And here's an attempt to explain the project...
Originally, I put out a call to a number of writers who work in different genres to engage in a collaborative writing project. This got a fairly positive response - some sixty-odd people expressed interest. So I was excited! I’d intended to incorporate a number of chance operations to break out pairs from the people who said yes and when that proved more troublesome than I’d hoped, I settled on simply picking pairs, trying to pin together writers who didn’t know each other personally and also who worked in different genres - though this didn’t always hold, as my call list was a bit poet heavy.
I asked each pair of writers to work together to produce a ten-sentence block of text that engaged the topic of family. The pairs of writers then supplied this content to a person of their choosing who was not someone working in a literary field. The ten-sentence block was to be broken into lines by the person chosen with some notes on line breaking being provided by one or both of the writers. My hope was to get some folks who were not tied into the practice of poetry working within it, albeit in a very limited fashion.
In talking with friends about this, it became clear that along with trying to gently push people into poetry and trying to play around with authorlessness, or multi-authoring, or whatever, I was hopeful the project as a whole could prod consideration, even if laterally, of who gets heard when addressing certain topics. Given that family is an idea and reality (on some level) that everyone has some experience with, I wanted to try to create inter-textual conversation between the various text elements included on each page, with the collaboratively written content serving as a small anchor.
As such, what you will encounter as you enter the book is the lineated poems centered on the left-hand pages, framed by content addressing family construction and changing family norms as seen through the varied lenses of experts. Centered on the right-hand pages are translated versions of those same poems. They’ve been run through a translation engine into a couple different languages, then back into English. I’d ask that you consider the ghost in the machine here, as it takes many experts to create the software that can reformulate language into and away from itself.
Cathy Eisenhower, a writer and psychologist in DC, provided me with a series of questions about family construction which served as prompts for a number of students who varied widely in age and socio-economic background. The responses those children provided frame the poems on the right side. On the whole, the project is presenting a lived reflection on the topic that frames a ghosted version of a multi-authored reflection that was run through the hands of those who may (or may not) feel comfortable playing with “poetry,” in turn, framed by the language and theory of experts. Or it’s just a lot of language with some really neat poems inside.
It took a long while, but this is finally a thing in the world. My hope is that somehow in the collisions here there is something that sparks and in you there might be something on which that spark can catch.
September 1, 2015
The book is perfect bound and it's available for $12 if you're in the U.S., and $14 if you're outside of the states.