In/on conversation: Vincent Katz & Barry Schwabsky

In this illuminating excerpt from their pre- and intra-poetic conversation, Vincent and Barry consider which directions to take their dialogue-collab. They ruminate on themes and forms, giving fresh insights into the process, and begin to hint at how poems can evolve – for the writer/s and reader/s – even when you’re not looking.

On Apr 1, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I hope you are well. As you know by now, David Hawkins of Likestarlings asked me to do a collaborative project for their site, and I suggested that it be with you. I am very happy you too like the idea and agree to give it a try.

I thought we should have some plans, so here are my thoughts. Feel free to totally disagree, come up with a different approach, etc.

I thought it would be interesting to think of a project of five short poems (short meaning one to two pages). Each poem would have a different set of formal or informal restraints. For the first one, I thought, since we both move around a bit, it would be interesting to capture parallel senses of motion — not necessarily speed, though that could be part of it, but simply the changes from place to place. Since we both are highly indebted to the visual, I further thought that in this first poem colors and/or lights could be guiding structural forces. We could try a poem in four-line stanzas, with the first letter of each line being capitalized. The poem could be of eight stanzas total. Each stanza would have its own spatial character and tonality, but linguistically there would be some continuity from stanza to stanza.

I’ve written a first stanza to the first poem. If that plan for a poem appeals to you, let me know, and I’ll send it.

As to the forms for the other four poems, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

I am currently in Rio, which may explain my interest in investing a poem with changes of scenery, or it may be just that I´m reading James Schuyler´s new “uncollected” poems, Other Flowers.
All the best,
Vincent

On Apr 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Here’s a thought.

What I’ve been thinking about since I wrote that other email to you an hour ago (or however long it was) is that what counts as a constraint for one person might not count as a constraint for another. So what I suggest is this: You write a poem, any poem, for instance the one you talk about below (or another). Send it to me. I take three aspects of your poem, which may or may not have been constraints you imposed on yourself–and I impose those three aspects on myself as constraints in composing my poem, while everything else is at liberty. When I’m done, I send it to you. You take any three aspects of my poems, of which at least two were not among the features you used in your first poem, and use them as constraints on the poem you write. I do the same again with your second poem. And so on.

Or maybe it would be better if the rule were, at least one of which was not among the features used in the previous poem? Anyway, as you see, this system would generate both continuities and continual variation. What do you think?

On Apr 11, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

What you suggest makes me think about the unit of translation. I grew up understanding the standard method for a “collab,” as it was passed down in legend from how Berrigan and Padgett worked on Bean Spasms, etc., was one person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, then the next person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, etc. One could imagine collaborating by the line, the phrase, the word, even (extremely) the syllable or letter(!), then going in the other direction, by the stanza (or section), page, which brings us to your suggestion — collaboration by the poem, i.e. using the poem as the unit of collaboration. I would be up for trying it. It does seem the most removed of the possibilities. That is, we would not be interfering in each other’s writing, only responding to it. The parameter(s) you suggest would certainly provide limitation(s); I just wonder if we might miss some of the back and forth that often energizes collaborations — the energy that derails what one person was attempting, while leading to a completely unexpected outcome.

Having said all that, if that’s how you prefer to do it, let’s try it. Should we plan to write 4 or 6 poems and then see how it’s going? Should each poem have the same structure, say four four-line stanzas (or whatever — three two-line stanzas)? Or should the poems be in any form or lack of form the writer decides? I guess I feel if they were all in the same form, it would provide an interesting cohesion to the project. One of the appeals of collaborating by the poem in uniform format would be to see if we could submerge the individual personalities of the authors — unless of course we do not want to do that. I hope that by starting in the way you suggest, we might eventually feel encouraged to try other methods of collaboration.
Let me know your thoughts,
Vincent

On Apr 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought that what we were being asked to do was to individually write poems that responded to the other’s poems. Yes, I see that as a very different thing from collaboration — although presumably the sequence of the poems would then form a larger whole by both poets. But I would be very happy — perhaps even more so — to engage in a “proper” collaboration, which I understand similarly to how you outline it. Should we go back to David of likestarlings for clarification? Or just ignore that we are on assignment and do what we feel like doing and present him with the results?

