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Greetings from the back room: Collaborative work

By 14/06/2020June 16th, 2020No Comments

Collaborative work – SWC Member’s Webpost by A C Clarke #3

(Previous Webposts from A C Clarke: Putting a poetry collection together & Writing a collection round a central character)

Collaborative work in the arts has been around a long time. Poets and musicians are natural collaborators. Poets and artists too. Collaboration between poets is perhaps the most fruitful of all.

The Dadaists ‘believed that the value of art lay not in the work produced but in the act of making and collaborating with others to create new visions of the world.’  I wouldn’t suggest that collaborating poets should not have an eye to the work produced but the idea that the true value is in the process, not the outcome is one I wholeheartedly endorse.

But how to collaborate? If you are a song-writing poet with a guitar-playing friend it will be easy!  But poems don’t have to be sung: they can be spoken to a musical accompaniment. This year’s StAnza for instance brought us Pauline Prior-Pitt’s North Uist Sea Poems read to a highly evocative musical accompaniment composed by Glasgow poet and musician Catherine Eunson.  You could sound out your musical friends!

Perhaps some of your friends are artists? This year Tapsalteerie Press brought out Cocoon by Russell Jones, with illustrations by six different Scottish artists, combinations of text and image intertwined. And, again at this year’s StAnza, the artist Valerie Coffin Price responded with creative flair to the Berlin waterways and Stephanie Green’s poems about them.

Do you have another language? Translation of a living poet is a form of collaboration, necessitating close scrutiny of meanings on both sides. There have been several initiatives in Scotland pairing poets from different countries in reciprocal translation. If you get the chance to take part in such a project seize it!

You could set up a collaborative writing group like 12, a collective of women writers sharing monthly poems in response to one another’s writing. Tapsalteerie’s Biggin Brigs series is interested in collaborations between writers in the three language of Scotland. Owersettin, a collaboration between Maggie Rabatski (Gaelic), Sheila Templeton (Scots) and me was the first in this series, a kind of conversation in verse.

Or try teaming up with a fellow poet to explore a shared theme or even write a long poem together, alternating stanzas. You will learn a lot.

This is my last blog for SWC. If you’ve been reading it, thank you.  Keep well and cheerful through the crisis and happy writing and collaborating!



(from Drochaid, A C Clarke’s second collaboration with Maggie Rabatski & Sheila Templeton)


Spawned in the murk, in a mesh of weeds,

forever shallying between salt and fresh


sinuous as an ox-bow river

so beautiful as he threads his silver


through shot-silk streams, tackles a weir –

he doesn’t have it easy here.


How many times he’s slipped my fingers,

glib-skinned. Only his strange scent clings


hard to pin down, pervasive as a sea-fret.

I scrub and scrub, can’t wash my hands of it.

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