To order books by Douglas Barbour:


Flame on the Spanish Stairs greenboathouse

Breath Takes from Wolsak and Wynn

Fragmenting Bosy etc & Lyric/Anti-lyric from www.newestpress.com

To order books by Sheila E. Murphy:

Letters to Unfinished J. (2003) Green Integer Press (Winner of 2001 Gertrude Stein Award)

Concentricity (2004). Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press Order directly by Email


Email Sheila



Contributor Notes

Continuations: A Collaboration


Douglas BarbourDouglas Barbour


Sheila Murphy
Sheila Murphy

In our 'Continuations,' we agreed on a more or less fixed format of six lines, and have bounced the ongoing process of poem-construction back and forth over the (now) years, since November 2000. It seems that in that time, a “third individual” has emerged, who writes differently from the way that either writer would be creating independently.

Collaboration tends to encompass a wider reach than individual work typically does, although no such rule is constant. One sense of a good collaborator revolves around the adeptness of an individual writer to balance his/her own uniqueness and the shared creation. The relative degree of fluency in collaborating is a great help during the process.

With collaboration, there is an even broader sense of subject, that is, less of tightly controlled “about-ness.” “Concepts, referents, even possible sites of imagery,” are alive, balancing the roles of receiver and sender in a two-way process. When one writes collaboratively, there's a comfort and a simultaneous “ready for anything” sensation, as the spectrum of surprise and expectation is touched in various places. On seeing or hearing the collaboration partner's response, one is often stimulated by the passage just received and read, then drawn into the work by wanting to respond. The curious thing that can happen in collaboration is the blurring of lines between writers. In one view, the better the collaboration, the less evident the two (or more) writing styles. Not a lowest-common-denominator approach to writing. Rather, it would seem that at its most artistic, collaboration brings into being a new writer, different in many ways from either of the individual writers. Such a presence cannot be forced into existence. It comes with committed working together over time.

Some “joinings” are so natural, so easily integrated into one's working style, that they become part of oneself. Working on Continuations feels to us so vital and interesting as to have become so much a part of one's day that there has been no impulse to stop.

The sense of this has much to do with some of the approaches that what we both would call language writing (but not the more limited, more specific L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing): the ways in which it invites its practitioners to collaborate with pre-texts, to play with and through the many inheritances carried in the words one uses. Collaboration invites precisely this kind of writing with and back to the other(s) involved in the process. So it seems that (whatever one does in one's 'ordinary' life) in the writing, one can give up (or give up to) a more open sense of subjectivity, one in which something more like the 'Martian dictation' Spicer talked about occurs between the collaborators. And if one doesn't want to enter into that process, one might not enjoy the collaborative process. So, ideally, the work should appear to belong to an other than any one of those involved.

What this says about 'individuality' or 'the subject' is complex and beyond the purview of a short statement on our work together. Nevertheless, it seems pertinent to mention that not only have 'we' 'chosen' (although we have never discussed this nor made what might be called a 'conscious' decision on the matter) not to introduce an 'I' into the poem, but we suspect it would be very difficult for a reader to manufacture one that would fit the conventional lyric speaker of a poem.

The return on a collaborative process may be anywhere from zero (not necessarily bad) to infinity (not necessarily good). Depending upon the extent to which a writer senses that a jointly created project relates to his/her individual work, there can be an influence. The return on collaborative endeavors has variously taken the form of (1) a unique feeling about making something, of (2) a stronger, clearer point of commonality with a fellow writer, perhaps a deepening friendship, (3) a joyful sense of accidental accomplishment that exceeded one's expectations, (4) a seamless work that one can hardly recognize having been a part of, or some combination of those four. On returning to read sections of collaborative work, it is particularly satisfying not to be able to discern which of the partners wrote which section or line. When that happens, it may well mean that things were clicking.

