By Ella Longpre
Friday, December 13
Naropa’s Performing Arts Center
The Jack Kerouac School’s Fall Graduation Reading pulsated on Friday, lulling JKS students, faculty, and family in attendance with readings and performances that spanned the deceptively gentle to the charming and theatrical. Emceed by Junior Burke (novelist and dramatist), who is currently reading Mike Tyson’s autobiography, the reading began with a soft, slow rendition of “Blue Christmas,” played by Burke on Bobbie Louise Hawkin’s Martin guitar (which Burke claimed Stephen Taylor openly covets).
Attendees heard first from MFA Graduate Joe “Tootles” Braun, reading from a book of wonder in a smoky and measured voice, flirting giggles from the audience in between subtler moments of invocation. Braun spoke of “answers that things only today could tell,” his writing at times uttering unanswerable commands. “Go into the forest, child,” Braun instructed, and “listen to the leaves.”
Elyse Brownell, another MFA graduate, then read from a chronology of arrival. Brownell’s work pushed into moments of interruption; she wrote of lesions in the brain as interruption of memory, explaining at one point, “A memory is impaired when someone is asked to say something irrelevant out loud.” Brownell’s voice searched, often for the sake of the process: “I try to find a corner of the tower to touch.”
Noah Christie read from a project that unfolded in a “room [that] smelled strongly of damp earth.” Christie’s fiction reverberated with play; spinning in the center of his work is a mythical figure whose true intentions are kept hidden. Christie’s voice enabled the secretive in its elegant reticence, offering at moments scraps, like a linen cloth, in a pile of treasures, as a gift.
At this point something must be said about the inflatable unicorn head, on a pedestal on stage.
Craig Collier, aka Alan Mudd, performed a finely-tuned two-part incantation, a drum at the back of the room punctuating and framing Mudd’s candid surrealism. Mudd’s statements seemed to carry a straightforward and preverbal wisdom, and he delivered them with the aloof poise of a priest. “A dream,” Mudd teaches, “is a thing with teeth.” He wrote of moments of complete annihilation, where “every apple fell out of the tree at once.” His nostalgia sometimes read as instructions, recounting/ ordering, “Eggs in the morning. Apples on the floor.”
Eric Fischman, who held the audience in a warm and cryptic smile, read from his Parable of the Master. Fischman wrote sestinas of mitochondria and blue, where “every animal that sings can fly,” “where a cupped hand must learn to cradle light.” Fischman’s homage to Whitman, Poem for Myself, read less as effusive self-praise and more as encouraging but not optimistic reassurance: “you are desire,” he told himself. “You can listen if you want.” Fischman’s work and presence replenishes itself with an undercurrent of gratitude.
David Hall, the first BA graduate of the night, read from work that explores the sculptural properties of existentialism, and the elemental problem of writing: collapse. “If the sentence is a problem of duration,” Hall stated, “then the inverse must be true.” He wrote about “the space between speech and writing,” what written language can’t bridge, “the punctum, the trace, the difference.” Hall’s writing is, on the surface, theoretical, but there are traces of the personal beneath—for instance, when he stated, “to expose is to open a letter.”
June Lucarotti, an MFA graduate, performed a novel, with the help of classmates who posed, without rehearsal, as characters from the novel (stage directions given by Lucarotti’s prose). A bird, a rabbit, moved from the stage, through the audience. There was delight in the fact that the performers had never heard the script before, performing on demand a story about vision and bending of time—constantly correcting their postures and positions according to the next line of the novel. When the novel performance was over, Lucarotti showed work from her project, “Between eleven (11),” another exploration of time rooted in text.
The final reader, Christina Nicole, a BA graduate, read a very short excerpt of her work. (Someone asked her afterward why her reading was so short; “it’s what I wanted,” she answered.) Nicole’s work is a hybrid of the scientific and semiotic, a lecture on embryo-genesis and a story about “globular cells.” “In our dreams,” Nicole trailed off, “chromosomes of X and Y attempt.” Her work is at once suggestive and threatening, “a child sucking on electrical knowledge.” Nicole’s work, as a conclusion to the reading, was appropriately representative of what seems to be the communal preoccupations of the current JKS community, a current vibrating somewhere between conjuration and discourse.
Ella Longpre is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School. She is a writer and musician. Her work appears in the ether. You can find her at ellalongpre.tumblr.com