Seven Poets, Four Days, One Book (2009)

Lauded poet Christopher Merrill hatched a brilliant plan: invite six other poets to join him in four days of writing in Iowa City. The poets would write for 30 minutes, creating a poem of 15 lines, and then read it aloud to the group. Then, each poet would take one line from another poet, and create another poem using that line. These rounds continued, until, in a process of call and response and unprecedented collaboration, 80 poems had been composed.

Those 80 poems are collected in this book, penned by authors who represent some of the best and brightest the world of poetry has to offer. Transcending differences of generation, gender, language, and vision, these poets have invented an entirely new facet of the poet’s creative process.

Some excerpts follow:

Of this and that. The union of fabric and flesh. As when the bugler rose one night from a deep sleep, pulled on his fatigues, and left the regiment camped outside the walled city to wander through the desert until he came to a cave in which the scrolls had moldered and the bones of the divine shone intermittently. Tracer rounds lit a new route to the interior of the mud hut in which the patriarch of the family at prayer opened the holy book to the page on which nothing was written, and closed his eyes to chant above the din of artillery shells and the staccato of small arms fire. The quartermaster studied the neighborhood associations listed in the appendix of the report on the bridges destroyed in the last offensive, and counted backwards from ten. A tune forgotten by the bugler echoed in the cave, like the words dissolving on the scroll. Five, four, three…

Quicksilver, and a sliver in the seam
Of coal smoldering underground, and resin
Collected from the final totem pole
Carved for the anniversary of the war
On the invisible. What did you see
In the cruel hookah? A new red
For the fall fashion show, another network
To infiltrate before the spring offensive,
Words in an ancient script that no one read
Until the fire meandering through the earth
Had been extinguished. Too late! the model cried,
Slipping into an evening dress designed
For someone else. What happened to the silver
Mined by our enemies to pay their debts
To us? The totem poles swayed in the wind.