Notes for Izme Pass Exposé

Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry

A collaborative experiment of some sort, especially one over distance, the participants geographically far-flung. A few of us had been thinking about this for some time. Then, on request from the editors, Michael Joyce wrote his short story, WOE, in order to create something in which a number of writers would do a sort of Storyspace "take" on this work, all of which would then be assembled and meshed by an editor. The difficulties with this notion were both apparent and not. It was obviously going to be quite a feat for the person who was designated editor in this "collaborative" effort; and it was surely not the kind of collaboration the two of us, Martha and Carolyn had been thinking about.

In the meantime, we began talking about the way we each had found connections in WOE to our own respective hyperfictions currently in process, and how we felt the connections went both ways. That is, not only did we find these connections in WOE, but we felt that, had he read our own works, its author would have found connections to WOE in them. Deconstruction of priority is what we had in mind. We perceived the nature of connection as exactly the context of human relations, an impossible thing to say except through art, images, examples, stories from the continuum of stories.

What became most important to us was how things are connected, not connection as conceptual negative space, but connection being itself a figure against the ground of writing. We weren't thinking of this as the instantiation of something simple and singular, as a link arrow in Storyspace, for instance. The multiple dimension of connection is for us still an unfathomable mystery. Influence, conversation, disposition, drift. Some paradoxical concurrence by which individual voice becomes. We wanted to unmurk it a little, to form connection in time and space, but without respect to those constraints.

The purely arbitrary construction we decided to work within is a triad of existing texts (WOE, Quibbling, and Rosary) among which we began to weave a fourth, new work (Izme Pass) made not of the parts but the connections among the other three. We placed fragments from the three "outside" texts within our own Izme Pass (pronounced is-may) as representative anchors for those works. Almost immediately we began to see how this process of tinkering with existing texts by intentionally sculpting their inchoate connections had the ironic effect of making everything more fluid. Izme Pass began to affect Rosary which poured its new character back into Quibbling which flowed over into WOE and back through Izme. We see Izme Pass as being a thing unto itself in the same sense WOE or any other work of fiction is. But the conceptual underpinnings of its creation catalyzed unexpected changes and alterations which we will be exploring for awhile yet.

In electronic communication, we found a way to examine our process with immediacy, which of course contributed directly to the process itself, the text, and the form. The collaboration involved scores of these notes back and forth, often five or six exchanges on a given day. We offer below an edited version of our e-mail conversation during the project, made not of the parts but the connections.

[Date: 91-01-20 18:05:46 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: ht thoughts
To: CaroWay]

Is this writing formed of "cans" or "ifs"? What I see: The image of you/me--our physical selves always there in the writing. I see you in a room of your own at the top of your house. Me, here, facing west. I see the thinking we individually do and the physical action of our taking individual words and sewing them into a field, a blanket, a tapestry of our own making. I see that sometimes when our individual pieces/worlds/texts/mesh with each other's, the pictures will be both jagged and polished, both colloquial and highbrow, both raw and sophisticated. Linked because of the everyday connection of things, linked because of intuition and association, linked because purely in the throes of what is new, all shifting, slipping, sliding, accruing events and/or meanings even where the parts are seemingly unrelated but can't exist without each other.

Likewise as the links between author/writer break down, so too will links between reader/writer so that the whole story has always a sense of new connections; using and repeating others' texts (pulling in the old through the new or the new through the old, "making the old lines a thread through the eye of the words" presently being sewn, as Moure says in Furious) so that the entire body of the piece is at once an act within a context but is not clearly or only referential.

I anticipate that our questions and answers will change in the asking, that we will have different utterances and tones depending on our emotional currents. I think of the writing as essentially flat, words on a page, icons on a screen, that become multidimensional as we layer, link, place, guard--our collaboration becoming a stream that cuts through the bedrock, a stream that is a continuously, synchronously, changing event where diving and stoneskipping, leaping across, and contemplating can happen simultaneously.

We must listen so carefully to each other, how the stones splash.

[Date: 91-01-22 23:05:59 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: a way
To: Mjpj

Time short, we begin. In thinking through ways to accomplish this, the logisitics, geographical realities loom over all. We are left with an awkward system of turn-taking and the necessary willingness to tolerate some free-form stuff which is likely to happen in between the times we have a turn at the file. Keeping track of this "between" part places some constraint on one's working process, but in order to have the other kinds of artistic freedom we seek, it surely is worth it. What do you think?

[Date: 91-01-23 22:50:05 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: ideas/questions
To: CaroWay]

I don't mind the intervals of writing, both of us simultaneously, whenever, you there, me here. Sometimes we switch, even in the midst of that writing, with loose ends hanging, just as we would reading a hard copy text, writing in journals, the phone rings, the dog barks at the sun, husband howls, one of the children brushes past our cheek.

