Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Kate Schapira is the author of TOWN (Factory School, Heretical Texts, 2010) and several chapbooks from Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Flying Guillotine Press, Cy Gist Press, Rope-A-Dope Press and horse less press. She runs the Publicly Complex Reading Series in Providence, RI.
There is no such
thing as home. There’s
like home that
when Mrs. Lila
Corning was the head
of the Auxiliary
This town hosts a festival
It is an Autumn Leaf Festival
The Autumn Leaf Festival celebrates
the time of year when the town
to brochures and flutter
and catch and pulp in the ordinary
in some places
where the pavement is
the town leaves
room for ephemera.
from TOWN, Factory School Press
How did your collaboration begin?
KS: I was (and still am) working on a project that was (and still is) involving a lot of painful material and uneasy ethical approaches. I wanted to do something fun and something for which I was not entirely responsible, so I wrote to about 100 people and asked them to tell me something about an imaginary town -- if you have the book, the letter I sent is in the back. About 60 people sent me something by the deadline, and then I began to write the poems set in the town they had created for me.
What were the rules or parameters for the collaboration?
KS: Contributors had a deadline for getting their contributions in. They could tell me anything about the town -- past/present/future, large- or small-scale -- and I had to treat everything they told me as true. When some of their contributions turned out to contradict one another (not on purpose -- nobody saw anybody else's contribution until the book came out), I had to decide how I was going to deal with that, and those decisions produced some of the most interesting and fertile results and combinations in the book, I think.
Did any of the collaborators have additional input into the project after their initial suggestions for the town?
KS: It wasn't built into the structure of the project, and nobody asked about it. The one exception is that my husband James, who is a cartoonist, contributed artwork to the cover and helped to lay the cover out, as well as contributing to the town itself.
Have you collaborated before? How was this experience different than other collaborations?
KS: I have, but only recently. TOWN was different because there were a lot of people involved, but everything went through me; I proposed the structure of the project. I think I said on the KR blog that I had a lot of control at the beginning and the end, and contributors (en masse, although not exactly collectively, since they weren't talking with each other) had a lot of control in the middle.
My other collaborations have been much more "traditional", I think, in their relative evenhandedness -- two writers, both doing the same amount and the same kind of work to create and alter the text. Erika Howsare and I collaborated via email on a project called ROADBLOCK/SIGHTLINES (it's up, or soon will be, at www.culturalsociety.org), and we're now working together on a larger project on waste. In both of these, there's been a planning stage (how are we going to do this? what are the rules?); a generative, responsive back-and-forth stage -- more highly structured in ROADBLOCK/SIGHTLINES, looser in the waste project; a second planning stage (what's the next step?); and an altering/revising/manipulating stage. Kate Colby and I also have begun to collaborate on a project, kind of in the same way -- a basic area of focus and set of rules to generate material, then a back-and-forth responsive procedure -- but it's on hiatus right now.
I'm not sure how far this analogy will actually go, but I think the TOWN project might be more like electing someone to office -- as a voter, you don't know how anyone else voted (even when you know what happened, you don't know who it was that wanted it to happen, unless they tell you); you have a lot of control over what you do, and a bit of control (but not a lot) over what the elected official does; there's a very "out of my hands" / "I did my part" aspect to the way it's set up. I am the mayor of TOWN, I think, although I don't know if I'm the same mayor that shows up in the book. (I hope not.)
A collaboration like the ones with Erika and Kate is more like a partnership (in any sense of that word) -- two people engaging on an endeavor together, contributing what they have, each with their own feelings about what they want to happen, but with an appreciation for the other -- and the way that compromise, contradiction and reconciliation work in the latter setup is very different than in the former.
Did the collaboration have an effect on your poems outside of this project?
KS: I feel like it must have, but I don't know what effect, yet. I think it needs time to work its way through the compost.
Did anything happen during the collaborative process that surprised you?
KS: Well, to the extent that it IS complex and interesting, which I feel in some ways I'm not the best judge of, I was surprised when it began to get complex and interesting and started requiring me to acknowledge its complexities. The contradictions surprised me (although I don't know why) and made me realize and reevaluate how interconnected things in town were. Something that was cool when it happened was that sometimes the nexus of two or three contributions would require that a particular, previously-unthought-of thing be true about the town
How do you feel about the finished product? Would you collaborate again?