On Apr 12, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I think we should definitely do what we feel like doing — and since it seems like we both feel like doing the same thing, let’s just start! So we will send each other lines back and forth until one of us thinks it’s finished.

Here’s a beginning. This relates to an idea expressed in an earlier email — of a poem about lights and colors (in transit):

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

On May 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry I’ve been out of touch. The meantime has been a bit of a saga, I can tell later. But here is what I’ve come up with for the moment — see what you think:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,
We ambled down a cloudy highway,
Under flocks of color learned
That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

On May 17, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,
We ambled down a cloudy highway,
Under flocks of color learned
That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

There is a city with no color in it
Just a long expanse of trees and hollows
When one has stayed in it, one knows
The paintings flow up to its edges

On May 18, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

We glimpsed a gray horizon
And glimmering molecules within it
All colors are all other colors
When bitten by the teeth of feeling

On May 25, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I am on the road at the moment, so a little slow to respond.
Attached is poem as it stands so far. Let me know if you think it’s finished.
If so, I’d like to start another one. Maybe you would want to set the format, if any.
All the best,
Vincent

On May 26, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought we were just getting started!
What do you think about seeing how far we can keep this going?

On May 26, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I like it! I will get back to you.

On May 27, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Excellent.

On June 29, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

It would be great if we could move toward finalizing “Finally” (if that’s what it’s title ends up being). Being very happy with how that poem is turning out, I am anxious to see what other poetic forms we can encompass. Not that it should have anything to do with our creative pace of working, but I know David Hawkins of Likestarlings is curious how things are progressing. What say you?
All the best,
Vincent

On Jul 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry for my slowness. I’m back in London now. I would like us to keep going, but if David wants to start posting the piece in progress I’m comfortable with that.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with four more lines but also intervened more than either of us has up until now, namely, I’ve slightly revised the last four lines you added, and also moved one of them into what would now be the new last last-so-far stanza, as you’ll see.

Obviously, if you don’t care for what I did please change it. I’m thinking that in a way we are now far enough into this that we can treat our structure–and each other’s words–more freely. See what you think. Now or later, we could also start to think of revising some of the earlier parts of the poem in light of what’s come since.

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

Thank you for the continuation! I find the changes interesting but need some time to let my responses come into focus (a day or two, hopefully).

The day, an accumulation of fears
Caresses in the past cannot be changed
An overage of yellow casts out eyes
Some sentences read like wine labels

Paintings welcome source and target
A girl flings out reddish laughter
I caught the accent of her hair
But make its document sallow music

In the above, I like your transposition of my line to your stanza/your line to my stanza. Still need to think about the changes in first two lines. I agree with you about, and am open to, our having freedom to change each other’s contributions. Everything is open to revision until it isn’t (or even later).

Regarding what we can release to Likestarlings, I thought it might be interesting to release our correspondence now, without the actual poem, until it is finished. Another thought: I kind of like the 6×4 format as a structure; it’s looking really solid suddenly. Maybe we should try another poem in this format? Or, if you would like to propose a new form (or absence of form), I would like to take a stab at that too (forgive my conventionally graphic metaphor, but I just saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and it’s haunting my imagination).
All the best,
Vincent

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

That’s funny, I just saw that film on Sunday (when everyone else was watching the world cup).

It’s interesting that you find the 6×4 satisfying. I was just thinking, after my last email to you, that I feels like it is about to come to a conclusion, but not quite there — that maybe the next stanza would decide that it is either finished, or else that it was coming to a pause that would enable it to launch into its next part that would allow it to go on much longer.

But maybe this is good, but it needs a somewhat different last line?

