A Virtual Interview with Janice R. Campbell and Toni Heringer Falls

Poets Janice R. Campbell and Toni Heringer Falls bring their collaborative poetry performance, Braided Stream: A Poetry Duet, to BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) for October’s 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic on October 9, 2014 from 6:45 to 9:00 p.m. The evening will start with music from guitarist Renée Suaste beginning at 6:45 p.m., followed by Braided Stream at 7:15 p.m. Campbell and Falls will sign their book, Braided Stream: A Poetry Duet after the open mic.

Background

Janice R. Campbell and Toni Heringer Falls are the co-authors of the collaborative performance and book Braided Stream: A Poetry Duet.

BraidedStream
Janice Rebecca Campbell (right) is a poet, artist, photographer, and graphic designer. Her poems have appeared in anthologies and publications including bottle rockets, The Dreamcatcher, Passager, San Antonio Express-News, tinywords, and Verses, a poetry exhibition celebrating Contemporary Art Month in San Antonio.

Campbell is the author of two books of poetry, pink merrymaking allowed in the midst of green geometry and A Disturbance in the Field: Collected Poems 1971–2013, and co-author of Braided Stream: A Poetry Duet, a collaborative performance and book with poet Toni Heringer Falls.

Toni Heringer Falls (left) graduated from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) with a BS in elementary education and from St. Mary’s University (San Antonio, TX) with a MA in counseling. She is a retired teacher, psychotherapist, and an inactive Licensed Professional Counselor. Formerly from Jonesboro, Arkansas, she now lives in San Antonio with her husband and an ill-mannered dog.

Falls’ poetry has been published in anthologies and publications including The Dreamcatcher, San Antonio Express-News, Sustaining Abundant Life, Texas Poetry Calendar, Voices Along the River, and Voices de la Luna. The poem “Gift” won first place in the San Antonio Poetry Fair, 2010.

Falls is currently seeking a publisher for her completed manuscript, Snow in Summer.

The Interview

CH: How would you each describe your own work? How would you describe each other’s work?

THF: Almost all my work consists of stories—stories from my life and from the lives of others. I’ll know when a poem is about to “come up.” (That sounds like I’m preparing to throw-up, but instead, my body resonates, starts to hum, and a central line will begin running through my head non-stop. It won’t stop until I catch it and pen it to paper.) Most of my poems are rather long; it seems to take me awhile to make my point.

Janice’s work is altogether different. We write about many of the same subjects, but she usually writes very short, concise, straight-to- the-heart-of-it poetry. She loves haiku and nails everything within those three short lines. I’m jealous.

JRC: I think Toni’s work and my work have some similarities: The poems are honest and accessible, and we each strive to make poems that are clear-eyed lenses on the world. But our styles and voices are different: Toni’s poems are lush, and longer; my poems are spare, and shorter. We make a good braided stream!

CH: What inspired you to engage in the collaboration that is Braided Stream? Is this your first collaborative work?

THF:  I bow to Janice on this question. The idea of collaborating was entirely hers. She invited me to read with her at Floyd Lamrouex’s “Awaken the Sleeping Poet” venue in San Antonio at Barnes and Noble last September. Then she suggested we try to pair our poems with like-themes and asked what I thought of the title “Braided Stream.” I was all in, even though it was/is my first collaborative work.

JRC:  Braided Stream began as a performance. I was invited to do a one-hour reading and wanted to do something different, shake things up, push the boundaries. I had an inkling that Toni’s and my poems might make a good call-and-response; that two voices, alternating, would be more interesting than one voice; and that an audience might be intrigued listening for echoes.

This is my first poetic collaborative work.

CH: What was your collaborative process? How long did it take to develop your book?

JRC: After our first poetry performance was well-received, we were invited to read at another venue. Toni called to say “Let’s make a book!” It took about six weeks from phone call to having books-in-hand for the second performance. Prep for the first performance consisted of sitting with our two stacks of poems and attempting to match them up one by one—that was a nightmare. The breakthrough came with the idea to put poems in thematic “buckets.” After that, it was a matter of sequencing the poems to make an interesting journey for an audience. The performance has 40 poems; when we decided to make a book, we revisited our work and matched and sequenced 80 poems.

THF:  We met at Janice’s the first time. We piled all our collective work on the table and shuffled paper around for several hours. I left Janice’s that day feeling exhausted, frustrated, and wondering what-in-the-world were we thinking. All we had at that point were some tentative themes coupled with some individual poems that met our criteria. After that first difficult meeting, it all seemed to fall together rather easily. At this point we were only preparing for a sixty-minute reading. We hadn’t even thought about a book.

The book happened months after our first reading, when we were preparing for a second reading in the spring at The Twig Book Shop. I said we’d spent so much time on the venture—why not do a book? I thought Janice might hit me on the head, but she’s a graphic designer by trade and answered, “Why not!”

We fleshed out the themes with additional pairings and the next I know, Janice had done the book! She’s amazing. An electronic moron, sometimes I feel like I’m just along for the ride.

CH: How has this collaborative process changed your own process? What impact has working in a collaboration had on you artistically / personally?

JRC: I don’t think my process changed, but I have tried using some of Toni’s “strategic spacing” in poems, and liked the results. Mostly, I was thankful to have Toni as a partner on this project. She wasn’t deterred by the “staring into the abyss” part of the creative process; she had good ideas for moving things forward; and she was an excellent sounding board.

In the process of choosing poems for Braided Stream I read Toni’s manuscript Snow in Summer and thought it transformational; reading it was life-expanding.

THF: I don’t think the collaboration has changed my own process. Artistically, I would say I now write with a leaner frame of mind. In the beginning I used poetry as a therapeutic process; now I write with more of a world view and social consciousness.

Personally, the impact has been enhancing, enriching, mind expanding. I feel like a universe that’s continually growing, a horizon that’s forever reaching out. Working with Janice has stretched me, humbled me. She’s generous, exacting and always in all ways seeking the truth. Our minds have become so connected that she’ll mention something that’s been on my mind, too. The braided stream has become our relationship.

CH: What’s next for Braided Stream? and what are you each working on now?

JRC: What’s next for Braided Stream: sharing Braided Stream with as many people as are interested. My next project is an illustrated memoir, in poetry.

THF: Janice is encouraging me to publish a manuscript that’s been gathering dust for a number of years. On the other hand, we have Braided Stream bookings through next March; I am content to keep my seat belt fastened and concentrate and on this wild, miraculous ride.

2 thoughts on “A Virtual Interview with Janice R. Campbell and Toni Heringer Falls

  1. Bonnie Willett-Goad

    Thanks for sharing!
    As a lifelong friend of Toni, I’m always delighted to see she continues to grow and feed the wealth of her precious SPIRIT through her poetry in BRAIDED STREAM!
    Congratulations on its success to both these gifted young women!

    Like

    Reply
  2. Brenda Fletcher Schultz

    The braided stream has resulted in a relationship between the poets and their public as well. I enjoy reading a diversity of poetry, and this insightful soulful coupling of works has me reading it yet a third time to savor the richness.

    Like

    Reply

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