A note from guest editor Jessy Randall

Collaborating seems in some ways to go against the whole idea of making art. You’re supposed to be totally in charge of your poem, right? It’s your baby – nobody can mess with it. So the work has to be solitary, doesn’t it?

But on the other hand, collaboration can be as natural as breathing. Witness, for example, the bathtub-soap drawing on Snakeskin’s cover page by Celia and Mena, both age three at the time. They didn’t discuss the project in advance, nor comment during the collaboration, nor did they, particularly, note what they had achieved. They were in a state of absolute artist-hood, drawing just to see what they could draw. What they made together looks a bit different than what they would have made separately. Better? Worse? I don’t know, but certainly they enjoyed doing it.

To put together this issue, I had to come up with a working definition of collaboration. I decided that the kind of collaboration that goes on in a workshop – a committee working together to improve a poem originally composed by one poet – didn’t count. And the collaboration between poet and editor seemed too mundane. I waffled on the idea of companion poems – one poem written in response to another – and decided to include one example of this kind of collaboration (The Marriage of Words).

Most of the poems in the issue were composed by poets working together using email, instant messaging, or the like – so, this kind of collaboration perhaps could not have existed twenty years ago. (Imagine trying to do it by snail mail! You’d use a lot of postage and probably take a year to write just one poem.) We also have poets using each other’s work as source material (Triolet, Last Motherhood). Some of the poets are close friends, even husband and wife – others have never met face-to-face.

I hope you enjoy the issue, and that it inspires you to try some collaborating of your own. If nothing else, collaboration is a good spur – you have to do your part, or you’ll get in trouble with people.

Jessy Randall

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