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May 10, 2012

On a large sheet of watercolor paper, I am painting a "score" of three lines of small paintings of blues skies, wildflowers, grasses, and spring trails. Created from small sketches made on walks and hikes in Northern California, the work is an exercise in how painted "lexias" relate to each other and a reason to sit down at the drawing board with watercolors, pens, and pencils.

April 7, 2011

On a shelf beneath the painting composed of 14 lakes, I decided to put an artists book with sketches of wildflowers on the trail in spring. It was perhaps an excuse to begin painting and sketching on the trail when the rains stopped and the sun came out.

Using a notebook of arches paper, I began to draw a rectangle or square on each page. This week, I took the book on the trail. When one makes a book in this way, the sketches must relate to each other. So, as is much of my work, it is an exercise in creating art with small building blocks of visual information that work together.

Because screen based literature is inherently visual, such exercises are not only a welcome diversion from research, writing, and editing but are also helpful in the creation of lexias that work together and in the designing of interfaces that must balance text with design.

January 14, 2011

A friendly challenge to paint the waters of the lake as beautifully as they actually were. I did not know whether or not I could do this.

If it was hard to do this while I was actually there, sitting in the sunshine on the rocks with paints beside me and a lunch of bread and cheese at a place where the views were so beautiful that there was no way I could descibe them or tell you how I felt when I saw glimpses of the blue and green water between the trees as I walked along the path, than it is harder now in the rainy California winter with nothing but the memory of the view.

Around the lake, there were places where the water was so blue green that it looked like a series of jewels set into the darker blue A photograher can convey this A painter does not see in the same way.

Beside the shore, the water rippled so clear you could see the rocks and the multigrained sand through the surface of the water. This is very difficult to paint because one has to convey the browns and grays and yellows througth clear water that is not in these places actually blue.

Yet sometimes it is surprising what one can convey with only paper and paints and words

Perhaps by the time I go to the mountains again I will know how to begin.

Judy Malloy:
From Ireland With Letters
an informal writer's notebook

The story began with a Prologue. This online notebook is about how it was continued in Begin with the Arrival and passage and currently focuses on Junction of Several Trails -- the research, the writing, the interface design.

"...This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn,
the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places..."

- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

July 4, 2012

A writer does not want to feel a separation between the past and the present, and I usually put off the starting of a new notebook until the old one is loading so slowly that it has to be done.

The new notebook for From Ireland with Letters begins here:

Below is the January 2011 through June, 2012 writer's notebook for From Ireland with Letters. Because this is a writer's notebook rather than a blog, it begins at the beginning.

January 14, 2011

The hand-held Irish harp she also played
had 34 strings, strung in a beautifully carved frame,
and a sound that went well with her clear, resonant voice.
She would use both the harp and the fiddle
in the composition of the song cycle that began in Ireland in 1649.
Sometimes the harp and voice together
and other times the fiddle alternating with her voice.

The online writer's notebook I created for From Ireland With Letters: Prologue was useful not only in crystallizing my thoughts about the narrative but also in notating the research in such a way that I could return to it at a later time.

Yet much time was spent on this notebook that could have been spent writing the actual work. This was partially because I was also writing about painting, making artists books, listening to music, seeing art, and drinking beer with family, among other things. The documentation of these pleasant activities may return later this year, but for now -- listening to Cosi fan tutte on the BBC as I write this -- I plan to write only about the research for the writing and structure of the continuation of From Ireland With Letters.

While I write this, my eyes stray to a large sheet of watercolor paper tacked to my wall on which there are (so far) the beginnings of five attempts at replicating the exact color of bluegreen of a lake where I hiked and painted last fall. Below the painting, is printed a text of which only a small part reads:

If it was hard to do this while I was actually there,
sitting in the sunshine on the rocks
with paints beside me and a lunch
of bread and cheese
at a place where the views were so beautiful
that there was no way I could describe them
or tell you how I felt when I saw glimpses
of the blue and green water between the trees as I walked along the path,
than it is harder now in the rainy California winter
with nothing but the memory of the view.

I am tempted to set aside my laptop and return to this lovely activity. Luckily F. Alberto Gallo's Music of the Middle Ages II is surprisingly compelling, leading me to think about structuring part one of From Ireland with Letters with the array of four lexia-spaces which (sitting beside a trail with a lunch of bread and cheese) I plotted in a sketch book a few days ago.

It will be somewhat more difficult than the trio sonata that I attempted in paths of memory and painting, but I think that in this way the four narratives of the story can progress like a piece of a music.

Ah, but the research, the writing and the interface for From Ireland await. What did happen in Gallo's Music of the Middle Ages that was so interesting?

Dear reader, I will tell you next week.

January 21, 2011

The research trails this week were like a series of circular paths that start in one place, proceed eventfully, and then return to the beginning. For instance, in my work, when structuring new media poetry, I have looked at works of early music -- such as the concertato form used as structural inspiration in Concerto for Narrative Data and the trio sonata form that was the structural inspiration for part three of Paths of Memory and Painting. But although I had been looking at the connections between Giotto and the theory composer Marchetto da Padova, I was not aware that early music theory composers had looked as closely at literary forms as they did. Thus it was a fine surprise to (following a reference in Eleonora Beck's studies of artist's connections in Padua) pick up Gallo's Music of the Middle Ages II and read about the influence of literary forms on early music.

Gallo makes the point that the intellectualization of composition using established literary forms was important in changing attitudes about the seriousness of secular music. "The polyphonic and 'poly-textual' motet is the genre most symbolic of medieval music and its analogies with language" he writes," and it is the first form in which music is not only a pleasant sound but a way of seeing reality." (p.22)

His descriptions are among the most useful I have read in visualizing the polyphonic composer's process. "The liturgical melody acts as the road laid down in advance along which the piece must develop...," he explains, and how to do this becomes so much clearer. Or, and here he is quoting Franco of Cologne: "Whoever wishes to compose a conductus must first make up a song, the most beautiful possible, and then use it as the tenor on which to build his polyphony." (p. 18)

Also of interest given that new media poetry may at times use elements of architecture are the relationships to architecture which Gallo describes. "The hoquetus was a piece for two of more voices, which systematically alternated between singing and pausing, so that the voices partly overlapped with each other and partly created intervals of silence, a style liked to 'tiles on the roof of a building.'" (p. 12)

Gallo explains the relationship of polyphonic techniques to literary devices of the time, using as an example a poetical acrostic prayer to the Virgin Mary and noting that polyphonic composers used notes of the existing melody in the same way that this poet used the letters of Maria's name.

That then was the first circular path -- from literature to music; from music to literature.

In designing the interface of the central part of From Ireland, I want to create a work that puts together more centrally the four voices introduced in the Prologue to From Ireland - "Whoever wishes to compose a conductus must first make up a song, the most beautiful possible, and then use it as the tenor on which to build his polyphony," Franco wrote.

Using a structure somewhat akin to the trio sonata used in paths but with four lexias spaces, I would like this composition to work somewhat like a piece of music -- not exactly of course; they are different art forms and works created by school of Notre Dame and Ars Nova composers were probably not exactly comparable to the forms of classic poetry that they studied.

"The reader has seen that the ancient Irish were acquainted with the ogham music tablature in pre-Christian ages; they had their battle-marches, dance tunes, folk songs, chants. and hymns in the fifth century; they were the earliest to adopt the neums or neumatic notation, for the plain chant of the Western Church; they modified, and introduced Irish melodies into, the Gregorian Chant; they had an intimate acquaintance with the diatonic scale long before it was perfected by Guido of Arezzo; they were the first to employ harmony and counterpoint; they had quite an army of bards and poets; they employed blank verse, elegaic rhymes, consonant, assonant, inverse, burthen, dissyllabic, trisyllabic, and quadrisyllabic rhymes, not to say anything of caoines, laments, elegies, metrical romances, etc.; they invented the musical arrangement which developed into the sonata form; they had a world-famed school of harpers; and, finally, they generously diffused musical knowledge all over Europe." - Grattan Flood A History of Irish Music (pp 19-20)

Asking the question: What form will I use as inspirational basis for the interface for the next part of From Ireland? I returned this week to the search for what happened to Irish classical music. Was it one of the causalities of British persecution of Irish musicians? Had it begun earlier?

British persecution against Irish musicians began under Henry VIII (if not earlier) and continued with Queen Elizabeth I's 1603 proclamation against the Irish: "to exterminate by marshal law all manner of Bards, Harpers," and then more explicitly "to hang the harpers wherever found, and destroy their instruments". It was continued under Cromwell with the destruction of the organs in Irish Catholic Churches.

As is not unusual, the content and the search for interface structure for From Ireland with Letters have converged.

As if he was at the junction of several trails that would eventually converge,
the many research trails, Liam had started at once
did not particularly concern him.
He looked out the window, thinking that when he had finished reading
he would go for a hike.

On an unmarked trail in search of a four part interface for a narrative, I began this week with (a diversion?) Bach's four part chorales; continued with -- heard this week on Lucie Skeaping's Early Music show on the BBS -- how different Bach's concerto for four harpsichords sounded from the Vivaldi concerto for 4 violins on which it was based; (personally I am not sure that Vivaldi would have been happy about this - no need to explain why) continued with the music and notes in Davitt Moroney's fine recording of Music from the Borel Manuscript; (the compositions are circa 1650-1670!) and returned to the melody I laid down in the Prologue of From Ireland with two (as yet unread) books checked out from the Library on Friday. They are:

Susan Gedutis, See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance,
and Hugh Shields, Narrative Singing in Ireland.

January 28, 2011

Working on the different colors of lakes in the watercolor I am creating that now has nine rectangular small paintings of lakes on the same large sheet of arches watercolor paper.

Returning to the Prologue to From Ireland. Much of the work this week has been in the colors of the background of the lines that key the separate narratives and move slowly side by side beside the main lexia. I had not been able to quite make the musical quality of the movement of these lines apparent, and thought the problem was in the timing. But when I tried varying the colors of the backgrounds, I realized that part of the problem was that what I was doing was not really apparent to the reader. How color is used with text, can be somewhat equivalent to how the basso continuo works/might be written in a piece of music; often the continuo is not really apparent to the casual listener, (whether intentional or not) but, among other variables, how it is instrumented could make a difference in how apparent it is, if one was composing or directing a piece of music. So far, the Prologue isn't exactly what I want. One cannot simply change the colors -- as in a painting they must work together. And the "music" of the lines in From Ireland is a dance between the two characters, so that also must be taken into account.

While working on this poetic textual dance music, I am reading See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Music and Dance by Susan Gedutis (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.) Gedutis brings alive the eras when couples met and danced in the Boston dance halls where Irish American and Irish musicians played. Liam's family came to America during the potato famine and lived in Boston, and (working on his narrative) I want to know more about the lives of his family and the music they listened to.

February 4, 2011

Originally from County Cork, Liam's paternal Grandparents met at a Boston dance hall in the 1950's. (or so I imagine after reading See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Music and Dance by Susan Gedutis) How they met is a family story that is remembered by Liam's parents and told and retold with variations.

Many of the Boston Irish dance halls started in the 1920's, were closed during the World War II. The music started again in 1946. A few years later, Liam's grandparents met at one of the dance halls in Dudley Square: the Intercolonial, the Hibernian, Winslow Hall, the Dudley Street Opera House, the Rose Croix, where single men and women, from Irish American families or newly arrived from Ireland were sure to find a neighbor from the old country, or even a job or a romance. In the old world, marriages were still sometimes arranged, but one could go to the dance halls and begin a courtship. You could meet someone whose family came from County Cork at the time of the potato famine and so did your family, but you never knew this until you were dancing and talking at the Hall. That is how Liam's grandparents met in the early 1950's.

Probably there was one Hall where people whose families were from Country Cork gathered, but I don't know as yet which one.

The dance halls were also a nurturing place for Irish music. Perhaps Liam's Grandparents heard Tom Senier's Emerald Isle Orchestra at Winslow Hall or Matty Toohy's band. Senier was born in Galway; Toohy was from Country Kerry. Toohy worked at Harvard University by day; Saturday nights he played at the Dudley Square Opera House. Then there was Johnny Bresnahan's band, which played Winslow Hall, Johnny Powell's band, which played at the Intercolonial, and the famous accordian players Joe Derrane and Billy Caples.

Irish American songs and the songs that musicians born in Ireland brought with them when they came to America were sometimes quite different. But both traditional Irish songs and Irish American Songs were played at the dance halls.

February 12, 2011

As described by Eugene O'Curry in his 1873 book,
Of the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish,
and retold by Hugh Shields in Narrative Singing in Ireland,
Anthony O'Brien, who was "the best singer of Oisin's poems that his
contemporaries had ever heard", would go out on the River Shannon
with a jar of whiskey and a party of his friends and lie back on the
oars and sing. His strong, beautiful voice could be heard
on the river banks in Clare and Kerry,
and people working in the fields
would come down to the Shannon to hear him sing.

While Liam -- having seen a poster advertising Máire Powers' next performance -- is remembering how his Grandparents met in Boston at "The Hall", Máire Powers is working on the narrative song she will soon perform for the first time.

Hugh Shields observes in Narrative Singing in Ireland, (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993) that not all Irish lays were about the early Irish Fianna. Some were concerned with themes that might also appear in romantic ballads, or with laments, or with genealogy; some took a magical view of Irish history, creating, for instance, a dialogue between Oisin and St Patrick. Spoken word was also a part of Irish lays. Shields notes that there was a tradition of ending a lay with speech -- "in this way the speaker announces a return to 'real' or 'non-ritual' time at the song's end". And "expressive descent into speech" was sometimes an integral part of the song. (p. 121)

And there is a blurring of the distinction between narrator and subject in Irish lays that is particularly interesting to a new media poet. "With little difficulty", Shields notes, "Oisin also came early to be credited with the authorship of the songs he thus narrates. Yet in what he narrates, the objectivity of third-person heroic discourse is little disturbed by this author-participant." (p. 14)

Máire will call the work she is composing a lay because that is the form of Irish narrative song which it will most resemble. She/I are working out the details of its composition and performance. Tradition is followed when possible, but it is a contemporary lay that takes into account the performer's skills and the narrative itself.

"The hand-held Irish harp she also played
had 34 strings, strung in a beautifully carved frame,
and a sound that went well with her clear, resonant voice.
She would use both the harp and the fiddle
in the composition of the song cycle that began in Ireland in 1649.
Sometimes the harp and voice together
and other times the fiddle alternating with her voice. "

Heroic song is traditionally accompanied by plucked or bowed instruments, Shields observes; " is the common supposition that a harp would have accompanied the medieval Irish singer." (p. 17)

The time of introduction of the fiddle to Ireland is not clear. Flood says it is documented as early as the 7th century; other sources put it later. But Máire is most comfortable with the fiddle, which she has played since childhood. Thus she will use both the harp and the fiddle in her performance.

And so this week I listened with pleasure to John Hartford playing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and observed the different ways he used his fiddle to accompany his voice. It was May 24, 2000 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, when legendary country musicians gathered for Down from the Mountain.

" Once finding himself very tired ", Saint Francis
" desired a little music to waken the happiness of the
spirit; and for religious modesty he did not ask for it.
But God that night gave him heavenly music so beautiful
that Saint Francis thought he was in the other world.
I believe that an angel descended playing a violin, because this
is what painters believe, as I remember singing in many
famous oil paintings."

I was in the music library when I read these words on page 8 of Eleonora Beck's paper "Revisiting Dufay's Saint Anthony Mass and Its Connection to Donatello's Altar of Saint Anthony of Padua". (Music in Art 26:102, Spring-Fall 2001, pp. 5-19) It was one of those days when my copier card did not contain enough funds to copy the article, so I wrote the quote in my notebook. Now, confronted by my admittedly not always legible handwriting, I realize that I will have to return to verify the quote and to make sure that it is Vincenzo Rota's footnote to his poem L'incendio del tempio di S. Antonio di Padova.

The connection between Eleonora Beck's paper and the interface for the next part of From Ireland is an intuitive trail of structure in Medieval and Renaissance music and art, which I began with Concerto for Narrative Data, continued in Parts II and III of Paths of Memory and Painting, and still follow.

As usual, one research trail leads to another and another. (David Fallows' publications; how many St Anthony masses for how many St Anthonys, for instance and perhaps not as far afield as it may sound, how many Catholic Irish lords were in France in the 17th century) But research for the creation of a narrative is somewhat different from scholarly research. And I, the poet who will soon set the meeting of Máire Powers and Liam O'Brian in motion, follow a poet's research trails, as I simultaneously work on the interface for the central part of the story and consider the intuitive connection between minuets and the Irish set dances -- both alluded to in the lines interface that takes place to the right of the main lexia in the Prologue for From Ireland with Letters.

Writing about the structure of Irish Dance music, in Traditional Music in Ireland, (Cork, Ireland: Ossian Publications, 1978, p. 27) Irish musician Tomás O'Canainn observes that there is a tendency to concentrate on a few notes of the available scale "and return to these again and again throughout the tune". But when played by an expert player, the result is "a tune which attains a unity of purpose and a build-up of tension eminently satisfying.."

On the evening of my return from the library, I listened to Guillaume Dufay's beautiful Mass for St. Anthony of Padua. (Pomerium) Sometimes, there is a gift at the end of a long research trail.

February 18, 2011

Today was a fine rainy day to begin reading Muirchú Moccu Machthéni's Life of Saint Patrick. And so on a stormy morning in Northern California, I went to the library in search of Saints.

First, in the Music Library I verified the words about the music that came one evening to Saint Francis and pondered the difference between "dreamy" and "heavenly", between "seeing" and "singing" -- the mistakes I had made in transcribing my handwriting that are now corrected in the previous post.

We are an earthy people, I thought, contemplating my mistakes and remembering Judge Woolsey's words about Ulysses ("it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season spring") as I headed for the main library in search of what happened when Saint Patrick returned to Ireland.

Primary threads -- that link the stories of Walter Power, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1654 as an Irish slave, and his descendent the artist Hiram Powers -- are slavery and opposition to slavery.

Liam will begin this part of the narrative when Hiram Powers begins to create The Greek Slave in 19th century Florence. Tracing the creation and travels of this sculpture, he is reading Hiram Powers' letters.

Máire will begin with Saint Patrick's story: his slavery in Ireland, his return to Ireland, and how his teaching and actions brought a tradition of respect for freedom to Ireland.

This is the story that Liam will hear her perform.

February 23, 2011

Without an understanding of sean-nós singing, Tomás O'Canainn tells us, in Traditional Music in Ireland, a performer will not understand Irish music, and he bids us listen as in his chapter "Sean-nós Singing", he, an Irish Uilleann piper, takes us on a journey of songs of tragedy and songs of love, dwelling particularly on the songs of Irish male singers' encounters with beautiful women in so many places along the roads they traveled and on the different meanings of love lyrics in Ireland.

" In the small rural communities in which it developed, the sean-nós was very much more than entertainment," O'Canainn writes. " It contained among its large repertoire the religious songs of a people who were not allowed the luxury of public devotion, their work songs and songs of love, their humorous songs and the stories of local tragedies whose horror had imprinted itself on the minds of the small community. Here too were the thinly disguised songs of rebellion, the glorification of past heroes coupled with a message of hope for a new awakening, when the Prince would come from across the sea to free the people. The singer would tell, too, of the simple local happenings, perhaps adding a new dimension of fantasy to the event to provide the heroic element so necessary for an oppressed people.

In this situation the sean-nós singer was not performing, but giving expression to the shared experiences and hopes of the audience..." (pp. 79-80)

Sometimes during the performance, the sean-nós singer's audience responds with good wishes, compliments, or good-natured banter, and sometimes during the performance, the singer might sit among the audience. Máire, however, will not sit in the audience on the evening Liam first hears her. In singing a lay without the melismatic ornamentation characteristic of sean-nós and in using an instrumental accompaniment, she is not a sean-nós singer. But perhaps she will sit in the audience when, in a later performance, she sings the story of how Walter Power meets Trial Shepherd.

In reading Muirchú Moccu Machthéni's Life of Saint Patrick, I am surprised by how several centuries after St Patrick died, this 7th century biographer has chosen to relate (and possibly embroider) the story.

But, as Thomas O'Loughlin explains and asks us to consider in Discovering Saint Patrick, (NY/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005) our spiritual lives and the role of science in our civilization -- and thus how we experience miracles -- are very different from the experience and understanding of miracles in the world of the Middle Ages.

So I am not yet sure how Máire Powers' will tell Patrick's story. Perhaps she will read Muirchú's Vita, yet choose to base her lay on St Patrick's own writings and on the legends about Saint Patrick that have been handed down for generations, the stories which her own Mother told her. Yet these stories will have some relationship to Muirchú's account of Patrick's life. This is within the tradition of Irish narrative singing.

It should be remembered that the narrative I compose will not set forth Máire's lay as a whole but rather will be experienced by the reader through selected quotes from Máire's work, through her research into Irish slavery and her research and thoughts about the life of Saint Patrick. It will be experienced in another way through Liam's account of what he heard: his experience of the performance as a whole, what he remembers of the words and music of her lay, and how it relates to his own research on Hiram Powers' sculpture, The Greek Slave.

March 1, 2011

For this interface, it will probably not be possible to recreate the structure of the lost early music as composed in Medieval Ireland. But the idea of such a musical structure is looked to as inspiration, I thought as I considered the problems and possibilities of an interface for the part of From Ireland with Letters that will be composed of four side by side lexias which progress separately yet together, as does a piece of music. Before I beginn writing I need to think about both the interface and the writing, so that they work together.

In Part III of Paths of Memory and Painting , there is primarily one voice and the tone of each of the three lexias is somewhat similar. This is not the case in From Ireland, yet it will need to cohere as a whole -- a starting point to remember before I begin writing.

Recollected in this respect, was the fine range of percussive sounds that issued from a stage during the Eco Ensemble's performance of Beat Furrer's work that I heard at Cal last month. I particularly remember the visual way the instruments were arranged on the stage, how each performer worked to create each moment of sound, how the work cohered.

And I remembered how a few weeks ago, Davitt Moroney sandwiched three works by William Byrd and Purcell's organ works between dances by two different composers, so that in his program, there were four distinct yet related composer "voices" played by one musician. It is not the usual way to look at such a beautifully conceived and played program of organ works. Nevertheless, there are similarities between the way a writer becomes a character and the way an experienced musician -- who at the time of playing seems almost to become the composer -- presents the audience with a carefully selected array of different works of music.

March 10, 2011

Máire's lay will begin in the mountains and forests of Ireland, where a slave, who will escape and then return to Ireland, is herding and pasturing his master's sheep. There was rain, "icy coldness", snow, and no shelter where Patrick was sent to work. But he would wake up before daylight and begin to pray. In the words of Saint Patrick: "And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: 'You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.' And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: 'Behold, your ship is ready.'"

Ship as slave ship. Ship as vehicle of rescue.

The words are from Saint Patrick's story in his own words, his . The scene -- Patrick, like the shepherds of old in the Christmas story, herding sheep in winter in the Irish countryside -- is how Máire will begin her lay.

Was thinking about the conjunction of words and interface in hypertextually disclosing this story when I went to the opening of Sonya Rapoport's exhibition at Kala last week. It was a wonderful gathering, with many old friends and the exhibition itself museum quality. A visual arts Céilí featuring Sonya's informative-intense work which was and is both intellectual and beautiful.

Remembered the room she and I and Abbe Don shared -- each of us with a separate installation -- at the Richmond art Center exhibition in 1989, first thinking about the visual aspect of each our works and then about the different ways we created computer-mediated narratives.

For its name was Penelope, the work I showed in that exhibition, I used a photographer's vision to create a narrative about a conceptual photographer and the alternative art world in which she worked. The interface was a series of "files" based on books of The Odyssey. ("Dawn", "A Gathering of Shades", "That Far Off Island", "Fine Work and Wide Across", "Rock and Hard Place", and "Song") The reader selected which file to read, but within each file the lexias were produced at the will of the computer.

Not exactly what I want to do in From Ireland, but I began to think more clearly about organizing the story around each part of Máire's lay -- evoking the tradition of epic poetry told in the public community space of the Internet -- which I used in 1986 when I began telling Uncle Roger online on Art Com Electronic Network on the WELL and which in turn inspired its name was Penelope.

March 17, 2011

Today - St Patrick's Day -- is the anniversary of the day I formally began the research for From Ireland with Letters. In family tradition, I met my son at a local brewery for celebratory St Patrick's Day green Beer and remembered the words I wrote a year ago:

"A fine day to be honoring family!
And it is a fine day to be remembering Tommy Makem
on the road with Liam Clancy
with rosin in his pockets for his bow
'O my fiddle strings are new
And I've learned a tune or two....'

Most of Máire's making of music has been with a group of Celtic musicians who are well known in the community. They regularly play the local clubs and Festivals and have a good community following. Their work incorporates more contemporary influences than the lay which she is creating on her own, and they have just released an album. They perform and dress informally. The group leader, with whom Máire was once involved, favors black pants, black jacket, and teeshirt.

Máire usually wears the traditional white or green Aran sweater and pants. But either she will perform her lay in the grey garb that the harpers wore in the Harp Festival of 1792:

"'It may be interesting for the reader to know something of the personal appearance of these last representatives of a class so famous in song and history,'" Charlotte Milligan Fox (Annals of the Irish Harpers, NY: Dutton, 1912 p. 106 ) quotes Edward Bunting as writing. "'They were in general clad in a comfortable homely manner in drab-coloured or grey cloth of coarse manufacture. A few of them made an attempt at splendour by wearing silver buttons on their coats...'"

or she will perform in a emerald green silk dress.

March 21, 2011

Thinking of the Prologue in terms of a "Ritornello" that introduces theme(s) in more of an early music sense, I have gone even further back in time, reading (in Giulio Cattin, Music of The Middle Ages I, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984, translated by Stephen Botterill) about the Medieval music practice of tropes and troping --the adding of words or music to existing works -- and wondering how this might work in using some of the text of the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters as a kind of pre-existing tapestry to embroider on.

Presumably the early Irish lays because they were oral, also introduced variations, but what might be a little different here is that I will be working with my own text in the Prologue, rather than adding words or music to an existing text by another artist. So, as I have in the past in works such as its name was Penelope, I'm also creating new media literature using the idea of memory, how we remember repeated phrases and incidents in ways that are not necessarily sequential and can be repetitive.

Thus I could take a passage from the Prologue such as

It was early autumn, a time that for him
had always seemed like Spring.
He was alone in his University office,
surrounded by piles of papers
and open books.

His Father's family was from County Cork.
If the records were correct,
Hiram's family was from County Waterford.


The intangible similarity, Liam thought,
was more than the woodcarving feel to the works.
In different ways, two 19th century sculptors, who lived in Italy,
had depicted the idea of the working artist.

and use such passages in Begin with as incidents and ideas that will be remembered and embroidered on in Liam's thoughts as he listens to Máire begin her lay in a local club not far from his University office.

March 28, 2011

Last week, the week when I began actually creating the Interface for Behold, I went to a few sessions of Reading the Middle Ages, an International Graduate Student Conference hosted by the UC Berkeley Program in Medieval Studies. It was a gathering where the conjunction of oral literature and reading in the Middle Ages was set forth in a pageant of stories, literary devices and scholarly interpretations that transcended its campus lecture hall setting, (gray day, rain outside the window) as now taken for granted ideas of reading -- different ways of reading, oral reading, reading to oneself -- were explored by panelists, moderators, and respondents.

On Friday, in a panel moderated by UC Berkeley Professor of Rhetoric and Celtic Studies, Daniel Melia, later editions of Chaucer's 14th century The Canterbury Tales -- approaches to the poet and his work in a different era -- set the stage for reoccurring themes of Chaucer's work as a key to the imagining/understanding of the experience of literature in the Middle Ages. (presenter: Devani Singh, Trinity College, Oxford)

Using textual analysis to reveal what the writers themselves said about their work, Hélène Haug, (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium) presented cogent evidence that in the Middle Ages many written texts were meant to be read aloud. An oral use of manuscripts was also illustrated in Amelia Garcia's (Simon Fraser University, Department of English) presentation on a Medieval Bestiary: how the lives of animals were used as a central focus in teaching the living of human lives; how written bestiaries were carried into communities and read aloud.

Sean Curran, UC Berkeley, Department of Music, gave a dense lecture which -- interspersed with lyrical phrases and informal performances of motets by the presenter and his friends in the Department of Music -- evoked issues of motet words, notation, and performance in a sort of Medieval Céilí. And the panel closed with a summary by Erik Born, UC Berkeley, Department of German, as well as audience questions.

In a panel moderated by Emily Thornbury, Assistant Professor of English, UC Berkeley, on Saturday morning Chaucer returned in a discussion of the "Summoner's Tale", his earthy response to his own "Friar's Tale". (presenter: Blair Citron, UC Davis, Department of English) And a paper on "Crashing the Text in Medieval Baghdad" looked at satire and unexpected bawdy comedy in Arab Medieval texts.(Emily Selove, UCLA, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

I had lately been reviewing the text of my own Uncle Roger. First told in an online community situation, Uncle Roger is an early work interspersed with bawdy occurrences, where in Part One, during the course of a dream-laced night after, the narrator replays a party in dream and memory fragments, and in Part Three the story is disclosed with randomly generated screens of text. (I programmed this by numbering each lexia and then using a pseudo-random number generator to produce the texts in varying orders.)

Thus, Matthew Sergei's (UC Berkeley, Department of English) talk on interactive readership in The Chance of the Dice was of particular interest. In this work created by a medieval poet, fictional/semi-fictional texts were written and numbered. Each text was produced by a throw of the dice, so that as each player received a text, their character was defined, and in the whole process, a kind of story was generated.

Respondent Kenneth Fockele, UC Berkeley, Department of German

I was only able to attend a few sessions but look forward to following up on the work of some of the other presenters. Would particularly like to follow up on Bridget Wheartys (Stanford University, Department of English) work on Lydgate's Fall of Princes and on Deirdre Jackson's (British Library, Department of Manuscripts) work on the Cantigas de Santa Maria.

And it was a fine surprise to learn that Dan Melia is writing a book on Saint Patrick!

April 4, 2011

A draft interface page for Begin with the Arrival has been created, It works somewhat like file III of paths of memory and painting but there are four instead three lexia spaces side by side. Have decided what the basic narrative of each lexia space is and now need to write a few lexias for each space to see how this will work. The four tracks as they are currently conceived are:

1. What actually happened to Walter Power from the time of his birth through the first year or two of servitude in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This part of the narrative needs to create something of the feel of Walter's voice. It will have to be clear that it is Máire's conjecture. However, at this point, I want to give the story more life by presenting both Walter Power and Hiram Powers as real characters, as opposed to showing their lives only as seen through the eyes of Liam and Máire.

2. Máire's composition of her lay. This narrative track will involve the histories and sources she looks at, how she decides to present the material, and details about her own life.

3. Liam's experience of the lay he hears Máire sing in a local club. This narrative track will also include how he intertwines what he hears with his own research and life.

4. Hiram Powers life in the first years in Italy up through 1842, including the beginning of the creation of The Greek Slave. There is much more documented material, so this will be easier to do in Hiram's voice than it will be to do Walter Power's voice.

Once in a while an interlude that is very different from what one is working on helps to clear the air, to take one outside of one's own creative sphere. So, on Friday I went to hear the music of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, part of the L@TE series curated by Sarah Cahill at the Berkeley Art Museum. The experience ROVA created of four different yet closely related saxophone voices was memorable, particularly the way they used the space. At times, rather than all playing in front of the audience, they each played from different parts of the area, sometimes even ascending to the balconies.

Later at home, I did a little work on the visual appearance and the timing of the Prologue, noting that for this beginning to From Ireland with Letters, I thought that it would be relatively easy to set the lines in motion while the main text was static, but this did not turn out to be the case. In Paths of Memory and Painting, all the lexias spaces are moving and although there are more components to deal with, it all works together. But by deciding to allow one part of the Prologue to only change at the will of the reader, while the movement of the other part was controlled by computer-mediated timing, a situation was created that was initially more difficult to work with then I realized. Using color and design somewhat differently, so that timing and words are not the only element in the lines part of the interface, was a helpful approach to this problem.

Relatedly, it is of interest to look at how Medieval manuscripts, which are often very visual, dealt with complex information Thanks to a url on a bookmark provided by Deirdre Jackson at Reading the Middle Ages, I was able to do this using the searchable Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts created by the British Library. Searching for "glossing" produces some interesting results!

April 12, 2011

I now begin to research more thoroughly the Power family in Ireland in the 17th century in order to look at who Walter Power might have been. Am beginning with the most riveting story: Lord John Power, his wife Giles Fitzgerald, and the destruction of their castles, which they defended against Cromwell in 1649.

