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Convocation / Spontaneous Poem

passing under the flags to enter the sacred space

The Spontaneous Poem at Convocation at the start of term is an old Naropa tradition, initiated by our founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and carried on usually by one faculty or staff of the Kerouac School as conduit. We do this to bring us all into a collective moment and to create a context we can carry throughout the year until the next turn of the proverbial wheel. In our case it is the dharmachakra representing the eight-fold path:

Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision

Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration,

Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech.

Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action.

Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood.

Samma-Vayama — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality.

Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness.

Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi.

Hence, the Spontaneous Poem always has eight lines. They are composed by Naropa Community members who are present at covocation who have submitted their names to a collective sort-of pot. They are consequently pulled blindly, at random until the poem has been completed.

This year Swanee was the Kerouacian representative. She led everyone into the space of composition by instructing us, “…to step into your place of inspiration. Try and speak from an image or a feeling. If there was something said during convocation which inspired you, strike out from there. Whatever is calling you is your message, your transmission for this moment. Please keep it to a phrase or a sentence. Please also speak slowly and maybe repeat the line as I will be recording by type as we speak. Don’t worry about how poetic it may or may not sound. Whatever you say will be some kind of truth.  When each consequent name is called, you do not need to necessarily follow the lines or logic which came before you. In the spirit of our founders, your first thought is the best thought. In the spirit of Jack Collom, poetry is everywhere. Let us take a collective breath and begin:”

For the video of the composition of the poem, please visit our YouTube channel.

And so it began. One after the other names were read aloud and lines given by Dennis Kerr, Isaac Eide, Paul Gomez, Judith Simmer Brown, Richard Brown, Kate Blassl, Allen Ginsberg, Charlotte Rotterdam.

It was an unusual moment indeed to pull Ginsberg’s name. Ever prepared for such events from beyond the veil, Swanee performed some bibliomancy with one of Ginsberg’s pocket book series published by City Lights, “Plutonian Ode & other poems” (bibliomancy is a divination technique where you hold your intention or question and find a place in the book at random for your answer/message). He was very clear, “this line right here, where your thumb is”.  Professor Schelling noted how Swanee paled before reading the line, “too many happy Nazis”, holding her violently trembling hands for the room to see her shaken composure, the serenity of positioning in the poem coming to a  severe point, the whole room responding audibly. No doubt this is exactly the point Ginsberg would be making if he were present with us in life.

Here’s a clip of Paul Fowler, BA in Music faculty leading the Performing Arts Center in an intonation of the poem: ‘Too Many Happy Nazis‘ (If you’d like to see a live stream of the whole convocation, visit the live stream.)

It was a strange parallel to the Faculty entering for convocation to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme song and the sense that here is the Night’s Watch, those who are attending to the real work to be done in a world full of distraction and games, the swords in the darkness, the watchers on the wall, the shields that guard the realms of men… & Ginsberg seems to have a very clear idea of who the White Walkers are. While we recommit ourselves to the work which reconnects in our collective moment at convocation, Ginsberg reminds us why this is so important in the collective national & global moment around us.

Ephemeral art found outside Lincoln Hall. We don’t know who composed it, but we definitely archived it!

The Spontaneous Poem has been sent to Giovannina Jobson, Naropa University’s Contemplative Practice Coordinator for its next evolution– print copy! and we will announce when that is made publicly available to see. When it is, it will be interesting to look back and see how these lines themselves correlate with the eight-fold path (hint: Ginsberg’s line was the 7th!).

Until then here is the copy of Allen Ginsberg’s poem in full which supplied the line for his biblio-mantic contribution (please note the line which comes AFTER ‘too many happy Nazis’!):

Ruhr-Gebiet

Too much industry
too much eats
too much beer
too much cigarettes
Too much philosophy
too much thought forms
not enough rooms——
not enough trees
Too much Police
too much computers
too much hi fi
too much Pork
Too much coffee
too much smoking
under gray slate roofs
too much obedience
Too many bellies
too many business suits
too much paperwork
too many magazines
Too much industry
No fish in the Rhine
Lorelei poisoned
Too much embarrassent
Too many fatigued
workers on the train
Ghost jews scream
on the streetcorner
Too much old murder
too much white torture
too much one Stammheim
too many happy Nazis
Too many crazy students
Not enough farms
not enough Appletrees
Not enough nut trees
Too much money
Too many poor
turks without vote
“Guests” do the work
Too much metal
Too much fat
Too many jokes
not enough meditation
Too much anger
Too much sugar
Too many smokestacks
Not enough snow
Too many radioactive
plutonium wastebarrels
Take the Rhine gold
Build a big tomb
A gold walled grave
to bury deadly nuclear slag
all the Bank’s gold
Shining impenetrable
All the German gold
will save the nation
Build a gold house
to bury the Devil
December 15, 1979
First-Thought-Best-Thought,
The Hungry Ghost

Jack Kerouac School @ AWP

 

Photos by Anisah Ali, Garen Lavender, Swanee, Erika Hodges

My mother bites her nails, and I am not like her. I am the skin around her. —  How Ginsberg can I bed? — I am here and you are here but we are nowhere to be found. — Looked at the map unfolded on his lap. “Empire of ideas.” — I want to tell you I am coming. Please don’t Super Nova yet. — If learn is synonymous with teach, how is student not synonymous with teacher? — Remember who owned the land we now occupy.

