Some Remarks on Collaboration

By Tom Whalen

Featured Image: “Capucine” by Maurice Pillard Verneuil

  • I’m trying to think what isn’t a collaboration, but when nothing comes to mind, I wander about my Arbeitszimmer, scanning the shelves, lost in thought, before returning to my remarks concerning activities requiring, if not a multitude, at least one other mind.
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Collaboration Queens (Or How the Chapbook, ABBA: The Poems, Came to Be)

By Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon

Featured Image: “The Seasons” by Alphonse Maria Mucha

As we wrote “Class Action,” our first poem together (alternating one line at a time, on email), Amy noticed we were writing in abba rhyme, which gave her the idea of writing tangentially about ABBA, the pop group. This lucky association led us to begin a series of poems with two constraints: the stanzas had to be written in abba rhyme, with a mandatory mention of ABBA, the singing group, in each. As we built up our confidence, we sometimes added a third constraint. In one poem, each line had to end in a long “o” sound; and in another, each line had to contain a palindrome, as ABBA is a palindrome. Although we stuck with the rhyme scheme (with allowances for occasional, or more-than-occasional, slant rhymes), we liberated ourselves from metrical restrictions. While Denise is comfortable in the prose poem and free verse, Amy tends to write almost unconsciously in a loose iambic pentameter or tetrameter. But we didn’t insist on uniformity of rhythm. This gave us the leeway to go with the flow, quoting lyrics or song titles, creating dialogue between characters, and injecting other bits of pop culture into the poems.

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Changing the Record: A Poetry Collaboration in the ’70s and ’80s

By Ron Horning and David Lehman

Featured Image: “Four Crowned Cockatoos” by Samuel Jessurun de Masquita

We met late in 1972, when we lived two blocks from each other on Riverside Drive. Though Ron’s room in his apartment was easily quieter than David’s room in “The Barracks,” thus named because of the decibel levels achieved by the inhabitants (David’s roommates were a jazz disc jockey and poet, a veteran of the Marine Corps just back from Vietnam, and a TV-watching, football-twirling specialist in East Asian studies) and their many guests, Ron’s room was also less private, more subject to interruption, and did not have its own bathroom. The first poem we wrote together was written at the Barracks, and so were most of the others in 1973 and 1974. From almost the beginning, the idea was to write a book of poems, but the book never really gelled, either because there were too many other things to think about or because we didn’t know what, if anything, the poems and lines we were typing and writing added up to. We had a working title, or at least we toyed with some candidates. (A Phone of One’s Own captured David’s fancy for a time.) Many poems we started were left unfinished, and even the attempt to write poetry together stopped abruptly in 1975, when we both married for the first time, David in January, Ron in July.

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The Story Behind “Penguins”

By Patty Mitchell

Featured Image: “Little Penguin” by Elizabeth Gould

Located in Athens, Ohio, Passion Works Studio supports collaborations be- tween artists with and without developmental disabilities. The studio began as an experiment in 1996: what would happen if I set up a collaborative art studio within a sheltered workshop, a supported work place for people with develop- mental disabilities? A grant from the Ohio Arts Council allowed us to put the idea in motion, and through additional grants and sales a second professional artist was added to the staff, Wendy Minor. Wendy and I brought to the table our understanding of materials and our art process; the participating individuals brought with them their unique way of experiencing the world and a natural ability of fearlessly jumping into art-making. For fifteen years now, Passion Works has offered a relaxed and informative environment for people to collaborate and investigate ideas. The synergy of excitement and discovery is conveyed in the resulting artwork: playful, vibrant, unpredictable.

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Where the Path Leads: Collaboration, Revision, and Friendship

By Lawrence Raab

Featured Image: “Path Through the Fields from Momoyogusa-Flowers of a Hundred Generations” by Kamisaka Sekka

Many years ago—and I really don’t want to remember exactly how young we were—Stephen Dunn, a friend but not yet a collaborator, was traveling from New Jersey to Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. He stopped for the night at our house. During the course of the evening I recall bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t written a poem—maybe not even tried to write one—in over a year. I had writer’s block, I announced, as if it were an identifiable disease. I had not yet learned the wisdom of William Stafford’s famous—or infamous—remark that there is no such thing as writer’s block; all you have to do is lower your standards.

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