Here is the information about John Power's family from Gabriel O'C Redmond, An historical memoir of Poher, Poer, or Power With an Account of The Barony of Le Power and Coroghmore, County Waterford, Dublin: Office of "The Irish Builder", 1891

"John Power was the eldest son of Nicholas Power, the eldest son, Baron of Dunisle, Lord of Kilmedan, obiit 1st April, 1635. By his wife Elenor, dau. of Thomas Purcel, Baron of Loughmoe, he had issue three sons - John (of whom presently); Nicholas; and Walter Power, who married a dau. of ----- Grant, Esq., of Curlody - and a dau. Elenor, who married Nicholas Power, of Kilballykiltie.

I have already looked at John ("of whom presently") and thus will look at his parents and siblings.

Spent a long time, reworking the timing of the Prologue until finally it is close to what I originally envisioned. And then, I escaped to Bay Area trails with a watercolor notebook. On three different trails, I started sketches of wildflowers and finished them home, listening to French harpsichord music. So far the resulting artists book is quite nice and might be used in conjunction with Paths of Memory and Painting, if I were to show this work again in an installation situation. What I'm remembering is the handpainted text I showed with its name was Penelope at the Richmond Art Center. And then, a handmade notebook of email correspondence with Cathy Marshall (that documented our intitial meeting to discuss our collaboration) was shown in conjunction with the installations of Forward Anywhere at Xerox PARC's 25th anniversary and at the Artemesia Gallery in Chicago. We set up a picnic table with chairs and placed this notebook and a laptop with our work running on it on the table. And when The Yellow Bowl was installed at the Sheppard Gallery at the University of Nevada in Reno, I created a group of objects that were shown with it: a window hand painted with text, a yellow bowl handpainted with a scene, fragments of handwritten text that were placed in the bowl.

Haven't done this for a while but have always liked the juxtaposition of new media literature with hand-crafted objects.

On the art trail this week on Sunday at the Hearst Gallery at Saint Mary's, I heard an interesting talk by anthrologoist Lynn Meisch in conjunction with the exhibition Gift of the Gods: Exploring Maize, Culture and Indigenous Art in the Americas and enjoyed the stories of anthropologist explorers on the backroads of Peru, discovering contemporary weavers creating handwovern textiles from centuries old patterns.

April 20, 2011

Sometimes everything all comes together, and it is good without much work; other times it is months before the piece works. How long it will take isn't predictable, but the time must be spent. So, finally I like the title page for The Prologue and the work unfolds in a satisfactory way. It took four months!

I had to hear the beautiful flute and recorder pieces that the University Baroque Ensemble played on Saturday to realize that on the title page, I was not showing the reader the sound of words.

dark green color of the ocean
the image of a woman in white,
who appeared in a dream to the the artist

the quote he was looking for
the junction of several trails
that would eventually converge

community of music. The Céilí

And the work unfolds in a satisfactory way... There was a problem that some of the lexias were too long, but I didn't want to increase the number of "lines" in the interface, which I thought would need to be done if I broke some of the lexias into two parts. On Friday, I went to hear Stanford Professor of Musicology and Director of the ensemble Cut Circle, Jesse Rodin, lecture at the U.C. Berkeley Department of Music on "Pacing as Form in Fifteenth-Century Music". I was interested (for obvious reasons) in his approach to the role of pacing in the Renaissance music he has performed and recorded.

Unexpectedly, there was something that I heard briefly in the music he played from Cut Circle's fine recordings of Joaquin De Pres and his contemporaries that provided a solution to the problem. If I broke up the lexias that were too long in such a way that one part was short and moved quickly to a longer part, I could use one "line" to interface two lexias. The result was both melismatic and more dramatic.

Sometimes the harp and voice together
and other times the fiddle
alternating with her voice.

as if everything in her life
was linked to the moment

the words with which he dedicated the book
the intangible similarity
valleys and mountains that the
artists of the Hudson River school
had painted

outside, the church bells had begun to ring

On Saturday, under the direction of Davitt Moroney, there was the pure pleasure of early music well played by the University Baroque Ensemble. Evocative of woodland streams, wildflowers picnic baskets, and champagne, in the UBE's program this spring there was the sound of flutes and recorders in the music of Telemann, Bach, Vivaldi and Blavet -- reminding me that ultimately it is the beauty of the music that is important, in whatever way it is created.

In counterpoint, the program concluded with a challenging interpretation of Bach's seductively instrumented, puritanical Cantata about sinful experience: 'Widerstehe doch der Sunde'.

It was Cal Day, and among many other things there was also an Electronic Sound Garden, coordinated by composer Sivan Eldar. (where audio and brook ran in polyphonic score)

Later in the day I listened to a fine program of Gospel music by the University Gospel Chorus under the direction of D. Mark Wilson, who reminded us of the role of Gospel music in our history and beliefs -- while sitting outside, we in the audience enjoyed and participated in the music.

April 27, 2011

The Prologue, then, is a hybrid of an electronic manuscript and a polyphonic work of music. There is no reason that it cannot be this. But I would like Behold, the part of the work which follows the Prologue, to work in somewhat the same way that the third file of Paths of Memory and Painting works. It is not a problem that there are four lexia spaces in Behold because there could be four instruments playing in a trio sonata. Essentially, rather than one lexia space representing the basso continuo, as was the case in paths, in Behold, there will be two basso continuo lexia spaces. Already, having designed a draft first page, I can see that it will be easier to write this part than it was to write and code the troublesome Prologue.

The largest area of research that remains for this part of the work is the reading of Prendergast's The Cromwellian settlement of Ireland and other things about Cromwell that some potent ancestral memory urges me to avoid.

As if joining the "Wild Geese" Irish at the French court, I would rather listen to music and secretly continue the notebook of small drawings and paintings of wildflowers. Late this morning I was on a trail doing some sketching and in the shame of wildflower painting, closed the book everytime someone passed the place where I was sketching.

I need to listen to music, but don't know yet know what music to listen to. The work needs to be serious enough to convey the themes of the time Saint Patrick spent as a slave and Cromwell's devastation of Ireland, yet at the same time Liam is sometimes thinking the things one would think in a local pub.

May 2, 2011

Began the writing for Begin with the Arrival. Very happy to actually begin writing again after months of editing and interface tweaking. The idea is good: Máire's lay conveyed through how Liam experiences it; through selected lines of song; through her recollection of the composition process; and with a background of the lives of Walter Power and Hiram Powers -- all these things running in parallel lexia spaces, so that like a piece of music, the reader experiences them together.

As is often the case, I needed some things to help me begin: the fine spring weather, the enjoyable unstructured task of painting by hand, the listening to music. On Friday it was the University Baroque Ensemble's more complete reprise of their Cal Day performance -- their conveyed understanding of the music, their rapport with their instruments, and the program itself. It was perfectly set out, with seamless contrasts between the clear simplicity of woodwind melody, the echoing unusual phrases of Rosenmuller's Sonata Settima and -- as if we were in a Hudson River landscape, "storm approaching") the beautifully played Telemann concerto in E minor for flute, recorder, and strings.

UBE Director Davitt Moroney looks at painting in connection with music, and although the music is of course primary, this communicated visual/narrative aspect suffuses the program. And so, as if I were in a Bay Area Florence having ventured briefly from my studio, there is music, and then I return to writing.

On Saturday, the respite from writing was a drawing hike where I sat in a most beautiful place, drank coffee from a thermos, ate homemade apple cake, and drew...

And on Sunday, I returned to Patrick. Máire's lay is not primarily about Saint Patrick, but she sets the stage with his experience of his life as a slave and with an exploration of the ancient Forest of Foclut.

I reread the pages in Thomas O'Loughlin's Discovering Saint Patrick that describe biographical sources and noted a few texts that might actually be included in the lay, such as the words written by Abbot Cellanus of Péronne, who probably lived in the late seventh century:

Brightening our darkness with the light of faith,
Calpornius's son in Britain he was born,
Gaul reared him, happy Ireland gave him rest.
The heaven's blessing shines on either land.

It is, O'Loughlin writes, "the first case of Irishmen taking the memory of Patrick abroad as part of their own memory and identity."

May 7, 2011

Today I went to Marin and hiked along a beautiful stream, where amidst tall grass and blue flowers, I continued to draw. The project is a new media poet's exercise in creating lexias with small drawings of wildflowers.

Began charting the lexias for Behold. Each lexia is a separate file and thus must have a name, so that it can be called by the code. So the top file is "behold.html" and it calls 4 different lexias: "power1.html", "maire_lay1.html", "liam_lay1.html", and "hiram1.html". These files will continue as "power2.html", "maire_lay2.html", "liam_lay2.html", "hiram2.html", and so on....

There were other things I should have been working on on Thursday, but in the morning I took my wildflower sketch book on a green-with-new-grass trail, where I sketched white flowers and dark blue-green leaves.

And then -- whether escape or research or because entranced by the creative rhyming, the rapidly flowing lines, the alliteration, the painterly words, the love of the land -- I reread a book I have had for quite a few years: Kathleen Hoagland, 1000 Years of Irish Poetry (Old Greenwich, CT: Devon-Adair, 1981) and looked also at George Sigerson's Bards of the Gail and Gall. (New York: Scribner's, 1907)

Irish poetry begins with the words of Amergin, the legendary Milesian druid poet, who, to stop a magic wind, wrote The Incantation. The opening lines are:

"Fain we ask Errin
Faring o'er oceans
Motions to mountains
Fountains and bowers
Showers, rills rushing
Gushing waves welling,
Swelling streams calling"

In the appendix, Sigerson explains that it is composed in "Conaclon", a form in which the end word of one line rhymes to the first line of the following line. The poem is ancient, although the exact date is not known. Hoagland also includes The Incantation but starts her book with two other poems attributed to Amergin: The Mystery and Invocation to Ireland.

beginning words from Invocation to Ireland

"I invoke the land of Ireland.
Much-coursed be the fertile sea;
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain,
Fruit strewn be the showery wood;
Showery be the river of waterfalls;
Of waterfalls be the lake of deep pools,
Deep pooled be the hill-top well;"

closing words from The Mystery

"Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?"
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?"

The most difficult poems were written during the 17th century. Not much art and music remains from that time of the devastation of Ireland, not much, but there are these poems. When I read them, I heard the voices of seventeenth century Ireland: wistful, mornful, questioning, harrowing. Thus I will quote from them in From Ireland. They are The Flight of the Earls written by Andreas Mac Marcuis in 1607; ("Who shall break our heavy chains?") and Geoffrey Keating's Farewell to Ireland. ("Best wishes to her truest, Her blue of bluest mountains, My love to those within her, Her lakes and linns and fountains.") Keating was a Priest who had to hide in a cave, later traveled in disguise, and wrote a history of Ireland. The most harrowing poem, the poem that might also have been written by Walter Power or his fellow enslaved passengers on The Goodfellow before they were taken from Ireland, is Shaun O'Dwyer of the Glen written in 1651. Shaun O'Dwyer was Colonel John O'Dwyer, who soon afterwards left Waterford for Spain with 500 followers.

But, it is spring in California, and today it is these lines of Irish poetry that are on my mind:

"Mellow tunes ever flowing
Lucent wines always glowing"

(from The Isle of Delight)

and: (from the Fionn era)

"Where is sweetest music found?"

May 14, 20113

Began thinking about an encyclopedia entry I am writing about "authoring software", a welcome responsibility that brings with it the reviewing of what it was, what it is, what it may be, while the week progressed in reading, research, archives, and remembering: my grandfather and grandmother and the house with a driveway fenced with wisteria, the fish pond and the ocean beach only a mile or so away. Roses.

Restless with words not spoken, scenes not painted, the many places I have been but never to Ireland, the need to hear music before I write anymore because there is a certain way that the words should flow and relate to each other and I want to be sure of what that is.

"Speak, ye champion chiefs, rejoicing
Rang the voice of Finn around
Tell me each, in answer meetest
Where is sweetest music found?"

May 20-22, 2011

It has been a week of fine "woodland surprises". One came from a Healy, an evocative reminder of studying watercolor painting and art history with Arthur Kelly David Healy at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Living in New Hampshire, Máire Powers and Liam O'Brien are very aware of the beautiful environment in which they live, as also are Vermonters. Thus desciption of place will be a part of both of their narratives in From Ireland with Letters. And I will return to (or remember) the words in this notebook when Máire Powers sings of Patrick's captivity.

Ancient Irish Forests probably began with juniper, dwarf willow, and birch. And then came oak and elm, hazel, Scots pine, alder, ash, and yew. They were protected by law in Medieval times, according to A History of Irish Woods, by Back on the Map, which is a project of the Woodland Trust "to create a record of ancient and long-established woodland in Northern Ireland for the first time."

This week I went in search of the Forest of Foclut which Patrick mentions in his Confessio:

"And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go an where else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night,I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: 'The Voice of the Irish', and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us."

According to The Voices from the Forest of Fochluth" on Library Ireland, (From The Wonders of Ireland by P. W. Joyce, 1911) early sources for the location being the vicinity of the village of Foghill in County Mayo include:
John O'Donovan, ed, The Genealogies, Tribes, and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, Irish Archeological Society, 1844


John , The life and writings of St. Patrick, Dublin: Gill & Son, 1905.

John Healy writes that

"Focluth Wood, by the western sea, is one of the most interesting places referred to in the Lives of St. Patrick. The name still survives in a form only slightly changed from the original. In the Irish Tripartite the name is Fochlad -- Caille Fochlad -- of which the present form is beyond doubt a corruption, or rather a modification, in accordance with well-known phonetic laws. The modern townland of Foghill is a little to the south of Lackan Bay, and is marked in the County map of Mayo; but in ancient times the Woods of Fochlad extended all along the low ground from the head of Lackan Bay to Killala, and even some distance to the south-east of that ancient church. There is a little to the west of the present railway line, just before it enters Killala, an extensive marsh, which was once a lake surrounded by rather steep hills on the west, where in places the natural wood still survives. We can easily gather from the Tripartite, as will be seen here- after, that all this marshy ground was in the time of St. Patrick a portion of the great Focluth Wood; and it was probably that part of it to which he expressly refers, when he describes the voices of those who dwelt near it as calling him back to Erin in language so pathetic and endearing.
See vol. I, p. 130. The various forms are Fochlad, Fochloth, Fochlithi, FochUitb, Fochiti, and at present Foghill or Fohill -- obviously the same word."

If Foclut is Foicheall/Foghill, and the Forest extended to now Killala, this description at the beginning of an eyewitness account to the 1798 landing of the French in support of the United Irishmen Rebellion is of interest. It is from Landing of the French at Killala, by an Eye Witness, The Dublin Penny Journal 1:49, June 1, 1833, available on Library Ireland.

"Killala, an ancient Bishop's See, deriving its name from a cell, built by Amhley, the Amalgadeus [1] of St. Patrick, was, at the period of my recollection, a neat and picturesque little town.

Never shall I forget the impression made on my youthful mind, on first beholding this interesting place. Its lofty round steeple, (the still existing remains of its ancient church,) insulated on an eminence in the centre of the town; its capacious harbour and contiguous arm of the mighty Atlantic, present objects of unceasing interest; whilst fertile corn fields, luxuriant meadows, and groves of venerable trees, descending to the water's edge, invested the entire scene with an air of tranquillity and repose."

In The life and writings of St. Patrick, John Healy suggests the possibility that this is where Patrick's ship of rescue was docked. However, even if the distance Patrick describes in his Confessio ("And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away") is, as has been suggested, exagerated, it does not seem likely that this is the case if Foclut was also the site of his captivity. But it should be noted that Patrick does not specifically say that Foclut was the place of his captivity. (There is also a legend that it was in the vicinity of Mount Slemish in Country Antrim) Foclut Woods could have been have been near the place of his rescue and thus a part of his sense of duty to return. We do not know whom he met when he was first turned away from the ship of rescue, but he does say that he was staying in a hut in the area.

Also of interest -- remembering John Muir's long routes through the Sierras when he grazed his flocks, (see Following Muir's First Summer Route by John Fiske on the Sierra Club's website) -- is that the area of Patrick's captivity may have been larger than usually imagined. The place of rescue was probably not one of many places on a sheepherder slave's route to graze his master's flocks because he says he has never been there. I say "probably not" because it is possible that he did not want to reveal the details of the place of his rescue and thus gently misled the reader. Where lived the voices who asked him to return would be important, as it is core to to his story, but a place of rescue for a runaway slave might be justifiably somewhat concealed.

From a poet's point of view, the descriptions of place do not have to be tied to specitic events and despite the questions, I came away from the week's reading with an idea of what the countryside was like in the general vicinity of Patrick's captivity and rescue.

John Healy's description of the Killala area is:

"Killala was at the time, as it is still, a much better harbour for boats and light craft than for large ships. It has many quiet coves sheltered from every wind and sea, where the lighter craft of the olden time could easily glide in and out with the full tide, and lie not only secure, but completely hidden from inquisitive eyes at low water. Just before reaching the station of Killala the railway crosses over such a cove at the present day. In old times the trees of Focluth Wood surrounded these quiet coves, for there was no Killala then, that is before St Patrick had founded its church for his disciple Muiredach, whom he placed over his converts, that were newly baptized in the spring still flowing by the edge of the sea. It was there, in our opinion, or in some cove near at hand, that the 'ship,' all unknown to its crew, was awaiting, by Divine providence, the runaway slave -- the ship destined to be laden with the most precious freight that ever left the shores of holy Ireland.

About two miles more northward and seaward, near the point where the Rathfran river enters the bay, there is a low-lying ridge of rocks, still called *St. Patrick's Rocks,' and just under the ancient church of Kilcummin, is a small bay sheltered by the rising ground to the west, and protected from the ocean swell by a low rocky ledge running out at right angles to the shore. It affords secure anchorage against all winds and sea, except the north-east gales, which sometimes break into this estuary with great fury. It was here the French ships, under Humbert, landed in 1798; and it may have been here, as some think, that Patrick's ship was drawn up on the sandy beach just under the rocks where the coast-guard station now stands."

Two articles I still seek on the Wood or Forest of Foclut which St. Patrick mentions in his Confessio are:

Patrick MacNeill, "The Identification of Foclut", Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 22:3/4, 1947 pp. 164-173


Niall OCarroll, "Forest Perspectives Saint Patrick's Forest", Irish Forestry, Journal of the Society of Irish Foresters, 63:1&2, 2006
The abstract for this article is as follows:
"A review of surviving records and of modern commentaries indicates that Saint Patrick's Irish captivity was spent at or near a forest in Co Mayo, and not on Slemish in Co Antrim"

May 30, 2011

The story of the books Máire's mother's grandfather brought to America when he left Ireland after the Easter Rising is a part of her family history and is why Máire has in her home a collection of family books of Irish history, music, and poetry.

She is very familiar with Irish traditional music played in her family, played with her band. And in her great-grandfather's books, she has read and reread the stories of the 17th and 18th century harpers. She has played their works, particularly the works of the 17th century harper-composers, including Rory Dall, Carolan, and Thomas Connellan. Their works, as she reconstructs them, will be at the core of the sound of her lay.

Immersing herself in the life of a harper, she has read and reread the rambles of Arthur O'Neill as set forth in his memoirs in the Annals of the Irish Harpers.

And there is something else she wants to emerge in a few places in the work: the sound of the lost Irish sonata. The search for this sound is why she is taking baroque violin lessons from a neighbor, who plays in an ensemble in Boston.

June 4, 2011

Surprisingly, it is Liam and not Máire who has heard Amy Beach's Gaelic Symphony. Premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 30, 1896, the Gaelic Symphony was begun in 1894, later than the flowering of the Hudson River School. But as an historian of the work of the Hudson River School, Liam thinks the work expresses some of the same aesthetic, and in it he hears the experience of larger than life native landscape, the coloring, even the importance of the weather. Also, because his family came to America a half a century earlier during the potato famine, he is interested in the composer's explanation that the Gaelic Symphony was about the sufferings and struggles of the Irish people, 'their laments...their romance, and their dreams.'" (quoted in an article by Beach's biographer Adrienne Fried Block on the American Composers Orchestra website.) The Gaelic Symphony was the first major Symphony by an American woman composer. She was born in New Hampshire.

The work is too symphonic for Máire, but perhaps Liam will play it for her after they meet.

Amy Beach used an 1841 book of Irish folk songs published in Dublin, as one of her sources, according to the American Composers Orchestra article.

June 7-9, 2011

The opening narrative of From Ireland with Letters -- that follows the Prologue -- has been renamed Begin with the Arrival. The writing is now in progress online in a draft version, and an idea of how the themes will move back and forth in this work can be seen at

It will take a while to make this work, but the process is rewarding.

A lot of work goes into an online writer's notebook, but that work is eventually repaid when the time comes to create the work because much of the thinking has been done, and the research has been documented.

June 14, 2011

In Begin with the Arrival, when working with four themes that move back and forth across the screen, it is my job as the writer to make the whole coherent. There are ways that this can be done, but at this time in the history of new media writing, I do not have the work of centuries of composers of computer-mediated word structures to study.

There are elements of early polyphony in the interface for Begin with the Arrival. But when it came time to actually create the interface and the cadence of the work, I looked in particular at the extraordinary rhythms of ancient Irish poetry.

After I had finished the draft writing and created the draft interface. It took more than four months to make the Prologue "work". As a jeweler would set gems into a complex work of Celtic jewelry, there was much work to be done on the structure, cadence, colors, and words before it was what I wanted. Now, I begin the process again, as the draft writing of Begin with the Arrival is in progress.

Some would wait until the whole was done before making it available on the public Internet. But perhaps the spirit of great-great Uncle Hiram Powers is with me in my choice of working with stories in progress online. There were many visitors in and out of his studio in Florence who saw each unfinished work as he continued to perfect it. It was a community process.

This online studio way of working also comes from the beginning of my life as a new media poet, when stories were told live on The WELL, and then polished with each telling in different places. It is a way of creating epic poetry that evolves with the telling and retelling to an audience. Within my story, Máire has based her performance on the ancient Irish lay, using a combination of singing, speech and passages of music. The reading of words from books would not be traditional, but it is her way of honoring those writers.

And some will ask "why?" Why write this way? I am not one to want to replace the book. Like Máire, I have beside me a shelf of beautiful books, many fifty to a hundred years old. I do not write polyphonic text to replace these books or any book. Rather, I want to convey human experience in different ways.

One of the reasons print narrative is so enduring is that it is human nature to want a sequential story. Yet the experiences of life can be conveyed in other ways. There is a value in that, and we now have the capabilities of doing it. For instance, Liam will not listen to Máire sing without thinking his own thoughts. The audience will drink their ale or beer and notice what there neighbors are doing. while at the same time they hear the music and the words. The performer will have her own concerns, particularly if this is the first time she has performed the work. These things will happen at the same time. Conveying this simultaneous pub performance experience coherently is not easy, but that is how it happens in life. Such struggles of vision and ways of conveying experience are a part of the making of art. And sometimes there will be moments when everything comes together, and one thinks "yes this is what I want to convey, and finally I have done it".

Because I seek a wider audience for the story itself, I will eventually write a print narrative of From Ireland with Letters. I hope that it will be good, but a print narrative will be a different experience than the computer-screen exploration of parallel narratives in the Prologue or the idea of being in the pub when Máire first performs the lay of Walter Power.

On January 21, not long after I began this notebook, I was reading Gallo's Music of the Middle Ages II. Lately I have returned to his thoughts as it is helpful to be reminded of a similar era of creating a different kind of art. Our ears are now accustomed to the complex ways in which they created their music. But "why write this way?" was also a question asked of the early polyphonic composers.

Struggling with some changes in the new Mozilla browser which is not working so well with my work. Maybe I can make some changes to fix this. Meanwhile, Explorer is working pretty well and is recommended for visitiing my studio and reading the work in progress Begin with the Arrival.

June 21, 2011

The draft writing for the first part of Begin with the Arrival is finished, except, perhaps, for a few more lexias in the Hiram Powers lexia space.

It is time for an intermission. The audience in the pub is ordering beer or ale. I am taking a break from this writing to work on other things and to polish what I have done so far. (the writing, the timing)

The next part will be more difficult, for it begins in the 17th century and will concern Oliver Cromwell's invasion of Ireland and what happened to Walter Power.

In 2007, when I was writing The Wedding Celebration of Gunter and Gwen I used a detail from a drawing of my old violin in the opening pages. The drawing was done many years ago, but I noticed when I found it that it was unfinished. I had not drawn the strings. Part of the story is that I carried that violin all around Europe, on the back of a motorbike until something happened to it. In Germany, I bought a lute which I learned to play, but it was never quite the same.

Thus, since I used that drawing in 2007, I had been thinking that somehow I needed to restring the violin. Máire Powers plays the Irish fiddle extraordinary well, and somehow I feel as if she has restrung that violin for me.

Once in a while in the lives of poets, such things happen.

June 30, 2011

In Begin with the Arrival, the "Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill", that Máire Powers plays on the harp to close the first part, is the 17th century music written by Ireland's celebrated harper and composer Turlough Carolan. (Or rescored by Carolan, Flood thinks this "glorious lament" was first written at the time of Owen Roe's death in 1649. A History of Irish Music, p.194)

There is also a work of poetry composed for the death of Owen Roe O'Neill, the Irish General who won the Battle of Benburb and died (possibly of poisoning) before confronting Oliver Cromwell. It is "Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O'Neill", written by the 19th century Irish writer and revolutionary Thomas Davis and much read and quoted at the time of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

"We thought you would not die we were sure you would not go,
And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell s cruel blow
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?"

Tommy Makem wrote a rousing song about brave Owen Roe O'Neill and the Irish victory at the Battle of Benburb: "The Battle of Benburb" on the album Rolling Home

And, as background for Liam's family, I'm rereading a book I have had for quite a while, Tip O'Neill's Man of the House, (NY: Random House, 1987) that begins with his account of growing up Irish in the Boston area. During the Potato Famine, Tip's grandfather came to America, where he lived in North Cambridge and worked in the brickyards. The family was from County Cork. The book is a fascinating account of politics and personalities written by a man who spent years in Congress, working tirelessly for the good of the American people.

Its an interesting book and a good read!

July 6, 2011

The stories of what happened to the Irish prisoners who were sent into slavery in Barbados are so terrible that they are difficult to read. Yet during Cromwell's reign more than 50,000 Irish people, mainly women and children, were sent into slavery in British colonies, according to ( The Irish Slave Trade) and other sources.

No slavery can be called fortunate. But it was much better to be sent to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Walter Power arrived in 1654 on the slaveship The Goodfellow.

That it was Cromwell's policy to send the Irish into slavery, he himself confirms in a letter to an English official where he also boasts about the fact that he massacred all the inhabitants of Drogheda. The letter was written to John Bradshaw, Esquire, President of the Council of State on September 16, 5 days after the massacre.

"Being thus entered, we refused them quarter; having, the day before summoned the Town. I believe we put to the sword the whole number of the defendants. I do not think Thirty of the whole number escaped with their lives. Those that did, are in safe custody for the Barbadoes."

The complete letter is available on Oliver Cromwell Website at

On the Fourth of July, I looked at Irish slavery in the New World. And then, -- because Walter Power, the first member of my family in America, began his life in this country as an Irish slave -- I looked more closely at who he was.

To begin with, so that what they were doing could not be easily traced, the British forced many of the young people they abducted as slaves to change their names. So we may never know for sure if the name of the young man who arrived in Marblehead in 1654 and eventually started a family in America was actually Walter Power. However, From Ireland with Letters and many other sources make the assumption that it was.

The primary source for information about Walter Power is Michael J. O'Brien's Pioneer Irish in New England, originally published in 1937. O'Brien spent 60 years of his life researching early Irish Americans. In addition to being the historiographer of the American Irish Historical Society and a major contributor to the Society's journal, he wrote A Hidden Phase of American History: Ireland's Part in America's Struggle for Liberty, (New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1920) an influential book about the role of Irish Americans in the American Revolution.

In Pioneer Irish in New England, O'Brien documents not only Walter Power but also the Power family, noting that they were of Norman origin but by the 17th century, they had been in Ireland for nearly 500 years and were Irish and their interests were identified solely with Ireland. (p. 240)

The name, according to many sources, was originally French: Le Poer -- confirmed by tracing O'Brien's reference to Irish Pedigrees, written by John O'Hart in 1892. However, Irish Pedigrees also notes that Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh -- an Irish historian, who in the 17th century created an extensive, multi-volume work: Leabhar na nGenealach, published hundreds of years later as The Great Book of Irish Genealogies -- sets forth an Irish origin for the Power family. I haven't yet read Mac Fhirbhisigh's account, but according to unverified sources, the story is that the Power family and several other Hiberno-Norman families were originally descended from Donnchad mac Briain, a deposed High King of Ireland, who fathered some children when he was on a pilgrimage to Rome in the 11th century.

So, an Irishman in his late 70's, makes a pilgrimage to Rome, (where he died in 1064) and in Italy, he fathers a new family with an Italian woman. This family makes its way (this did happen with soldiers in these times) through France,, then to England sometime after the Norman invasion, and then arrives back in Ireland with Strongbow in the 12th century. Given the clan feuds of the time, this is not completely unlikely since Donnchad mac Briain had been deposed.

Whether or not this incredible story is true, (or exactly what Mac Fhirbhisigh wrote) Donnchad mac Briain was a descendent of Brian Boru, ie an O'Brien, and the seemingly improbable legend -- discovered on the 4th of July -- is a fine source of wonder for a poet born Powers who verified the story of Walter Power in a book by an historian named O'Brien.

Meanwhile, in Begin with the Arrival, in a New Hampshire pub, an art historian named Liam O'Brien, who is researching the life of Irish American Sculptor Hiram Powers, is waiting for a Powers family musician to return to the stage. A photograph of Hiram Powers and his wife -- the daughter of an immigrant from Dublin who ran the Ohio boarding house where the sculptor was staying -- is on Liam's mind.

In the photograph, Hiram and his wife are looking out the window of their villa in Florence Italy. It is the place where Hiram Powers, a descendant of Irish slave Walter Power, created The Greek Slave, a work that would be influential in the fight against slavery in America.

July 11, 2011

In the writing of From Ireland with Letters, as has sometimes happened at other times, books appear at timely moments, providing information that I did not know at interesting times. This past week it was Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century by Edward MacLysaght, (Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1979; first published in 1939) which I had ordered because it was not available in the UC Berkeley Library.

The time period this book covers -- 1660-1700 -- did not at first seem what I was looking for. Irish life was not the same after the Cromwell invasion. Yet the book provided some likely constant details that were very helpful in visualizing the country in the first half of the 17th century: the not very good roads; (Ireland had not been a part of the Roman Empire) the unfenced countryside; dancing in the fields; oat cakes, boxty bread, honey, milk, mead, the many brewers in the country; orchards; the women spinning and weaving; the playing of the harp not only by the harpers by also as a part of family life; the hospitality of the Irish people; how persecution actually strengthened the meaning of Catholicism for the Irish; what the cottages and the "big houses" were like; living by lantern and candlelight, with music and storytelling in the dark nights

The book has many references, so there were leads to follow: the writing of David O'Bruadair, for instance.

And I read about how under very difficult conditions Oliver Plunkett started schools in Ireland in the years after Cromwell and how he was executed in England in 1681.

Today is the feast day of Saint Oliver Plunkett.

July 18, 2011

Finally I am beginning to plant flowers -- yellow and blue in containers on the deck -- usually done earlier in the year, but it was a spring of wild rain storms.

And it has been a month of short hikes, local excursions, and the creation of drawings to work on at home: a drawing made in Marin where I walked along a stream and sat on a hillside of blue flowers and green grass; a drawing made on an East Bay trail that reminds me of New Hampshire back roads in the early summer; an evening walk across the hills, a picnic on a Contra Costa trail; and meeting family in a pub for beer and bar snacks.

Unlike the Prologue which required months and months of revision after revision in both writing and interface, when I returned to what I have written so far of Begin with the Arrival I was happy with it on the whole, thinking only of small edits and timing changes.

But due to the two parallel yet intersecting tracks in the Prologue, it is difficult to decide how best to clearly but unobtrusively send the reader from the Prologue (which functions as a "Ritornello" that introduces themes and should be well-explored) to the opening narrative in Begin with the Arrival.

In a print work, the reader who reads the book sequentially can expect that after he or she has read the first chapter, he or she has read everything the author would like read before moving to the next chapter. And it is clear where the next chapter is. New media interface choices are more complex.

Meanwhile, I am continuing my research into the Ireland that Walter Power left when he was forcibly taken onto a British slave ship. There are two research tracks. One is to trace the devastation of Cromwell's Army. To begin: on August 13, 1649, Cromwell set sail from Milford Haven with 35 ships. Cromwell and his New Model Army landed in Dublin on August 15,1649. They marched about 30 miles north to Drogheda. On September 11, it was the first town to fall.

