Rory Strong & Phaye Poliakoff-Chen — “Sorry I’m Late”


It is unusual for two writers to converge on one creative text, but that’s what happened here – and continues to happen. Unexpectedly, Rory and I wrote the text together, and we continue to collaborate on odd little poems on no set schedule from 3000 miles apart. “Sorry I’m Late” was an idea from Rory’s notebooks – lines scribbled between collages and song lyrics with increasingly bizarre reasons for missing a call or a meeting. The idea became a mantra and a mission for us.  

The illustration we chose comes from Walter Crane’s 1877 Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. The original is an illustration for “Jack and Jill.” We chose to alter the original first by fading it, then by removing Jill entirely, thereby centering Jack as an out-of-context stand-in for modern dishevelment and personal upheaval.  

My commitment to collaboration comes from my deep interest in transdisciplinary practice. Born from concepts in interdisciplinary approaches, transdisciplinary thinking takes this work a step further by assuming that when disciplines interact, they will fundamentally be changed. I find collaborative work exciting for that same reason. When I write with someone else, I expect that my outlook, my perceptions might change. And, I expect the result of this collaboration, if we’re lucky, could expand the traditional boundaries of genre. 


Rory Strong is a writer and musician living and working in Los Angeles. Their most recent album, Catholic Guilt, was released in October 2023 by Oliver Glenn Records. Rory’s writing has appeared in the Belfast Review, Bulshit Lit, and other publications. 

Phaye Poliakoff-Chen directs the community arts and writing partnership EPA with Earl’s Place, a transitional housing facility for homeless men in downtown Baltimore.  Her collection of short fiction, The Art of Work, is the most stolen book in the Kratz Library at Goucher College, where she taught creative writing for many years. While at Goucher College, she also directed the Individualized Interdisciplinary Major.