KS: Frankly, I feel awesome about it. I don't think it's a perfect project -- I can see the places where I was neglectful or shallow, the missed opportunities -- but I think it asks intriguing questions and is fun and beautiful to read. I'm guessing that the contributors who aren't excited about it just aren't bothering to write to me, but the people who have written or spoken to me about it have been excited and happy about the way it's turned out. Would I collaborate again? Sure -- I am already, with Erika (and with Kate if we pick it back up) -- but maybe not this exact way.
Questions for Kate's collaborators
Elisa Gabbert is the poetry editor of Absent and the author of Thanks for Sending the Engine (Kitchen Press) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). With Kathleen Rooney, she has co-authored several collaborative poetry collections, including Don't ever stay the same; keep changing (Spooky Girlfriend Press) and That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths). Recent poems can be found in Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Puerto del Sol, and Salt Hill.
Adam Veal will have received his MFA from Brown in May, 2010. Hopefully, he will have also gotten to spend some quality time in the sun this coming spring. It sort of feels like it's been raining in Rhode Island for two years straight, and having lived in San Diego, Davis, and San Francisco before moving to Providence, Adam is looking forward to having been outside a lot very soon, like, let's go do that right now!
Do you remember what information you gave Kate for the imaginary town?
EG: When the book came out, I didn't remember, so I went back through my email to find out. I had written: "This is a town where many claim with a hint of competitive pride that their old houses are haunted: by a sea captain or a teen suicide ..."
AV: "strange beasts drift through the town, grazing
the beasts can be seasonal
they cannot possibly be human"
Why did you choose those details?
EG: I grew up in El Paso, Texas, which is by no means huge, but it's a city, not a town. I was thinking of my boyfriend's hometown, Norwich, Connecticut, for this. Towns, more than cities, to my mind, tend to celebrate their own backwardness with a sort of anti-bragging: We have the shittiest roads, we lose power every time it rains, and so forth. The people of Norwich (at least those I've crossed paths with) love spreading this kind of negative lore.
AV: I just wanted the town to be located in the way of some weird migration pattern. We never moved when I was growing up. My parents are still in that house, in fact. So I have some romance for things that drift. Also, I had in my mind the image of giant insect cow-things. Small things that drift are great, but when big, weird things drift it's something else. So at the time, I was sort of daydreaming about big wild romantic cow-bugs.
How do you feel about how TOWN turned out? Would you collaborate on another project?
EG: I think Kate's project here was/is pretty brilliant. I love how she applied crowd-sourcing to poetry.
I actually collaborate on a near-daily basis with a poet (and writer of many other genres) named Kathleen Rooney. We've been at it so long, we've created a sort of third voice. I imagine we'll keep collaborating for a long time, but I'd also be happy to be involved in another multi-vocal project like TOWN. Of course, Kate did 99% of the real work here. :)
AV: I like it. I was wondering how Kate was going to string together everybody's contributions. The different permutations of the narrative lyric turned out well. I especially like the use of page headings and the sections, From the Dreamwall. It reminds me a little of Stacy Doris' Cheerleader's Guide to the World: Council Book, which is fantastic. I have not collaborated that much, and I don't think I contributed as much as others did to Town. I am curious to see how multiple readings will change the feel of the book, in sort of varying levels of familiarity. There is a feeling, knowing other people were involved in contributing to the book, of reading it and looking for sections that seem to come from different people. Reading it, I have the feeling of being very curious about who contributed what. But, one thing that's really interesting are the transitions the book makes in and out of different voices. It's interesting to see how Kate relates this notion of mediation to notions of private and public property. All in all, I am very happy to have drifted through Town a bit.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Martin Rock is Editor in Chief of Washington Square Review and co-curator of Cornelia St. Graduate Poetry reading series in Manhattan. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Diagram, Tuesday; an Art Project, Mississippi Review Online, NANOFiction, No, Dear, and others. He translates poetry from the Japanese and is the St. Mary's Master Fellow in New York University's MFA program. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phillip is a graduate of the creative writing program at Florida State class of '05. His chapbook collaboration with Martin Rock, Fish, You Bird from Pilot Books is due to be released this spring. Publications include Washington Square Review ( Spring / Fall '09 ), Gulf Coast Review ( Fall '07 ), & guest co-editor with David Chester of Mississippi Review online ( Fall '04 ). He currently lives in Bryan, Texas where he is a cook, concert promoter, & musical instrument salesman.
from Fish, You Bird
Wind holds up his hands:
in his palms, albatrosses
like small pocketknives.