[Date: 91-01-28 00:16:07 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: first try
To: Mjpj
File: izme.sit (15254 bytes)

I've plunged in, but don't feel I've accomplished much yet. I've been working "between" two texts, *Woe* and *Quibbling*. It's sort of like casting on to one piece, then for balance, casting on someplace in the other. No, wait, that's a knitting term, and though I don't knit, I think casting on means to set up the initial row of stitches on the needles, doesn't it? Not so wrong I guess, but my image is more like casting out a hook or anchor to hold my thread to the text on the left, then casting out another to hold me to the text on the right.

I haven't been working directly in Woe since I feel we're not clambering up the side of it, or clinging to it, or throwing a few more apples in its basket. We are creating a new form, one which connects existing texts—intended for that—but which is a work in its "own right." (combining form and function, I like that) So I've just been working directly in our file that we started from Re: WOE

The name I stuck on it is just a lame joke to myself (as in woe is me), not any attempt at a title for this project. I'm hoping you can come up with something. I don't think the WOE project or the Stuart project is appropriate anymore. How about you?

[Date: 91-02-06 16:38:04 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: Finally something to you
To: CaroWay
File: 1stpass.sit (25040 bytes)

Dear Carolyn, I tried to send this to you earlier this morning, but for some reason they (BIG BROTHER?) said the system was down, and to try again later, but later meant I was at Adrian, no modem there, not the right harddrive to handle the new storyspace either, so, first this quick note before I leave to teach. I'm tentative about some of the areas, places, feel strongly about others. So I send you a version among possible versions. I have not yet looked at your Izme--wanted us both to have "first" passes without each other's influence. So your file to me has remained stuffed, until tonight around 9 or 10, when returning from JCC Cultural Connections and greeting the boys I can finally read it. I am eager to see our coherences, resonances, differences. Michael is off, after hogging the computer for days (even so) and last night both M & me battling Eamon to finish a project for school so both of us could claim the hum of wires and sinews as our own right. We need two more Macs here. In sending this to you, I realize how much of me is hanging out there (probably very much like you felt in sending me your Izme) Martha

--my First Pass is unattached to anything, though I imagine it sitting near, next to, inside one of my Martha boxes in an earlier doc. I didn't know whether you'd attach it on the master and thought this might be okay, easier? Let me know. I'm off to chauffeur Eamon and friends to a dance, will be back soon, after one errand for milk.

[Date: 91-02-08 18:58:22 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: after the call
To: CaroWay]

I imagine you rubbing hard at your forehead, to brush away cobwebs, hair, the ache of a temple, the heel of your wrist doing the work.

I imagine you tired and troubled about the poems, stories, the whole izme project. I imagine you wanting distance, wanting to talk to/with someone.

I imagine you cupping a cup, pouring tea, staring out windows.

I imagine you silent.

(how much we begin to learn from and for each other); yes, I understand what you mean by assimilating, waiting to be whole and balanced in this; yes, you are right to say how we have come to work open and honest here with each other within the context(s) of Izme. Is it ok to be to be so proud or pleased at our process? I am, really, knowing that there will be more days and moments of gestures and words that will bear deciphering

Could you please add to orange and violet box--in our Izme?

[Date: 91-2-10 1:23 pm EST
From: MJPJ
Sub: Re oh, mom
To: Caroway]

I love these story exchanges, about your daughter and son, about moms, about matriarchies.

I'm feeling like I need a mid-term break, and that doesn't come for me at Adrian for another two weeks. I am eager to work on our Izme and I know that I could do that here and now, but I'd rather await the master, though I've jotted notes for insertions, links back to Woe, etc. In fact, I'd rather do that writing than anything else now.

Sometimes I write in near darkness in my office, only the Mac is on and I write without interruption, door closed.

[Date: 91-02-10 23:09:09 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: the project
To: Mjpj]

Have written into (or nearby) some of your izme text. One bit is an extension to the violet and apricot box, and has to do with the names of the characters Miranda and Maria Rose in your fiction. Again, I don't know where some of this comes from, it just does, which does not necessarily mean it's significant. But still, if it comes so freely and even so insistently, I will probably let it remain for you to decide what to do with it.

[Date: 91-02-13 22:19:12 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: checking in
To: Mjpj]

Oh, valentine's eve, and other things I wanted to say (as if we were at the kitchen table, or curled on the living room floor, able to speak with, respond directly, so different in its rush and jump, thoughts waving and fading, blowing up and blowing by, while here we speak more often with considered phrasing, longer rhythms)

Things've been weird here this week. One nice thing—I'm typing this on my brand new computer. Very nice, in fact. Fast, and big screen, and color. No printer though. We hope for that later on sometime.

