A healthy collaboration

July 15, 2020

This is a guest post by
Kelli Russell Agodon

In early March, Melissa Studdard and I decided we would write a poem every weekday based on news stories just to stay connected and to find new ways to push our creativity. On the day we started, the pandemic became top news and we realized what our focus was going to be — writing poems during the pandemic.

Each day, the news would change, our feelings would change, the world would change — and we would show up to our shared Google document to write about it. We try to document the world, the news, the day — it’s kind of a diary in verse. We have been called “Historians of Emotion” and I think especially with the poems about the pandemic, that is what we’re writing about most of the time.

For each day, one of us would begin with a few lines or images, and then the other shows up later in the day to finish it. Before we share it on social media, we ask the other “anything you want to change?” and once we get the “No, looks good!” response, we post it and consider it “done.” The next day, the person who ended the poem starts the new one and the collaboration continues.

For collaboration to work, both people need to be open to having their words changed and each must focus on the same goal: to write and finish the best poem. Ego needs to be left at the door and instead, a sense of playfulness and openness needs to exist in both writers.

What I have learned through collaboration:

  1. I have learned that poems can go in so many directions. I may take a poem a few places, but seeing a poem through another’s eyes, you see the many places it can go.
  2. A larger trust for each other as collaborators. There are definitely some people I would not want to collaborate with. Collaboration should be fun, and if it feels like a drag, maybe find a different person to work with.
  3. To know there is always backup help! Sometimes I will show up to a poem and, with hardly enough ideas or vision for what to do, I will jot down a few words or images unclear of what I am trying to do. Later, Melissa will show up and make the poem better. I have done that for her as well. It’s a wonderful experience to see how we each find ways to complete a struggling poem.
  4. Friendships matter. I have become closer to my friend Melissa and have been inspired by her vision of poems and her incredible creativity.

Here is the Houston Media’s NPR story on our collaboration:

Follow Kelli and Melissa’s collaborations on Twitter and Instagram @KelliAgodon and @MelissaStuddard.

. . . . .
Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, editor, book cover designer, and cofounder of Two Sylvias Press living in the Seattle area. She’s a recipient of Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Prize in Poetry as well as a two-time Finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Her work has been featured on NPR, ABC News, and appeared in magazines and journals such as The Atlantic, The Nation, APR, Harvard Review, The Rumpus, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her fourth collection of poems, Dialogues with Rising Tides, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021.

Author photo by Ronda Piszk Broatch

2 Responses to “A healthy collaboration”

  1. libearyn Says:

    I saved this for days until I could devote the time to really listening. I too have found that writing with a partner is so helpful. We have been writing a poem a day since March as well, using an independent prompt book by yet another poet. What trust, what richness, what healing has come from this collaboration. Thank you so much for posting this.
    ~ Linda Trott Dickman


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