On Collaboration in Poetry, pt. 1

In a few short weeks, Joshua Young and I will be releasing The Diegesis through Gold Wake Press on February 15.

The collection marks my first full-length release of any kind. Well, at least with my name on it. The life of a professional copy writer means that you get to make a lot of things that you’re not necessarily credited for.

And that’s fine. In all honesty, I’d like to reserve my name for the things that mean the most to me anyway. In the case of The Diegesis, I have the honor of sharing a byline with someone who is far more creatively driven than myself, and the fact that this collection even exists is a testament to his ability to inspire creativity in others.

I say this because, I can assure you, without this guy around to kick my ass into action I still wouldn’t have my name on a book. Here’s to collaboration, then. With our book just around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to explore the value of creative collaboration, and why it’s one of my favorite ways to work.

My history of collabos

I’ve always been a “creative type,” but I’ve also always lacked finishing power on my personal projects. Seriously you guys, you have no idea how many unseen, unread, unheard things I have here in my office. One of them has zombies. Lots of zombies.

But the fact remains, unless I’m getting paid as a writer or editor, I tend not to finish the things I start. My is a powerful motivator that way, and apparently I’m an unapologetic capitalist.

On the one hand, this could pay off for me down the road—I’m bound to wake up one day and find the willpower to push all those nearly-finished projects to completion in a blaze of prolific glory. But in the short term, it kinda stinks. All this work, and nothing to show for it.

The few creative endeavors I’ve actually been involved in that reached the public have always been collaborations. For instance, I’ve played in bands for half of my life now. My releases as a musician are purely bare bones affairs, but they’re out there for people to enjoy, in case they’re interested.

All told, collaboration is probably my favorite way to work, especially because it can take on many different forms.

Why collaborate?

A collaborator pushes you. And they tend to have the uncanny ability to push you right when you need it the most. Not uncoincidentally, those moments tend to come when you’re most likely to resist.

When Josh first got ahold of me asking if I was interested in joining forces with him on this poetry project, creative writing was the last thing on my mind. I was only about six months removed from finishing grad school, where the two of us had met through several poetry classes. When Josh got ahold of me, despite my close temporal proximity to the bygone creative writing days, my energies were almost entirely focused on much more pressing matters: paying the bills. Again, unabashed capitalist in action. Yay capitalism.

Collaborators don’t care about your timelines

Josh had an idea. He already had like ten poems related to that idea too. I was working sixty hours a week, splitting time between work as a line cook and building up a client base as a freelance editor. Poetry? Pssh. I’d get back to that one day.

Except for Josh, that “one day” was today. He didn’t care about my timeline—he barely cared about his own. Josh had decided that it was time for these poems to come out, and that I was going to help him do it.

We all know how easy it is to push things off until another day, especially when we’re just doing things for ourselves. It’s easy to push things off when someone else is waiting for you too, but not when they won’t leave you alone about it.

Was Josh’s persistence annoying, especially in the face of my professional reality at the time? You bet. Super annoying. But only because I knew he was right. I had committed to something, and whether I’d been a fool to do so or not, I owed my friend the same kind of dedication to the work that he was showing me.

In Pt. 2: Not enough time? That’s usually the best way to write!

Preorder the Diegesis by Chas Hoppe and Joshua Young at SPD BooksAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

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2 responses to “On Collaboration in Poetry, pt. 1

  1. Pingback: On Collaboration in Poetry, pt. 2: Hey Brother, Can You Spare Some Time? | ChoppyRocks

  2. Pingback: On Collaboration in Poetry, pt. 3: Ideas, Schmideas | ChoppyRocks

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