Naropa University 2015 Summer Writing Program

The Activist Rhizome

Why are we more apt to speak about the end of the world than we are of cultural/political revolution? What is the network of activism within the writing community? Our guests this week have traveled, investigated, agitated, unionized, and occupied. They have used research, and documentary poetics to create fabrics that bring attention, and transcend the world linguistically. Art is a parallel to activism. How we live can become revelatory. We at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics believe that making art is a political act. We need these generative ways to live, to counter, to be outside of and beyond the anthropogenic environmental destruction, political demise, physical & linguistic violence of the everyday.

Guest Faculty: Allison Hedge Coke,Marcella Durand & Rich O’Russa, Bhanu Kapil & Andrea Spain, Mark Nowak, Bernadette Mayer & Philip Good, Thurston Moore, Margaret Randall, Kyle Schlessinger, Jonathan Skinner, Juliana Spahr.


ALLISON HEDGE COKE: Class Action / Reaction

This is a culturally rich workshop based in kinship and literary action. Through examination of our representative personal cultural/social communities, and quick surveys of several poetic/literary kinship and relevant aesthetic samples, we will embrace the opportunity to engage in crafting successful pieces, while strengthening our understanding of activist strategies available in kinships and technologies of our space, time, and place. Be prepared to walk in with a poem and come planning to write tons more.

Allison_Hedge_Coke_pc shane brown-3

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke work includes: Streaming (CD/book, eco-social justice), Off-Season City Pipe (eco-ethos/labor), Dog Road Woman (identity), Blood Run (an encoded verse-play orchestration lobbying for a sacred site), groundbreaking Indigenous western hemispheric anthologies (including multiple Indigenous languages and poetics), Effigies II, Effigies, & Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, her memoir of growing up as a mixed-racial laborer, heavily involved with the land and waters, and as second daughter of a mother with chronic schizophrenia, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer, & Icicles (play, disability), & is currently in-production in a climate change film, Red Dust.

Author Website


MARCELLA DURAND & RICH O’RUSSA: Print Publication Propaganda Poem

Durand p.c. Laird HuntA poem could be, in a sense, considered as a Temporary Autonomous Zone, where a non-capitalistic freely creative linguistic space may be created and inhabited. Poems have the potential additional advantage of portability, particularly when combined with new and old propagandistic techniques, ranging from the human mic to wheat pasting poetry posters of our own design and execution, and alternate modes of publication, which can even include opening a window and speaking poems to random passerby. In this class, we will explore the process of creating these poetic TAZs and continue through how poems can be diversely designed, printed and published to affect/effect the world.

This class will be co-taught by poet Marcella Durand and letterpress printer and artist Richard O’Russa. Marcella Durand is the author of Deep Eco Pré (with Tina Darragh), AREA, Traffic & Weather and Western Capital Rhapsodies. She is a member of the Belladonna collaborative and has written, taught and spoken about the potential intersections of ecology and poetry. Richard O’Russa is the founder and owner of ITDO Creative, and has printed work by Alice Notley, Julie Patton, Anselm Berrigan, Diane di Prima, and many other poets under his imprints, Erato and Time Release presses. Together, O'Russa p.c. Durand and O’Russa edited and published the (invisible) city, a collection of poetry and art inspired by Italo Calvino’s The Invisible City.

Poetry Society of America - Marcella Durand

Poetry Project - Richard O'Russa

Author Blog - Richard O'Russa


CA CONRAD:Hearing The (Soma)tic Pulse In Everyone Seems Impossible At First

 CA Conrad with Tree

One of the main cares of (Soma)tic poetics is to reignite the creative life-force in everyone around us with the belief that the real, deliberate choices and changes for this world are made by those devoted to preserving their creative bodies.  We will be working with Tree Agate crystal to write poems.  This crystal is both a communication tool for the atavistic vocabulary of flora as well as a restorative for geopathic and geoplasmic disruption.

