The Making Of ‘Duets’ – Our Book Of Collaborative Poems


As the publication date for Duets draws close I thought of sharing how James and I wrote all the poems that are part of the collection.

Very often people say that writing poetry is a solitary art. For some it may be true but at the same time collaborative poetry also has a long history and now, especially in the days of the Internet, it has become easier to collaborate over messages, text, emails, or even working within the same document while living miles apart, sometimes the collaborators do not even know or meet each other before sharing the space in a book. The collaboration of visual art and poetry is also very exciting thing that we get to see now more often than before.

There are so many mediums to collaborate and so many ways to write the poems too. Renga in Japan and Renku in China are good examples of collaborative poetry forms. French Renaissance poetry was often a joint project where poets collaborated with their contemporaries.

The poems in Duet originated in the conversations between James and I on Facebook Messenger. The process was simple. We decide on posting the poems alternately. The one whose turn it was to post came up with a first line, and then we added lines alternately until one of us yelled stop. Then we each took the text and edited it into a form that we thought worked.  We then had two versions of the piece and decided which one we should post. Sometimes we didn’t agree and kept both the versions but it was rare. These poems can be termed impromptu as they were written and posted at the same time. Usually it took us an hour or three approximately to finish one poem and post.

When we began neither of us had thought it would come this far. We did it for fun and posted for friends to read and within a short span we had some twenty poems and then the number kept growing. It was then we decided to save them in a document file. We could see an opportunity of a book. James is a seasoned writer so this whole exercise was very exciting for me and a great learning process too. I think it was difficult than the usual process of collaboration where you have time to think and create once the other person has written his/her lines. Here we had no time. Once we sat down in front of the open chat window and the first line was posted it had to take shape of a poem. There was no escape or postponing. This kind of built a pressure especially on me as I am yet a student learning the craft but I must say it kicked me out of my comfort zone ..lol.. It also taught me discipline though James will laugh and say I still need a lot of it.. 😀

It is exciting and at the same time liberating to watch a new voice emerge as a piece develops. We were open to the poem leading us rather than one of us leading it and yet it was an intimate experience. Words are portals and we saw this during our writing of these poems. Suddenly a line would change the entire thought process and lead you to somewhere totally different. It was an exercise to be ready for a quick response to the wordplay that is not yours, a thought completely different from yours, to recognize another voice and be comfortable with its uniqueness and be ready to get startled by constant surprises. Sometimes not being in control gives you more strength to break mental barriers and create something beautiful and totally unexpected. The feeling is overwhelming. Sometimes frustrating too, which of course is human. We are conditioned to follow our thought process and this sort of intense exercise messes with the brain’s normal conditioned way of working. I can tell you that many times I would envisage a poem leading in a certain way and suddenly a line from James would change the coarse leaving me lost for words and ideas but he would patiently wait till I gathered my thoughts again and wrote my part. Many times I would try to steer it in a certain direction but then eventually the poem would take its own course. That is the beauty of words. They lead the way.

It is amazing how an impromptu collaborative work grows organically into a form challenging the roles like gender, age, personality, culture and other differences which usually mark your individual work.  Here all bets were off. We trusted each other and took the direction we were steered into without being judgmental. What we loved most about our work is how this exercise blurred individual lines. While reading the final poem one could really not point out who wrote which line and that was something beautiful.

The joy to create something together is irreplaceable. Time was a big challenge as both of us are writers with a tremendous amount of workload but we somehow managed to hold on to it and assigned a time to get online just to write a new piece and enjoyed our collaborative time together.  I think my creativity has grown with this collaboration.

The name ‘Duets’ is the brainchild of our mutual friend Sabine who was one of the regular readers of the poems as they were shared on Facebook. She began calling them Duets and the name stuck. Thank you Sabine for the love.

 

I asked James to give his side of the story and this is what he sent me :

 

I quote

I’m not totally sure how the collaborative poems between Tikuli and I came about. I think perhaps one of us said—and I’ll give the credit to Tikuli—“let’s write a poem together”, and so we did. Then we wrote another and another and another, and suddenly there were enough poems for our book ‘Duets’, even after leaving a few of the less good poems out of the mix.

 

For some time before we started collaborating, I had been using whatever expertise I have as an editor in trying to help Tikuli with her writing—mostly working on fiction, a long-form narrative, an as yet incomplete novel, and short stories.I think Tikuli came to realise that the best way to learn is often by example, and so she suggested that perhaps we could write something together. As I didn’t have the time to commit to writing anything of length, we began writing poems whenever we could find a bit of time to work together.

