The Yesterday Project

The Yesterday Project by Ben & Sandra Doller
6 in x 8 in
193 pages

Constrained memoir by Ben & Sandra Doller

“The project was already making me sad. There’s so much to cover, and no time for reflection, or explanation. And because we are going to wait to show each other, it’s like a secret, though it’s just about what we’ve done. You won’t talk about it much. And the constraint grows. I follow your lead (always) and don’t talk about it much. It’s bubbling along, like we’re learning to play a new two-person instrument, or like we’re the four legs in an animal costume, learning to walk.”

•   •   •   •   •

“Two small boys walked a very small dog and I wrote about that elsewhere. We talked about writing, this trauma, writing post-cancer, how everything is so serious now it’s hard to be funny or want to. It’s hard not to talk about it, but neither of us wants to talk about it.”

•   •   •   •   •

“Yesterday is becoming a kind of trauma.”

•   •   •   •   •

“We’re trying to face shit. Facing isn’t easy.”

•   •   •   •   •

“We said later that one memory shared by two people is definitely a memory. Otherwise, who knows.”

•   •   •   •   •

“I do know that your yesterdays sound like you. And they sound like our days. And they also sound like me too. Maybe they’re not as different as I imagined they would be, not as gendered or separated egg whites. But the differences matter and it’s these spaces that define the thing, us. The ongoing relationship experiment as we used to say. I just typed relationshop which seems better.”

•   •   •   •   •

“If everything follows form, your half will keep mine afloat, just like this life we call ours.”

The Yesterday Project is Sandra Doller and Ben Doller undertaking a blind collaboration: They each separately write a document recording the previous day, every day, for 32 days, without sharing their work. The collaboration took place over the summer of 2014 in the shadow of a diagnosis of life-threatening illness: Melanoma cancer, Stage 3. The resulting work is a declaration of dependence — a relentlessly honest chronicle of shared identity and the risks inherent in deep connection.

“Experiments with the alchemy of stories take many forms, some exalted and some earthbound. To enter into a pact, however, to be both present and transcendent, to live as we all live, experimentally, and yet commit to the page as the medium and source of energy, is something I've never seen like this. Like a complex game, the secrets of a relationship translate across an invisible barrier, combining into a beautiful third voice, the voice of a couple in crisis and reawakening, the book of that voice.” —Thalia Field

“What happens if you split Janus down the middle and live in that space between what was and what might be? In The Yesterday Project, Ben and Sandra Doller wedge themselves right into that place so that we might focus on memory and what is noticed and held when a day is no more. Living in the small, tiny yesterday, these journal entries gather what makes life something that is living while the ink of mortality and unknowing lurk underneath all that is noticed and written. Even while we read the poetic reminiscences of meals and outings and activities, we also see what is ached for, what is missing. We get two sides to the same glorious coin and witness, through an elegant and sacred literary communion, how two lives are one.” —Jenny Boully

Cover art by Tyler Bewley

Ben & Sandra Doller interviewed at Entropy

Ben & Sandra Doller interviewed at The Rumpus

Ben & Sandra Doller interviewed at The Conversant

Excerpts from The Yesterday Project in FENCE

Excerpted The Yesterday Project chapbook available from Essay Press

“Given their looming health crisis, there is an obvious anxiety that threads itself through their collaboration. [The Yesterday Project makes] for an incredibly deep and rich conversation between their private and public selves, both individually and together.” rob mclennan


Sandra Doller’s books include Leave Your Body BehindOriflammeChora, and Man Years, and two chapbooks: Mystérieuse by Éric Suchère and Memory of the Prose Machine. The founder & editrice of 1913 Press & 1913 a journal of forms, Doller has taught at Hollins University and Boise State University, and she currently teaches film, literature, and writing at Cal State-San Marcos. She lives in California.

Ben Doller is the author of Dead AheadFAQ, and Radio, Radio, winner of the Walt Whitman Award, as well as the forthcoming Fauxhawk. Along with the poet Sandra Doller, he has published two collaborative books. He is an associate professor of writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Sample Pages