Flight is a winged tree ( feathers
its leaves ) bending in the wind.
* * *
To be born again;
blind, without these hellish limbs
Flying too close to the sun--
a school of Spanish Mackerel.
* * *
All fish are derived
from Icarus, that swallow
who swam in the sea.
It is commanded: swallow
the bird, you fish; fish, you bird.
* * *
Matters of the flesh:
your dusty hand reaching through
poems, touching birds.
Right Here, two Japanese girls
crying. Smoothing Death's feathers.
from the chapbook Fish, You Bird, forthcoming from Pilot Books
Collection of more recent tanka from the series
Hear me woman: I'm
just a man waist deep in your
I threw all my coins into
your well. You had wished for change.
I wished then for Death;
to be born again a fish
in her dark waters.
Last night I was a man. Now
I am nothing but a man.
I am a vessel
taking part of her away.
Such is memory.
I am now a fisherman.
I cast my lines into her.
Blood also travels
in vessels. Corpuscles are
typecast, know their lines.
When she opens herself up,
schools of tiny fish spill out.
drink her in. Fish live in me
again. Now, I am full.
If my sinking boat contains
no sharks, should I not fear them?
No boats are sinking
in this ocean made of sharks.
The island bodies
pass through each other like ships;
I never kissed her.
I yawned into her mouth. I
shared my exhaustion.
My roots are the tiniest
feet. They have nowhere to go.
There is more of us
recently. Why not focus
on the leaping frogs?
Basho found enlightenment
in a splash, not the mirror.
Fushimi will break
his promise tomorrow, but
tonight he is ours.
The Emperor stands naked--
his clothes a pond rippling.
Tonight the long hours
pile on top of each other
like dead trees. We climb.
Inside the bark our lungs fill--
The emperor, too, is ash.
How did your collaboration begin?
MR: I was on the phone with Phil, and actually I remember exactly where I was in this park outside of Tokorozawa I used to stop at on my way home from work. I'd go there to watch the ducks and the old men who fed them, and to read until I lost the light. Phil was still recovering from being attacked, and he'd been having a bit of trouble writing. I was reading a lot from the Japanese canon: Basho, Issa, Buson, and Ryokan, and I had just come across the traditional "renga" form of linked verse. I remember reading that Basho and his disciples used to write these chains of poems, that he'd write the beginning, set it on a leaf and send it downriver where the next person picked it up and continued. I can honestly still see the trees I was standing between and the late afternoon light on the lake the day Phil and I decided to start this project. It's really the only thing that hasn't changed about my life in the last 5 or 6 years.
PI: I was still recovering from my head trauma. On February 13, 2005, I got assaulted with a hammer while I was working at a video store & spent the next few months recovering & trying to get my chops back. When Martin pitched the renga to me, it seemed like a great idea. Shorter poems would enable me to write without exhausting my still healing brain, & it would give me a way to have a creative conversation with one of my best friends & favorite poets. I had always written shorter poems for the most part, so the transition was pretty easy.
What were the rules or parameters for the collaboration?
MR: We haven't adhered strictly to the traditional renga form (mostly because there are too many rules to keep track of) but we did determine early on some parameters, and we haven't broken any of them. We decided to stick to a strict 5-7-5, 7-7 syllable count, and this has definitely forced us to consider each word; its sounds, implications, and of course one of the most important elements of the liked verse is that the poems are related, but that each one consistently introduces a new element to the poem. Basho called it "atarashimi" or newness, and I hope we've captured a bit of that in the series. I feel that fragmentation, which has become a pervasive element in contemporary American poetry,has been around for centuries in linked Japanese verse.
PI: When I told Martin that I was definitely on board with this, he said "Okay then, you start it". It caught me off guard a bit since I hadn't worked with the form much, but also I was starting something that was greater than anything I had written before. Quite a lot to put on one's shoulders, but a worthy goal nonetheless.