The other research track is to look at what the country was like before the arrival of Cromwell. So having finished MacLysaght's Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century, I am rereading my copy of H.V. Morton's In Search of Ireland (London: Methuen, 1949. First edition: 1930)

Morton, an English journalist, sets off for Ireland only 8 years after the Treaty of 1922. It is a different era, but still little changed in some areas. On the deck of a boat on his way to Ireland, he writes:

"I was going not to the land of clowns and 'bulls', which amused the ruling class of two centuries, but to a small country that has stood to its guns through a consistent War of Independence that dragged its weary, blood-stained way through nine centuries -- the longest struggle in the history of the world.
Before me on the sky-line was the Irish Free State."

July 27, 2011

Reading In search of Ireland, I have traveled with H.V. Morton from Dublin and a house where Michael Collins took refuge, to the port of Cobh, on the Cork coast, from whence sailed millions of Irish people to America in the time of the potato famine. Morton quotes accounts of the departure and tells of the postcards he sees in shops, postcards of Irish cottages and shamrocks for families to send to their loved ones in America.

Working on From Ireland with Letters, I tied the Prologue to Begin with the Arrival by offering the reader the choices of

continue to Hiram's Prologue
or Begin with the Arrival
at the end of the Máire Powers/Walter Power track


continue to Walter's Prologue
or Begin with the Arrival
at the end of the Liam O'Brien/Hiram Powers track.

But there still should be a way to get to Begin with the Arrival from the Prologue, (and vice versa) and that way should always be available.

Usually I do this in my multi-part works by making the opening page for the entire work always accessible on some part of each screen. In this way, the reader can at any time chose to return to an opening page -- which functions as both a book cover and a table of contents -- and then move to another part of the work.

But I don't yet have a title page for From Ireland with Letters. It is not always customary in works of web-based new media literature to have a titlepage that functions as the cover of a book would function in print book. Some writers plunge the reader immediately into the work. That is what I finally decided to do with the Prologue. (after many opening pages did not work) But a titlepage is usually needed for the whole of a multi-part work

I particularly like the opening page for Paths of Memory and Painting for which as an image I used a photograph of an artists book I was working on while writing this narrative. The artists book I'm currently working might work as an image for the opening page of From Ireland with Letters, but I think, I would like the opening page image to be a boat or ship, such as the Irish currach or curragh -- symbolic of the ship that Saint Patrick escaped on when he was a slave. Possibly it was somewhat like the legendary boat that Saint Brendan built in the 6th century. (of which there are medieval manuscript depictions)

Or, I could use a 17th century ship. Haven't been able to find a picture of The Goodfellow, but it might not have looked too different from the Mayflower for which there are many images. Was thinking about using a watercolor I did in Ipswich of the sea off of the Massachusetts Coast, but this painting is only ocean, and I would like a boat or ship.

How Hiram Powers sailed to Italy is also of interest. It was on the Brig Charlemagne, according to Wunder. (p. 104) If she was the Charlemagne built by Christian Bergh & Co, in 1828, there are pictures of her in the Palmer List of Merchant Vessels. However, Wunder describes the ship Powers sailed on as old and creaking. Powers sailed to Florence in 1837, only 9 years after the Charlemagne was built. And, I don't think the Bergh & Co. vessal is a brig. A brig only has two large masts. Will do some more research on the ship that took Hiram Powers and his family to Le Havre, from whence they traveled to Florence, where Powers spent the rest of his life.

In Book of the Artists, Henry Theodore Tuckerman tells this story:

"I remember standing with Powers at an angle of one of the principal streets of Florence, when the Grand Duke's carriages and outriders passed in grand array to the Cathedral to celebrate some fete: an old resident knowing the spectacle must be a novelty to the artist, who had arrived but a few days before, and doubtless expecting to see him greatly impressed by the brilliant show, inquired if it did not strike him as wonderful.

"It might have done so," he quietly replied, "but on the voyage hither I saw a whale." (Book of the Artists, American Artist Life, NY: Putnam, 1867. p 276)

August 3-6, 2011

As in In search of Ireland, H. V. Morton, drinks the Irish moonshine known as poteen; tells the heroic story of Patrick Sarfield's defense of Limerick; and heads for Connemara, I have been creating the first iteration of an opening page for From Ireland with Letters.

The documents made it clear. begin with the arrival of Walter Power in America. when she sailed from Kinsale, Ireland. sold as slaves in Barbados and America. How many there were by the time the ship reached the Massachusetts Bay Colony in January 1654 was not known. It was not known how many of the names. and played a line of song, fitting the melody to the words.

It was early autumn,a time that for him that had always seemed like spring. His Father's family was from County Cork. leaving the green hills of Ireland. the packet ships that transported hundreds of thousands from Ireland. the photo he was looking for. instead, as if he was on a journey. the image of a woman in white, who appeared in a dream to the artist. the manacles worn by African American slaves. the path on a grassy hill to the front door. when it arrived from Florence. the intangible similarity. "coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters" the junction of several trails that would eventually converge.

There were terrible conditions on slave ships; the floorplans of the cramped cells in their holds should be remembered. But on the first opening page for From Ireland with Letters, I did not want to use the slave ship that carried Walter Power to America and perhaps thousands of people into slavery in Barbados. Instead, as if created in a cabin near the harbor by a retired seaman, or by an Irish immigrant in Boston as a memento of the voyage, the handmade miniature -- currently on the page where the first quote from Patrick's Confession leads -- suggests a packet ship. Perhaps it is in Liam's office, a small painting above his desk to remind him of the story of how his family came to America. The packet ships that carried hundreds of thousands of people from Ireland to America at the time of the Potato Famine originally were mail carriers. It is fitting for the story.

If the ship that carried Hiram Powers to Europe is confirmed to be the packet ship The Charlemagne, she will be replicated on the cover with more detail -- perhaps after a 19th century marine painter. But for now I like the homespun remembrance on the initial opening page. It is accessible from Begin with the Arrival (by clicking on "From Ireland with Letters" on the bottom tags) and is also accessible from the Prologue. In my work, the opening page is used for navigation and is a part of the interface, so it is important to have it in place. Three different entry points to the story are emphasized by the three different places where text links above and below the painting lead the reader. From inside the narrative, the reader who wishes to move to a different section of the story is returned not to a slave ship but to a packet boat. The image could also be of the ship that rescued St. Patrick. The text that surrounds the image could be different "lines". What I created is probably not the final opening page. The narrative is not yet finished.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Chevalier Grattan Flood on August 6, 1928. In remembrance of his remarkable contribution to a reclaiming of Irish cultural history, the opening page of From Ireland with Letters is in satisfactory place.

Flood's Sketch of Irish Musical History begins with a drawing of the 1621 Fitzgerald Harp and is dedicated to:

"the musical sons and daughters of Ireland
scattered all over the globe -- the children
of the "Land of Song"

Soon, following Liam O'Brien's family, who came to America on a packet ship during the Potato Famine, I will go in search of: D. Hollett, Passage to the New World: Packet Ships and Irish Famine Emigrants, 1845-51, Heaton, 1995.

The story of Patrick Sarfield's defense of Limerick is told on the website of the Wild Geese Heritage Museum and Library in Galway.

August 9, 2011

In In Search of Ireland, H.V. Morton visits Armagh, where St Patrick's Confessio was found, bound in a 807 copy of the New Testament in Latin. Morton tells the story of how in 432 Patrick rescued the deer when he was consecrating the site of the Cathedral. Then he concludes his journey at the Hill of Tara in County Meath.

The birthplace of Hiram Powers
from The New England Magazine, July 1899

For From Ireland with Letters, I have changed the image on the opening page. The packet ship remains in this notebook in the August 3-6 entry, but the graphic of Hiram's Birthplace in Woodstock, Vermont that I found in the July 1999 issue of The New England Magazine works better with the text because there is some confusion about which ship is depicted, and I did not want to be too didactic in the poetic words that surround the image. The opening page is still in flux, so it may change again. This is a part of the process of an online studio on the World Wide Web.

As I wrote earlier in this notebook ""Some would wait until the whole was done before making it available on the public Internet. But perhaps the spirit of great-great Uncle Hiram Powers is with me in my choice of working with stories in progress online. There were many visitors in and out of his studio in Florence who saw each unfinished work as he continued to perfect it. It was a community process."

This notebook will be attached to the work in some way. It is actually meant to be a part of the work, so the image of the packet ship that is on the wall of Liam's office -- an icon above his desk to remind him of the story of how his family came to America -- stays with the story in this notebook.

August 15, 2011

On August 15, 1649, Oliver Cromwell landed in Dublin. It was the day of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Ireland called "The Feast Day of Our Lady in the Harvest Time", "Lá Fhéile Naomh Muire san Fhómhar". The day had probably been celebrated in Ireland since the sixth century.

Setting aside some time before I began today's research, I worked on the wildflower book, started in the early spring -- a small treasure created for no purpose except for the interface creation excuse of exploring the visual relationships of lexias (an exercise in creating art with small building blocks of visual information that work together) and the pleasure of making pen and ink and watercolor sketches in the Northern California countryside.

As things now stand, I plan to begin the second part of Máire Powers' lay with the events in Ireland on this day 362 years ago, or on the days leading up to Oliver Cromwell's landing at Dublin. And so I made a trek last week to the library of the University of California at Berkeley, where they hold a substantial collection of books on Irish history. Now, the details I have been avoiding confront me in two 19th century books.

I have read parts of these books on the Internet, but the trek to the library, the carrying of historic books home, holding these books in my hands seem a clearer way of following the path of Irish history. I also carried home a contemporary history. However, because Máire Powers bases her lay on the books her Great Grandfather brought from Ireland, many written at the time of the Gaelic Revival or a little earlier, the books I am reading are:

John P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, London:Longman,1865. (Dublin, printed at the University Press by M.H. Gill)

and the book I am starting with:

Rev. Denis Murphy, S.J., Cromwell in Ireland, a History of Cromwell's Irish Campaign. Dublin, M.H. Gill & Son, New Edition, 1897.

Father Denis Murphys' Cromwell in Ireland is meticulously researched, tells the story in the words of the people involved, carefully documents statements, and is an admirable work of history. In his preface, written in Limerick on the feast of St. Patrick, 1883, he writes: "I have allowed each of the chief actors to tell the part which he took, and in his own words, too, when it was possible to do so."

Murphy sets the stage in Ireland and in England, and then he writes of Cromwell's departure from Milford Haven:
"On Monday August 13th, he set sail with the van of his Army in thirty-two ships. Commissary-General Ireton, his son-in-law, followed two days after, with the main body of the army in forty-two vessels. His chaplain, Hugh Peters, with twenty sail brought up the rear." (pp. 73-74)

It was a formidable invasion, probably even larger than Murphy knew because in his 1999 book of the same name, Cromwell in Ireland, (Dublin, Gill @ Macmillan) James Scott Wheeler (retired US Army) writes that Cromwell had 35 ships; Ireton had 70 ships; and they were followed by Colonel Horton with a flotilla of 18 ships. (p. 73) Wheeler says that when Cromwell arrived in Dublin on August 15, he had 35 ships, and he was followed by Ireton on August 23, with 70 or 80 ships. (p. 81)

Dublin was already in English hands, commanded by Michael Jones. After his arrival, Cromwell made a disingenuous speech promising leniency to the Irish people. The wording of this speech compared with his merciless behavior is surprising. But, it was a "shrewd piece of policy" as Father Murphy notes, for the country people believed him, and his Army was supplied with provisions.

August 21, 2011

A hike in the countryside; a visit to a chapel, and then I rode to the site of the Siege of Drogheda with Father Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland. I knew it would be a difficult journey.

Oliver Cromwell mustered his forces of 15,000 men and moved quickly, probably taking the high road through Swords and Ballybriggan in Fingal. On the way, his ships battered Baldungan castle, built by the Knights Templar in the 13th century. The heir, a young child was saved by the Parish Priest who took him to France. There are accounts of earlier destruction and slaughter by English troops at Baldungan/Baldongan castle in 1642, (Weston St. John Joyce, The Neighbourhood of Dublin, 3rd ed., 1920 Chapter 30) <

About 23 miles north of Dublin, the seaport town of Drogheda was held by about 6,000 Irish troops under the command of Sir Arthur Aston. It was fortified by "a wall more than a mile and a half in length, enclosing an area of about sixty-four acres Irish measure. Its height was about twenty-foot, its thickness from four to six, diminishing towards the summit so as to allow a space of about two feet behind the embrasures for the soldiers to stand on." (Murphy p.88)

Cromwell sent a message to Aston asking for surrender but received no response. He then broke the walls at the place of the Church of Saint Mary's of Mount Carmel. The Irish beat his forces back on the first attack and then again. "'The third time, as the light was waning, Cromwell led them in person, forced Aston back upon his inner lines, stormed these lines in turn, and before night was master of the town.'" Murphy p. 97. quoting Froude's The English in Ireland vol 1, p. 124) Cromwell's New Model Army destroyed the steeple of St Mary's. It was September 11, 1649.

Quarter was offered and accepted. As soon as the Irish laid down their arms, the word "no quarter was given," and Cromwell's soldiers began to massacre the defendants of Drogheda. Arthur Aston was one of the first to fall. They took off his wooden leg, used it to beat out his brains, and hacked his body to pieces. "In all, 44 captains. all their lieutenants and ensigns, 220 reformadoes and troopers, and 2,500 foot soldiers" were put to the sword. In Father Murphy's words: "Such was the fate of those who had surrendered because quarter had been promised them." p. 101

Some of the remaining soldiers took refuge in St Peter's church. They refused to yield. Cromwell set the steeple on fire and slaughtered the soldiers as they rushed out. The remaining defenders who were not killed were sent into slavery in the Barbadoes. Father Murphy writes that "The street leading to the St. Peter's Church retained even within the memory of the present generation the name of "Bloody Street"; it is the tradition of the place that the blood of those slain in the church formed a regular torrent in this street". p. 102

Women and children were murdered in cold blood. "'to none was mercy shown: not to the women, nor the aged, nor to the young..." (Murphy. 107, quoting an eyewitness account) Priests were publicly tortured and slain in the market place. "The massacre continued for five whole days in succession. (Murphy p. 109) "'During all that time,' says Clarendon, 'the whole army executed all manner of cruelty and put every man that belonged to the garrison, and all of the citizens who were Irish, man, woman, and child to the sword." (Murphy p. 109; Clarendon's The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars, v.3 p.41)

U.S. Army historian Wheeler's 20th century account is far shorter, omitting much of the detail and numbers of victims, although he includes the beating to death of the Commanding Officer Aston with his own wooden leg. He notes Cromwell's strategic gain of fear of resistance. However, he writes: "But there is no justification we can make today for a soldier, even in the violent seventeenth century, to have refused to accept the surrender of enemy soldiers." p. 87

I stopped reading and worked on a page in my wildflower book. The flowers I was painting were shamrocks. I had been walking on a trail in the redwoods about a month ago when I sat down to have a small picnic. Beside me on the trail -- unseen until I sat down -- were wild shamrocks, beautiful in the early afternoon light. One does not see the delicate pale pink flowers or the profusion of the leaves on a wooded hillside in the stock pictures of shamrocks; the first time I saw them growing wild on an East Bay trail, I felt as if I had found a treasure. Here they were again, and today I continued to paint ithe colors of the leaves and flowers in remembrance of Drogheda.

August 27, 2011

It was a week of completed writing for other works and projects, a hike on favorite trail, the pleasure of redwoods and hill views. On Thursday, the Buddhas in the Berkeley Art Museum exhibition Himalayan Pilgrimage, Journey to the Land of Snows reminded me of imagining (long ago as the slides flashed by in a course on Asian Art History) what it would be like to cross the Himalayas on Mountain roads, round a bend and see an immense stone statue of the Buddha. In Berkeley, when you enter the room, the first sight is the golden Shakyamuni Buddha making the "touching the earth gesture" of enlightenment.

And then the difficult research for Begin with the Arrival continued as once again I picked up a book that is over 100 years old -- print has been a very lasting platform -- and continued reading Father Denis Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland. I am reading the 1897 "new edition", published in Dublin after his death. Murphy (1833 - 1896) was a Professor, a Priest, and a native of County Cork. In his last years, he taught at University College, at that time located at St Stephen's Green.

The massacre at Drogheda. The fearsome size of the invading army, backed by a fleet of over 100 ships. After Drogheda, Cromwell took Trim and Dundalk and then returned to Dublin. Some of his Army went North where Sir Charles Coote put the entire garrison of Coleraine to the sword, and Belfast was taken. On September 23, Cromwell left Dublin and marched along the Leinster Coast to the seaport of Wexford.

Father Murphy next follows the easily diverted Charles II and the problems of the Duke or Ormande. Note that due to the difficulties of explaining whom Ormonde was fighting for when, this part of the history will be touched on in Part III of From Ireland with Letters in a series of conversations between Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers, where the narrative device of extended conversation will be used to approach many-sided and/or interpretive facets of the story, as the two main characters begin to know each other and their separate histories converge.

Chapter 11 of Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland is devoted to the life and death of Ireland's most capable and heroic military leader of the time, Owen Roe O'Neill, the "wild goose" returned home, who fighting for Spain at Arras held off a French Army of more than 30,000 with only 1,500 men and who, returning to serve Ireland in her time of need, had defeated a larger force at the Battle of Benburb in 1646. Owen Roe became unaccountably ill in October 1649, just as an alliance with Ormande prepared the way for his Army to March against Cromwell. Until the very end, he was carried on a liter at the head of his troops. He died on November 6, 1649. Denis Murphy writes:

"he might have saved his country. But it was not to be.

He lived for Erin's weal, but died for Erin's woe"

In a footnote Murphy notes that "All writers, even the skeptical Dr. O'Conor of Stowe, admit that had Owen Roe lived, he would have saved Ireland." (p. 137)

The imposing British fleet followed close to land, as Cromwell moved south along the coast. On September 29, the fleet sailed into Wexford harbor. On October 1, Oliver Cromwell and his army approached Wexford and in the ensuing days camped outside the walls of the town. There followed an exchange of letters between Cromwell and the Commander of Wexford, David Sinnot, in which Cromwell demanded surrender and Sinnot sued for time while reinforcements arrived.

Cromwell unloaded his artillery and continued to deploy his forces around the town. In his letter to Sinnot on October 4, 1649, Cromwell refused Wexford a formal treaty but said that "If therefore, yourself or the town have any desires to offer, upon which you will surrender the place to me. I shall judge of the reasonableness of them when they are made to me." (Murphy p. 148) On October 10, Cromwell's forces began to batter the strategic Castle on the outside of the walls of the town.

On October 11, Sinnot sent four men to Cromwell with terms of surrender. They were:
freedom to worship as Roman Catholics
that the clergy could keep their churches and monasteries
that the bishop retain jurisdiction over the Catholic congregation
that the officers and soldiers be given safe conduct to the town of Ross
that the citizens of the town who wished to leave be granted safe conduct to Ross
that the town keep its government which would adhere to England
that the citizens of the town who wished to stay keep their homes and possessions
the freedom to leave the town if so desired
the enjoyment of the liberty enjoyed by free-born English subjects
no punishment for previous hostilities

(Murphy pp. 152-154: complete text)

In response Cromwell promised only life quarter for the soldiers and non-commissioned officers if they left and promised not to take up arms against England again, the commissioned officers were to be prisoners but thier lives would be spared, the possessions of the citizens would not be plundered. "I expect your positive answer instantly: and if you will upon these terms surrender and quit, and in one hour send to me four officers of the quality of field-officers and two aldermen, for the performance thereof, I shall thereupon forbear all acts of histility" (Murphy p. 154)

Wexford was prepared for resistance. The town was well-fortified; there was a rampart of earth 15 feet thick within the walls. Wexford was garrisoned by at least 2,000 men and had a brave commanding officer. However, the general opinion of the citizens was that it was better to surrender, and thus four men were sent to negotiate the surrender. Whether this was on the terms that Cromwell offered or there was further negotiation is unclear. What is clear is that while the negotiations were still in effect, (Murphy notes that Cromwell's entering the town while the terms of surrender were still under discussion was "fraudulent and treacherous") a traitor, Captain James Stafford, who was in command of the Castle, gave Cromwell the castle and opened the gates to the New Model Army.

"They entered so suddenly, that the townsmen were first made aware of Stafford's treachery by seeing the enemy's colours floating from the summit of the castle and the guns turned against the walls." (Murphy p. 159)

"For an hour the fight continued in the market-place but on unequal terms, for the sword of Cromwell cut down nearly all the townspeople without regard for condition, age, or sex." Bruodin's Propug p. 680 (cited by Murphy p. 159)

There follows in Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland, a series of accounts of what Cromwell and his soldiers did to the citizens of Wexford that are so terrible I do not wish to detail them. The number of accounts by many different people, some of them contemporaries, makes the massacre undeniable. (Murphy pp 159-171) Civilians, without regard to age or sex or whether or not they were combatants were cruelly tortured and murdered, including 300 woman who sought sanctuary at the Cross that stood in the center of town. They were slaughtered where they stood.

According to Wheeler, "Cromwell lost control of the solders once his troops scaled Wexford's walls. Worse, he made no efforts to regain control and enforce discipline until after the slaughter of at least 1,500 soldiers and townsmen in the town square....Unquestionably, , and with no moral or military justification, hundreds of non-combatants were killed by the rampaging troops." And he notes that in his report to Parliament, Cromwell "recorded no remorse for the slaughter of the unarmed civilians at Wexford." (Wheeler p. 98)

In the ensuing days, outside the town 4,000 citizens were butchered by order of Colonel Cooke, the man Cromwell put in charge of Wexford. Priests and Franciscan Fathers were murdered. The churches of Selskir, St. Patrick's, St. Mary's, St. Brides, St. Johns, St. Peters, St. Maud's were destroyed. (Murphy p. 170)

Remembering the quote that Father Murphy reprinted in his chapter on Drogheda,

"During all that time the whole army executed all manner of cruelty and put every man that belonged to the garrison, and all of the citizens who were Irish, man, woman, and child to the sword." (Murphy p. 109; Clarendon's The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars, v.3 p.41)

I recalled the historical book that my grandfather, Walter Powers, had in his possession. I did not see it until long after his death, but I have held this book in my hands. Last week, I looked at my mother's papers and in correspondence to and from the Bodleian Library in Oxford regarding this book confirmed that it was the 1704 edition of v. 3 of The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars, the exact volume in which the quote I included last week appeared.

The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars was published between 1702-1704 after his father's death by Clarendon's son. My Grandfather Powers did not have the other volumes, only volume 3.

I will read it.

September 3-4, 2011

In need of a vacation day before continuing to follow the events of 1649 in Ireland, I took a trip to the Pacific Coast earlier this week. On a secluded beach, sitting by myself with an informal picnic, I looked out at the ocean and the wide horizon.

At home, reading the reviews of its name was Penelope for review clips for inclusion in the forthcoming iPad edition, I was surprised at the interesting yet very different interpretations of the narrative, although this was an intention of the work. One can look at someone's life and see certain parts, I thought, and not see other parts and this is what happens when a story is written in poetry and/or does not proceed sequentially or to put it in another way, the story is hypertextual generative poetry and the reader participates in but cannot completely control the way the words are revealed.

In From Ireland with Letters, a work that explores historical material for which documentation is not always available, the new media capability of presenting multiple facets of a story is used somewhat differently than it was in Penelope. The reasons that historical documents may inspire different interpretations are somewhat unlike the reasons for varied interpretations of a new media narrative, but the principle of assembling a collection of materials that look at events in diverse ways is of interest.

With the build up of narrative through accumulated detail in mind, I journeyed once more to the Library and other searches remaining unfulfilled, (that the differently volumed mid-19th century edition of Clarendon may have been somewhat expurgated is perhaps not surprising since Cromwell was being rehabilitated in England at this time) I acquired a third version of Oliver Cromwell's devastation of Ireland.

Originally put off by the title -- it is God's Executioner, Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland -- I had left Micheál Ó Siochrú's book (London, faber and faber, 2008) on the library shelf a few weeks ago. But this week I changed my mind thinking that it is of interest to read different interpretations of the material. As it turns out, Ó Siochrú -- he is a professor of history at Trinity College in Dublin -- is an interesting addition to the core text of Denis Murphy's 19th century Cromwell in Ireland and James Scott Wheeler's contemporary military historian's account of the same title.

Then, with Murphy as my primary guide -- the narrative I am writing springs in part from the books written during the Gaelic Revival that were brought to America by Máire Powers' great grandfather after the Easter Rising -- I continued to follow Cromwell's attack on Ireland.

In October, 1649, Oliver Cromwell settled his Army in the town of New Ross. On October 17, he had camped outside of the walls of New Ross, commanded by Sir Lucas Taaffe, and demanded the town's surrender. Taaffe asked for "liberty of conscience" for the citizens who desired to remain in New Ross.

On October 19, 1649, Cromwell's reply included these words:
"For that which you mention concerning liberty of conscience, I meddle not with any man's conscience. But if by liberty of conscience you mean a liberty to exercise the Mass, I judge it best to use plain dealing, and to let you know where the Parliament of England have power, that will not be allowed of." (Murphy p. 186)

New Ross was surrendered without the atrocities the New Model Army had committed in Drogheda and Wexford, but the Churches were plundered. From New Ross, Oliver Cromwell deployed his Army against Duncannon.

Attacked by Cromwell's son-in-law, Henry Ireton, who was reinforced by Michael Jones, Duncannon was successfully defended by a combination of ingenuity, courage and collaboration. By boat, Lord Castlehaven sent 80 horses that when mounted by the defenders of Duncannon, the New Model Army misinterpreted to be a larger army from abroad. (Murphy p. 175) This action, as well as the town's heroic and proactive defense of the fort, were instrumental in the withdrawal of Cromwell's Army. Under the command of Colonel Edward Wogan and strategically located for the defense of Waterford, Duncannon was the first fort in Ireland to hold out against the New Model Army. "Situated on the mouth of the Suir, the fort of Duncannon, one of the most modern in the country, guarded the entrance to Waterford Harbour," Micheál Ó Siochrú writes to describe the strategic significance of the victory. (p.103 )

In Wheeler's words:

"Wogan successfully defended Duncannon, even though Cromwell reinforced Ireton's command with 2,000 additional soldiers commanded by Michael Jones. Wogan was one of the few royalist leaders in Ireland who successfully led a mixed force of Protestant and Catholic soldiers in the tight confines of a besieged fort. He aggressively attacked English work parties and captured several field guns from Jones during one of his sorties. Even the presence of Cromwell failed to break the garrison's resolve. As a result, Duncannon was saved...After loosing two guns to Wogan's sortie on 5 November, Jones ended the siege, withdrawing his and Ireton's men to rejoin the main army near New Ross...Wogan's successful defense of Duncannon denied the English navy the ability to sail into the Barrow to a suitable point at which to land the big siege guns carried by the transports. This, in turn, made it impossible for Cromwell to blow a breach in Waterford's walls in the same manner as he had done at Drogheda." (p. 108-109)

September 7, 2011

Early Autumn hikes have lately relieved the writing and research for From Ireland with Letters. It is a nice time of year to see fog-blanketed ocean views from the vantage point of the Berkeley hills to walk along tree-lined trails, or to watch wild birds along an inland waterway.

I had intended to be actually writing the continuation of Begin with the Arrival by now, but the research on Cromwell's 1649 invasion of Ireland has been extensive. Although the numbers and the treatment of the thousands of Irish men, women and children sent to the sugar plantations may be even worse than the atrocities at Drogheda and Wexford, Cromwell's attack on Ireland in 1649 is the beginning of the story.

In this story/in my family's story, the key date is 1654 when Walter Power arrived in America on the slave ship The Goodfellow. He was probably 14 years old in 1654, and would have been 9 years old when Oliver Cromwell destroyed the Power family castles outside of Waterford after he was unable to take the City of Waterford. Legend is that Cromwell hung Lord John Power from a tree outside of Kilmeadan, and Lord John's wife Lady Giles FitzGerald died defending Donoyle.

With Denis Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland as a guide, I followed Oliver Cromwell to the City of Waterford.

In late November, 1649, Cromwell and the New Model Army put Waterford to seige.

But the arrival of more than 1,500 Ulstermen from Owen Roe's experienced and courageous Army, under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Richard Ferrall, forced Cromwell's retreat from Waterford.

In Cromwell in Ireland, Denis Murphy writes:

"On arriving before the city, Cromwell had sent a trumpeter to summon the garrison to yield upon quarter. Ferrall would give way to none to answer other than himself; he requested the trumpeter to return to his master with this result, that he was Lieutenant-General Ferrall, governor of that place, at present having 2000 of his Ulster force there; that as long as any of them did survive, he would not yield the town. The sudden appearance of the reinforcements made Cromwell change his plans." (p. 228)

Cromwell lifted the siege on Waterford on December 2. Thus Ireland had held off Cromwell at Duncannon and at Waterford.

On December 2, 1649, Cromwell began the march from Waterford towards Dungarvan. The Power's family castles were situated on or near his route.

This week I also I embarked on a continuing project of reading about Waterford, beginning with Edmund Hogan's description of Waterford Country in The description of Ireland and the State thereof as it is at this present in Anno 1598 (Dublin: M.H. Gill, 1878):

"Waterford contayneth all the land between the River of the Suer which falleth into the Sea between Waterford and the River of Younghall called the great Water and includeth the Mountain country called the Decies the Bishoprick of Lismoore adjoining to the Whit Knights Countrie called Clongibbon. So hath it the Sea to the East Suer to the North Part of the Counties of Tipperarie and Limerick to the West, the great Water and part of the Countie of Cork to the South."

Hogan also writes that at the end of the 16th century Waterford was famous for "intellectual wealth". The people were "Cheerful in their entertainment of strangers, hearty one to another". The woman were famous for spinning, and "they spin the choicest rug in Ireland".

September 9, 2011

On December 2, 1649, Cromwell and the New Model Army retreated after their failure to take Waterford. The weather was bad. Whether for strategic reasons or to avenge himself on the countryside, Cromwell attacked and destroyed a series of castles in the area before arriving at Dungarvan on December 4. It was in this campaign that Lord John Power and his wife Lady Giles FitzGerald lost their homes and their lives.

Cromwell first attacked and destroyed Butlerstown Castle, just outside of Waterford. Butlerstown Castle was at this time under the control of Richard Butler, 3rd Viscount Mountgarrett, whose first wife was Margaret O'Neill, eldest daughter of Hugh O'Neill and cousin of Owen Roe O'Neill. Mountgarrett had fought as head of an Irish Confederate Catholics force in 1642, taking strategic places in counties Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford. He was later, outlawed by Cromwell, and exempted from pardon "for life or estate". (Thomas W. H. Fitzgerald, Ireland and her people; a library of Irish biography, Chicago, Fitzgerald Book Company, 1909 v. III, pp. 186

About five miles out of Waterford, a little off the road to Dungarvan, Cromwell's Army attacked Kilmeadan castle, the home of the Power family head, Lord John Power, the eldest son of Nicholas, Baron of Dunisle/Donoyle, Lord of Kilmeadan and his wife Elenor, daughter of Thomas Purcel, Baron of Loughmoe.

There were 19 Power men from the Waterford area exiled to Connaught after the Cromwellian conquest, which would indicate that the family was active in opposing the British.

Kilmeadan was not a match for Cromwell's New Model Army, and the castle was destroyed. Denis Murphy writes that:

"Kilmeadan, on the Suir, was destroyed, and its owner, one of the le Poer family, seized and hanged on a tree close by. His property, extending from Kilmeadan to Tramore, was afterwards confiscated." (p. 232)

Cromwell clearly knew where the fortresses outside of Waterford were located because after destroying Kilmeadan, the New Model Army (or divisions of that Army) marched decisively both North and South, attacking both a Power family castle at Currigmore about 25 miles North of Kilmeadan near Portlaw and Lord John's castle at Dunhill, about 25 miles in the other direction.

No ruins of Kilmeadan castle remain. But the overgrown ruins of the 12th century Donoyle/Dunhill Castle still stand on a rock overlooking the river Anne, the Anne Valley, and the Copper Coast. Nearby the ruins of the castle, are the ruins of a church.

Donoyle castle was defended by a woman, Lady Giles FitzGerald, the wife of Lord John Power, and the daughter of John FitzGerald, of Dromana, Lord of the Decies. It is not known whether Lady FitzGerald rode the 15-20 miles or so to Donoyle after her husband's death and the destruction of Kilmeadan or, if because it was the stronger fortress, she was already in command of the castle. Either way, it is an an extraordinary story.

