BathHouse promotes interdisciplinary and hybrid arts with a special emphasis on language and innovation in art that blurs the lines of conventional form and genre.

BathHouse takes its name from the 19th-century sanatoriums, bathhouses, and mineral water wells that flourished in Ypsilanti, Michigan, until truth in labeling laws were passed. The “foul smelling” waters of the Atlantis well, in the vicinity of the current Jones-Goddard dorm on the EMU campus, were bottled and shipped nationwide as a cure for 33 disorders of the blood.


Artists in the Spring 2006 issue of BathHouse are: Mark Amerika, J. R. Carpenter, Joe Clifford, Mark Cunningham, Christopher Garlington, Diane Greco, Mary Kasimor, Braxton Soderman, Lynn Strongin.

Warning: Cape Cod is a real place, but the events and characters of THE CAPE are fictional. The photographs have been retouched. The diagrams are not to scale.

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