 Each student will receive a piece of tree agate that was charged on the roots of the world’s oldest sycamore tree in Western Massachusetts.  The photo of CAConrad was taken standing in front of this quiet, 500-year-old giant, the last remaining member of a forest that once stretched for hundreds of miles. We will use these supercharged crystals to investigate conversations with the Naropa campus flora and our own bodies and communities at the time of vanishing wildlife and political and economic chaos.  A video of the sycamore tree can also be seen at this link:

 (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals show us how to always see the creative viability in everything around us at all times.  We will discuss the importance of collaboration and explore new ways of collaborating with different artistic disciplines.  See this link for samples: 

CA Conrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift.  He is the author of seven books, the latest is titled ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014).  He is a 2015 Headlands Art Fellow, and has also received fellowships from Lannan Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Banff, Ucross, RADAR, and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.  He conducts workshops on (Soma)tic Poetry and Ecopoetics.


MARK NOWAK: Insurgent Poetics

This workshop will examine the intersections of poetry and insurgency in poem-making and community-based creative writing workshop facilitation. Using texts as varied as Paulo Freire, Roque Dalton, anti-apartheid worker poets from South Africa, and contemporary global worker poets, students will learn to cultivate what labor historian Kim Moody dubbed “imaginative militancy” and look for ways to articulate this to poetic and social practices in the larger world. 


Mark Nowak, a 2010 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) and Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004), a New York Times “Editor’s Choice.” He has facilitated creative writing workshops with autoworkers, domestic workers, farm workers, & others across the USA, EU, and South Africa. A native of Buffalo, Nowak currently directs the MFA program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

Poetry Foundation


BERNADETTE MAYER & PHILIP GOOD: Don’t get mad, write a poem

May the guy who bought the field fall into a bramble bush. – Bernadette Mayer This workshop is designed to introduce students to the Insult Poem. The class will examine the origins of insult poetry and discover work from various poets who have used this form throughout history. Participants will complete a number of original insult poems and discuss their poems in a workshop setting.

Mayer p.c. Max Warsh

Bernadette Mayer is the recipient of the 2014 Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. For many years Mayer lived and worked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She was the Director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project from 1980 to 1984. She continues to write progressive poetry from her home in East Nassau, New York. Recent publications include, The Helens of Troy, NY and Sonnets Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition.

Poetry Foundation


Good p.c. John Sarsgard

Philip Good is a graduate of The School Visual Arts in Manhattan. In the 80s Good co-edited with Bill DeNoyelles Blue Smoke, the last of the mimeo poetry magazines. Good’s poetry can be found online with BigBridge, Exquisite Corpse, and The Volta. Good’s book UNTITLED WRITINGS FROM A MEMBER OF THE BLANK GENERATION released in 2011 by Trembling Pillow Press, New Orleans, was praised by Lisa Jarnot and Michael Gizzi.

Poetry Foundation



The class becomes a band for a week. We spend a session discussing various approaches to song writing, using the Anthology of American Folk Music as a model. Then each student brings in a lyric or a melody or an idea and we collaborate on developing and arranging the material. Bring an instrument (any instrument) if you have one. Otherwise, all you need is a willingness to sing and collaborate. At the end of the week we put on a concert.

Taylor p.c.  Lauren at

Steven Taylor toured and performed with Allen Ginsberg 1976-96. His music for Ginsberg’s poems has been played by the Mondriaan Quartet and the Pro Arte Quartet. Since 1984 he has been a member of the seminal underground rock band the Fugs. He has collaborated on theater works with librettist Kenward Elmslie and has performed with numerous poets in the U.S. and Europe. His False Prophet: Field Notes from the Punk Underground was published by Wesleyan UP in 2003. In 1988 he composed music for The Eye & Ear Theater’s revival of Ginsberg’s Tony-Award-winning play Kaddish and his setting of “Footnote to Howl” was featured at the Howl festival in 2005. His commissioned work on a text by Jack Kerouac premiered at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at Birmingham University in 2008 at the opening of the On the Road manuscript exhibition.