Or maybe it could end with one more line, by itself, line 25?

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I am up for more length, if you want to try to extend the poem (and think it can be extended). Let’s mull it over again. It’s interesting how time passing changes it. This time, when you sent your most recent version, the poem had changed quite a bit, even the parts that were not literally changed. That would be something interesting to consider, in our ancillary commentary.

I don’t normally like having additional (non-stanzaic) lines ending poems; they usually look a failure of form, but as I said earlier, I’m open.

What do you think about sharing our correspondence w/ Likestarlings?

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Would it be embarrassing to reveal that we do not wax philosophic?

On Jul 14, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

No! We do wax, I think, poetic!

On Jul 28, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I’m starting to come around to your thought that we could stop the poem there. As an ending it
seems a bit abrupt but maybe that’s good.

On the other hand, what if we were to decide to add one more stanza? I give two lines, you give two,
and basta?

In the meantime, I’ve made a few more very small changes–using the “track changes” function.
See what you think. I’m not wedded to any of them.

Also wondering, how do you feel about the title being the first word? And should there be a
period at the end?

On 29 Jul, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Let’s try to add a stanza, see where it goes. Thanks for the changes; I’m mulling them over.
I like “track changes” — let’s use that from now on.
I like the title also being the first word (but am open to other title possibilities).
I would tend not to put a period at the end of this poem, but am open to it, if you want to try.
The thing that most excites me, and I hope you agree, is that I feel there are more poems where
this one is coming from.

On 29 Jul, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I know what you mean. There is definitely more we could do from here on.
Let me try to write the next 2 lines, then you polish off.
.
..

Here’s what I came up with.
I was starting to feel like it needed some geographical specificity, so I made it a London poem. I thought that would be ok with you. It could still secretly be a NY poem, because the last line is, obviously, a twist on “They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.”

On Aug 2, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I guess my reaction is I would prefer to leave this poem free from specificity, as the poem started (in my mind, anyway) as a graph of both of our travels through various cities. This poem would take as its context “the city” but not any particular city, though undefining specifics could enter. What I did think, though, is that these two lines could form the germ for a possible “next” poem that could allow urban specifics. In fact, this next poem could be the opposite to the first in a sense (making it paradoxically identical): we could include defining details from many different cities, so the cumulative effect, though achieved by different means, would again be “the city.” What do you think?

 

[In this illuminating excerpt from their pre- and intra-poetic conversation, Vincent and Barry consider which directions to take their dialogue-collab. They ruminate on themes and forms, giving fresh insights into the process, and begin to hint at how poems can evolve – for the writer/s and reader/s – even when you’re not looking.]

On Apr 1, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I hope you are well. As you know by now, David Hawkins of Likestarlings asked me to do a collaborative project for their site, and I suggested that it be with you. I am very happy you too like the idea and agree to give it a try.

I thought we should have some plans, so here are my thoughts. Feel free to totally disagree, come up with a different approach, etc.

I thought it would be interesting to think of a project of five short poems (short meaning one to two pages). Each poem would have a different set of formal or informal restraints. For the first one, I thought, since we both move around a bit, it would be interesting to capture parallel senses of motion — not necessarily speed, though that could be part of it, but simply the changes from place to place. Since we both are highly indebted to the visual, I further thought that in this first poem colors and/or lights could be guiding structural forces. We could try a poem in four-line stanzas, with the first letter of each line being capitalized. The poem could be of eight stanzas total. Each stanza would have its own spatial character and tonality, but linguistically there would be some continuity from stanza to stanza.

I’ve written a first stanza to the first poem. If that plan for a poem appeals to you, let me know, and I’ll send it.

As to the forms for the other four poems, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

I am currently in Rio, which may explain my interest in investing a poem with changes of scenery, or it may be just that I´m reading James Schuyler´s new “uncollected” poems, Other Flowers.

All the best,

Vincent

On Apr 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Here’s a thought.

