Creative Collaborations: Paul Brookes and Jerome Berglund



The notion of acclaimed English poet Paul Brookes—who had  been interviewed in Setu—and myself putting our heads together through a collaborative process, to produce something blending our somewhat contrasting styles had been suggested to us by this journal’s wonderful, accomplished English editor—consummate, innovative proponent of conversation and dialogue in the arts, multilingual world-traveler himself, who publishes from India to Canada— Dr. Sunil Sharma initially. 


Paul is a masterful, quite original haikuist, and I have also found great satisfaction and fulfillment exploring the rich tradition of economical literary snapshots, and their (most common) proverbial configurations of dual images juxtaposed.  But while we both possessed some passing exposure and immense appreciation for the larger practice (including those seminal renga) from which the historical hokku was first derived, broke loose so to speak, and were extracted as individual set-pieces, neither of us had as yet experimented with the fusion cuisines blending these lasers of concrete meaning could be combined toward giving rise to and strikingly achieving between several participants working in concert. 


Coincidentally, a very modern and sophisticated approach and technique for effecting such a collusion had just been wonderfully expounded upon at length in one of the latest issues of Frogpond, the official journal of the Haiku Society of America (a subscription to which is included with the very reasonable annual membership dues), and that fantastic article provided step-by-step instructions and made the practice so enticing that upon reading it an aspiring haijin like myself invariably becomes highly inspired to attempt at the first opportunity. 


Thankfully Paul was extremely kind and generous, and expressed the utmost interest and enthusiasm for delving into something new outside both our comfort zones (“Love collaborating. Love learning new skills. Love working with folk that expand my own horizons…” he informed me commendably) so we immediately set about following the directions and prescriptions on how to fruitfully intermingle our Midwestern and Albion voices and sensibilities into jarring, provocative synthesis. 


We began by determining two pieces each which seemed particularly suited for this process, having strong, discrete, somewhat contained lines and breaks which might conceivably stand-alone segmented.  Our partner then provided two additional micro poems to be inserted into the gaps which arose when we allowed space between them for cooperation and solidarity. Within the first two lines and following the final one of the segmented foundations these two new additions were positioned. American readers might find a fitting analogue for the cross-sectioned sequence in those three buns of a customary Big Mac hamburger from McDonald’s.


After the collaborator added his two poetic responses to the original construction, the spinal column’s author contributed its final central heart of the sequence at the end, approximating the meat patty for our sandwich analogy, pièce de resistance of sorts to anchor it, signed, sealed and delivered.  There are a few different approaches to the split, in certain circumstances they are done entirely by a single author, and others also prefer to have each of the inserted verses by the alternate party, which depending on objective can have its merits.  But you may note that in this most common and popular arrangement each writer contributes six lines total, there is an even weighting and ideally a beautiful balance realized between the two voices on display, creating arguably a perfect Hegelian dialectic tension, bringing to mind competing magnets, see-saws, the Cold War, yin-yang…


Finally, we generated fitting titles with the intention—in a function not dissimilar to their applications via haibun or rengay—of their helping situate each work in its desired context of bondage and limitation, spatial or class, mental as much as relational, physical and metaphoric.  I’m enormously grateful to Paul for so magnanimously suffering the six-hour time differences from Minneapolis over the pond to where he resides while working together with me, lending his inimitable spark and potent original edge to these works. Each of us being of a contrarian bent, admittedly somewhat unconventional in our own fashions and methodologies, these may well represent haiku[1] splitting unlike any you shall encounter anytime soon, I hope you won’t hold that against us too harshly! Thank you for reading, would love to hear your thoughts on our barmy escapades... :D


--- Jerome Berglund, Minneapolis MN



Collaborative Practice:




---Paul Brookes and Jerome Berglund


parlor room


Wooden serviette 

rings, from Woolworths kept special,

white linen napkins.


undercover maid is revealed


bowing under

weight seems to leer

arctic shelf


...if it weren't for you meddling kids!


dead ones dull

Yorkshire Stone cannot match the flashy 

posh shiny granite





Chicken Wire


---Paul Brookes and Jerome Berglund


these millennials not having children...


root, rot, pit support 

steel arches - the Drift darkness

often stared into mute


master forces captives 


Llewyn Davis 

takes requests 

sitting for da Vinci


to multiply 


once much clank, heat, scrape 

busy dust there is left gust 

heat slow dust turn light





Bird Rescue


---Jerome Berglund and Paul Brookes


All cages free caged. 



is not moving

chipped nail


Release imagination.


lamp helps avoid trip 

on railway tracks, see roof yawn 

cathedral crumble


Chains chafe, break blood out.


Walgreens lot

man approaches car window

mismatched shoes


Fish Tank


---Jerome Berglund and Paul Brookes


poison in veins frees


lonely blonde

balcony scene

torches doth teach


skin to need more poison pain


Nowhere to go dream 

dependent. Free to roam, to contemplate.

Locked into four walls.


skewers a ladder


climbing this staircase 

time and time again knees cry out


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