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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:

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

Painting of Jack Kerouac on Display

Karel Appel’s All yr graves are open

Acrylic on panel, April 30, 1982

This recently restored painting is now permanently on display just outside the Arts Library at Naropa University’s Nalanda Campus.

Appel & AG

Karel Appel and Allen Ginsberg in front of their collaborative announcement of the upcoming Jack Kerouac Conference at Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, taking place later that summer – May 1982. (photo c. the Allen Ginsberg Trust)

Allen Ginsberg writes, “ We’d been preparing a Jack Kerouac Festival, 25th Anniversary of On The Road publication for midsummer and had asked Appel if he would make us a poster image. That became the motif of two paintings. I don’t remember the sequence. Karel started the big one with wild colors, “bold strokes”, Fauve-Cobra intuitions. But he knew what he was doing – after a while the classic image of J.K. appeared rough and ready, gleaming giant, unfinished. Then Karel handed me the brush, to put on words. Now that’s where he opened my mind. I had no idea how to hold the brush, what color, where to lay the words. I could think of a few words but why would he trust me not to make a mess of his enormous colored brush-wet visage? “Well, just go ahead – any color that you think”, he said. “I’m afraid”. “It’s alright, what you make is yours. It’s real paint, even if you make mistakes, it’s okay, we can paint it up funny”. So I laid my arm on, climbed a ladder after dipping the brush he gave me into raw acrylic colors laid out on, was it newspaper for a palette?”

“All yr graves are open – meaning all Kerouac’s buried spontaneities have come back to haunt the world and enlighten it, as in Appel’s fearless gesture that made me free to make genius mistake. Then I remembered the original cross airbrushed off Kerouac’s breast as it appeared in the New York Times and Mademoiselle magazine in the original 1956 picture (it was Gregory Corso’s Italian gift, that moment’s crucifix, I misremembered San Francisco’s Pythagorian aristocrat, Philip Lamantia as the poet who handed Jack the cross). So I asked Karel to paint that in, and labeled it, with a Buddhist AH to cap it off. The giant Kerouac head later occupied center stage during the J.K. festival.”

Christiaan Karel Appel; 25 April 1921 – 3 May 2006) was a Dutch painter, sculptor and poet. He started painting at the age of fourteen and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s. He was one of the founders of the avant-garde movement Cobra in 1948.