At the Edge of Forget by Reka Jellema, Brendan Bonsack, Kathryn Ross, and Jennifer Savage

at the edge of forgetThis unique volume of poetry tears down the stereotype of the solitary poet locked in a room, as the entire volume is the collaboration of four poets. It is not an anthology of their individual work, but a collection of collaborative poetry created across continents. Two of the writers, Reka Jellema and Jennifer Savage, live in different areas of the United States. Brendan Bonsack and Kathryn Ross are both from Australia. Together, they break the collection into three areas, “Resonance,” “Weaving,” and “Remberance.” And although it does not impact the contents, it is worth noting that the book cover photo and design are outstanding (and the work of two of the writers).

If you are skeptical about the concept, you will not be after reading the collection. This collaborative collection creates a strong, deep voice where the writers clearly listened to one another’s writing and enhanced their individual voices. To use their own titles, the ideas of resonance and weaving are what make these poems work, whie the poems of rememberance remind us of the connection with others of our mortality.

They seem to touch on their connection with one another in their opening poem, “We Met Before.”

“I have met you before
I can tell by the flurry of words

Spoken, not spoken
Assembled like confetti
Blown from my lips, flecked in my hair
A swarm of tiny letters
The sayable puzzles, and the unsayable

Were we meant to fit together,
And this blinking, squinting, mutter-mutter know?

When I met you before
Our time was runing low”

Throughout the collection, we see a range of themes and find both serious and winsome words. In the midst of a poem entitled “Canine,” we get an accurate look at dogs, but with a seriousness which can only make us smile:

“…
We licked
our spots, divined
A crotch
From miles off

Unleashing
With each nudge of snout
Scents by the millions
Stars exploding
Pungent edge of lawns, uprooted
Trees, and variegated clumps
Of weeds

Our nostrils quivered
And our tails shot up
…”

Whether exploring marriage (“A Love’s Little Scratching”), objects (“Ceiling”), or grief (“Ways to Say Goodbye”), the writers combine to create a unique voice, a new way of looking at life. A poem like “Wednesdays” could be written by one person, but the different voices in creating these snapshots add a depth to the voice. We see this again in “Men of Bicycle” as different views take us past the visual into a realm of wondering.

This collection offers us a new way to approach writing. While many have talked about collaborative writing in our digital age, this volume shows it not only working but presenting a new voice. It is exciting to think how the addition of a new person, or the replacement of one writer, could affect how these writers work together. Perhaps the four voices behind it make you feel like there is a conversation happening and you are invited to join in. Pull up a chair. You will be better for it.

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