The following editors have been kind enough to offer insights about the review process for collaborative poetry submissions, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities associated with publishing collaborative poetry...
Tony Trigilio, author of Inside the Walls of My Own House: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) Book 2, among many other collections of poetry and criticism, and Editor-at-Large for The Columbia Poetry Review.
Christopher Kondrich, author of Contrapuntal, former editor at Denver Quarterly and current Senior Poetry Editor at Tupelo Quarterly.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty, editor of Jellyfish Highway Press and Prose Editor for New South.
KMD: How does the review process differ (if at all) for collaborative poems vs. single-author poems?
TT: The review process for collaborative poems is the same, for me, as it is for single-author poems. As an editor, I try to determine what the poem is attempting to do, and then I evaluate whether I think it does this well enough to include it in the magazine. I have to add, though, as a person who’s drawn to artistic collaborations, I get an extra thrill when a collaborative piece makes it into the magazine. As writers, we don’t undertake collaborative projects as much as artists in other fields do, and because of this, I try to do all I can to make collaborative work visible.
CK: It doesn’t change. When submissions arrive, either single-or-collaboratively authored, cover letters are shuffled to the very back of the batch. So, at Denver Quarterly, we never knew a poem’s authorial origins, and I really liked that process. I found it to be more intimate, in a way, to greet poems without mediation. At times, while reading, I could sense the presence of more than one voice. Sometimes that resulted in the discovery of collaborative work. Sometimes not. Through this process, where the voices, presences and authors of a poem only occasionally aligned, I came to see the division between collaborators as more and more porous. And, I think I can speak for my former Denver Quarterly editors, that collaborative work was something we found really compelling, as we did other kinds of hybrid work.
JLD: I’m not sure that the process changes at all. I’m meeting the work where it’s at and where it’s trying to be and investigate the work from there. I suppose one unique concern is in the blending of voices. Are they writers working together well, if the distinctions are noticeable? I also am especially excited with the submission of collaborative works and wish I’d see more of them.
KMD: Does your definition of collaboration encompass work by writers and visual artists, writers and composers, or collaborative teams working in emerging genres? Relatedly, can you speak about the decision to narrow your definition of collaboration, if applicable?
TT: It's all collaboration to me. I come from a background as a musician, writing music and playing professionally in bands when I was younger, and now doing the same as a serious hobby. In bands, you see the results palpably—and hear the results loudly—when you’ve negotiated and compromised and essentially collaged everyone’s strengths into the tapestry that is the song. For me, the same principle applies for collaborative writing or collaborations between writers and composers or writers and visual artists. I also see working with an editor as a collaborative act—the editor is another set of eyes and ears who can give you valuable feedback you can’t always get from the voices in your head. Even my own singular pieces of writing are “collaborative” if you consider that I pass along drafts of new poems to my closest poet-friends for their feedback. I can point to almost every poem of mine and show where it benefited from something added or subtracted by a friend in a critique group—and this, for me, makes the seemingly solitary process of compositing a single-author text a collaborative act.
CK: Absolutely. I think predetermining or pre-defining collaborative work as between like writers or artists has to be detrimental, in some way, to the kind of spirit, intention, practice, process and exploration of collaborative work that makes it so exciting. I also think collaborative work doesn’t necessarily need to be equal in the amount of contribution. One of my favorite poems, Peter Gizzi’s “Beginning with a Line by Simone Weil,” is collaborative, I think, even though it’s almost completely his language. Then there’s Lauren Haldeman’s video poems, a few of which were in an issue of Tupelo Quarterly last year. She wrote, illustrated, produced, composed and filmed each piece in a way that is self-collaborative. Gizzi and Haldeman have expanded my understanding of what collaborative art is, so I’m always interested in whatever new manifestation/variation on the collaborative comes my way from writers and artists across all genres and media.
JLD: I think the collaborative work is a malleable, shifting thing. As with what has been said, collaborations work on a variety of levels. In a novel-in-progress, I borrow a first line from Traci Brimhall’s Our Lady of the Ruins. This is collaboration, in a sense. I’m also finishing a book with Jill Talbot and our process is collaboration, but it’s also a call-and-response. We write sections separately and in response to each other. Sometimes, we’ve only decided on a focus or a theme and we work independently. But, when we start the response, there is always a collaborative blending. I am writing to Jill and there’s a way the styles sort of meet each other at a specific place.
KMD: From a publisher’s perspective, what are the advantages of publishing collaborative work?
TT: You’re communicating to the reader that this text was the product of an explicit dialogic exchange among artists. It puts the collaborative work in a different space—gives it a different textual/vocal/performative register for readers to respond to. When I read collaborative work, I hear it spoken or performed in my head in multiple voices, even if it is supposed to read on the page as a fictive single voice.