The story is included in Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland on pages 233-234. His source is Samuel C. Hall and Anna Maria Hall, Ireland: its scenery, character & London: How and Parsons, 1841. vol 1 p. 302 which states:

"The castle of Don Isle, situated on the sea-coast beyond Tramore, was bravely defended by a lady. It was built on a rock almost inaccessible, and judging from the ruins still remaining, it must have been a place of prodigious strength. It is situated on the coast, between Tramore and Dungarvon. History records that it made a gallant defense, holding out for a long time against the attacks of a fierce soldiery well provided with artillery; but that it yielded at length and was destroyed. To this fact tradition has largely added. The brave Countess was the life and soul of the defenders; day and night she was upon on the ramparts, animating by her presence and energy the spirits of her dependants. She had, it seems, a skillful engineer, who defeated all the plans of the besiegers; and at length wearied out, Cromwell was on the point of raising the siege; he had, indeed, partially drawn off his forces. The Countess has retired to rest, but had neglected to provide for the wants of her fatigued soldiers. Her engineer sent to demand refreshment for himself and his comrades, and received in return the unwarlike meed of 'a drink of buttermilk'. Irritated by the insult, he made signals to the retreating foe, and surrendered to them the castle. It was forthwith blown up with gunpowder, and the Countess perished among the ruins."

However, the explanation only makes sense if the engineer was a traitor, for if, as reported, he gave Cromwell's Army a signal, it had to mean that he had already rigged an opening in the defenses and Cromwell, feigning retreat to disarm the castle's well-fortified garrison, was waiting for his signal. The traitor may have been angry that the men were not occupied with strong drink at the planned time of the attack.

Note that part of the success of Cromwell's campaign in Ireland was built on a network of inside traitors. It was what allowed him to take Wexford so easily. "...Cromwell and Broghill had used similar subterfuges elsewhere," Wheeler notes in discussing The New Model Army's use of a traitor at Clonmel. (p. 152)

But at Clonmel, Owen Roe O'Neill's nephew, Major-General Hugh Dubh O'Neill, in command of 1,500 soldiers from Counties Cavan and Tyrone, turned the tables. O'Neill was suspicious when a guard at one of the gates of Clonmel replaced Ulster Army men with his own men. The discovery of the traitor allowed O'Neill's small Army to ambush a division of The New Model Army as they rushed into the entry the traitor had provided. Hugh Dubh then built fortifications inside Clonmel and was victorious in a second battle. He did not have the forces or supplies to hold out much longer. But that is another story.

In this writer's notebook, Cromwell is still in Waterford Country, taking revenge on the countryside for his failure to take Waterford. On December 2 or 3, the New Model Army approached a Power family castle at Currigmore, North of Kilmeadan near Portlaw. From the story it seems that the castle did not have a defending force, and much of Currigmore is still standing because because on the approach of Cromwell's Army, the daughter of this branch of the Power family tricked her father into entering one his own dungeons and then locked him in his own dungeon to prevent resistance. She then lied to Cromwell by saying her Father would support him but wasn't at home. Thus Currigmore castle remained in Ireland's hands.

In support of the story that Cromwell was deceived about where the Curraghmore Power family stood, according to my notes, later in the 17th century the Curraghmore branch of the Power family lost their titles when John, Ninth Lord of Curraghmore, was declared an outlaw for his role in the Jacobite Uprising. And, although I do not yet know of which branch of the family he was from, on October, 14, 1690, Richard Power, who had also taken part in the Jacobite Uprising, died a prisoner in the Tower of London.

This week, I also found Murphy's quote from Clarendon's The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars. In the 1846 edition, the quote is in volume 5 on page 111 (Book XII, section 116):

"During all that time the whole army executed all manner of cruelty and put every man that belonged to the garrison, and all of the citizens who were Irish, man, woman, and child to the sword."

Clarendon's words are about the massacre at Drogheda. (also known as Tredagh or in Gaelic Droichead Átha) The quote is important because my grandfather Walter Power had in his possession a volume of the original 1704 edition of The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars, which was published by his son after Clarendon's death.

As any storyteller would, I found this of interest. But I do not yet know if this quote is in the volume Gramp had. Perhaps there is something else of interest in that volume. Stories are passed from generation to generation in different ways.

The genealogies and differences between the branches of the Powers families in Ireland are complex, and at the moment I am thinking that in Begin With the Arrival, the story will not try to sort this out.

That will be a part of the third file of From Ireland with Letters when Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers begin to work together to put together the stories of the sculptor Hiram Powers and his forefather, Walter Power, who -- five years after Cromwell's destruction of the Power castles in 1649 -- arrived in America as an Irish slave.

September 16-17, 2011

Before continuing with the research Begin with the Arrival, it is time to pause to take an overall look at how this summer's research may have changed the way in which I want to the present the words.

The interface for Begin with the Arrival puts Máire Powers and Liam O'Brien together; the distinction between their stories and reactions is not always apparent; and Liam's reaction is as important as Máire's performance. How will this work when Máire resumes her narrative with the central story of Cromwell in Ireland? There is a temptation to change the interface design for this part, so that her voice is more prominent, but my vision tends towards continuing with the same interface. Can I make this work with writing? I'm not sure, but I think I can. There is also an issue of wanting this part of the narrative to stand by itself. But that option can probably also be made available, so that -- as if taking home a recording of a live performance -- the reader could replay this part of the story whenever he or she desired.

Being able to present words in different ways is one of the strengths of new media literature. Contingently, in writing about authoring systems for new media literature, I have lately understood that we are in a period of history where, as it was in the period beginning in the Middle Ages when theory composers were exploring and developing methods of how to write and notate polyphonic music, we don't always have models of what will work.

When the story moves to the "Transplantation" and to slavery in the Americas, the interface will resume its effective polyphonic presentation of the combined voices of Máire Powers, Liam O'Brien, Walter Power, and Hiram Powers. In this section, the sale of Walter Power as an Irish slave, Hiram Powers' abolitionist sculpture, and Liam's family's immigration at the time of the potato famine will provide a counterpoint to Máire's story of the Cromwellian attempt to force most of the inhabitants of Ireland into one corner of their country.

And in the concluding lexias of Begin with the Arrival, the love story between Walter Power and Trial Shepherd, the daughter of a Massachusetts Puritan family -- a story in which, despite the circumstances, her family gives him land in the New World -- will be introduced, when in Marblehead where he has just been sold, Walter Power sees her walking with her family.

Remembering words I wrote in the Prologue, I want to do some writing at this point.

"The fiddle was on the table.

It should perhaps be returned it to its case,
but she preferred to play the music as she wrote it.
Máire Powers picked up her fiddle and played a line of song,
fitting the melody to the words she had written,
then carefully transcribed the music on score paper.
Wrote the words underneath.

It was a beginning.

The story was continually changing with the research;
the weeks of research had been difficult.
She wanted to hear some music."

October September 24-26, 2011

The lexia spaces for Part Two of Begin with the Arrival have been created, and the draft opening words have been written.

The Irish aisling tradition -- where there is a dream or vision and/or a woman represents Ireland -- is invoked in the opening quotation from the street ballad "MacKenna's Dream":

"The harp melodiously shall sound,
When Erin's sons shall be unbound
And they shall gather safe around the green laurel tree.

With a fiddle under her arm and a harp slung on her back, Máire Powers walks back onto the stage. She is wearing a skirt of green silk and a traditional harper's gray jacket with silver buttons. Her attire alludes not only to aisling poetry but also to the garb of the Irish Harper at the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival, where a woman harper, Rose Mooney, was one of ten harpers who represented the best of Irish musicians.

To celebrate the beginning of the writing, I went to the mountains. It was difficult to negotiate the steep, rocky Sierra trail with the heavier crutches I have had to use for the past few months, but other hikers offered words of encouragement, and instead of being weighed down with the difficulties, I felt brave and happy to be on the trail. Surrounded by rocks and pines, the lake was beautiful. There was still snow on the mountains in the distance.

Distracted by considerations of issues of context and interpretation that confront both the reader and the writer of serious writing and art, I nevertheless made a small watercolor. And on the challenging trek back to the parking lot, saw the blue and green colors of the lake more clearly.

October 1-3, 2011

The work on part two of Begin with the Arrival is going slowly. I have written and rewritten both the opening words and the interface many times in the past week. There is somewhat of a compromise between wanting to isolate the story of Cromwell's invasion of Ireland and at the same time wanting to continue with the interface of part one because the locale and time are the same. What I want to do is to maintain the feeling of being in the pub that worked quite well in part one, but in some parts of the narrative focus, as the audience might do, focus on the compelling story of Cromwell in Ireland. In the past few days, there has been some back and forth on how to do this, but at the moment I think it is working.

In counterpoint to this difficult story has been the back and forth on the beta testing of the in press iPad version of its name was Penelope. Mark Bernstein at Eastgate has done a magnificent job in implanting this work for the iPad. And the responsiveness of the iPad contributes to the fine way in which this new version of one of my favorite works is experienced.

In Annals of the Irish Harpers, I have been reading again about the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival that took place in the years of the Irish unity that resulted in the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The Festival was attended by both Catholic and Protestant Irish patriots including James Napper Tandy, John Keogh, and Wolfe Tone, among many others.

At the Belfast Harp Festival, there were ten musicians from all around Ireland, and a Welch musician. They included Arthur O'Neill, Denis Hempson, and Charles Fanning. One of the Irish musicians was a woman, Rose Mooney, a third prize winner at the Granard Harp Festivals. The advertisement in the Belfast Newsletter read as follows:

"National Music of Ireland

A respectable body of the inhabitants of Belfast having published a plan for reviving the ancient music of this country, and the project having met with such support and approbation as must ensure success to the undertaking; performers of the Irish Harp are requested to assemble in this town on the 10th day of July next, when a considerable sum will be distributed in premiums in proportion to their merits. It being the intention of the Committee that every performer shall receive some premium, it is hoped that no harper will decline attending on account of his having been unsuccessful on any former occasion."

Whether through custom, charity, or the law at that time, Irish harpers were blind or lame and all of the Irish harpers at the renowned Belfast Harp Festival had disabilities.

The songs that they played were collected and transcribed by Edward Bunting, who had studied music in Drogheda, was an organist at St Anne's Church in Belfast, and lodged with Henry Joy McCracken, a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen.

October 4, 2011

A narrative poet who creates characters is likely to be immersed in the character he or she is writing. From 2008 to 2010, it was Dorothy Abrona McCrae's return to her past as a painter of landscape in Paths of Memory and Painting in which I was immersed. The years of creating this story were particularly pleasant because I returned to painting in the hills in order to write the narrative. In this time period, I often visited the Hearst Gallery at St Mary's College to look at the work of William Keith and other painters of California landscape. Thus -- now immersed in Irish poetry, history, and music -- it was a reminiscent pleasure to go this Sunday to the opening of The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute at the expanded Hearst Gallery, now the St. Mary's Museum of Art; to hear Kevin Starr's fine lecture "Thinking about William Keith - Some Centennial Considerations"; and to remember Brother Fidelis Cornelius (1877-1962) of Saint Mary's. Himself a landscape painter, Brother Cornelius was responsible for beginning the collection of Keith's work that resulted in this extraordinary retrospective.

I was reminded also of the need to read about the Swedenborgian religion that was a bond between William Keith -- who for the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church painted a series of murals of the changing seasons of California -- and many other 19th century artists, including Hiram Powers. Powers' wife, whose mother was born in Ireland, was brought up Catholic. Elizabeth sometimes attended Mass at Santa Croce in Florence, but Powers was a Swedenborgian, and his home was a central meeting place for other Swedenborgian artists.

Of interest, in the creation of a narrative pervaded by slavery and resistance to slavery, are the contingent themes of the role that the Swedenborian Church played in inspiring anti-slavery artists and writers and the core role that Irish men and women connected with the Belfast Harp Festival, and with the United Irishmen played in opposing slavery. United Irishmen founder Thomas Russell was an anti-slavery advocate, and Henry Joy McCracken's sister, Mary Ann, a founding member of the Belfast Harp Society, was also a leading force in the Belfast antislavery movement.

Hiram Powers' studio in Florence will be central in the third "book" of From Ireland with Letters.

October 8, 2011

What I am trying to do in Begin with the Arrival is to put the reader in a place of filmic and musical reading of literature. It is something I have been doing for many years. (Jaishree Odin compares its name was Penelope to the films of Trinh T. Minh-ha; Sue-Ellen Case compares name is scibe to The English Patient) In Begin with the Arrival, a series of filmic episodes are set like light and dark jewels into the larger narrative of From Ireland with Letters.

"He was not a man who usually cried, but he was close to tears as the music continued."
This week the writing of what Cromwell did in Drogheda was particularly difficult. I wrote it but do not want to talk about it.

"Weary of all who come with words, words but no language
I make my way to the snow-covered island."

Tomas Transtromer.

The rewarding of Nordic vision was a good omen on Thursday, the day that Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer won the Nobel Prize. At noonhour, on that same day, poet Robert Haas read the work of fellow poet Czeslaw Milosz. We were in the Morrison Library against the backdrop of book-filled shelves. Admittedly at first (I am not very familiar with his work) I did not hear what I should have heard. Original vision sometimes takes reflection and a realization that poetry is not always what one expects. Milosz' poetry stayed with me on the way home.

October 14, 2011

The search for a few phrases of Irish poetry that are exactly right for the work has taken many not-begrudged hours this week. Surely laments for Drogheda and Wexford were written in 1649, but we have no record of them. The reasons are obvious.

Last week, I sat on the floor of the Library, deciding which books to take home with me to supplement Kathleen Hoagland's, 1000 Years of Irish Poetry and George Sigerson's Bards of the Gail and Gall. Seduced by its antiquity, I took home Specimens of the Early Native Poetry of Ireland with an introduction and running commentary by Henry R. Montgomery. (Dublin, Hodges, Figgis, and Co., Second Edition, 1892) In contrast, I also checked out The Penguin Book of Irish Verse, introduced and edited by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly. It is a bound paperback that may be piled beside my bed other with the evidence of other quests. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, second edition, 1981, first published in 1970) Having once worked for the Union Catalog at the Library of Congress, the reading of bibliographic information is as natural as a walk in the woods or the baking of bread learned in long Colorado winters.

Kennelly -- it seems that with a lament in the voice of an immigrant whose family have been exiled from Ireland since the seventeenth century, I trespass on the path of his "Cromwell" -- makes the point "that Ireland was singularly untouched by the Renaissance in Europe; her poets never drank from that particular well of inspiration". I am not sure if this is completely true; we do not know what was lost in the hanging of the harpers and the Cromwellian destruction of culture and churches.

"Through the woods let us roam,
Through the wastes wild and barren;
We are strangers at home
We are exiles in Erin"

(from "The Downfall of the Gael", written in 1562 by Fearflatha O'Grive who was a bard of the O'Neills)

But sometimes it does seem -- from the flowering of medieval culture in Irish monasteries throughout Europe -- that Ireland's Renaissance was earlier and wilder.

"A Hedge of trees surrounds me;
a blackbird sings to me
Above my booklet, the lined one,
the thrilling birds sing to me."

(part of a poem found on the margin of the St. Gall manuscript in the Medieval Irish-founded monastery in Switzerland)

I have not found it discordant to be reading Irish poetry while at the same time writing about Hiram Powers exploring Florence, as if -- Irish Monasteries in Northern Italy, the beautiful churches of Florence -- the one flowed into the other. Contingently, while he waits for Máire to return to the stage, Liam considers the parallels to aisling poetry in Pietro Magni's Girl Reading and the work of Hiram Powers: "Fain would I ride with thee, Aileen Aroon"

During intermission conversation in the pub, Liam also recollects the Caffe Michelangiolo in Florence where Powers' fellow artists, the Maccchiaioli, met to talk about art and politics.

In the Interview with Stuart Moulthrop which I just posted in Authoring Software, Stuart tells the story of how TINAC gathered in Nancy Kaplan's home.

"...there is nostalgia," I respond, "for a world where the Society of Six went painting together in the hills of California and returned to Selden Gile's cabin, spreading their work around the room and drinking red wine while Selden cooked dinner..."

October 20, 2011

The new drawing on the opening page of From Ireland with Letters is of Kinsale Harbor, after a drawing by Cork artist William Willes that is inserted into a map of Cork in Samuel C. Hall and Anna Maria Hall, Ireland: its scenery, character &. (London: How and Parsons, 1841) In the aftermath of Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, Kinsale was the port of departure for the slaveship that carried Walter Power and over 500 other captive Irish and Scottish children and young people to America.

In part two of Begin with the Arrival, Máire's telling of this difficult story continues to be shared by Liam. He recalls the details of the negotiations, as, in parallel lexias, she tells how. while the negotiations were still in progress, a traitor allowed Cromwell and his soldiers to enter Wexford and slaughter the townspeople without mercy,

I now return to the death of Owen Roe on November 6, 1649. Here -- as she catalogs the somber stories of the heroism of the Irish defense against Cromwell -- Máire will center the narrative with the music, in the way she used the Irish fiddle in the opening story of Saint Patrick. And the story in this section of Begin with the Arrival will be predominantly carried by the words and music as they are experienced by the audience.

If sometimes it seems that there is more writing in this notebook then there is in the work itself, it should be remembered that From Ireland with Letters is basically a poetic narative. This notebook has been helpful in distilling the facts to the point that they can be written as poetic narrative. The epic poets knew the stories they told; they were oral history. From Ireland with Letters is to a certain extent a family history, but this history was lost in the many generations since Walter Power arrived in America in 1654. All I knew to begin with was what my grandfather Walter Powers told me about Hiram Powers. I have learned the stories through reading, then have better understood them through writing in this notebook.

To review before I start writing the lexias for this section:

Owen Roe O'Neill, the "wild goose" returned home from fighting for Spain, had defeated a large force at the Battle of Benburb in 1646. But in October 1649, just as an alliance with Ormande prepared the way for his Army to March against Cromwell, Owen Roe became unaccountably ill. Many historians believe that if he had lived, he would have saved Ireland. He was the brilliant and inspirational general, who was needed to unify the defense against Cromwell.

Until the very end, Owen Roe was carried on a litter at the head of his troops.

"We thought you would not die we were sure you would not go,
And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell s cruel blow
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?"

"Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O'Neill"
written by the 19th century Irish writer and revolutionary Thomas Davis and much read and quoted at the time of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

But it should be remembered that in the months after Waterford and Wexford, there were victories for Ireland, and there were heroes, including

at Duncannon, Colonel Edward Wogan, who led an aggressive defense;

at Waterford, Lieutenant-General Richard Ferrall, whom Owen Roe had sent South with 2000 experienced soldiers;

and at Clonmel in 1650, Owen Roe O'Neill's nephew, Major-General Hugh Dubh O'Neill, who outwitted a traitor

Under the command of Colonel Edward Wogan and strategically located for the defense of Waterford, Duncannon was the first fort in Ireland to hold out against the New Model Army. Attacked by Cromwell's son-in-law, Henry Ireton, who was reinforced by Michael Jones, Duncannon was successfully defended by a combination of ingenuity, courage and collaboration. By boat, Lord Castlehaven sent 80 horses that when mounted by the defenders of Duncannon, the New Model Army misinterpreted to be a larger army from abroad. This action, as well as the town's heroic and proactive defense of the fort, forced the withdrawal of Cromwell's Army.

In late November, 1649, Cromwell and the New Model Army put Waterford to siege. But Lieutenant-General Richard Ferrall in command of a division of Owen Roe's experienced Army, forced Cromwell's retreat from Waterford.

In Cromwell in Ireland, Denis Murphy writes:

"On arriving before the city, Cromwell had sent a trumpeter to summon the garrison to yield upon quarter. Ferrall would give way to none to answer other than himself; he requested the trumpeter to return to his master with this result, that he was Lieutenant-General Ferrall, governor of that place, at present having 2000 of his Ulster force there; that as long as any of them did survive, he would not yield the town. The sudden appearance of the reinforcements made Cromwell change his plans."

At Clonmel, Owen Roe O'Neill's nephew, Major-General Hugh Dubh O'Neill, in command of 1,500 soldiers from Counties Cavan and Tyrone, turned the tables on Cromwell's use of traitors. O'Neill was suspicious when a guard at one of the gates of Clonmel replaced Ulster Army men with his own men. The discovery of the traitor allowed O'Neill's small Army to ambush a division of The New Model Army as they rushed into the entry the traitor had provided. Hugh Dubh then built fortifications inside Clonmel and was victorious in a second battle. He did not have the forces or supplies to hold out much longer. but Hugh Dubh O'Neill and his Army escaped to fight again, and the inhabitants were given a quarter that was honored.

This section will be followed by another intermission.

Two more sections will comprise the rest of Begin with the Arrival. The destruction of the Powers family castles outside of Waterford, which will be related in the epic manner and the transplantation and sending into slavery of the Irish people -- ending with Walter Power's arrival in America -- for which she will return to a fiddle-centered narrative.

This last part will not include all the material on Irish slavery that will eventually comprise From Ireland with Letters. The transplantation, Irish slavery and who Walter Power was will be continuing themes when Liam and Máire meet in Book III.

As interludes in this week of difficult writing, continuing job searches and related worries, I took a pleasant hike along a stream where the leaves were beginning to turn gentle California autumn colors and, as is customary at this time of year, began making small paintings for Christmas presents.

October 30, 2011

This week in Part III of Begin with the Arrival, Cromwell is defeated at Duncannon and Waterford. I almost have the writing of this section working, but creating the continuo text is very difficult. The continuo is words -- not music played on the viola da gamba or harpsichord -- and these words occur only intermittently, not continuously. But sometimes the continuo texts do set the pace of the work -- ie on either side, the briefly occurring words I inaccurately call continuo are what makes the whole work. The process is like working on a painting that needs something, but you don't know what it is until you put what seems like a small detail in one corner, and all of a sudden the whole painting comes alive, so to speak.

I suppose I need to write an authoring tool or create a chart for testing the placement and timing of the continuo text, because otherwise making it work is very time consuming, and I am weary of the process. Nevertheless, this week there was a continuo high point, the discovery of Frances Browne's "Songs of Our Land", which I found in a venerable 1892 edition of Henry Montgomery's Specimens of the Early Native Poetry of Ireland. She was a 19th century Irish writer, who, like the harper Turlough Carolan, was blind. So in Begin with the Arrival, I used a few words from "Songs of our Land" as continuo text to introduce Carolan's "Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill".

In unlikely counterpoint to Frances Browne's:

" are still left when all else has been taken
like streams in the desert, sweet songs of our land",

I am reading Brendan Kennelly's Cromwell.

(The message from Amazon, "Your order of "Cromwell: A Poem" has shipped!" seemed repeated on my email menu -- like the commands needed to set things in motion in some works of Interactive fiction. "Your order of "Cromwell: A Poem" has shipped!" )

Kennelly's Cromwell is a disturbing read but good, very good. I'm writing something else, a lament is one way to look at it, and am interested in the contrast. The ridding of demons -- an appropriate topic for the beginning of All Souls Week -- is accomplished in different ways by different artists. But sometimes Kennelly also steps into the rhythms of ancient Irish poetry. In "A Host of Ghosts", Cromwell p.78, he writes:

"...I here suggest the bobbing sea's debris
Throbbing like Oliver's stimulating drum
Before the export trade in slaves to the Barbados
Inflames my old teacher three hundred years

In this week of contrasts, I reread Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility. It was somewhat unsettling to realize that about the time when Sense and Sensibility was probably first written in the 1790's, heroes of the United Irishmen -- James Napper Tandy, John Keogh, and Wolfe Tone -- were gathering at the 1792 Belfast Harpers Convention.

Yet Austen's witty, satirical words of life and love in the English countryside -- so separate from the events of the larger world stage -- are why one returns so often to her work. Works of art and literature are sometimes enduring because they deftly convey ordinary and/or extraordinary details of the times in which they were written or recollected, but every artist sees their era or recollected eras differently, I thought while looking forward to seeing the exhibition Looking at You Looking at Me at di Rosa that includes my work of another decade along with the work of, among other artists, Robert Arneson, Anthony Aziz, Judy Dater, Viola Frey, Jack Fulton, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Larry Jordan, and Alan Rath.

Contingently last Sunday at the Berkeley Art Museum, I heard the University Chamber Chorus, guest directed by Matthew Oltman, Music Director Emeritus of Chanticleer, in an afternoon of The Art of the Masque: Dramatic Music by Henry Purcell. The staging, the singing, and the music of violins, violas, cello, lute, trumpet, harpsichord
-- in selections from Purcell's Dioclesian,
with its surprising raucous drinking songs
("Make room, make room make room for the great God of wine")
and enticing odes to love
("oh the Sweet Delights of Love"; "all our days and our nights shall be spent in delights")--
were most enjoyable in this afternoon of fine solos, choruses, and instrumental interludes. How Purcell worked the interplay between the voices and the responding instrumentals was particularly interesting, as this week I looked at Begin with the Arrival in terms of the relationship between structure and text.

The libretto for Dioclesian was written by Thomas Betterton. (based on Beaumont and Fletcher) John Dryden's challenging Prologue was surpressed after the first performance for various reasons, one of which was that it was thought to be critical of William of Orange's war in Ireland.

"'Oliver,' sweated William, 'I'm back from the Boyne
where I drank deep draughts from victory's cup,
And yet, doubt chews my heart, I must confess.'
'Why should it?' queried Oliver
"Where's the wine?"
Croaked William, 'I think I've fucked things up.'"

Brendan Kennelly writes in "Cromwell".
(using the the Ossianic lay device of bringing together characters from different times in surprising conversations)

In contrast, later this week, I listened to the Retrospect Trio's recording of Purcell's Italian-influenced Ten Sonatas in Four Parts which originally I had acquired to hear how he composed these darkly beautiful four part trio sonatas.

November 5, 2011

Having divided Begin with the Arrival into what will eventually be four parts, the making of each part perfect (in accordance with my vision) has become feasible. To create Part III, I used the "continuo" in a somewhat more dissonant way than in Part I (where the whole flows like a fine song) or in Part II, where the whole is a lament. In the margins of Part III, there are transient glosses that are brief moments of poetry but there are also isolated lines from traditional Irish songs. Their relationship to the central lexias is fragmented, yet Máire's audience will be very familiar with these songs.

The related ideas --
that the reader knows the whole of partially quoted songs;
that the rhythm of remembered song carries into the work;
that through a poet's allusions to traditional song, the reader is situated in the community of music --
are important in the work of contemporary Irish poets, Séan Crosson observes in "The Given Note": Traditional Music and Modern Irish Poetry. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008)

The distilled struggle with displacement and broken traditions -- that Crosson documents in the work of the contemporary Irish poets Patrick Kavanagh, Austin Clarke, Thomas Kinsella, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Cathal ÓSearcaigh, Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, -- is at times also apparent in Irish American approaches to hereditary displacement.

Along the way in the difficult process of making all the parts of Begin with the Arrival work, there has been help from unexpected places, and I am grateful.

On Wednesday, in a working narrative poet's mood, I went to Berkeley to hear the University Baroque Orchestra, which musician and musicologist Davitt Moroney directs, and experienced the program through the lens of how story is revealed/played in music -- through composers' choices of lyrics, through the relationship of words to sound, (how Bach orchestrated two very different sets of lyrics in "Jesu meine Freude" and in "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit", for instance) and through the choice of what was performed for the audience. Along the way in this enchanting program, woodland streams returned in the flute music of Telemann and in the flute and recorder music of Loeiller de Gand; there were the memorable words of love that Orpheus and Euridice speak to each other in Monteverdi's Orfeo; there was Proserpine's intimate lament for her lost freedom from Lully's 17th century opera of the same name; and the performance concluded with Rameau's wonderful air for sailors of all genders. The soloists who performed this program so well included Alana Mailes, (soprano) Nicholas Losorelli, (baritone) Daeun Jeong, (recorder) and David Zhu. (flute)

For me, listening to music is very important in the process of creating polyphonic literature. Sometimes, the influence is direct; but more often a musician's work somehow indirectly informs the process. Or to put it another way, there is an inexplicable transfer of understanding. For instance, at times (last week, today) when in need of clarity, I play Davitt Moroney's beautiful recording of Bach's The Art of Fugue.

November 11, 2011

As the second intermission begins in Begin With the Arrival and before I start writing the last section, I am concentrating on planning an architectural model to correlate lexia placement and timing changes. The need to correlate timing changes in a work with 200-300 lexias has engendered a visual system of documenting the relationship of the lexias and the timing that will eventually translate into an authoring tool. Given that Begin with the Arrival is almost finished, this is a future project. However, now, while in the throes of the process, is a good time to envision it.

Basically I'm thinking of a large wall space using stationary pegs and small moveable squares of lexia text. The design and size of the framework and the scale will be determined by variables such as the amount of time each lexia stays on the screen, the number of lexias, and the placement of lexias in relationship to each other. The use of modular information in wall-based arrays is a conceptual art device with a distinguished history. But here it will be used to model a process that will eventually become a computer program. This is desirable because there are more lexias in Begin wtih the Arrival than there were in, for instance, the "trio sonata" that concludes Paths of Memory and Paintng, and also the writing must correlate more closely, by which I mean that in Paths, I could write anything I wanted to, in any order, but From Ireland is more exactly based on sequential history, so the order of the texts needs to be more precise.

At this point, I might have for frame of reference reread Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. Instead, in a different way, I followed Calvino's path to "rediscover the continuity of time" and spent a Berkeley afternoon listening to Italian Madrigal scholars.

The occasion -- an International Conference on the Italian Madrigal and Birthday Celebration for Anthony Newcomb -- began with introductions from Conference Chair, Department of Music Professor Kate van Orden. Then, in the first presentation, "Musical and Poetic Gravitas in the late Renaissance Madrigal", Giuseppe Gerbino (Columbia University) effectively explored poetic sound in an era where the pursuit of gravitas was a core aesthetic.

If the difficulty of setting implicitly sonorous poetry to music was apparent in Gerbino's poetic lecture/reading, later in the afternoon, with sound clips and through the lens of epic historical romance, in a presentation on "Wert's Settings of Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata and his Ottavo Libro a Cinque Voci (1586))", Massimo Ossi (Indiana University, Bloomington) illustrated how music seductively dominates words in Giaches de Wert's brilliant, composerly settings.

In between, in "What Literary Manuscripts Can Tell Us About Music: The Case of Giovambattista Strozzi the Younger (1551-1634)," James Chater (Burgundy, France) looked at how the works and life of an artist can be pieced together using manuscript sources, and Emiliano Ricciardi (Stanford University) explored a series of arrays of settings of "Canzonettas and Canzonetta-Madrigals on Torquato Tasso's Rime".

The first session (Gerbino, Chater) was chaired by Kate van Orden; the second session (Ricciardi, Ossi) was chaired by Louise George Clubb. (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Department of Italian Studies) Chater's paper was read by the celebrated Berkeley madrigal scholar Anthony Newcomb. What I heard was only a short part of a scholarly yet evocative occasion that also included Madrigal scholars James Haar, Franco Piperno, Marco Bizzarini and Massimo Privitera, among many others.

"No one, wise Kublai, knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it. And yet between the one and the other there is a connection..." (Invisible Cities)

At home, I returned to Calvino, seeking in Invisible Cities, echoes of the fine flow of Italian Renaissance poetry.

November 16, 2011

"All six French Suites contain a similar sequence of movements based on the rhythms of traditional French courtly dances. The sequence (which is all the word "suite" means) always contains the four essential ones, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue, but others can be interpolated before the Gigue. On paper, this unity of construction makes the suites look similar to each other (especially when laid out in a concert program), and the thought of hearing six such sequences of the same dances might seem daunting. Yet paradoxically, it is by hearing all the suites together that attentive listeners can more easily notice the characteristics that that identify each movement's essential form, its 'substance'." Davitt Moroney, Program Notes for J.S. Bach: The Complete French Suites, Cal Performances, November 13, 2011

Imagine a brilliant musician recreating a series of works by a brilliant composer; Bach's six French Suites all experienced in one afternoon; all splendidly played on three different reproductions of antique harpsichords arrayed side by side on the stage; all built by Berkeley master craftsman John Phillips. Explaining each instrument before the playing of each Suite, the performer walked between them as if choosing partners at a minuet. The music flowed like champagne on a beautiful day in early summer.

The issue of how to play the ornaments -- Bach first notated the Suites unornamented in the 1722 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, but it was the custom for performers to create their own ornaments for such music -- is of interest to a writer of electronic literature who never knows precisely how a work will be read. When I read Begin with the Arrival my self, I watch the text move by in the way I created it -- as if viewing a film or listening to a piece of music. But I am also very aware that web readers are impatient, and it is likely that (when it becomes apparent that this is possible) they will read the work by clicking on text segments. When a reader does this, the time spent making the work flow like a piece of music will be lost. Nevertheless, each reader expects to control the work, to click at will, and that sense of control can be an important part of the reading experience in a work of new media literature.

At times, there is a temptation to deny the reader clicking control of the work, but sometimes the computer fails to produce the next lexias, so it important to provide alternative ways of reading, and additionally, I do not wish to frustrate an impatient reader. At the same time, the text must of necessity move slowly enough so that the opposite does not occur. When creating works in BASIC years ago, I sometimes gave the reader the choice of the speed in which the text occurs. This was an easy and expected process when composing with BASIC. Perhaps it should be revisited. As Baroque music reminds us, from era to era, successive waves music of should not be viewed as improvements but rather as different ways of cultural expression.

