Poetry As Collaborative Art: Catherine Garbinsky's Exquisite Corpse Project

As part of her time as our Featured Artist, Catherine Garbinsky wanted to find a way to connect with other poets through collaborative engagements, reminiscent of the writing games she grew up playing with her mother. Through Twitter, we launched her Exquisite Corpse project and invited members of the poetry community to participate. On her final day with us, Catherine shares the delightful results of her collaborations.


Photo by Dieter de Vroomen on Unsplash

Round 1
Featuring Elena Savva Kotsile, Sara Matson, Nichole McElhaney, Miggy Angel, D.E. Strasser, and Sarah Little

Fear comes like an animal in the night, growling at my door
It slips through the cracks of my own existence
It shadows my every move
Eyes wrapping around each shoulder like fresh lightning bolts
Visions stir, haunting and hallowed
Memories of things long buried by feeble hands
I shudder and gasp for the reprieve of morning
dawn // rudderless // knife // aggrieve //mourning
bending into light
Do you remember when we would hold the magnifying glass,
Bend light, set leaves on fire?
The sun rises and I burst into flame
Heat rises; I rise,
a mini tornado on the verge of burning out


Photo by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash

Round 2
Featuring Cory Funk, Marisa Silva-Dunbar, Amanda McLeod, Adam Strauss, and Carly Maria Hubbard

Rain child, you dropped from the sky into my arms
Caught not like a train or a cold,
Mary hailed with knuckles white from tendons taut.
Thunder shook the earth beneath us,
The dust floated between our fingertips.
I will be mother and father, I will be a cloudless sky
A desert made spring green by your sweet water
Promise me only that you will sing
Of motes and motels, marigolds and margarine
I will dance in the mud to the lightning crack of your voice
Line our shadows with your sizzle, sting us into bright


Photo by Elijah Boisvert on Unsplash

Round 3
Featuring Joaquin Fernandez, Chloe N. Clark, and Carla Sofia Fereirra

Young birds begin to molt in spring,
new feathers painful to the touch

Stirring, anxious, bright with song
The fall before the flight

Even the trees grow
Impatient with birds’ youth

—fickle in flight to: fancy,
fight, or ask for directions


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Round 4
Featuring Jessie Lynn McMains, Elisabeth Horan, Jessica Morey-Collins, and Emily Anderson

In the morning my hands were stripped to bone
and all my precious petals flaked to rust
Something sounded deep within me
it was the echo of me as a little girl
Small as a candlewick waiting to be lit
Flame suspended like an empty lung, hungry for breath
I listen close
The wind sings hushed tones past my window


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Round 5
Featuring Juliette Van der Molen, Kangkan Gayan, Susan Richardson, Jess R. Sutton, and Cate McGowan

I kept it locked away, hidden from the light of memory
But you were still there, rubbing my secrets
with hand stitches folded deep inside cedar
You found moth eaten words, faded paper promises
The smiles seem disrupted
Stuttering stars and tongues
Silence saturated my mouth, lodged in my throat
It grew like moss down my chin, soft, soft, soft, soft
Every seed I’d ever planted
Implanted in my chest
When you spoke, I began to bloom
At dusk, a nightjar churred and repeated the same phrase.
“You’re free, you’re free, you’re free.”


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