Naropa University 2016 Summer Writing Program

week one

Week One // Hive Mind

From the vernaculars of social media to the transformative possibilities of artistic exchange, we’ll explore density, migration, diversity within collectivities, and networks of connections. Where do we find our imaginational selves amid all the swarming discourses? The life of the mind is distraction, is speed, the rhizome is our form of feeling now, but we also feel the curse of our “media selves,” mediated along and through the networks of capital. How do we work with these materials, their particular densities, and the situations out of which they emerge? And the call to be a “citizen” therein?

Yet to swarm also means to leave the home and form a new body. We know nearly all these movements, migrations, and displacements are not undertaken in liberty, but rather are forced by war, by famine, and economic immiseration, and by political repression; in 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reckoned more than forty-six million people––the internally displaced, the stateless, refugees, and other asylum seekers––under its concern, and this year has only seen this swarming of human persons intensify. Refusing absolutely the reactionary discourses that further insist on false borders, and the identities that they reify, how can we build a sufficient welcome through writing? How can writing lead us to that new body?

We’ll yet ask the original questions: where are your dreams, and where do you live in your poetry, as we write towards what Will Alexander has called “the life of euphoric solar trees.”


Will Alexander // On Imaginal Fertility

Will AlexanderThis course will commence sans the superimposition of texts thronged with discussion and in-class writing exercise designed to fertilize and wake the imagination thereby freeing its power from the gravid forces of consensus entrainment.When each person is born, the universe is tilted at such angle so as to tendency towards, say, up or down, heat or cold, with each tendency extending toward reading habits, our cultural exchange, and they eventually seep into our writing. This course will attempt to evolve these predilections into written work capable of organic foray into the world.

Will Alexander works in multiple genres, including poetry, novels, essays, and philosophy, as well as music and visual arts. His praxis of language is not unlike the Mayan numerical world, where each letter of the alphabet spontaneously engages in non-limit, which opens all fields for exploration: art, physics, botany, history, astronomy, architecture, and poetics. Alexander’s books include Asia and Haiti, The Sri Lankan Loxodrome, Compression and Purity, Sunrise In Armageddon, Towards The Primeval Lightning Field, and others. He lives in Los Angeles.


Samiya Bashir  // Restorative Alchemies: Humanity on trial in digital space

Samiya BashirInexhaustible violence of -ism and image.We’ll consider the power of poem-making to metabolize aggression out of our bodies, to reclaim and restore humanity, and more. We’ll explore an alchemical poem-making toward transmutation of experience, insight, and approach—collaboratively and individually—toward resolution of swarming aggressions into light, into recognition, into direction, into sustenance. We’ll come with all we carry. We’ll leave with new poems, new maps, new seeds.

Samiya Bashir’sbooks of poetry, Field Theories(forthcoming), Gospel, and Where the Apple Falls, and anthologies, including Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, exist. Sometimes she makes poems of dirt. Sometimes eros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with a magic cat who shares her obsessions with trees and blackbirds and occasionally crashes her classes and poetry salons at Reed College. // Samiya Bashir



Rikki Ducornet // Sparking The Mind

Rikki DucornetIn his necessary and beautiful The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard speaks of the spaces that allow us “to recall flashes of daydreams that illuminate the synthesis of immemorial and recollected . . . where memory and imagination remain associated, each one working for their mutual deepening.” Our object will be to create such a space in which the wellspring of the imagination will be energized and released, sparking fiction’s boundless and luminous forms.

Rikki Ducornet is the author of nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essays, and five books of poetry. She has received both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction. She is an artist and has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forrest Gander, Joanna Howard, Anne Waldman, and others. Her artwork is held in the permanent collections of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile;The McMaster University Museum, Ontario, Canada; and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. // Rikki Ducornet


Ruby Kapka // Lo-Fi Letterpress

Ruby KapkaOver the course of four days, students will be introduced to the basics of letterpress typesetting and printing. Techniques for setting handset type, printing on a letterpress proofing press, experimenting with other lo-fi methods of creating imagery using the presses, and a simple binding method will be explored. Ruby will share philosophies of traditional and nontraditional practices of letterpress, spontaneous design on-press, and experimental imagery ideation processes. It will be so fun.

Ruby Kapkareceived a BFA from the Oregon College of Art and Craft with a concentration in Book Arts. She runs NSFW Presse, a Risograph print and design shop, out of her bedroom in Brooklyn, NY, where she produces art prints, artist books, and ephemera. She is the letterpress manager and printer for Swayspace, and recently retired from her beloved position as production manager of Ugly Duckling Presse.


Ruth Ellen Kocher& Megan Kaminski  // Radical Lyrics: Dismantling, Revising, and Re-visioning the Lyric

Ruth Ellen KocherIn the tradition of lyric poetry, including myriad incarnations of innovative lyric, anti- lyric, post-lyric, etc., poets have used a variety of strategies for constructing relations of a self to the world and to a world of words.We’ll explore possibilities for radical re-vision and trans-form-ation, possibilities that destabilize race, class, and gender privileges attached to the lyric self.We’ll also explore the self of crises as a self of demonstration that can be enacted, encountered, and traversed by resisting appropriative strategies.

Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Third Voice, Ending in Planes,Goodbye Lyric:The Gigans and Lovely Gun,and Megan Kaminskidomina Un/ blued, winner of the 2014 PEN/Open Book Award. She lives in Erie, Colorado, and teaches poetry, poetics, and literature at the University of Colorado–Boulder.

Megan Kaminskiis the author of Deep City and Desiring Map, as well as nine chapbooks of poetry. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where she curates the Taproom Poetry Series and is an assistant professor in the graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of Kansas. // Megan Kaminski


J. Michael Martinez /At the Edge of Sight: Contemporary Decolonial Poetics

J. Michael MartinezIn Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon writes, “Race begins at the skin.” If Fanon is correct, what does it mean to see this skin begin “race”? Exploring this relationshipof racial visibility and poetics in contemporary verse, we’ll ask: what is hidden by design, and what is obscured by cultural blindness; how is the ethnic body visualized as familiar and disruptive; how might the ethnic body interrogate the visual regimes that define it as such? Through the study of the poetics of Craig Santos Perez, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, and Roberto Tejada, alongside recent visual theory, the course aspires to reveal, review, and revise the poetic remains organizing the obscured relationship between race and sight.

J. Michael Martinez received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his first book, Heredities. His latest, In the Garden of the Bridehouse, is available from the University of Arizona Press. He is poetry editor of NOEMI Press and his writings are anthologized in Ahsahta Press’ The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral, Rescue Press’ The New Census: 40 American Poets, and Counterpath Press’ Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing. // J. Michael Martinez


Anne Tardos // Our Internettedness

Anne TardosThis internettedness, this reciprocal symbiosis, partnership, partisanship, this fusion. Focusing on the poet’s work, exploring the mirror-like nature of the mind, and how this relates to creative practice. Dealing with external and internal influences on poetic language and structure. To discuss, write, and experiment, expanding on our internettedness.

Anne Tardos is the author of nine books of poetry and several multimedia performance works. Among her recent books of poetry are NINE, Both Poems, I Am You, and The Dik-dik’s Solitude. She is the editor of Jackson Mac Low’s The Complete Light Poems, 154 Forties, and Thing of Beauty. A Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Tardos lives in New York. // Anne Tardos


Lewis Warsh // Road to Excess

Lewis WarshIf you sail too close to the horizon, you might fall over the edge and disappear—it’s also possible you might discover a place where no one has ever been. This fiction workshop will test the limits of the self as subject matter and explore what happens when you write through the eyes of another.Writing assignments will point towards the variousness of characters and the multiple points of view that can appear in a work of fiction. We will discuss our ongoing projects, read our stories to one another, and look at the work of Roberto Bolaño, Anna Kavan, Lucia Berlin, Clarice Lispector, Dale Herd, and Emmanuel Bove, among others.

Lewis Warsh’s most recent books include Alien Abduction, One Foot Out the Door: Collected Stories, A Place in the Sun, and Inseparable: Poems 1995–2005. Mimeo Mimeo #7 was devoted to his poetry, fiction, and collages, and to a bibliography of his work as a writer and publisher. He is editor and publisher of United Artists Books and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Long Island University (Brooklyn).


Simone White // Fecundity/Contraction /Redistribution

Simone WhiteLet’s say the above are three models or possibilities for poetic activity as art or sociality: the operation of allowing oneself to be the literal ground for outgrowing practices, self consciously or un-; the operation of remaining steadfast in precision, which gives the appearance of singularity (I would argue it is a form of energy compression and combustion); the operation of amplifying worldwide certain internally discovered possibilities as potentially groundbreaking.We’ll consider the work of Robert Duncan, Claudia Rankine, Jace Clayton (DJ /rupture), explore the attitudes and outcomes of poetry in terms of these possibilities, by way of reading and discussion and writing in response /thinking through.

Simone White is the author of the poetry collections Of Being Dispersed, Unrest, and House Envy of All the World. She is program director at The Poetry Project and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


// Special Guest 

Bill McKibbenBill McKibben is a writer and activist, and has been described as “America’s most important environmentalist.” He’s written more than a dozen books including The End of Nature, which was published in 1989 and is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. He is a founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013 he received both the Gandhi Prize,and theThomas Merton Prize, and in 2014 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the “alternative Nobel.”  // Bill McKibben


// Dharma Arts 

Reed ByeReed Bye’s most recent publications are Fire for Thought,What’s This, Catching On, and Join the Planets: New and Selected Poems. He’s also recently released a CD of original songs called Broke Even. He has just retired after nineteen years on the core faculty of the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University, where he taught poetry writing workshops and courses in classic and contemporary literary studies and contemplative poetics. He continues to teach in the new Kerouac School Low-Residency MFA.