We met Dethe and Daniela Elza in Ohio, when Dethe and Doug were working on their M.S. degrees in Math. You’ll see in this guest post, as they talk about their intersecting individual interests and their collaborations as a couple, why we’ve kept in touch. We hope to see Dethe and Daniela in Vancouver soon.
We have been collaborating off and on for 17 years, and have been married almost as long. We met in syntax class. Daniela was majoring in Linguistics and Dethe was majoring in Computer Science (with a minor in Linguistics). Even before she really met him, Daniela gave Dethe a poem to look over before sending it to a contest. She knew there would be no harm done, since this guy (sitting casually in the hallway, with slits in the knees of his jeans and bandana on his head) was just one of her classmates. Dethe surprised her by removing extraneous words and tightening the poem up. A year or so later, we married.
At first glance, a poet and a computer programmer may not seem to have much in common, but Daniela is interested in metaphor, poetic and ecological consciousness, imagination, memory. Dethe is interested in generative art, programming for the fun of it. Daniela was excited about a novel Dethe wrote when he was 17. Over their first summer, together she typed it all up, giving feedback in the process. Both of us are interested in language, writing, and science.
Prior to actually producing a piece of work together, the collaborative spirit was well in place. We used to share a blog. Daniela would read over Dethe’s articles with a poetic eye; Dethe would scrutinize her poems and at times even read them upside down. When Daniela is stuck for a title, Dethe comes to the rescue. Feedback usually gets incorporated into the work.
While Dethe works in computer programming, Daniela, over the years, drifted more into the areas of and intersections between poetry and philosophy. For Dethe, art is an escape from his day job. He works on art projects to change the pace, chill out, and while it often involves programming, it is more play than work. His approach is more exploratory, more in the spirit of discovery. For Daniela writing is her day job.
In our collaborations, we meet in unique and unusual ways. Active collaboration, we have come to see as a kind of letting go, a kind of speaking together, where the we becomes one, and the I more explicitly dissolves. The concern is with the idea at hand and not who is developing it. Always being open to the possibilities the other person brings. If you think one mind at work is a mystery, try figuring out two.
Learning how to work through a marriage (and it is work) has helped us work through our other collaborations too. Working together as a couple introduces new challenges and constraints, while at the same time introducing fresh inspiration and a higher level of intimacy in the collaboration. We more easily dispense with the logistics around apologizing for messing with the other’s work.
Daniela has also been collaborating with other poets and artists for the last couple of years, and is quite intrigued with the process. She is hoping to put a book together of all her collaborations.
Each of our collaborations has been different. Sometimes—like with “In Earth Dreams”—we’d both been working on different parts of it independently, then collaborated by mixing the poem and animation together. Other times, we explicitly set out to collaborate, with one of us providing the kernel of the idea, like the poem (see the process notes too) blood_alley://interstital_syn.tax.
What comes to mind when we think of our collaborations? A process full of surprises, twists, and turns. Excitement and convenience in proximity. We both have so many things on the go that we can weave together. Our lives together provide lots of overlapping associations for context in these projects. Once we start something, we push each other to finish it. We send each other places to submit. Sometimes we even submit to the same place.
Currently we are working on an ebook of Daniela’s poems, The Book of It. And for Lofty Ambitions readers who are writers, too, Dethe is working on a web application for Daniela (and other writers) to track submissions. Still, the most labor intensive and the most rewarding collaboration remain our two children.
BONUS: If you have an iPhone, there’s more Elza collaboration! “Words for Crow” is a book of poetry by Daniela Elza, original art by Nevena Giljanovic, programming by Dethe Elza, photography by Dethe and Daniela Elza. Just click on the title or here to download for 99 cents.