Rara Avis: Reflections on Winning The 2020 Zachary Doss Friends in Letters Memorial Fellowship

Ryan Bollenbach here. Heavy Feather Review is publishing short pieces on the blog from writers who have collaborated on previous projects in order to give potential collaborators ideas and stoke excitement for The Zachary Doss Friends in Letters Memorial Fellowship (collaboration itself being the biggest takeaway I hope to create from all this). Please read about my late friend Zach and consider creating work for the fellowship. After May 31, I will award $50 to four pairs of writers who have collaborated, winning praise from friends of Zach, Tasha Coryell and Brian Oliu—and myself. The friends’/comrades’ work will appear in print in HFR Vol. 12.

Below is the collective Rara Avis’s reflections on winning 2020’s fellowship. Rara Avis is Vincent James and his two daughters, Lola and Daisy.

Vincent James lives and writes in Colorado, where he serves as the Managing Editor of Denver Quarterly and lectures in composition and ethics at Colorado School of Mines. James earned a PhD in English & Creative Writing from the University of Denver and is the author of Swerve (Astrophil Press, 2021) and Acacia, a Book of Wonders (Texas Review Press, 2023). Other work has appeared or is forthcoming at Ravenna Press, Annulet, Tarpaulin Sky, Juked, Prick of the SpindleDenver Quarterly, and Texas Review. With Madame Crocodile, his record, Temple of a Thousand Blows, will be released later this year. Alongside his daughters, Lola and Daisy, he makes collages under the name, Rara Avis. Find him on Instagram @FatherFever.

Lola is seven and has expressed her desire to be a visual artist since she could comprehend that future. She loves fairies, dress up, and all things magical.

Daisy is six and wishes to be a florist. She loves unicorns, anything a little scary, and learning how to cook.



Under the name, Rara Avis, my daughters, Lola and Daisy, and I make collages inspired by mythology, insects, historical collage art, and whatever else we’re talking about at the time. I cut out all the pieces and we collaborate on the assemblage and then I glue them. Lately, we’ve been experimenting with larger-scale work on canvas (up to 48″ x 60″) with found materials like crushed leaves, wax, cheesecloth, and gold leaf, along with paper.

Our content/form relationship is always a flux space since the placement of a piece by one of us immediately changes the direction and potentialities of the piece. We also have fluid evaluative conversations as we go about how the different elements, from color to scale to concept, are in conversation toward what may be the whole.

And it’s been a thrill to watch their joy about winning a prize! I love that even at their young ages they have expansive vistas for where their art can go.

I’m so happy the Zach Doss Friends in Letters fellowship is elevating collaborative work! Especially in these fractured times, I think artists across disciplines ought to come together more, and I think we’ll see more and more collaboration in years to come, even among disciplines traditionally pursued in isolation.

I work collaboratively in different disciplines (writing, music, visual art, editorial through Denver Quarterly) and the emergent whole that’s beyond what I could have produced on my own is an amazing thing to step back and observe. There can be strength and joy in community, as well as all manner of benefits to the artistic self as you learn from the particular visions of your collaborators.

Lola and Daisy chose how we’d spend the prize money and we’re planning a visit to the Butterfly Pavillion and ice cream.

—Vincent James, writing for Rara Avis


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Image: “From Just the Other Side of Nowhere” excerpt by Rara Avis

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