How did you collaboratively edit?
MR: I think that for the most part the editing was done before we sent the poems to each other. Sometimes there would be a couple months between the receiving of a poem and the sending of the response. Part of that was just life getting in the way, but the whole time there was this tanka rolling about in the back of our minds. At least, I feel that this has been the case for me, and I know the level of consideration Phil gives to each of his poems. These poems are so short that one of the greatest gifts of this process has been carrying around a poem in my mind, and watching a response take shape before I put it down. Otherwise, we've given each other comments on revising a poem here and there, but for the most part the editing process has not been collaborative.
PI: It's sort of an ongoing process too. Every now & then, we'll see something in our older poems & point it out, but it's minor stuff for the most part, too many or too little syllables, little things like that. When I write mine, I usually do it late at night, then go to sleep & look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. If it meets or surpasses my expectations, I send it to Martin.
What did you learn from your fellow collaborator?
MR: I don't know how I can even answer this. Phil was in my first poetry class with Ginny Grimsley, and then also with David Kirby, both of whom were phenomenal teachers and mentors. I've been learning from Phil's poems since I discovered that not all poetry had to rhyme. He's one of the most naturally gifted poets I know.
PI: Actually, I wasn't in your class with Ginny. I met you & Traci in Kirby's workshop at FSU. Martin's work has always challenged me, which is why we became such good friends & started this renga. He has never been afraid to write what he wants. I've always wanted to write like him, to have the ideas that come into fruition on his pages. I constantly learn more about how I want to write by reading his work & working with him.
What did you learn about yourself as a poet?
MR: You're really not pulling any punches here Traci. Is the next question going to be a biopsy?
I guess the most important thing has been the recognition of how lucky I am to have good friends like Phil to work with. I've learned that I will continue to write on my own, even living away from a community of poets, without contact to those I love, to those whose words I love. But man am I grateful to have a friend willing to work on an extended project like this with me. I've also learned a bit through the process of working on this book with Pilot. At one point Betsy said, "I can tell one of you guys really likes to be clever." Where it works, the cleverness is all Phil. Where it doesn't, its probably me. I'm trying to be less clever, but I'm still convinced that the pun is one of the highest forms of humor.
PI: I think the next question is rhetorical.
I've always been a fan of word economy, which is part of the reason I'm not really a fiction person. Not sure if it's ADD or what. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, why not paint a picture with fewer? Our work is constantly evolving, & we can see it in the full series. Moods change, ideas move past one another like slow trains. Every tanka I receive excites me to no end. Martin is my brother. When words came together to form a sentence, we were born.
Did the collaboration affect your own work?
MR: I guess the snarky answer is that everything I have done in the past 5 years has affected my work. I feel that this project has been so integrated into my life that there is no way to separate the two. I can go back and read these poems and know exactly the state of my mind when each one was written, and in that way this project has become a kind of diary of emotional and existential states of consciousness, as they relate to Phil and his world and to me and my world. In a lot of ways this was my only tie to America for a while. That being said, some of the ideas that Phil and I have discussed about the possible uses for poetry throughout the process; where poetry is capable of taking us, and in what ways poetry can serve as affirmation, or even as an agent for metamorphosis... these things have I hope come through in my own poems as well as in this project. I also write more about birds now, and fish.
PI: I know, it's odd. I can go back & read some of mine & remember when a woman had broken my heart, when there were deaths & births. In some sense, maybe this was a way for us to document our lives, our equivalent of a blog, except for a while it was just us reading it. It's hard to get out of the tanka mode sometimes. I've been writing short poems for so long, & I love it. But lately I've been trying to push myself to write poems that I had avoided before, poems longer than a page, narratives. The problem is that I only know how to get to the point. I keep waiting for the last 31 syllables where the volta turns the poem on its side to reveal deeper meaning. Ever since the head trauma, I've been a bit disjointed, but I've made it work to my advantage. Tanka has been great for that. But I'm my harshest critic, a perfectionist to the nth degree. Maybe one of these days I'll learn to relax & let the poem write itself.
Did anything happen in the collaborative process that surprised you?