Continuations XXXI

altered eyes sea altered
states stratified while futures
dig their way through layered
romances weight of
battle bought off
in widescreen sandstorm

the view weighs less than
what is there the battle
is too visible as strata
lining romance of the wide screen
storm that does not
sting the eyes

whose crinks against
the smallest stone
thrown up   /  burning
come as passion romances
each dig into layered histories
pages turning to what sight

turns small when stone
expresses each false
page's fiction to rephrase
passion dug from layers
of sight held to sense
and burning as imagined

towers fall   /   bowers
fail in flame flowering
around the family romanticised
layered ash once stood tall
historic stairs sad stepped
on moon-occluded nights

hidden or obvious results
spawn like replay of history
to locate stepwise pre-
sent moment in sequential
logic unaccustomed to
an unplanned flowering

untaught buds balance
on a day's sad honesty
sun might shine news
might come ungurued
in the garden gone
to sand and explosives

thinning shine unbalances
a partial sunlight
onto gardens
sanded beside buds
in their taut fitting
place imagined gone

a failure then of the
the antipathetical
such a solid vision un
imaginable as gardens
grown in smarted dust
sanded down roughed up

dust smarts ingrown roughage
sand downs the path to
failure then and if
imagination's only solid
as antipathy and soundly
mimicking browned gardens

a kind of etch the
scratch of miniscule man
ipulation   /   stipulation
silence   or the shock shook
inner ear sanded down to
flash flesh all smoothed over

afterwards   /   what
theater theology theodyssey
reign as adaptation
takes the soul and flesh
into its hunger and
adopts around amnesia

such thought gone down to
unhabitation   /   capitulation
s new forgetting getting
lost in the windblown sands
propellered into blind eyes
trapped beneath the ocratic gaze

a razing of space with
sands once inhabited by
ideas that propelled themselves
into slow motion getting
lost in new traps habit of
blind eyes still straining

faith fully grounded woodknot
forest for trees long de
foliated burns redly against
evening sky darkening as
ancestors soldier away
rivers now sunk beneath sand

there it is what we had
thought was there
trees some of them a deep
red with ornate knots
rivers through years and
now the ground the ground

on which right there there
seems to be a red spread
ing stain conspiring to carry
sight into trees defoliate
and caught in scopic tendresse
loss fades in the posted trauma

as continuo grows swollen
leaving little place for
recollection and the trees
reddened by day's scope
equal to the moment
fading apart from sight

and sound reaching after
rage   counterpoint   /    under
the (l)eaves   /   bored
walked to dance of
bones   branches   _Asche_
_Asche_   all fall down

walk   /   the dance   /   all fall
bored into under
bones rage to a whispered
counterpoint in thin
sound after branch
on branch turns ash

in such sudden bright
nested on dead branches
scored against night
sky scarred with points
of exploding light leaves
flung beyond orison's curve

life blood of scars turn sudden
in their extrasensory chores
pointing to flung light
leaving in place
ash curved toward cure
thin branch within new nest

prescribed rest within nestled
compass of branched vessels
scared or scarred lung
flight   /   seared breath
burns the darkening air
ash or mist filled falling

nest nestled compass
darkening as mist
to fill scarred script
burned in fall approaching
each branch to soften
fill of light

the screen sifts script
into falling ash   dark
lines of flight flat
against fiery sky
black timber teeters
toward some new notation

pronounced fire thoroughly
unsifted lines gain on
screen sight a matte finish
sky slimming dimension
timber partly black
tests simmered light

slow boil or burst of
cinders inscribing
deny deny deny
as if stars falling
laid out their gravitied memoirs
across a wide green screen

oil to cinders
all in gravity
memoirs reduce
each gesture laid to
stasis or just screen
width imposing

duration or durability
incised remembering
adds weight and stress
to the moving flambeaus
shadow engraved buried
thought forgot and re-enacted

act supplants movement
's prior stark line
chiseled on thought
that lasts though buried
in recall weighs something precise-
ly equal to nothing

the knot (nought) untied
slips material bonds weight
less than spectre letter
lighter than conjecture
winging above clouded
maps of a market yet to arrive

plain as rust felt
spectre in the hand
lighter than thin
wheel tracing on map
the places knotted
in bonds so gradually unwoven

