Friday, September 5, 2014

Writing is not Always a Solitary Venture

We often hear stories about the solitary writer, but this story is about a collaborative writing project in which I had the privilege to participate. Maria Vasquez Boyd, invited 10 writers from the greater Kansas City area to write a renga on the theme of radio to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of ArtSpeak Radio, a show that Maria and Blair Schulman host on community radio station KKFI 90.1 FM.

Renga or "linked poem" is a Japanese form. It originally consisted of alternating stanzas of  3-lines totaling 17 syllables (sound familiar?) and two-lines of seven syllables each. Contemporary renga is more flexible. For Radio Renga, each person wrote 10 lines with no restriction on syllable count.

    Radio Renga Team-Standing (l to r): Michelle Pond, Carl Bettis,
    Jen Harris, Miguel Morales, Maria Vasquez Boyd, Blair Schulman.
    Around the Ukulele Case (l to r): Diego Chi, Jennifer Leigh Coates, 
    Sandra Moran, Missing (and missed): Norma Elia Cantu, Damon
    Lee Patterson and Shawn Pavey. 

We were given an order in which to write and had about 48 hours to complete our 10 lines. We were reminded not to write ahead, but to work off of the previous stanza. Shawn Pavey, our lead poet, set up a shared document for us to use and also sent a reminder to each of us when it was our turn.

I was sixth in line and felt like I was being bombarded by radio memories while I waited for my turn to come. I was a little nervous when I got the go signal since this was my first experience with renga and relieved when a couple of lines from the previous stanza jumped out at me. I used those as prompts and got my stanza done by the deadline.

So, you might ask, weren't you still a solitary writer? I never lost the sense of being part of the group when I was writing. My inspiration came from the stanza before and when I was finished, I read the other stanzas to make sure someone else hadn't written something similar.

Maria Vasquez Boyd

Radio Renga premiered on ArtSpeak Radio September 3 and it was a special evening. The energy in the studio seemed to build throughout the reading. As each person finished, there were fist bumps, arms raised, any non-verbal acknowledgement of a good job that we could give.

After the last line, Maria and Blair graciously began to applaud and the writers joined in. In my mind we were applauding the whole experience: the station, the show, our memories of radio, the writing, the reading, the collaboration and new bonds.

All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Joy Baker. Thank you, Joy!

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