These issues emerged more clearly in the aftermath of Sunday's concert. If this performance was extraordinary, and indeed it was, it was the combination of the music, the opportunity to hear all of these suites at once, the fine instruments, the performative movement between the instruments, and the flawless, creative, authentic way in which Davitt Moroney played these works.

In the program notes, he writes that:

"Each suite does have its own inner character, and here the richness of Bach's imagination can be appreciated. Bringing out these distinctive characters within the overall concept of unity is, I feel, one of the principal responsibilities of the performer."

When -- in my recent interview with Stuart Moulthrop on Authoring Software -- the question of how a writer of new media literature can anticipate how a reader will explore a work came up, Stuart suggested the creation of a testing program for electronic literature. That indeed would be useful. For instance, it could tell us where the "loops" were frustrating, or where the reader couldn't figure out how to reach the next section. But could such a program disclose what I saw whan my work was available in local exhibitions, and I sat and watched how it was "played"?

Contingently, in the throes of beta testing the forthcoming iPad edition of its name was Penelope, it was necessary to take into consideration how the reading conventions on the iPad are different from those on the web. How will a reader who grew up, so to speak, on iPad conventions, experience a work of new media literature created at an earlier time when interface conventions were somewhat different? Although this and the issue of how a musician chooses to ornament Bach's French Suites are not precisely the same, in Bach's time, the audience may have been more likely to also play themselves, and in a sense the reader of each work of electronic literature does perform the work.

And so, returning in memory to the six French Suites that Davitt played on Sunday, I recall how, after Suite No. 1 was played, I listened so expectantly to the following Suites; how there were certain movements I particularly wanted to hear: the Sarabandes, the Minuets; how each time they ocurred there was a moment of heightened satisfaction.

November 23, 2011

In this Thanksgiving week, I worked on the writing of Part IV of Begin With The Arrival which fittingly closes with a brief vignette of Walter Power's arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The vignette is magical realism and is so identified by the narrator, but following the terrible scenes of Cromwell's destruction of the Power family homes on his march to Dungarvan, it is a way of letting the reader know that there is some hope in the story.

Máire Powers tells the audience that she does not know if Walter Power, the founder of her family in America, was chained when he was sold in Marblehead, but that (according to some of the literature) on British slave ships, the captives were chained in the hold. Then, describing the music that she will play to conclude the performance, she asks the audience to hear in the music that ends the performance/to imagine that when in chains -- either real or symbolic-- Walter Power walked through the streets of Marblehead with his new master, "on this cold day in January 1694, he saw a young Puritan woman walking with her family in the streets of Marblehead, and she turned and looked at him with empathy. Her name was Trial Shepherd, and she was the woman he would marry."

Not unfittingly -- for the art context of performance documentation and the writing about performance, for the magic realism gaze explored in other contexts (in curator Robert Wuilfe's words, the exhibition asks viewers to "reconsider the relationship between viewing and being viewed") -- I went last week to see Looking at You Looking at Me at di Rosa.

In addition to an interesting, provocative, insightful look at the role of art in contemporary society, or perhaps because of this core aspect of the exhibition, many of the works included were iconic, representing -- through interactive or performative or surveillant approaches -- contemporary eras of artmaking and visual culture. For instance, I had never seen anything but a reproduction of Judy Dater's Imogen and Twinka, 1974, At Yosemite), but there it was -- compelling, holding its place the wall. For that alone, it is worth the trip to this exhibition.

Also included -- in addition to works by Robert Arneson, Leon Borensztein, Bruce Cannon, Carter, Van Deren Coke, Marque Cornblatt, Viola Frey, Jack Fulton, Michael Garlington, Larry Jordan, leonardogillesfleur, Rigo 23, and Michael Stevens -- are Lynn Hershman Leeson's ektacolor print Constructing Roberta Breitmore, part of the documentation for her Roberta Breitmore series of performative fictive identity; Anthony Aziz' riveting/revealing look at corporate identity; (Corporate Edge #4 (Public Image/Private Sector) and Alan Rath's iconic in new media practice Wall Eye #6.

And beside my own self portrait photograph from the street performance Free Values, (performed on the streets of San Francisco on Nov. 8 - election eve, 1988) my complete documentation for this performance is reproduced on the gallery wall. Re-reading my own words was of particular interest because earlier this year (at Reading the Middle Ages, an International Graduate Student Conference hosted by the UC Berkeley Program in Medieval Studies) this performance, in which I looked at contemporary values, came to mind during Matthew Sergei's presentation on interactive readership in the medieval poetry game, The Chance of the Dice.

The "values" I handed out in the course of the Free Values performance were rolled up and tied; the audience/readers did not know what they were getting.

At the moment the closing lexia from part IV of Begin with the Arrival reads:

As if playing an encore
when the audience is the community,
and the performer wants the audience to return another time,
when the music is so darkly moving
or so clear and beautiful
that the audience wishes that it will never stop,
she began to play.

November 29, 2011

In From Ireland with Letters, Part IV of Begin with the Arrival has been finished and posted. As usual, there is editing and continuo work to do, and there are interface questions about how to tie Part IV into the whole. For now - because I would like the reader to be somewhat familiar with the story before reading Part IV -- an opportunity to choose Part IV does not occur until it is encountered on the menu that accompanies Part III. There is always the question of making all parts equally accessible to the returning reader, so I will probably revisit this issue in a month or two. A print work generally begins with a table of contents, so all parts are accessible to the readers of print literature who is generally more inclined to proceed sequentially. Web readers sometimes click almost at random. Thus, how the reader is pathed is an interface issue that must be continually addressed.

The research for From Ireland now focuses on The Transplantation and Irish slavery -- beginning with John P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, London: Longman, 1865. which is the classic work in the field.

At the same time, I will be reviewing the extensive notes I took a year ago when I read Hiram Powers' letters on microfilm from the Archives of American Art. The letters as a whole present a picture of studio business and family life. They were read in conjunction with research into the City of Florence and 19th century Florentine artists. And I concentrated on the time period from when Powers and his family arrived in Florence to his work on The Greek Slave.

To begin this review, Powers and his family arrived in Florence on November 24, 1837. They traveled from New York via boat to Le Havre; from Paris to Marseille by French stagecoach; and then to Italy via boat. He first lived near the Piazza San Croce where he had an upper apartment and a studio in a shed in the building's courtyard. The Powers family soon moved to a place more conducive to work in the Parish of St Barnabas not far from the Piazza Maria Antonia. (now the Piazza dell'Indipendenza) Here, he had an indoor studio and a place to receive visitors. Then they moved across the Arno to the Via delle Fornaci between the Ponte alla Carraia and the Porta Romana, where he had a studio on the ground floor and apartments on the third and top floor with a rooftop deck that overlooked the Goldoni Theatre. Next to the studio, there was a shared garden, where the Powers family grew their own vegetables, including American corn. A gate from the garden opened into the Via Romana, and the entrance to the Boboli Gardens was opposite this gate.

As currently planned, Book III of From Ireland with Letters -- to be researched and written in the Spring of 2012 -- will be created with a series of conversations between Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers as they meet and compare their lives and research. Liam will share what he knows of the life of Hiram Powers; Máire will share what she knows of The Transplantation, Irish slavery, and the arrival of Walter Power in America.

As is apparent from his level of knowledge of the Cromwelliam conquest of Ireland, although his primary field is 19th century American art, Liam did some graduate work in Irish history and culture. Fittingly, since his family arrived in America in the 19th century during the potato famine, his scholarship interests have merged in the study of the life and work of Hiram Powers. Máire is not a historian, but she grew up in a family where the legacy of her great grandfather, who came to America after the Easter Rising, still lives in an inherited library of his Gaelic Revival books. She has based much of her Lay on these books.

If Liam represents legendary Irish Scholars, from the Medieval period to the Gaelic Revival, Máire represents legendary Irish harpers. From this point on, their lives will be intertwined.

Also, in the beginning of this coming year -- first returning to my own conversation-based new media works. such as Wasting Time, Afterwards, and Part II of Paths of Memory and Painting, then studying the conversations in Ossianic lays and how conversation and dialogue are used in music -- an interface will be created for Book III.

As the Christmas season begins, life intertwines with art in the making of small artists gifts, the baking of Christmas cookies and breads, the bringing into the home of Christmas greens and Advent candles, and the listening to Christmas music. Christmas shopping includes Arches watercolor paper to make gifts and Christmas treats for family.

December 9, 2011

A week of the pleasures of words and music began on December 2 when the musicians of the University Baroque Ensemble danced onto the stage, playing a familiar Bach March in festival tempo. At the center of the program were arias and the Prologue from Monteverdi's Orfeo.

Framed with entrancing music, the plot of Orfeo is iconic, and the lyrics -- written by Alessandro Striggio, son of the composer of the same name -- are luminous:

"To this lovely meadow
Every wild spirit
Often comes in search
Of happy rest"

Continuing to look for exactly the right words to place in the continuo for part IV of Begin with the Arrival, this week I am reading Irish poet Thomas Kinsella's The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, first published in 1986) This anthology is not a first choice for me because of its lack of representation of Irish woman poets and small selection of contemporary poets. Nevertheless, the primary sources for Begin with the Arrival are early work. Thus, Kinsella's anthology is interesting both in the confrontation of a different translator's approach to familiar works and in the discovery of works I had never before read, such as Padraic Fallon's Kiltartan Legend:

"Penelope pulls home
Rogue-Lord, artist, world wanderer..."

Somewhere near the beginning, almost every anthology of Irish poetry includes Patrick's Breastplate, the words attributed to Saint Patrick and used as his protection on journeys of faith in the wilds of Ireland.

The threads of slavery and rescue that pervaded Patrick's life are also potent in Begin with the Arrival, and Patrick's words may be the text to quote, when in 1654 about 500 Irish slaves arrive in America in chains and emerge from the hold of the slaveship that carried them far from Ireland. Here: (from Hoagland) are the lines I am considering quoting at the end of Part IV of Begin with the Arrival:

"..I arise today
Through the strength of heaven.
Light of sun
Radiance of the moon..."

In medieval poetry -- in Kinsella's anthology, in most collections of Irish poetry -- anonymous monks celebrate the countryside, describing the songs of the birds, the woods and meadows, the streams and ponds, and the animals with whom they share the wilderness -- painting a romantic picture of the life of the Irish scholar in the middle ages. Here are a few lines from Kinsella's translations, the first anonymous, the last attributed to Colum Cille (Saint Columba) in which he remembers the Ireland that he has left and wishes to see again:

"Above my book, with its lines laid out
the birds in their music sing to me."

"The sound of wind against the elm
making music
The lovely song of the grey blackbird..."


"To this lovely meadow
Every wild spirit
Often comes in search
Of happy rest"

At the U.C. Berkeley Department of Music on Friday, December 2, 2011, the Prologue and arias from Monteverde's Orfeo were sung (beautifully/expressively) by soprano Alana Mailes and baritone Nicholas Losorelli. The other musicians who created this fine program -- that also included the music of Bach, Lully, Rameau, Telemann and Corelli, among others -- were Daeun Jeong, (recorder) David Zhu, (flute) Noboru Emori, Hannah Glass, David Lin, Daniel Pasternak, (violin) Hannah Glass, Mark Lee, (viola) Anna Clifford, Seth Estrin, (cello) Andy Su, (violone) Marco Paliza-Carre, (guitar) Thomas Yearsley, (organ) and Kay Yoon. (harpsichord)

The coaches who work with UBE student musicians are Carla Moore, (violin) Elisabeth Reed, (cello) John Dornenburg, (violone) and Louise Carslake. (flute/recorder)

The University Baroque Ensemble is directed by Davitt Moroney.

I have always preferred Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, but in listening to the selections in this program, (some first heard this year in October at the UBE's first concert of the semester) it was as if -- somewhat like the observing of the 19th century uncovering of Giotto's frescoes in the Bardi Chapel, not far from where Hiram Powers lived in Florence -- an unknown treasure was revealed.

I should not, I suppose, complain of ambiguity in the ending of Orfeo at a time when the iPad version of its name was Penelope (a work, which celebrated for its offering of multiple readings, ends with an ambiguous song) is almost ready to be released, and when the classic CD version of

December 16, 2011

After a Christmas hike in Marin -- where there is a place I particularly like to go at this time of year, and where I sat beside a stream under redwoods and had a late breakfast of coffee and pastry -- I returned to the finishing work on Part IV of Begin with the Arrival.

As Part IV begins, it is intermission and Máire Powers is sitting with musician friends. Like the crowded pub at intermission, the interface is dense, as in separate parallel tracks, she and Liam O'Brien recall what happened to Walter Power at age 14 and what happened to his descendent, the sculptor Hiram Powers, at the same age.

After Máire returns to the stage to the accompaniment of bodhrán drums, there is a single central focus, and -- until the quote from Saint Patrick appears as protection in a time of slavery and exile -- it is mainly her voice that is heard. Then ritornello quotes from the Prologue introduce "The Transplantation", and as Máire Powers begins to play the finale, Liam's voice returns.

Making changes in the "continuo" as part of the finishing work, I moved the lines from Andreas Mac Marcuis' "The Flight of the Earls":

"Foemen camp in Neimid's plains
Who will break the heavy chains?"

to a more appropriate place in the work -- about the time of the Transplantation. Then I began the continuo with rewritten lines from the same work of poetry. From century to century, it is within the Irish tradition to make such changes, although I do not do it very often.

"The Flight of the Earls" was written before the Cromwellian conquest, probably in 1607, but because of its deep sorrow at a time exile of and because it was written at a time when Irish harpers were condemned -- the 1603 British proclamation against the Irish read "to exterminate by marshal law all manner of Bards, Harpers," and then more explicitly "to hang the harpers wherever found, and destroy their instruments" -- it is an appropriate beginning. The poet was probably a bard of the exiled Hugh O'Neill.

The original lines as translated by George Sigerson in his Bards of the Gail and Gall are:

"In great halls at close of days
sound no more our fathers' lays.

Foemen camp in Neimid's plains
Who will break the heavy chains?

To begin Part IV of Begin with the Arrival, I/Maire changed the first part of these lines to

In great halls at close of days
sound tonight our fathers' lays

its name was Penelope will be featured in the Electronic Literature exhibition at the January 2012 MLA Convention in Seattle. Curated by Dene Grigar, Lori Emerson, and Kathi Inman Berens, Electronic Literature will include, among others, the work of Mark Amerika, Shelley Jackson, Michael Joyce, Deena Larsen, Marjorie Luesebrink, Judy Malloy, Nick Montfort, Stuart Moulthrop, and Stephanie Strickland, plus "future Writers -- Electronic Literature by Undergraduates from U.S."

December 16, 2011

After a Christmas hike in Marin -- where there is a place I particularly like to go at this time of year, and where I sat beside a stream under redwoods and had a late breakfast of coffee and pastry -- I returned to the finishing work on Part IV of Begin with the Arrival.

As Part IV begins, it is intermission and Máire Powers is sitting with musician friends. Like the crowded pub at intermission, the interface is dense, as in separate parallel tracks, she and Liam O'Brien recall what happened to Walter Power at age 14 and what happened to his descendent, the sculptor Hiram Powers, at the same age.

After Máire returns to the stage to the accompaniment of bodhrán drums, there is a single central focus, and -- until the quote from Saint Patrick appears as protection in a time of slavery and exile -- it is mainly her voice that is heard. Then ritornello quotes from the Prologue introduce "The Transplantation", and as Máire Powers begins to play the finale, Liam's voice returns.

Making changes in the "continuo" as part of the finishing work, I moved the lines from Andreas Mac Marcuis' "The Flight of the Earls":

"Foemen camp in Neimid's plains
Who will break the heavy chains?"

to a more appropriate place in the work -- about the time of the Transplantation. Then I began the continuo with rewritten lines from the same work of poetry. From century to century, it is within the Irish tradition to make such changes, although I do not do it very often.

"The Flight of the Earls" was written before the Cromwellian conquest, probably in 1607, but because of its deep sorrow at a time exile of and because it was written at a time when Irish harpers were condemned -- the 1603 British proclamation against the Irish read "to exterminate by marshal law all manner of Bards, Harpers," and then more explicitly "to hang the harpers wherever found, and destroy their instruments" -- it is an appropriate beginning. The poet was probably a bard of the exiled Hugh O'Neill.

The original lines as translated by George Sigerson in his Bards of the Gail and Gall are:

"In great halls at close of days
sound no more our fathers' lays.

Foemen camp in Neimid's plains
Who will break the heavy chains?

To begin Part IV of Begin with the Arrival, I/Maire changed the first part of these lines to

In great halls at close of days
sound tonight our fathers' lays

December 21, 2011

Rather than plunge into research on Irish slavery and The Transplantation, this Christmas week I recollected Christmas in Ireland in the troubled 17th century.

Many Christmas traditions in Ireland originated in times when culture and religion were persecuted and suppressed, and the spirit of light in times of darkness has survived in contemporary Irish Christmas traditions that are simple yet resonant -- such as the placing of a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve as a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph on their difficult search for shelter.

In the Boston area where I grew up, candles in the front windows were always a part our family tradition, symbolizing a welcoming home. As children, we joined our friends in caroling from door to door. When snow fell on dark Christmas Eves -- with snowflakes visible in the air and on our winter coats and sweaters -- it was magical to be walking and singing.

In Berkeley, California, at St Mary Magdelen Church on Sunday evening, I heard the St Mary Magdalen Festival Choir and Consort of Musicians perform a Christmas program from the Mexican Baroque and the Spanish Renaissance. Directed by Andy Canepa, St Mary Magdalen's fine choirs and Baroque instrumentalists played and -- with the lovely solo voices of Luciana Miranda (soprano) and Laryssa Sadoway (alto) -- sang a joyous Latin celebration of the birth of Christ. In the words of the closing "Convidando esta la Noche", by Juan Garcia de Zéspedes (Mexico, 1619-1678):

"Night-time was an invitation
for various bands
to sing tender, joyous hymns
to the new-born babe"

Among many other works from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, were Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla's (Mexico, 1590-1664) Kyrie/Gloria, Sanctus/Benedictus and Agnes Dei from Missa Ego Flos Campi and Tomás Luis de Vittoria's (Spain, 1548-1611) "Christe Redemptor Omnium". As is traditional, there were also Villancicos, (Spanish language Christmas Carols) including songs of devotion for Mary and lullabies for Jesus.

On Christmas Eve in Ireland, there is a tradition of "The Laden Table". After dinner, the family sets the table with a loaf of bread and a pitcher of milk. Beside the food, a candle is lit in symbolic welcome for the Holy Family and -- as is the custom of hospitality in Ireland -- for all visitors and travelers.

I have added a loaf of Irish bread for "The Laden Table" to my Christmas baking list.

December 28, 2011

It is fitting that the first architect for the Uffizi was Vasari. He wrote the lives of the artists of the Italian Renaissance, and he began the building that houses so many of their works.

Thus, returning to Florence, I/Liam O'Brien have been indulging in the art researcher's holiday pastime of perusing The Uffizi, Catalogue of all the works in the Gallery, (Florence, Bonechi, 1989-90) imagining what works Hiram Powers might have stopped to look at the first time he entered the Uffizi in 1837. The Uffizi, Catalogue is a guidebook, but Liam happens to have a copy which he purchased at a used book store in Cambridge, and its very nature as a guidebook -- with incomplete information presenting trails to follow -- is an appropriate beginning of a research journey that will encompass 19th century travel histories, the blogs of the era, such as Camillia Crosland's Landmarks of a Literary Life, 1820-1892. What works were in the Uffizi in 1837 will of course have to be verified when information is included in the narrative itself.

When Liam and Máire meet in a series of conversation that will comprise the next file of From Ireland with Letters, each conversation will probably be framed with some of their lives and research, beginning with Liam's research into the life and work of Hiram Powers in his studio in Florence Italy.

Liam/I are walking in the shoes of a 19th century sculptor who grew up on a Vermont Farm but spent most of his life as a working artist in Italy. For the purposes of this narrative, although I have been to Florence and to the Uffizi, Liam will approach the Uffizi as an art historian who has never been there. If, on his own journey through this catalog, he stops to look at paintings that would not interest Hiram Powers, no one will blame him. The collection is extraordinary.

Powers, it should be noted, as artists will do from time to time, sometimes approached the works of other artists in a framework of preferring his own work, but that does mean that he was not influenced by the culture of the country in which he lived and worked.

For instance, there is bas-relief of a Seated Wayfarer. The work is identified in the catalog as Roman from the second century AD. The Wayfarer sits with an outstretched arm, holding his staff. As if -- like Odysseus -- he is an heroic warrior returning home as a beggar, he has dignity. His pose is seated yet dynamic; draperies frame his legs in finely carved detail. No Powers sculpture that I know of repeats The Wayfarer's pose, but there is a quality of potential action in this work that Powers at his finest achieves.

Then there are two figures of women that have resonance with Powers' work: the third century BC Girl Preparing for the Dance and the 3rd century BC Crouching Venus. The later may have been at the Villa Medici in the 19th century, but Hiram could have seen it there.

Most important in this respect is the marble copy of a bronze Greek sculpture of Venus -- the Venus de' Medici -- which Hiram used for one of the models of The Greek Slave. There are quite a few stories associated with how Powers used the Medici Venus in the creation of The Greek Slave, and more research needs to be done on this subject. So, I will return to this work later, noting only that there is a story that Hiram Powers was one of very few artists given permission at that time to make a cast of the Venus de' Medici, and that this happened because after Powers made a bust of the Duchess of Tuscany, (probably in 1846, a few years after he created The Greek Slave) her husband, Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany, was so impressed with the work that he asked Powers if there was any service he could do for him. Powers replied that he would like to make a cast of the Medici Venus, and his request was granted.

Meanwhile to introduce the new media writer's New Year, a major exhibition of Electronic Literature, curated by Dene Grigar, Kathi Inman Berens, and Lori Emerson, will open at MLA 2012 on January 5.

A Romanian translation of Memories of Arts Wire was created by Alexander Ovsov and -- reminding me of the importance of International cultural exchange -- is available at Amintiri din sârmă Arte.

And rereading the introduction to Jaishree Odin's Hypertext and the Female Imaginary (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) refocuses my attention on contemporary electronic narrative. "The electronic media easily lend themselves to creating complex narratives of multiple worlds or worlds within worlds that have potential for diverse trajectories of meaning," Odin notes the introduction.

January 6, 2012

In preparation for a series of conversations between Máire and Liam, while Liam continues to trace the role of Italian art and culture on Hiram Powers' work, Máire is now on a darker research path, reading the classic work about The Transplantation: John Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, London: Longman, 1865.

In Prendergast, a fold out map which looks as if it is a facsimile of the original and is titled "The Settlement of Ireland by the Act of 26th September, 1653" makes clear the very small amount of territory allotted to the Irish in their own country. The conditions of The Transplantation were so extreme that Parliament found it necessary to declare in italics that it was "not their intention to extirpate the whole nation." (p.26)

Prendergast's words set the stage:

"The Earl of Ormand, Primate Bramhall, and all the Catholic nobility, and many of the gentry, were declared incapable of pardon of life or estate, and were banished. The rest of the nation were to lose their lands, and take up their residence wherever the Parliament of England should order. On 26th September, 1653, all the ancient estates and farms of the people of Ireland were declared to belong to the adventurers and army of England; and it was announced that the Parliament had assigned Connaught (America was not then accessible) for the habitation of the Irish nation, whither they must transplant with their wives, daughters, and children, before the 1st of May following (1654) under penalty of death, if found on this side of the Shannon after that day." (p. 27)

Connaught was selected because it was surrounded by the sea and the Shannon, and the boundaries could be easily fortified. It was also "at this time the most wasted Province in the kingdom". (p.30) However, The Transplantation was difficult to enforce, was resisted by the Irish people, and was not completely accomplished.

A chilling series of quotes -- from letters from Dublin to England and from reports and proclamations -- which Prendergast prints in Part II of his book, ("The Transplantation", pp. 26-77) document British reactions to Irish resistance to the Transplantation, including hanging those who refused to leave their homes and placing placards that said "for not transplanting" on their hanging bodies; entering their homes at night, taking them from their beds and jailing them in overcrowded prisons; and selling them as slaves in America.

Given the ages of the children shipped to America as slaves, there is an ominous statement in a petition which Prendergast documents:

"The humble petition of the Officers within the precincts of Dublin, Catherlough, Wexford, and Kilkenny, in behalf of themselves, their Souldiers, and other faithful English Protestants, to the Lord Deputy and Council of Ireland"

Prendergast's summary of this petition begins: "They pray that the original order of the Council of State in England, confirmed by the Parliament September 27th, 1653, requiring the removal of all the Irish nation into Connaught, except boys of 14 and girls of 12, might be enforced..." (p. 61)

At this time of year in January 1654, 14 year old Walter Power was probably in the hold of a slave ship not far from the Massachusetts Coast.

One hundred eighty-three years later, carrying with him a recurring childhood dream of a woman on a pedestal whom he could not reach across the river, Walter Power's descendent Hiram Powers and his family sailed to Florence.

January 11-12, 2012

As the children of the Irish slaves in Massachusetts became a part of the community, they may not -- in this Puritan culture and later at times of extreme discrimination against the Irish -- have spoken too openly of their roots. And in some branches of the family, they may not have known. In the 17th century, the British falsified the official records of many of the Irish children they stole; they were listed as shipped from Bristol or some other place in England; some of these children were given false names; and Catholicism, the center of their former worship, culture, and family life was forbidden.

How the records of roots -- particularly in cases of slavery -- are passed from generation to generation are of interest, and I would like to know more about how the millions of enslaved African Americans passed their African roots and culture from generation to generation.

In my family, it was my mother, who was of Scottish descent, who kept the underground Irish origin of my father's family in our hearts. It was she who told me that my father's family had Irish roots, and she made sure that we celebrated Saint Patrick's day, that there were shamrocks in the windows on that day and that we listened to and sang the Irish songs. The songs that we sang in those days were the Irish American songs of exile culture or of returning home: "Dear Old Donegal", the song that Máire Powers plays impromptu in Begin with the Arrival, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", "MacNamara's Band". We also sang "The Wearing of the Green" and "Finnegan's Wake".

The Irish Slave Trade

It had been logical to assume that the first Walter Power in America was an orphan when he was taken from Ireland, because that was the official story as regards the children and young people who were enslaved. However, from the document quoted in last week's entry in this writer's notebook, it appears that the British set aside 12 year old girls and 14 year old boys from The Transplantation. Given the ages of the young people aboard The Goodfellow, some may not have been orphans but rather were forcefully taken from their living families.

In To Hell or Barbados, (Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon Books, 2000) Sean O'Callaghan (the journalist, not the informant of the same name) describes the capture of Irish people in this way:

"The work of rounding up people for transportation was carried out very thoroughly by government agents throughout the country. These 'man-catchers', as they were called, were mounted and armed, with long whips to herd the unfortunate people into the holding-pens outside the cities and towns ....Here they were branded with the initials of the ship that would take them to Barbados or Virginia. They were attached together with ropes around their necks and the long march to the seaports in the south of Ireland began." (p. 78)

According to O'Callaghan, many of the British slave ships docked in Bristol, England before embarking for the Americas. Sometimes they were the same ships that were used to transport black slaves from the West Coast of Africa to the West Indies. (p. 80) O'Callaghan writes that "As there is no record of how the Irish on the slave ships were treated (none ever returned), we have to assume that they were treated exactly as African slaves were treated, for which there are many records." (P. 87)

The Lines of Descent from the First Walter Power

I am not yet ready to revisit who exactly Walter Power was when he was probably thus captured and transported to Massachusetts. But this being a birthday week in my family, it seems a good time to revisit Powers family Irish American family genealogy back to Walter Power and Trial Shepherd.

In Hiram Powers, Vermont Sculptor, 1805-1873, (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Volume I, p 28) Smithsonian art historian Richard P. Wunder documents that Walter Power was born in Waterford Ireland, probably in 1639, and that his name appears in Massachusetts records in 1654. In Pioneer Irish in New England, (NY: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1937. pp 239-241) Michael J. O'Brien writes that it is logical to conclude that Power came on the slave ship, The Goodfellow.

Much work needs to be done in details and verification, but roughly, the begats for my family go as follows:

Walter Power married Trial Shepherd in 1661. Their first son, William Power, was born in 1661 in what is now Littleton Massachusetts. (but at that time may have been a part of Concord) He married Mary, daughter of John and Hannah Jenkins Bank (or Banks, Banke, or Bunk) of Chelmsford. William and Mary's second child was William Powers, born in 1691 in Littleton. I do not as yet know when the family added the "s" to the name, but it looks as if it could be at about this time. William Powers II married Lydia Perham of Chelmsford. Their children included Lemuel Powers, born on December 11, 1714 in Grafton, Massachusetts. Lemuel married Thankful Leland. Their children included Ezekiel Powers, born March 27, 1745.

Ezekiel fought in the American Revolution and married Hannah Hall. This is probably when the family moved from Massachusetts to Croydon, New Hampshire. Their children included Major Abijah Powers, born May 7, 1781. Abijah Powers married Olive Melendef or Melendy Their children (or possibly his children by Charlotte Rogers) included Elias Powers born May 1, 1808 in Croydon, NH.

Elias Powers married Emeline White. Their children included Wilbur Howard Powers, born January 22, 1849 in Croydon. Wilbur Howard Powers, went to Dartmouth, which was probably not usual for this branch of the family, many of whom were rural farmers, and then to Boston University, where he got a law degree. He married Emily Owen from Lebanon, NH, and they moved to Boston. Wilbur and Emily had two children: Myra and my Grandfather, Walter Powers, born in Hyde Park, Massachusetts on August 3, 1885.

My grandfather Walter Powers, and my father Wilbur Langdon Powers

Walter Powers married Ethel Carver. And now we come to my father, Wilbur Langdon Powers, who was born in 1911 and married Barbara Lillard. [1]

And so, having retraced the Powers genealogy and hosted a family birthday tapas party, I went for a hike, took my notebook and began the writing for File 3 of From Ireland with Letters. I have not yet decided on the title.

In From Ireland with Letters, Máire Powers is fictional, but it seems fitting to put her in the same line as my own family, which is clearly traced from Walter and Trial Power's first born child William.

[1] My mother, journalist Barbara Lillard Powers, was the daughter of Ethel Hazen Lillard, and educator Walter Huston Lillard, who after World War II served in Vienna, under the United Nations as Chief of Resettlement of the International Refugee Organization.

Both sets of my grandparents were named Walter and Ethel.

Walter and Trial's Fourth Child, Thomas Power
Hiram Powers
The Travels of The Greek Slave

The artist Hiram Powers. whose life and work Liam O'Brien is researching in From Ireland with Letters, was descended from Walter and Trial's fourth child, Thomas Powers, born in 1667.

There are passages in Hiram's writing about The Greek Slave (chained with the manacles used on African American slaves) and other works (America trampling on those same chains) that make the possibility that he did know the family origins cogent. But no documentation has of yet been found that proves this.

When The Greek Slave toured America, during the 447 days it was on view, (1947-1948) it was seen by more than one hundred thousand people, according to Wunder (p. 242) becoming one of the most famous sculptures in 19th century America. The abolitionist newspaper The National Era ran several articles about this work, including "Powers's Greek Slave in St. Louis", (The National Era, January 16, 1851) which is reproduced on the Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture website at

The National Era writes:

"I was fashioned by a hand whose every motion was the offspring of love for man in all his relations, with a sublime conception of the beautiful and the true, and it is therefore that he has sent me around the world to preach by this loveliness and nakedness, and by this cruel chain, joy to the forsaken, comfort to the destitute, and liberty to the captive. I was carved from Parian, rather than from Ebony, that I might more effectually appeal to perverted justice and partial sympathy; but I am the representation of the captive and the forsaken everywhere, and whatever sympathy I may secure for my enslaved sisters in Turkey, are due to my sisters of another hue in the land throughout which I am making my pilgrimage. Whatever claim of justice I may secure for me, and those like me, are due to those equally oppressed in your very midst. Think you that it was cruel to rob me of liberty, purity, and happiness? Though my skin were black as night, my soul would have the same aspirations, and need the same sympathies, my intellect would have the same laws and need the same development. Cease your sympathy for a slave in Constantinople, and go show kindness and justice to those over whom you have power."

January 18, 2012

Two books that I received for Christmas are helping to shape both the identity of Liam O'Brien, whose family emigrated in the times of the potato famine, and a deeper understanding of role and continuity of Irish roots in contemporary American poetry. They are:

Jay P. Dolan, The Irish Americans, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2008


Daniel Tobin, Awake in America; on Irish American Poetry. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011.

