One of the reasons I write speculative poetry is to escape the everyday world. Sure, there are plenty of things to write about in this world, but I’d rather write about other worlds with methane seas and chlorine atmospheres. Instead of reaching for metaphors about the apple tree in my backyard, I’d prefer to reach a blind hand into a bronze cauldron churning with cloying horrors. And why ruminate on what’s in my neighbor’s head when I can peer inside the mind of a wizard who controls kings with a lantern made of jade?
Anything is possible in these worlds. Including collaboration.
Collaboration, for me, is having someone to make your own words read better. It’s having someone to say, “Hey, that’s pretty cool, but what if—?” It’s the liberty to tinker with someone else’s thoughts, the chance to use that opening stanza you wrote three months ago yet haven’t figured out what comes next. And, if nothing else, it is an opportunity to learn more about the writing process.
I’ve collaborated with several poets, and I’ve learned something while working with each one. It’s not easy to identify exactly what that “something” is, but I know that I write better poems today because I shared in the process of writing with others. And I recommend that all poets, regardless of skill, try collaborating on a minimum of three poems. (Few of us get it right the first time.)
The following poem is written with Rick Yennik.. It’s the first success of our many collaborations (we’ve written a few short stories together too). I learned from it, and I’m sure he did too.
by Kurt MacPhearson and Rick Yennik
we went there
with preconceived notions
cargo holds bulging
fill in the blanks
and supply what’s demanded
breaking the rules
building the conflict
entertainment in red
of feel-good features
shipped in our actions
to those faraway worlds
Originally appeared in The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Autumn 2005