TRACT/TRACE: an investigative journal edited JKS Alumni

TRACT / TRACE is  not a project so much as a projection: gesturing towards the future, a virtual and physical site of inquiry. We believe politics and poetries enmesh subcutaneously, and we want to know: what’s at stake?

TRACT/TRACE is a place for queer and otherwise undercommon voices; for writers of and in the body; for discussions on community and survival; for activists; for lovers; for phenomenologists and all types of feelers; for organisms who believe in a livable life; for sussing out tactics for a livable future.

Co-Founding Editors:

Angel Dominguez is a coyote with access to a cellphone; Angel Dominguez writes. Originally from Los Angeles, he completed his MFA with the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. He is the recipient of Naropa University’s 2013 Ted Berrigan Scholarship for poetry. He is the  founding editor of the Omni Writers Collective Press and was the senior editor for the Bombay Gin 40. His work can be found in places such as The Berkeley Poetry Review and The Bombay Gin. His first book, BLACK LAVENDER MILK, is forthcoming from Timeless, Infinite Light.

JH Phrydas is a writer and researcher currently living in the montane region of the Rocky Mountains above Boulder, CO. Phrydas was raised by his birth family in Atlanta and queer family in Oakland/San Francisco. After years of travel in imitation of Jean Genet, Phrydas was generously awarded grants to study writing and somatic psychology under the guidance of Bhanu Kapil. He currently works as a writing tutor at CU Boulder and has recent creative and critical prose in Gesture Literary Journal, Bombay Gin, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Aufgabe. His first chapbook, Levitations, is due out this summer from Timeless, Infinite Light (Oakland, CA).

[Dis]embodied Poetics Conference Panel Review: Collaborative Being: Gender, Race, and Sexuality

By Cait Turner

Can poetry erase racism by erasing erasure? To disembody language, must we dis-gender it? How can we collaboratively address problems of race, class, and gender in the abstract space of poetics? Is poetic space truly abstract, or is it concretized? If it is concretized, who benefits from this? These were some of the questions implicitly and explicitly examined at the “Collaborative Being: Race, a Gender, and Sexuality” panel at Naropa University’s inaugural Disembodied Poetics Conference.

The first panelist, Aimee Herman, explored ways of gendering and de-gendering poetic language. She invited us to “examine how words feel in your mouth and under your tongue. Taste them. ” As a queer poet, Herman described the many assumptions brought to her work by allies and critics alike.   A bound chest, she explained, was a form of poetic experimentation rather than a sort of gendered orthodoxy. Breast binding remains a dangerous cultural praxis—bodies, Herman argued, are themselves experimental texts vulnerable to criticism. A gendered poetics, she continued, is a false poetics. Words exist in the liminal space between the body and the mind—they don’t simply hang there and disappear; they are absorbed like any nutrient. Herman asked us to consider what it might mean for language, for poetry, to be un-gendered? When we are writing, we are not necessarily writing-as-men or writing-as-women—we are producing language that takes a non-gendered shape. This non-gendered shape, Herman maintained, is the shape of poetics to come.

One way that poetry might take this non-gendered shape involves collaboration between genders so that the masculine/feminine language binary blurs into a cacophony of thought-sounds. This was the goal of the second panel presentation by Amaranth Borsuk and Andy Fitch, a male/female duo interested in the poetics of erasure. They began with a brief description of erasure poetics, wherein a poet re-presents a pre-existing piece of work through redacting and re-shaping lines, phrases, and form. If, as Herman stated in an earlier panel, form is the “gender” of poetry, then re-shaping form is a radically un-gendered poetic act. Borsuk received transcriptions of Fitch’s audio diaries and redacted certain lines while re-shaping and re-ordering their syntax and grammar. Fitch did the same, and they both “communicated” these pieces to each other in tandem, dramatically “shushing” each other during the redacted lines. This performance was spontaneous. The result was a verbal collage of quotidian desires, private musings, banal observations, and censorious breaths. The “shushing” almost seemed percussive, which illuminated the rhythmic “re-production” of interruption and erasure within actual conversation. This performance piece suggested that conversation is indeed poetic.

The final panelist, Ailish Hopper, also scrutinized the role played by erasure in poetic praxis. Her paper, “Getting Under Being Over It, Getting Over Being Under It: Poetry That’s Awake Inside of Race,” examined how race is increasingly erased from poetic space, particularly by liberal “post-racial” poets. Hopper read excerpts from pieces by Claudia Rankine, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and other poets of color alongside white voices, and determined—correctly, in my opinion—that white writers are all too often willing to ignore racial complexities in favor of a hegemonic poetics where any mention of race inside a work becomes a poetic “agenda” undermining aesthetic credibility. Hopper wondered what might happen if more white writers acknowledged their whiteness, and wrote from “inside that awareness.” What does it mean, she wondered, to write whiteness? What might it look like for poets of color to “write white” or for white writers to “write from a space acknowledging power?” White privilege is a hot topic, but Hopper’s inquiry goes much further than the simple, overused, “check your privilege” screed. In order for poetics to transcend racism—and, Hopper stated, we must understand that as a country, America may never transcend racism—we must confront racial complexities and concerns poetically. Poetry cannot exist above racism, classism, or sexism—therefore it must claim poetic space as political space. Poetry can and must oppose the hegemonic constructs currently constricting and restricting its discourse in order to truly re-present those for whom it claims to speak to, for, from, and about.


Cait Turner is a first year MFA student at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. She is interested in the intersectionality between politics, poetics, and pedagogy.  Other research areas include democracy and pedagogy, activist writing, and proletarian literature. When not writing or studying, Cait enjoys arguing about geopolitics with strangers on the internet, preferably while listening to a really good record.

