Category Archives: Reviews

Borders, Bodies: MFA Graduation Reading, May 9, 2014

By Ella Longpre

There were yellow roses. Yellow roses for Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A yellow rose for each graduate, conferred by thesis advisor. Bhanu Kapil emceed, introducing the readers and summarizing each reading. During her introduction, Kapil recapped the graduates’ time at Naropa: “You came here to write; you did not write.”

Each reader conjured a ghost—from the past, from a text, from a dream. For instance, Peggy Anne Alaniz began with an homage to Poe, specifically “Usher,” calling on the “blood of my brother,” revealing that “the breath unites us.” Carla Campbell’s textual apparition appeared in the form of a co-autobiography written with Phyllis Wheatley. Campbell stated “I am not Phyllis Wheatley” to distance herself from the text. And then went on, to pull closer to the audience: “Naobi weeps. Naobi weeps, and turns to stone.” She gave us the image of “a tick, sucking away my ancestral history.”

Angel Dominguez then brought us a figure who appears only in part during a sleep walk: “There were white flowers everywhere; I buried him there.” These are living somnambulisms: “I don’t remember the orchard… just the scent.”

Jenifer Kay Dorsey called to her past, a road-trip childhood composed of moss, and snails. But she also woke from it: “the down comforter falls to my waist.” She reassured the audience, “if I know anything, I will be amazed.” Janelle Fine addressed her own body: “I read on the internet that most women have one breast that’s larger than the other. I hate you even more now, that I am like most women.” Lola Gerber addressed the body of a lover— one lover, to her lover on the floor in a fetal position: “I became your womb, and you became my child.” The lover is able to remain in the present through a process of “bottling moments into memories, like cherries into jam.”

Mikiel Ghelieh spoke of “special gym” as “the great equalizer,” in the sense that everybody bleeds: “We left a lot of blood on that gym floor.” Sarah Richards Graba spoke of biography of a ghost, in the sense that every body will be a ghost—she spoke “in language, on the page, the only way I know how to speak to a ghost.” The haunting in her text, though, was two-edged, because even for a ghost, “some spaces occupy me most.”

Jaclyn Hawkins read about the body of a loved one, a landscape, a tree: rather than lovers’ initials carved into tree bark, “so much wisdom is already written in leaves.” She quoted her grandfather, who said “Fuck comfort. Comfort is the opposite of joy.” And: “Lightning bugs are the dead, lighting a cigarette.” Steven Raymond Arne Johnson, a poet working in translation, summoned text and history. He read, “Man like me, neither lay nor ordained, a danger to the Buddha dharma.” And in an acrostic: “Yonder mountains and valleys equally suck.”

At this point, Reed Bye addressed graduates, reading from Yeats: “I, being poor, have only my dreams.”

Marking a slight shift from bodies and ghosts to the margins that delineate them, Elizabeth Knauz continued the reading, speaking over “the distance of a sigh.” Then, comedy: “I threw up in the closet but I don’t care.” Caitlan Mitchell re-defined confusion over and over, “confusion is a redundant binding process.” Howling. She howled. Audience joining, ending her reading in a communal howl.

Erik Bitsui rocked on a cardboard guitar, with a story about a coyote, a man, an attack, in the margins between a reservation and the rest of the world, a margin where “police keep racial profiling statistics a secret.” JH Phrydas continued walking along the margin, speaking of linear drafting, intersections of animal and human trails, and “the boundary between city and forest [that] dissolves,” where “language emerges.” Shitu Rajbhandari then entered the city, reminding us, “the city will chew you up and spit you out within seconds, and won’t even wipe its face.” She asked the city, “if this revolution’s only cause is heartbreak, what good is it?” An unanswered question.

Returning to the body, Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey, accompanied by the drumming of Kyle Pivarnik, performed an exorcism via dance while a recording played, “I am my mother but I am not.” The recording said, “I want to dance the shame out of my body.” Curtis Romero read from a piece in which an angel waited downstairs. Meanwhile, the blues played, Dave Van Ronk influencing a later generation. Punctuating his text: the tones of a white ceramic bell.

Tiara Roxanne read decapitated lines, dismembered sentences: “Time fashions a fabric in pain.” She provided a vocabulary for the language of the body, telling us, “the body that does not dance is the body that does not signify.”

Finally, Ashley Margaret Waterman blurred the boundary between body and spirit, defining spirituality as “a right-bodied function.” She read about a girl “chewing her nails to live in denial.”

When she finished reading, we gathered the roses from the floor.

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Ella Longpre is a writer and musician from the MidWest and both Coasts. She is the author of the chapbook, The Odor of the Hoax Was Gone (Monkey Puzzle Press, 2013), and her work has appeared in elimae, Summer Stock, Dinosaur Bees, NOÖ Journal, and Everyday Genius. Ella Longpre is the 2013-14 Anne Waldman Fellow at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where she is an MFA in Writing & Poetics candidate.

