Family, friends, and current and former students of Jack Collom gathered at Naropa’s Performing Arts Center on August 20 to celebrate and remember a great poet and true friend. Guests included Jane Wodening, Sierra Collom, Chris Collom, Dan Hankin, Elizabeth Robinson, Val Wheeler, Andrew Schelling, Josepha Conrad, Anne Waldman, Izzy Martinez, Maureen Owen, Reed Bye, Lyn Hejinian, Joe Richey, and Jack’s beloved wife, Jennifer Heath.
Jack served as adjunct faculty at Naropa for more than thirty years. First joining the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in 1986, Jack was a boundless source of energy and inspiration. He reveled in collaboration and spontaneous composition and was an incredibly prolific writer, with twenty-six books of poetry and prose. Just two weeks before his passing, he gave a brilliant as ever reading at the Summer Writing Program.
Jack pioneered the study of Ecology Literature and Poetry at Naropa. The field has since exploded, with Jack and his students at the forefront. As Jennifer Heath says, “All Jack's work … describes, however subtly, his love of nature and devotion to the wellbeing of the planet.” Jack was also widely acclaimed for his community service and work with children. He established Naropa’s Project Outreach, helping connect hundreds of Kerouac School students with teaching opportunities at schools, shelters, retirement homes, and prisons. The class inspired similar programs at colleges and universities throughout the United States. No doubt, Jack’s love of poetry and nature will continue to reverberate for years to come.
Surrounded by bone, surrounded by cells,
by rings, by rings of hell, by hair, surrounded by
air-is-a-thing, surrounded by silhouette, by honey-wet bees, yet
by skeletons of trees, surrounded by actual, yes, for practical
purposes, people, surrounded by surreal
popcorn, surrounded by the reborn: Surrender in the center
to surroundings. O surrender forever, never
end her, let her blend around, surrender to the surroundings that
surround the tender endo-surrender, that
tumble through the tumbling to that blue that
curls around the crumbling, to that, the blue that
rumbles under the sun bounding the pearl that
we walk on, talk on; we can chalk that
up to experience, sensing the brown here that’s
blue now, a drop of water surrounding a cow that’s
black & white, the warbling Blackburnian twitter that’s
machining midnight orange in the light that’s
glittering in the light green visible wind. That’s
the ticket to the tunnel through the thicket that’s
a cricket’s funnel of music to correct & pick it out
from under the wing that whirls up over & out.
Jack Collom, “Ecology” from Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000, published by Tuumba Press.