Naropa University 2017 Summer Writing Program

week one

Charles Olson wrote: “What does not change is / the will to change,” and so we find ourselves more in an on-going (and turbulent) process, rather than any ground. Yet writing is often spurred on the by the urgency to “get it all down” before it slides from the memory or the imagination. Shelley’s image of the fading coal ember as the figure for the inspired mind racing to translate its being into the poem graphs this drama precisely. Impermanence, of course, is a key to Buddhist thought––hard wisdom that everything is always already passing away, and perhaps most truly has no claim beyond the moment. Yet beyond “the happening,” how can art, how can writing integrate the fact of impermanence into its grammar, and means of being? We’ll ask this collectively, and put those (provisional) answers to the test individually in our own lines and sentences. We’ll focus on documentary/investigatory poetics as activist practices, the memoir (and anti-memoir) as openings into narratives and records of erased histories, and how writing might bear the trace of the endangered worlds: eco-poetics being new musics for the new weathers. We’ll also call to mind the counter-story: how the various techniques of documenting, recording, and reckoning are increasingly involved it the state’s modes of surveillance and control. In taking account of this transient world, and our fleeting places in it, and our even more evanescent thoughts of it, we find ourselves––if finding even begins to get it right––between reckoning and letting go; and what can be made of this dialectic, we propose to find out. 

Brenda Coultas, In Site / Sight and Out of Site / Site

Brenda CoultasIn this workshop, we will investigate inner and outer sites/sights we find ourselves drawn to for narratives and erased histories, as well as to uncover the languages that will take us there. We may create rituals, maps, and methods for going deeper into lost histories, and we will imagine future histories. Readings include Muriel Rukeyser, Tonya Foster, Ed Sanders, Allison Cobb, Peter Lamborn Wilson, and others.

Brenda Coultas is most recently the author of A Journal of Places. Other books include The Tatters, a meditation on the end of print, published by Wesleyan University Press, and from Coffee House Press, The Marvelous Bones of Time and A Handmade Museum, featuring The Bowery Project, a two-year study of one of NYC’s most infamous streets.



Lisa Jarnot, Late Hominid Poetics / Dark Ecology

Lisa Jarnot
This workshop will address the role of the poet in a time of ecological crisis. We will read the work of environmentalispoets Juliana Spahr, Lorrine Niedecker, Brenda Coultas, Evelyn Reilly, and others, and we will also look at scientific and theoretical texts that address the anthropocene. Finally we will contemplate the possibilities of activism, poetry, and activist poetry.

Lisa Jarnot is the author of several books of poetry, including Joie De Vivre: Selected Poems 1992-2012. In 2013, her biography Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus was published by University of California Press. She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens and works as a gardener.


Roger Reeves, Doubt and Revising Vision 

Roger ReevesThrough close-reading poems that range from Jorie Graham, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Terrance Hayes to Amiri Baraka, Harryette Mullen, and Audre Lorde, we will examine how poets deploy doubt as means of revising the poem while writing the poem, keeping the revision process as part of the visioning, the seeing of the poem. Doubt, maybe our most post post modern of impulses, will be discussed using tropes like aporia (true or feigned doubt), antithimeria, and host of others.

Roger Reeves’s first book of poems is King Me, which won the VCU’s Larry Levis Reading Prize. He’s won a Whiting Award in 2015, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2013, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. His next book, On Paradise, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.

Eleni Sikelianos, Alternate (Family) (Histories)

Eleni SikelianosWe will work where structures rub up against each other, in the generative instability of forms, to handle hot material, focusing on the locavoric and its bleeds: family histories and homegrown reports. What marks have family or larger histories made upon us? What marks can we make back? We’ll consider the page and the book as installations, seek intuitive logics in juxtaposition of text and image, and look at writers who have used hybrid forms to document ways of knowing and unknowing.

Eleni Sikelianos is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Make Yourself Happy, and two hybrid memoirs (The Book of Jon and You Animal Machine). Awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, a Fulbright, Seeger Fellowship, and the National Poetry Series. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages, and she frequently collaborates with musicians, filmmakers, and visual artists. A graduate of the Jack Kerouac School, Sikelianos has taught poetry in public schools, homeless shelters, and prisons, and currently teaches at the University of Denver.


Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Literature as Metaphysical Insurrection

Azareen Van der Vliet OloomiIn this fiction workshop we will examine the relationship between literature, rebellion, and longing. We will also consider literature as a form of cartography—of the self and the world—that allows us to map consciousness onto the page. We will discuss our ongoing projects and read excerpts from the works of Anna Kavan, Clarice Lispector, Franz Kafka, Sonallah Ibrahim, Cesar Aira, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Bernhard, and Claudia Rankine, alongside Albert Camus’ The Rebel.

Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi is the author of Fra Keeler and Call Me Zebra (forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2018). She is the winner of a 2015 Whiting Writers' Award, a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, and a Fulbright Fellowship in Fiction to Catalonia, Spain. She has lived in Iran, Spain, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and currently teaches in the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame. 

Anne Waldman, Dakini Poetics

Anne WaldmanIs this what Future Feminism might look like: Sky-walking? Twilight language? Mind to mind transmission? Kadro in Tibetan means "sky-goer.” The Sanskrit term is dakini, and is understood as a feminine principle that may appear as a human, a wrathful or peaceful trickster, or as an invisible "play of energy" in the phenomenal world. Buddhism describes a realm inhabited by the secret signs and letter of the dakini that instructs, purifies, and galvanizes the phenomenal world. This is not unlike the way dynamics of energy play out in poetry: "The kinetics of the thing" as Charles Olson calls it. We will work with secrets, with our precarious planet, and the interconnectedness of poetics, ethics, and politics; we’ll work collaboratively with collective dream and vocalization in the recording studio; and we’ll ask the question: How are we as feminists, and creators, and cultural activists contemporary with our time? How do we resist misogyny, and become legislators of a better future?

Anne Waldman is a poet, performer, professor, editor, and cultural activist and co-founder with Allen Ginsberg of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. She is a former director of The Poetry Project, which she helped found in 1966. Her most recent book is Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Born. Waldman is the recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. She is a frequent collaborator with poets, dancers, musicians, and visual artists.

Julia Seko, The Fractured Narrative

The Fractured Narrative presents workshop participants with the charge of disrupting narratives in writing and print. Using original or found image and text, writest will be asked what are the revelations we discover from the old adage "There are two sides to every story"? How can we as writers complcate or deepen a narrative when it's approached from multiple vantage points? Erasure, masking, and blind embossing are three techniques writers and printesr will use in the printmaking process to trouble their narrative waters.

Julia Seko



Julia Seko is a letterpress printer, book artist, and instructor of letterpress printing and book arts for more than twenty years. She is adjunct faculty at Naropa University, where she helped set up the letterpress studio, and her letterpress work is in university and private collections. Julia also co-founded the Book Arts League, a nonprofit letterpress and book arts organization.




Giovannina JobsonDHARMA ARTS
Giovannina Jobson is an ordained minister in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, (Upadhyaya) and a graduate of the MA Religious studies Program in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Contemplative Religions. Trained by Trungpa Rinpoche, Giovannina is a Dharma artist, social artist and mindfulness instructor. Giovannina has been a practicing Buddhist for more than forty years and is also a Shambhala Training director for Shambhala International. At Naropa she teaches Buddhist Studies courses as well as courses that focus on artistic expression inspired by the lives of renowned mystics from many traditions.

SPECIAL GUESTS: Julie Carr, J'Lyn Chapman
MFA LECTURE: J. Michael Martinez