Riddled with Moon Quakes: BA Graduation Reading, May 9, 2014

By Jennifer van Alstyne

Bhanu Kapil introduced the BA Graduation reading, taking the time to thank staff, advisors, and family of the JKS graduates.

Rebecca Kiwi Barnstein, who took inspiration from the chance operations of John Cage, created an ‘unwieldy butterfly affect’ with “Conclusion,” allowing for audience participation in order to allow reaction, rather than the entirety of the piece, to be mutable.

Alexandria Bull, whose creative thesis was based around the notion of earthquakes, read splendidly, especially for being ill. Her work was riddled with moon quakes, saying, “We stood outside of ourselves and did not move.”

Charlie Epstein elected a performance piece rather than a reading, creating for a kinetic experience by crawling and using the microphone and audience members as part of the performance. He was unable to keep both doors in PAC open at the same time, resulting in a primal scream atop a chair.

Elizabeth Kolenda opened her reading by singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, and creating for us a “Topography of Emptiness,” where “all the papers are blank.”

The readings were followed by Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies.

Congratulations to the Jack Kerouac School class of 2014!

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Jennifer van Alstyne is an MFA candidate and fellow at the Jack Kerouac School. She is the poetry editor of Bombay Gin. Her work has appeared in the Eunoia Review, MLM, Poetry Quarterly, The Monmouth Review, The Foundling Review, and Paper Nautilus. She is currently working on a collection about Hurricane Sandy and Asbury Park, NJ.

Notes on an Evening with Steve Evans: Leslie Scalapino Lecture in Innovative Poetics, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

By Jaclyn Hawkins

The Jack Kerouac School recently hosted an evening with Steve Evans, this year’s recipient of the Leslie Scalapino Lecture in Innovative Poetics. Entitled “Driven to Abstraction? Listening for ‘Late Style’ in Feminist Avant-Garde Poetry,” Evans’ theory examined the work of poets (namely, Rosmarie Waldrop, Alice Notley, Susan Howe, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and Rae Armantrout) with the concept of “late style,” finding the shift within their later works.

Notes on an evening with Steve Evans:

Time to open a new dossier . . . test late style . . . Susan Howe’s This That: homage of transformative performance, a lavish absence . . . Adorno: “The maturity of the late works of significant authors does not resemble the kind one finds in fruit. They are, for the most part, not round, but furrowed, even ravaged. Devoid of sweetness, bitter and spiny, they do not surrender themselves to mere delectation. The history of art late works are the catastrophes.”

Late style: projection into radically unknown future, and radically unknown results . . . Arnheim: our abstract approach to life; realist detail, the whole of the world into the body of the work; how we interact with our surrounding environment . . . abstraction: isolation, taking away . . . anti-patriarchy, “poison to the root,” restore sense of wonder regarding women writers . . . “category of reception depends upon our own perception.”

Breaking from poetics of continuity to a poetics of novelty (i.e. Culture of One is Notley’s return to her first work: the radical act of revision) . . . imagining the end of the Anthropocene—“reading a book is its own late style now” . . . we are crowded with details, too many details, this is a death of our time . . . “Starting from nothing with nothing when everything has been said” (This That, Susan Howe) . . . Armantrout’s “Old School,” (“rapper’s delight is old school”) . . . mythic perceptions of “Immortals Having a Party”—returning to primes, the ability to commune beyond humans, is late style.

“What would a singular myth be?”

“What’s being memorialized?”

“Do we want what we’ve got?”

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Jaclyn Hawkins is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University. On the verge of entering her thesis semester, she is seeking to archive decay through documentary poetry and map the genre of Ecopoetics.

Let Them Eat Cake: Across the Threshold: A Reading Hosted by the Naropa Writing Center

