This winter, we’re asking you to gather some creative partners and work together on a poetry project.
This challenge is now closed. Congratulations to the winners, whose zines, music, songs and collages you can read in the sidebar. Congratulations, too, to the longlisted poets and artists whose work impressed the judges:
Hoverfly by Kaycee Hill and Tyrone Hall (music and poetry)
Petrichor by Divya Mehrish and Kaitlyn Meade (collage)
Eleanor by Elsie Hayward and Katie Hull (collage)
Smalls by Katherine Stockton and Elizabeth Kemball (illustration and poetry)
My Brother and his ASD by Siyona Shetty and Anusha Bhosle (illustration and poetry)
Growing Pains by Shreya Vikram and Anukriti Srivastava (illustration and poetry)
Entreinte by Ella-Mae Earnshaw and Godelieve De Bree (visual art and poetry)
Reindeer by Isaac Smith and Albert Newton (illustration and poetry)
The challenge: create a collaborative piece with at least one other person. You must write some new poetry, but you can add any other creative media you like – visual art, film, music, zines etc.
Earlier this year, while we were being asked to go indoors and to social distance, we asked you to find some poetic partner/s and take turns to write haiku and tanka back and forth. We wanted the renga challenge to be purely for fun, and not a competition, so we didn’t ‘judge’ your poems or pick any winners – but we really loved reading your responses.
Now that we’ve got our bearings a bit more in this new digital world, we want to ask you to invest more time in collaborative practice, and this time we’d like to share some of the best examples submitted.
So today’s challenge is to work with at least one other person to create a piece together that involves poetry. After that, it’s up to you what themes you explore and what kind of creation you make!
It can be daunting to start collaborating for the first time, so we asked some experienced collaborators about their projects and for some top tips. You can read their responses here, and keep scrolling for some questions to help guide you.
Who will you collaborate with?
Will your collaborator(s) be a poet(s) too? If so, consider the best way of weaving your voices together. Form can help! Here are some suggestions…
- Call and response: one person writes a line or stanza, and another person responds with a line or stanza, and so on
- Couplings: one person writes a poem and the other person intersperses each line with one line of their own (read pages 8-11 in this resource for more)
- Translation – if one of you writes in another language, could you translate their work into English together? Or could you all write ‘versions’ of that poem in English, or re-cast the poem in a new cultural setting?
- Zines: pick a theme and run with it with your friends. This is an excellent how-to guide. Even better with doodles, collages and other visual art.
- Poetic collage: write some poems on a particular theme individually, then bring them together, cut them up into lines and mix them together until something interesting happens!
- Will you present your poem on the page, or as a performance?
- Lots more suggestions on this Wikipedia page!
Or will your collaborator(s) be an expert in some other field(s)? You might create a film poem with a friend who’s good at film. Or maybe you can get together with some musicians and singers and you’ll write the lyrics. Or maybe you join up with lots of writers and artists to create a collage, a zine or something else.
This could be a nice sibling activity for a rainy Sunday, or a project connecting friends living around the globe. But you have to collaborate with at least one other active partner – we’re not looking for poems written by one person that are ‘after’ someone else, unless that someone else is an active part of the conversation.
We Come as a Warning: Hope and Monsters by the Thistle Young Poets – a Poetry Society project (contains strong language and adult themes)
How do you start?
Sometimes it can be more intimidating to start the creative process with other people than by writing something on your own. You might be worried that they have certain expectations, or you might feel a bit vulnerable about sharing your own creative process, or afraid of giving up your creative control. The truth is that everyone else is probably feeling a bit nervous, but you’re in a safe space. This is a great way to learn from each other, gain confidence in sharing your work, and create something that, individually, none of you would ever have made. What have you got to lose?
One way of getting over the initial nervousness is to play some creative games. Here are some ideas:
- Exquisite corpse (or consequences). Everyone starts by writing a line on a piece of paper then passing it on. The next person continues that line. They hide the line before theirs (usually by folding the paper over) before passing it on. You go round and round until you want to stop. Then you unfold the whole thing and read it out – you’ll find some amazing accidental images and leaps that might inspire your collaborative project. How to do this digitally? Open a new Google doc, and to hide the line before yours, make the text white so that you can’t read it. Easy!
- Use a random word generator, like this one. Put on a timer. Everyone has three minutes to write or draw something quick in response to it. Repeat the exercise for as many times as you like, then share. Are there some interesting crossovers or contrasts between how you interpreted and used the word?
- Surreal definitions. Everyone writes a list of ten random words. Swap lists. Now write simple definitions for each word in your new list: ‘A book tells a story’ or ‘The sky is an empty space with clouds in’. Swap lists again. Now for the fun part. You’re going to divorce the words from the definitions and mix them up. Now you have ‘The sky tells a story’ and ‘A book is an empty space with clouds in’. You’ll come up with some interesting images and phrases that might inspire a poem, a title, an image, a film, etc.
What could a collaboration look like?
We are excited to see you stretch our definitions of collaboration and poetry! Here are some examples that already exist which we love.
- The Enemies Project is an ongoing project run by S.J. Fowler. You can see all the publications that have come out of it here.
- Like Starlings was set up by former Foyle Young Poet Caleb Klaces (and we even featured it as a YPN challenge back in 2011). In it, poets respond to one another’s work. In this YPN challenge, we’d like to see you work a bit more closely together, but this method could be a jumping-off point.
