w/ Autumn falling close on our heels we gathered at Innisfree Poetry Cafe on the Hill to tune ourselves to the work we do which makes us change our range of community — for the 100K Poets for Change Global Event. As a writing school at a university whose founding tenements is to using writing as process for hard truths crafted & carried through the human projective, how could we not use this as an opportunity to showcase the activism and activity of our students?
BEATS opened up the global event by hosting a series of featured readers from the ranks of the Kerouac School: Swanee MFA’16, Eric Shoemaker MFA’18, Shawnee Hamer MFA’17, Jeffrey Pethybridge, Caleb Worst MFA ’18, & Nathalie MFA ’19
watch (most) of the features on their Facebook channel: https://www.facebook.com/aplaceofurgency/videos/
at 43:00 you’ll catch Wheeler Light BA ’17 introducing the Slam competition which featured eight poets in head-to-head competition. Slammers from Mercury Cafe & Block 1750 as well as JKS’ own Garen Lavender MFA ’17 took the stage to win their own copy of Bombay Gin. Popular votes were close, but there could only be one winner: Marvin Connor.
As one walked upon the scene for the release party staged at Innisfree for Ella Longpre’s How to Keep You Alive (HTKYA-press-release), one saw a throng of people wearing glittery multi-colored party hats, greeting each other like family. Moving among them was Ella herself, garbed in white showing those who had gathered how to use the projector set and headphones, gesturing toward the photos playing on a white sheet pinned to the red-brick wall. Images displayed, “existing with a technicality and only with great effort” to shut out the chatter and grind of the surrounding din, listening to her voice, “like a floating dream, waiting for a symbol to occur”.
Among the ephemera of the evening were also pages of the text, hanging on the walls, as it was originally intended to exist, hanging as curtains to the many shelves of poetry living behind them.
And it is the collective experience of these particles of a work larger than a body or a house, but, “the demonstration of time as a mentor” working to give a synesthesia of experience. A performance that you don’t need so much as an ordering of holes, filled perforations. Listening to Ella, one has a sense of poetry that is more than Poetry, but “alchemical as the sun’s light changes your fluid”. One part nostalgia-stripped Camelot, another part slope to the window of a ventricle; wholly knit tissue-screen; a technology of windows dreaming of what can keep us alive.
The evening was opened up by Brian, owner of Innisfree who knows Ella well as employer-friend-ally-comrade. In his many words of praise and appreciation for her knowledge and skill as only a book-loving barista can possess, he said, “I hope when she writes her taxes that she will write ‘Poet'”. The essence of his words led us to an elevation of her character as one who takes her path with a cultivated fortitude and humble virtuosity.
When Ella took the stage for some choice readings of the book, it became clear the power a book can have as evidence of survival. That “a mirror adds a negative room to a room”; that negative space is of a dangerous, waking lie. Violence itself is a lie and, “ecstasy means leaving our stain on a room, nervous system of a house”. So if the writing itself exposes the mirror, then her reading was a dream-window and everyone in the room a lucid dreamer.
And if Innisfree is a house (which it is to all those who find sanctuary there), then there is no doubt Ella Longpre released her first book in a place of home.
If you want to get yourself a copy, pick one up at Innisfree, or snag one of the 5 left in stock on Amazon.
“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….
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 email@example.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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The evening began with an invocation & prayer from the Tibetan Book of the Dead led by Giovinnina Jobson & Anne Waldman.
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.
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.
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
After History / Post Palestine
A selection of short films by Artist/Filmmaker Basma Alsharif that explore Palestine’s political history through visceral landscapes reflecting on the human condition and the future beyond history.
Total Program = approximately 80 minutes
[please see event discussion for individual synopses] http://www.internationalfilmseries.com/first_person_cinema/
Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the University of Colorado Film Studies Program were honored to host Basma Alsharif for the In-Person: Alternative Cinema event on Monday, February 27, 2017 on the Naropa University Arapahoe Campus in the Performing Art Center, 2130 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO at 7:00 p.m.
Basma Alsharif is an Artist/Filmmaker born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised between France and the US. Since receiving a Master of Fine Arts in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Chicago, she developed her practice nomadically between Chicago, Cairo, Beirut, Sharjah, Amman, the Gaza Strip and Paris.
Basma Alsharif’s work centers on the human condition in relation to shifting geopolitical landscapes and natural environments. Interested in what cannot ever be proven or explained, she uses photography, film, video, sound, language and performance to reveal the fallibility of our perception and of history. Engaging with politics on a visceral level through pieces characterized by their immersive, lyrical qualities, Alsharif creates familiar environments that lure us into unsettling experiences of being comfortable and foreign simultaneously.
Major exhibitions include: Le Prix Découverte des Rencontres d’Arles, les Module at the Palais de Tokyo, Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, the Jerusalem Show, Yamagata Documentary Film Festival, the Berlinale, the Sharjah Biennial, Videobrasil, and Manifesta 8. She received a jury prize at the Sharjah Biennial 9, the Marion MacMahon award at Images, and was awarded the Marcelino Botin Visual Arts grant. Basma Alsharif is represented by Galerie Imane Farés in Paris, distributed by Video Data Bank and Arsenal, and is now based in Los Angeles.
We Began by Measuring Distance (2009) SD Video ~ 19 minutes. Long still frames, text, language, and sound are weaved together to unfold the narrative of ananonymous group who fill their time by measuring distance. Innocent measurements transition into political ones, examining how image and sound communicate history. We Began by Measuring Distance explores an ultimate disenchantment with facts when the visual fails to communicate the tragic.
A Field Guide to the Ferns (2015) 16mm HD transfer ~ 10 minutes. “Primitive savagery meets the brutality of the modern world in Ruggero Deodato’s timeless slice of visceral horror”. Cannibal Holocaust is revived deep in the New Hampshire woods
where apathy and violence are blurred.
Home Movies Gaza (2013) HD video ~ 24 minutes
Home Movies Gaza introduces us to the Gaza Strip as a microcosm for the failure of civilization. In an attempt to describe the everyday of a place that struggles for the most basic of human
rights, this video claims a perspective from within the domestic spaces of a territory that is complicated, derelict, and altogether impossible to separate from its political identity.
Renée’s Room (2015) ~ 15 minutes. A film on the perpetual present as an enactment of the concept of the eternal return.
“This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” Frederick Nietzsche