Convocation / Spontaneous Poem

passing under the flags to enter the sacred space

The Spontaneous Poem at Convocation at the start of term is an old Naropa tradition, initiated by our founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and carried on usually by one faculty or staff of the Kerouac School as conduit. We do this to bring us all into a collective moment and to create a context we can carry throughout the year until the next turn of the proverbial wheel. In our case it is the dharmachakra representing the eight-fold path:

Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision

Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration,

Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech.

Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action.

Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood.

Samma-Vayama — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality.

Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness.

Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi.

Hence, the Spontaneous Poem always has eight lines. They are composed by Naropa Community members who are present at covocation who have submitted their names to a collective sort-of pot. They are consequently pulled blindly, at random until the poem has been completed.

This year Swanee was the Kerouacian representative. She led everyone into the space of composition by instructing us, “…to step into your place of inspiration. Try and speak from an image or a feeling. If there was something said during convocation which inspired you, strike out from there. Whatever is calling you is your message, your transmission for this moment. Please keep it to a phrase or a sentence. Please also speak slowly and maybe repeat the line as I will be recording by type as we speak. Don’t worry about how poetic it may or may not sound. Whatever you say will be some kind of truth.  When each consequent name is called, you do not need to necessarily follow the lines or logic which came before you. In the spirit of our founders, your first thought is the best thought. In the spirit of Jack Collom, poetry is everywhere. Let us take a collective breath and begin:”

For the video of the composition of the poem, please visit our YouTube channel.

And so it began. One after the other names were read aloud and lines given by Dennis Kerr, Isaac Eide, Paul Gomez, Judith Simmer Brown, Richard Brown, Kate Blassl, Allen Ginsberg, Charlotte Rotterdam.

It was an unusual moment indeed to pull Ginsberg’s name. Ever prepared for such events from beyond the veil, Swanee performed some bibliomancy with one of Ginsberg’s pocket book series published by City Lights, “Plutonian Ode & other poems” (bibliomancy is a divination technique where you hold your intention or question and find a place in the book at random for your answer/message). He was very clear, “this line right here, where your thumb is”.  Professor Schelling noted how Swanee paled before reading the line, “too many happy Nazis”, holding her violently trembling hands for the room to see her shaken composure, the serenity of positioning in the poem coming to a  severe point, the whole room responding audibly. No doubt this is exactly the point Ginsberg would be making if he were present with us in life.

Here’s a clip of Paul Fowler, BA in Music faculty leading the Performing Arts Center in an intonation of the poem: ‘Too Many Happy Nazis‘ (If you’d like to see a live stream of the whole convocation, visit the live stream.)

It was a strange parallel to the Faculty entering for convocation to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme song and the sense that here is the Night’s Watch, those who are attending to the real work to be done in a world full of distraction and games, the swords in the darkness, the watchers on the wall, the shields that guard the realms of men… & Ginsberg seems to have a very clear idea of who the White Walkers are. While we recommit ourselves to the work which reconnects in our collective moment at convocation, Ginsberg reminds us why this is so important in the collective national & global moment around us.

Ephemeral art found outside Lincoln Hall. We don’t know who composed it, but we definitely archived it!

The Spontaneous Poem has been sent to Giovannina Jobson, Naropa University’s Contemplative Practice Coordinator for its next evolution– print copy! and we will announce when that is made publicly available to see. When it is, it will be interesting to look back and see how these lines themselves correlate with the eight-fold path (hint: Ginsberg’s line was the 7th!).