Need to stop blathering and go back to work on our project. Hope to have it to you this week. I'm sorry that the hang-up with Storyspace and my demo file slowed things down. But still, it did find a bug which might have got in the way later for us with Izme (are we really calling it this?) (did you ever have a chance to check your Sappho for the reference you thought you remembered?).

[Date: 91-02-14 22:41:46 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: finally
To: Mjpj
File: izme pass.sit (72234 bytes)]

well, here it is. doesn't seem quite as "masterish" as i thought it would be at this stage, but feel very strongly that i need you to look at it now before it can go any further.

If you get time and you're ready for voice after reading the file, call me, or maybe I'll call you if there's a good time here. Anyway, you can drop me a note here. Very anxious to get to the next step with this.

Wanting to mesh "pass" and "harem" somehow. Have added to both, made a few links between, but not sure at this point if that's enough to create this "master." Played with combining the two sets of boxes into one, also with moving them out into the "open plain" where everything else is. These both end up being the same thing. So maybe just leave as is, and continue. Have not yet made many links to the "other" fragments, or any at all to the actual texts, Woe and Quibbling and Rosary. Think you need to see what we've got at this point.

btw, I'm kind of liking Izme Pass. Sounds like something that lets you go from one place to another. A mountain pass, a canal, passage on a ship. . . .

[Date: 91-02-23 07:13:31 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: How this feels/how it goes
To: CaroWay]

Caro, I worked until 1 this morning and woke at 6:53 on the red numbered digits (more sleep than I've had in the last three days), warmed last night's coffee in the microwave (too impatient to wait through grinding, brewing) have just now returned to the machine--it's 7:11 and to Izme Pass. I see our stuff, our worlds stretch, overlap, collide, heal, converse. My goal is to make it through your young men section and my red section, and to send this off at Noon. It goes well, I think, though soon it will need your pass, too.

[Date: 91-02-23 09:20:30 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: Re: How this feels/how it goes
To: Mjpj]

You never forget that I'm waiting. Always tend to that fact no matter what. No matter how strong the work is going, how immersed you are. Is this the way artists behave? The really great artists? (and the ones *aspiring* to really great?) I don't think so.

heh. heh. The future is ours. Or as Mary Beth Edelson says, (speaking to all those great and near great men out there):


And please, please do more of The Young Men. I love those you've done already. (by the way, any suggestions on handling the Polyandry text differently? the unsubtlety of it bothers me, as my note at the bottom yells)

Did the Survivors frag from Rosary come before or after my own piece about Miranda and Maria Rose (connection in smoke, etc.)? Whether it came before or after isn't really important, but very interesting, because it shows (along with some others that I've experienced between Izme and Quib) how even in the becoming these texts move in and out of each other (lakes and coves).

[Date: 91-02-24 16:32:40 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: Phone Call & Where To Next
To: CaroWay
File: correspondence/expose (32633 bytes)

Damn it, I keep trying to attach the stuffit correspondence/expo file and this damn program keeps saying that the file is not accessible, that it's damaged or busy? What's that supposed to be mean. I'll keep trying. Finally, I had left open the stuffit file and so in the computer's head I guess it was still busy?????? Here it is, finally!

Another thought occurred to me: sometimes the stuff about writing may have evolved from our awareness of what we build relationally, so I included those because isn't this how we see interacting with texts, making them our own wholes? Hmmmmnnnn. Will send this now 4:40. Martha

[Date: 91-02-24 20:10:55 EST
From: CaroWay
To: Mjpj]

It's mylar. Gold and black mylar. (Isn't it? Like those balloons in florist shops, like some potato chip bags now, some candy bar wrappers, other things, too, like condoms I guess.)

[Date: 91-02-24 21:12:01 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: Re: MYLAR
To: CaroWay]

Yes, I think that's the name for it, shiny, plastic, hard to rip, hard to breathe through! I just got home from my meeting, will return to bad boy after gettting my boys to bed. I hope we have good strong working days--or nights--if things go well I'll send what I have finished with B.B. before sleep, or will sleep on it and send to you tomorrow before going to Adrian. okay? of course.

