Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I sing the body electric

I came back to writing & publishing poetry, after an absence of twenty-five years, about three (publishing) or four (writing) years ago. In many ways it seemed that things hadn't changed all that much. Sure modern had given way to post-modern; there had apparently been "Poetry Wars" during my absence – I'm still unsure what they were about, but reading Ron Silliman I think they had something to do with l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e poetry vs the 'School of Quietude'. But overall it struck me as the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

With one significant exception. The internet had evolved, had given rise to a large number of poetry e-zines; & for someone like myself who had always hated snail-mail submissions this was a gift beyond measure.

One of the first places I was published in on my return was can we have our ball back . I had heard of almost none of the poets in the issue, but amongst those with whom I shared a line in the list of contributors on the front page was a person called Jukka-Pekka Kervinen. To my Anglo-Saxon eye it was a name that leapt from the screen. Evocative. As I've written elsewhere, Jukka-Pekka like a ragged mountain range, Kervinen like the valleys that run down from them.

I recognised him immediately as an innovator, but I had difficulty with his work at first. I had an idea of what he was doing, had recently completed a degree majoring in operations research so understood about stochastic processes & recognised those within his work, realised that these pieces were the equivalent of a steady state at the end of a Markov chain. But I was looking for meaning, &, in doing so, was overlooking the meaning of & in his pieces, was disregarding the validity of chance. I had forgotten about the exquisite corpses of the surrealists, or Isadore Ducasse's chance meeting of an umbrella & a sewing machine on an operating table.

We shared more appearances in magazines. I discovered Jukka the composer, the editor, the publisher, the collaborator. I read more of his work, went back & re-read what I had previously seen. I began to appreciate the patterns in it, the beauty of haptic coagulations & aggregations of words, realised that strict structure was not necessarily a stricture. & I watched the development of the pieces, how space & spaces started to appear in them, & non-letter keyboard characters, & incomplete words.

What brought us together was the As/Is weblog in which we both participated. Occasionally we'd comment on one another's postings & we developed one of those acquaintances that you strike up in blogland. I sent him some poems for his e-zine xStream , we started to exchange emails, I started my own blog & posted there, first, a poem based on the subject lines of a series of spam emails I had been getting that seemed to use a program to produce random text which I jokingly suggested he may have developed, & second, a 'Poem beginning with a line from Jukka-Pekka Kervinen', a line which was taken from a piece posted to his nonlinear blog. We laughed about it in the emails that we exchanged after this, & 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.

These to me were the moment of enlightenment, epiphany, satori, whatever you care to call it. I was suddenly transported into his work, a dimensional shift. Letters, words, fragments floated about me like macrophages in the bloodstream. I was inspired as I had never been before, & in the space of 2½ days we conspired to produce The Oracular Sonnets.

Other collaborative pieces & sequences followed. I became influenced by what he did, not the programming aspect – I write programs like the Russians designed rockets, dreadfully overengineered – but the conceptual. I noted with interest that some techniques we'd employed in our collaborations – the overlaying of linear text on nonlinear for example – appeared in his poems.

But nothing prepared me for what Jukka started doing next. I'd seen some visual stuff of his – basically text decorated by asemic images – in an issue of eratio . I'd seen the covers for his xPress(ed) range of e-books. A couple of posts at nonlinear appeared to be magnified details of larger works, letters overlapping, some colour. Then, seemingly from nowhere, these incredibly developed text & colour pieces appeared. Letters & words drifted like the macrophages I mentioned earlier, phased in & out, hinted, tempted, teased. It was as if he was now displaying what lay beneath his work, the fractals, the Mandelbrot curves.

They appeared full-grown, full-blown, as if he had been working on them all his life. As visual images they were amazing, painterly, balanced, with all the tension one associates with great works of art.

A lesser person might have been tempted to stop there, to be content with this incredible achievement. But not Jukka. His work has continued to develop & evolve since then, has branched off into different directions. His asemic pieces have been hived off, he has moved into pieces without text, with vibrant colours like those intense acrylics one sees painted onto customised cars. He has moved into mailart, where he indulges his love of collage, communication & collaboration. He is now posting photographs in which he adds a further physical dimension to his 2D textual conjecturing. His blogs, for that is where we still see most of his work, cross-pollinate one another. His is a vision splendid, a vision unique. He is truly one of the great innovators of our time.

Yet Jukka has only been publishing for four years or so & for most of this time his only contact with fellow writers has been electronic. A few months ago he wrote me in an email that he had met his first Finnish poet. Since then his contacts have obviously grown. It is pleasing to see the body ethereal become the body corporeal.


EILEEN said...

A wonderful read....a fine example of what Creeley calls "keeping company" among poets?
thank you,

KK said...

...indeed! My "cre(ely)do" is simply this: To me, keeping company with you guys has meant a world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.