What I’ve been thinking about since I wrote that other email to you an hour ago (or however long it was) is that what counts as a constraint for one person might not count as a constraint for another. So what I suggest is this: You write a poem, any poem, for instance the one you talk about below (or another). Send it to me. I take three aspects of your poem, which may or may not have been constraints you imposed on yourself–and I impose those three aspects on myself as constraints in composing my poem, while everything else is at liberty. When I’m done, I send it to you. You take any three aspects of my poems, of which at least two were not among the features you used in your first poem, and use them as constraints on the poem you write. I do the same again with your second poem. And so on.

Or maybe it would be better if the rule were, at least one of which was not among the features used in the previous poem? Anyway, as you see, this system would generate both continuities and continual variation. What do you think?

On Apr 11, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

What you suggest makes me think about the unit of translation. I grew up understanding the standard method for a “collab,” as it was passed down in legend from how Berrigan and Padgett worked on Bean Spasms, etc., was one person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, then the next person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, etc. One could imagine collaborating by the line, the phrase, the word, even (extremely) the syllable or letter(!), then going in the other direction, by the stanza (or section), page, which brings us to your suggestion — collaboration by the poem, i.e. using the poem as the unit of collaboration. I would be up for trying it. It does seem the most removed of the possibilities. That is, we would not be interfering in each other’s writing, only responding to it. The parameter(s) you suggest would certainly provide limitation(s); I just wonder if we might miss some of the back and forth that often energizes collaborations — the energy that derails what one person was attempting, while leading to a completely unexpected outcome.

Having said all that, if that’s how you prefer to do it, let’s try it. Should we plan to write 4 or 6 poems and then see how it’s going? Should each poem have the same structure, say four four-line stanzas (or whatever — three two-line stanzas)? Or should the poems be in any form or lack of form the writer decides? I guess I feel if they were all in the same form, it would provide an interesting cohesion to the project. One of the appeals of collaborating by the poem in uniform format would be to see if we could submerge the individual personalities of the authors — unless of course we do not want to do that. I hope that by starting in the way you suggest, we might eventually feel encouraged to try other methods of collaboration.

Let me know your thoughts,

Vincent

On Apr 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought that what we were being asked to do was to individually write poems that responded to the other’s poems. Yes, I see that as a very different thing from collaboration — although presumably the sequence of the poems would then form a larger whole by both poets. But I would be very happy — perhaps even more so — to engage in a “proper” collaboration, which I understand similarly to how you outline it. Should we go back to David of likestarlings for clarification? Or just ignore that we are on assignment and do what we feel like doing and present him with the results?

On Apr 12, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I think we should definitely do what we feel like doing — and since it seems like we both feel like doing the same thing, let’s just start! So we will send each other lines back and forth until one of us thinks it’s finished.

Here’s a beginning. This relates to an idea expressed in an earlier email — of a poem about lights and colors (in transit):

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

On May 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry I’ve been out of touch. The meantime has been a bit of a saga, I can tell later. But here is what I’ve come up with for the moment — see what you think:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,
We ambled down a cloudy highway,
Under flocks of color learned
That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

On May 17, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in
The sky merited all the love it had received
During the day, all the walking
Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,
We ambled down a cloudy highway,
Under flocks of color learned
That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

There is a city with no color in it
Just a long expanse of trees and hollows
When one has stayed in it, one knows
The paintings flow up to its edges

On May 18, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

We glimpsed a gray horizon
And glimmering molecules within it
All colors are all other colors
When bitten by the teeth of feeling

On May 25, 2010, at 9:04 PM, Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I am on the road at the moment, so a little slow to respond.

Attached is poem as it stands so far. Let me know if you think it’s finished.

If so, I’d like to start another one. Maybe you would want to set the

format, if any.

All the best,

Vincent

On May 26, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought we were just getting started!

What do you think about seeing how far we can keep this going?

On May 26, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I like it!

