Week Two Workshops and Faculty
Dharma Poetics and Other Contemplative Practices
The Kerouac School’s heritage is linked to contemplative practice. The Buddhist yogin, Naropa whose name graces our university was pundit of the 11th century, was both a yogin and a university administrator at the famed Nalanda University. The poet-saint Milarapa wrote famous dohas. Zen practice, contemplative mind, and devotion has produced some of the greatest poems in the world, from Tu Fu to Mirabai to Rumi to John Donne.. Dharma references “things as they are” and the practice encourages “notice what you notice” (Allen Ginsberg) without clinging or doubt. Keats “negative capability” - being able to hold disparate thoughts in the mind without any irritable reach after fact or reason – resonates with the ideas here. The founders of the Kerouac School (Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Diane di Prima) were all meditation students. The Kerouac School is founded on an ethos of mutual support, strength in community, non-competitive education, and “wild mind” tolerance. Trusting our imagination and one’s own consciousness and tender heart is a practice. Cutting through pretension and cliché. Naropa also honors other spiritual traditions in the arts and philosophy. And present will be writers in the mystical Christian, and Native American spiritual traditions, as well as creative writers who work with Somatics and other healing practices. Part of this week will include a half day of silent meditation.
Reed Bye: Eyes to the Horizon: Meditation and Poetry
Spontaneous poetic practice provides a way of putting immediate perception into lively verbal structures and seeing “how your thought patterns become elegant” (Chögyam Trungpa). The mindfulness developed in sitting meditation will provide a cue. We will read and discuss a number of short poems, consider their relation to the process of perception, and compose orally and in writing. As Basho said of haiku, “the composing must be done in an instant, like felling a massive tree, like leaping at a formidable enemy, like cutting a watermelon, or biting into a pear.” We will also work with collaborative composition.
Reed Bye’s most recent books include Catching On (Monkey Puzzle, 2013) and Join the Planets: New and Selected Poems (United Artists Books, 2005). A CD of original songs, Broke Even, came out this past summer from Fast Speaking Music. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies including Nice to See You: Homage to Ted Berrigan, Sleeping on the Wing, and Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action. He holds a doctorate in English from the University of Colorado and is working on a prosodic study of the poetry of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.
CAConrad: Bloodstone Quarries of the Spleen
(Soma)tic poetry rituals create what we can refer to as an “extreme present” set to reveal the creative viability of everything around us. We’ll be using bloodstone, a gem with a three-thousand-year history of bridging the root and heart chakras to trigger kundalini alignment. We will engird the various facets of bloodstone then bury them in the ground so we can absorb and later read the patient dictionaries of the Earth. Poetry as DIRT is our aim, the place where the spleen is most content to nourish abstract thoughts pivotal to understanding Qi, or natural energy. With (Soma)tics we will learn how even in crisis we can thrive through the poems, as well as learn to collaborate in unexpected ways with other artistic disciplines. I’m excited about our summer workshop at Naropa and look forward to us finding the poems together. Soon, we’ll all agree with Alice Notley saying, “poetry’s so common hardly anyone can find it.”
CAConrad is the author of six books including ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014) and A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (Wave Books, 2012). The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010) has an Afterword by Eileen Myles and has been translated into German, Spanish, and Swedish. For PEN America Maggie Nelson writes, “I’ve heard it said that his Book of Frank is this generation’s Dream Songs, but I think The Book of Frank surges ahead in experiment and lasting power.” A 2011 Pew Fellow, a 2013 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2014 Lannan Fellow, he also conducts workshops on (Soma)tic poetry and Ecopoetics.
Bhanu Kapil & Melissa Buzzeo: The Charnel Ground
In this class, we will bring all of our life and not life to bear on the tilting plane that is the charnel ground, metaphoric and real, timed and timeless, with direct contact to the sky—and thus the culture—from the ancient tradition of the dharma. Where does this site or non-site exist in our writings? How to get close enough to the cleaned bones and the path, the incisions, the decay, the attachment, the non attachment, the revulsion as writers in ourselves, the ground itself. The blood. The blocked and crystal laded mirrors . The delineated world. Opening up to what? What do we bring to there? What do we take from there? Who speaks from there? And what is lying there? All the bodies uncovered. This passage through. As the sky opens and streaks. Offered. The freedom, the outer- species contact. That comes from the floor.