These are all lines from the Student & Alumni reading on Saturday afternoon. Their voices on the foreground to the exhibit hall hum, the culmination of four days worth of book mongering, poetry-promoting, free-speech protesting, heritage, vigil and vigor. 

It was an inspiring long weekend, which began with our first visitor to our table of the weekend, Alice Notley, garbed in a white scarf with sky-blue owls on it. Between her and other old friends to bright, new faces inquiring to our graduate programs we had such visitors as to make us full on Community. And what we brought to give away, we gave it all– issues 41 & 42 of Bombay Gin, select broadsides and anthologies, ex libris stickers, and other sweet swag. 

And although everything happened at once, and we were sad not to see you all, Summer Writing Program is right around the corner to reunite our tribe of Bodhisattvas. 

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.

“… hewn & forged…”

    Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School
of Disembodied Poetics FA2016 Low-res weekend 

w/ Gabrielle Civil

When it began, the slow snake of the bass clarinet rose through a hiss of cymbals. Dancing in wavy extensions of her body, Gabrielle Civil circled a pile of books and pennies in the center of the stage-room. She picked up a book––Social Sciences––and, with it caressed to her chest, danced over to the audience and handed it off.

This was the beginning of the lecture-ritual-story-performance (let’s call it a presentation, in its traditional and medical references) of Gabrielle Civil’s “Against Oblivion” (which is not the title but makes a perfect stand-in for the memory of the evening). Her presentation ranged in modes, from dancing and musical accompaniment, to slide-show images and text, to poetry and ritualized audience participation. Each mode surrounded and elaborated on the first words Civil spoke, placing books down in different corners of the room: “This is my heart. These are my friends.”

As the presentation progressed, the conception of the “book” became mythic, came to include in its references the human soul, individuality, and community. Civil made it sacred:

 

“A book on the shelf has pinched her finger.

Diane Duane.              A book, the medicine.

The barrage of names. A spell A spell

All the things naming can do

(spreading the pennies blood-copper

pennies “and it was all blood and it was

all breaking”)

To defy oblivion –– to accept the past and

transform it. To make that book.”

 

But there was also an offering. So Civil told of her struggle to realize her book (her heart, her friend), and the forces acting against the book were the same as those that act against the liberation of humanity, and more specifically the liberation of African Americans from systematic oppression. Kevin Young’s conception of the “Shadow Book” haunted the stage. The Shadow Book occurs in three manifestations:

  1. The Lost Book. What was written and has disappeared.
  2. The Removed Book. Censured or lost, parts of this book are missing.
  3. The book that was never written. “Books the world didn’t want to exist.”

For the African-American writer the Shadow Book often falls within this third category. As life is denied, literature is denied existence. However, the Shadow Book, she stressed, is not the failure of the writer. It is the forces of oppression. “It is not your loss. It is a loss for all of us.” How do we carry the unwritten, the unbound book of loss, that which incurs, inflicts?: “A blessing is a wound and a gift.” Then, as spell, as solidification, the audience was called to name as many reasons as possible that keep a book from existence while Civil tore pages out of a paperback romance picked up from the stage display. The naming took on a physical presence, and scattered about the room lay the pages of “oblivion’s shadow.” To defy oblivion. To accept the past and transform it. To make that book.

At the heart of the presentation is the mantra: Books save lives. They are a project against oblivion. They are a ritual and an alchemical activation of the unwritten book/soul in you. They are both “a refuge, a possibility.”

To conclude the presentation Civil organized a circle in the center of the room, both convocation and invocation. Calling on all of our future books. “It was never about the book, it was about everything.”

reviewed by Julien Blundell

photo & video clip by Swanee

Naropa Writing Center Reading Tomorrow


Naropa Writing Center Reading 4/13

The Lune feat. Anne Waldman

The Lune is proud to announce issue No. 10 featuring Anne Waldman’s Dream Book of Fez, a musical genome, the architecture of a landscape between language and beyond it. In the photopoetic distance between the tomb and womb of Waldman’s “invisible family” we brush up against the fabric of unconsciousness and hear the spectral voice of Jean Genet say: “dreaming is nursed in darkness.” Dream Book of Fez offers “gateways to power going both ways” while reaching for the “impossibly verbal” overlap of cultures. Waldman holds us in language as poet and mother; we return to Earth by her “mystical time,” slowly bound and bonded by love. Read kerouac School professor Serena Chopra‘s transcendent comment here.


Cover art: “Anne Waldman” by Indigo Deany.

 

Since its inception in January 2015, The Lune has published short new collections (monthly) by some of Boulder & Naropa’s most clear-sighted & compassionate poets, including Reed Bye, Jack Collom, Laura Cesarco Eglin, Ella Longpre, and Marielle Grenade-Willis (the list goes on). We are grateful for the experimental ethos of the Front Range community, and devoted to the accessibility and proliferation of mindful poetics therein.  Every month, The Lune opens a number of related spaces (in-print and online) for contemporary thought, including the feature collection, “letters to the moon,” commentary, and essayism. We strongly encourage & appreciate submissions from the Naropa/JKS community (see details here). Upcoming issue, letter, commentary, and essay contributors include Joanna Ruocco, Eric Raanan Fischman, Selah Saterstrom, Brittany Weeks, Stephen Sanders, and more.

Feel free to write to The Lune‘s Joseph Braun anytime: joe@poetsonearth.com.

Coming in April!

Professor J’Lyn Chapman’s book Beastlife will be published by Calamari Archive, Ink. in April 2016. You can read more about Calamari Archive here.


Professor J’Lyn Chapman