PI: I found it interesting that we would touch on certain subjects & came back to them. Themes of love & loss, birth & death, fire & water, birds & fish, all reappear in the manuscript. I don't know about Martin, but I always strived to one-up him. I'd write my best, & I'd get one back that was even better. Aside from the surprise of receiving a new poem, perhaps the only thing that really surprised me was the notice from Pilot. Martin sent in the manuscript, & I had pretty much forgotten about it until the morning he called to give me the news. We won the contest to kick off their new series, "Meddlin' Kids".
MR: Yeah, definitely one of the big surprises was that our manuscript was chosen by Betsy out of the pile. Thank you again Bets.
I was also surprised at the extent to which the world of poems and the physical world can interact. One poem in particular
really made me consider the power of poetry. I was at school, checking my e-mail at the principal's computer and opened up Phil's tanka, which contained the phrase "Dead Bird" capitalized like that. Immediately after I finished reading it, two Japanese schoolchildren walked up to the desk holding a dead parakeet in their hands, crying. It must be true what they say about poetry and sorcery being linked. Occasionally, to say the least, life and art mimic each other.
How do you feel about the finished product?
MR: What finished product? We're going to be writing this thing til the end of the world.
I feel really positive about the book we've got coming out with Pilot. Betsy and Meghan have been incredible throughout the whole process, and every book of theirs I've seen has been breathtaking. What they brought to the table throughout has been invaluable, from choosing groups of poems to their incredible tastes to their dedication to bookmaking as an artform. I can't express how grateful I am to them for inviting us to be a part of the Pilot family.
Maybe someday the complete renga will exist between two covers as well.
PI: Working with Pilot has been great. They are very gracious & intelligent artisans & I can't wait to have a copy in my hands signed by Martin Rock. As for the renga, I think we'll keep writing this until we write a poem that can't be topped. Then we'll write that poem & keep going. We've talked about stopping at 100, but what would we do with ourselves after that?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Maureen Seaton's recent publications include her sixth solo poetry collection, Cave of the Yellow Volkswagen (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009), and a memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press Living Out Series, 2008), winner of the Lambda Literary Award. Her previous collections include Venus Examines Her Breast (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004), winner of the Publishing Triangle's Audre Lorde Award, and Furious Cooking (University of Iowa Press, 1996), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award. She is co-author of the chapbook, Facial Geometry (NeO Pepper Press, 2006), with Neil de la Flor and Kristine Snodgrass; and co-editor, with Denise Duhamel and David Trinidad, of Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry (Soft Skull Press, 2007). Her work with Neil de la Flor has appeared in Court Green, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Coconut, H_NGM_N, and other journals both on and off line. Their first collection, Sinéad O’Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, won the Sentence Book Award (Firewheel Editions, 2011). The recipient of an NEA fellowship in poetry and the Pushcart, Seaton teaches poetry, literary collage, and collaboration at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
Neil de la Flor's publications include Almost Dorothy (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010), winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, Facial Geometry (NeoPepper Press, 2006), co-authored with Maureen Seaton and Kristine Snodgrass, and Sinead O'Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds (Firewheel Editions, forthcoming 2011), co-authored with Maureen Seaton and winner of the Sentence Book Award. His work, both solo and collaborative, has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Barrow Street, Pank, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Court Green, among other journals. He can be reached at www.neildelaflor.com
The Coriolis Force
L = mvr = mΩr2—Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis
The water in a toilet rotates one way as it drains in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern hemisphere. This is urban legend. Still:
t = Fcoriolisr = dL/dt = d(mWr2)/dt = 2mWr (dr/dt) (2)
Last night the little boy was shadowed by satellite. It tracked his movement west across the park wild with fallen trees and ganders. The night movements of the little boy proceeded with utmost rapidity. The tracking was anonymous.
The Coriolis Force is therefore the sidewise force that has to be exerted by the carousel rider to cause the ball to move outward at radial speed v=dr/dt which, upon solving (2), is
friction: sometimes friction is a form of calligraphy.
Hydraulics: Is it the boy walking down the street dragging his Winnie the Pooh? Should Pooh be dragged with such carelessness? If Pooh had hydraulics would he hold hands with the little boy? Or drag him along as he is dragged?
