J.R. Carpenter’s poetry collection This is A Picture of Wind began life as a web-based piece of the same name, which won the Opening Up Digital Fiction Competition People’s Choice Award in 2018. Carpenter’s work is concerned with hypermedia, text-based narratives, and the limits of writing, and in the online version of the work she was able to use a web-interface to combine live weather data, maps, and social media posts. Now in the form of a poetry pamphlet, this new media mindset can be seen in pieces like ‘A Year At Sharpham’, which incorporates quotidian observations posted to Twitter over a seven-year period. The lines have a certain snappiness to them which never lets the reader forget how volatile weather is, how its course is totally out of our control, and why that is the very reason it and Carpenter’s poems are beautiful. This is especially true of ‘The Beaufort Poems’. Carpenter’s exploration of the limits of writing here is masterfully done, as the poetic expressions she collects for each level of the Beaufort Scale – which she linked to a live data feed to picture the wind in real time – tell powerful micropoetic stories exclusively about the action of wind without becoming too similar.
I was impressed by Carpenter’s ability to shape the fragments of what she terms “found language” from each source to create poems that seem so personal, but are actually universal in terms of the subject matter. I can hear distinctive voices in each part of the collection, but the uniting voice is undeniably one that Carpenter has made for herself – she isn’t hiding behind other people’s words, but reigniting them. Although metaphor is scarce in this collection, the personification of nature is often reflective of human emotions, especially in ‘A Year at Tottenham’, ‘A Year at Sissinghurst’, and ‘A Year at Sharpham’. Any human action in this collection is motivated by nature, further emphasising that even in the light of destructive storms, nature is revered.
The hardback of This is A Picture of Wind can be purchased from Longbarrow Press for £12 at longbarrowpress.com/current-publications/j-r-carpenter.
Words: Beatrix Livesey-Stephens
Image: JR Carpenter