Bhanu Kapil has written five books: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006), humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), Schizophrene (Nightboat Books, 2011) and notes for a novel never written: a novel of the race riot: Ban (forthcoming: Nightboat Books, 2014). She was a delegate to the third World Congress of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry, where she spoke about the forces that the immigrant body: receives, transmits, deflects, organizes and withholds. These are not the correct words. Bhanu Kapil is interested in a prose [a poetry] that, like an animal, goes off. That disappears into the jungle’s edge.
Melissa Buzzeo has written four books: The Devastation (forthcoming, Nightboat Books, 2014), For Want and Sound (Les Figues, 2013), Face (Bookthug, 2009) and What Began Us (Leon Works, 2007).
Joanne Kyger: Writing in Empty Space
Emptiness is what every writer faces before the creation of words. Chögyam Trungpa speaks of the experience of emptiness as being very ordinary—“ordinariness becomes its camouflage because it is so ordinary, clear, and precise.” This class will focus on the daily practice of filling this emptiness with notebook/journal writing, in all its myriad forms – and treating this form as a practice and publishable genre. We will look at examples by, among others, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, Philip Whalen, John Brandi—all journal keepers and notebook writers.
Joanne Kyger is the author of more than 30 books and chapbooks. Recent books are As Ever: Selected Poems published by Penguin Books; Joanne Kyger: Letters To & From from CUNY Poetics’ series Lost and Found; and 2012 published by Blues Press. Forthcoming from City Lights books is On Time. She has taught frequently at Naropa since 1975.
Layli Long Soldier: Etymology: A Poem’s Life
We will explore the ways in which a single word which can yield a poem’s life. Choosing a word or term from a heritage language, trade, discipline or community vernacular, we’ll consider how this word shapes values, world view, or ideas surrounding identity through its denotation, connotation and/or etymology. We will work to push the meaning, search for what lies latent in its potential, and redefine it according to our own dictionaries of experience and imagination. Through this, students will consider how poetic form and sound can contribute to re-defining—allowing the eye and ear to guide the writing process.
Layli Long Soldier holds a BFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Bard College. She resides in Tsaile, AZ on the Navajo Nation and is an adjunct faculty member at Diné College. She has served as a contributing editor to Drunken Boat. Her poems have recently appeared in The American Poet, The American Reader, The Kenyon Review Online, American Indian Journal of Culture and Research and the PEN America site. Her first chapbook of poetry is titled, Chromosomory (Q Ave Press, 2010).
Sawako Nakayasu: Extended Improvisation on a Theme
Musicians, dancers, actors, and performers often use some form of structured improvisation to create work. Likewise, in this workshop, we will begin with a structural or thematic base to springboard from, in order to write expansively (or perhaps even narrowing into) an extended meditation with a particular strategy, framework, perspective, or theme – you choose your own path, frame, nugget, or mode, and we will work on writing serially, improvising through and against your own predilections. Example texts include Nathalie Sarraute’s Tropisms, Jackson Mac Low’s 22 Light Poems, Francis Ponge’s Le parti pris des choses (in English), and Julio Cortázar’s “The Instruction Manual,” and others, as well as some inspiration from visual art and music.
Sawako Nakayasu writes and translates poetry, and also occasionally creates performances and tiny films. Her most recent books are The Ants (Les Figues, forthcoming 2014) and a translation The Collected Poems of Sagawa Chika (Canarium Books, forthcoming 2014). Other books include Texture Notes (Letter Machine Editions, 2010), Hurry Home Honey (Burning Deck, 2009), and Mouth: Eats Color – Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-translations, & Originals, which is a multilingual work of both original and translated poetry.
M. NourbeSe Philip: Speaking in Tongues: Destabilizing the Logic of Language through Embodied Utterance
“…The metamorphosis from sound to intelligible word requires
(a) the lip, tongue and jaw all working together.
(b)a mother tongue.
(c) the overseer’s whip.
(d) all of the above or none.”
(“Discourse on the Logic of Language,” She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks)
This course explores the relationship between text and an embodied poetics manifesting through orality and sound. How can we be heard and make ourselves heard through the logic of language; how do we develop a transformative embodied poetics? We will explore questions of how performativity and performance, including improv, collaboration, movement, dance, music and Silence, assist and contribute to creating spaces in which we can, indeed, speak in tongues; where the dialogue between text and orality is liberatory rather than oppressive.
M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright who lives in the space-time of the city of Toronto. Her most recent work, zong!, is a genre-breaking poem which engages with ideas of the law, history, and memory as they relate to the transatlantic slave trade. Her honors include the Pushcart Prize, the Casa de las Americas prize for She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller (Bellagio) Foundations.
