Touring Newfoundland with The March Hare

As West Country folks have done for centuries, I’m preparing to depart from balmy Plymouth for blustery Newfoundland for a week on the road with The March Hare, Atlantic Canada’s largest and certainly most eclectic poetry festival, in which:

Traditional stories alternate with contemporary poems, emerging writers appear alongside established writers, local performers share the stage with performers from all over the world, and all of them are accorded the same courtesy. While long-term achievement may be given the nod of respect in the form of an extra two or three minutes at the podium, the time allotments are tight and more or less equal. There are no stars at the March Hare.

I’ve been timing various pieces and it turns out everything I’ve ever written can be read aloud in eight minutes and thirty seconds. I’ll be reading a mix of new and old work, including Air Holes, Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, and Once Upon a Tide, a print iteration of which will appear in Arc Poetry Magazine this month.

Mostly I’m just looking forward to listening, meeting new people, and getting to see more of this wonderfully wild island.

Here are my dates:

Tuesday, March 7th, 8:00
Chidley’s Place, Renews

Wednesday, March 8th, 8:00
St. Patrick’s Parish Hall, Tilting, Fogo Island

Thursday, March 9th, 7:30
Gander Hotel, Gander

Friday, March 10th, 8:00
Swirsky’s, Corner Brook

The full program is online here:

## 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 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:




Two new P.o.E.M.M.s by me in Know, a free poetry app produced by Obx Labs in Montreal

They’ve been busy over at Obx Labs in Montreal, and I’ve been slow to report it. Over the summer they updated their Know app (for iPhone/Pad). Know V 2.0 is based on Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better, an interactive touch screen poem by Jason E. Lewis about crazy talking with a street-person outside a pawn shop on a sunny San Francisco afternoon. Know V 2.0 expands on the original by creating a mini publishing platform, hosting texts about the difficulty of knowing, featuring a set of new poems by guest writers including David Jhave Johnston, Loss Pequeño Glazier, Jason Camlot, Jerome Fletcher, and two new poems from me J. R. Carpenter.

Up from the Deep || J. R. Carpenter
Up from the Deep || Know || J. R. Carpenter

Behind the scenes, this update of the Know app involved the creation of PoEMMaker, an interface built by Obx which enables poets to input their texts directly, adjust settings for the size, colour, movement, and speed behaviours of their texts, view the results on their phones, and make as many further adjustments necessary. Download Know for free.

twinned notions || J. R. Carpenter
twinned notions || Know || J. R. Carpenter

The Speak app (for iPhone/iPad) has also been updated. Speak v. 1 was an interactive poem about place, displacements, language and mistaken identity. Speak v. 2 featured commissioned texts on these themes from David Jhave Johnston, Jim Andrews, Aya Karpinska, and one from me called Muddy Mouth. Now, in Speak v. 3, users can enter their own text and interact with it in the Speak way, or they can feed the app with text from a Twitter stream. Download Speak for free

Both Know and Speak are part of Obx‘s Poetry for Excitable [Mobile] Media (P.o.E.M.M.) Cycle. For more information about this and other Obx projects, visit: and

Along the Briny Beach

My most recent piece of digital poetry, Along the Briny Beach, generates a coastline. The source code loads the following variables: Land Sea Write Erase Walk Liminal Space. The variable _Read_ is assumed to be client-side. The function _Writing and Erasing_ returns: Edges Ledges and Legible Lines caught in the Double-Bind of Writing and Erasing. Onload: Write Coast.

Along the Briny Beach appears in the new garden-theme issue of Boulder Pavement, an elegant multi-media journal published by The Banff Centre Press three times a year.

Along the briny beach a garden grows. With silver bells and cockleshells, cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh. A coral orchard puts forth raucous pink blossoms. A bouquet of sea anemones tosses in the shallows. A crop of cliffs hedges a sand-sown lawn mown twice daily by long green-thumbed waves rowing in rolling rows. The shifting terrain where land and water meet is always neither land nor water and is always both. The sea garden’s paths are fraught with comings and goings. Sea birds in ones and twos. Scissor-beak, Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail. Changes in the Zoology. Causes of Extinction. From the ship the sea garden seems to glisten and drip with steam. Along a blue sea whose glitter is blurred by a creeping mist, the Walrus and the Carpenter are walking close at hand. A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk along the briny storied waiting in-between space. Wind blooms in the marram dunes. The tide far out, the ocean shrunken. On the bluff a shingled beach house sprouts, the colour of artichoke. On the horizon lines of tankers hang, like Chinese lanterns. Ocean currents collect crazy lawn ornaments. Shoes and shipwrecks, cabbages and kings. Water bottle caps and thick white snarls of string. At dawn an ancient tractor crawls along the briny beach, harvesting the tide’s leaves. The world’s plastic, the sea’s weeds.