Continuations XXXII

what haunts a snow-ridden night
hangs veiled against a now
unmapped trace of unguided
movement toward foothills
forests for trees still
about to activate into new terrain

hope crosses each obstacle
as tiny trees turn centers
of map veiled by distance
from snow to thought
haunting the trace that guides
a forest into being

missed and misted desire
reaches out through branched
ways shaded and chiaroscuro
mapped territory laid
far beyond its own limits
as spectred time tends to grow

lone fence lines specks
of imitation toned past
aged apt charred vase
on ranch time too tilled
ire lifted to mist
and territorial in time

listing as if waves froze
across the horizoned white
land rising or falling slow
lie of cut saplings criss
crossed to denote temper
airy possession   /   its speed of loss

as saplings slow to white
horizon dims to frozen
speed of loss chalking
air across waves crossed
as if fences tempered
the tone of falling

through eons   /   or light
years behind any slow
sun's glow   erring mediated
atmosphere freezes
the booted stance compelling
bright bits of information down

thrown trance eases low
light's bright years
through atmospheres shifting
the compilation of info-
infra- tactile slow boots
merchanting along their trace

transfers or transforms
chance elements of neoned
night to day rounds reactivated
as light shakes the cloudy
air below an eye meaning
only to purchase a hold   a whole

night means clouded light
chancing neon rounds above
eye level meaning day washed
center of the transformation
whole in part and fantasized
as if a cloister were to act

as if a cluster   /   animations
acting out their emulations
of offered and
yet how such (un)realized
glowing projections move a
beyond desire trapped therein

luster fields inanimate the act
of glowing moves beyond
traps offered and then realized
with gain projected on
identified desire for
pause between the greens

passing fair   /   or far
leaves foray trapped light
lit out for such territory
where extreme away casts
a line of twink all
flicker toward the grave core

place to wink in line with
land lit by trappings
seen as flickers of extremes
where core dimensions
pass the dim foray
toward traces left out casting

spelled wrong   or misunder
stood beneath so much green
reach   /   through doorways
juddering between worlds
driving across possible
high ways caught between flickers

a quiver wrought in tension
squeezes out of focus
one shrill truth achieved
from in between the pass-
age of apparent door-
ways leaning well and green

leading wall and groan
of opening way   /   a rusty
lack of trusting possibility
shutterspeed dilation
lenslight reaching to
lay the stargleam on it

the perceived won't ever wither
at the speed of lens
accepting a slow act
opening inherently informal trust
as gleam ensues the rust
seems shuttered far away

how to hold a pose
position possibility as
truths spread slowly through
an evolution of light itself
etched quietly onto wide plates
stretching perhaps the scene

through pose                  self
shrinks a posse distance
etchings quiet across
slow scenic plates
evolving into
a positioned truth

or many   /   their wild
chase through space
or time   /   what's lost in
canyons   shadowed
abyss of non-remembered
sureties   the force of

simple plants transcending
space around them
faithful to core shadows
buoyed by depths
that texture the abyss
time wraps around these multiples

each flowering moment opens
into brighter minim
all given to rising colour
up from   /   out of
dark deep hold back
as if those thoughts could not fly

rising tones imply
their depths amid ephemeral
impressions plural and between
lines partially assigned before
relaxing into thought
that lasts as inclination

cuts to thinking's reach
upward or on the slopes
slip or slid intentions
fall   /   or climbing vines
delineate sharp etched
intuition   /   further ranged

from tier to lasting
tension cut shrill in two
directions each delineating
savvy underneath mind
etching upward to achieve
a surface recognizable

on which to dance out
from gravity's somber hold
toward some never
reflected signs of lit
tel quel illumination
fractured in each small splash

clarity invites belief in
permanence after tiny evidence
reflects desire made whole
in movements that pass
with a simplicity equal to
fractures added up to gravity

lipped upon the farther shore
tipped in slosh & fall
ing pebbled roar   /   the reach of
moon-pulled grave desire
turns reflection's legend
that fragmented line of light

pieces fall into reflections
of the legend being made
from motion and the space
between gestures in which light
tips reach and lines
form between desire and shore