I say the Coriolis is wet, a moist rendition of a sucker punch.
Once, when I was five, my mother’s microwave exploded.
Thus, the air flowing around hurricane Frances spins counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere (as does the Earth, itself).
Here is the effect of the wind: Hector in the living room vacuuming: see how dust particles travel around the room to the right, smacking the Le Cage chairs with their animal skin seats on their right legs until they cry out: We are dying from the act of waiting! We travel gravity and keep the stars at our shoulders. When the wind blows it begs us: Believe in wind. And we do. We know that as soon as the earth stops spinning there will be nothing else.
The wind the wind the little boy the wind he is he is the wind and his wind is blonde.
There is a ranter outside banging the gate: Nothing else but wind, wind spinning, wind singing, wind I am win winning whining wind wet-wet wind where is my carousel? Blistering wind a pop-eye kind of devil duster, move that car, shove that house over an inch, stoke that tree, blow that blow-hole, matey. If I speed up, shimmy across Ft. Pierce, I’ll run into ranch houses. If I skip north, I’ll hit St. Augustine with her/his old walls and forgotten graves. If the palm trees fall it will be by my hand. I will send them to their death, the sucking up of the roof will be me too. I will snort out the nostrils, hail, and slam into windows, fire escapes, parked cars. If the wind isn’t enough, I have secrets.
Here is the bird report:
Frigate bird takes to the wind and moves with no effort around to the right. Meteorologist Don Noe says, stay indoors. But the doors are bolted open and the wind and the rain and the leaves are blowing in and we can’t stay indoors so we say: water, tomato, basil, Vaseline, duck tape!
Everybody who isn’t cleaning the house (everybody but Hector), all the rest of us, is either:
a) sleeping in a closet
b) chewing on a disgusting little stuffed sheep frog
c) back to the glass
d) facing the glass
e) covered with glass
Nothing, we say, is holding our skin together.
Who can tell me what is happening to the home I left behind?
It was Saturday. Seagulls sculpted the wind.
It was a sailboat that rescued the lost family member. The wind carried her to the east and lifted her to the highest bunk of the bunk bed.
I left my electron(ic)s in the refrigerator so Frances couldn’t eat them. I walked a little brazenly and self-consciously on the beach the first night of evacuation. There were several other delinquents with beers. A boogie-boarder and you know those rip tides don’t care he’s crazy, they’ll take him sideways—that angle of the Coriolis—that asswhipped Man-O-War dead zone—and I walked past the band shell where I’d danced to the faux Beatles just
last week when Frances was simply the name of my dead grandmother.
What is it with Hector? The way he folds clothes or mops wood floors? Often, I wonder, where
do Hectors come from? Blonde bombshells or storm shelters?
The plural of Hector: Hectices.
But never in the wind did the Hectices become as inspired to clean constantly as this one Hector. He was brought up to clean/sheen/dream. In this cave of new glass. In this lovely queenosphere.
Prove it! Says the little blond(e) boy growing up in the transliminal space before the hurricane:
L = mvr = mΩr2
Q: What does it feel like to be locked in a Category 4? Does Frances shorten to Frankie for a girl? If your brother was named Frankie when he was little and every time you think of him, of Frankie, you think “Frankie” even though he’s fifty-five, will his roof hold in this hurricane Frances—the name of your grandmother, grandfather, father, and brother (see alternate spellings)?
I called the builder and he says we’re guaranteed to 160 mph. (Hector says.)
The correct name of Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis? Sallie!
Neil de la Flor & Maureen Seaton, September, 2004
Originally published in Indiana Review
How did your collaboration begin?
MS: It began in Miami in 2004 during Hurricane Frances as we and our significant others, Nico and Malcolm, watched the storm on TV and out the windows. We decided not to evacuate and we were “hunkered down,” as they say. Frances took three days to pass over and we got crushes on meteorologists Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams and decided to write a poem. All the stuff we saw on TV got incorporated into “The Coriolis Force,” our first collab. We wrote for a day, then collaged the piece for the next two days. Frances was my first Florida hurricane and I couldn’t believe we had electricity the whole time. I thought: “Hurricanes are fun!” I was an idiot.
