Thursday, July 24, 2008

Collaboration in Poetry

Often poetry is regarded as an individual effort, and even as one that benefits from solitude, for both the reader and for the writer. Obvious exceptions to this include Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Dante's Divine Comedy. We do, however, have examples of poets collaborating with each other in writing poems. Marvin Bell and William Stafford alternated with each other in sending poems to each other in the mail, one poem at a time. Each poet responded to the poem received by writing a new poem of his own which was then sent in the mail to continue the collaboration. They agreed on a time limit for each composition and stuck to it. In 1983 these poems were published in Boston by Godine under the title Segues.

More recently, Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton have written "Exquisite Corpse sonnets, sestinas, pantoums and villanelles" together. They have collaborated so much in writing together that they have articulated "ten commandments" for collaboration. Here they are:

1. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's art with thy whole heart.
2. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's judgment with thy whole mind.
3. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator's integrity with thy whole spirit.
4. Honor thy own voice.
5. Honor thy collaborator's spouse.
6. Thou shalt not be an egotistical asshole.
7. Thou shalt not covet all the glory.
8. Thou shalt love the same foods as your collaborator.
9. Thou shalt eat and tire at the same time.
10. Above all, honor the muse.
These commandments are excerpted from an article which originally appeared in American Poet, the biannual journal of the Academy of American Poets. Copyright © 2006 by The Academy of American Poets. All rights reserved. To subscribe to American Poet, become a member online. The full article is available at Poets dot org (accessed 7/24/08).

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