Whiteboardings: Creating Collaborative Poetry in a Third Space by Howard F. Stein and Seth Allcorn
In this remarkable anthology co-authors Howard Stein and Seth Allcorn use the image of the whiteboard to explain and illustrate their unusual creative collaboration. We typically use whiteboards in group settings to brainstorm and note ideas. This is essentially what the authors do in their joint writing, only their whiteboard is the safe “third space” of their collective unconscious and their process involves working with protopoems until they emerge as an expression of the connection between two beings, an intertwining so profound it cannot be disentangled. The poems that emerge from this process are by turns hopeful, bitter, contemplative, and droll.
–Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Family Medicine; Director, Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, University of California Irvine School of Medicine
I had the pleasure of reading Whiteboardings, co-authored poetry by Howard F. Stein and Seth Allcorn, over the course of two days, in small bites, letting the poems digest as I entered into a third space between the writers and the words. The last line still rings: “what is real?” What seems real to me now, as the book still settles, is the depth of this third space, what [Donald] Winnicott once called “potential space”– which, unlike anything I’ve encountered, resounds with both wonder and longing in Stein and Allcorn’s co-authored poems. Indeed, what seems little acknowledged, perhaps unconsciously avoided even, in the mountains of clinical writing on potential space, is just how creative a process of mourning can become when shared, through the free association of words, on a socalled “whiteboard.” A process where the tragic can be at once refused, revisited, reimagined, and ultimately worked with, instead of merely “worked through.”
–Nathan Gerard, Ph.D. Associate Professor Graduate Program Director Department of Health Care Administration California State University, Long Beach
WHITEBOARDINGS is not an easy read. It’s not that the poems are inaccessible or oblique. Not at all. These poems are wide open, clear eyed, generally absent of ambiguity or mystery. No, these poems rip to and from the heart to deliver a full frontal attack on two interrelated core elements of contemporary culture and social values: one, the human cost effected by corporate practices that determinedly demean and dehumanize their workforces. Woven in and throughout the collection are poems that provide flashes of relief from the global and personal degradations. That relief comes mainly when Stein and Allcorn spend time in Nature, outdoors, alone or together although even then the tumult of life tends to intrude.
–Review commentary by Dolores Brandon, poet, memoirist, actress