Michelle Naka Pierce & Sue Hammond West: Brain Body Breath: Perception in Ekphrastic Poetics
In this course, our senses will be trained to stimulate the nervous system and heighten our awareness. Experiential exercises shift sensitivities in the body and rebuild our creative vocabulary. While making text/image documents, we will progress through the steps of collecting, holding, amplifying, and externalizing: to let paint be paint (Cezanne), to lay one word next to another and give them equal weight (Stein), and to make the familiar strange (Shklovsky). Somatic, maitri, and ekphrastic approaches will track resonance and embrace “failure.”
Award winning poet Michelle Naka Pierce is the author of four chapbooks and four full-length books, including TRI/VIA (Erudite Fangs/PUB LUSH, 2003) co-authored with Veronica Corpuz; Beloved Integer (Bootstrap/PUB LUSH, 2007); She, A Blueprint (BlazeVOX, 2011) with art by Sue Hammond West; and Continuous Frieze Bordering Red (Fordham, 2012), awarded the Poets Out Loud Editor’s Prize. Pierce has collaborated with artists, dancers, and filmmakers and has performed her work internationally, most recently in France and in Japan. Her work has been translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, and Hebrew. She teaches in and directs the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
Sue Hammond West is a painter and mixed media artist with a hunger for experimentation. She combines art making with the energy of Buddhism and yoga philosophy. She has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Harshaw Creek, Arizona; Steamboat Springs Mixed Media Painting School; and Lill Street Studios in Chicago. Her exhibitions include Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art; Boulder Public Library; Leady Art Center, Kansas City; Beacon Street Gallery, Chicago; and University of Notre Dame Isis Gallery. Her first book She, A Blueprint (BlazeVOX, 2011) with poetry by Michelle Naka Pierce is a text/image collaboration; her other publications include Inquiring Mind, Shambhala Times, Not Enough Night, Sous Rature, Foursquare, and Mandorla. Hammond West has received awards from the NEA; the Indiana Arts Commission; and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently associate professor at Naropa University and director of the School of the Arts, she teaches and researches contemporary art forms and how to infuse art with a palpable transforming presence.
Margaret Randall: Think Cosmic, Write From Deep Inside
We will explore poetry of radical change, in our own work and that of others. Anthropocene is the term Nobel chemist Paul Crutzen has used to name this epoch, in which the influence of human behavior on the Earth’s atmosphere is significant enough that it constitutes new geological time. Some scientists date the epoch as beginning with the Industrial Revolution. Others link it to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture or the Neolithic Revolution. In this workshop, we will explore a poetry of change, change as dramatic as that which defines a new geological period, when for the first time the human imprint upon our Earth is as significant as an ice age or one of the great extinctions. We will move inward as well, through meditative practices that nurture the stillness where creativity is born. How does our poetry reflect these major inner and outer shifts? In its content alone? In its form? In the relationship between the work and audiences, publishers, magazine editors, other poets? Come prepared to open yourself, take risks, and seriously critique the writing of other workshop participants.
Margaret Randall (New York, 1936) is a poet, essayist, oral historian, photographer and social activist. She lived in Latin America for 23 years (in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua). From 1962 to 1969 she and Mexican poet Sergio Mondragón co-edited El Corno Emplumado/The Plume Horn, a bilingual literary quarterly that published some of the best new work of the sixties. When she came home in 1984, the government ordered her deported because it found some of her writing to be “against the good order and happiness of the United States.” With the support of many writers and others, she won her case in 1989. Randall’s most recent titles include The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones and Daughter of Lady Jaguar Shark (both poetry), Che on My Mind (a feminist poet’s reminiscence of Che Guevara), and More Than Things (essays). She lives in New Mexico with her partner of 27 years, the painter Barbara Byers. She travels extensively to read, lecture, and teach.
Julia Seko: Conversations in Letterpress: The Collaborative Page
Come together in thoughtful collaboration to design and print a group project. Learn to set type, mix ink, and run presses. We’ll discuss choices in typography, image making, materials, and structure to develop our visual vocabulary, and we’ll encourage the unexpected and serendipitous. Together we’ll make our way to the finished work.
Julia Seko is a letterpress printer, book artist, and proprietor of P.S. Press. She is adjunct faculty at Naropa University, where she helped setup the letterpress studio, and her letterpress work is in university and private collections. Julia also co-founded the Book Arts League, a nonprofit letterpress and book arts organization.