I will get back to you.

On May 27, 2010, at 2:04 AM, Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Excellent.

On June 29, 2010, at 6:53 AM, Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

It would be great if we could move toward finalizing “Finally” (if that’s what it’s title ends up being). Being very happy with how that poem is turning out, I am anxious to see what other poetic forms we can encompass. Not that it should have anything to do with our creative pace of working, but I know David Hawkins of Likestarlings is curious how things are progressing. What say you?

All the best,

Vincent

On Jul 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry for my slowness. I’m back in London now.

I would like us to keep going, but if David wants to start posting the piece in progress I’m comfortable with that.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with four more lines but also intervened more than either of us has up until now, namely, I’ve slightly revised the last four lines you added, and also moved one of them into what would now be the new last last-so-far stanza, as you’ll see.

Obviously, if you don’t care for what I did please change it. I’m thinking that in a way we are now far enough into this that we can treat our structure–and each other’s words–more freely. See what you think. Now or later, we could also start to think of revising some of the earlier parts of the poem in light of what’s come since.

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

Thank you for the continuation! I find the changes interesting but need some time to let my responses come into focus (a day or two, hopefully).

The day, an accumulation of fears
Caresses in the past cannot be changed
An overage of yellow casts out eyes
Some sentences read like wine labels

Paintings welcome source and target
A girl flings out reddish laughter
I caught the accent of her hair
But make its document sallow music

In the above, I like your transposition of my line to your stanza/your line to my stanza. Still need to think about the changes in first two lines. I agree with you about, and am open to, our having freedom to change each other’s contributions. Everything is open to revision until it isn’t (or even later).

Regarding what we can release to Likestarlings, I thought it might be interesting to release our correspondence now, without the actual poem, until it is finished. Another thought: I kind of like the 6×4 format as a structure; it’s looking really solid suddenly. Maybe we should try another poem in this format? Or, if you would like to propose a new form (or absence of form), I would like to take a stab at that too (forgive my conventionally graphic metaphor, but I just saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and it’s haunting my imagination).

All the best,

Vincent

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

That’s funny, I just saw that film on Sunday (when everyone else was watching the world cup).

It’s interesting that you find the 6×4 satisfying. I was just thinking, after my last email to you, that I feels like it is about to come to a conclusion, but not quite there — that maybe the next stanza would decide that it is either finished, or else that it was coming to a pause that would enable it to launch into its next part that would allow it to go on much longer.

But maybe this is good, but it needs a somewhat different last line?

Or maybe it could end with one more line, by itself, line 25?

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I am up for more length, if you want to try to extend the poem (and think it can be extended). Let’s mull it over again. It’s interesting how time passing changes it. This time, when you sent your most recent version, the poem had changed quite a bit, even the parts that were not literally changed. That would be something interesting to consider, in our ancillary commentary.

I don’t normally like having additional (non-stanzaic) lines ending poems; they usually look a failure of form, but as I said earlier, I’m open.

What do you think about sharing our correspondence w/ Likestarlings?

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Would it be embarrassing to reveal that we do not wax philosophic?

On Jul 14, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

No! We do wax, I think, poetic!

On Jul 28, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I’m starting to come around to your thought that we could stop the poem there. As an ending it seems a bit abrupt but maybe that’s good.

On the other hand, what if we were to decide to add one more stanza? I give two lines, you give two, and basta?

In the meantime, I’ve made a few more very small changes–using the “track changes” function. See what you think. I’m not wedded to any of them.

Also wondering, how do you feel about the title being also the first word? And should there be a period at the end?

On 29 Jul, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Let’s try to add a stanza, see where it goes.

Thanks for the changes; I’m mulling them over.

I like “track changes” — let’s use that from now on.

I like the title also being the first word (but am open to other title possibilities).

I would tend not to put a period at the end of this poem, but am open to it, if you want to try.

The thing that most excites me, and I hope you agree, is that I feel there are more poems where this one is coming from.