Along the Briny Beach was performed in collaboration with Jerome Fletcher at E-Poetry [ 2011 ] : International Digital Language | Media | Arts Festival at SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, May 19, 2011.

The source code for the poetry generating component of Along the Briny Beach is based on Taroko Gorge, by Nick Montfort, other remixes of which appear in my recent book GENERATION[S].

Along the Briny Beach || Boulder Pavement 4

Muddy Mouth, a new P.o.E.M.M. published in Speak, a sweet iPhone/iPad app

Muddy Mouth is a poem that plays with toponomy, homonymy, river sedimentology and various other ologys pertaining to the ways migration between English-speaking places named after other English-speaking places completely messes with one’s ability to speak English. Muddy Mouth is also a P.o.E.M.M. Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media is a series of poems exploring new writing and reading paradigms, written and designed to be read on mobile devices using touch interaction, created by Jason E. Lewis and Bruno Nadeau at Obx Labs in Montreal. The first P.o.E.M.M. app – available on iTunes since the spring – is called Speak. Speak is a series of poems about place, voice and the nature of poetry itself. Using the constraints laid down by the original Speak poem app, Lewis invited a number of poets to write new poems that responded thematically and formally to those constraints. Muddy Mouth is one of those poems.

How many Englishes don't I speak?

In the coming months Obx Lab plans to create a series of five P.o.E.M.M. apps, each exploring different interaction methods, collaboration strategies, and publication methods. The P.o.E.M.M.s are also part of a series of exhibition-scale interactive touch-works integrated with large-scale printed texts. To find out more about the P.o.E.M.M. project, visit

Download the Speak app from iTunes.

Inspace… no one can hear you scream: an evening of language in digital performance

Sunday 31st October 2010, 7.30 pm, the third International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling and New Media Scotland will present an evening of language in digital performance with works by Martin John Callanan, J.R. Carpenter, Jerome Fletcher, Donna Leishman, Maria Mencia, Netwurker Mez, Stanza and Christine Wilks. The performance event will be held on Halloween. There will be a haunted theme.

48 hours | Inspace… no one can hear you scream.

Sunday 31st October 2010, 7.30 for 8pm.

Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

ICIDS Conference Program



A gorge is a steep-sided canyon, a passage, a gullet. To gorge is to stuff with food, to devour greedily. Gorge is a new poetry generator by J. R. Carpenter. This never-ending tract spews verse approximations, poetic paroxysms on food, consumption, decadence and desire.

The source code for Gorge is a hack of Montfort’s elegant poetry generator Taroko Gorge, which has also been remixed by Scott Rettberg, as Tokyo Garage.

Of Gorge, Nick Montfort advises:

“See if you can stomach it, and for how long.”

Nick Montfort, Post Position, Once More into the Gorge


A Reading at Sharpham House – November 3, 2009

Hosted by Alice Oswald

Tuesday, November 3rd 2009 at 19:30 Sharpham Centre.

Alice Oswald will welcome and introduce J R Carpenter, a Canadian novelist, short story writer and web writer based in Montreal. She is the winner of the QWF Carte Blanche Quebec Award (2008), the CBC Quebec Short Story Competition (2003 & 2005), and the Expozine Alternative Press Award for Best English Book for her first novel, Words the Dog Knows, which was published by Conundrum Press in 2008. Her electronic literature has been presented at the Musée de Beaux-arts (Montréal), the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), Jyväskylä Art Museum (Finland), The Web Biennial 2007 (Istanbul), Cast Gallery (Tasmania), and in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume One. She serves as President of the Board of Directors of OBORO, an artist-run gallery and new media lab in Montreal, and is currently the E-Writer-in-Residence at Dartington College UCF.

You are warmly invited to bring a poem to read aloud.
7.30pm in the Octagonal Room, Sharpham House. Donations please
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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:
. . . . .

Vallum Cafe/Culture Reading Series – July 23, 7pm

I will be reading some of my most poem sounding prose in Montreal this Thursday when Vallum: contemporary poetry reading series Cafe/Culture returns with fantastic lineup of Oana Avasilichioaei, J.R. Carpenter, Holly Luhning and Anne Cimon grace the ultra-cool Le Zigoto Cafe, 5731 du Parc (just below Bernard). Door prizes and a surprise musical guest! It all starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009.

. . . . .