Collaboration Investigation:

A Conversation between Megan Kaminski & Bonnie Roy


Megan: It’s taken me a little while to get started on this, because I have had a hard time thinking about where to start—how to say something about our collaboration that isn’t merely descriptive, and also how to say something that doesn’t close off possibility, something that doesn’t move the poems and the process into a sterile, fixed environment. At the most basic level, I think that the impetus to collaborate, whether it comes to form in a back and forth like our “Seven to December” project or in a more informal exchange of ideas/conversation, comes out of a desire to think with, rather than in isolation. 

I just read this great article about women chefs and food producers in North Carolina, which talks about the “pork chop theory” developed by two chefs: “The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better.” This statement resonates with me when thinking about my own work and my desire to move out of an imposed isolation. I love the idea of collaboration as a way of sharing the metaphoric fat. While I think this communal desire is present more generally in my work, it is certainly salient in our collaborative poems, both as catalyst and in its slow working into the poems themselves and the desires that they express. So much of what inspired me to propose our collaboration in the first place came out of a desire to write across the distance that has come between us since I left California. 

So, Bonnie, what about you? How did you approach/come into our collaboration—how does the collaborative impulse work for you? How is it different from the other work you are doing?

 

Bonnie: I love your analogy to cooking and the idea of sharing the fat, which so perfectly captures the feeling of thinking together instead of alone. But what really strikes me is what you’re saying about an “imposed isolation.” I’m not sure I have ever sat down to think: why did I decide to write this poem alone? The idea that independence is an essential creative property is as powerful for me as it is counterproductive. There are so many chances to think with others in reading, in conversation, but in my writing that chance has typically come through material—a source text to erase from or tune to, an image borrowed to shade what I see—and not with people. 

So, as there’s a communal desire in your work generally, and in “Seven to December,” I think there’s also a generosity common across your language, a way you make space for others and invite the unexpected into your words and rhythms, that you extended towards me. It made this collaboration a chance to continue inventing the relationship we share as writers, as well as to invent the poems.