On 29 Jul, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I know what you mean. There is definitely more we could do from here on.

Let me try to write the next 2 lines, then you polish off.

From Barry (7/29/10, 11:16 AM)

Here’s what I came up with.

I was starting to feel like it needed some geographical specificity, so I made it a London poem. I thought that would be ok with you. It could still secretly be a NY poem, because the last line is, obviously, a twist on “They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.”

On Aug 2, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I guess my reaction is I would prefer to leave this poem free from specificity, as the poem started (in my mind, anyway) as a graph of both of our travels through various cities. This poem would take as its context “the city” but not any particular city, though undefining specifics could enter. What I did think, though, is that these two lines could form the germ for a possible “next” poem that could allow urban specifics. In fact, this next poem could be the opposite to the first in a sense (making it paradoxically identical): we could include defining details from many different cities, so the cumulative effect, though achieved by different means, would again be “the city.” What do you think?

[In this illuminating excerpt from their pre- and intra-poetic conversation, Vincent and Barry consider which directions to take their dialogue-collab. They ruminate on themes and forms, giving fresh insights into the process, and begin to hint at how poems can evolve – for the writer/s and reader/s – even when you’re not looking.]

On Apr 1, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I hope you are well. As you know by now, David Hawkins of Likestarlings asked me to do a collaborative project for their site, and I suggested that it be with you. I am very happy you too like the idea and agree to give it a try.

I thought we should have some plans, so here are my thoughts. Feel free to totally disagree, come up with a different approach, etc.

I thought it would be interesting to think of a project of five short poems (short meaning one to two pages). Each poem would have a different set of formal or informal restraints. For the first one, I thought, since we both move around a bit, it would be interesting to capture parallel senses of motion — not necessarily speed, though that could be part of it, but simply the changes from place to place. Since we both are highly indebted to the visual, I further thought that in this first poem colors and/or lights could be guiding structural forces. We could try a poem in four-line stanzas, with the first letter of each line being capitalized. The poem could be of eight stanzas total. Each stanza would have its own spatial character and tonality, but linguistically there would be some continuity from stanza to stanza.

I’ve written a first stanza to the first poem. If that plan for a poem appeals to you, let me know, and I’ll send it.

As to the forms for the other four poems, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

I am currently in Rio, which may explain my interest in investing a poem with changes of scenery, or it may be just that I´m reading James Schuyler´s new “uncollected” poems, Other Flowers.

All the best,

Vincent

On Apr 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Here’s a thought.

What I’ve been thinking about since I wrote that other email to you an hour ago (or however long it was) is that what counts as a constraint for one person might not count as a constraint for another. So what I suggest is this: You write a poem, any poem, for instance the one you talk about below (or another). Send it to me. I take three aspects of your poem, which may or may not have been constraints you imposed on yourself–and I impose those three aspects on myself as constraints in composing my poem, while everything else is at liberty. When I’m done, I send it to you. You take any three aspects of my poems, of which at least two were not among the features you used in your first poem, and use them as constraints on the poem you write. I do the same again with your second poem. And so on.

Or maybe it would be better if the rule were, at least one of which was not among the features used in the previous poem? Anyway, as you see, this system would generate both continuities and continual variation. What do you think?

On Apr 11, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

What you suggest makes me think about the unit of translation. I grew up understanding the standard method for a “collab,” as it was passed down in legend from how Berrigan and Padgett worked on Bean Spasms, etc., was one person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, then the next person sits at the typewriter, types a few lines, etc. One could imagine collaborating by the line, the phrase, the word, even (extremely) the syllable or letter(!), then going in the other direction, by the stanza (or section), page, which brings us to your suggestion — collaboration by the poem, i.e. using the poem as the unit of collaboration. I would be up for trying it. It does seem the most removed of the possibilities. That is, we would not be interfering in each other’s writing, only responding to it. The parameter(s) you suggest would certainly provide limitation(s); I just wonder if we might miss some of the back and forth that often energizes collaborations — the energy that derails what one person was attempting, while leading to a completely unexpected outcome.

