Collaborations

Photo: B. Gates
Poems & Masks
Photo: B. Gates
The Singing Bridge
The Singing Bridge

 

Collaboration has stretched my concept of sound, music and language and my vision. Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of artists, composers, singers and translators who have helped expand my artistic practice. I have learned from their generosity and talent.

The collaboration process requires commitment, flexibility and at times, conflict on the way to resolution which can be unexpected in the best sense. I’ve learned through collaboration that the result will become larger than my own imagining. Each person brings certain gifts and the creative forces will tangle, dance and land in a new place within the project. The process becomes the teacher, and in my experience, it’s worth the struggle–many gifts along the way.

Different examples come to mind. I think I first discovered the rewards of collaboration through engaging with the energy of the Bay Area Book Arts scene in the 70’s in San Francisco, and again, in 1980. I founded Granite Press (1975-89) in Penobscot, Maine where designing and printing poetry letterpress broadsides brought in other artists and poets. In another vein, the Down East chamber opera, “The Singing Bridge,” with music by Anna Dembska, produced by Maine’s Opera House Arts in Stonington, began as a few songs performed at The Crystal Quilt in NYC. I had decided music was the most transforming force for the hard story, the real stuff of operas (mistaken identity, alcoholism, incest), when I approached Anna with the material. I conceived and wrote the libretto for “The Singing Bridge” and rewrote the lyrics many times to bring the emotional meanings clearly to what the music demanded. In the same years I was working on “The Singing Bridge,” I translated, with Electa Arenal, contemporary Spanish poet Jesús Aguado’s The Poems of Vikram Babu (HOST) and loved meeting the challenges of the impossible art. And more recently, I collaborated with weaver Ron King on Poetry & Masks as part of the Farm/Arts Exchange Show at Reversing Falls Sanctuary in Brooksville, Maine for a show at The Gallery Within. I found myself writing poems I never would have written, drawn out by Ron’s outrageous titles— such as, “A mask for a male goat pretending to be a turnip” which was published in Brooksville’s zine, Afterthought and is here too.