Until then here is the copy of Allen Ginsberg’s poem in full which supplied the line for his biblio-mantic contribution (please note the line which comes AFTER ‘too many happy Nazis’!):

Ruhr-Gebiet

Too much industry
too much eats
too much beer
too much cigarettes
Too much philosophy
too much thought forms
not enough rooms——
not enough trees
Too much Police
too much computers
too much hi fi
too much Pork
Too much coffee
too much smoking
under gray slate roofs
too much obedience
Too many bellies
too many business suits
too much paperwork
too many magazines
Too much industry
No fish in the Rhine
Lorelei poisoned
Too much embarrassent
Too many fatigued
workers on the train
Ghost jews scream
on the streetcorner
Too much old murder
too much white torture
too much one Stammheim
too many happy Nazis
Too many crazy students
Not enough farms
not enough Appletrees
Not enough nut trees
Too much money
Too many poor
turks without vote
“Guests” do the work
Too much metal
Too much fat
Too many jokes
not enough meditation
Too much anger
Too much sugar
Too many smokestacks
Not enough snow
Too many radioactive
plutonium wastebarrels
Take the Rhine gold
Build a big tomb
A gold walled grave
to bury deadly nuclear slag
all the Bank’s gold
Shining impenetrable
All the German gold
will save the nation
Build a gold house
to bury the Devil
December 15, 1979
First-Thought-Best-Thought,
The Hungry Ghost

Jack Collom / in memorial / in celebration / in community

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“I paused as the surrounding darkness
only made the incredible light   even more
various & glorious, there, up the stairs
& through the great glittering gate.”
— Jack Collom, from “A Sled in the Ozarks”

Jack Collom many things to many…and to the
mountains & birds he brought his many friends to…
we thank you in that chorus of  discovery…

We were in touch before Naropa  & the Jack Kerouac School of
Disembodied Poetics coalesced, landing in Boulder, and lucky we were that Jack Collom  was there on the other end to greet us, and join the great experiment of contemplative eco-poetics  and “crazy wisdom” lineages…
He was The Poet  Guide of the negative ions of the magnificent
spine of the continent and he was editing the magazine “the” and already in touch with poets everywhere.
He was with us at Naropa during our New Weathers themed
program and passed on as the Summer Writing Program ended.  His last reading on this earth during our opening week.
Keep yodeling into the goat void of becoming, dear Jack!
You are missed & remembered….
Anne Waldman

People of Jack

What to say about the beginning of our memorial except with the pure and simple presence of a doe and her twin fawns? The Performing Arts Center was teeming with people as every seat filled to capacity, the walls too, and even the hallway out into the pavilion. Everyone who could afford a good view of the stage could see a handsomely framed copy of his visage, shadow-boxed feathers one is sure to have seen by his writing table, and a heaping basket of “weeds” (russian sage, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, cattails, other thrush and fuss, etc) lovingly collected by his wife, Jennifer Heath.

Jack was further honored by readings and music from two of his children,  Chris and Sierra, children and adults who he has taught, poets he worked with, everyone a testimony to his epithet as ‘The Great Collaborator’.

Jovan Mayes, poet laureate of Aurora made an announcement with Val Wheeler and her students about a permanent tribute to Jack honoring his love for nature and habitats of winged-wild things (possibly a tree with bench?). If you are interested in learning more and/or becoming involved, please e-mail jackcollomtribute@gmail.com.

And of course there was yodeling by Josepha Conrad and Ken Bernstein, closed the evening for us getting the room of 200+ to yodel en suite in Jack’s spirit.

The Collaborative Poems:

written during the reception by all those who love, admired and who were loved and admired in return

I. Exquisite Corpse

The first line is always the hardest to write                                                   and the last is no picnic either                                                                        Picnics are my grandmother’s temple                                                               She always loved candy before lunch

II. I remember…

Jack                                                                                                                                   telling our class that                                                                                                       we were “too serious                                                                                                       for our own good” &                                                                                                   yodeled instructions

I remember after the ceremony at Naropa                                                      as we gathered for refreshments                                                                       and shared thoughts on Jack,                                                                                       I saw a woman from across                                                                                      the crowd, among the hubbub                                                                               she dropped her tray of food                                                                                       and drink.                                                                                                                             And as the crowd passed over                                                                                  her puddle of splattered                                                                                            purple juice.                                                                                                                   Each shoe tracking with it,                                                                                             a tiny sticky imprint of                                                                                                     the juice.                                                                                                                       forever-part of it immortal                                                                                             on their soles.                                                                                                                           As Jack stays, a                                                                                                               small imprint on us.                                                                                                     Forever.