Having said all that, if that’s how you prefer to do it, let’s try it. Should we plan to write 4 or 6 poems and then see how it’s going? Should each poem have the same structure, say four four-line stanzas (or whatever — three two-line stanzas)? Or should the poems be in any form or lack of form the writer decides? I guess I feel if they were all in the same form, it would provide an interesting cohesion to the project. One of the appeals of collaborating by the poem in uniform format would be to see if we could submerge the individual personalities of the authors — unless of course we do not want to do that. I hope that by starting in the way you suggest, we might eventually feel encouraged to try other methods of collaboration.

Let me know your thoughts,

Vincent

On Apr 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought that what we were being asked to do was to individually write poems that responded to the other’s poems. Yes, I see that as a very different thing from collaboration — although presumably the sequence of the poems would then form a larger whole by both poets. But I would be very happy — perhaps even more so — to engage in a “proper” collaboration, which I understand similarly to how you outline it. Should we go back to David of likestarlings for clarification? Or just ignore that we are on assignment and do what we feel like doing and present him with the results?

On Apr 12, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I think we should definitely do what we feel like doing — and since it seems like we both feel like doing the same thing, let’s just start! So we will send each other lines back and forth until one of us thinks it’s finished.

Here’s a beginning. This relates to an idea expressed in an earlier email — of a poem about lights and colors (in transit):

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in

The sky merited all the love it had received

During the day, all the walking

Colors as they darkened and were lit

On May 6, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry I’ve been out of touch. The meantime has been a bit of a saga, I can tell later. But here is what I’ve come up with for the moment — see what you think:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in

The sky merited all the love it had received

During the day, all the walking

Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,

We ambled down a cloudy highway,

Under flocks of color learned

That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

On May 17, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Finally, a pinkish glow crept in

The sky merited all the love it had received

During the day, all the walking

Colors as they darkened and were lit

In direst harmony, evening’s next of kin,

We ambled down a cloudy highway,

Under flocks of color learned

That blue is fatal, a note with slow vibrato

There is a city with no color in it

Just a long expanse of trees and hollows

When one has stayed in it, one knows

The paintings flow up to its edges

On May 18, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

We glimpsed a gray horizon

And glimmering molecules within it

All colors are all other colors

When bitten by the teeth of feeling

On May 25, 2010, at 9:04 PM, Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

I am on the road at the moment, so a little slow to respond.

Attached is poem as it stands so far. Let me know if you think it’s finished.

If so, I’d like to start another one. Maybe you would want to set the

format, if any.

All the best,

Vincent

On May 26, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I thought we were just getting started!

What do you think about seeing how far we can keep this going?

On May 26, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I like it!

I will get back to you.

On May 27, 2010, at 2:04 AM, Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Excellent.

On June 29, 2010, at 6:53 AM, Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

It would be great if we could move toward finalizing “Finally” (if that’s what it’s title ends up being). Being very happy with how that poem is turning out, I am anxious to see what other poetic forms we can encompass. Not that it should have anything to do with our creative pace of working, but I know David Hawkins of Likestarlings is curious how things are progressing. What say you?

All the best,

Vincent

On Jul 12, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Sorry for my slowness. I’m back in London now.

I would like us to keep going, but if David wants to start posting the piece in progress I’m comfortable with that.

In the meantime, I’ve come up with four more lines but also intervened more than either of us has up until now, namely, I’ve slightly revised the last four lines you added, and also moved one of them into what would now be the new last last-so-far stanza, as you’ll see.

Obviously, if you don’t care for what I did please change it. I’m thinking that in a way we are now far enough into this that we can treat our structure–and each other’s words–more freely. See what you think. Now or later, we could also start to think of revising some of the earlier parts of the poem in light of what’s come since.

