To celebrate National Poetry Month, PWxyz has asked John Gallaher & G.C. Waldrep, a pair of poets who collaboratively wrote their new collection of poems, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, to reprise the method by which the book was written–a conversation conducted by email exchange–in order to create a series of blog posts on the art of poetry and their process of writing. They’ll offer one post per day between Monday and Thursday of this week. Here’s the last:
John Gallaher: Now that we’re no longer writing YFOTTOG, I have a recurring sense of loss. While we were exchanging poems (the average, I think, was that between us we wrote 2.5 poems a day) everything I was doing was to feed the poems. I felt like all my receptors were open. And now, I have only myself to wait for. There’s a loneliness to that. I wonder if others who have worked collaboratively feel this way.
Just a minute ago, I went looking for the title of a collaborative book I read years ago, to mention in this exchange. It was written by Olga Broumas and Jane Miller, and is titled Black Holes, Black Stockings. While looking for it, I came across a book with the subtitle “New Ideas for the Imaginative Quilter.” That’s just the sort of thing that would have gotten directly folded into the collaboration. I would know that what you’d send would relate to imaginative quilting. There would be a connection, as there’s always a connection. And then I’d just tune in. But now what do I do with this thing? This little scrap? I have to wait to think of something or for the voices to speak or something.
There’s a definite sense of loss in that. Just as I feel this sense of loss about the 290 or whatever poems we wrote that didn’t end up in the book. Where are they to go? Seattle or something? They don’t exist for me or you, they exist for each other. If we don’t do something with them together we won’t do something with them, right? Will they become mercenaries? Competitive quilters?
G.C. Waldrep: They will form their own support groups, certainly. I can see them sitting in little circles in church basements, late at night, saying “Hi, my name is ‘New Ideas for the Imaginative Quilter,’ and….”
JG: “… and I’ve wasted my life waiting,” yeah. Now we’re back to waiting, and one of the definition of poetry. So is that how it ends, then? They wait? Or we do? Either way, I would suggest collaboration, and others would as well, as I’m seeing more collaborations these days. It must be something in the water. Maybe that’s one of the things about long exposure to fluoridation the Keep America Committee tried to warn us about.
But at least when you collaborate, you don’t have to wait alone.