Our Own Collaboration

Matthew Dickman

Berlin, Germany

May 7, 2013

Dear Friend,

I have arrived in Berlin after a short stay in Reggio-Emilia, Italy. There at the Collezionemaramotti, I attended the opening of Jason Dodge’s first permanent sculpture titled “A Permanently Open Window”  and joined him in conversation about the piece, our ongoing collaboration in conversation about visual art and poetry, as well as reading a group of my own poems, translated into Italian by Franco Nasi, for the event which included about a hundred and sixty people. Part of my inclusion in this event came out of Jason’s interest in building a collaborative understanding/connection between visual artists and poets through his publishing house Five Hundred Places.

A lot of the time collaboration seems to be focused on some sort of physical object: a poet writes a poem and a painter paints the words on a canvas, a quartet plays and a speaker speaks, but those kinds of collaborations seem limited to me. Jason and I have been having an ongoing conversation for about a year now. It is the conversation itself that I view as the collaboration and through that conversation the poems I have been writing have changed. This is more than simply being affected and so ones impulses change, but a conscience decision to engage in the collaboration and choose to make work that comes directly out of it. I wonder if this makes any sense! I miss you and want to be clear! I wonder what you think about when you think about collaboration. Have you ever collaborated with someone who works with different tools than you do? Will you write me about it?

Maybe you and I are beginning our own collaboration right now? Maybe this week you might reach out to someone with different ideas than you, with a different heart, and collaborate on something, each your own, with them… and maybe write me about it!

Believe me,

Matthew Dickman


Matthew Dickman is the poetry editor of Tin House and the author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton, 2012). He lives and works in Portland, Oregon.