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Hi Barry

Thank you for the continuation! I find the changes interesting but need some time to let my responses come into focus (a day or two, hopefully).

The day, an accumulation of fears

Caresses in the past cannot be changed

An overage of yellow casts out eyes

Some sentences read like wine labels

Paintings welcome source and target

A girl flings out reddish laughter

I caught the accent of her hair

But make its document sallow music

In the above, I like your transposition of my line to your stanza/your line to my stanza. Still need to think about the changes in first two lines. I agree with you about, and am open to, our having freedom to change each other’s contributions. Everything is open to revision until it isn’t (or even later).

Regarding what we can release to Likestarlings, I thought it might be interesting to release our correspondence now, without the actual poem, until it is finished. Another thought: I kind of like the 6×4 format as a structure; it’s looking really solid suddenly. Maybe we should try another poem in this format? Or, if you would like to propose a new form (or absence of form), I would like to take a stab at that too (forgive my conventionally graphic metaphor, but I just saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and it’s haunting my imagination).

All the best,

Vincent

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

That’s funny, I just saw that film on Sunday (when everyone else was watching the world cup).

It’s interesting that you find the 6×4 satisfying. I was just thinking, after my last email to you, that I feels like it is about to come to a conclusion, but not quite there — that maybe the next stanza would decide that it is either finished, or else that it was coming to a pause that would enable it to launch into its next part that would allow it to go on much longer.

But maybe this is good, but it needs a somewhat different last line?

Or maybe it could end with one more line, by itself, line 25?

On Jul 13, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I am up for more length, if you want to try to extend the poem (and think it can be extended). Let’s mull it over again. It’s interesting how time passing changes it. This time, when you sent your most recent version, the poem had changed quite a bit, even the parts that were not literally changed. That would be something interesting to consider, in our ancillary commentary.

I don’t normally like having additional (non-stanzaic) lines ending poems; they usually look a failure of form, but as I said earlier, I’m open.

What do you think about sharing our correspondence w/ Likestarlings?

On Jul 13, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

Would it be embarrassing to reveal that we do not wax philosophic?

On Jul 14, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

No! We do wax, I think, poetic!

On Jul 28, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I’m starting to come around to your thought that we could stop the poem there. As an ending it seems a bit abrupt but maybe that’s good.

On the other hand, what if we were to decide to add one more stanza? I give two lines, you give two, and basta?

In the meantime, I’ve made a few more very small changes–using the “track changes” function. See what you think. I’m not wedded to any of them.

Also wondering, how do you feel about the title being also the first word? And should there be a period at the end?

On 29 Jul, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

Let’s try to add a stanza, see where it goes.

Thanks for the changes; I’m mulling them over.

I like “track changes” — let’s use that from now on.

I like the title also being the first word (but am open to other title possibilities).

I would tend not to put a period at the end of this poem, but am open to it, if you want to try.

The thing that most excites me, and I hope you agree, is that I feel there are more poems where this one is coming from.

On 29 Jul, 2010 Barry Schwabsky wrote:

I know what you mean. There is definitely more we could do from here on.

Let me try to write the next 2 lines, then you polish off.

From Barry (7/29/10, 11:16 AM)

Here’s what I came up with.I was starting to feel like it needed some geographical specificity, so I made it a London poem. I thought that would be ok with you. It could still secretly be a NY poem, because the last line is, obviously, a twist on “They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.”

On Aug 2, 2010 Vincent Katz wrote:

I guess my reaction is I would prefer to leave this poem free from specificity, as the poem started (in my mind, anyway) as a graph of both of our travels through various cities. This poem would take as its context “the city” but not any particular city, though undefining specifics could enter. What I did think, though, is that these two lines could form the germ for a possible “next” poem that could allow urban specifics. In fact, this next poem could be the opposite to the first in a sense (making it paradoxically identical): we could include defining details from many different cities, so the cumulative effect, though achieved by different means, would again be “the city.” What do you think?