It’s easy to imagine writing as a lonely art–locked in a room or closet with a typewriter or laptop, hours searching your own mind while a loved one knocks shyly, scoots a tray of food through the door, and scuttles away–because writers need to be alone. There’s an attractiveness in running away to a cabin by the lake, trying to understand the world in seclusion. After all, that’s where the truth is, right?
Collaborative poets Wendy Xu and Nick Sturm would disagree. In a dual interview at LitBridge both poets explain how writing poetry with a partner can work. While both question whether any kind of writing could be wholly introverted, Nick simplifies the issue when he says,
…if I’m on the phone with a poem and someone else picks up on the other line, all of a sudden there are a lot more things we can talk about. The day just got way more interesting.
Even Stephen King, in his memoir/book on craft, On Writing, says,
Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.
This calls for the writer to accept and even request help during the revision process, but what if we left the door open the entire time, if we invited friends for a chat and opened our lonely cabins?
For the month of June, writer and poet Mike Maggio decided to start a group writing project that would bring together twenty poets and end with twenty-one new poems. The point of the project is not only to get some poems written, but to see how working off of other people’s ideas can create poetry and to watch how personalized revision changes the collaborative poem through their own edits. The poets include: Mike Maggio, Karen Kelley, Francesca Rand, Carrie T Maison, Allison Fuentes, Barbara DeCesare, Delinda Price, Dan Cafaro, Diane T Stepro, Edward Belfar, Geoffrey D Koury, Joy Martin, Graham H Pilato, James Sears, Karin Sander, Laura S Young, Nancy Powell, Norah Vawter, Stephanie Floros, Susan Scheid, and Dave Lego.
Mike’s group poem project takes Stephen King’s advice and flips it inward like a double-hinged saloon door. Instead of working together during revision, Mike started the project by giving each poet a first line to use:
An apple is not a story.
From there, each poet got the chance to contribute one line to the collaborative poem. As the project moves on, each poet will revise the poem to create a new one, ending with a total of twenty-one new poems. Each revision will be posted here, so be sure to come back and watch as the poem evolves. Below is collaborative poem each poet will scalp, pluck, and tuck into something new:
An apple is not a story.
Its ripeness holds the weight,
tipping juicy balances with time,
forbidden to be consumed in one sitting,
tasting line by line
nibbling, crisp tart words, to salivate
and satisfy her curiosity, vast and unquenchable.
Mystery rests in this pale delicate flesh
An apple is more than a story.
A primly wrapped promise, a ruse. A guise.
concealing secrets of the soil that sustains it
and seeds buried for doubting tongues
Coming to life for those
not afraid of seeing
Glutted with the ripe flesh,
wasps murmur in the grass.
Earth-bound with drunkenness,
heedless of the roaring blade.
waiting in the trees for its resurrection
as chlorophyll-laden leaves transform rays of sun
into nectar-filled flowers that will become
crimson harbinger of joy, foreteller of truths
She steps carefully over
the circle of bodies that surround her
© 2013-07-02 Mike Maggio, Karen Kelley, Francesca Rand, Carrie T Maison, Allison Fuentes, Barbara DeCesare, Delinda Price, Dan Cafaro, Diane T Stepro, Edward Belfar, Geoffrey D Koury, Joy Martin, Graham H Pilato, James Sears, Karin Sander, Laura S Young, Nancy Powell, Norah Vawter, Stephanie Floros, Susan Scheid, Dave Lego
Meanwhile, look below for some other places you can check out some more collaborative poetry on the web. Decide for yourself what you like best: a closed or open door.
Like Starlings is an online literary journal of collaborative poetry. They pair poets together to watch their words talk.
Spoken Word Poetry
Some spoken word poets write and perform together. Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay perform on tour and run workshops through their website Project Voice.
About Mike Maggio:
His newest work is a novel which was just released as an ebook by thewritedeal.org. The Valley of Granite and Steel is a political satire which combines fantasy, realism and commentary on contemporary America while paying homage to Gogol and Bulgakov.