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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Celebrate EUROPE DAY with the European Union of Imaginary Authors! (And plans for future European fictional poets!)

Celebrate EUROPE DAY with the European Union of Imaginary Authors! Who else?

Read more about the EUOIA here and here. All the collaborators are accessible via links here.

I worked in collaboration, over a number of years, with a team of real writers, to create a lively and entertaining body of work of fictional European poets, nearly all of whom celebrate Europe Day.(Hermes is the unstable genius who doesn't.)

Accompanied by biographical notes, the poets grew in vividness until they seemed to possess lives of their own, as worked on them; they are collected now in Twitters for a Lark, published by Shearsman.   

More on Twitters here and here.

This collection marks a continuation of the work I ventriloquised through my solo creation, the fictional bilingual Belgian poet René Van Valckenborch, in A Translated Man (read an early account here; the book is also available from Shearsman here ). But what of a third part? My sense of neatness summons a trilogy!

Following the dissolution of the EUOIA (European Union Of Imaginary Authors) in 2017, the four remaining poets, who feature in both A Translated Man and Twitters for a Lark (Sophie Poppmeier, Trine Krugeland, Jurgita Zujute and Jitka Prochova), the fifth being the deceased Lucia Cianglini (all five have pages on the EUOIA website (here )), decide to collaborate on a continuation of Cianglini’s work in progress at the time of her death by hanging. This poem & features in both books and is an anaphoric poem marked by the use of the ampersand in lines one and two of its three line stanza.

Their poem will be entitled & &.

Jurgita Zujute (having been the president of the dissolved EUOIA) calls them together and Trine Krugeland (being a conceptual writer) coordinates the effort. The other two participate with them. (Poppmeier is the fictional poet with the most worked-out ‘life’ (see here ), and was – and could still be – the sole focus of the third part of the trilogy, if this option doesn’t bear fruit, or is significantly altered.)

Their method (not mine, of course) is to take the first ‘book’ of &; (I have written, but not published, this poem) and to continue a new poem from it, in collaboration, one line each in turn (four poets and a three-line stanza makes for a particular kind of pattern, of course): here’s an example from Book 5, about the ampersand spotted in Cork that set her poem (and mine) off:

& an ampersand ghosted on the wall over from the coffee shop
is a hollow in a headlock with nothing to say to us
& there’s too much for the mind to do each second

Using these lines as an epigraph, a guide, the idea (Krugeland’s, obviously) is that the piece should be infinite: that they continue for as long as they can, replacing anyone who leaves their group (currently thought to be provisionally called EUGE (European Union of Generative Experimenters)) with another, and so on, forever, &, &.

The first 4 poets are women but they are not fixed in that as a permanent arrangement (but they are openly receptive to trans women, the influence of Poppmeier, no doubt); the only proviso is that four poets at any one time continue the work forever (and that the Estonian EUOIA wrecker Hermes be refused admission). Borrowing from OULIPO, they declare that the poem may only ever be deemed ‘complete’ rather than simply ‘suspended’ (they envisage such lacunae caused by the inevitable wars in Europe they see Brexit and Russian aggression prefiguring), by the simultaneous suicide of the four serving poets, by hanging, to reflect Cianglini’s death, and these lines in ‘Book One’ about not being able to fashion an ampersand:

& it looped around itself again

& again
                        as though it might accidentally hang itself (or me)

That, of course, would be part of an extensive (though by no means lengthy) plan for a publication (translated by the fictional ‘Robert Sheppard’, of course) that would also be extensive (though by no means lengthy), possibly only pamphlet length. Like Oulipo again, and like some of the work in the first two books, the fragment will stand for the whole, but in this case it will be potentially existing in the future, whereas fragmentation was used previously to suggest an unobtainable currently-existing plenitude (designed to reflect the real situation of reading a voluminous foreign-language oeuvre in limited excerpted translation). It would launch my creatures into futurity.

They might assemble their text online, like Eric Chevillard’s daily L’Autofictif , (see my blog roll, right) which I learnt about at the Edge Hill conference at which I also learnt about collaboration theory (which I need to re-read, pretty obviously).

But I'm also looking at more Elizabethan sonnet sequences to 'overdub', so I need to prioritise. That's another 'European project: see here. And, you never know, I might never get round to the above...