I remember when the light sat                                                                                   so low it almost                                                                                                                 shook its shadow

I remember being proud                                                                                                   all the time                                                                                                                             to be American                                                                                                                       to be alive

I remember                                                                                                                  Jack’s poems                                                                                                                 everyone of them                                                                                                                 all at once.

I remember playing the                                                                                      “dictionary” game                                                                                                           where you get points                                                                                                     for the most liked                                                                                               definition without                                                                                                         regard for truth.

III. Q / A

Where’s my wallet?                                                                                                    Why do you search for it?                                                                                                 I lost it in the self I want back                                                                          Where shall I go now?                                                                                                    To the land between yesterday and tomorrow                                           What is Jack Collom’s favorite mollusk?                                                             Molly, of course.They visit every 32nd Thursday                                     What are the names of the members of Cheap Trick?             Nonsense, Enlightenment, Death, Togetherness… in so many words. What is the dove on the roof saying / so lonely and so often?           “Let it be, y’all. Or don’t” Then / it flew off…                                                         With all the money and                                                                                           feathers! / Now what?                                                                                                     a silver Chevrolet star, shooting to                                                                             Alamosa                                                                                                                             Mimosa                                                                                                                                 On a silver-backed / what?                                                                                               A silver sliver of star- / light. What else? (not a question)                         What happens when we die?                                                                                   We float up into the sky                                                                                         What do the sunflowers / gossip about?                                                                 Bees’ feet,                                                                                                                               Jack’s light                                                                                                                   Endless Acrostics under the soil

IV. Jack-rostic

J     upiter fan, we give

A     ll our love

C     oming home to make a turnip tart

K     abul is not so far

C     onsidering the fact that heaven’s / right here

O     ddly out of / whatever was / not, when however / it was / poetry … he laughs…  he laughs

L     ikely to let you rattle on, even as you blush…

L     oving lasting in a blue ocean of infinity

O     r just

M     uddy dust stars

“Tidal Flats” chapbook by Christien Gholson, BA ’00

Bryn Mill Pipe, Swansea Bay, Photograph by Christien Gholson

Mudlark (Issue 63) , “Tidal Flats.” 

It is a long poem (25 sections, written in Swansea, Wales, between 2009 and 2011).

There are many threads within the poem, but one of the main threads is: how does the human mind absorb something as vast as climate change? There is an introduction that explains how the poem developed and what it is about.

One of the sections hearkens back to my time at Naropa, in Andrew Schelling’s Eco-poetry class, when we went on a tour of Rocky Flats (before it was turned into a combined superfund site and wildlife refuge).

Thanks and peace, Christien Gholson (Alumnus, ’00)

Bio: I am the author of a novel, A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian Books, 2011) and two books of poetry, On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press, 2006) and All the Beautiful Dead (Bitter Oleander Press, 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

Prize for ‘Redwing Solitaire’

Redwing Solitaire, is a cycle of five short plays about leaving one’s home and how one can never really escape one’s home.

Before MWWC, Jefferson worked as an archivist for the Djuna Barnes Literary Estate managed by the Authors League Fund. Since 2007, he has taught in the English department of Southern Maine Community College. He earned degrees from Denison University (BA in English) and Naropa University (MFA in Writing & Poetics). His fiction and poetry have been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Birkensnake, Quickfiction, Fairy Tale Review and many others. His plays have been produced in The Boston Theater Marathon, and multiple times in The Maine Playwrights Festival. He is the recipient of a Maine Arts Commission Good Idea Grant, and a Maine Literary Award for Drama.

When Jefferson wrote to us, announcing this wonderful achievement, he said, “As always, I couldn’t have done it without my Naropa education, and the friends I made there.”

 

Thank you Jeff, for Keeping the World Safe for Poetry!

