Bowen Island poet co-writes 50 poems in 50 days

It’s no walk in the park to sit down and write a poem, but try writing one with another person –or an entire book of poems. 

That’s just what local poet Jude Neale has done. She and Vancouverite Bonnie Nish wrote Cantata in Two Voices, a series of 50 epigraphs written in 50 days, published by Ekstasis Editions.

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An epigraph is a type of literary work that opens or is prefaced by a line or excerpt from another work. 

In this case each poem opens with a line from another poem, inspiration ranging from Margaret Atwood to Robert Haas to even Neale herself.

“You see what that line triggers and they’re all different,” says Jude. “We both felt we couldn’t have a book if we didn’t have the epigraphs because they’re key to the writing itself.” 

The two authors took turns picking the epigraphs, the deal being that the other person would write the first line of the poem. This was sometimes a challenge as the other person could take the poem in a totally different direction and the epigraph chooser was held to continuing that story. 

“I wrote the poetry on my phone,” says Jude. She was off camping and so would send the lines off to her writing partner. 

Alternating line by line (or stanza by stanza) Bonnie and Jude worked through the poems. 

While for some, that might be enough tension to challenge a friendship, Bonnie and Jude’s survived. “We’re still speaking,” laughs Jude. “We’re great friends.”

Jude has written six other books with another in the wings. Bonnie is the executive director of Pandora’s Collective, which is a Vancouver non-profit dedicated to the literary arts. 

There will be a book launch on October 28, but in the meantime,  Jude will be reading at the Word Vancouver Sunrise Suite on Sunday, September 30 at 12:10 p.m.

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