 

Writing is, by it’s very nature, a solitary occupation, so collaborating on the writing of poetry or anything else is not a natural process, but is instead a challenge, something to be mastered for no other reason than the determination to master it. In the finished work two minds have to come together as one. The writing must seem as fluid and natural as if it had been written by one person. This means compromise from both writers, without compromise nothing would ever be completed. Compromise was difficult when we both had fixed ideas in mind.

 

How can I describe the process of writing together? Think of it as being like a tug-of-war between two mules, for we both have a capacity for stubbornness. There’s a knot in the centre of a rope and a marker on the ground dividing the territories of the mules, then the mules pull in different directions until that knot passes into the territory of one mule or the other. That rope, of course, is woven from the alternate lines we wrote, the territories are the directions that we each thought the poems should turn towards. Sometimes we argued. Sometimes we discussed. Sometimes we disagreed. But always we remained amicable, for our friendship is far, far stronger than any momentary disagreement.

 

I differ with him on one point. It was his suggestion to start writing collaborative poems. Trust him for not taking credit. I wouldn’t have suggested at any cost ..lol.. I’m so jittery about getting into a new thing. I can tell now that it was worth all the fretting, nervousness and brain storming.

Here is a treat for all of you, a poem from the collection.

DINNER

only tears would clean the stains
hunger left on her face
as she tried to understand
what was wrong with the rich
and decadent food she ate
as unsatisfying as lost love
it left her gaunt and empty
her starved reflection stared at her
from the shine of her empty plate
absentmindedly her finger
traced the contours
of the plate’s cracked surface
as she dreamed of better times
twilight gathered in her eyes
and fed her inner darkness
soon the starless night would come
and invisible in the night
her empty plate might fill

( © Duets – collaborative poems by Tikuli & James Goddard)

Do pre-order your copies. The book releases on 19th of November. It will be available with all online book vendors.

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New Poetry Book – Cover Release And Other Stories


I am again in process of shifting houses. Still searching for the home that doesn’t seem to exist and in between the chaos a good news floated in like gentle breeze.

Rain is generously filling the empty pockets of the streets. From scorched to sodden, the city struggles to cope with monsoon woes while the nature blooms with joy.
Mogra, raat ki rani, champa, chameli, sadabahar and many more traditional flowers are blossoming across Delhi. Parakeets are making a racket outside my window. They are looking for nesting places.

Cover Release 

Duet is a very special poetry collection in many ways. I will tell the story in detail later but there is something I need to share here. It is a collection of collaborative impromptu poems James Goddard and I wrote during our daily chats on Facebook Messenger. There will be a separate post with all the details about how we managed to blur the individual lines and the distance that separated us.

I am so proud of this joint collection.

Here is the full cover of the book.

Duets - Leaky Boot Press The book will be released this November but the pre-orders have begun on all online book vendors. Here is the link DUETS  

And for the readers in India DUETS 

Now you must be wondering who the other collaborator is. 🙂 Many of you know him as the publisher of Leaky Boot Press, my friend and mentor who writes those fabulous poems and short stories he prefers to call “little pieces”  and a photographer par excellence but there is a lot more to James than he decides to reveal. I will be doing another post just to introduce you to his work. One of the most brilliant writers who unfortunately prefers to underplay his writing and the role he has played in the lives of many of us writers. Stay tuned.

In another news my other poetry books Wayfaring and Collection Of Chaos  reached Poetic Justice Books and Art  in Port Saint Lucie, Florida thanks to Kris Haggblom and Dominic Albanese who is a friend and fantastic writer.

I am feeling chuffed to see my books featured along with some of the finest writers. The shelfie is a sample of their small press section and includes LBP too.

A few friends have bought some of the books and are reading them. I am eagerly waiting for their feedback.

Meanwhile James gifted me with my favorite multilingual print edition of Le Zaporogue XVII 2017-18 . I have a wonderful short fiction titled El Pino Ruins in this edition.  The book has some excellent works of writers/artists/photographers. These are a few more editions that have my poems and short stories. So honored to be in this exquisite company thanks to editor-in-charge, poet, author, academe, Seb Doubinsky. The printed books are available on lulu.com and you can download them for free too.

