Richard Hell—former member of Television and Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and all-around punk pioneer—talks to The Creative Independent about the beauties and challenges of artistic collaboration. Although best known as a punk musician, Hell's first love was poetry and he continues to be a prolific and widely read writer. Here's an except from the interview:
I love that about collaboration. It frees you from self-consciousness. It makes the poem something that you’re doing for fun and pleasure and mental challenge. You have this stimulus of what the other person has just produced, and you play off one another. You can subvert it, you can extend it, you can take it in a direction suggested by one word in it. You get out of yourself. For me, that was really useful. I’ve found that I’ve never stopped liking collaborating. To be that intimately involved with how somebody else’s mind works in the same arena as you’re in, and that you’re bouncing off of each other in that way, is just freeing and inspiring.
People think of poems as being personal expression, or paintings, or any medium. So as a rule, collaborations are thought of as being minor. But I respect collaborations and I’m fascinated by them. In my own work I think of the collaborations as being equal to the works I create alone, and I’ve learned a lot from doing them. For one thing, as I said, they free you from self-consciousness. To me, that’s always been a challenge, that state of facing a blank page, or for a painting a blank canvas, where it’s like all of a sudden the spotlight is turned on you and you’ve got to perform, no boundaries, and you just become paralyzed with self-consciousness.
Image of a young Richard Hell via the Daily Beast.