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c1: A Collaborative Poetry Project

Two Poets Engage in a Multimedia Correspondence Minted on ETH

Reinventing the Canon

My friend Linda and I have just released the opening exchange of letters in a project titled, or c1, which documents a Web3 friendship through the lens of a multimedia correspondence. Upon attempting to describe our NFT poetry project on Foundation, we realized we had to play with taxonomic boundaries. Is c1 a poetic exchange in the form of letters, or is it an exchange of poetic letters? Either way, one is tempted to call the genre epistolary, which points to a literary work in the form of letters. However, the epistolary form generally falls under the heading of fictional work. While Linda and I grant each other ample poetic license, our exchanges remain grounded in our respective heart-centered realities. This would suggest that c1 is leaning towards non-fiction, or possibly creative non-fiction: a genre which has flourished over the past decade.

Creative non-fiction is a malleable genre, which encompasses many sub-genres, ranging from the lyric essay to fictional autobiography. I haven’t seen correspondence in the form of creative non-fictional letter exchanges in this new space, which requires two flesh and bone authors, rather than just one. Perhaps this is a first, especially on the blockchain. Creative non-fiction certainly feels loose enough to “house” c1. 

While creative non-fiction embraces different forms of media and champions ekphrastic poetry, there is another genre, which is not strictly literary, called transmedia. According to multiple sources, evidently all copying and pasting from the same source: transmedia is a style of storytelling that employs a number of complementary elements, such as video, text, photo, that can be experienced in a variety of contexts. The definition of the transmedia genre feels similarly supple.

Ultimately, there is no great urgency to label or categorize this project, and perhaps that's not entirely for us to do. Nonetheless, it feels meaningful to observe and contemplate this pocket of experimentation, which exists at the intersection of something timeless, i.e. friends writing letters, and the possibilities offered by modern technology.

Correspondence as a Container for Self-Exploration

As humans creating meaning through narrative, we are naturally drawn to stories beyond our limited purview, especially when these resonate and/or reflect something previously unseen back to us. Rich multimedia pieces can be especially effective in conveying the human experience. And letters, perhaps above any other genre, allow us to read between the lines, notice what is left unsaid, and feel into the differences and similarities between the two correspondents. I immediately think of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, or F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, to state the obvious, but also the letters of my deceased grandmother, older letters I've purchased in flea markets, my own letters To the Editor of obscure publications, letters I've written and never sent, the one-off response to a lonely hearts ad, etc. There is something incredibly poignant about personal correspondence of any kind.

Letters are also interesting because we so often write much more than we might say, not necessarily in quantity, but in depth and authenticity. Even in the time of instant text messaging, there is a spaciousness to correspondence that gives the author permission to share her experience without unnecessary artifice or precaution. When a forced immediacy falls away, there is a tacit understanding that not everything that is written requires an explicit response. At its best, correspondence provides a strong, quiet and spacious container within which its authors may roam free, and if bold enough, explore new, unchartered territories in their respective psyches. 

The Power and the Intimacy of the Human Voice 

In the c1 project, there is the added input of the human voice. The multimedia facet of our project means that Linda and I have each heard each other’s letters being read to us. There is an immediate quality of intimacy delivered through the voice. I immediately pick up on Linda’s unique energy signature as I listen to her deliver words chosen just for me. I now know Linda, even if I haven’t met her in this lifetime. 

There is also a cinematic feel to letters being read in this way. In a sense, the c1 project is performative, while also being utterly authentic because it is essentially a (polished) reflection of the long chats Linda and I have on Signal across ten timezones. Interestingly, Linda often comments on how different we are, whereas I'm usually struck by our similarities. Both impressions are by definition valid, and no doubt the project in its entirety will reflect this false dichotomy as well. We are are also thinking about minting some informal, meaning unrehearsed, voice conversations, as part of the c1 body of correspondence.

Correspondence As a Historical Document

The c1 project is a multi-layered gift. First, there is the most obvious gift that is the nascent friendship between two poets living half way across the world from each other, who may never meet IRL. Secondly, viewers/listeners are confronted with a correspondence which documents the possibilities of human connection when the power of Web3 is leveraged. Finally, we are creating a collection of poems that will speak to other artists and humans, who like us, are asking themselves in what way they would like to be a part of the larger artistic and multicultural conversation, specifically as it relates to poetry. 

The beauty of this project is that it reflects a profound, heartfelt conversation. c1 is not a fiction, we are not choosing our words to construct a narrative. Rather, our conversation is a time capsule echoing myriad decentralized conversations. Our exchanges capture an apocalyptic quality, commingled with a fin-de-siècle ennui very specific to our epoch, a love of language and all living things, a connection with the mystery, an inescapable sadness, and notwithstanding these challenging energies, a relentless desire to dance, and play, and laugh, in a desert super bloom at the edge of time.