Now for another review news. Ampat Koshi is a well known writer, critic, editor and theoretician. I had gifted him Collection of Chaos long ago. A few days back to my surprise he posted a note about the book and the effect a particular poem has on him. It deeply touched me as a woman and as a writer. I am grateful to him for voicing his thoughts that mean a lot to all women in today’s time.

I am sharing here the full note in quotes.

A review of “Collection of Chaos” by Tikulli Dograi

This review is probably the most painful one I ever wrote. It is not a review but an apology. It is about my failure as a critic. Long back Tikuli gave me this book to review and I never did it though she said good things are worth tarrying for.

The reason why I never gave her the review for which she must have written me off and added me to her list of proofs as to why men are evil, rightly so, is for a simple reason. She wanted me to read the book as a book of poems but though I started that way I soon came to a poem that made me stop reading and drop the book for the opposite reason from what one may think – meaning I did not drop it as her writing was bad, – she writes beautifully – but as I could not handle the emotions in that poem. After reading it I could not proceed. As a writer I came up against a brick wall. I did not want to write a review any longer but a letter, a letter asking her to forgive men but could not bring myself to do it. And it was anyway not what I was supposed to do. We drifted off from each other but she continues to write prolifically and even won a best blog award some time back. I do not know if she is still on my list or not, but probably she is not, and rightly so, if she unfriended me for breaking my word about giving her a review. If still there, apologies again many times, sincerely, Tikuli.

The truth is I have many friends on my list who have faced varying kinds and degrees of abuse at the hands of husbands, ex or not. I mean not just emotional or mental or spiritual or physhological abuse which is bad enough but also downright physical abuse, the worst sort. Apart from betrayals. Shashi Deshpande talks of domestic rape but there is also the issue of being beaten up that many women have faced. I guess I am writing for all of them also here, for all of them, for what it is worth which is not much, not as someone who understands all this, but as someone who at least once in his life was brought to a complete standstill by reading a poem by Tikuli. A painful one. Where she speaks for all of them.

I agree this still does not qualify as a review. I could quote the poem but prefer you people buy the book and find it for yourself. Maybe I could pose with the book and post a selfie. I do not know if that would help at all.
But what I can do is post the link and hope some of you buy it and read her and appreciate her bravery and searing art which are both rare qualities these days. Worth fostering. And if you get to see this, Tikuli, forgive me for such a late response. I am literally writing this to clear my conscience and try to do justice to something I probably cannot ever do justice to. With this assurance that your art is not in vain as such poems will definitely lessen the cruelty and brutality of men to some extent.

There are two more book news in line. I will update the moment I get to know the details.

Will be posting a few recipes too.

Till then keep sending your love and support.

Anne says,” Krudtuglen really knows what is good. 😻🌹” 

You can trust the cats.

Collection of Chaos

 

Six Impromptu Poems


1. Ruins
Under the melancholy sky

drenched in blood,

the ecstasy of love and

the anguish of loneliness, bleed over

 the canyons of light and shadows

 rising from the huddled heaps of gray,

adding meaning to the mundane.

Dark narrow pathways, flights of stairs

 that led nowhere,

aging walls transfixed in pain, dimly alive,

with dusk settling in the cracks.

Looted, betrayed, traded.

 I lingered, unperceived

in the labyrinth of solitude

decayed by the weathering of time,

not knowing where to go,

where to go back to,

my weight of memories

heavier that those

orphaned blocks of stone.

The all-inclusive night,

like a great shadow,

descended on our mutual loneliness,

filling the gaps, the cracks,

filling the emptiness, the void,

painting everything in its own colour,

surpassing the idle details,

singing a requiem for the living.

 *****

2. Inception 

Mind a collage
of mismatched patterns,
a surreal universe
of fluidity and madness,
caught between the crossfire.
In the minds blur
one poem births another.

*******

3. Empty Is Full

The deserted corridors aren’t empty,
they are full of
whatever you imagine
them to be full of.

In the quietness of silence
between white and dark shadows
like an ancient dream lingers
a phantasm
waiting to be discovered.

 ********

4. Shadow Light 

I am a shadow in the dark
a seeker looking for light
to bring back my identity

 *******

5. Melancholia 

At the threshold of summer
I stand
still imprisoned in the melancholy
of winter
An invisible poem
locked in prose

******

6. Us

Today I opened the folder

that has a picture of you and me

from that day

In that  moment

It had all made sense

Now

that moment is over

The answer eludes me

the question is Why

*********