Notes on the Voyage
Of Owl and Girl

J. R. Carpenter

[return to voyage]

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. These notes conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of sea voyages into the unknown North undertaken over the past 2340 years or so. The ever-shifting computer-generated portion of this narrative is composed from 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 characters of Owl and Girl are borrowed from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy Cat (1871). In my version, a girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined and her lazy friend the 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 a confusion of islands and soundings from Scotia Bay and the South Orkney Islands (1967), and my own photographs from Nova Scotia (2008-2011). Of the horizontally scrolling texts which annotate this mythical, implausible, impossible voyage toward seas unknown, the northern lights, the fountain of youth, the text in grey which begins "7 May: departed from Dartmouth" is an erasure poem based on The second voyage attempted by Mr John Davis with others, for the discovery of the Northwest Passage (1586). The Morse Code quotes a line from a Peter Høeg novel. All the other notes are composed by me. By me, of course, I mean the girl.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl launched at Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New 'Born Digital' Literature held in conjunction with the Modern Languages Association Convention, Boston, USA, January 2013.

Live poly-vocal performances based on this work have been presented at In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge at The Banff Centre, Canada, February 2013, and at Chercher le texte, Le Cube, Paris, September 2013.

Find a video performance, and teaching notes on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl in Poetry Connection: Link Up with Canadian Poetry, an initiative of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah 2011-2013.

MANY THANKS: Barbara Bridger, Jerome Fletcher, Caden Lovelace, and Fred Wah
7 May: departed from Dartmouth 15 June: mightily pestered with ice and snow no hope of landing 29 June: a company of isles full of fair sounds the sea void of ice the land untroubled with snow with earth and grass such as our moor and waste grounds of England 17 July: we fell upon a most strange quantity of ice we supposed it to be land we coasted this mass our shrouds, ropes, and sails frozen compassed with ice 2 August: much troubled with a fly which is called mosquito 15 August: here we had great hope of a through passage this land is nothing in sight but isles 19 August: it began to snow all night with foul weather 20 August: we bare in with the land 28 August: in this place we continued 1 September: this place yieldith great store of birds at the harbour mouth great store of cod 6 September: purposed to depart presently let slip our cables 11 September: a fair westnorthwest wind we departed with trust shaping our course
silence listen into the ether an ocean of static an ocean of noise beeps blips tongue slips loose lips sink ships full stop post date press here press on on board unmoored unhomed uncomfortable untranslatable questions chart answers sound fathoms compass bearings 50.289339,-3.554077 49.809632,-5.245972 49.820265,-6.47644 51.124213,-10.239258 54.393352,-11.337891 57.938183,-8.349609 59.489726,-3.032227 60.866312,-0.131836
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