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HOW’S AND WHY’S OF COLLABORATIVE POETRY

History of collaborative goes back many centuries when poets collaborated with their contemporaries to refine and augment their poetic skills. Development of Renga in Japan and Renku in Chinese could be good examples of collaborative poetry which is as popular today as it was hundreds of years ago. Renaissance poetry in France is marked by ‘virtuoso circles’ wherein many professional poets would collaborate with their contemporaries and engage with their predecessors. Several anthologies were produced as a result. In modern times, collaborative poetry continue to flourish along with avant garde found poetry, erasure poetry and shape poetry as well as several other modern poetic forms.

There are many types of collaborative poetry involving two or more poets. Thanks to internet and social media, poets don’t have to be present at the same place to write a poem together. Epistolary poem-writing is a part of this category along with “in response to” poetry. Translations also fall within the category of collaborative poetry and so does the poetic response to a photograph or a painting. My purpose of writing this article is to share the silent but exciting wave of collaborative poetry sweeping the literary world in the present times and encourage more poets to try this particular form of writing that has proved to be extremely rewarding to me as a poet.

When I first started sharing my poems on Facebook, I didn’t have the faintest idea about collaborative poetry. A poet friend, D Russel Micnhimer whom I befriended on Facebook and who is well known for practicing form poetry suggested that we should try writing sedoka.

The Sedoka is an unrhymed poem made up of two three-line katauta with the following syllable counts: 5/7/7, 5/7/7. It can be a standalone poem but frequently written in the form of mondōka (問答歌 dialogue poem dialogue poem between two lovers.

Now, I live in India and Russel lives in Oregon, US and had a job that required traveling so it wasn’t possible for us to write at the same time. Moreover, I had not tried any Japanese poetry form other than haiku and therefore, I was both excited and apprehensive at the same time. Over several emails, one sedoka at a time, our first Mondoka emerged. Russel kept it interesting by constantly altering the standard 5/7/7, 5/7/7 pattern with each sedoka. I just followed his lead and the whole experience turned out to be so enjoyable that we decided to repeat it. Here are a few sedoka for your reference.

Her
Verses too fragile
For platitude of paper
Crave parchment of his broad chest
With kohl of her eyes
She spins yarns of solitude
Into pillow book of love

Him
Unraveling pages
Between old empty covers
Feels new dark ink drops
Painting fresh squeezed breath
On soft mounds of rising suns
By brush tip bidden

Her
They come in waves
Lay half forgotten by dawn
Dreams stuck in empty covers
Fodder for musing
Beads of rudraksh slip between
Fingers of her compulsion

Encouraged by the result we also tried Katuata, (片歌, side poem or half poem which dates back to 8th century Japan found in the Manyõshú (the oldest collection of Japanese poetry) and soon enough we had a couple of series. For instance, here are a few katauta-

You fondly burnish
Pieces of my existence
Nurture me to flowering

Polishing edges
Buffing your glistening joy
To shimmering reflections

Light of our loving
Unlock enchanting visions
Sweet symphony to twain souls

Focus of living
Shining key to ecstasy
Opens all chests of treasures

However, not all collaborative poetry we write is premeditated. For instance, I discovered several kinuginu tanka on Russel’s page one morning and was so charmed that I decided to find out more about it.

Kinuginu were the exchange waka that lovers exchanged in the morning when they met at the woman’s house. Murasaki Shikibu wrote 795 waka in her book The Tale of Genji representing them as waka written by the characters of her story.

Soon enough, I replied to his tanka post as a comment which was followed by another tanka by him and soon enough we had a series of kinuginu tanka.

But perhaps the most collaborative poems Russel and I have written which are now part of poetry collection, Lines Across Oceans, are those that fall in the category of “in response to” poems. One of us would post in poetry group we belonged to and the other would come up with another poem as a response. For instance- Russel posted this picture and poem and as a response, I wrote the second part.

Now you know
How I conjured you
From amongst
Tattered tomes
On the poetry shelves

Now you know
of another conjuring
unfolding in another dimension
when pen started bleeding
slivers of my liver
and drunk on desolation
I tied corners of my dupatta
in tight knots
invoked blessing of blue throated god
I did not believe in
by denying self of viaticum
rocked gently on my feet
chanting soundlessly
one hundred names of love

Then sometime we both approached the same topic from different perspectives. The poem may seem to contradict itself but actually the first stanza speaks for the dust and the second, for the drop.

I am dust
When drops
of your love
splash into me
we merge
and rise
as a crown
of new born mud
seeking the firing
of the sun

A forlorn drop
I turn into love
The moment
We embrace
Cease all seeking
Home at last

There are a few poems that we wrote together sitting thousands of miles apart. A facebook friend, Sakina Minhaj Shikari, who is an artist and photographer was visiting Sri Lanka and posting breathtaking pictures. As we clicked on those pictures and expressed our wish to visit the beaches someday, imagining started crystallizing into words and before we knew we had a poem. I arranged it into stanzas, doing away with repetitions and sent it to Russel the next day. He chiseled it and gave it final shape.

