“The 10 Commandments of Collaboration”
by Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel
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.
Today, I’m thinking about poetry and collaboration. Why collaborate?
“The most delightful part about our collaborating is the shared creative burden. Even when we think we are stumping one another, providing lines that seem almost impossible to finish, the other can usually think of something to follow right away. We are open to mess and mayhem. We have found what we believe to be a third voice, a voice that is neither Maureen’s nor mine, but rather some poetic hybrid.” – Denise Duhamel
I find myself in three collaborative projects this summer, and I’m realizing that the “shared creative burden” is not only “delightful” but also less lonely. There’s a larger vision at stake.
“I’ll post the generative questions or prompt that surface from the previous day’s writing and ask participants to write in response to them. You can answer in whichever way you are moved to — off-the-cuff, improvisationally, in deep meditation, whichever feels right to you. I’ll ask you within your writing response to braid the words of either another participant or writer/artist (other than yourself) in your writing in some way, to honor the collaborative intent of the project, and to credit that other writer/artist by name at the end of your writing (unless that person would rather remain anonymous).” – Ching-In Chen’s call for Collaborative Manifesto Remix
Over at Ching-In’s blog, it’s an incredible process to participate and witness the recycling of words and images in new, unexpected ways. No matter the repetition, each writer cuts through from a different angle of light and shadow. The “third voice” which Duhamel speaks of is complicated here; it’s many voices underneath voices and also what isn’t being said.
Fellow Kundiman poet Dan Lau and I begin the day with a collaborative ekphrasis poem on Gmail Chat. We alternate lines, limiting ourselves to 20 minutes of writing time. It feels more like a sleepover as we play the flashlight game. A thin beam of light on the bookshelf, on the window, at the crack in the floor, on the creepy clown doll. We are asking ourselves, what else is here?
“diluvial: of, relating to, or brought about by a flood
I’ve pissed the bed again.The stench of new magnoliasweeping in the sea of sheetscollecting into deposits of sweatI fold myself into the bathroomthe condensation of wet dreamsthe melange of urea and powdered flowers”
I’m loosening my language, opening up to “mess and mayhem,” engaging in dialogue and community (living and dead), facing the darkness underneath the bed with a good friend — these are my reasons for collaboration.