University of Notre Dame Professor emeritus of history Dolan's chapter on "The Great Hunger" (pp. 67-83) is a harrowing read, setting forth the terrible times of the potato famine and the arduous trip to America in such a way that I could not sleep the night I read this chapter. Somehow the two hundred years between Cromwell's fatal devastation of Ireland and the potato famine were conflated, and my own viewpoint from the earlier vantage was more deeply colored with the knowledge of continuing/parallel hardship.

Poet and Emerson College professor Tobin's dense, information-intense exploration of Irish American Poetry is a book to be read slowly, revealing unexplored works of poetry, skillfully contrasting very different approaches and opinions and looking at the poetry of Diaspora as a whole. The work was always there, but we need to see it as a whole, not only as a vibrant tradition of Irish American writing, but also as an integral part of American literature. Tobin has woven a rich tapestry of fellow Irish American poets -- to which I will continue to return.

January 23, 2012

Titles have always been a problem for me although generally once the title has finally been selected, I am not unhappy with it. In the course of the work, a working title is sometimes changed, but I do not like to do much writing on a new work without a title; it feels like working on something that does not exist.

During the past week, many hours were spent reading Irish poetry and looking at the words of Hiram Powers in search of a title for File 3 of From Ireland with Letters. Finally, I went back to my own Prologue because a repeated use of prologue words was intended. From the Prologue, I chose "junction of several trails" -- the words a harbinger of the exchange of information between Liam and Máire. This is a working title, by which I mean it will probably be changed. But now I can begin to work seriously on File 3.

Next -- in addition to continuing research and some preliminary writing -- it is time to create a draft interface.

It was a week to revisit the creation of tangible works with image, text, and code, as I went to the Mills College Art Museum for the exhibition Spaces of Life, the Art of Sonya Rapoport. For me, the exhibition had the feel of exploring the work in an artist's studio with an old friend, because I remembered seeing Sonya's work in this context.

With sustained original vision, Sonya Rapoport has created a wonderful, innovative, intellectual yet evocative body of work, and with this exhibition, last year's exhibition at Kala. and the forthcoming book from Heyday (edited by Terri Cohn) the artist and curators Terri Cohn and Anuradha Vikram have effectively conveyed the importance of Rapoport's work and vision.

Around the museum, continuous feed computer paper -- made into art with dense, intricate hand-created images, text, and code -- was displayed on the walls, divulging details of an artist's life and of cross cultural explorations.

On the floor was the prescient NetWeb from her installation Objects on my Dresser that I had seen at 80 Langton St in San Francisco in 1981. Introduced by the bureau from Objects on my Dresser, there were small objects, artists books, and new media. including the recent large-screen displayed Nuclear Family. And the concept of interactive installation was conveyed in an invitation to the audience to participate in the reenactment of early interactive works, such as Brutal Myths. (in 1996 created in collaboration with Marie Sat)

Also included -- on a computer; on the wall -- was Objective Connections, the collaborative webpece that Sonya and I created together for the Generations exhibition at the Richmond Art Center in 1996. I thought it held up well as a surprisingly seamless exploration of how Sonya's images and my words converged and diverged in the many years in which we worked/conversed in separate but sometimes parallel artmaking.

And so, back to interface design for Junction of Several Trails.

The making of artists books during the Christmas season has clarified my thinking or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the activity of putting things together by hand is satisfying and clears one's mind for the intense concentration sometimes needed to create electronic literature. Although, there are traditional ways of making artists books, there are -- as often happens in the creation of interface -- difficult questions when putting togther one of a kind books, and relatedly, there are display/audience questions. How does the viewer approach the work?

In the context of the pleasures of studio work, the difference between writing/interface design and painting/making of artists books was a subject of discussion at Sonya's opening.

But there is no reason that I cannot begin the creation of the interface for Junction of Several Trails with paper, paint, and pen, the way I used to, and I am thinking about this.

January 26, 2012

Junction of Several Trails will begin with a prelude to the first conversation between Liam and Máire. This prelude will probably be an interior monologue, written in the third person and housed in an interface of successive central lexias -- somewhat based on Narrabase IV, which I began using in 2000 for Dorothy Abrona McCrae.

Like a medieval manuscript or a glossed academic document, these lexias will be surrounded by a thicket of links to the research trails that Liam is following. As noted before, From Ireland with Letters is constructed somewhat like a piece of music in that a series of separate but complete parts all work together as a whole.

As this prelude begins, we are in Liam O'Brien's office. On the desk in front of him is a classic art historian's source document for 16th century Florentine art and architecture: The Beauties of the City of Florence, a Guidebook of 1591. (Introduced, Translated, and Annotated by Thomas Frangenberg and Robert Williams. London, Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2006) This is not a contemporary guidebook. It was written in the 16th Century by Florentine arts writer Francesco Bocchi. (1548-1616)

Liam might be following Bocchi along the Via de' Benci to the Piazza Santa Croce, near where Hiram Powers and his family first lived:

"Walking northwards, one comes to the Piazza Santa Croce, so-called for the magnificent church that one sees at the eastern end. This square is very beautiful because the houses surround it gracefully, in the manner of a theatre, but the church, magnificently set somewhat above [the level of the square], gives it dignity in addition to beauty. Now so the view may be even more noble, and correspond to the happy effect of the houses, and the church, the square is divided into areas of a certain size surrounded by a fence of stakes, [with the added result that] the young men of the city may exert themselves more becomingly in the soccer tournament that takes place every year..."
(p 139; this tournament, described in more detail by Bocchi, now takes place in the Piazza del Signoria, the editors note.)

Or perhaps he is reading Bocchi's chapter about the Roman Gate (pp 77-103) because later the Powers family moved to the Via delle Fornaci between the Ponte alla Carraia and the Porta Romana.

Also on Liam's desk is Set in Stone, 19th-Century American Authors in Florence by Sirpa Salenius. (Padova: il prato, 2003) Salenius, a professor of literature at CEA Global Education in Florence, has edited a book on Sculptors, Painters, and Italy: Italian Influence on Nineteenth-Century American Art which includes a chapter on Hiram Powers by Rebecca Reynolds. But Liam does not yet have this book.

Powers makes cameo appearances in Set in Stone. In the 19th century, many American travelers to Florence visited his studio, (p.6) and, for instance, in the section on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salenius describes how Powers finds an apartment for Hawthorne and his wife and children. The apartment was just across the street from Powers' own home and studio on the Via delle Fornaci, (now via de' Serragli) from whence Hawthorne "enjoyed taking long pleasurable walks 'for the mere pleasure of walking', along the streets of the city, the banks of the river Arno, the paths of the Boboli gardens, and in the Cascine Park." (p.38)

Perhaps because of the central role of Vermont rivers in Hiram Powers' recollections, Liam is considering the place of the Arno in an artist's daily life in Florence. Thus, in Set in Stone, on pages 43-44, he has bookmarked these words from Hawthorne's The French and Italian Notebooks:

"...As we returned home over the Arno, crossing the Ponte di Santa Trinita, we were struck by the beautiful scene of the broad, calm river, with the palaces along its banks, repeated in it, on either side, and the neighboring bridges, too, just as perfect in the tide beneath as in the air above -- a city of dream and shadow so close to the actual one. God has a meaning no doubt, in putting this spiritual symbol continually beside us. Along the shore of the river, on both sides, as far as we could see, there was a row of brilliant lamps, which, in the far distance, looked like a cornice of golden light; and this also shone as brightly out of the river's depth..."

I have at times looked at theory composers, such as Guido of Arezzo, Philippe de Vitry, Franco of Cologne, and Marchetto da Padova, as exploring (then) new forms of music, in ways that parallel how new media writers and critics create and write about electronic literature. Renaissance theory and criticism of visual art -- the complexity of processes which in a later era we take for granted -- is also of interest. In their introduction to Francesco Bocchi's The Beauties of the City of Florence, a Guidebook of 1591, Thomas Frangenberg and Robert Williams begin to describe Bocchi's essay on Andrea Del Sarto in this way:

"The essay on Michelangelo was followed three years later, in 1567, with another in praise of Andrea del Sarto. Strikingly more original and complex, it is essentially a theory of painting based on Aristotle's Poetics. Bocchi enumerates five elements of painting which he says correspond to five of the six parts of tragedy defined by Aristotle. Design (disegno) corresponds to plot, character depiction (costume) in painting to character depiction in drama, relief (rilievo) -- the drawing and modelling of forms in such a way as to suggest three-dimensionality -- to what Aristotle called 'thought', paint handling or colouring (colorito) to the expression of thought in words (Aritotle's diction), and a certain 'sweetness and facility' (dolcezza et facilita) productive of naturalism, to what Aristotle called 'song'..."(p. 12-13)

< February 3, 2012

Liam O'Brien's previous work was on the 19th century Hudson River School. As the Prelude begins, he has already researched the time spent in Italy by Frederic Church and George Inness. (in articles by Gerald Carr and J.R. Cikovsky in Italian Presence in American Art, 1860-1920, Irma B. Jaffe ed., NY: Fordham University Press, 1992, among other sources)

Exploration of how an a 19th century Irish American artist's environment was changed when he moved to Florence, now colors his research into the work of Hiram Powers. At the moment, he is reading Bocchi's The Beauties of the City of Florence, a Guidebook of 1591. It is not as abrupt a transition from the pub-based Irish lay in Begin with the Arrival as would be expected.

With prose that is so lush and adjective-laden that it is often unquotable, Bocchi conveys the cumulative effect of what he sees, eventually leading the reader to a place where he or she is overwhelmed by the spectacular environment of 16th century Florence. "Some of Bocchi's most interesting language is used to describe the viewer's response: 'pleasure' (diletto, piacere) is evoked repeatedly enough to leave one in no doubt as to how much pleasure Bocchi actually took in looking," the translators observe. (p. 20)

Indeed, Bocchi's rich adjectives achieve an unexpected transference. Surprisingly, the effect of his writing reminds me of Dorothy Richardson. The styles or words are not comparable, but at her best Richardson manages to transform words into text-based impressionist art while conversely with a flow of repeated sumptuous words, Bocchi manages to convey Florentine art with writing.

Contingently, this week before actually beginning Junction of Several Trails, I returned to where the reader was coming from when he or she moved from Máire's lay to a scene in Liam's office. In the process, I made a few changes in the continuo, adjusting the timing, replacing some lines from The Prologue with quotes from Prendergast.

The work now closes with the same lines it opens. Rewritten from The 17th Century "Flight of the Earls", they are:

"In great halls at close of days
sound tonight our fathers' lays"

February 9, 2012

At a time when Florence is central to the narrative, or at any time, last Saturday night in Berkeley was an evening to remember. In the acclaimed Cal Performances series, a magnificent celebration of The Polychoral Splendors of Renaissance Florence was produced and conducted by musician, musicologist and conductor Davitt Moroney. A fine group of musicians -- including Magnificat, American Bach Soloists, Schola Cantorum San Francisco, Chalice Consort, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts and musicians from the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Music -- gathered for this performance of 40-60 part 16th century choral music.

Recreating the environment of the Duomo in Renaissance Florence on occasions of celebration, such as Medici weddings, the music was complex, dense, highly structured, yet composed in such a way that it was the whole not the individual parts that dominated the environment. It was a sumptuous experience that concluded with two standing ovations.

The evening opened with an organ intonation by composer Girolamo Cavazzoni, played by the conductor, and leading perfectly to Stefano Rossetto's Christmas motet in 50 parts, Consolamini, consolamini popule meus, which begins in Davitt Moroney's words with "a massive wall of sound in F major, over slow and simple harmonies, with melodic fragments swirling around, intertwining and tumbling over each other, in brilliantly shimmering textures". Building to a climax of a repeated 50 voice "Alleleua", the work enveloped the audience in achingly beautiful textured sound, so compelling that one immediately wanted to hear it again.

The only score for this motet -- it was the first modern performance -- is in Munich. But 3 of the 8 part books (18 voices) were missing. In 2010, they were seamlessly/brilliantly recomposed by Dr. Moroney. The process, of interest to a writer of new media literature, was difficult. The music was extraordinary.

It was not the only feat of restoration which Davitt performed for this program. Working from unusual notation ("Spanish number tablature") and only one line of text he went through 36 poetry versions of the Ten Commandments to recreate the lyrics of the circa 1545 anonymous Spanish canon Unum Cole Deum in which the versified Commandments were set in music. "The canonic setting is symbolic," he observes in the program notes. "Each of the four notated vocal parts (soprano, alto tenor and bass) is sung as a tenfold canon: the other nine sopranos, nine altos, nine tenors and nine basses follow systematically, coming in one by one after an interval of four breves...."

From a new media writer's point of view, the canonic structure in the resulting work created an experience like the opening interface of Concerto for Narrative Data. (if the phrases were all set to music and produced in an overlapping manner) But in Unum Cole Deum, the audience already knows the words, so the way the sound traveled back and forth separate/together was an exceptional experience in which known text -- the Ten Commandments -- was represented in a continually undulating wall of sound.

And then the desire to hear Stefano Rossetto's motet again was anticipated because after an instrumental in 8 parts by Giovanni Gabrieli, the Spanish Canon, and an instrumental in 9 parts by Tiburtio Massaino, Rossetto's Consolamini, consolamini popule meus, came again to end the first half of the program.

In the second part of the program, following Medici court composer Alessandro Striggio's innovative 40 part motet Ecce Beatum Lucem, the evening closed with Striggio's Missa sopra "Ecco si beato giorno", a setting of the Ordinary of the Mass for which -- from the opening Kyrie to the 60 voice Agnes Dei -- the only word is masterpeice. It is seldom that a work of music actually brings me almost to tears, not of sadness but of joy/of being overwhelmed by the glory of something. But I had been waiting for three and 1/2 years to hear this work performed live, and that is what happened.

It is important to understand that the performance of this work is not the equivalent of a contemporary 60 member choir that sings in 4 part SATB. What 40-60 voices means in polychoral works is that at times there are actually 40-60 simultaneous lines of music, sometimes as in the Agnus Dei, with the voices coming in one by one in what can be described as a "wave" of music: "dona nobis pacem"

Striggio's Missa sopra "Ecco si beato giorno" -- that Moroney himself discovered in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2005 after a twenty year search and first conducted on July 17, 2007 for the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall -- received its American Premiere in 2008 at the Ninth Berkeley Festival of early music. (with Davitt Moroney conducting)

I remember that it was at about the time that an (oddly contingent) work of mine was included in the Visionary Landscapes Electronic Literature Organization conference in Vancouver, Washington, (coincidently, the ELO Conference and the Berkeley Festival of early music usually play at about the same time) and that because I could not get a ticket for the performance of "Ecco si beato giorno", I went instead to hear Davitt give a lecture on this work.

So, I had been waiting for three and 1/2 years to hear a live performance of Alessandro Striggio's "Ecco si beato giorno". And yes, it was worth the wait.

The histories of Striggio's Mass and of all the works on the program are extensively documented in the program notes on the Cal Performances website at

February 15, 2012

Over and over, the events of Cromwell's retreat from Waterford appeared on my screen in a history sung/told many years later, as I worked and reworked the timing and words of Part IV of Begin with the Arrival that I had thought in December was finished.

At the same time, I approached continuing work on From Ireland with Letters in three different but related ways.

1. With a continuing interest in how slave memories are passed from generation and are intertwined with culture, I began to read Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. (first published in 1845)

In Chapter II, (Boston, MA: Anti Slavery Office, 1847 pp. 13-14) I read:

....While on their way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. They would compose and sing as they went along, consulting neither time nor tune. The thought that came up, came out if not in the word, in the sound ; and as frequently in the one as in the other. They would sometimes sing the most pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and the most rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone. Into all of their songs they would manage to weave something of the Great House Farm. Especially would they do this, when leaving home. They would then sing most exultingly the following words:

" 1 am going away to the Great House Farm !
O, yea ! O, yea ! O !"

This they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to many would seem unmeaning jargon, but which, nevertheless, were full of meaning to themselves. I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do. I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds...

2. Revisiting the trail of James Joyce's use of both early music structures and Irish music in Ulysses, addressed by many critics, (Zach Bowen, Marian Kaplun, Lawrence Levin, Gerry Smyth, L.A.G. Strong, Mabel Worthington among others) I looked at how Irish songs occur and reoccur within Ulysses, "The Boys of Wexford", for instance.

"All gone. All fallen. At the siege of Ross his father, at Gorey all his brothers fell. To Wexford, we are the boys of Wexford, he would. Last of his name and race."

You would have to know that "The Boys of Wexford" was a song about the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798 to completely understand the allusion and Joyce's repeated references to the "Croppy Boy" from the same 1798 rising.

Like the symbolism and codes underlying African American quilts, the defeat and devastation of Ireland occurs and reoccurs in the work of writers and poets of Irish heritage. Yet although lines of song cryptically allude to sorrow and suffering, a reader might only see the beautiful quilt.

3. On a day after rain when the woods were wet, I hiked in the Berkeley Hills at a place where the trail offers views across hillsides as it winds in and out of small groves of redwood and laurel. I enjoyed a simple picnic of bread and cheese and began a pen and ink drawing.

At home, after reflecting on the impact of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (which first published in 1845 sold 30,000 copies) on the perception of The Greek Slave and rereading The National Era's 1851 coverage of The Greek Slave -- I returned (in reading) to the place where Hiram Powers created The Greek Slave and followed Francesco Bocchi through the Boboli gardens, near where I think Powers lived at the time.

"...Grand Duke Cosimo had the commendable notion of having a garden laid out, worthy of the magnificence of the palace. It is very ample, covering much of the ground, partly flat, and partly up the hill, and extending to the walls of the city. On this terrain, cultivated and wild trees are growing, and all through the year there are shady groves, designed by a skilled hand in correspondence with the layout of the palace. They not only provide nesting places for different song birds, but also form espaliers stretching along both sides of an ample lawn extending up the hill..." (pp. 80-81)

February 21, 2012

Returning to Frederick Douglass and the "under language" of The Greek Slave, I record that Douglass' words on the treatment of slaves and slave families are so potent that they have remained with me throughout the week. I also read Olaudah Equiano's distressing account of "The Middle Passage" (the transport of African American slaves across the Atlantic) in his Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African (1789)

According to O'Callaghan's To Hell or Barbados, "As there is no record of how the Irish on the slave ships were treated (none ever returned), we have to assume that they were treated exactly as African slaves were treated, for which there are many records." (P. 87) I do not know for sure if this is true, but Olaudah Equiano's account of "The Middle Passage" for African American slaves has stayed with me, and I turned to other pursuits to relieve the "melancholy" for which slaves were actually punished on The Middle Passage.

Spring, which comes early in California, is a return to walking, drawing and painting. and the making of artists books -- often a prelude to new interface. Sometimes it is difficult to convey why sitting outdoors, quietly painting and drawing lead to what may seem to be a different kind of work. Perhaps it is just the clearing of one's mind, the concentrating on every brush or pen stroke, but I think it is also that visual thinking is important in creating interface for new media writing.

While at the same time participating in discussions of code literacy and play as a participant in the 2012 Critical Code Studies Working Group, I drafted an interface for the opening pages of Junction of Several Trails and continued to rework Part IV of Begin with the Arrival,

On CCSWG12 Reading Code in Context -- which was organized by Jeremy Douglass and Mark C. Marino and coordinated by Jason Lipshin -- I have followed the discussions with interest, sometimes also participating as a working new media writer or answering questions about my own code critique, which was about creating a collaborative work in which the program (late BASIC era) mediated both the input and the resultant array.

The whole of Reading Code in Context has seemed to me like a programmers' studio where you can wander around virtually and look at what people are doing, and it has been a very creative and useful experience.

February 28, 2012

There is now enough text in Liam's prelude to Junction of Several Trails for the work to begin to take shape. As part of the process, I am creating a large score on watercolor paper that notates the relationship of the lexias to one another as regards both timing and placement in the array. I have worked so long with juggling many lexias, that often I avoid this scoring, preferring to keep the whole in my head. But in order to use this work as a basis for designing a more programmatic authoring system, it makes sense to create a score on which the details are displayed. This will also make it easier to adjust the timing and to make the file naming more consistent and to figure out how to notate what I am doing. The score looks quite elegant, (at least until I start erasing and rewriting) but it is too large to reproduce here.

The question of whether or not works of electronic literature can be scored in the way music is not one I can currently answer. Is this desirable? Will there be a notation for electronic literature that eventually becomes standard or are the differences in approach too diverse? For instance, Eastgate's Storyspace has the capability of creating a kind of score for hyperfiction, but what I am doing is somewhat different. A work of choral music I heard a month or so ago keeps reoccurring un my mind: the anonymous Spanish 40 part canon Unum cole deum (circa 1545) which Davitt Moroney restored from the original notation ("Spanish number tablature") and conducted for Cal Performances. It is a wonderful work and a work with resonance for 21st century poets, yet the original notation was difficult, obscure, and unusual.

In considering (for a Critical Code Studies Working Group discussion) the process of learning to program, I saw something that I had not seen before. It was how working with computerized library systems had made the creation of works that manipulated many lexias almost second nature. I already knew that those systems and the programming of those systems were in the background of my vision. But what I had not considered was that a library card catalog is likely to include thousands of separate entries (each a record of a book) and that all these records must be included when you automate such a system. I learned to catalog when working as an editor-searcher for the Union Catalog at the Library of Congress. Thus I had created entries in the catalog at Ball Brothers Research Corporation in Boulder -- where I was project head of the automation -- ie many entries for which I was creating a system, I had written myself.

From there, since I was also a working artist who created artists books with text and image, I put these things together and at first by hand and later by computer arrived at hypertextual literature on what was a very natural path of creating narrative with hundreds of lexias and devising systems to search and display these lexias.

And there are other factors, I thought as leaving the difficult score I had begun to create for Junction, I worked on a small painting started last week on a beautiful trail in Marin.

I have somewhat changed my approach to the composition of the Prelude to Junction of Several Trails. Originally I had wanted to echo Liam's academic nature with an interface that was prosaically hypertextual, but instead I am emphasizing his poetic approach to research, using an interface based on musical structures.

Working on this, I returned to Séan Crosson's "The Given Note": Traditional Music and Modern Irish Poetry in particular to read about the work of Ciaran Carson. (in Chapter Five: "'The Given Note' Traditional Music and the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and Gearóid Mac Lochlainn") The voice of an Irish American poet is of course somewhat different from that of the voice of a flute player poet who worked with the arts in Northern Ireland during the time of The Troubles. Yet if, as I have, you have been run down and walk with thirteen breaks in your leg, there is some commonality, or at least that is what I feel.

In this chapter, Crosson looks at the role of poetry and music in The Troubles and the aftermath. The whole is well worth reading, but I returned to this chapter because I was thinking about loops -- how the continuo looped in Part III of "Paths of Memory and Painting" -- and I wanted to do this again/differently in the Prelude to Junction and also to look at Carson's use of this device. He is quoted by Crosson as saying about Belfast Confetti

"there's a lot of recurrence in Confetti: the idea behind its structure is like a hall of mirrors, in which all the poems are versions of each other. It goes round in circles. And if that's deliberate, it seems to reflect real life."

(p. 242, Crosson cites the quote as from: Deborah A. Sarbin, Writing/Righting History: the Revisionary Stance of Contemporary Irish Poetry (dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1994 p. 148)

March 4, 2012

Last week was not otherwise a good week, but there were several magical moments. One was that while listening to harpsichord music at home, unexpectedly I heard that a problem with the prelude to Junction was that the continuo texts were too long. When in response, I divided the longer texts into a series of smaller and faster moving lexias, they better echoed:

the mountain streams in New Hampshire where Liam remembers hiking as he sits at his desk reading The Beauties of the City of Florence.

Bocchi's words about the flow of the water in Giambologna's fountain in the Boboli Gardens:
"There are springs of wonderfully clear and limpid water here; the water is distributed by conduits and flows beautifully through the garden...";

and Hiram Powers' original design for his no longer extant fountain in Capitol Park in Washington, DC, as described in his own words, "It may represent Venus rising out of the sea. Over her head will be a sheet of water ressembling a parasol and above that revolving jets throwing several thousand streams 20 or thirty feet into the air. It would be imposssible to describe the beautiful effect it would produce. The streams are so small that in the sunshine there will be a constant rainbow -- and so smooth is the parasol that it looks like a convex mirror, and by its outward force will protect the figure entirely from the falling mist." (Wunder p.78)

And I began to see how to make this Prelude work.

Intermittently, in Sculptors, Painters, and Italy - Italian Influences on Nineteenth-Century American Art, edited by Sirpa Salenius, (Saonara, Italy: il Prato, 2009) I concentrated on the chapter by Rebecca Reynolds "'No Ordinary Hands': Hiram Powers' Artistic and Professionally Related Family". (pp. 53-66) In this paper, Reynolds focuses on Powers' relationship with Florentine sculptors, including the sculptors and craftsmen who worked with him in his studio.

When he lived in the area of the Via Fornace, as many as ten sculptors lived within three blocks of his studio, and Powers, she notes, was welcomed by Italian sculptors, including Lorenzo Bartolini, who was at that time the director of the Academia delle Belli Arte in Florence where Hiram's work was displayed and where Powers became an honorary Associate Professor of sculpture.

Although many American artists created models in clay but then the entire work was then done by Italian carvers, Hiram Powers did much of his own carving and finishing work. However, in his studio he had trusted Italian sculptors and craftsmen who worked with him and/or used his studio space. Many of his studio assistants were sculptors in their own right, and some had trained in Bartolini's studio. At times there were as many as 12 artists and craftsmen working with Powers; he was generous with his workers and they became a part of his extended family. They included the sculptor and master carver Remigio Peschi, master carver Angelo Ambuchi, drapery specialist Franzoni, whose family were Carrara sculptors, drapery specialist Odoardo Fantacchioti, and blockers out of works Berlindo Trentanove and Leopoldo "Poldo" Fabbri.

Because Liam's father is a carpenter, who does finishing work and also makes furniture in his shop at home, Hiram's working relationship with the Italian stonecutters, carvers, and other craftsmen who worked alongside him in his studio in Florence has resonance. I also like the view that Reynolds sets forth in her paper about artists and craftsmen working side by side in a 19th century studio in Italy.

March 10, 2012

In an interlude from the sequential constraints and the research and dark retelling of the terrible history of Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, I am enjoying writing Liam's virtual visit to beautiful Florence in the poetic Prelude to Junction of Several Trails. The beginning to File III of From Ireland with Letters, the Prelude follows Irish American sculptor Hiram Powers in 19th century Florence, while at the same time revealing details of Liam's life. It is the opening, or "overture" to a conversation between Máire Powers and Liam O'Brien.

Predictably there has been a lot of erasing in the "score" I'm working on for this Prelude, but I am seeing the importance of creating pencil and paper notation. The main reason for making a "score" is to facilitate the process of creating authoring software, but I am finding that it also makes the composing process (in particular the remembering of the placement and timing of hundred's of lexias) easier. Another reason for doing this is that if someone had the text for this work but not the code, (perhaps hundreds of years from now) it would be possible to reconstruct it from a score. Print authors do not have too worry about such things. But despite the continuing need to erase and restart, working on the score in conjunction with writing the Prelude to Junction has been a fine experience.

The pre-book launch party for Pairing of Polarities: The Life and Art of Sonya Rapoport was a wonderful closing celebration for Sonya Rapoport's retrospective at the Mills College Art Museum, as well as an introduction to the book which is edited by Terri Cohn and forthcoming from Heyday. (Berkeley, CA: Heyday, July 2012)

The celebration began with words from Malcolm Margolin, the founder and publisher of Heyday Books, who spoke, among other things about the role of the culture of the UC Berkeley campus in Rapoport's work. Other speakers included professor/curator/critic John Zarobell who talked of the magical experience of seeing Sonya's work in her studio, Exhibition co-curators Anuradha Vikram, curator of the Worth Ryder Gallery at UC Berkeley and curator/critic and San Francisco Art Institute Visiting Faculty, Terri Cohn, who separately looked at the role of Sonya's work in contemporary art.

The evening closed with a presentation by Anna Couey and I. We spoke about our chapter in the book which is the online interview we did with Sonya in 1995 on The Interactive Art Conference on Arts Wire. Anna talked about the history of the Interactive art conference, about interactivity in art and in Sonya's work. I spoke/read about how Sonya and I conversed about our respective work in the many years since we first met at the opening of her Objects on my Dresser exhibition at 80 Langton Street in 1980; about the role of such discussion in artists' lives; how Crown Point Press' print interviews influenced my thinking about documenting informal talks with artists; and about the importance of Sonya's work in the development of computer-mediated participatory art. The book will be available this summer!

March 16, 2012

The title for the Prelude to Junction of Several Trails is now Passage.

In the art or music sense, a "passage" is a short part of a music composition or a detail of a work of literature or painting, and the word aptly refers to the themes which move back and forth between the three lexias in this work: the passage where Hiram describes his design of a fountain for Capitol Park, fountains in Florence, streams flowing down the mountain in New Hampshire where Liam has been hiking.

A passage is also a journey: the dichotomy between "The Middle Passage"; (the voyage of the African American captives, who were taken from their homeland and brought across the Atlantic to toil as slaves) Walter Power's journey on a slave ship to America; the difficult passage on packet ships that brought Great Famine immigrants to America; Hiram's voyage to Italy; and the scholar's passage through beautiful Florence in which Liam is now immersed.

Other themes move back and forth in the lexias spaces in Passage: details in the images from the works of Hudson Valley painters from Liam's former research; (his passage in 19th century art from landscape painting to the work of Hiram Powers) his former girl friend wearing high heels; women whose sculpted or painted images Liam/Hiram sees in virtual travels in Florence; (Leda, Pomona, Flora, Venus) his father playing recordings of Irish music in his carpenter's studio; the memory of Máire Powers playing the Irish fiddle.

On Wednesday at the University of California Department of Music in a Noon Concert by the University Baroque Ensemble, directed by Davitt Moroney, the sweet authentic sound of baroque instruments began with a string trio playing overhead from the organ pipe-dominated balcony. From this place, the musicians began the instrumental introduction to the aria "Weil die wollen reichen" from Bach's Cantata, BWV 208, in which Alana Mailes' soprano voice was set like a jewel amidst the beautiful playing of the Ensemble. Other soloists were David Lin and Conor Stanton; (violin) and Nina Pak and Seth Estrin. (cello)

Then there was the unusual resonant sound of heavenly storm-announcing violas in Bach's Sinfonia from BWV 18: "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt"; (viola solists: Hannah Glass, Mark Lee) followed by the clear sound of the recorder in Handel's "Adagio, Presto from Sonata in F major". The UBE's excellent recorder player Daeun Jeong was unable to make the performance, and my view from the sidelines was somewhat obscured, so I do not know who played this solo, but it might have been flutist/flute boxer David Zhu, who I think played with the Ensemble last semester. The recorder solo was accompanied by renowned harpsichordist and UCB Director, Davitt Moroney.

At the center of the program was a beautiful work by Arcangelo Corelli in which the intertwining of instrumental sections and ensemble created a perfect whole. It was finely played by the UBE with soloists David Lin, Noburu Emori; (violin) Bryanna Reed; (cello) and Jake Scheps. (harpsichord) David Lin performed the first violin role of internationally influential master violinist Corelli, who often wrote violin-centered music for himself and his musician friends.

The concert closed with the lovely voices of soprano Alana Mailes and tenor Casey Glick in the deeply romantic duet "Happy We" from Handel's Acis and Galatea.

The coaches who work with UBE student musicians are Carla Moore, (violin) Elisabeth Reed, (cello) John Dornenburg, (violone) and Louise Carslake. (flute/recorder) In addition to the listed solists, UBE members also include Christopher Itoh, (violin) Rebecca Leff, (viola) Joshua Daranciang, (cello) Andy Su, (violone) Marco Paliza-Carre, (lute, guitar) and Kay Yoon. (harpsichord)

At home in the evening, the rain kept falling, but in the recollection of the sweet sound of baroque instruments, the music of the director's words, and the magical staging, there was a clarity which I had sought. Working on the contingent tasks of creating an Authoring Software page on computer-mediated collaborative writing and the problems with Passage, I looked at the flow and the visual impact of the whole, changed the colors of the lexias spaces and text, and experimented with incorporating pauses, so that what had somewhat seemed a relentless flow of text was more poetically presented.

March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated earlier this week with family, with traditional beer and bar food.

And there was music.

Today -- baking Irish bread, rereading Begin with the Arrival, and writing quietly at home -- I am remembering the words of protection that Saint Patrick used on his journeys of faith and fellowship.

And -- recollecting that he was one of the first men whose words against slavery are recorded -- it was also a day to revisit Patrick's rescue from slavery; the place where a ship awaited him after his 200 mile trek as an escaped slave.

Patrick's word's from his Confessio are "And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person."

