Today begins National Poetry Month in the US – celebrating poets’ role in our culture and that poetry matters. I will be participating in writing a poem a day by using prompts and encouragement from the 2023 April PAD Challenge (writersdigest.com) and the Indiana Writers Center. I love using prompts and combining them with trying out new poetry Forms to get my creativity going. But I also love collaboration (as you likely know from my debut novel, Trials of the Innermost, which I wrote with one of my best friends). Poetry collaboration offers a unique experience as well as many benefits. Let’s walk through some of those and some poetry collaboration ideas!
Benefits of Collaboration
Collaborating is more than working toward a common goal. It’s an opportunity to discover ways people are connected. According to Maria Winfield, collective poetry can allow people “to work from a shared pattern in order to join their voices in a collective rhythm”.
Because you need to have conversations and plan, collaborative writing can help to slow down the writing process. It can also save time. When the work is spread out, it’s less of an individual commitment of time vs writing solo.
You can also learn from each others strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you are good at rhyming and your co-writer is good at unique imagery. You can share techniques and improve each other. Your finished piece could be a greater work than you could do on your own because it combines the best of each of you.
Poetry Collaboration Ideas
Collaborate Poems With Dance
I’m a member of Poetry Society of Indiana and recently they collaborated with a local dance academy to combine poetry and dance to explore the intricacies of mental health. The event was well received, and poets and dancers alike were able to use their voice. PSI President John Hinton said, “everybody has a voice, and sometimes we express that voice through poetry, sometimes we express it through dance, […] When we see art as a whole instead of each individual component, that’s when it starts to get really powerful[…].” Read more here Community experiences ‘Words in Motion’ | News | ftimes.com
Collaborative Origami Poetry
I was recently introduced to this idea and think it would be great for collaborations. Find a poetry pal and each of you contribute several poems. Try a theme such as spring poetry. You then arrange them so that when they are folded on one sheet of paper it makes a tiny book. You can hand these out to anyone and expose them to a bit of poetry. For more info and to see how to fold the paper, visit Folding an Origami Book (origamipoems.com) and a sample microchap book here.
Pair Poetry With Another Artistic Medium
We talked about dance, but there are many other arts out there. One of my friends who is a pianist and composer approached me to write a poem with his music. I wrote a poem based on a musical idea he had for “peace” and a bit of a theme he wrote. When I some of it I shared, and he shared some of his composition – back and forth we worked until he fully composed his piano piece, I recited my poem and he made tweaks to his piano piece to match. In this way the poem and the music complemented each other. I love how he made the piano sound like rain on the window right as my poetry line describes it. Listen to the result on Insight Timer. It was super fun and a unique experience.
Collaborative Poetry Line by Line
In the 1940s, American poet Charles Henri Ford invented the “chain poem”. Each poet wrote a line and then forwarded the poem to another person. Today, we could do this rather quickly through text, email, or using tools like Google Docs. I’ve done something similiar with stories where one person writes a paragraph and then hands it over to the next person. The trick is you can’t try to undo what the person did before you by forcing your own theme, you just have to go with the flow.
Tips for a Successful Poetry Collaboration
1 – Set goals and expectations. When you find a partner, it is important that you each know what is expected. Think back to school and group projects. No one wants to be left out and no one want to have to do all of the work. If it’s helpful, create a short list of what you want to do, what you think it will take to accomplish, and what your expected outcome is. Will one of you put together a rough draft, and the other edit and tweak it? Will you equally divide the work? Compare notes and agree to a plan – even if it’s a tiny outline.
2 – Be open-minded – Be respectful of others’ ideas and opinions. Try new things. Remember, this is a chance to discover how we are connected.
3 – Be willing to compromise. This is about creating a duet, each of you working together to create one outcome and not about one person having a solo moment. Find a way to work together and combine your strengths.
4 – Have fun!
Have you written collaborative poetry? Tell me in the comments!