Collaborative poems

Yesterday was the final class in my first series of tutoring for CPIT. Good fun! Although got through the material a lot faster than I expected. (Either I’m a brilliant teacher, or they were desperate to get me to shut up and go home…)

One of the things that we did – a couple of times, actually – was that most heinous of crimes: wrote collaborative poems. (collective intake of shocked breath)

Ok, I know the usual objection: that it doesn’t work. Except … sometimes it does. There’s a proud history of such things. Renga, for example, is collaborative. I even have a book in my bookcase – just over my right shoulder, as it happens – that is a collaborative work: Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris’s The Air Mines of Mistila. But more to the point, this wasn’t about the resulting poem so much as the learning. By doing it together (me in charge of the whiteboard), it became a window into the process of assembling a poem out of the ideas and words and patterns that we were playing with. And my students seemed to enjoy it – I certainly did! Nice to be able to write with no feeling of ‘something to lose’ in the back of my mind.

So, with the permission of Tricia Tan and Caitlin Peters, below are two examples of our collaborative efforts. The first was a limerick exercise: each providing a line for the others to cap. (A game I used to have a lot of fun with at school when I was supposed to be concentrating on Physics. Sorry Mr Scally!)

I had an old aunty called Annabelle
who – sadly – took up with a cannibal.
He taught her to eat
all kinds of raw meat.
When she ate him, he tasted “quite terrible”.

I think the rhyming of ‘cannibal’ with Annabelle was a stroke of sheer brilliance. (Not mine either!) Keeping it clean is always a challenge with limericks.

The next poem came out of a simple simile-generating exercise, and turned in to a sample piece for extended metaphor. The initial prompt was my bed is like a …

Sundays mornings
our bed is like quicksand.
All night I sink deeper
beside you, but now
lying flat & spreading my weight
isn’t helping. Damn.
Looks like we’re stuck here.

It may not be Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but it’s a mighty fine attempt from two poetry novices! (Ok, the atrocious pun at the end was mine.)

Now I just have to try and recharge the batteries and get myself emotionally prepared for the new course … which starts this Saturday. (Argh.) During the Christchurch Literary Festival. (Double argh.) Oh well.

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