Clay Making Workshop

Contemplative Practice Day happens once a semester at Naropa University and is a time for all staff, faculty, and students to come together and share ideas and experiences around contemplative education. This semester’s practice day was hosted by the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics on Tuesday October 15th, 2013. The following “witness notes” were composed by MFA candidate Brandon Lee.

I came in smoking late on cigarettes and pretty women, where the students gathered wedges of clay, a blank slate to start from—the room holding the sensible likeness of newborn babies opening their eyes to hospital light—the slow placement of things to take form..

The students went around the room, saying what they wanted. Some: to be good writers, thoughts on breaking barriers, then this essence that, secretly, some wanted to have sex with each other, which isn’t what they said out loud.  One or two, if not all thinking, why am I lost? was a major part of the day as well. and then answered questions out loud with soft sincerity in their voices,

“I want to write the next great American Epic”

I came late on these notions, and just what people really wanted, which here I have embellished for the sake was in the moment, and unable to be reclaimed for new audiences. Basically, people were somewhat sincere at this gathering, and upon entering I was asked to make a statement, shy in stating the contradiction:

“I want to collect the minds and hearts of everyone for the sake of their thoughts and feelings; and to hold close those who suffer.”

There is clay all over my notebook. My sweat-nerves mix with the clay. It goes everywhere.  All over my favorite damn notebook, which now with these smudges would soon remind me of the tossed lost  love , for it is all that would soon be left of him; the pint up turtle come loose of god.

“Why are you making a turtle?” someone whispers in the workshop,

“We are supposed to make a goddess.”

I shrug my shoulders. Then start carving my turtle, I am alone, not sure what I’m making at first, then it just forms, a turtle with its neck stretched out to the sky                                                                              screaming with its hands out to the air as though the ceiling would collapse on us all in the class room.  I shoved a handwritten piece of sorrow in its mouth with the words I’d stated earlier written on it.

Most people made goddesses. Kneeling, sitting, no-legged-goddesses, and one guy made a bat but it looked flattened as a pancake or more so, a Bat-a-rang, which would be good for what was to come next.

Everyone walked down to the creek together after hearing about a glitter-into-the-creek-ecoli-conundrum that Bhanu Kapil had mentioned. It was cold, they were all tucked up in coats and fashionable extras, little memorabilia to hold close to—sanctity.

“What’s in glitter anyway?” said one.

“Glitter is made of the scales of a rancid mermaid,” Kapil said quick quip.

We arrived.  The creek speaking on its own and then Kapil singing an Indian song as the students made an “Ommm” chanting in harmonious, ’til I fucked up coming up short/last again in my harmony.  We all raised the pieces about our heads blessing them by what they represented inside of us, then we were told to let them join back up with the creek—a lesson in ones dying, a lesson in knowing something deep no one knows, and learning to let it go—a good writer Jason, cried after tossing his piece in, me I bit the head open on the turtle, chewed it up while I watched students go to the creeks edge, looking about in hopes they weren’t seen—like a homeless man might shit on the public steps of a city bank at night and hope he wasn’t caught– and then think it would be more sentimental to, “well,  maybe just put it in over here by this shinier rock” ect. to make the feeling more closely attach.

The clay head was raw.  Was dirt. Was me formed out of it.

It was a block of clay,

a turtle,

a representation

of pining sorrow for all its lovers,

as it screamed

my own life


I threw it in. puked the dark soil within two hours.