By Joseph Navarro

Sure, there were gluten- free snacks. Let them eat cake. People spoke of getting tattoos of semicolons. Let them eat cake. There was even an event flyer with a picture of a Nazi German V2rocket, falling on London. Let them eat cake. And to be honest, the amount of emails sent by Jennifer Kay Dorsey and Ariella Ruth , probably annoyed the NSA. Let them eat cake. Sarah Richards-Graba’s Ikebana exhibit almost stole the show. Let them eat cake. Christopher Kepple’s interior design prowess, created an atmosphere conducent to all Post-Modern-Avante-Hybrid-Experimental-Van-Poetics-Beat oriented readings. Let them eat cake. The Naropa Writing Center hosted a reading titled Across the Threshold, which opened with some of Naropa’s finest BA writers. Let them eat cake. Jade Cruz Quinn and Tyler Lyman touched on cats and creeks while taking the audience on a semiotic voyage of imagery and emotion. Let them eat cake. Their work set the pace for a night of aesthetic solidarity. Let them eat cake. H.J. VandeRiet, Brent Zionic, and Chris Kepple followed. Let them eat cake. The trio represented the eclectic nature, endemic to current first-year cohort’s literary repertoire. Let them eat cake. Humor was a large part of the evening, which accentuated an eager audience. Let them eat cake. The closing act featured Naropa’s upcoming graduates, from the Religious Studies and Creative Writing programs respectively. Let them eat cake. Austin Pick, Elizabth Knauz, Jenifer Kay Dorsey, Matt Clifford and Sarah Richards-Graba rounded out the night with a mixture of grace and poetics, a true representation of the Beat legacy so dear to this institution. Let them eat cake. The five brought an emotional candor to the evening which made one reminisce of City Lights Bookstore in the 60’s. Let them eat cake. The 2014 NWC reading featured a packed house, a lineup of committed artists, and a finale of cake. Cake. Cake. Cake. And they ate cake; Ashley Margaret Waterman and Janelle Fine put on a performance which will echo through these hallowed halls, for years to come. Let them eat cake. The coup de grace of an evening dedicated to all that is writing. Let them eat cake. The sacrifices we make for our work, is what defines us as artists. Let them eat cake. We will continue to write and spread all that is art. Let them eat cake. As for everyone else, LET THEM EAT CAKE!

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Joseph Navarro is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University.

LINEAGE: Women of Naropa 10th Anniversary Reading, April 11, 2014

By Jaclyn Hawkins

“Close your eyes. Breathe deeply . . . feel her breathe lightly next to you . . . find the porch swing.” These incantatory meditations opened the evening, blooming into Women of Naropa, an annual event that reached its ten year anniversary on Friday, April 11th—coinciding with the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics’ fortieth year anniversary. Lark Fox, organizer of this event and JKS alumna, spoke briefly to this “labor of love,” recognizing those integral to this celebration, to these women of Naropa.

This year’s theme was lineage, a toast to where we have been, where we might go, and to connection and creation. Audience members and readers alike were asked to consider “who/what is your writing lineage . . . and how does it interact with your process / act as your muse / become you / repel you / seduce you / time travel / weave you / poke holes into your page?” I ask you, dear reader, to consider this as well. To trace your writerly lineage, discover your poetic genealogy, expose the haunts lingering between your words.

An unforeseen theme: water. Remnants of the Boulder Flood have not yet receded from the collective psyche, as several readers spoke to the element that tracks geological lineage, oceans rising up to meet us, rising waters, creeks choosing where to flow. Hurricane Sandy made her (re)debut, haunting coasts of the dead in dancing waves of detritus.  We found raindrops of language, female hearts in bodies cut open, the discontinuous rupture of story, heard the voice of our mothers—womanhood is manual labor, and were challenged to read like our ancestors are on FIRE.

We read the words of our predecessors—Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lyn Hejinian, Bhanu Kapil, Joanne Kyger, Rachel Levitsky, Harryette Mullen, Michelle Naka Pierce, Maureen Owen, Andrea Rexilius, Akilah Oliver, and Anne Waldman—in a spontaneous group poem. Echoes of lineage within the walls of Wulsin Hall.

A congratulations is in order, a toast to the tenth anniversary of Women of Naropa. Thank you to all who make this event possible, and to those, past and present, who lend their voices to poetry.

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Jaclyn Hawkins is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University. On the verge of entering her thesis semester, she is seeking to archive decay through documentary poetry and map the genre of Ecopoetics.

It’s Time to Wake Up: Sympsoium on Queer Poetics Reading

By Jennifer van Alstyne

The duo, not_I, was first on stage. Sophia La Fraga started to wrap the rope around Ana Božicevic as she read, crisscrossing it over her body.  “Art sleeps too, bitches. It’s time to wake up.” While there were a couple of technical difficulties with the projector, overall, their reading was a unique blend of audio, visual, and performance.

Teresa Carmody read from a new short story about two girls taking a class on writing short stories. “Becoming a writer seemed as possible as becoming a magician,” she said, the story weaving through the girls personal histories saying, “Change comes slowly, or quickly,” and, “Women are always wanting so much.”

Trace Peterson read from “Trans Figures” saying, “The voice wants to turn itself into a body,” followed by a essay dedication to kari Edwards. “I am the poem,” she said. “This poem isn’t bad for a nightlife.”

Lucas de Lima read from his book, Wetland, about the death of his close friend, Ana Maria. The elegy began, “I inscribe myself into a blood-stained ecology” and ends on, “we are naked.”

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Jennifer van Alstyne is an MFA candidate and fellow at the Jack Kerouac School. She is the poetry editor of Bombay Gin. Her work has appeared in the Eunoia Review, MLM, Poetry Quarterly, The Monmouth Review, The Foundling Review, and Paper Nautilus. She is currently working on a collection about Hurricane Sandy and Asbury Park, NJ.