MARGARET RANDALL: Writing from Global Consciousness and Personal Experience

In this course we will go into deep exploration of creativity and activism. We will make our weeklong communal experience more than the sum of what each of us brings to it. What, if any, is the writer’s responsibility to effecting profound social change? Can art change the world? In what ways can art and activism move together without either limiting or distorting the other? How can we translate our frustration at the state of the world and/or within our communities into compelling creative work? We will read great works by writers who have been involved in social change, and produce and critique work of our own.

Randall credit Albuquerque The Magazine

Margaret Randall (New York 1936) is fortunate to have accompanied great social change with her activism. From 1961 to 1984 she lived in Mexico, where she founded and edited an important bilingual literary magazine and was active in the 1968 Student Movement; in Cuba during its revolution’s second decade; and in Nicaragua following the Sandinista takeover. Upon her return to the US, the government ordered her deported, based on opinions expressed in some of her books. She won her case in 1989. Among her recent books are The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones, About Little Charlie Lindberg (both poetry), and Che on My Mind (essay).

Author Website


KYLE SCHLESINGER: A Poetics of the Book

What is a book and how does it mean? Sure, a book is an embodiment of knowledge, but what does the book itself as an object and subject teach us about the history of people, ideas, technology, commerce, art, and the environment? We will be learning the foundational elements of letterpress printing, and will be encouraged to make your own words, images, concepts, and materials—like Stéphane Mallarmé says, ‘Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.’


Kyle Schlesinger is the author of PARTS OF SPEECH (Chax Press, 2014), THE DO HOW (with James Yeary, Great Fainting Spells, 2014), and other works. He is proprietor of Cuneiform Press and Associate Professor of Publishing at UHV.

Author Website


JONATHAN SKINNER: Communication in the Seismic Channel: Placing Ecopoetics

Taking a cue from infrasonic communicators—whales, elephants, tectonic plates—let’s explore gaps, between disciplines, global north and south, political ideologies, cultures and languages, for the deep channel of language change poets might effect. This work extends beyond play with words. Where do we place poetry? What assumptions do we challenge? How do we activate the ecotone between language art and the myriad species of endeavor critical to environmental communication? Let’s write earth magnitude into micropolitics.


Jonathan Skinner founded the journal ecopoetics, featuring creative-critical intersections between writing and ecology. Skinner has published essays on Charles Olson, Ronald Johnson, Lorine Niedecker, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Bernadette Mayer, translations of French poetry and garden theory, essays on bird song from the perspective of ethnopoetics, and on horizontal concepts such as the Third Landscape. His poetry publications include Birds of Tifft (BlazeVOX, 2011), Warblers (Albion, 2010) and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005).

Poetry Foundation


JULIANA SPAHR: Networks of Activism

A discussion based class and an historical survey that attempts to understand the "network of activism within the writing community," its possibilities and its limitations. Readings may include Shelley's Mask of Anarchy, McKay's If We Must Die, some Cesaire, Rukeyser's "Book of the Dead," some essays by and/or about Brecht, Lenin, Mao, US movement poetries, Badiou. I'm interested in trying to locate what allows literature to at moments feel so crucial to various sorts of resistance and at other moments (as in today) not.


Juliana Spahr edits the book series Chain Links with Jena Osman and the collectively funded Subpress with nineteen other people and Commune Editions with Joshua Clover and Jasper Bernes. With David Buuck she wrote Army of Lovers. She has edited with Stephanie Young A Megaphone: Some Enactments, Some Numbers, and Some Essays about the Continued Usefulness of Crotchless-pants-and-a-machine-gun Feminism (Chain Links, 2011), with Joan Retallack Poetry & Pedagogy: the Challenge of the Contemporary (Palgrave, 2006), and with Claudia Rankine American Women Poets in the 21st Century (Wesleyan U P, 2002).