Poetic Collaboration as Transatlantic Memory

I don’t remember ever having a tin can phone line. Perhaps that’s why I can’t let go of the image in adulthood: the optimism that some strung line would connect, implausibly, across distance. The willingness to believe it was the line itself, and not the proximity of those holding the tin cans, slinging words from mouth to ear, retains its magic, so it makes sense that for us, as poets, this image of a sunk or taut line carrying its freight would tempt this manuscript of poems into being.

As poets we’ve both lived in both the U.S. and the U.K., and as we corresponded the old country became the new country and vice versa. Our voices followed suit—–now, going over the poems we’ve written, it’s difficult for me to say for certain who wrote what. In the end the process proved alchemical enough to cheap nfl jerseys introduce us to an unknown author: a third who wrote these poems, a figure in whom we found the familiar transformed, who offered us perspective not only on our respective work but also our respective countries.

We set out with familiar phrases about the U.K. and the U.S. buzzing in our ears: ‘special relationship,’ ‘divided by a common language.’ We found ourselves writing about a territory that began to misremember its own borders, its dialect, its reference points. One of us would ask the other which country a poem belonged to, or began in, or spoke towards. We soon realised that, while the question was valid, the answer was necessarily elusive.

What started as a transatlantic game of tennis eventually became a study in telekinesis once we approached editing each other’s poems. Though turning cherished patients over to another surgeon——however incisive—–was rife with conflict, no bones were broken. Every cut, addition, tweak, and rearrangement, whether mine or his, was well-received. Often, we found ourselves being steered towards the edit we’d already wanted to make. Like kids returned from summer camp, the poems came back older, wiser, equipped with valuable life skills and newfound social ease. Upon a poem’s return to its ‘owner’ (if such a word is even applicable here), new directions ensued. We hardly recognized what we created and liked it all the more for it.

And yet: the differences that exist—–in culture, in politics, in claims about class, race, gender, the origins of punk, the name of the sports game with the round ball, and so on—–do matter. The divided, not just the common. Hopefully, that’s where these have ended up, a provocation on a transatlantic thread or cable: a thing communicative and supple, but not a tether or fault-line. Artificial, of human construction, a temporary stay against a disconnect.