On his blog, Graveney Marsh, Laurie Duggan recently wrote a post titled author author - comments about Australian poets writing collaboratively. I was pleased to read the post and I'd like to respond with a few notes on my own experience of collaboration and in that way correct Laurie's information on the chapbook Correspondences (published 30 years ago).
I first began collaborating with other writers in the theatre, writing group-developed scripts for the Lean Sisters performances throughout 1977.
Water Show poster & photos from The Leans Lurch Left
and The Crunkboonk XmasShow, Lean Sisters, 1977
A year later, Correspondences, published by Tom Thompson's imprint, Red Press, (in 1978) wasn't a collaboration at all - it was a shared book. At the time Joanne Burns and I were both writing poems as letters to friends, lovers and, in my case, to punks and rock stars like Patti Smith. Tom published each set of poems back to back. A photographic centerfold by Micky Allan separated the sections. Micky and I screenprinted the book's title in various colours on the cover at the Tin Sheds Art Workshop.
Centerfold : Joanne Burns and Pam Brown with boys' toys - 31 years ago in 1977
My next actual collaboration was with the musician and composer Elizabeth Drake. These were short pieces of text accompanied by sound composition on audio tape, piano and saucepan lids. Under the title And That Is Very Interesting, (taken from Gertrude Stein), we performed them at Bondi Pavilion Theatre as part of Futur*Fall, a conference centering on, and visited by, French theorist Jean Baudrillard in 1984. We later performed the pieces again in the Writers' Tent at the Adelaide Festival for the Arts as part of a small series of performances called Miss The Opera House Lights in 1984.
After that, I collaborated with Amanda Stewart, (the sound poet who had performed with us at Futur*Fall), and Carol Christie and Jan McKemmish on compiling montaged texts for voices. We performed Professional Mourning By Generic Ghosts at the University of Technology Sydney, The Return Of The Dead I. Modes of Goo in 1986, at Writers In the Park, at the Harold Park Hotel in Glebe. (The title 'Modes of Goo' was appropriated from Meaghan Morris)
After Amanda and Carol moved back to their individual projects, Jan and I continued with the montage process and wrote As Much Trouble As Talking performed by the actors Eva Sitta and Katrina Foster, with sound by Elizabeth Drake, lighting by Lee-Ann Donnelly, directed by Helen Grace and with a collaboratively-designed set, in a season at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney in 1988 and later edited for national radio broadcast on the ABC's The Listening Room in 1989. Jan and I then spent three months as playwrights-in-residence at The Performance Space and developed two scripts Short Term Ideas and The Entire World Is Where It Is in 1989 (each performed as one-offs at The Performance Space).
Poster by Jan Mackay
I think I have sought "community", or, at least, a kind of like-minded "scene", throughout my writing life. In Adelaide in 1982 Sasha Soldatow and I formed the Bon Mot Gang in anticipation of a potential issue at the forthcoming Adelaide Festival Of The Arts. And, of course, there was an incident of censorship that gave the Bon Mot Gang a platform of protest in the Writers' Tent. Our protest and a report on the act of censorship made the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper the following morning.
In 2002, the Oahu, Hawai'i-based poet, publisher and academic, Susan Schultz and I compiled a long poem called Amnesiac Recoveries for our Department of Dislocated Memory for the web site International Corporation of Lost Structures. We sent each other poetic sequences via email and would build the poem as we continued. Our different writing styles are quite evident in that poem, but our similarities are in the political concern.
I think the book Let's Get Lost that Laurie mentions in his piece, is less a collaboration and more a correspondence. (emailed letters and poems sent from separate and distanced locations by myself, Ken Bolton (a long-time wonderful collaborator himself - with John Jenkins - see author author) and Laurie Duggan to each other over a period of six months in 2003). But my recent collaboration farout_library_software was a definite collaboration. The poems came together in series of lines, bit by bit, accumulating and continuing as a process via email over 18 months. A year after the poems were published by Susan Schultz's 'Tinfish Press' I finally met up with my Seattle-based, cyber-collaborator, Maged Zaher, in Washington DC in late October 2008.
Maged Zaher, Washington,DC October 25th '08
In poetic collaboration, just as in theatre or film making, you sometimes have to suspend your attachment to what you might have thought was one of your best ideas for the sake of the smooth concurrence of the task at hand.
And a note - thanks Laurie for representing my sonnet at the Reality Street book launch That was very generous.
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