I asked some of my friends and periodic collaborators what to write about here, and one of them -- poet Dave Bonta -- suggested:
How about something focusing on the range of exciting collaborative projects going on these days, and how we really need to move beyond our obsessive focus on individual creators? Especially in the age of the remix.
Exciting collaborative projects: he's talking about things like the filmpoem festival, MovingPoems.com, nanopress poetry publishing, and surely other things about which I don't yet know. (But maybe y'all will tell me in comments.)
I can say this: I love the age of the remix. Remix, transformative work, videos which build on poetry, composers who borrow our lines for their music, poems inspired by other poems -- these are my idea of a good time. I've been talking with the publisher of my next collection about putting the manuscript online with the intent of making it easy for other writers and artists to find the poems -- not only so that the poems can be blogged, Facebooked, tweeted (though I hope that they will be), but also to explicitly welcome remix and transformative work. Of course I want to sell copies of the book; who wouldn't? I want to reward my publishers for spending the coin of their time on my work. But I also want the poems to be out there in the world, as part of the communal conversation -- and I think that the more we put our poetry out there for remix and transformation, the more interwoven we and our readers/co-creators become.
Also, I may be biased here, but I think multimedia amalgams of poetry, music and video, flash animations, etc. are becoming as important as poetry on the page, and even the latter is beginning to show the influence of digital media -- what does it mean for printed texts, for example, that their e-book counterparts have to flow and re-shape to fit a variety of screens?
Nic Sebastian of Very Like a Whale has been a key figure in this new poetic / artistic collaboration world. Nic established the nanopress model for collaborative poetry publishing -- "alternative poetry publishing, with gravitas." Every nanopress is inevitably a collaborative creative process, because each requires the poet to identify a trusted partner / editor / publisher. The resulting collection is shaped by two artistic sensibilities, not just one. Some nanopress poetry takes multimedia form, too -- e.g. Nic's Dark and Like a Web, which is available as a printed collection, as a .mobi and .epub digital book, and as downloadable mp3s and/or a cd of recorded poetry.
I asked Nic for some thoughts on this, and received the following in reply:
There is so much that technology has brought to the poetry equation - not just by connecting people & poetry and poets & artists who weren't connected to each other before, but by changing both the face and the delivery of poetry itself. Poems locked up in hard-copy print editions only available for sale are struggling in new and more serious ways, while poems delivered in multiple creative ways online have new leases on life and are reaching an ever-widening audience.
You know my belief in the nanopress model - I firmly believe it's one of the ways poetry must go in order to more than just survive, but to flourish in our age. Online multimedia collaborations are another endlessly fascinating way of delivering poetry while adding new texture and adventure that makes experiencing a poem just that - a whole new experience.
For example, a favorite collaboration I was part of brought together three poets, a voice, a musician and a film-maker to create the videopoem triptych 'Propolis' - a layered multi-sensory experience that was much bigger than all of us, but for which all of us were necessary. There's so much more I could write on this subject, but I'll end by linking to this series of interviews "Ten Questions for Poets on Technology" which raised a whole series of interesting questions and some answers from more than a dozen contemporary web-active poets.
(Nic recently posted a videopoem which works with Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.)
This kind of cross-pollination is happening in the classroom, too. When I mentioned these ideas to Siona van Dijk, she responded with a set of links she'd seen on the MLA email list recently, created by Nancy Bogen for use in a classroom and shared freely for others to enjoy / reuse -- a different kind of videopoems, using slides: Hart Crane's Proem: To Brooklyn Bridge", Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless, Patient Spider". I don't know whether Bogen is aware of the videopoem phenomenon as it exists elsewhere, but her work is definitely on the same spectrum.
Of course there's also the Poetry Foundation's "Record-a-Poem" project, another lovely example of a sort of participatory or collaborative poetry. (No one has yet chosen to record any of my work, as far as I know, but I'd be chuffed if someone did.) And while on the collaborative poetry front, I'd be remiss not to mention Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel, who've been collaborating for years. (Don't miss this interview with the two of them which also features their Ten Commandments of Collaboration.)
One of the reasons I'd make a poor hipster is that I'm terrible at ironic distance. I am all enthusiasm, all the time. And I am ridiculously enthusiastic about the creative possibilities which are opened up when we respond to each others' work -- whether in the same genre (a poem responding to a poem) or a different genre (which is to say, an intersemiotic translation -- a video which adapts / translates a poem into a new form. Thanks, Shannon Farley, for reminding me of the term 'intersemiotic.')
I think something interesting happens when we see ourselves and our work as part of an interconnected matrix of creativity. Instead of "The Poet" on her pedestal and the adoring readers clustered at her feet (ha!), the new paradigm -- it's a bit web 2.0, or a bit fannish, honestly; everyone is a creator, not just a consumer -- gives us the possibility of one person making art, and another person responding in kind. How many of us are taking opportunity of how the internet facilitates collaboration, remix, cross-genre sparking of new creative possibilities across continents and time zones -- even between artists who may not know one another in person at all?
Here's one of my favorite multi-genre remix-type collaborations: Swoon's short film of Luisa Igloria's Mortal Ghazal:
I liked the poem before I saw the video, but the video -- both its images and its audio artifacts -- shape and inform how I read the poem now, and how I remember it.
What I want to know from y'all is: how are you feeling about this stuff? Are these seismic shifts, or are they just the latest manifestation of the perennial possibility of artistic collaboration? What cool multimedia / remix / transformativework things are happening that I don't know about and haven't mentioned? Do you share your work online freely for remix and transformation, or would rather keep your poems closer to your vest, as it were?