Monday, December 24, 2007

Poem Collaboration - AE's Take

This week Read Write Poem challenged us to work with another poet, to collaborate in one way or another. The last time I jointly wrote a poem I was 11 years old (two of them, I believe), so this was definitely a change of pace.

I worked with Linda who came up with a suggestion of a jumping-off place - looking up our horoscopes that day to use as the first and last line of the poem. And then we dove in, alternating stanzas, sending the poem back and forth via e-mail. We then finished up with a little polish to take care of a couple word choices and checking tenses.

When I usually write a poem, it is with a single vision (either mine or the muse's) and the idea has usually been rattling around in the back of my head long enough that it is just a matter of picking the words I need to convey the thought and/or stay in the form.

With two of us working on the poem, there had to be a lot of trust - I think Linda called it "trust the poem." I tried to place myself in the environment of the poem and make sure my line somehow both connected to what Linda's previous line had said, yet still move the poem forward. And I felt an obligation to make sure I wasn't slacking off - I had a responsibility to the assignment so even when I need something to "percolate" I tried to not put it off too long.

I am completely certain that what we created together is something that neither of us would have created on her own. I am pleased that it doesn't sound like two completely different voices alternating (although doing that on purpose would be interesting too - a project for another day).

Here's our result:

Come Clean

"If a partner can't get revved up today,
encourage them to pick up the pace."

I vacuum, and do the laundry
while you sit in your La Z Boy.

Steadily working through the mundane
chores, with an inner eye focused
beyond the immediate goal,

beyond the dust of resentment
no Pledge could ever remove.

With rag, and sponge, and spout,
each wipe, each scour, each rinse
pushes away the stain.

You sigh
when I ask you to move
so I can wash the hard-
wood floor behind your chair,
annoyed that you will miss
part of the war
you are watching
on the History channel.

Are we
doomed to repeat
our unlearned personal histories?

I could complain,
throw a fit;
I could walk out the door
and leave you behind
or I could sit down
and watch TV with you.

I breathe in
the air of here and now,
then exhale my baggage,

put the cleaning supplies away,
bring out the bourbon,
and ask you to join me
on the couch
to watch Jeopardy!

"The best connections are built in the brain.
Only an intellectual connection works."


Linda said...

Nice explanation of our collaboration! Some of my poems "percolate", too, but because I have my students do journal writing twice a week, I write spur-of-the-moment ones more often. (I always do the writing with them then read it out loud, embarrassing or not!)

I did, too, feel a need to keep the poem moving and, at the same time, keep the focus. I love the way you were more reflective than me and your lines about exhaling the baggage, and repeating our personal histories make the poem!

Again, thank you for your gracious paricipation!

sister AE said...

thanks, Linda. It was a pleasure.

Anonymous said...

The idea of using your horoscopes was a great way to unite your two perspectives, and to begin and seal the poem. Both of you entered the space of the poem, and worked as one.

As far as the theme goes, I think any couple could relate. I like the idea of chucking the work and meeting my partner in a moment of relaxation.

PDW said...

i loved your description of your experience with collaboration. i sometimes follow the flow of the person's line before mine and sometimes i purposely go in another direction. sometimes i mix it up.

that seems to me one of the lessons of collaboration that i can bring into my own writing: that i can get a lot out of experimenting with that kind of shift in direction.

great job. kudos to both of you!

sister AE said...

Thanks, mariacristina. That description is apt, "the space of the poem." It was something with its own needs that Linda and I seemed to feed.

Thanks PDW. Having done this once, I am up for it again. If there is more time than we allowed ourselves for this one, I can see myself taking a more unfamiliar path. That's a good idea about playing with direction and "voice" in a piece, even when working solo.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I like your idea of using your horoscopes as a starting point for inspiration and for shaping the poem. it worked well too.

sister AE said...

Thanks, Juliet. The credit should go to Linda - it was her idea. I will say once we jotted them down, I certainly wasn't sure it was a good idea, but with Linda's first lines, the poem started taking on a life of its own.

paisley said...

this really flowed nicely... i loved it.. i couldn't even tell it was of two minds.....

sister AE said...

Thanks, Paisley. Isn't that fun!

writerwoman said...

What an interesting way to compose a poem. It turned out well.

Sara from

sister AE said...

Hi, Sara, and thanks. It was an interesting experiment and I would do it again.