See “Fleeing Hurricane Frances”
ND: It all began one August during hurricane __________. (See above.) Maureen escaped Hollywood Beach to stay with Hector, Nico and I at my house in Miami so that she wouldn't get swept away by the tidal surge when said hurricane struck. We found out after the storm passed that my house is located in an evacuation zone too, so we weren't really safe, but we had fun. The storm moved so slow we got bored, so we started to write. Hector is insane and vacuumed the house while we wrote. It's a nervous tick, but he landed in our first poem. I think I wanted to kill him. But don't tell him, I owe everything to him.
What were the rules or parameters for the collaboration?
MS: The rules for “The Coriolis Force” and pretty much all our collabs since have been fairly non-existent. Rule #1: Flexibility. We make parameters up as we go along (like “let’s do questions and answers on index cards” or “let’s write paragraphs on our computers” or “let’s write at the Bay” or “let’s write from those photos of Wynwood”), and we change them every time we collaborate. We like to surprise ourselves. Rule #2: Surprise ourselves. We know we’ll probably write some crap in with the good stuff. Rule #3: Don’t worry about the crap. And we make sure we have food around. Rule #4: “Make sure there’s food nearby.” And Rule #5: “Try to drag Kristine into the collaboration whenever we can.” (Kristine Snodgrass joins us sometimes and then we write as a triad. I think K. would agree that she is the queer one of the group.)
ND: Guacamole. Silliness. Sincerity. Pen/Pencil. Paper. Laptop. Sense of humor. Tiara. Max Mayfield. Weather Channel. Yes, K is so queer I have to wear sunglasses and red pumps. It's a drag, man. (It should be obvious by now I'm the idiot.)
How did you collaboratively edit?
MS: “The Coriolis Force” was edited (collaged and revised) while Frances howled and we hunkered. Since then, without the luxury of a hurricane to provide the time, we send pieces back and forth on e-mail after we’ve written them. Sometimes we wait a day to look critically at a piece, sometimes months. I’m a major tinkerer (that sounds cute, so that’s what I call it when I rip a poem’s guts out or cut all of its fingers off). Fortunately, Neil likes it when I do this. Go figure.
ND: I have anxiety editing collaborative work. However, if I don't like something (which is rarely ever), I'll say so. Or, I'll secretly delete it from the file or spill guacamole on the line I don't like. Note: this has never actually happened, but I reserve the right to make it happen.
What have you learned from your fellow collaborator?
MS: I’ve mostly learned that a Pisces man is NOT a ship passing in the dark after all, but a real human being with blood and a Pomeranian. That has been an evaluable lesson. Plus, before I began to collaborate with Neil, I was sure I would die in South Florida as so many others before me, and now, with his help, I don’t care.
ND: This is a total slice of cheese but I've learned to become a better human, a better teacher, a better lover. Well, not really, but I've learned to read minds. Honest. It's something you pick up when you have a great connection. I feel like I’m a better writer when I collaborate because I feel like I have a foundation to build from. When you're all alone, sometimes the world is a scary place, especially for a writer. What does 'evaluable' mean?
MS: It means I love you, Neil—on line.
What have you learned about yourself as a poet?
MS: I’ve learned that poets, like flowers, are not solitary or monogamous. And I’ve learned that when I have fun I am usually a Gerber daisy, which is attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds, but resistant to deer.
ND: That I'm really a pirate. I like to steal.
Does collaboration affect your own work?
MS: I have tried to collaborate with myself on many occasions over the years but find that the joy of “other” pulls me. Therefore, when I am alone as a writer now, I hear a poem, write it down quickly, and resume my day as a surfer.
Fort Pierce Florida Surfing The Day Before Thanksgiving
ND: I don't know. I can't quantify the impact. However, I don't think it's negligible. It has helped me develop multiple writing personalities, voices, even heteronyms, which doesn't mean I'm opposed to homonyms. (If someone can define a homonym for me, I'd be happy.) This is probably the biggest gift, besides the guacamole. Again.
How do you feel about the finished product?
ND (as AD): Pretty too. Sometimes selfish. Always proud. I feel like our collaborations are little universes, the only children I'll ever have, or want to own.
Neil de la Flor & Maureen Seaton, March, 2010