Christopher Citro & Dustin Nightingale
While falling, we've plenty of time to think,
and to practice that trick
where you grasp your feet behind your back
and steer toward a small lake or circus tent.
—G. C. Waldrep & John Gallaher,
"Because It's Better Not To Know"
We are generally very intuitive poets, and we like to be as free as possible in our collaborations, to stay open to the unexpected, flying through the air without knowing where we'll land, getting purposefully lost in a forest just to see that happens next. We write in groups of four poems at a time, emailing the drafts back and forth as each makes new additions. Sometimes we might go back and change things inside. Sometimes we might cut bits. At some point along the way titles get added. Whatever we would do with the poems if they were our own drafts, that's how we treat the collaborations. It can be brutal sometimes, but after two years of doing this we're still friends.
Sometimes we work quickly, flinging the drafts back and forth until a new set is done in just a few weeks. Sometimes it takes months to get a new batch to the point where we give up, i.e. call the poems done. We've been working on this series for just over two years and when we look back on old poems it's often impossible to remember who wrote what.
Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser's book of collaborative poetry Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry was an inspiration. In 2006, they gave a Lannan Foundation reading from the book which you can listen to online.
We never discuss poem drafts while they're in process, preferring to let them develop entirely through the writing alone. Last week Dustin texted photographs of his dad's three new tattoos. They cover his whole back and include a massive bald eagle with stars and stripes wings. We talked about those at great length.