MAINE LITERARY AWARDS

the Ultimate review / New Weathers / Evaporation

Oh my people, oh my people.

I write to you calm and weary from the transcendent storm of SWP. In this second half of our time, we witnessed endless refractions of light in the form of performance—bright practices of refusal transmitted through our friends and teachers. Knowledge as refuge, as Giovanni Singleton would say. I know you are tired, but stay with me here. I’ve found the connective tissue between these refractions—an alchemical algorithm for shelter, community, and the transition of anger into poetry.

Anne Waldman’s Lecture, “Gimme Shelter” / photo slide by Caroline Swanson, Assistant to the [SWP] Creative Director
It begins with faith. Moving lightly in fugitive fashion, Erik Ehn restored my convictions. “We can’t transcend ourselves without a sense of faith. Faith is living out of our control, which is a realistic state. When we are out of control, we need help.” Thus, interdependence forms from faith—faith in poetry, faith in healing, and faith in others. Protection takes hold.

Sanctuary then occurs when we realize our responsibility to others. Layli Long Soldier commented on the Lakota people’s gesture towards the innate responsibilities we have in our relationships. From her we learned to keep the sound of our lineage alive so others may rely on us—to contain and preserve.

In this space of humanistic bond, time slows down. We are able to heal. Julie Patton tells us to “Stop. Look. Listen. Make a space for grief.” This is how we begin transition—anger transmutes in stillness (Ronaldo Wilson’s sexual revenge on James Comey comes to mind). The alchemical process of poetics meeting oppression within community is in full force. The shelter creates a restorative delay, and new work is born.

Ronaldo Wilson & class, colloquium offering

There were so many openings. It felt as if hundreds of blessings hit me at once. We were granted beatific visions from Steven Taylor’s resurrections of Blake.  Julie Patton and Janice Lowe dropped us into rivers of elegant, profound music. The little moments linger too—the confusion, hilarity, loneliness. The dancing. I am grateful, loudly and quietly. As we disperse from our pocket of angels, I remember (one of) Anne Waldman’s incantations, given to us during her panel: “minds never come from nothing, or go to nothing.” In this nature, the SWP spirit survives through all of our work, the good work.

Jeff Pethybridge, & Anne Waldman, ‘the long thank you’

Thank you SWP Warriors. Thank you faculty and staff. Thank you students. I hope my passion fuel yours. Your homework is to keep going, and repeat after me: I love you.

 

Yours,

Gabriella Reamer

Faculty Liaison

 

Joanne Kyger / in memorial / in celebration / in community

Exercise: pick up a rock. Not any rock, but an ordinary rock. or stone. The more ordinary, the better the transmission.

This was a writing exercise shared from the ’93 journal of Laird Hunt (ever faithful to this thing we call archive) the year he attended one of Joanne Kyger’s SWP workshops.

Two days later we went walking and saw a bird’s nest convex on the ground. Inside was nothing but a bed of soft cottonwood where an avian friend had left the impression of their egg. We pickled it up and continued down the riparian path, over the bridge where a friend was waiting.

He had a collection of things: fruit & cheese, tobacco he was smoking out of a fine pipe, books, and a small, perfectly round speckled rock. When I showed him the nest I’d found, he promptly placed the rock inside. It rolled down, exactly where the egg had sat. `

And thus, a simple, ordinary rock became a simulacra, an infinity of mineral hatching.

 

calligraphic Tara by Phillip Whalen

The evening began with an invocation & prayer from the Tibetan Book of the Dead led by Giovinnina Jobson & Anne Waldman.

post-memorial, Naropa University transition shrine

Archival collage of photos & poetry as well as a film excerpt of her last visit where she talked about Eco-Etho Poetics, were a loving, haunting reminder of the magnetic cool of her voice.