- Kayo Chingonyi is a poet, emcee, producer and DJ. He has done several collaborations with artists and dancers. In 2014, poet Chingonyi collaborated with dancer/choreographer Sean Graham to bring his poem ‘Some Bright Elegance’ to life through dance. He has also worked with composer Raymond Yiu and pianist Annie Yim – watch a clip here and read a review of it here. And we love this music/poetry collaboration underscoring his poem ‘Blues for Albert ‘Prodigy’ Johnson & Carl ‘Haystee’ Samuel’.
- Remnants – Chineke! (Europe’s first majority Black, Asian and racially diverse orchestra) premiered a commission by composer James B. Wilson and poet Yomi Ṣode on 19 October 2020. It was inspired by a seminal moment in the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the UK, and you can listen to it and the artists’ introduction for a limited time on BBC iPlayer from 25 minutes in. You can also read an interview with Ṣode about it here.
- Cerys Matthews recently collaborated with some brilliant poets on a new album ‘We Come From The Sun’.
- There are so many filmpoems online for you to watch – here’s a roundup of what The Poetry Society has to offer. We particularly love this beautifully shot film of ‘Treading Water’ by Ian Humphreys, and this fantastic animation of ‘Dismantling the largest oil tanker in the world’ by Mark Pajak. Out-Spoken also award prizes to filmpoems as well as page and performance poetry, and you can watch previous shortlists online.
- For Colored Girls… by Ntozake Shange (content warning: suicide) is a theatre piece that includes poetry, dance and music to explore the stories of seven women, only identified by colours. Read more on this Wikipedia page – there is also a film.
- Many of the exhibitions at The Poetry Café over the years have been collaborations, from YAPPO to The Practical Visionary, a collage by poets and artists Sophie Herxheimer and Chris McCabe. Scroll through the archive for inspiration here.
- Check out this archive of zines (contains strong language and adult themes).
- Finders Keepers is a poetry/illustration/geocaching collaborative project by Harry Man and Sophie Gainsley.
- La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and the Little Jehanne of France) is a two-metre long book by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars. Called ‘one of the most important artist’s books ever to have been made’ by Christie’s Director of Books in Paris, Adrien Legendre: ‘It is almost like a conversation, and it questions what a book can be.’
- Nobody is a book of illustrations and poetry by William Tillyer and Alice Oswald.
- Ghost Orchard, a series of papercuts inspired by Derryn Rees-Jones’ poetry.
- Robot Squirrel is ‘a robotic wildlife coming of age story by Luke Thompson, with illustrations by John Kilburn’. It’s very pretty!
Good luck! We can’t wait to see what you share.
- There must be at least two (living, active) partners in the collaboration.
- Your collaboration must involve some new poetry, and your group must involve at least one poet – but it’s fine if, for example, there’s one poet and four visual artists working together.
- Young Poets Network is for anyone aged 25 and younger, with no lower age limit. All collaborators must be aged 25 or younger.
- If you’re a group who would like to keep collaborating, you might want to come up with a name for your collective. Let us know your collective’s name when you submit, so we can publish it under that name if it’s a winner in the challenge. Otherwise, winning pieces will be credited to each member of the group, like in this jointly-written poem.
Selected pieces will be published on Young Poets Network, and collaborators will be sent an exclusive Young Poets Network notebook, poetry books and other goodies. Many thanks to Verve Poetry Press for kindly donating three of their ebook titles as prizes for overseas winners.
How to enter
One collaborator should send your collaborative piece(s) to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Collaborative challenge’ by midnight GMT, Sunday 17 January 2021. At the top of your email, please include the name, date of birth/age, gender, county (or, if you’re not from the UK, the country) you live in, and how you found out about this challenge (e.g. YPN email/Twitter/Instagram/through a teacher/through a friend etc.) of everyone who has collaborated on the piece. This data is used for statistical purposes and to help us reach as wide an audience as possible.
This challenge is for collaborators aged 25 and younger, based anywhere in the world. It’s free to enter and you can send as many pieces as you like. The deadline is midnight GMT, Sunday 17 January 2021. If you are sending text, where possible please paste it into the body of your email. If this affects the formatting of your piece, PDFs or Word Documents are accepted. If you are sending a file that is bigger than 5MB (e.g. an image, audio recording, video etc.), please send it to us via WeTransfer, Dropbox or Google Drive, or email us a link to a privately uploaded YouTube or Vimeo video. Do not submit images, videos etc. which are published publicly on the internet, as these are ineligible. Please do be sure to check through the general Terms and Conditions for YPN challenges for full details.
We welcome collaborators of all ages up to 25! If you are aged 12 or younger on Sunday 17 January 2021, you will need to ask a parent/guardian to complete this permission form; otherwise, unfortunately we cannot consider your entry due to data protection laws.
We welcome entries from schools and groups. Use this class entry form to enter students from your class or group.
If you would like us to add you to the Young Poets Network mailing list, include ‘add me to the mailing list’ in the subject line of the email. If you would like us to confirm that we’ve received your entry, include ‘confirm receipt’ in the subject line. You may refuse to provide information about yourself.
By entering, you give permission for Young Poets Network and The Poetry Society to reproduce your work in print and online in perpetuity, though copyright remains with you.
If you require this information in an alternative format (such as Easy Read, Braille, Large Print or screenreader friendly formats), or need any assistance with your entry, please contact us at [email protected].
Published November 2020