[Date: 91-02-25 07:59:23 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: Up[Date: BB
To: CaroWay]

Carolyn, Bad Boy continues to unravel here in a variety of stories, some of which may merge easily to and from our "primary" texts, some which may not, but I am not letting those considerations bother me very much at all. I am really just trying to get this character's story told, letting him have his way, fiction making becoming bits and pieces of images: tatoos, greasy hair, his inner spirit hidden beneath so many layers that she is fascinated and entranced by, a woman at the entrance to what is innately different, a woman who wants to nurture his wildness, would like to mold him but the difficulty of this, his resistance, his solitary "unfeeling?" Truth is, it feels like writing soap opera, or a comic book. hmmmnnnn. I need to take some more time here with this, rather than send it to you half-baked (potato lofting?) but wanted to let you know that it goes well. I am working on it between now and nine and then want to let it rest, will reopen on my return to Adrian and see how it sits, then will send it off to you. If it doesn't work to offer a narrative storyline, then B.B.'s story can just be larger than the other YM and that's ok, too. How does it go there? I wish us both fast fingers flying and fine storytelling. Energy high! Martha

[Date: 91-02-25 10:34:31 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: Is this Monday?
To: Mjpj]

Goes OK I think. I like the prospect of this day to work on what comes. Necessary people at work notified, laundry (not done yesterday, bad girl) is started, cat fed, round the house pick-up done for special visit from housecleaners (I have this luxury every three weeks, but of course it requires me to *remember* when they are to come and then "clean" the house beforehand which means all dirty socks, extra shoes, stacks of papers, bowls of popcorn kernels left sitting around, clothes thrown on the floor instead of hung up, ALL that stuff must be tended to the day before, because *they* come to *clean*. Vacuuming, bathrooms, counters, furniture, kitchen sink, all the stuff under the everyday litter.) So, now, finally, ready to go, and thinking of maybe pursuing not so much this new, developing (though not so very far from the truth) B.B., but perhaps the mother/son part of it. Though the lovers aspect seems strong too. Oh who knows. A whole new Sons and Lovers. About time I'd say.

Here I go. Talk to you later.

[Date: 91-02-25 18:56:51 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: keeping on
To: Mjpj]

Don't know how well it went today. Not as well as I'd hoped anyway. Kept getting stuck, lots floating, whirling, don't know if I've caught on to an edge of anything or not. Put in new links, wrote a little, thought a lot, need more time I guess. I should also go grocery shopping since *that* wasn't done yesterday either. Maybe I'll go do that now, get out of the house, and hit it again when I get back. I want to send this master to you tonight. And I really want there to be more in it. Yes, let's talk later.

[Date: 91-02-26 19:39:53 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: luna
To: Mjpj]

Have you noticed the moon is waxing? Perfect time for planting and growing things.

[Date: 91-02-28 09:25:08 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: Sloppy
To: CaroWay]

Carolyn, I read through all of Izme, noting places where I want to throw in stuff, not stories so much, but one liners, some questions, some bare images, maybe. But in reading through the spate of writing surrounding Maria Rose murder, et al, realized how font styles were wrong, how sloppy some of the language is, including typos (oofta what a mess the canoe on the Mississippi is, bad boy, said black boy somewhere, ye gods? If you run into any of these will you fix on the master there, I started to here and then realized that I'd have to remember or note these changes for inclusion on the "real" Izme. So if you bump into them, do unsnarl the snares.

My neck kink has travelled to the muscles which fan down over the shoulder ridge. For now, I'm changing location. I've decided to read my tonight's 22 humanities projects so will not be tempted to play hooky. So these morning hours will be spent away from Izme and you, though I'll come back here checking to see.

[Date: 91-03-04 19:00:43 EST
From: Mjpj
Subj: I'm finished writing!
To: CaroWay
File: Izme Pass. sit 4 (132604 bytes)]

Carolyn, I'm not writing another word, except to change a typo or something, really. These days have been endless with me meandering all over the place. Near exhaustion (you too?) Michael says my voice clamors, yells at him, I'm just tired and have had a glass of wine. I am so tired and grumpy! (your word for this fix) that I had difficulty figuring out even the Stuffit stuff (yes, again!)

Anyway, I don't mean to complain to you too, though I realize I just have. And I'm sorry if I screech. Here it is, the best that I can do with what I know. Hope I haven't ruined things.

[Date: 91-03-5 21:00:14 EST
From: CaroWay
Subj: no end
To: Mjpj]

The way geographical distance is somewhat overcome by technology, but still requires some concession in process, how we have had to "take turns" with the file; even so, this is an enabling tool, and we have others: the telephone, the net, fed ex, even snail mail. But the most powerful tool, and the most important we realized almost from the beginning, is our own intuition. This being not some dreamy, tricked up, insubstantial or wishful thinking, but an *integrative process* resulting in hard evidence of its existence. We knew it before we started. Or, perhaps, in knowing it, we started.

[Back to the Writing on the Edge special section, 1991 index.]