Sixteen tributes to her life manifested in many forms: poems by Joanne they loved, or poems which captured the very essence of Joanne, poems tied to specific memories of Joanne. Others shared work they had written for Joanne as with Jack Collom and his poem “Kyger, Kyger / burning bright”.  And there were songs by Reed Bye accompanied by Ambrose Bye on guitar & Maya Dorn sang a song about love in the digital age which had reduced Joanne to giggles on their last visit.

Bobbie Louise Hawkins read the first story she had ever written & shared w/ Joanne who confirmed it was indeed a story, giving her the encouragement to continue. Later, Joanne would be the first person to invite Bobbie Louise to read publicly.

We were honored by the presence of Donald Guravich, Joanne’s husband, whom she first met at Naropa.

printed in the Harry Smith Printshop

Following the reception we all got a taste of Bolinas, picked up our copies of the beautiful broadside designed and produced by Print-shop Master Julia Seko & Jade Lascelles, printshop assistant.

It was the span of such close kin-ship with friends from California, Naropa, Germany & beyond, that brought her closer to those of us who have only the experience of periphery interactions & lineage. In this way Joanne’s passing on has only heightened the key-stone transmissions of her being: Always give things the dignity of their name. ‘When’ & ‘Where’ is more interesting than ‘What am I’. Do not take for granted the fact that we will have histories.

Margaret Bryant, who attended Joanne’s workshop in 2015 gave us permission to share her poem “Dear Joanne” with you as she continues to write with Joanne on her shoulder.

So thinking back to earlier this week & the stone which became an egg, I know Joanne was with us in this moment. Ordinary, but so not ordinary. It happened instantaneously between us, this reckoning & alchemy of life-forms. It was June 20th, 2017 on the banks of the Boulder Creek.

~Swanee, Administrative Coordinator

Mid-Summer’s Day / New Weathers’ / Review

Summer Writing Program, Review

of Week 1 & 2

 

 

I write to you, a day past midsummer and a day past mid summer-writing program. The anthropocene continues with a heavy geological and social current. Resisting, delaying, we do the good work—learning and writing and loving—along with these rising temperatures. At SWP, we’ve already experienced with all senses the vast counter-patterns these “New Weathers” have subsequently rippled into with poetics and discussion. Last week, Roger Reeves cited Adrienne Rich in her poem “Dreamwood” when discussing how to dismantle the New Weathers of our time: “…poetry isn’t a revolution but a way of knowing why it must come.” And so, as our bubble of deep thinkers meditate on the skeleton of our country, we have all also created—and witnessed—deconstructions, realms of defiance and prediction, and open pockets of awareness for the healing to come through. We have learned from Brenda Coultas how to document our local manifestations of decay in poetry. Azareen Oloomi encouraged us to “read widely and with vigor.” Eileen Myles told the secret to taking care of ourselves is (sometimes) getting a dog. And always, in the gifted eye of each of us, there is the knowing of watching a poet as they work—Mairead, Jeffery, or Anne weaving fibrous tapestries of SWP magic behind a humble curtain—that gives us the wisdom of generosity and dedication—helping us communally return what has been given to us as writers. In other words, we are becoming meteorologists.

Increasingly we are hearing the cutting truth revealed by our teachers—that these Weathers are not actually New. C.A. Conrad spoke to this on his panel: “Things have been fucked up for a long time.” Following up on his own threads of heart-mind activism, Conrad noted that political atrocities against the gay community have not only been happening for too long, but are also on the rise—with over 300 anti-gay and lesbian laws passed in 2017 so far. “Everybody needs to be an activist, and simultaneously creative,” Conrad said as pens flew across the pages in the windy, high vibrational PAC.

There is a lot to be grateful for. Hope is rising up and we become lighter with knowledge and nourishing poetry. Your homework is to tell the people around you that you love them, stay in the now and the unknown, and read to wake up, my dear SWP warriors. Write to wake others.

 

—Gabriella Reamer, Faculty Liaison

Photos by SWP New Weathers assistants & Director: Erika Hodges, Shawnie Hamer, Garen-Lavender Whitmore, Swanee, & Jeff Pethybridge