Although Bradley and Cooper frequently acknowledged in their personal writings the prejudice against women writers, they viewed the prejudice against collaborative creativity as their larger foe. In a journal entry dated July 21, 1891, Bradley recounts an evening that she and Cooper spent at the London literary salon of American poet and critic Louise Chandler Moulton. By this point, Bradley and Cooper were known by most in their literary coterie to be Michael Field, and after an encounter with the poet/novelist Thomas Hardy and man of letters Theodore Watts-Dunton, Bradley exclaimed with emphasis that “[b]oth these men found it inscrutable, incomprehensible, that two people could write poetry together.”
At first I thought, "It is incomprehensible. Who else does that?" And then I remembered that Keats had written a verse drama (not a very good one, really) using plots and ideas cooked up by his friend Brown, and of course there is the famous collaboration of Eliot and Pound on "The Waste Land," which was going to be called "He Do the Policemen in Different Voices" before Ezra got his hands on it. I also thought of those two Australian poets who created the incompetent Ern Malley to sock it to Modernism. One of the attractive things about poetry is that, unlike film, it can be created by one person on a zero-dollar budget. But there's no law about this. You can collaborate with another writer; and as for the shoe-string budget, you can always run over it by deciding that you need to move to New York or Munich or Constantinople to write your poetry.
And lest I forget, I have collaborated on poems, just for fun. My sister and I once wrote a ballad together, trading off stanzas; and Sheila can testify that she and I wiled away an hour, while we were at Christendom, on a parody of "Jaberwocky" (she came up with all the good bits, though). In fact, I can't be really good friends with someone and not want to write stories, poems, or invented languages with them; and I do think that for some people this impulse can result in really good art. I bet that most of my readers have cherished a project or two of this sort with their dearest friends. As for famous examples of writing as a team, are there any I've missed? I'm sure there are.
I'm rather intrigued now by the ladies behind "Michael." Here is another smidgen of background information:
Though Bradley and Cooper often discussed modernizing their style and worried about becoming too traditional and passé, they never bowed to critics, even when their readership dwindled to an intimate few. In their later years, when they converted to Catholicism, as was the trend among many of their circle, their lyric poetry and plays continued to echo with Shakespearean and mythological themes and never shied away from their virile power and a masculine tone.Read "Summer Wind" for a taste of their talent. And then read their translation of a lyric by Sappho, a version worthy to be learned by heart:
Yea, gold is son of Zeus: no rust
Its timeless light can stain;
The worm that brings man's flesh to dust
Assaults its strength in vain:
More gold than gold the love I sing,
A hard, inviolable thing.
Men say the passions should grow old
With waning years; my heart
Is incorruptible as gold,
'Tis my immortal part:
Nor is there any god can lay
On love the finger of decay.