Collaborations

Cover of "Blink," a collaboration with the artist Colby Caldwell.

Cover of "Blink," a collaboration with the artist Colby Caldwell.

It’s impossible to think very well when one thinks wholly alone. To think together might mean to pick up a book, to watch a documentary, or to follow someone else’s recipe. Through reading or viewing a novel, a poem, a film, or a recipe, two people make meaning together: the author and the audience. In this way, all language and all images are kinds of collaborations. In order for empathy to occur, at least two people must agree to work together towards an aesthetic, political, intellectual, or spiritual understanding.

And yet I collaborate beyond merely offering up my writing to readers. Why? Because I believe that there is something both vital and true in making work with another flesh-and-blood person, standing side-by-side (or at least screen-by-screen). I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with many writers on critical projects: of my six books, just one was written only by me. These collaborations are evident across almost all of my work: on this site, you’ll find information on my co-edited and co-authored projects under Books and Articles.

To collaborate with a fellow artist, however, is something else altogether. I have had the great privilege of bringing together my creative writing with visual artists, including two painters and a photographer as well as galleries that have asked me to write pieces to re-imagine exhibitions of visual art. 

Here, you will find the re-experience of an old Episcopal church through the synthesis of my own microfiction paired with one of Carrie Patterson’s paintings (“Gifts”); an essay I wrote about Sue Johnson’s artistic amalgam of materials by Lewis Carroll and Marian Moore held by the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia; creative-critical essays I wrote for three separate art exhibitions, including the Re-Generation show of work by Joseph Albers’ protégés; and a piece of fiction I co-created with photographer Colby Caldwell, one we turned into a one-of-a-kind book, “Blink,” available here for download. 

In the case of my collaborations with Carrie and Colby, our final pieces evolved from joint projects we did with our students across my upper-level fiction workshops and their painting and photography classes. Here, the teacher became the student: for in engaging these collaborations, I learned much more than I taught.