About the Project
Pet Murmur is an experimental, web-based memoir that marries traditional forms with the possibilities of the social network.
The first phase of the project—Boy Friends: Lessons for Girls—is a serialized alphabet book about boys that narrates my personal encounters from Adam through Zachary. The poems were published anonymously through a series of weekly email blasts from a “secret admirer,” but the project was built on the permissions process and the revelation of real secrets. All texts and images are vetted by and published with the consent of their subjects—men and boys from my past—who verified the accuracy of the content and were invited to participate in the act of collaborative storytelling.
The second phase of the project—Confessional Poetry: The Act of Contrition—is an ongoing, serialized collection of prose poems modeled after the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Penance. In each installment, I narrate a personal sin, failure or wrongdoing to correspond to one of the Ten Commandments. Illustrated with snapshots of my childhood and adolescence, Pet Murmur is a digital scrapbook that resides at the interstices of poetry and memoir and investigates the proximity between truth and fiction.
Through the revelation of secrets, the project (re)enacts the collapse of personal privacy in the digital age, tracking and documenting the permissions process through social media. Pet Murmur is a pedagogical and epistemological study that engages with the peculiarly public intimacy enabled by the internet to explore themes of innocence, experience, and identity. The project investigates how we learn to ourselves by appropriating childhood tropes—like the ABC’s and the 123’s—to explore the terror of the female body and complexity of knowledge itself.
About the Author
Christine Gardiner is a poet, fiction-writer, and memoirist, who borrows her pen name from the poem "Sacred Emily" by Gertrude Stein.
"I love honor and obey I do love honor and obey I do.
Melancholy do lip sing.
How old is he.
Murmur pet murmur pet murmur.
Push sea push sea push sea push sea push sea push sea push sea push sea.
Sweet and good and kind to all."
Notes on the Text
1. Adam: The name, text and images in this poem are used with Adam's permission.
2. Burkan: This text was vetted by B., who approved the content and selected his pseudonym.
3. Charlie: The quoted text is from a summer camp signature book.
4. David: Name and text are used with David's consent, and the photograph of Pet Murmur was taken by Gabriella A. in Canasi, Cuba.
5. Earl: This poem narrates a series of true events surrounding three different men who shared the same name, but I have altered some of the distinguishing characteristics of its subjects.
6. Fred: This photograph of Pet Murmur was taken on her first day of school.
7. Greg: The photograph of Prospect Terrace Park was taken by Michael K. and used with his permission. Adam provided the picture of Sebastian the cat, and the photo of Pet Murmur smoking a cigarette was mostly likely taken by Ashley B. Greg vetted and approved the language of this text, and his image is used with permission. You can read his account of our relationship here: http://www.scrambledgregs.com/snippets/after-running-from-hidden-lake-academy/
8. Harris: Permission sought & pending.
9. Ivan: I have been unable to contact Ivan, but the photographs from the racetrack were taken by my mother and used with her consent.
10. Justin: Name, text, and image are used with Justin's permission, and the photograph of Pet Murmur was taken in Mexico City by Erica K.
11. Kamron: Permission sought & pending. Pet Murmur self-portrait, age 17.
12. Luis: Luis and I lost touch a long time ago, and I don't know how to contact him. Photographs taken by Pet Murmur in Havana, Cuba.
13. Michael: This poem was written in dialogue and collaboration with Michael S. The photograph of Michael and Pet Murmur was taken by Jackie H. at Louie's Family Restaurant in Providence, RI and is used with her permission. Newspaper clippings are from "Providence Man Shot by Trooper" by Karen Lee Ziner and Michael Smith, published in The Providence Journal on 27 June 20XX.
14. No One: There is no one to note.
16. Philip: Permission sought & pending.
17. Quentin/Quintin: Quentin is a stretch, but Quintin approved the content of this poem.
18. Ricky: Ricky provided the photograph of his dragon tattoo and vetted the content of this poem. Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright ©1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck® is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
19. Seckin: The text and images are used with Seckin's permission.
20. Tommy: Tommy approved the content of this poem and the use of his image. Photograph clipped from the The Lion's Roar, a high school newspaper, credit unknown.
21. Ulysses: This is a collage poem that uses quoted language from James Joyce's Ulysses. The italicized text is drawn from Molly Bloom's soliloquy and remixed with original lines. The poem is written for Burkan and published with his consent.
22. Val: This poem is published with the consent of someone close to the deceased.
23. William: Will vetted this poem and approved its content and images. Note also that Will's father, pictured top, is also a William, though he goes by another name.
24. X: Names unknown.
25. You: Photograph of Pet Murmur by Emily Dryden.
26. Zachary: The text and photo published with Zak's permission.
27. All logos and artwork are designed by the artist and illustrator Nicole France.