Look up the word 'poet' in a thesaurus and you might see the words 'recluse', 'hermit' and 'solitaire' staring back at you – synonyms especially appropriate if only considering the part of a poet’s life when they're actually writing poems. For all his shared revelry in Brown’s Hotel, you can't imagine that Dylan Thomas invited too many guests back to his nearby writing shed for a session of collaborative scribbling. The beat poet Allen Ginsberg suggested that “poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public – that's what the poet does.” Solitude, therefore, is often seen as being one of the key ingredients to writing poetry.
Yet, collaborative poetry does exist, and has done for centuries. In Japan, for example, a form of collaborative poetry called renga has been composed since at least 760 AD. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Steven J. Fowler’s Enemies Project (2011–) has, so far, brought over 500 individuals together to explore the possibilities of writing poetry in collaboration.
So what happens when two of these reclusive literary beasts known as 'poets' are thrown together to create a single poem? Are egos successfully left in the writing shed, and is the result in any way rewarding, worthwhile, readable? On our Issue #4 podcast, we had the chance to discuss this with our latest guest Natalie Ann Holborow, a poet who was recently commissioned by the Enemies Project to work with our own Richard James Jones. You can see the fruits of their partnership in an additional video below (hosted by the project’s YouTube channel).
Although we proudly state on our homepage that The Crunch is “concerned with neither bibliography nor honour roll”, we think the trophies in the cabinet of our latest guest are worth mentioning. Named as one of Wales Arts Review’s Emerging Voices of Welsh Poetry, Natalie has already notched up some considerable accolades. Winner of both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize in 2015, her success continued this year when she was named runner-up in the WalesPENCymru New Voices Award. She’s also been listed or highly commended in the Bridport, Fish, Hippocrates, Jane Martin and Royal Berkshire prizes (amongst others). Crucially though, in addition to being award-winning, Natalie’s poetry falls under the definition we are concerned with – the type that promotes discussion and broadens horizons. Just take a look at her videos below to see what we mean.
Issue #4, October 2016
NATALIE ANN HOLBOROW is a Swansea-born writer of poetry and fiction. In 2015, she won both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize, and in 2016 was named as runner-up in the WalesPENCymru New Voices Award.
Natalie’s work has recently appeared in The Stinging Fly and the New Welsh Review. She is currently working on her first novel with her awarded Literature Wales Bursary, and her debut poetry collection And Suddenly You Find Yourself is due to be published with Parthian in Spring 2017.
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