According to Wikipedia, “collaborative poetry”, also called “collective poetry”, is an alternative creative technique whose main aim is “to create poems with multiple collaborations from various authors […] working in conjunction with one another to try to form a unified voice that can still maintain their individual voices”.
Motto: “A word after a word after a word is power.” (Margaret Atwood)
As for the method itself, it can be traced back to the 1940s when an American poet, Charles Henri Ford, made up the rules of the „chain poem”, where a poet would create a line and then forward it to another poet across the world by post in order for it to be continued.
Ford himself provided a wonderful definition of this new poetry type: “The chain poem is not only an intellectual sport but a collective invention. However, it is not a product of social collaboration in the sense that architecture is. Each poet is architect, supervisor, bricklayer, etc., of the construction. The blueprint of the chain poem is the anonymous shape lying in a hypothetical joint imagination, which builds as though the poem were a series of either mathematical or dream progressions.”
Charles Henri Ford also explained the method of the “chain poem”: “Thus, after the first line is written, the problem of each poet, in turn, is to provide a line which may both “contradict” and carry forward the preceding line. The chain poet may attempt to include his unique style and make it intelligible to the poem as well; in which case the chain poem will have a logical and spontaneous growth.”
The Global Education Week has been “a Europe wide awareness raising event, which takes place annually in formal and non-formal educational settings across the continent” since 1999 when it was launched by the North- South Centre of the Council of Europe. The Global Education Week has been devoted a different theme every year since then with the purpose of encouraging educators and learners to explore educational activities for global citizenship, promoting cultural awareness and intercultural dialogue.
„My World Depends on Us” was the theme of the 2017 Global Education Week and, to mark the occasion, I warmly invited some virtual friends (among whom were students of mine, teachers of English and other pen pals) to take part in the process of creating a collective poem entitled “My World Depends on Us”.
Our words, expressing our prior knowledge, our individual thoughts and feelings on the given topic, added between the 18th and 26th of November 2017, were then put together in a unified message, thus becoming a single voice strong enough to raise awareness of our roles and responsibilities in the world, a voice of those who have something significant to say and act upon, a voice of those who are ready to make a difference through an educational opportunity by sharing a message committed to bring about hope and positive change in a changing world.
One of the purposes of the poem which was created by this group was to prove that words are powerful, that together we can identify solutions to the problems around us, solutions which will inspire the world to turn them into actions that will make our planet a more equitable and sustainable place, a better home for all.
For one week, we used a social platform to try to make others understand that interdependence is the key word. The willingness to cooperate, to work together with others as a team and even sacrifice our selfish individual ambitions for the greater good, can be the right attitude and the first step towards the first act of kindness, tolerance, respect, peace, dignity, well- being and democracy.
The final product which you can read below, our collective poem entitled “My World Depends on Us”, has been shared with others, including the North–South Centre, the official European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity and the initiator of Global Education Week.
“My world depends on us- me and you/ As leaves depend on trees,/ and stars depend on the sky/ We breathe together as we rise/ We dream and make each other’s dreams come true./ We cry and laugh and learn to see/ What’s right and wrong and share to all/ Our values of democracy,/ Our faith and hopes that grow us strong./ We give each other hope and faith,/And though you cannot fix the world/ You ought to do your small part/ For all of us, for all its worth./ So, offer more to get more!/ Share a smile with a friend or a stranger,/ Set all hopes free here and there/ And spread kindness everywhere./ Kindness- that one thing/ That makes us all human./ Though beware (do not ignore!)/ A kindness act shall not be forgotten/ Into the cruel angry sea/ As a small fish is swallowed into the dark unknown/ By a hungry whale./ A fine deed will remain written in a fictional notebook,/ with fictional ink,/ marked with ‘Approved’,/ and change a fellow’s path for the better./ So much kindness in the world for you and me!/ So much good to be done, so much beauty to see,/ So many things to be learnt and so many to be taught,/ It would be a pity not to make all children part of this art!/ The beauty of the World is in the smile of a Child!/ Knowledge is power, we are passing away,/ But knowledge with no love will bring the war again./ Democracy may be full of disappointments and heartache,/ But the alternative is much worse./ My world depends on us, on you, on them,/ On everybody sticking together to make it a better place,/ A safer place, a more enjoyable place…for me, for you, for us,/ For them- together we can make a change!/ A small act of kindness, a warm embrace,/ Can bring warmth and light in a cold, dark place;/ A season of hope will begin tomorrow,/ If we remember to pray and forget our sorrow./ We should have the courage to take action,/ Try to be more responsible for our own actions./ We all speak the same language in our hearts,/ We all hope to be loved and lead happy lives;/ There’s so much to embrace for our loving arms/ Our whole world with its magical sunrises and smiles./ The past was a season of wisdom and thought,/ The present- a gift towards kindness and worth,/ Let tomorrow be a lesson of value and grace,/ A time for our gratitude and togetherness./ And instead of losing hope,/ We should start building a better future together,/ Start with ourselves: first our thoughts,/ Then our intentions and our actions:/ Baby steps can change the world/ For me and you, for today’s babies./ We should build a better world/ For the children of tomorrow/ A safer place of peace and hope/ A better place to call their home./ And when the future is a space/ Of harmony and inspiration,/ The only thing the young will need/ Is solid, proper education.”
As you can see, the world really depends on us, it relies on all our words and all our actions, our future depends on the thoughts and feelings we share at present, the relationships we build, the values we cherish, the priorities we promote, the education we celebrate.
Needless to say, this creative technique can and should be used during the English classes on various occasions related to the celebration of certain aspects of culture and civilization, in order to assess the benefits of group work or cooperative learning, to facilitate student interaction, to share (and gain) knowledge and experience, to value effective communication and successful teamwork skills and to promote human values, beliefs and perceptions.
Howard, A., “Charles Henri Ford: Between Modernism and Postmodernism”, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, p. 81
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_poetry (accessed on May 28, 2018)
enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/6234477/Collective_poetry (accessed on May 28, 2018)
www.coe.int/en/web/north-south-centre/the-global-education-week (accessed on May 28, 2018)
www.goodreads.com/quotes/13353-a-word-after-a-word-after-a-word-is-power (accessed on May 28, 2018)