We do not know for sure where this was, but in The Life and Writings of St. Patrick, (Dublin: Gill & Son, 1905) John Healy suggests that it was the village of Killala in County Mayo:

"Killala was at the time, as it is still, a much better harbour for boats and light craft than for large ships. It has many quiet coves sheltered from every wind and sea, where the lighter craft of the olden time could easily glide in and out with the full tide, and lie not only secure, but completely hidden from inquisitive eyes at low water. Just before reaching the station of Killala the railway crosses over such a cove at the present day. In old times the trees of Focluth Wood surrounded these quiet coves, for there was no Killala then, that is before St Patrick had founded its church for his disciple Muiredach, whom he placed over his converts, that were newly baptized in the spring still flowing by the edge of the sea. It was there, in our opinion, or in some cove near at hand, that the 'ship,' all unknown to its crew, was awaiting, by Divine providence, the runaway slave -- the ship destined to be laden with the most precious freight that ever left the shores of holy Ireland."

March 23, 2012

As the rain abated, and the sun came out, there were blue flowers, apple blossoms, new grass, and views to green hills on the trails in the East Bay. In weeks of intermittent worries, it is difficult to stay inside on lovely Spring days, but on Wednesday, on Bach's birthday, I worked all day on passage (the prelude to Junction of Several Trials) and a first draft is now available.

passage will not be linked to the title page of From Ireland with Letters until it is working a little better, but I like this short interlude that develops Liam's character; reveals details of his life; poetically conveys the passage in his research from the Hudson River Valley painters to Hiram Powers' work and studio in Florence; and provides a "passage" from the intense Irish poetry of the stormy night pub scene to the (as yet unwritten) coffee house conversation between Liam O'Brien and Máire Powers.

Naturally, the whole is not yet working in exactly the way I want, and there is much more work to be done on the writing, and on the placement and timing of the lexias. And, at the moment, like the streams and fountains that pervade this work, the text moves quickly, unexpectedly. So, either I will slow it down a little, or I will give the reader the choice of a slower speed.

Also this week, the pleasant task of looking through my work in preparation for the Electronic Literature Organization Conference in June has begun. In addition to the forthcoming iPad addition of its name was Penelope, which has been selected for gallery exhibition at the Conference, I very pleased that I am being given -- along with four other writers -- a retrospective of my work. The retrospectives will take place throughout the gallery space, and (at home next week) I am looking forward to revisiting at my work as a whole!

March 30, 2012

It has been a week of intense work on passage. which is now linked to the From Ireland with Letters title page. It does, of course, need more work, but in the spirit of great-great Uncle Hiram Powers, whose studio was always open to visitors I like doing "finishing work" on the World Wide Web.

There was not much time for research this rainy week, but while following Liam's 19th century art history path, I read a book chapter about Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole's sojourn in Florence: John F. McGuigan, Jr., "'A Painter's Paradise': Thomas Cole and his Transformative Experience in Florence, 1831-1832" in Sirpa Salenius, ed., Sculptors, Painters, and Italy - Italian Influences on Nineteenth-Century American Art, (Saonara, Italy: il Prato, 2009. pp. 37-51) This chapter was particularly interesting because McGuigan has done a fine job of revealing details of the artist's daily life in 19th century Florence.

Basing his account of how Cole spent his days on diaries of Cole's friends Maine writer Nathaniel Parker Willis and painter John Cranch, McGuigan writes that Cole usually ate breakfast with his friends at a cafe in the Piazza del Duomo, and he often had lunch with friends at their favorite Trattoria, Vigna's on the Via della Vigna Nuova, where they dined with wine "'quite magnificently'" for twenty-five cents. (Willis, p.41)

"Most artists ended their studies just before sundown, when the light became insufficient to work by, with informal visits to their friends' studios," McGuigan notes. (p. 41.) And in the evening, artists gathered at the Caffè Doney, where their conversation was not unlike those of artists of any era, and/or they went to the Opera, where they heard new works by 19th century Italian composers including Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini.

April 5, 2012

As the point is reached when passage has been made public, the issue of the speed in which the lexias appear and disappear is paramount. Because passage moves quite quickly, particularly at the beginning, I plan to create a separate directory from where passage will run at a slower pace. In this way, if I am not unhappy with the result, I can offer the reader the opportunity to read it at a slower speed.

Before approaching this task, I am revisiting issues of reader comprehension in electronic literature.

In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, as one line of music became many lines of music, musicians presented their listeners with increasingly complex structures. "These changes came about very gradually; there was no sudden, sharp break with the past," Grout and Palisca observe in A History of Western Music, and they also note that some of the finest monophonic chants were written in the late 12th and 13th centuries when polyphonic music was being developed. (p.74) Grout and Palisca's summary of the history of polyphonic music and the development of organum, conductus, and the motet has resonance in the composition of polyphonic literature:

"These new genres arose from the process of elaborating on existing pieces. Composers continued to trope plainchant by furnishing texts for melismas or by adding new texts and music to the traditional liturgy. But now the process of elaboration took a new turn, as particular chants were embellished and expanded by adding a voice to the portions formerly sung alone by the cantor. At first, the second voice sang at consonant intervals note-against-note with the voice carrying the chant. This was the earliest kind of organum. Then the second voice indulged in florid runs between its consonant meetings with the chant voice. But where the chant was melismatic, the second voice tended to bond with the first voice note-against-note, or nearly so, a process called discant, while the florid style continued to be called organum or organum purum." (pp 96-97)

If the vocabulary of early music is difficult, (melisma: many notes sung flowingly/melodically to one syllable) in the creation of electronic literature there are ways of doing things for which as yet there are no words.

In hearing Renaissance music, the listener may not always initially discern the intricacies of the composition. The many different interwoven threads of a densely woven composition may be more apparent to the performers, since they more clearly know how the lines of music relate to each other, Contingently, a writer of electronic literature struggles with the issue that he or she knows and understands the entire work: how it is put together, what all the paths may be. But a reader may never have experienced such a work; attention spaces are short on the Internet; and, as in the case in interface design, there are established ways of reading. Thus, a writer of electronic literature cannot assume that the reader understands everything he or she is doing.

Engendered by the issue of speed, these thoughts have meandered into larger issues; the question is: how does the reader confront three parallel texts moving polyphonically at speeds at times too fast to read all the lexias before the words move? From the point of view of my vision, the work is like a piece of polyphonic music where not every listener will comprehend every detail, yet the whole has meaning. It is not necessary to read every word in passage, simply observe the flow and read what you want to. As I note in the "about" file for this work:

Created in a polyphonic text structure, passage can be experienced either by simply waiting for the text to change, or by clicking on any one of the three lexia spaces, or by a combination of these ways of reading. The work ends when you reach the screen with the words 'And all along the banks of the Arno, there were lanterns', but clicking on this phrase will begin it again. To completely experience the text, the reader might want to read it several times."

What is unstated is that I also think that gradually readers will become accustomed to such different ways of writing and will learn to read them, just as listeners became gradually accustomed to polyphonic music.

If is of great interest to be working with this issue in this interesting time in the history of literature, it is also important to read the print works of contemporary poets, I observed as I reorganized my bookshelf and placed side-by-side a collection of poetry chapbooks acquired at readings in Berkeley.

Happy National Poetry Month!

April 12, 2012

It is now time to review the research for the meeting of Máire Powers and Liam O'Brien; to think about the interface and structure of this part of the work; and to begin to review the research and write their conversation. They share a knowledge of New England culture and history and the details of their own Irish American families. They also share a knowledge of 17th century Irish history and a desire to know who Walter Power was before he was put in chains in the hold of a slave ship in 1653. And the interesting legend of Donnchad mac Briain -- the deposed High King of Ireland, who fathered some children when he was on a pilgrimage to Rome and they became a branch of the Power family who arrived with Strongbow in Ireland in the 12th century -- will surface as an O'Brien and a Powers meet in a coffee house in New Hampshire.

They come to this meeting from different places. Hiram Powers was not on the research trail Máire has been following. As am I, she is descended from Walter Power and Trial Shepherd's first born William. Hiram Powers was descended from Thomas, their fourth born child.

On a separate trail but parallel trail, Liam knows that that the first member of Hiram Powers' family was Irish. It is one of the reasons he is researching Powers' life. As the first member of his family to go to college, Liam would like to do something that the Irish American area community he grew up in would respect. However, as an art historian, his first priority is to look at Hiram Powers' work and the environment in which it was created. Thus, he has not yet spent any time on his genealogy, and he did not know until he heard Máire Powers perform Begin with the Arrival, that the 19th century sculptor he is studying whose work was influential in the Abolitionist movement, was himself the descendent of an Irish slave.

Their conversation will center on Máire's information about the arrival of Water Power in America on the slave ship The Goodfellow and on Liam's research into The Greek Slave, how when this work of sculpture toured America, in the 447 days it was on view from 1947-1948, it was seen by more than one hundred thousand people.

This being an important family week, I begin the research for Junction of Several Trails with legend, conjecture, and fact about the origins of Walter Power. From the library I have C. Thomas Cairney, Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland, An Ethnography of the Gael, A.D. 500-1750 (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, 1989) and there are many other sources I need to explore.

It is a fine week for family and new beginnings because early in the week, my son and daughter-in-law's first baby was born. She arrived so quickly that she was born at home. My son delivered her. And no, he is not a doctor, he is a history professor with a focus on twentieth century International diplomacy. Everyone is doing fine!

Because of many thousands of "wild geese" who left Ireland in the 17th century and served in Spain, it is perhaps fitting that my daughter-in-law grew up in Spain. Her father is Korean, and her mother is Spanish.

April 21, 2012

For this week and the coming week, research and writing on From Ireland with Letters are set aside while I work on the details of exhibiting eleven works in my retrospective at the forthcoming Electronic Literature Organization Conference in June. Reviewing one's work for exhibition is important because a writer/artist seldom gets the chance to look at his or her body of work as whole, and -- in the process of looking at each work from the point of view of how the audience will experience it -- one sees it in a different way. This is particularly important in the field of electronic literature where changing platforms are a continuing issue.

How did Baroque composers deal with the issue of changing instrument design? If Bach wrote a work for the harpsichord, for instance, how did he view its performance on the fortepiano? Did he make adjustments in the composition if he knew it would be played in that way? With these questions in mind and with the need for a few peaceful hours after the intense work of viewing the code on 270 files of The Roar of Destiny, I went on Thursday to hear the University Baroque Ensemble play in a chamber concert setting. It was a very much appreciated opportunity to hear Baroque music as it was originally played and to learn more about the instruments on which it was played.

The afternoon began with Bach's Concerto in D minor for two violins and concluded with Handel's romantic duet from Acis and Galatea, "Happy we". In between, there was music for a warm spring afternoon: John Dowland's "Come again, Sweet Love" and Dowland's "weep ye no more sad fountains"; the Rondeau and Passacaille from Jacques-Martin Hotteterre's Suite for two flutes; and a Corelli Concerto Grosso in D major. In an intimate setting, with a view of trees and flowers and green grass out the window, there was the playing of the musicians, interspersed with the Director's words about the musicians and the instruments they played. The music flowed beautifully. The words brought a deeper understanding of the many elements involved in the recreation of early music.

The musicians were Alana Mailes, (soprano) Casey Glick, (tenor) Daeun Jeong, (recorder) David Zhu, (flute) Noburu Emori, Christopher Itoh, David Lin, Conor Stanton, (violin) Hannah Glass, Mark Lee, Rebecca Leff, (viola) Joshua Daranciang, Seth Estrin, Nina Pak, Bryanna Reed, (cello) Andy Su, (violone) Marco Paliza-Carre, (lute, guitar) and Jake Scheps, Kay Yoon. (harpsichord) Musician and musicologist Davitt Moroney directs the University Baroque Ensemble.

After the performance, an audience member asked the musicians if they would trade in Baroque instruments for contemporary instruments. There was somewhat of a consensus that Baroque instruments work best for Baroque music, but contemporary instruments work best for contemporary music.

Also this week, at the University of California Music Department, soprano Alana Mailes presented a well put together and beautifully sung program of "Songs of Persephone" with works by Italian and French composers including Guilio Caccini, Jacop Peri, Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Baptiste Lully, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier, among others. In the second part of the program, Mailes was joined by musicians and singers including Vanessa Aldrich (mezzo-soprano) Marina Romani (soprano) August Johansson (tenor) Tim Roth (bass) Isaac Pastor-Chermak (viola da gamba and cello) and Melody Hung. (harpsichord) Of particular interest in this noontime concert was how the heroines were portrayed in the stories of Proserpine and Euridice that were written and composed in a setting of politics, art politics, and celebration in the 16th and 17th century Florentine court.

At home, I read through one of my own favorite works, The Roar of Destiny and looked at each of the files in the work. The role of code in the aesthetics of a work, even though the code is not seen by the reader, was an issue discussed in various places in the recent Critical Code Studies Working Group. But what does this mean when dealing with historical works? There were places in The Roar of Destiny where I considered using CSS for a better effect, but now more conscious of the role of early works in the history of the field, I decided against this. CSS wasn't as available when I began putting The Roar of Destiny online in 1996. So, I made the decision to, for the most part, leave the underlying classic HTML as it is because it is still working. However, I made some changes when I thought there could be browser difficulties.

For example, in some parts of the work, the element field was not completely defined, indicating the default choice, which at the time would have been interpreted by browsers (such as Netscape) to display a white background, black text, blue links, and purple visited links. Since contemporary user display choices may not alway interpret an unspecified field in this way, I spelled it out more clearly.

And perhaps listening to Baroque music as originally played on period instruments and hearing how much finer it was played this way and listening to Davitt talk about the beauty and sound of Baroque intruments is influencing how I think about this.

We don't have a long history in the field of electronic literature, so it is of interest to explore such issues in fields with longer histories.

April 26, 2012

It was of interest -- in preparing the files of Paths of Memory and Painting for exhibition at ELO 2012 -- to revisit how I created the restaurant conversation between Dorothy and Gus in Part II when the foreground and the background merged, where an intimate conversation is represented with parallel lexias In this work, the lexias on the left are the narrator's recollection of influences on her painting in the 1940's; the lexias on the right are her recollections of her meeting with an Army officer stationed on the Berkeley campus during World War II.

As in much of my recent work, the reader chooses whether to watch the narrative unfold (as if it was a film or a piece of music) or to take control of the narrative by moving though the work hypertextually. As regards creating dialogue, this strategy works very well in Paths, which is a contemplative narrative that plays against a background of California art history at the time when Bay Area Figurative painting was being developed in Berkeley and San Francisco. But when the foreground and the background merged centers on only one character's experience of the events and is recollective. The conversation between Liam and Máire will be more dynamic.

The other work I looked at in this respect was Wasting Time. (Judy Malloy, Wasting Time A Narrative Data Structure, published on disk in: After the Book, Perforations 3, Summer, 1992) This work is composed almost entirely with conversation.

Earlier this month, I was able to get Wasting Time running using GWBASIC and the DOS Emulator Dosbox. It was a thrill to actually see this work "play" twenty years later! But in a large exhibition situation, the number of commands that the reader would have to perform to activate it might be daunting. Additionally, the BASIC aesthetic is somewhat different from the web aesthetic, and works created in this aesthetic might best be seen with other works created in the same era. However, the way conversation is represented in this early work of computer-mediated experimental literature is relevant.

For Wasting Time, I created an interface that contrasted spoken words with thoughts, resulting in a narrative of social dialogue and private unspoken words. There were eventually three characters in this work. To represent their conversation, a typical screen was built in the following manner: In three parallel columns, first, polite, stilted conversation was printed out slowly on the screen. Then while the words of the conversation remained on the screen. slowly the space filled up with the characters' unspoken thoughts. Finally, the screen displayed the dialogue and the thoughts of all three characters. The contrast between the characters' thoughts and what they actually said was at times surprising. It is an interesting work.

The exhibitions at the Electronic Literature Organization Biennial Conference, ELO 2012, are curated by Dene Grigar, Associate Professor and Director, The Creative Media & Digital Culture Program, Washington State University Vancouver and Sandy Baldwin, Director of the Center for Literary Computing and Associate Professor of English at West Virginia University.

With five venues, they will also include the work of Alan Bigelow, J. R. Carpenter, M.D. Coverley, Jason Nelson; John Barber, Serge Bouchardon, Philippe Bootz, Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort & Scott Rettberg, Jeremy Douglass, Grégory Fabre Caitlin Fisher, Angela Ferraiolo, LAinundacion, Alexandra Saemmer,Y, (Yong Hun Kim) Laura Zaylea, and Jody Zellen, among many others.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to exhibit so much of my work.

May 4, 2012

Electronic manuscripts and the printed word on paper -- the role of the beautiful scholarly books of the Gaelic Revival in the creation of Begin with the Arrival; how they were actually on a table on the stage during Máire's performance -- were on my mind this week as I "played" Begin with the Arrival over and over.

With this in mind, I went to the Saturday afternoon sessions of Digital Inquiry, Forms of Knowledge in the Age of New Media, hosted by the Berkeley Center for New Media and BCNM Director, David Bates.

In a panel on "Art as Inquiry", (introduced by Alenda Chang, UC Berkeley Department of Rhetoric/Berkeley Center for New Media) I listened with interest to artist and San Francisco Art Institute Associate Professor Meredith Tromble's art journey "Around the World in Twenty Minutes: An Integrated Approach to Knowledge" that, among other passages, looked at contemporary conceptually influenced art through the lens of the Venice Biennale. And then -- particularly because it was in the conceptual photography and installation tradition of the book as object (such as the work of Joseph Kosuth and Lew Thomas, among others) -- I enjoyed writer/translator Nick Hoff's presentation of "Scanners: A Temporary Bookstore" in which Hoff and artist Matt Borruso set forth a rich and varied vision of the printed book in the age of digital media.

I was disappointed to miss distinguished new media scholar Rita Raley's talk on the "History and Theory of New Media: Tactical Media" Thursday which I did not know about at the time. However, authoring systems were a theme of the last panel of the Digital Inquiry symposium -- "Technologies of Creativity", hosted by Mairi McLaughlin.(UC Berkeley Department of French)

  • Focusing in particular on the interactive visualization of statistical information, engineer Kimon Tsinteris and designer Bret Victor spoke about the creation of an authoring system for the mobile device version (Push Pop Press) of Our Choice, Al Gore's documentary writing on climate change.

  • Scott Klemmer, who co-directs the Human-Computer Interaction Group at Stanford, spoke about data-driven web design, including the application of structured prediction, deep learning, and probalistic program induction. Although I have questions about machine-based standardization of web design, the talk was interesting from the point of view of authoring systems for structuring information.

  • In the concluding talk, in addition to a discussion of authoring systems as design tools, UC Berkeley Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Björn Hartmann's presentation of Midas -- an innovative software and hardware toolkit which uses 3-D printing to enable the creation of custom capacitive touch sensors for interactive objects -- was of particular interest to artists and writers.

In this week of electronic literature and techo-creators, the playing of early music ran parallel to contemporary authoring systems, continuing to inform not only my own work but also ideas about the structure, creation, and "playing" of complex art systems.

The hearing of music -- particularly live music where the process is more apparent -- is particularly important for artists and writers, whose work is created with contingent systems. And of course, (my excuse being set forth should it be needed) hearing live music is also a pleasurable experience in a busy week, or in any week.

On Friday evening, April 27, at the University of California at Berkeley Department of Music, I heard the University Baroque Ensemble superbly play this season's program of the music of Arcangelo Corelli, Johann Joachim Quantz, John Dowland, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, and George Frideric Handel.
The evocative program;
the polyphonic structure of the music;
the intertwined meaning of narrative lyrics;
the seductive sound of stringed instruments,
voices, woodwinds, and harpsichord playing together,
music written centuries earlier recreated
as if Bach was playing among the musicians.
And as always I enjoyed the variations in the Director's words:
histories of baroque musicians and baroque instruments,
told and retold.

For an artist who continually shapes electronic writing, as if it were a piece practiced until perfection, for anyone who follows or has studied music, the progress of the University Baroque Ensemble, under the direction of Davitt Moroney, is a fine experience.

In this notebook, I have already named most of the works that the UBE played on Friday, as well as the names of the players. But it is important to say how good they were in this final concert of the semester. Every work was beautifully and skillfully performed; the whole was a memorable concert.

In the following days as I worked to make my own writing better, I heard their music in my mind, and somehow there was a transference.

Thank you University Baroque Ensemble and and Davitt Moroney!

The other music pleasure of this writing week was Perfect Fifth's a cappella noon concert of early music, performed at the UC Berkeley Department of Music on Wednesday May 2. The work of theory composers, such as Guido da Arezzo, whose seminal Ut Queant Laxis opened the program, is not heard enough. But their work is important not only in the history of early music but also in the understanding of the development of polyphonic literature.

It was a lovely, beautifully sung, and interesting program that also looked at both the similarities and the differences in the choral music of Guido da Arezzo, Orlando de Lassus, Clemens non Papa, Monteverdi, Palestrina, Morely, Tallis, and William Byrd, whose motet Haec Dies ("This Is The Day") concluded the program.

Perfect Fifth is directed by Mark Sumner.

If the revisiting of From Ireland with Letters, which will premier this June at ELO 2012 -- particularly the "playing" Begin with the Arrival -- was a high point, a few days when I was very happy with what I had written and designed, the week also included the difficulties of A Party at Silver Beach, a work in which I continue to toil to make a difficult but interestingly interfaced piece "playable".

May 11, 2012

This week in preparing A Party at Silverbeach and Spring Day Notation for exhibition, I looked at the use of lexias in two works that convey pastoral scenes in very different ways. And I considered the role of the lexia in the creation of these works.

The term "lexia" (French: lexie) was used to denote a unit of reading by Roland Barthes in S/Z and was applied to hypertext writing by hypertext scholar George Landow. In my work, I originally used the term "record", which (taken from database terminology) means a complete entry, but because the Barthe/Landow "lexia" was so poetic, I began to use the word word lexia.

Lexias are the basic unit of text with which a hypertext narrative is constructed. By using lexias that carry meaning by themselves but can also be combined with other lexias to create a larger meaning, a nonsequential narrative can be constructed. Some writers prefer to use the word "node", a term which emphasizes the role of unit of text in the structure as a whole.

A Party at Silverbeach (2002) was written to convey the ambience of a wedding celebration at a beach house, and as a general rule the lexias in this work seek to convey this total effect, rather than to build up a conventional narrative.

Each lexia is accessed by an icon, or to put it another way, the icons that surround the lexia space are linking devices that deliver the texts, and as if at a real party, the viewer wanders through the six scenes that comprise the A Party at Silver Beach in the same way one would experience a real party, ie the icons represent guests at the party, food, champagne, music, views to the ocean, and the house and gallery where the celebration takes place. Although it only plays on the virtual scale of a computer screen, Silver Beach was influenced by Renaissance masques that were presented at Italian courts for occasions such as the weddings of royalty, and the work also has somewhat the feel of a pastoral Purcell masque or semi-opera.

In preparing Silver Beach for the ELO 2012 exhibition, I edited some of the text -- a process perhaps akin to composer and lyricist rewriting of a semi-opera for different productions. At sometime in the future, an animated graphic might be added that would simulate the winding up of Uncle Roger's music box, which occurs and reoccurs in the text. The selection of this icon would cause the text to appear in the manner of a piece of music, by which I mean that when this icon was selected, the lexias would play automatically without user choice.

Although the work is is very different (it was written eight years later) Spring Day Notation (2010) is akin to A Party at Silver Beach in its attempt to recreate a pastoral experience, in this case, a spring walk on a trail through wildflower meadows. The work could be called a generative hypertext array because rather than the traditional line-by-line approach of generative poetry, it generates brief lexias, ("nodes" might be a more appropriate terminology here) but it does not do so in a linear manner but rather uses a polyphonic approach of moving voices back and forth across the screen.

I am reluctant to compare this small, poetic work to Medici court composer Alessandro Striggio's magnificent Missa sopra "Ecco si beato giorno", that U.C. Berkeley Professor Davitt Moroney discovered in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2005 after a twenty year search and first conducted in 2007 for the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. Nevertheless, it was this work that influenced the structure of Spring Day Notation, which is a local pastorale in response to the greater "beautiful day" of "Ecco si beato giorno".

In this respect, it should be noted that correlations between "high" and "low" music were sometimes a part of the process of the history of early music, and the same is true in the history of electronic literature, the range of work created by Oulipo, (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) for instance.

I now only have a few works to go in the process of preparing for my retrospective at ELO2012, and then I will be happy to return to working on Junction of Several Trails, the next part of From Ireland with Letters, Although respites are required from the difficult process -- this week hiking, painting, listening to music, and visiting family -- it is important that writers of electronic literature be given the opportunity to exhibit their work. I have learned so much from this process. Publication is also vitally important, and the exhibition process can contribute to the shaping of the work that leads into the publication process. Its name was Penelope (forthcoming from Eastgate in an iPad edition) began with an exhibition version in 1989, and the editing that resulted from both creating the work for exhibition and observing how the audience used the work contributed greatly to the classic nature of this work in the original 1993 Eastgate version.

May 14, 2012

The book that I held in my hands today was published one hundred years ago in 1912.

It is Annals of the Irish Harpers by Charlotte Milligan Fox, (NY: Dutton, 1912) a primarily source for the writing of Begin with the Arrival. I am reviewing the details of Máire's performance in preparation for the writing of Junction of Several Trails.

For obvious reasons, there is, as far as I know, no documented gathering of Irish musicians during the years of the Cromwellian invasion. Thus, in creating Máire's lay, I looked instead at the Belfast Harp Festival, which was held on July 10, 1792 in a ballroom at the junction of Donegal Street and North Street. It was six years before United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798, and the Festival was attended by both Catholic and Protestant Irish patriots including James Napper Tandy, John Keogh, and Wolfe Tone. They came to hear eleven musicians. Ten of the musicians -- including a woman, Rose Mooney a prizewinning Harper from County Meath -- were Irish. There was also a Harper from Wales.

It was a decade when wearing the Irish green was punishable by hanging.

"'It may be interesting for the reader to know something of the personal appearance of these last representatives of a class so famous in song and history,'" Charlotte Milligan Fox quotes Edward Bunting as writing. "'They were in general clad in a comfortable homely manner in drab-coloured or grey cloth of coarse manufacture. A few of them made an attempt at splendour by wearing silver buttons on their coats, particularly Higgins and O'Neill. The former had his buttons decorated with his initials only; but O'Neill had his initials, surmounted by the crest of the O'Neills, engraved on silver buttons the size of a half-crown. Some had horses and guides when travelling about the country, others their attendants only who carried their harps. They seemed perfectly happy and contented with their lot, and all appeared convinced of the excellence of the genuine old Irish music, which they said had existed for centuries, and from its delightful melody would continue to exist for centuries to come.'" (Annals of the Irish Harpers, p. 106)

A classically trained organist who lodged with Henry Joy McCracken, (a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen) Edward Bunting interviewed each musician and transcribed the music they played. Then, in 1796, he published the music of the Irish Harpers who played at the Festival as A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music.

I do not hold this volume in my hand, but today on the eve of the anniversary of The Transplantation I have seen it on the Internet.

The surprise is the publisher: Dublin: W. Power & Co., 1796.

May 24, 2012

With pencil, cut-ups, and watercolor paper, I have begun creating a "score" for the Prologue to From Ireland with Letters. The three columns of text that comprise the Prologue relate to each other in a different way than the way I have used polyphonic text in the past; I want to use paper notation to confront, understand, and represent how this works before I design the interface for Junction of Several Trails. Electronic scores for works of electronic literature are likely to be more archival as digital preservation and the archiving of electronic literature become more prevalent. Nevertheless, a paper score allows an overview of the work and is a way to represent the complex relationships between the elements that comprise a polyphonic electronic manuscript.

Contingently, I have been using drawing to examine issues in literary notation, creating a large drawing with three parallel "frames" of small drawings. It is a fine excuse to pack pen pencil and watercolor and spend pleasant afternoons hiking and drawing in the Marin woods and the East Bay hills.

And the writing of a draft for Junction of Several Trails has begun!

May 27, 2012

On separate paths that necessitated only one parking space, I went on Friday to the UC Berkeley campus, first to the music library in search core references on medieval music notation and then -- for the sheer pleasure of remembered iconic images -- to the Berkeley Art Museum to see State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970.

With Memorial Day approaching, it seemed like a holiday day, a day of vacation from the hard but rewarding work of reviewing 25 years of creating electronic literature, as well as an interlude between that process and new work, including the mid summer exhibition FILE 2012, the Electronic Language International Festival in Sao Paolo Brazil where From Ireland with Letters will be exhibited on a plasma display; a book chapter on the BASIC version of Uncle Roger; an Authoring Software feature on artists books; writing and researching the draft of Junction of Several Trails, which will provide more details on Irish Slavery; and the creation of notation for the Prologue to From Ireland.

State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970, which features documentation of performances, installations, site specific works, videos, and conceptual photography from the early 1970's, could and should be looked at in terms of more than a few years of initial energy, ie in the context of the work of artists -- including Tom Marioni, Paul Kos, Terry Fox, Chris Burden, Suzanne Lacy, Bonnie Sherk, Terry Allen, Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Jim Melchert, Guy de Cointet, Eleanor Antin, Barbara Smith, Susan Mogul, and Paul Cotton -- as a whole. Yet this exhibition brings their creative energy, which transformed the art world in California, to a wider public.

It was a holiday pleasure to move between galleries of the iconic images of what for me, as for so many other West Coast artists, were formative years: Tom Marioni''s sound sculpture piss piece; Linda Montano handcuffed to Tom Marioni for three days: Paul Kos' video loop on perspective, planes of distance, and the creation of art: Roping Boar's Tusk; the intermittent memorable performative appearances of Chris Burden; the return of Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Lynn Hershman and Eleanor Coppola's site specific Dante Hotel; the video image of John Baldessari in 1971 writing over and over in his notebook. "I will not make any more boring art "

State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 is curated by Constance M. Lewallen, adjunct curator University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and Karen Moss, adjunct curator at the Orange County Museum of Art.

In terms of contemporary electronic literature, the locative works with their use of the conceptual photography device of serial images to create narrative or describe place and their use of constraints in the art making process were of interest, for instance: Alan Kaprow's pose, Bonnie Sherk's Sitting Still, Peter d'Agostino's walks with a handheld video camera, John Baldessari's California Map Project Part I: California; the travels of Eleanor Antin's 100 Boots; and Ed Ed Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip, an unfolding book which he created by using a motorized camera mounted on a truck to photograph every building.

It was as if I was set down in the California art word when I arrived in 1974, or in the pages of Carl Loeffler and Darlene Tong's Performance Anthology, Sourcebook for a Decade of California Performance Art and Linda Burnham and Steve Durland's High Performance or in the remembered performances, installations and conceptual works described later in scenes from my own its name was Penelope (Eastgate 1993, Eastgate iPad edition 2012) or described to Cathy Marshall as we compared out lives in Forward Anywhere (Eastgate 1996, iPad edition in press) -- both of which will be featured in my ELO retrospective next month.

At home, thrown back in time to the era when the energy of creating polyphonic music resulted in seminal systems of notation. I perused the books with which I had returned from Friday's one-parking-space holiday expedition:

Willi Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600, 4th edition, Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1949 and Carl Parrish, Notation of Medieval Music, NY: Norton, 1957

The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600 fell open to page 316 in the chapter on Franconian Notation. On that page, an enchanting facsimile from the circa 13th century Montpellier Manuscript is displayed:

"huic ut" in which the magi bring mystical gifts...

June 2, 2012

Had to take it easy this week, so I started on the structure and interface for Junction of Several Trails, part four of From Ireland with Letters. Although not every work is created in the same way, generally I

  1. do a small amount of writing to get an idea of the content and the needs of the content,
  2. with the writing in mind, shape the preliminary algorithms, structure, and interface
  3. return to the writing
  4. simultaneously progress all the elements that comprise the work

1. A small amount of writing has been done, resulting in some observations about the method. As Máire' and Liam talk, there is an exchange of research, story, and the details of their own lives. Serious issues -- The Transplantation, Irish slavery, the question of who Walter Power was -- will be filmically conveyed in central fragments of conversation that are intertwined in the social setting of the meeting of two people who do not know each other.

2. In this week's draft structure, the central portion of the computer screen is two lexia spaces side by side; one producing Máire's words and one producing Liam's words. On the outer side of each of these lexias are three columns of "lines" in smaller text.

The whole is not as visually dense as it sounds because all the lexia and lines spaces are white, and there are no divisions to separate them -- by which I mean that all the frames are white and although there are actually 10 frames, to the viewer the whole looks like a two-column white electronic manuscript page with polyphonic glosses on either side. A line of unornamented frameset code illustrates this draft structure:

where the lines frames are given the value of "7%" of the screen;
the conversation bearing lexas are given the value of 24% of the screen
and the margins are 5% of the screen.

The lines work somewhat in the way they do in the Prologue -- ie they are continuo; they are hypertextual manuscript glosses; they are a floating, dynamic index. And there is a reader choice to watch the work as if it was a piece of music or a text-based film or to interactively control the elements that comprise the work, as in a playable hypertext.

