Category Archives: Reviews

How To Keep You Alive / Ella Longpre MFA ’15 first book release!



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.


~~The Hungry Ghost~~

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

4×4 Reading Series

No. 1, a review by Sarah Escue

The 4×4 reading series creates a space in which writers from various Colorado communities can join together and share their creative works. The first 4×4 reading was held in the Nalanda Events Center at Naropa University on November 29, 2016. The readers included Megan “Babs” Heise (Naropa), Meghan Pipe (Fort Collins), Natalie Rogers (CU Denver), and Kailey-Alyssa Tucker (CU Boulder).

The readers wrote and spoke of ghosts, pickled brine, crustaceans, Batman villains, a boy named Steve, NPR broadcasts, organs, black holes, mental illness, a/sexuality, starfish, insomnia, repression, expression, and memory. Each reader made the audience laugh, hum, and ponder. The barrier between artist and audience crumbled, the room was anything but stagnant. Everyone was silent, reverent, open, alive.

Megan Heise from Naropa says, “I think the 4×4 is an amazing opportunity to share one’s work and connect with the larger Front Range literary community, and I’m honored to have represented Naropa at the first reading of the 2016-2017 series. I’m eager to support my classmates reading in the next three, and to learn about the creative work of writers from the other schools represented.”

The 4×4 series is a  way to connect with the Colorado literary and art community. Upcoming 4×4 readings will be posted on the Jack Kerouac Schedule of Events.


Sarah Escue is earning her MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Writers in Community Speakeasy

Dec. 6, 2016

The Writers in Community Speakeasy is a reading in which undergraduate and graduate writing students who are taking the course Writers in Community have the opportunity to come together and share the creative work they produced during the semester.


Travis Newbill, MFA

Writer’s in Community is a course that engages several aspects of being a writer, from the page to performance, from innovative poetic concerns to professional development. Several working writers, such as Gabrielle Civil, Eugene Lim, and Muriel Leung, are invited to give in-class lectures and/or lead workshops. During this course, students also have the opportunity to explore contemplative gestures and writing processes, such as meditation, free movement, and more. By the course’s end, students have completed a context presentation, a prospectus proposing a project of their own, a creative portfolio based on the course’s focus of study, and a short professional dossier with career goals.


Steve San Luis, BA

The WIC Speakeasy was held in the Nalanda Atrium on December 6, 2016. Students read poems and prose, and some even performed spoken word poetry. The readers and performers included: Ben Gross, Emily Duffy, Camille Craig, Eric Shoemaker, Chance Boatman, Jessica Down, Danielle Gardner, Joshua Musicant, Erika Hodges, Kaleb Worst, Holly Salvatore, Jack Eley, Kristiane Weeks, Julien Blundell, Paul Gomez, Kate Langyher, Ryan Mihaly, Lea Pendersen, Sarah Escue, Michele Lorusso Ortega, Shelly Robinson, Paige Frisone, Travis Newbill, Steve San Luis, and Grace Horton.

The Speakeasy was an energized space in which undergraduate and graduate writers could share their work, support each other, and chat over tacos post-reading. It was such an honor to read alongside so many talented and encouraging people. And it was an even bigger honor to hear their stories, poems, and songs.

Review & photos by:                                                                                     Sarah Escue is earning her MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Women of Naropa & Friends Celebrate Anne Waldman, April 23, 2015

By Matthew Pincus

The 11th Annual Women of Naropa Reading was a celebration of both women writers, and Anne Waldman’s birthday. Bobbie Louise Hawkins said in her reading, “Time eats history,” and certainly it did for Florence Jenkins, the subject of her fine short story about an amateur operatic soprano who had a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in the 1940s.

Readers included professors, graduates, and undergraduates of the Jack Kerouac School. Mara Ochoa, an undergraduate, in her poem discussed the speaker’s personal grievances over how language had been used to hold sway over an individual’s feelings. Undergraduates Erika Hodges and Sara Schultz also read.

Many second year MFA students (Hannah Kazema, Ella Longpre, Brent Zionic, Ellie Swensson, and Sean McDaniel), known as Polly Vocal, along with Professor Reed Bye, performed one of Gertrude Stein’s many short plays. Although all her plays have an absurd fixation on language, the cast provided a strong rendering of a Modernist Parisian scene with the discipline of syntax and grammar the writer herself would have approved of. Graduate students Heather Sweeney and Rachel Martin also read.

Another performance-based piece in honor of Anne was by her friends and colleagues Toni Oswald and Max Davies. The musicality and also repetitive hushes of their lyrics, a musical experiment by Anne herself, written and performed in the 1970s, brought to life, as she often does, the vibrancy and energy surrounding art and music in New York City.

Colleague and alumni HR Hegnauer read a touching letter by Anne’s mother written to her in her twenties, and contained a good deal of cynical wit about a workshop she was attending at the time. Andrea Rexilius read a fitting poem for the evening written by Anne, and Laura Wright used a fierce, passionate voice for her piece. Also, friends and alumni to the Jack Kerouac School Lisa Birman, Jennifer Dorn, and Jade Lascelles read.

The last, and featured speaker of the evening was poet Anne Waldman herself. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she becomes younger through the years. Anne’s poetic voice is swift with perfect elocution. She speaks with passion for scenes varying from quiet serenity to ominous paranoia. In Beirut, at the outdoor courtyard of a teahouse, the speaker encounters the beauty and freedom of artistry in a space, which both inspires and fosters creative growth. However, a remembrance of a child’s fear of drones harkens one back to the concern with devastation caused by the American unmanned air crafts many civilians in Lebanon fear, and which effect innocent citizens.

