The Collective Poem

The poetry exercise this week was about putting people in conversation with one another in a poem, and I started thinking about this concept in a more literal sense. When I was involved in slam, group pieces were often the most appreciated and told the most complex stories. I have always wondered how this would transfer to the page. Do poets ever write something together and also present it together? I feel like page poetry is such an individualized craft, although one could argue that slam is as well.

I wrote one spoken word piece (kind of between slam and page poetry) with friends. We came with our own poems on the same topic and literally cut and pasted our words together. Has anyone ever tried this with page poetry? Is having a second poet involved just too much to deal with and still be able to make something both parties find authentic?

This is my favorite (youth) group slam piece:

3 Replies to “The Collective Poem”

  1. Hey Codie!
    I’m obsessed with slam poetry and I love that you posted a video.
    In high school I had to do an assignment in my creative writing class that required I write a poem with someone else and then we had to perform it together. I find that doing both of these things is really hard. There was disagreement in the writing process, and the performance felt forced and didn’t quite flow the way we were hoping it would. It takes a lot of effort and we couldn’t pull it off in a 40 minute class. I feel like this would’ve worked out better if there wasn’t a time restriction on us. I would love to try to do something like that again without restrictions.

  2. I definitely agree with Arianna in the sense that it’s super hard to do (major props to you for actually pulling it off in high school, even if it “felt forced,” because I can’t write a poem individually in 40 minutes). However, it’s definitely doable. Though I have yet to attempt it myself, I know several people who have done collaborative poems with friends as co-authors of a single written piece. I feel like there’s a different feel to it when you do a collaborative slam piece versus a collaborative traditional(?) piece, particularly in terms of its intended audience–slams are written with the express intent of being read aloud, whereas other genres of poetry aren’t necessarily so. But it’s definitely doable.

    I think, however, you can generalize co-writing out to a wider spectrum. This kind of drifts from your original definition, but I think it’s an interesting one to explore. (Again, I have yet to participate, but) I know a group who all agreed to write a poem per day for seven days. They weren’t composing a single piece, but I think it could be argued that they were co-composing. Their works were individual, but they were part of a larger project. In a sense, I think workshop can be a co-writing experience to a degree, too; we may come in with something we wrote alone, but that piece never stays as such. We take suggestions and ideas for revision that come from others, and those flavors eventually work into our poems. We steal ideas, words, or formats from our peers. Our name may be on the poem, but I think when we exist in a workshop community, there exists a sense that nobody’s poem exists in total isolation or without influence of others.

  3. To be honest, I have never really thought of writing poetry as a group experience until you brought that up, Sarah. You’re right that in workshop, we do collaborate a lot in our writing. Though we tend to take complete ownership of our poetry without question, it is influenced constantly by our peers, especially when we listen during workshop for revision ideas. I believe one of the poets in Lyric Postmodernisms referred to poetry as “social”. I wonder if this is what she meant by this.
    I have never attempted slam poetry, but always have been fascinated by it. Sometimes it doesn’t feel much like poetry, but more like drama than anything else, as it takes not only a writer but a performer to produce a successful piece.
    Arianna, I think that a group poetry project would also be really interesting!
    Thanks for sharing that awesome video, Codie!

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