Not all of the lexia spaces will contain text at one time, allowing a dynamic polyphonic production of text that contains enough pauses and white space so it is not distracting to the central issues,

3. but it should be noted that until I write more text, I do not know if I will be happy with how this works.

This week for Authoring Software, it was a pleasure to cover the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization Conference The ELO is headquartered at MIT. The Conference will take place in Morgantown, West Virginia at West Virgnina University and the West Virginia Center for Literary Computing, directed by Sandy Baldwin who is also Chair of the Conference. Curated by Dene Grigar, Associate Professor and Director of the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program, Washington State University Vancouver, and Sandy Baldwin, the ELO2012 Media Art Show will feature the work of 55 artists from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Korea, Norway, Switzerland, the US, and the UK.

I will be giving a distance reading Judy Malloy: 11 Works 12 Lexias, for which I have chained together a series of lexias from each of the works of literature in my retrospective.

looking forward...

June 10, 2012

Another week of perfecting small details. And there were musical interludes from the University of California at Berkeley Baroque Chamber Ensemble and the Stanford University Baroque Ensemble, both performing in the Young Performers Festival, presented by Early Music America as part of the Berkeley Festival of early music.

The Berkeley Festival program was interesting and diverse, including main stage performances by American Bach Soloists celebrating musician and baroque music advocate Laurette Goldberg; Voices of Music on a "Roman Holiday"; Agave Baroque playing the music of Heinrich Biber; and a celebration of the teaching of harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. But because I am working so intensely on solo and continuo and on conversation in the context of a polyphonic electronic manuscript, I chose to spend the amount of time I had this week listening to two programs that looked at solo voice and continuo, as well as at vocal dialogue in a chamber ensemble context.

But first, in preparation for upcoming exhibitions, I returned to Begin with the Arrival and the continuing problem of transition in electronic literature. There are four sections in Begin with the Arrival, and there is an issue of how the reader navigates from one section to the next. In a print book, the interface is very transparent: turn the page; in a film or piece of music, the work is designed to unfold without viewer/listener interaction. In a work of electronic literature, the choice of how to experience the work is variable. It can be hypertextually multi-pathed; there can be a direct instruction; it can even simulate page turning. Or, it can be mysteriously embedded directly into the work, i.e. the mystery of how to proceed might be a part of this work. In some works of Interactive Fiction, exploring this mystery is a part of the aesthetic -- for instance, Andrew Plotkin's Interactive Fiction Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, in which user navigation is a basic component of disclosing the story, and, as is common in IF, the reader must discover the words that will allow navigation.

But this mystery of navigation, although it is partially present, is not a primary purpose of the interface for the polyphonic electronic manuscript From Ireland with Letters. In Part Two of From Ireland, Begin with the Arrival, the navigation between four sections of performance and intermission is both dramatic and reader controlled. To enhance this, what I did this week was to change the color and timing of one or more of the final lexias of each part to more clearly indicate intermission and the reader's need to select the next part to continue the narrative. I am happy with how much better this works. Making every detail perfect is a part of the creation of electronic literature, and sometimes, because it is a new field, we continually explore the ways of doing this. It took about three hours per section to make this work in the way I wanted, but the process is not very different from a painter deciding that a seemingly small part of the painting is problematical and continuing to work on it until it works, and then suddenly the painting as a whole also works.

For the purpose of listening to how the words worked with the continuo as well, of course, for the pleasure of the music, there were also this week two interludes of live performance.

Performing for the Berkeley Festival a selection of works which I had heard before but desired to hear again, the UC Berkeley Baroque Chamber Ensemble is a small subset of the University Baroque Ensemble, under the direction of Davitt Moroney. The musicians played exceedingly well; the program was interesting and challenging. The works that they played on Wednesday were:

Jean-Baptiste de Lully: "Ma chère liberté" from Proserpine
Domenico Gabrielli: Ricercar no 6 for solo cello
George Frideric Handel: Sonata in F major for Recorder and Basso continuo
Three Preludes from the Parville Manuscript
Girolamo Frescobaldi: Toccata no 8 in F from Il primo libro di toccate
George Frideric Handel: "Hush, ye pretty warbling quire" from Acis and Galatea

"Hush, ye pretty warbling quire" -- with its competing voice and instrumental segments was an entertaining finale to the program. Handel's playful dialogue has drama, fine vocal and instrumental parts, and is -- despite its competing strains -- enchanting. Indeed, the musicians themselves obviously enjoyed performing this piece. It was beautifully sung and played by soprano Alana Mailes and the entire UCB Baroque Chamber Ensemble: Daeun Jeong, who played the recorder solo in the Handel Sonata in F major for Recorder and Basso continuo; David Lin; (violin) Hannah Glass; (violin) guest artist Isaac Pastor-Chermak, (cello, viola da gamba) who played the Gabrielli solo Ricercar; and Melody Hung. (harpsichord)

I was particularly interested in the harpsichord pieces played by Melody Hung, partially because of how carefully she studied French unmeasured preludes in the Parville Manuscript and transcribed their unusual whole-note notation [1] and partially because there is a contingent resonance between the Parville Manuscript unmeasured preludes, the Frescobaldi Toccata, and the struggle to create an unusual work using complex "lines" continuo.
1. Melody Hung, "Three Anonymous French Seventeenth-Century Preludes from the 'Parville Manuscript'", Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, UC Berkeley, 2011

The following day, under the direction of Marie-Louise Catsalis, the Stanford University Baroque Ensemble presented a program of "Alessandro Scarlatti and his Circle in Rome and Naples".

A musician (harpsichord and piano) and a musicologist, whose research focuses on Alessandro Scarlatti's serenatas, Professor Catsalis directs the ensemble as a component of her course on "Editing and Performing Early Music", which this year concentrated on Serenata Aglaura e Corebo by Neapolitan composer Severo de Luca. In addition to the de Luca Serenata, the program also included three cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti and an aria and a duet by Roman composer Innocenzo Fede.

The fine performances of the sopranos and tenors; the lyrics of love, jealousy, desire, the role of cupid and difference in relationships; the overall picture the program gave of the work of Scarlatti and his circle; and the scholarship inherent in the transcription of the works contributed to a compelling program that for my work was of particular interest in the way the continuo and the voice worked together.

Despite my preference for the fields and meadows of the original setting of such works, Serenata Aglaura e Corebo was a remarkable performance, for which the ensemble transformed the shepherd and shepherdess of the original lyrics into a couple on an occasionally discordant dinner date, replete with declarations of love, dances, and ambivalent views of cupid.

The roles of Aglaura and Corebo were sung by Jessica Moffitt and Amber Goboy. The first modern premiere of this work -- edited by Marie-Louise Catsalis with the assistance of her students -- was given in May 2012 at Stanford. In addition to those already mentioned, this Thursday the performers in the Stanford Baroque Ensemble were Eric Tuan, Troy Yang (tenors) Jennifer Wang, Lydia Zodda (sopranos) and Marie-Louise Catsalis. (harpschord)

As always the Exhibition that accompanies the Berkeley Festival of early music was a sumptuous display of the fine craftsmanship of the men and women who make instruments -- including baroque violins, recorders, violas da gamba, and harpsichords created by internationally renowned artists.

I admired the beautiful instruments, resisted the temptation to pick up a violin and see if I could still play, and then went home and in preparation for both the ELO exhibition and the midsummer Electronic Language International Festival in Brazil, played through what is hopefully the final summer 2012 exhibition version of the first three parts of the playable electronic manuscript From Ireland with Letters.

June 14, 2012


I am restoring the original BASIC version of Uncle Roger, partially in preparation for a book chapter I'm writing about this version. The paper on Uncle Roger that I wrote for Art and Interactive Telecommunications, (Roy Ascott and Carl Loeffler eds, Leonardo 24:2, 1991) focused on the UNIX Shell Script version that I programmed to run Uncle Roger online. I have not written much about the BASIC version of Uncle Roger, which ran on both Apple II computers and IBM PCs. Additionally, I would like to make the original Uncle Roger available again to the public.

Retrieving from old files a paper copy of the final BASIC programs of Uncle Roger, I began with File 3: "Terminals". My program for this file is shorter than my programs for "A Party in Woodside" and "The Blue Notebook. So since the programs (originally on floppy disks) now have to be typed and debugged, I began with "Terminals".

Unlike "A Party in Woodside" and "The Blue Notebook", "Terminals" is generative. To simplify the random number production that generates lexias at the will of the computer, the lexias were given filenames that were numbers, ie the first lexia in "Terminals" is named 1"; the second lexis is named "2" and so on. There are 99 lexias that need be prepared. In bringing back to life this approximately 25 year-old program, I tested it first with only 4 files by changing the value in line 510 (Z = 99) from 99 to 4. Then I loaded GWBASIC into DOSB0X and typed RUN "TERM.BAS". There were 4 or 5 typing mistakes that needed to be corrected.

On the 4th or 5th "run", File 3 of Uncle Roger: "Terminals" came back to life. It was a thrilling moment!

June 18, 2012

Research for the writing of the forth part of From Ireland with Letters: Junction of Many Trails, now centers on issues of memory/loss of memory of the heritage and culture of the country of origin.

"...The entire system of slavery was dedicated to preventing us from preserving any memories of Africa, our ancestors' tribal identities, the languages we spoke there, the customs we practiced, the gods that we worshiped, even our African names," Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes in an article in Ebony. "Slavery was a carefully conceived effort to rob our people of all family ties and the most basic sense of self-knowledge..." ("We are All Africans" Ebony Vol. 63:2, December 2007. pp. 132-136)

The young Irish Americans who arrived in this country had their language taken from them. They were deprived of their culture; in some cases even their names were taken; and they could not practice their religion. [1]

The name of a 1661 Massachusetts court case makes it clear that they were slaves:

"Law Case, Master Samuel Symonds against Irish slaves. William Downing and Philip Welch, Salem Quarterly Court, Salem, Massachusetts. June 25, 1661"

1. A 1647 Puritan statute forbade Catholic priests and Jesuit orders from entering Massachusetts. The punishment for the first offence was banishment. If a banished priest was caught again, he would be tried, convicted and then put to death.

In the first draft of for Junction of Many Trails, issues of memories of slavery open the conversation. Was the memory of Walter Power's origins passed from generation to generation? Did Hiram Powers, born on June 29, 1805, know that the founder of his family in America was an Irish slave?

Máire: It was known in my father's family, handed down as secret knowledge to the men in the family. My father broke the silence.

Liam: There were many times in America when a heritage of slavery would not be openly disclosed. And there were many times in America when being Irish meant that you could not be hired.

Máire: When my father broke the silence in our family, we talked to the extended family. None of my father's uncles or cousins knew. At some point, the knowledge of our heritage was not passed on.

Liam: My family came in 1849. And in the windows of the stores, in the newspaper job listings, were the ever present words: "No Irish Need Apply".

Máire Powers is fictional. However, it was my grandfather's remembered words about Hiram Powers that set me on this trail of discovery.

June 24, 2012

It was an exciting week of virtual participation in the 2012 Electronic Literature Conference, where Dene Grigar and Sandy Baldwin curated an impressive exhibition that included a retrospective of my work.

I followed the Conference on Twitter and was delighted by the Twitter "continuo" to the presentations and readings. The discussion was/is surprisingly informed and intellectual given the 140 character limitation; the camaraderie with the e-lit community was/is of great value.

Contingently, weaving the progress into the tapestry of Twitter conversations with friends and colleagues, I charted my work on the BASIC version of Terminals", File 3 of Uncle Roger. It seemed an appropriate homebound activity because Uncle Roger began as a hypertextual narrative, virtually told in the (pre-web) online community of Art Com Electronic Network on The Well. Initially, there were 99 lexias that were the data accessed by the program and a final lexia which was always printed when the reader chose to stop the reading. By the end of the Conference, at home I had translated 60 lexias from the web version back to the BASIC version. (ELO2012 Progress: Z=60, where Z equals the number of lexis accessible by the program data)

On Friday, thanks to Dene and Sandy, I Skyped into the WVU Library and -- in the room where my Retrospective was situated -- performed a lexia-based song for ELO 2012. The text for Judy Malloy: 11 Works 12 Lexias was selected by simulating the generative hypertext that I have used in works such as its name was Penelope -- creating a lexia song that was intuitively hypertextual.

Accompanied on Twitter by audience reaction and photos from friends and colleagues, it was a fine experience.

Concurrently, looking at the poetry of conversation in Irish Literature before plunging further into Junction of Several Trails, I returned first to the Ossianic poems, using Henry R. Montgomery's Specimens of the Early Native Poetry of Ireland (Dublin, Hodges, Figgis, and Co., Second Edition, 1892) as a source. But due to the questions about their authenticity, the Ossianic poems were not what I sought.

Then I briefly reviewed some of the musical sources already used in From Ireland with Letters.

  • Canto 1: Begin with the Arrival was influenced by early Irish poetry:

    "Showery be the river of waterfalls;
    Of waterfalls be the lake of deep pools,
    Deep pooled be the hill-top well"

    Yet, in the four voice polyphonic structure of this story of displacement and survival, I also imagined the lost Irish early music that -- due to the Irish monasteries -- was possibly of some influence on the development of polyphony in Europe in the middle ages. (Flood 1906, 19-20)

    Additionally, in Begin with the Arrival, Liam's visible thoughts on the music Máire plays, his commentary (unspoken, yet seen by the reader) are in the Sean-Nós tradition of audience and performer interaction.

  • Canto 2, Passage -- in which the rhythm of water flowing from fountains and at times the rhythm of the campus sprinkler system (which Liam might have heard out his window) combine to create a polyphonic madrigal -- was influenced by heard madrigals and motets, among other sources. And there are echoes of madrigal lyric devices in the lexias that comprise Passage.

    By "heard composition" I mean that I composed the work from the experience of listening to polyphonic music, rather than by consulting actual madrigal scores. (which would of course be possible)

Also this week, I looked again at Irish poet Patrick Galvin's Irish Songs of Resistance (NY: Folklore, [1955]) in which he correlates Irish history with Irish song.

In its telling of history in conjunction with song, Irish Songs of Resistance is a 102 page work of art. As such, it is difficult to contextualize as a primary source. Yet the way it is put together has stayed with me. In the Introduction Galvin writes:

"Ireland's national songs are doubly unique. For one thing, the tradition of writing ballads, of selling broadsheets and singing ballads at the street corner or in the market place, has never died out in Ireland; it is still a living tradition to this very day. In addition, the fact that this tradition had been alive continuously for a score of generations means that Ireland's songs reflect its history with a fidelity probably unparalleled in the world." (p. 1-2)

Intermingled with reports of events -- Stuart Moulthrop's talk on the state of elit; Noah Wardrip-Fruin on "Shakespeare in Simlish?"; JR Carpenter Skyping in from England, Dene Grigar on "The Fort Vancouver Mobile Project" -- after my reading at ELO2012, friends and colleagues "tweeted" praise for the hearing of my voice and words. And I continued to post short reports of reconstructing a story first told in the community setting of an early BBS.

June 29, 2012

Because the first three parts of From Ireland with Letters: the Prologue, Begin with the Arrival and passage have been exhibited as a whole and have now acquired a finished quality, I have decided that the work as a whole will initially be presented in three separate books of three parts each, each with its own opening title page. What exists now is thus the first book. The second book will begin with a passage devoted to Máire, which will set the stage for the conversations that begin with Junction of Several Trails. I say "initially" because From Ireland with Letters is an epic work of polyphonic text that eventually will present all parts together.

a short part of a music composition,
a detail of a work of literature or painting,
a journey"

I now have the interface and opening words for Junction of Several Trails working pretty well and will continue working in this. However, in rethinking the work as a whole, I think I want to introduce Junction with a second passage that focuses on Máire. In the rhythms of Irish music, The Musician's Passage will focus on Power family genealogy both in Ireland and America and on Máire's personal life, and because she will have received Liam's email invitation to meet him in a cafe, there will be continuity and anticipation. There is a lot of writing to do!

To celebrate this new approach, in July, I will be archiving this online notebook and beginning a new online writer's notebook for From Ireland with Letters.

On the research front, I return now to a classic text: John P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, London: Longman, 1865. The copy of Prendergast that I am using is dated 1865 but has been rebound. I notice the difference in the book as object. The exterior is no longer as resonant of the Gaelic revival. However, it is better protected, and inside, the original maps are still there.

For future reference, I place a few text excerpts in this notebook.

"When the Irish laid down arms in 1650, they could scarce have anticipated the measures adopted towards them, two years later, by the Parliament of England." p. 26

"On 26th September 1653, all the ancient estates and farms of the people of Ireland were declared to belong to the adventurers and the army of England; and it was announced that the Parliament had assigned Connaught (America was not then accessible), for the habitation of the Irish nation, whither they must transplant with their wives, and daughters, and children, before the 1st of May following (1654), under penalty of death, if found on this side of the Shannon after that day." p. 27

"Connaught was selected for the habitation of all the Irish nation by reason of its being surrounded by the sea and the Shannon, all but ten miles, and the whole easily made into one line by a few forts. To further secure the imprisonment of the nation and cut them off from relief by sea, a belt four miles wide, commencing one mile to the west of Sligo, and so winging along the coast and Shannon, was reserved by the Act of 27th September 1653, from being set out to the Irish, and was given to the soldiery to plant." p. 29

"They were to dwell without entering a walled town, or coming within five miles of some, on pain of death." p. 30

"Connaught was at this time the most wasted province in the kingdom." p. 30

There was widespread resistance to The Transplantation. Many who refused to transplant were jailed. Many who were jailed were sent into slavery, torture, and death in Barbados.

"Wholesale executions, however, for this crime, seem to have been thought inexpedient; but the Government had no scruple, we see, to sending them to the West Indies." p. 63

There were 19 members of the Power family on the list of families who had to transplant by May 1, 1654, and within a year, my first ancestor in America, Walter Power, would be on a British slaver bound for America.

Here in California, I spent part of yesterday walking in the Marin woodlands. Had a small picnic beside a stream and enjoyed the view of green ferns and dense woods and the sound of clear water flowing beside the small beach where I was sitting.

From Ireland with Letters

The role of displacement and disrupted tradition in the work of contemporary Irish authors is paralleled in From Ireland with Letters, an Irish American narrative created by a descendant of an Irish slave who was forcefully taken from his homeland. Composed like a piece of music, the narrative is a story of slavery and of the role of art in the fight against slavery.

From Ireland with Letters interweaves the stories of Walter Power -- who came to America as an Irish slave on The Goodfellow in 1654, stolen from his family by Cromwell's soldiers and sold in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when he was 14 years old -- and his descendant, 19th century Irish American sculptor Hiram Powers, who grew up on a Vermont farm and moved to Florence, Italy, where his work played a symbolic role in the fight against African American slavery in America.

This online notebook is just that: a writer's notebook, not a blog. It is an online continuance of what a writer writes in a print notebook. The focus is on the honing of electronic writing craft, the research, the shaping of the narrative and interface, and influences on the creation of a polyphonic electronic narrative.

Index to this Notebook

January 14, 2011
creating an online writer's notebook
replicating the exact color of
bluegreen of a lake where I hiked
and painted last fall;
how the four narratives of the
story can progress like a piece
of music;
"The point is you have a good
time singing it";
"In the warm sun the taste of champagne
triggers memories and dreams."

January 21, 2011
Gallo's Music of the Middle Ages II:
visualizing the polyphonic composer's
process; the relationship of polyphonic
techniques to literary devices;
Franco: "Whoever wishes to compose
a conductus must first make up a song,
the most beautiful possible,
and then use it as the tenor
on which to build his polyphony"
A History of Irish Music
on an unmarked trail in search of a
four part interface for a narrative
Bach's four part chorales;
Music from the Borel Manuscript

January 28, 2011
nine rectangular small paintings of lakes;
how color is used with text
in new media

February 4, 2011
See You at the Hall,
Boston's Golden Era
of Music and Dance
a nurturing place for
Irish music; where Liam's
Grandparents met

February 12, 2011
Narrative Singing in Ireland:
Oisin's poems on the River Shannon,
the construction of Irish lays;
introduction of the fiddle to Ireland;
Down from the Mountain:
John Hartford playing
"Big Rock Candy Mountain"
music for Saint Francis
"Revisiting Dufay's Saint
Anthony Mass and Its Connection
to Donatello's Altar of Saint
Anthony of Padua"
a poet's research trails
and a gift at the end of a
long research trail

February 18, 2011
at the library:
in search of Saints

February 23, 2011
Traditional Music in Ireland:
sean-nós singing;
Muirchú Moccu Machthéni's
Life of Saint Patrick;
Discovering Saint Patrick

March 1, 2011
how interface and writing work
two perfomances:
how each performer worked to
create each moment of sound;
and four distinct yet related composer
"voices" played by one musician.

March 10, 2011
how Máire will begin her
lay; the tradition of epic poetry
told in the public community space
of the Internet;
Sonya Rapoport's retrospective
at Kala

March 17, 2011
beer with family on
St Patrick's Day;
Annals of the Irish Harpers:
how the Irish harpers dressed
for the Festivals

March 21, 2011
The Prologue as "Ritornello";
Music of The Middle Ages I;
considering tropes and troping

March 28, 2011
Reading the Middle Ages:
Conference at UC Berkeley
sets forth the conjunction
of oral literature and reading
in the Middle Ages;
interactive readership in
The Chance of the Dice;
a new book on Saint Patrick

April 4, 2011
a draft interface with 4 lexia
ROVA: four different yet
closely related saxophone voices
how Medieval manuscripts
dealt with complex information

April 12, 2011
An historical memoir
of Poher, Poer, or Power
With an Account of The
Barony of Le Power and
Coroghmore, County Waterford
the juxtaposition of new media
literature with hand-crafted
Hearst Gallery at Saint Mary's:
Gift of the Gods:
Exploring Maize, Culture
and Indigenous Art in
the Americas

April 20, 2011
music and the timing
of new media poetry:
"Pacing as Form in
Fifteenth-Century Music";
the sound of the words:
public pleasure in the reading/
hearing of the work:
Cal Day

April 27, 2011
thinking about the interface
for Begin with the Arrival

May 2, 2011
parallel lexia spaces
like a piece of music
listening to
The University Baroque Ensemble
sketchbook adventures
Discovering Saint Patrick

May 7, 2011
drawings of wildflowers
1000 Years of Irish Poetry
Bards of the Gail and Gall
the words of Amergin

May 14, 2011
a certain way that the words
should flow and relate to
each other

May 20-22, 2011
"A History of Irish Woods",
in search of the Forest of Foclut,
John Healy, The life and
writings of St. Patrick

May 30, 2011
how Máire's great grandfather
brought books to America,
17th century harper-composers,
Annals of the Irish Harpers

June 4, 2011
Amy Beach's Gaelic Symphony

June 7-9, 2011
The writing of Begin
with the Arrival

is underway

June 14, 2011
thoughts on the draft of
Begin with the Arrival;
working in an online studio

June 21, 2011
Máire strings my old violin

June 30, 2011
"Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill";
Tip O'Neill, Man of the House

July 6, 2011
the Irish prisoners
who were sent into slavery
in Barbados;
Who was Walter Power?
Michael J. O'Brien's
Pioneer Irish in New England
Donnchad mac Briain in Italy

July 11, 2011
Edward MacLysaght's
Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century;

July 18, 2011
short hikes, local excursions,
and the creation of drawings
working on interface connections;
H.V. Morton's In Search of Ireland:
"Before me on the sky-line
was the Irish Free State."
feast day of Oliver Plunkett

July 27, 2011
the port of Cobh;
the boat which Saint Brendan built;
how Hiram Powers sailed to Italy:
"...on the voyage hither I saw a whale."

August 3-6, 2011
Patrick Sarfield's
defense of Limerick;
a painting of a packet ship
the anniversary of the
death of Grattan Flood

August 9, 2011
Morton concludes his journey
at the Hill of Tara;
the birthplace of Hiram Powers

August 15, 2011
Oliver Cromwell lands in Dublin
Denis Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland
James Scott Wheeler's Cromwell in Ireland

August 21, 2011
the Sack of Drogheda

August 27, 2011
The life and death of
Owen Roe O'Neill
The Sack of Wexford

September 3-4, 2011
a collection of materials
that look at events in
different ways;
Cromwell captures New Ross;
Ireland successfully
defends Duncannon

September 7, 2011
Waterford holds out
against Cromwell;
Hogan's The description
of Ireland

The woman of Waterford
were famous for spinning

September 9, 2011
Cromwell destroys Butlerstown,
Kilmeadan, and Dunhill
Currigmore is saved

September 16-17, 2011
the conjunction of research,
interface, and writing

September 24-26, 2011
Aisling poetry
"MacKenna's Dream"
a trip to the Mountains

October 1-3, 2011
Annals of the Irish Harpers
The 1792 Belfast Harp Festival

October 4, 2011
William Keith at the
St. Mary's Museum of Art
the Swedenborgian religion
Hiram Powers' studio in Florence

October 8, 2011
filmic and musical reading
of literature
Tomas Transtromer
Robert Haas reads Czeslaw Milosz

October 14, 2011
Specimens of the
Early Native Poetry of Ireland

The Penguin Book
of Irish Verse

Brendan Kennelly
"Fain would I ride with thee,
Aileen Aroon"

October 20, 2011
a new drawing on the
opening page
Irish defense against Cromwell

October 30, 2011
difficulties with "continuo text"
like working on a painting
that needs something,
but you don't know what it is until...
a week of contrasts:
Frances Browne's "Songs of Our Land"
"Your order of
"Cromwell: A Poem" has shipped!"
Looking at You Looking at Me
The Art of the Masque:
Dramatic Music by Henry Purcell

November 5, 2011
"The Given Note":
Traditional Music
and Modern Irish Poetry

how story is revealed/played
in music
The Art of Fugue

November 11, 2011
design of an architectural
model to correlate lexia
placement and timing changes;
Italo Calvino's path to
"rediscover the continuity
of time";
listening to
Italian Madrigal scholars

November 16, 2011
Davitt Moroney:
J.S. Bach:
The Complete French Suites
the reading experience in
new media literature

November 23, 2011
the writing of Part IV
of Begin With The Arrival
writing about performance
the magic realism gaze explored
at di Rosa
the Medieval
Chance of the Dice. began to play.

November 29, 2011
an interface issue,
The Cromwellian
Settlement of Ireland,

Hiram Powers in Florence
conversations between
Liam O'Brien and
Máire Powers,
an interface for Book III

December 9, 2011
the University Baroque Ensemble:
Monteverdi's Orfeo;
Thomas Kinsella's
The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse:
"The sound of wind against the elm
making music
The lovely song of the grey blackbird..."

December 16, 2011
changes in the "continuo";
"The Flight of the Earls"
In great halls at close of days
sound tonight our fathers' lays

December 21, 2011
Christmas traditions
in Ireland
St Mary Magdalen Festival Choir
and Consort of Musicians

December 28, 2011
The Uffizi, Catalogue
of all the works in the
;, Seated Wayfarer;
Girl Preparing
for the Dance
Crouching Venus;
Venus de' Medici

January 6, 2012
Prendergast's, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland
map of "The Settlement of
Ireland by the Act of
26th September, 1653"
Connaught, "at this time the
most wasted Province in the kingdom"
Irish resistance to
the Transplantation

January 11-12, 2012
how narratives of displacement
are passed from generation
to generation;
To Hell or Barbados
tracing an early
Irish American family
back to Walter Power
the travels of
The Greek Slave

January 18, 2012
Jay P. Dolan,
The Irish Americans;
Daniel Tobin,
Awake in America;
on Irish American Poetry

January 23, 2012
selecting a title for File 3
"junction of several trails"
Spaces of Life,
the Art of Sonya Rapoport

at the Mills College Art Museum
Malloy and Rapoport
Objective Connectiions
The making of artists books
and the creation of interface

January 26, 2012
interface considerations for
Junction of Several Trails;
Bocchi's The Beauties of the
City of Florence
; Following Bocchi to the
Piazza Santa Croce;
Set in Stone,
19th-Century American Authors
in Florence
Hawthorne's The French and
Italian Notebooks

February 3, 2012
Hudson River School Artists in Italy;
Bocchi's language;
an unexpected transference,
Dorothy Richardson.
changes in the continuo,
"In great halls at close of days
sound tonight our fathers' lays"

February 9, 2012
Davitt Moroney:
The Polychoral Splendors
of Renaissance Florence

February 15, 2012
Narrative of the Life
of Frederick Douglass,
An American Slave
African America music:
"...revealing at once
the highest joy and the
deepest sadness...";
James Joyce's use of
early music structures
and Irish music in Ulysses;
a hike in the Berkeley Hills: following Francesco Bocchi
through the Boboli gardens,
"...On this terrain, cultivated
and wild trees are growing, and
all through the year
there are shady groves..."

February 21, 2012
Frederick Douglass and
the "under language" of The Greek Slave;
Olaudah Equiano's account
of "The Middle Passage"
visual thinking in creating interface
CCSWG12 Reading Code in Context,
a programmers' studio

February 28, 2012
a large score on watercolor paper;
whether or not works of
electronic literature can be scored
in the way music is; how working with computerized
library systems facilitated the
creation of works that
manipulated many lexias;
a beautiful trail in Marin. Ciaran Carson: "there's a lot of recurrence in Confetti

March 4, 2012
several magical moments;
Sirpa Salenius:
Sculptors, Painters,
and Italy - Italian Influences
on Nineteenth-Century
American Art
Rebecca Reynolds
"'No Ordinary Hands':
Hiram Powers' Artistic
and Professionally Related Family"

March 10, 2012
the importance of creating
pencil and paper notation;
pre-book launch party for
Pairing of Polarities:
The Life and Art of
Sonya Rapoport

March 16, 2012
the sweet authentic sound
of baroque instruments;
The UBE:
Bach, Handel, and Corelli;
a clarity which I had sought

March 17, 2012
Saint Patrick's Day 2012

March 23, 2012
views to green hills
on the trails in the East Bay;
passage completed
on Bach's birthday;
at the 2012 ELO Conference

March 30, 2012
"'A Painter's Paradise':
Thomas Cole and his
Transformative Experience
in Florence; details
of the artist's daily life
in 19th century Florence

April 5, 2012
increasingly complex
structures in early music
the vocabulary of early music
becoming accustomed to
different ways of writing
National Poetry Month

April 12, 2012
research for the meeting
of Máire Powers
and Liam O'Brien;
a new arrival!

April 21, 2012
looking at each work
from the point of view
of the audience;
Baroque composers
and changing instrument design;
the University Baroque Ensemble;
soprano Alana Mailes:
"Songs of Persephone";
The Roar of Destiny;
issues of "translation"

April 26, 2012
representing conversation
in electronic literature;
the BASIC aesthetic;
ELO 2012

May 4, 2012
Electronic manuscripts
and the printed word;
Digital Inquiry,
Forms of Knowledge in the
Age of New Media
early music and polyphonic text
The UBE;
Perfect Fifth

May 11, 2012
pastoral works of electronic literature the role of the lexia

May 14, 2012
a return to
Annals of the Irish Harpers
and the Belfast Harp Festival
Edward Bunting's
A General Collection of
the Ancient Irish Music
(Dublin: W. Power & Co., 1796)

May 24, 2012
creating a "score"
for the Prologue;
using drawing to approach
literary notation;

May 27, 2012
State of Mind:
New California Art circa 1970
The Notation of
Polyphonic Music 900-1600
Notation of Medieval Music:
"huic ut" in which
the magi bring mystical gifts...

June 2, 2012
the structure and
interface for Junction
of Several Trails

June 10, 2012
the continuing problem of
transition in electronic literature;
the Berkeley Festival
of early music:
how the words worked
with the continuo

June 14, 2012
restoring the
BASIC version of
Uncle Roger

June 18, 2012
Depriving slaves
of their culture;
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:
"We are All Africans";
Was the memory of
Walter Power's origins
passed from generation
to generation?

June 24, 2012
an exciting week
of virtual participation
in ELO 2012:
the Ossianic poems
"heard composition"
Patrick Galvin,
Irish Songs
of Resistance

June 29, 2012
presenting work as a whole
in three separate books of three parts each the interface and opening words for Junction of Several Trails quotes from Prendergast

About Judy Malloy

In the twenty-five years since she first wrote Uncle Roger on Art Com Electronic Network, Judy Malloy has created an innovative body of new media narrative poetry that in hypertextual structures explores the lives of artists.

Beginning in the 1970's with a series of handmade visual books that sought to create a nonsequential reading experience, her work has been exhibited/published in over one hundred curated exhibitions, invited readings and panels, and editions.

She strives for a poetic clarity, so that each lexia -- an idea developed in the handmade books -- transcends the computer screen and can either stand by itself or be combined in the reading or array to create a larger narrative.

Notes on for the Creation of the Prologue
to From Ireland with Letters