Friday, September 03, 2004

A True History of The Oracular Sonnets

Saturday, April 10, 2004. I posted a piece, A poem beginning with a line from Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, to pelican dreaming. Not a great poem, but I found humour in doing it, the title a pastiche of Robert Duncan's A poem beginning with a line from Pindar plus Jukka's description of his work as nonlinear poetry. I'd been getting bombarded through my hotmail account with spam that was comprised of random words, generated by a program I thought probably similar to one of Jukka's, had used their subject lines to make a nonlinear poem of my own, so Jukka was occupying my thoughts at the time.

We knew each other in the way that bloggers do. My first publication (apart from a curated invitation) after I came back to writing was in a journal that also had him in it. We shared the same line in the spread-across-the-page index of authors. His is a name that is easily noticed; Jukka-Pekka like a ragged mountain range, Kervinen like the valleys that slope down from them. Over the next couple of years we appeared together several times. We both became participants in the As/Is group blog, commented on one another's work from time to time. He accepted some poems of mine for xStream, then some more. We emailed one another. I sent him a manuscript for his excellent xPress(ed) series. He was one of the first to put up a link when I started pelican dreaming. His nonlinear poetry blog was the first link I put up on mine.

The Friday after the post I got an email from him, acknowledging the poem, giving me a bit of stick for my earlier remark that the content of the spam emails was from his blog. & then, in brackets, almost as if it were an afterthought, he mentioned that he had some 'intentionally unfinished' poems, templates, & would I be interested in some collaborations. Would I? Sent back an affirmative response, & received the first five the next morning.

Within three hours the template beginning " n l rs se be a t d s a" had become a poem that started "nearly seized & beaten, / but escaped through". I sent it off to him, to see if he liked it, to see if it was the way he wanted us to go. An excited email came back in the evening. Consensus. By that time I'd already done more. The next morning I sent an attachment containing eight poems off to him.

There were poems provoked by the templates, incorporating the templates – crossed out, written through, inverted, truncated - & some having absolutely nothing to do with them apart from being written within the same frenzied period. At this point there was little sense of unity between the poems – they were individual pieces, but amongst them the threads of chance, linkage & states of being.

That evening – it's a time zone thing, this morning/evening Finland/Australia correspondence - five more templates arrived. The first began " r d s se s a / o al" & from that came “roads seesaw towards the / the oracle” fourteen lines in all, the first Oracular Sonnet. Now there was an overall framework, a direction. The creative frenzy continued. Chance reinforced throughout. As example: I wanted to chop an existing sonnet in two vertically. Picked an anthology from the bookcase & the first sonnet I found was Yeats' Leda & The Swan, about beating wings. & one of the poems I had written stimulated by the first group of templates had the lines "of the / beating wings / of words". It was one of those times when everything just fell into place.

At 4.11 p.m. on the Monday evening, two & a half days after the first templates arrived, the eighteen poem sequence of The Oracular Sonnets of Mark Young & Jukka-Pekka Kervinen was on its way from Rockhampton to Espoo. Accompanied by a tumultuous roll of drums, FAACOPS, the Finnish & Australasian Co-Prosperity Sphere, had been launched.

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