Collaborative poetry

Collaborative poetry

Collaborative or collective poetry is an alternative and creative technique for writing poetry by more than one person. The principal aim of collaborative poetry is to create poems with multiple collaborations from various authors. In a common example of collaborative poetry, there may be numerous authors working in conjunction with one another to try and form a unified voice that can still maintain their individual voices.


Historical evidence of collaborative poetry

Examples of collaborative poetry abound in Japanese poetry. Though the precise accounts and records of such events are either lost or missing, there is significant proofs that speak of poetry as a Japanese cultural phenomena. Japanese poetry, particularly in the development of waka, was greatly influenced by the popular rituals of aristocrats, whose devotion to poetry helped increase the value and worth of poetry.

In recent times

One of the most famous examples of collaborative poetry-writing in modern times was the poem collection Ralentir Travaux[1] by Surrealist French poets André Breton, Paul Éluard and René Char. The poems were written collaboratively over the course of five days in 1930. The Surrealists had invented the art of Collage and collective creative 'games' such as the Exquisite corpse, where a collection of words or images are collectively assembled.

In 1940's, American poet Charles Henri Ford invented what he called the "chain poem", where each poet writers a line and then forwards the poem to another person across the world by post. In his Process Note, Ford explained the method of the 'chain poem': "Thus, after the first line is written, the problem of each poet, in turn, is to provide a line which may both 'contradict' and carry forward the preceding line. The chain poet may attempt to include his unique style and make it intelligible to the poem as well; in which case the chain poem will have a logical and spontaneous growth."[2] In the 1970s, some feminist poets adopted the concept to discover their "collective feminine voice".

More recent experiments of collaborative poetry include the collaborative works of American poets Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, who have been writing poetry together for 15 years and have published three collaborative books: Exquisite Politics (1997), Oyl (2000) and Little Novels (2002).[3] Duhamel described this collaboration saying, "Something magical happens when we write - we find this third voice, someone who is neither Maureen nor I, and our ego sort of fades into the background. The poem matters, not either one of us."[4]

In 2007, the "first definitive collection" of American collaborative poetry was published under the title Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry.[5] Edited by Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton and David Trinidad, the anthology included 140 poems by more than 200 authors, culled from various magazines, out-of-print collections, and previously unpublished material.[6]

Another recent experiment is the "Poem Factory", a collective poetry-writing project by an Arabic-language web magazine called Asda' (or Asdaa, Arabic: أصداء).[7] The project uses MediaWiki (the same software used by Wikipedia) to collaboratively write modern poetry in Arabic, which is then published in the magazine under a Creative Commons license. The stated aim of the "factory" is to "liberate poetry from the disease of ownership and its pathological offsprings, such as fame obsession and copy rights, which have become characteristic of creative production." It also aims to "discover the collective inside us as poetic beings" and "to bypass the passivity of the reader towards an active contribution."[8] The first 'product' of Asdaa's Poem Factory was published on the magazine's website in January 2008. The poem, titled Shoes, was written by at least five people.[9]

Online blogging communities have recently added to the catalogue of collaborative poetry. One recent experiment,, features nine on-line poets drafting poetry and exposing the process of creating work on-line as a sort of performance art meets literature.

In education

Collaborative poetry-writing has been used at universities and schools as an activity for students to write poetry, with a social perspective that aims to encourage participants to discover ways in which they are connected. According to Maria Winfield, "collective poetry is an exercise designed to encourage students to work from a shared pattern in order to join their voices in a collective rhythm."[10]


See also

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