[Dis]embodied Poetics Conference Panel Review: Ecoskeletons of Language, Sound, and Impossibility: [Dis] Embodied Lineages

By Jennifer van Alstyne

Matthew Pincus, a 2nd year MFA candidate at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School, presented on “Stein’s Exoskeletal Language: Embodied Desire in Disembodied Sociality,” which focused in Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, and more specifically the section on Melanctha. In “The Rejection of Closure,” Lyn Hejinian writes, “The desire that is stirred by language is located most interestingly in the language itself – as a desire to say, a desire to create the subject by saying.” Pincus argues that in Three Lives, “social realist relationships and urban spaces are disembodied desires of the text whereas language are embodied elements of desire,” the social realist relationships being Melanctha Herbert/Joseph Campbell and Lena Mainz/Herman Kreder, and the two, “subtle, possibly sexual relationships” are Anna Federner/Mrs. Lehntman. By examining Stein’s language, Pincus is able to present us with hidden desires in the text and semantic connection with particular use of Marjorie Perloff’s The Poetics of Indeterminancy: Rimbaud to Cage (Princeton University Press 1981, Northwestern University Press 1991). “Melanctha Herbert is a recording of atoms falling upon consciousness,” Pincus says, “veering away from conventional, Dickensian social realism to ulterior modes of arrangement and components of narrative.” Pincus is a regular book reviewer for Pank, Raintaxi, Bookslut, and Necessary Fiction, and has essays forthcoming in Coldfront Magazine and Manor House Quarterly.

Connor Fisher has an MA in Literature from the University of Denver and is currently a 3rd year MFA candidate at Colorado University-Boulder. His paper, “Text, Absent Image, and the Impossibility of Co-Being: Holocaust Museum and its Affect,” focused on Robert Fitterman’s book, Holocaust Museum (Counterpath, 2013) which is a listing of hundreds of captions taken from Holocaust Museum photographs presented as a text-only translation of medium. What does the text mean without the image? Fisher argued that because of the gap between text and image, readers experience “a muted, flat affect” and a gap of signification which “parallels the lack of phenomenological similarity between a contemporary, English-reading public and the Jews, Gypsies, and others who experienced the events captioned in the book.” Interlocution in Levinas’s work, for Fisher, is seen as a way to experience the “Other’s” consciousness, or those who were victimized by the Holocaust as exemplified in Fitterman’s text. The Holocaust Museum though only provides a narrative and visuals, which distance the viewer from grief and suffering by making them empathize rather phenomenologically forcing one to experientially investigate. Fitterman’s latest book, No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself is available from Ugly Duckling Presse (2014). Fisher is a regular book reviewer and has poetry published on Squawk Back.

Unfortunately, third panelist Julie Joosten, whose paper entitled “On Modulation and Meaning: Tracie Morris’s Sound Poetry,” was unable to attend the conference. I was disappointed not to hear about Tracie Morris, 2014 Summer Writing Program faculty, but we hope to see Joosten at the next [Dis]embodied Poetics Conference in 2016.


Jennifer van Alstyne has been published in the Eunoia Review, Crack the Spine, Midwest Literary Magazine, The Monmouth Review, The Foundling Review, Paper Nautilus, Poetry Quarterly, and Whiskey Traveler. Her collection, Scansioned Music: A Glenn Gould Collection, was published in Crossroads 2013 for which she was the winner of the Jane Freed Grant. She is currently Associate Editor for Something On Paper and Book Reviews Editor for Bombay Gin.

What Where Series: Readings by TC Tolbert, Maureen Owen, and Stephen Graham Jones, Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Please join for our final What Where Series of the semester! This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

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What Where Series: Readings by TC Tolbert, Maureen Owen, Stephen Graham Jones

Tuesday, October 28

7:30 PM

PAC (Performing Arts Center)

Naropa University

Book signing to follow—book purchases are CASH ONLY.

Photography by Mamta Popat

TC Tolbert often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet but really s/he’s just a human in love with humans doing human things. The author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press 2014), Conditions/Conditioning (a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, New Lights Press, 2014) I: Not He: Not I (Pity Milk chapbook 2014), Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (co-editor with Trace Peterson, Nightboat Books, 2013), spirare (Belladonna* chaplet, 2012), and territories of folding (Kore Press chapbook 2011), his favorite thing in the world is Compositional Improvisation (which is another way of saying being alive). S/he is Assistant Director of Casa Libre, faculty in the low residency MFA program at OSU-Cascades, and adjunct faculty at University of Arizona. S/he spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound. Thanks to Movement Salon and the Architects, TC keeps showing up and paying attention. Gloria Anzaldúa said, Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. John Cage said, it’s lighter than you think.


Maureen Owen is a poet, editor and publisher currently living in Denver, CO. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Edges of Water from Chax Press. Her title Erosion’s Pull from Coffee House Press was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the Balcones Poetry Prize. Her collection American Rush: Selected Poems was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and her work AE (Amelia Earhart) was a recipient of the prestigious Before Columbus American Book Award. She has most recently published work in The Denver Quarterly, Vanitas, New American Writing, and Bombay Gin. An instructor of numerous workshops and classes in poetry and book production, her awards include grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Fund for Poetry and a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has taught at Naropa University, both on campus and in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program, and served as editor-in-chief of Naropa’s on-line zine not enough night. She can be found reading her work on the PennSound website.

Graham Jones_Stephen

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of 16 novels and six story collections, so far. Most recent are Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly and After the People Lights Have Gone Off.


Naropa University welcomes participants with disabilities. Please contact Ariella Ruth at 303-546-3581 or to inquire about accessibility and discuss disability accommodations needed to participate fully in this event.