This evening of performances was a fundraiser to benefit Bombay Gin, the school’s literary magazine, and also A Woman’s Work, a non-profit based out of Longmont, which assist women in financial crisis with child care, housing, medical, and transportation needs. They also helped, and continue to help, victims of the Boulder flood.


Matthew Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He has a B.A. from Pitzer College in English and is has written book reviews for Bookslut, RainTaxi, Pank, and Necessary Fiction. He also published an essay on Dodie Bellamy in Coldfront, and presented at last years Disembodied Poetics Conference.

I/Not I Symposium on Identity Poetics Panel, March 31, 2015

By Angelica Maria Barraza

I arrived at the panel an “I.” I was simultaneously a “not I” — this addition a testament to all the parts of me that were not contained in the basic terminology of my identity: Female. Mixed race. Queer. I took a seat near the back with my notebook opened to an empty page. I’m not sure what I was expecting to fill it with. Perhaps lamentations on the old questions Who am I? Where do I come from? But identity is more complicated than that. More elastic. And, perhaps, more difficult to language than I’d previously imagined.

Michelle Naka Pierce, the panel’s moderator, opened the space with a talk on hybridity. She spoke about her own experience as a Japanese American and asked us to imagine what it was like to embody two cultures at once, without embodying each fully. How can language be manipulated to illuminate the interstices between two worlds? An impossible question. Unless you allowed language to contradict itself, and, at times, fail.

Ronaldo Wilson was the first panelist to engage the subject of “I”. He conflated identity with the act of obliteration. But how does one practice obliteration through poetics? As an example Wilson streamed a ‘film’ layered with multiple audio tracks and visual components. It’s about texture, he said. Identity is texture. Texture is a space of loss. Mourning is a site of possibility. The film resonated throughout the room and I began to pull the pieces together. The pieces were not made to fit perfectly. Rather, they were meant to be jagged, imperfect, and to create gaps and overlap.

Kazim Ali followed with an introspective talk on the mind and the body. He asked who one meant when one said “I.” He posed the body as a thought, and contemplated our involvement in the creation of our own identities. Ali further suggested the powers of yogic chanting. He posed that chanting had the ability to change our internal shape/landscape. He believed in the practice of writing from a body centered space.

Ana Merino, who grew up in a country fraught with war, spoke about childhood and identity. She fervently argued for the inclusion of poetics in early education. She posed that languages were like houses and believed in the agency of children — that they, at young ages, possessed the capability of transcending the oppressions of their parent’s history. She sought intellectualism as an answer. After listening to her speak it felt like the world, however imperfect, was in my hands.

Alongside these panelists were two JKS graduate students who presented on the topic of I/Not I. Brent Zionic engaged a more scientific route while Cait Turner looked to Theodore Adorno to sparse out who one is under a capitalistic regime.

To say I walked away from the panel with an answer would be incorrect. While my notebook was dense with notes I found there are no answers on the subject of identity. We hold within us contradictions. We are and we are not. We are both/and. We are neither.

I’m not sure what I was waiting for.

I/Not I: Symposium on Identity Poetics Reading, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

By Jennifer van Alstyne

The Symposium on Identity Poetics asks

How do we as writers negotiate the “I” in the face of deconstructed/reconstructed identities? The “I” has become an interstice. It is the liminal: a transitional space, occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. It destabilizes the binary. It functions as imbrications. “I” am both; “I” am neither.

and featured the two-day combination of the annual Leslie Scalapino lecture and symposium. The final event of the Symposium on Identity Poetics was readings by Ana Merino, Kazim Ali, Leslie Scalapino Lecturer in Innovative Poetics Dorothy Wang, and Ronaldo Wilson.

Ana Merino is Director of the Spanish Creative Writing Program at the University of Iowa read her poetry in Spanish. She read from her books Child’s Play and Cell Mate with issues ranging from knowledge of self, child poverty, and the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. Caroline Swensen accompanied Merino with English-language translations.

Kazim Ali, a professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College, read old and new work, the most memorable of which was a poem about San Francisco and the many fault lines, which run across the hill-sided city on the bay. His poetic voice artfully structures religious, personal, racial and queer concerns into an aesthetic amelioration of traumatic space.

Dorothy Wang, whose Leslie Scalapino lecture discussed racial concerns and Asian Americans in contemporary poetics, read from a literary essay on Bhanu Kapil, discussing the merits of her Asian American narratives Schizophrene, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, Humanimal, and Incubation: A Space for Monsters. Her reading melded recursive quotes from the author’s own text with critical and enlightening statements on a Naropa professor.

Ronaldo Wilson, an Associate Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at University of California Santa Cruz, performed a piece where he played with postmodernist concepts of narrator and point of view in a fashion similar to the transgressive memoir of Kathy Acker. His spliced mixtapes, and explicit dialogue about sexual escapades, attempt to jar the viewer into gaining a full and more transparent understanding of race relations in the current political and social climate of the United States.

Each poet and critic in their own respect commented on aspects of identity in modern American and international life. Lectures given on a panel earlier that day showed the different philosophies of each individual. Ana Merino was the most direct, describing her childhood during the Franco dictatorship in Spain and her parent’s leftist stances against the government. Ali discussed his spiritual connection to yoga and the metaphysical necessity to keep open in a poetic space as to stave one from giving limits to their practice. Wilson emphasized the need for mediation in his performances, and his exploration of texture in Victorian literature as well as the broader them of resistance. Cait Turner and Brent Zionic, first and second year Jack Kerouac School MFA candidates, also participated in the panel.

Don’t forget to stop by Jack Kerouac School events this year at AWP! For a full listing of JKS on and off-site panels and events as well as future spring events, click here.


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 an Associate Editor for Something On Paper and Book Reviews Editor for Bombay Gin.