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Island 22 - Isle of Poetry Machines and Virtual Writers (from Muse of the Long haul)

Island 22 - Isle of Poetry Machines and Virtual Writers (from Muse of the Long haul)

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Published by Ian Irvine (Hobson)
This sample chapter from Muse of the Long Haul: Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination by Ian Irvine (Hobson) discusses the impact of the 'digital revolution' in the late 1990s on his understandings of literature, creativity and 'being a writer'. The sample looks at his role with Sue King-Smith and John Holton in editing The Animist an innovative Australian literary ezine that experimented greatly with form across its seven editions.
This sample chapter from Muse of the Long Haul: Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination by Ian Irvine (Hobson) discusses the impact of the 'digital revolution' in the late 1990s on his understandings of literature, creativity and 'being a writer'. The sample looks at his role with Sue King-Smith and John Holton in editing The Animist an innovative Australian literary ezine that experimented greatly with form across its seven editions.

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Published by: Ian Irvine (Hobson) on Jun 11, 2013
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Island Twenty-Two
 – 
Isle of Poetry Machines and VirtualWriters
(Extract from:
 
Muse of the Long Haul Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination 
)
Copyright
, Dr Ian Irvine, 2013 all rights reserved. All short extracts from the texts discussed are
acknowledged and used under fair usage related to ‘review’ and theoretical ‘critique’
contained ininternational copyright law.
 
Cover image
: Cover image for first CD Rom edition of the Animist, 1998. Design copyright Ian Irvine 1998(includes several images by Deanne Bail, copyright 1998.) All other images designed by Ian Irvine withassistance from Sue King-Smith.
Publisher
: Mercurius Press, Australia, 2013. NB: This piece is published at Scribd as part of a series drawnfrom the soon to be print published non-fiction book on experiential poetics entitled:
 Muse of the Long Haul:Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination.
 
 
Island Twenty-Two
 – 
Isle of Poetry Machines and Virtual Writers
 
But the great World-tree bears a more painful burden than mortals can conceive. In thewell of Hvergelmer, in the black realm of Nifel-heim, is the corpse-eating dragon
 Nidhog, ‘the lower one’, which chews constantly at the root; above four giant harts are
ever eating its buds and its leaves; on its side, Age rots it; and many serpents gnaw itstender fibres. For there never was good to which evil came not.
1
 
I first came across ‘The Nine Worlds’ and ‘The Dusk of the Gods’ (a rewrite of the later sectionsof the ‘Prophesy of the Seeress’— 
also known as the
Voluspa
) in MacKe
nzie’s highly accessible
volume
Teutonic Myths and Legends
. Mackenzie’s
version of 
‘The Nine Worlds’ seems to have
 been pieced together from early cosm
ological sections in ‘The Prophesy of the Seeress’
(perhapstacked on to other significant texts by a Dark Age poet drawing on earlier oral sources).MacKenzie
s translation displays something of the profound vision behind the mythological andliterary traditions associated with Norse paganism and readers are given a rare insight into thevastness, and strangeness, of that tradition
s cosmology.In
‘The Nine Worlds’
we are invited to step outside mortal limitations in order toconfront the vast geography of the Norse cosmos. As the narrative unfolds, past, present andfuture blur into one as a series of visions are conjured up before our eyes. In many respects theterse verbal descriptions of characters and places remind us of a camera slowly panning its wayacross an alien terrain populated by Gods, giants, elves, dwarfs, and other creatures. Dominating
the scene is Ygdrasil, the ‘World
-
ash’ otherwise known as ‘The Tree of Existence’. To look squarely at this tree is, in a sense, to escape time as we understand it since: ‘It grows out of the
 past, it li
ves in the present, and it reaches towards the future.’
2
 
