Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sometimes when I want to step outside of my own concerns and conventions, collaborative writing can open up new ideas. The oldest poetry was collaborative. There was no "Homer." Rather, Homer was a series of poets who memorized and revised the hymns and epics. New language was added; portions were lost. What remains is the effort of not a single poet but a community. I imagine even the whims of the audiences helped shape the poems.

A collaboration is a kind of relationship. When the writers are listening to one another, bringing seriousness, honesty and a healthy dose of play to the work, it can feel wonderfully alive. And if the collaboration isn't working, one or the other should recognize that and have the good sense to talk about it.

I've co-written with some wonderful writers: Rachel Zucker, Mark Bibbins, David Trinidad and Jeffery Conway, Luke Sykora, Ryan Courtwright and T.J. DiFrancesco. Each of them delightful to work with; each of them willing to discard the chaff (whether mine or theirs or both) and to concentrate on the serious play of writing.

Recently, David Trinidad and I finished a short chapbook, a memoir constructed out of sentences from other people's memoirs. I'm very proud of the result--which shows how much a good partner in rhyme matters--and Turtle Point Press has done a beautiful job of designing it and printing it.

It's so satisfying to work with a fellow poet when you feel that poet feeds the creativity. I've had other experiences with collaborators (not the ones mentioned above) where they just wanted credit for showing up. Some of those poems turned out fine anyway. But it's so much nicer to work with the poets who surprise, delight and challenge us to be at our 'A' game.


  1. Speaking of Rachel Zucker, looks like she's reading at the American Library Assn. conference in a few days. I'm hoping my schedule there works out so that I can hear her!

  2. I guess two heads really are better than one--on some occasions.

  3. I recently wrote a play with another playwright (it is being produced in August) and it was a wonderful experience, though near the end, a bit painful. Definitely something I wish to do again. The chapbook looks (and sounds) beautiful.

  4. I've been trying to buy this book for months, even to the point of emailing the publisher. No luck yet, but will persist -- it looks so wonderful.

  5. Hi Rachel,

    Have you tried Small Press Distribution? They should have their shelves restocked by now. If you have trouble getting it, let me know, and I'll call Turtle Point. Ugh. Apparently has copies but won't release them until September.

  6. Yes, alas, I have tried SPD, over and over, and here's the verdict:

    0 Currently In Stock

    Powell's doesn't have it either.

    The publisher told me he was releasing the book early, due to strong demand, but apparently booksellers still can't get it.

    Curiouser and curiouser....

  7. Doug--Got my copy of the chapbook. It's marvelous.

  8. Hi D.A. I feel kind of odd doing this - maybe a little self-promoting or something - but I wrote a review of By Myself over at an online blog/journal I edit, if you're interested and/or have the time, and I think it may be the only one online? It's here. I really loved the book, thought it was just wonderful. Thanks so much.