Ernest Slyman was kind enough to write:
> I know of numerous successful ventures. George Simmers collaborative at
> Snakeskin, for one. What 's the future for collaborative work? Should there
> be group written poems?
Thanks for the commendation, Ernest. By the way, the Maze of Mirrors, my
collaborative hypertext with K.M.Payne, is still online at the Snakeskin
I disagree with Gerald England when he says there aren't many examples
of collaborative work where the joins aren't obvious to the reader. I
don't know so many modern examples, but - without the footnotes, could
you tell where Wordsworth's contributions to The Ancient Mariner begin
and end? Collaboration was rife in C18th satirical poetry - and in a
particular favourite of mine, the poems of the Anti-Jacobin. Which lines
are Canning, which are Frere, and which come from their mates at the pub
or coffee-house or whatever.
Then there's Elizabethan drama. Not just that good old pantomime horse
Beaumont & Fletcher, but Shakespeare & Fletcher in Henry VIII and The
Two Noble Kinsmen. And aren't modern scholars suggesting that Macbeth is
a collaboration by Shakespeare & Middleton, with a few extra bits by
Davenant thrown in?
On a personal level -
I've found it quite easy (and most enjoyable) to work with Ken Payne,
because we share important poetic priorities and enthusiasms. We both
enjoy using strictly trad metrics, which helps give unity.
In the maze, it was fairly easy to parcel off sections, so that Ken
would work on the nodes in one direction, whilst I filled in a different
area. We've had a lot of feedback on the poem, and interestingly nobody
has mentioned being able to see where one poet stops and the next
Our first joint efforts (some are in the Snakeskin archive) were
inspired by finding we had a joint enjoyment of the James Fenton/John
Fuller collaborations, like Poem against Catholics, so we tried some
imitations. Since stanzas for these were self-contained, working
together wasn't too difficult. Gerald's very right, though, when he says
>Collaborative writers need to have a rapport
>with each other but also thick skins.
Much more troublesome, was a line by line sonnet. The experience of
this was a bit like playing postal chess, as we set tricky rhyme-traps
for each other. Or maybe postal ping-pong. The fourteen line object we
finished with was definitely lively, if decidedly naff. So then we
revised ruthlessly, till not one of those original fourteen lines
remained intact. The end result is not great, but it's a poem neither of
us would have written by ourselves. Payne and Simmers is a different
poet from either Simmers or Payne.
David Kennedy also asked about text-randomising software. I don't know
any commercial products that do this, but both Linda crespi and I have
produced our own versions of this kind of thing. Look in the Snakeskin
archive, and you'll find Linda's haiku-writing programs, and also her
program for translating four lines of catullus in a near-infinite
it by selecting View Code from the Netscape menu, or by saving the file
and looking at it in an HTML editor.
SNAKESKIN webzine is at