Continuations XXXIII

a silver reach across the line
shored up or sheered away
to depths darkening
as if space itself reached out
in some trans for mat
aerial flip those wings forget

matte finish mutes the sheen
of surface transacted
to its depths
reached for then shored
beneath a tip of cloud
lining that clarity

carried across the silver edges of
or furred as if
to provide protection
which wind brings change
shaping tatters anew so fast
or shoreline's ledges over aeons

fast or s low the ledges
shift as wind is more
reality than furred surface
that silver shaping of a line
another change
once crisp then tattered

running or rolled across
the pebbled sight
lines shored along the shift
ruffled indeterminate sur
cease scrying edges blown
awry flecks of silver strewn

edges trace history no
longer in sight the shore
determines what is washed
beyond retrieval silver
rolled and pebbles
smoothed by warm then chill

archived heat and cold trace
histories lost in wash of
sounded clash returned
through repetitions roll and fade
of pebbled palimpsests play
out indeterminate lay of land

the fade of play means
movement come to stillness
thus sound must be repeated
to be lived
the pebbles quiet
and the chance archived

the reported aleatory rubble
rocks down and across
sounding numbered possibility
constructed repeats   /   repeals
play to work   /   moment airy
in the library of remembrance

planned numbers generate
intended numbers once considered
possible as constructed
as repealed before
repeated rocks are known
to face the work of air

so carefully read there
stacked stocked
rockrepeats re:  pealed
and belled strange
attracters lines of
flight flickering doors open

range of momentum comes to
speech without the words
still recognizable as full
syll- tracking re/cognition
one dot at a time
to form an open line

towards prediction from
the open cage hung high
stare up at what huddles there
ask   /   or cry the wound
dead letter thinking's
forced further down the slope

a high stare sloped
around the open inquisition
predicts from letter
level further hope
huddle of cries impinging
on collective recognition

all vowels and consonants
fragmented by the pain
hope less than fear's
a predicate predisposed to
loss   /   lack's witless
crush on what's believed to come

focused on and endlessly repeated
the small picture following
departure of the predicate
's disposed into the witless
cells aligned with fear
made p(l)ain made constant

caught in the scan the walk
down such a corridor
over and over again in
video   /   repeat
button push will see it
seal that conclusive will   /   gone

repeat the corridor
caught in the act of
over and over sealing
where no foundation
switches fact or
as a will considered gone

ration of reason founders
on lip of abyssal determined
rumours of war the spin
of lies through darkened
halls   /   falls of glory
fiction columns tumbling in

determined spin darkens
fiction glorified in threads
to seem rational
truth positioned
in slim columns
at the threshold of reason

crossings in missing
persons ink   /   a rationed
truth cites facts entwined
threaded through chiasmus
chiaroscuroed position
behind column inches

each thing afforded its small
ration threaded through
the whole confined position
inked into the psyche
facets of which impact
upon the darkening facts

as if impressed and
then slow motion pulled
through emulsion to sight
ration all factual but for such spin
as machined distraction can impart
answers to questions no one asked

thirst's excess dreams away
the factual spun rations
as if pulling from objects
neither objectivity nor objection
and apart from a conceived
machinery impressed upon the quest

ions pulse through machined
momentary charges neither
objective nor object of
a torqued inquiry into
origins   /   organization
all gone from world's light

or moment seaming the divide
between inquiry and torque
shifting organism from
turn to pulsed machine
this   |   this   |   this   |   this
metronome endeavor starting

each moment startling there
then   |   then   |   then   |   then
never returning knot ched pain cracked
tribulations engine
churning manic on that heath

engines transpass their
turning manic across
acreage with/without re
turning manic over h
ills the pain of moment's
being constant and eternal

internal wash of rush of
crush of crack
t crippled creak of
all a float can bear
upon such hills as green
groan peaked and shatter   /   fall

prey to   |   praying rip
pling over green
crush of soft hills
interiors brushed
fine to floating
waves this lush

as if washed silk
surrounds the body
breaking out to breathe
anew the salty air
white-tanged tinged
with chill and cutting edge

hushed fabric of atmosphere
forms white erasure
sharp to tips of wings
porous   /   untainted
by surrender
to the field of thought

and feathering fealty
fliffs almost silent
lift into whiteout raised
etching against fading blue
reach of for unto some more
than single fragged mentation rising

whiteout chipped a-
way so what visiblates
is form-
er blue frag- still
not full though single
mental quiet raised toward r/eaching