Though Russel and I have been collaborating for last couple of years and our writings have now been compiled into a collection titled Lines Across Ocean, we both keep collaborating with other poets and artists too. For instance, I collaborated with Denise Zygadlo for SpringFling, Scotland’s Premier Art and Craft Open Studio Event where I wrote a poem for her art. We also write renga with other poet friends in facebook poetry group, The Wordsmiths and each time it fills me with wonder and new enthusiasm.

Collaboration between two poets living miles apart may be rare but not entirely impossible. Another outcome of such collaboration is OM śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ, a poetry collection by Jen Walls and Dr. Ram Sharma. In fact, social media has made it easier to connect with like minded people and collaborate across time-zones and nationalities. It wouldn’t be off the mark if I say, no other time in the history of literature was as exciting as now for writing poetry or fiction and nonfiction.

It was by sheer chance that I discovered Whispers in The Wind, a poetry blog that invites and encourage collaborative poetry. One can always find interesting and thought provoking collaborative poem here http://whispersinthewind333.blogspot.in/

NALINI PRIYADARSHINI

© Nalini Priyadarshini
All Rights Reserved

naliniNalini Priyadarshni is the author of Doppelganger in My House (2016) and co author of Lines Across Oceans (2015). Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and international anthologies including Mad Swirl, Camel Saloon, Dukool, In-flight Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, The Riveter Review, The Open Road Review and The Yellow Chair. Her forthcoming publications include Sacred Women in the Anti-violence movement: Anthology, Your One Phone Call and Tree House.

HOW’S AND WHY’S OF COLLABORATIVE POETRY

History of collaborative goes back many centuries when poets collaborated with their contemporaries to refine and augment their poetic skills. Development of Renga in Japan and Renku in Chinese could be good examples of collaborative poetry which is as popular today as it was hundreds of years ago. Renaissance poetry in France is marked by ‘virtuoso circles’ wherein many professional poets would collaborate with their contemporaries and engage with their predecessors. Several anthologies were produced as a result. In modern times, collaborative poetry continue to flourish along with avant garde found poetry, erasure poetry and shape poetry as well as several other modern poetic forms.
There are many types of collaborative poetry involving two or more poets. Thanks to internet and social media, poets don’t have to be present at the same place to write a poem together. Epistolary poem-writing is a part of this category along with “in response to” poetry. Translations also fall within the category of collaborative poetry and so does the poetic response to a photograph or a painting. My purpose of writing this article is to share the silent but exciting wave of collaborative poetry sweeping the literary world in the present times and encourage more poets to try this particular form of writing that has proved to be extremely rewarding to me as a poet.

When I first started sharing my poems on Facebook, I didn’t have the faintest idea about collaborative poetry. A poet friend, D Russel Micnhimer whom I befriended on Facebook and who is well known for practicing form poetry suggested that we should try writing sedoka.

The Sedoka is an unrhymed poem made up of two three-line katauta with the following syllable counts: 5/7/7, 5/7/7. It can be a standalone poem but frequently written in the form of mondōka (問答歌 dialogue poem dialogue poem between two lovers.

Now, I live in India and Russel lives in Oregon, US and had a job that required traveling so it wasn’t possible for us to write at the same time. Moreover, I had not tried any Japanese poetry form other than haiku and therefore, I was both excited and apprehensive at the same time. Over several emails, one sedoka at a time, our first Mondoka emerged. Russel kept it interesting by constantly altering the standard 5/7/7, 5/7/7 pattern with each sedoka. I just followed his lead and the whole experience turned out to be so enjoyable that we decided to repeat it. Here are a few sedoka for your reference.

Her
Verses too fragile
For platitude of paper
Crave parchment of his broad chest
With kohl of her eyes
She spins yarns of solitude
Into pillow book of love

Him
Unraveling pages
Between old empty covers
Feels new dark ink drops
Painting fresh squeezed breath
On soft mounds of rising suns
By brush tip bidden

Her
They come in waves
Lay half forgotten by dawn
Dreams stuck in empty covers
Fodder for musing
Beads of rudraksh slip between
Fingers of her compulsion

Encouraged by the result we also tried Katuata, (片歌, side poem or half poem which dates back to 8th century Japan found in the Manyõshú (the oldest collection of Japanese poetry) and soon enough we had a couple of series. For instance, here are a few katauta-

You fondly burnish
Pieces of my existence
Nurture me to flowering

Polishing edges
Buffing your glistening joy
To shimmering reflections

Light of our loving
Unlock enchanting visions
Sweet symphony to twain souls

Focus of living
Shining key to ecstasy
Opens all chests of treasures

However, not all collaborative poetry we write is premeditated. For instance, I discovered several kinuginu tanka on Russel’s page one morning and was so charmed that I decided to find out more about it.

Kinuginu were the exchange waka that lovers exchanged in the morning when they met at the woman’s house. Murasaki Shikibu wrote 795 waka in her book The Tale of Genji representing them as waka written by the characters of her story.

Soon enough, I replied to his tanka post as a comment which was followed by another tanka by him and soon enough we had a series of kinuginu tanka.