The tree’s three roots go down into the three worlds of the dead: Hela’s glittering plains(for the happy dead), Mimer’s well (of Wisdom and Memory) and Nifel
-heim (a gloomy place
 below which lie ‘the nine realms of torture’ [Nifel
-hel] reserved for wicked souls). Thedominating presence of Ygdrasil disposes us to a vertical vision of the Norse universe and after the close-ups (relatively speaking) of the early part of the narrative we find out imaginationenlarged even further by the latter part which treats us to an extraordinary long-shot:
 Now these are the divisions of the Universe. In the midst is the earth, Midgard, which isencircled by the ocean. On high, and above all else, is Asgard, and below it is the realmof white elves, who flit between the branches of the great World-tree. Then Vana-Heim,the home of the Vana-gods, is in the air and in the sea; and in the depths of the westernsea is the Hall of Aeger, god of Ocean. Alf-Heim, the home of elves, is to the east. In thelower world, below Nifel-heim, are the Nifel-hel regions of torture, and under Midgard
are the Hela realms of Mimer and of Urd. Far below the path of the Gods towards Hela’sfields of bliss are Surtur’s deep dales on
the borders of Muspel-
heim … Jotun
-heim is to
the north and the east, beyond the world’s edge.
The traditional setting for the latter part of ‘The Prophesy of the Seeress’ (the
Voluspa
)
 — 
and aswith everything else about this piece the scholars are not in full agreement here
 — 
seems to beAsgard, where Odin has summoned the seeress from her grave to appear before the Gods to givethem counsel. She seems to float in the air as she sings/ prophesies on the end of the Universe
1
Mackenzie, Donald. A. [Editor]
The Nine Worlds
p.14 in
Teutonic
 
 Myths and Legends.
 
2
Mackenzie, Donald. A. [Editor]
The Nine Worlds
p.13 in
Teutonic
 
 Myths and Legends.
 
 
(at least as run by the Asgard deities). As her performance warms up, moving from cosmologicalscene setting to predictions of future events, her tone changes:The Age of Evil hath come upon earth
 — 
the Knife Age, the Axe Age, and the Ageof Cloven Shields.
3
 We are thus introduced to a fundamental anxiety latent in the entire Norse tradition. The world treeis ever under threat and the Gods, since they are not all-powerful, are quite capable of being defeated
 by superior powers from ‘other’ parts of the Universe. The end time will be known
 
as ‘Ragnarok’— 
the
Dusk of the Gods
(as MacKenzie translates the term).Monotheistic traditions have perhaps freed us from the kind of divine anxieties that permeated Norse paganism
 — 
the question is: at what cost? In a sense we humans are more likely todo our bit to preserve balance between the various complex realms of possible existence, the variousworlds, if we feel that the Gods have weaknesses too, if they can sicken, be defeated, perhaps evendie. If, also, the World-tree (as a symbol for the natural world generally) is also capable of beingfelled. The Gods and Ygdrasil are thus central to the well-being of all of the worlds
 — 
even the souls
of the dead sporting on Hel’s beautiful plains are dependent upon the tree since it gives life and
sustenance to the various realms that it penetrates (including Midgard). It is also crucial to the well- being of the Gods, and the mortal world and various otherworlds, in the Norse understanding, aredependent on it and thus each other. The relationship network is quite different to that of the world
smonotheistic religions where God handles everything in all realms from a perfect place of rest (beingall powerful and all-knowing, etc.). Christians do not worry, for example, about the stability of the
‘afterlife’.
 The Norse view of the cosmos as a vast network of worlds is an appropriate metaphor for this section of the book. My first encounters with the world-wide-web
 progressed not unlike the ‘Nine Worlds’ piece
discussed above
 — 
at first I treated it more or less likean electronic encyclopaedia whilst staying focusedupon my PhD research topic. Gradually, however, thefull vision of its global communicational possibilities became apparent to me and as with the last section of the
Prophesies of the Seeress
discussed above it dawned on me sometime in 1998 that the wholeworld of writing (including the nature of publishing, research, libraries, etc.) was about to change in
 profound ways. The dead ‘seeress’ was singing of a new order but it takes time to
absorb the fullimplications of such strange music.Of course, it is part of the position description of writers and artists to occasionally stumble
upon ‘worlds within worlds’— 
hidden worlds, in a sense, there to be discovered at exactly the rightmoment. Such discoveries sometimes have a transpersonal feel about them. This is certainly the way
I view the ‘realms’ of the interne
t that opened up to Sue, John Holton and I in 1998. In retrospect itwas as though I was, in some strange way, pre-programmed to become
a ‘writer’ and ‘editor’
in sucha world. The traditional role
of the ‘writer/poet’ do
es not, in truth, sit all that comfortably with me,
and yet in many respects it sometimes seems that the new ‘
transpersonal
relational’ role I’ve been
3
Mackenzie, Donald. A. [Editor]
The Dusk of the Gods
(also known as Voluspa or 
The Prophesy of the Seeress
) p.177 in
Teutonic
 
 Myths and Legends
 

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