But perhaps the most collaborative poems Russel and I have written which are now part of poetry collection, Lines Across Oceans, are those that fall in the category of “in response to” poems. One of us would post in poetry group we belonged to and the other would come up with another poem as a response. For instance- Russel posted this picture and poem and as a response, I wrote the second part.

Now you know
How I conjured you
From amongst
Tattered tomes
On the poetry shelves
Now you know
of another conjuring
unfolding in another dimension
when pen started bleeding
slivers of my liver
and drunk on desolation
I tied corners of my dupatta
in tight knots
invoked blessing of blue throated god
I did not believe in
by denying self of viaticum
rocked gently on my feet
chanting soundlessly
one hundred names of love

Then sometime we both approached the same topic from different perspectives. The poem may seem to contradict itself but actually the first stanza speaks for the dust and the second, for the drop.

I am dust
When drops
of your love
splash into me
we merge
and rise
as a crown
of new born mud
seeking the firing
of the sun

A forlorn drop
I turn into love
The moment
We embrace
Cease all seeking
Home at last

There are a few poems that we wrote together sitting thousands of miles apart. A facebook friend, Sakina Minhaj Shikari, who is an artist and photographer was visiting Sri Lanka and posting breathtaking pictures. As we clicked on those pictures and expressed our wish to visit the beaches someday, imagining started crystallizing into words and before we knew we had a poem. I arranged it into stanzas, doing away with repetitions and sent it to Russel the next day. He chiseled it and gave it final shape.

Though Russel and I have been collaborating for last couple of years and our writings have now been compiled into a collection titled Lines Across Ocean, we both keep collaborating with other poets and artists too. For instance, I collaborated with Denise Zygadlo for SpringFling, Scotland’s Premier Art and Craft Open Studio Event where I wrote a poem for her art. We also write renga with other poet friends in facebook poetry group, The Wordsmiths and each time it fills me with wonder and new enthusiasm.

Collaboration between two poets living miles apart may be rare but not entirely impossible. Another outcome of such collaboration is OM śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ, a poetry collection by Jen Walls and Dr. Ram Sharma. In fact, social media has made it easier to connect with like minded people and collaborate across time-zones and nationalities. It wouldn’t be off the mark if I say, no other time in the history of literature was as exciting as now for writing poetry or fiction and nonfiction.

It was by sheer chance that I discovered Whispers in The Wind, a poetry blog that invites and encourage collaborative poetry. One can always find interesting and thought provoking collaborative poem here http://whispersinthewind333.blogspot.in/

NALINI PRIYADARSHINI

© Nalini Priyadarshini 2016
All Rights Reserved

Ananku *

Femininity that goes unaccepted remains unforgiving
Vengeance of Kamakhya in month of Ashaad
Brahmaputra devoid of ichor
Corroding muliebrity till it shrivels into a vestigial flicker

Decades later, when lovers celebrate your womanhood
You fail to find beauty in yourself
No matter how long you gaze at mirror
reflecting your glistening nakedness
after vigor of copulation

Half hearted attempts to love what you could not accept
does nothing to assuage the annihilation
you fostered in the pit of your womb
Sown by the discontent of your mother at your birth
Reiterated into a receptacle of guilt
that outweighs rings of smoke you blow
by rolling joints of any self esteem accrued
Despite waging endless war with hirsutism

We don’t always get to choose our battles
Certainly not those that start with
a blade wedged against our necks
But end them we must, with shakta striding atop
Femininity that goes unaccepted remains unforgiving


  • Ananku- Female sexual power vested in menarche and mensuration mostly considered dangerous and something to be controlled. Kamakhya – The Bleeding Goddess: Kamakhya devi is famous as the bleeding goddess. The mythical womb and vagina of Shakti are supposedly installed in the ‘Garvagriha’ or sanctum of the temple. In the month of Ashaad (June), the goddess bleeds or menstruates. At this time, the Brahmaputra river near Kamakhya turns red. The temple then remains closed for 3 days and holy water is distributed among the devotees of Kamakhya devi. There is no scientific proof that the blood actually turns the river red. Some people say that the priests pour vermilion into the waters. But symbolically, menstruation is the symbol of a woman’s creativity and power to give birth. So, the deity and temple of Kamakhya celebrates this ‘shakti’ or power within every woman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nalini Priyadarshini, writers capital, litterateur online, online english poetryNalini Priyadarshni is a poet, writer, reviewer and professional editor whose work has appeared in several international anthologies and literary journals including eFiction India, The Open Road Review, Mad Swirl, Yellow Chair Review, Calliope Magazine, Dukool, Learning and Creativity, Duane Poetree, Poetry Breakfast, The Gambler, Camel Saloon, The Reveter Review, The Starving Artist, Love and Ensuing Madness, Verbal Art, Locution Magazine, The Significant Anthology,  and many more. Nalini has co authored a poetry collection  Lines Across Oceans with D Russel Micnhimer, which is available on amazon. Her solo poetry collection Doppelganger in my House is scheduled to be released in 2016.

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