Naropa University 2017 Summer Writing Program

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We’ll explore the spirit and techniques of communities invented of necessity: what can we learn about past non-academic cultural structures and energies, such as the Poetry Project at St Mark’s? Or the mimeograph revolution: what will DIY ethos and activities mean in the twenty-first century? What channels can we reenergize, and how do we send our work along the rhizome: the recording studio, the video-poem, the small press, the performance? And most crucially, we’ll press the issue of moving beyond the strictly cultural into solidarity with the ongoing revolutionary work of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the intervention of the Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation. We’ll think critically about what forms of organizations and action are possible now: what sites/actions will help assemble a community ready to live in The New Weathers? what will energize these communities of survival and resistance? what is the hundred year plan for your life? 
In a lecture at a previous Summer Writing Program, Amiri Baraka charged the audience (and all of us, continuing): “I think as long as you’re principled, as long as you’re not trying to wipe anybody out, kill anybody—I’m talking about the world of literature and art—that you have to struggle above board and forthrightly to try to get a higher level of unity. That’s what I’ve always wanted. And I think if we can’t pass out of this world without leaving something of value, some kind of institution like a political party—‘cause when I say political party, all people think you mean is voting—political party has to do anything it has to do—you know, lead demonstrations, open museums, fight economically—it has to do anything it has to do, you know… DO SOMETHING. Don’t just stand there lamenting, you know what I’m saying? I get so tired of lamenting. Just fight them.” Let’s.

CAConradCAConrad, Naropa in Four Elements: New (Soma)tics
Each day we will build a writing ritual focused on one of the elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, then write inside our ritual with the trees, flowers, sunlight and the beautiful Boulder Creek. We will build personalized rituals for each member of the workshop, giving us tools to dispel the myth of Writer’s Block to be writing everyday no matter what is going on in our lives. Staying creative propels our lives and the lives of those around us forward.

CAConrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift. He is the author of nine books of poetry and essays, the latest titled While Standing In Line For Death, forthcoming from Wave Books in September of 2017. He is a Pew Fellow, and has also received fellowships from Lannan Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Headlands Center for the Arts, Banff, RADAR, Flying Object and Ucross. For his books, essays, and details on the documentary film The Book of Conrad, please visit

LaTasha DiggsLaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Song of what?
If you were asked to write a song about this year, what would you focus on? Would it be a protest song? Students will be introduced to a sampling of possible strategies for generating performance-based work. Through a series of writing and listening exercises, beading and recording, this course will explore the possibilities of writing and performance for examining our bodies in America 2017. We will read and discuss works by Tusiata Avia, Metta Sama, Layli Long Soldier and Douglas Kearney. We will listen to protest songs written and/or performed during the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, we will examine the performance/action/conference Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock and Dakota Pipeline Protest. Outbursts of laughter and a willingness to take walks are required for this course.

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of TwERK. She has been published widely and her performance work has been featured at The Kitchen, Brooklyn Museum, The Whitney, MoMA, and The Walker Center. An independent curator/director, she has staged events at El Museo del Barrio, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Symphony Space, and BAM Café. A recipient of several awards, LaTasha is the co-founder and co-editor of Coon Bidness and SO4.




Laird Hunt


Laird Hunt, Outrider Fiction
Fiction by Kerouac, Burroughs, di Prima, Brautigan, Dumas, Berlin, Acker, Lispector, Toomer, as well as work by Stein, Lautréamont, Kafka, Walser and other signal outriders will be the focus of our conversation this week. Students will produce their own writings for consideration and helpful critique.

Laird Hunt is the author, most recently, of The Evening Road, Neverhome, and Kind One.




Eileen MylesEileen Myles, Just Writing
What is poetry, what is prose, what is a script. Especially because in social media, which is everywhere, all forms blend, especially because we are all staying up late binge watching shows, and we mean to write a novel but we want to write a novel that we can write, and we love writing poems but our poems are continuous, meaning they sputter but are epic. Because of all these things, this is a workshop for our writing irregularities. Our task is to figure out how to be productive in a storm of messages. How to write a poem we can climb inside and escape for a while and then go out in it. Literally in this workshop we will play with all three forms. We’ll see how writing is a shifting process of intention, so we will try to stay in a single intention all week and make at least three things of it. Only recommended reading is Michael McClure’s The Beard. Search it out and read it before next summer. We’ll tweet out our thoughts, we’ll watch at least one episode of a teevee show. I’ll otherwise bring in poems and prose I’m most recently moved by. We’ll produce.

Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist and performer whose books include Chelsea Girls, I Must Be Living Twice: Selected Poems, and The Importance of Being Iceland: travel essays in art. They have received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, The Foundation for Contemporary Art, and in 2016 were awarded the Clark Prize. Lately Myles is a television poet. Their poems have appeared in seasons 2 and 3 of the Emmy-winning TV show Transparent.

Margaret RandallMargaret Randall, The New Weathers
The New Weathers are brewing without and within. Are they weathers of our making? Can we stand by and allow melting icecaps, disappearing species, fear of difference, the arrogance of human destruction, and new lows of political discourse to shape our lives? In the dynamic community our workshop builds, we will feel, think, read, and write about issues that affect us in ways we may not suspect. Come prepared for radical change.

Margaret Randall has lived in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua. When she came home in 1984 the government ordered her deported, finding some of her writing to be “against the good order and happiness of the United States.” She won her case in 1989. Recent books include She Becomes Time and Only the Road / Solo El Camino: Eight Decades of Cuban Poetry. Randall knows first-hand the dangers, satisfactions, and exhilaration of social change.

Stacy Szymaszek

Stacy Syzmazek, Imagine You Are Not Alone: Project-Life
Let's begin to "crack open the case file" on The Poetry Project. How did it start? How does it still exist? Invented from necessity by poets, run by poets for a half-century, how is it still necessary? (If we presume it is.) What forms of action have kept it a "high energy construct" and what others are possible on site and off? We'll read interviews from The Poetry Project Newsletter, listen to oral histories and readings from the archive, and consider the New Year's Day Marathon as direct action (+ how-to perform a 2 min. poem that leaves people wanting more). We'll read and respond to work (and work about work) published by the Project over its history and see what we can learn about the spirit of this and other infrastructures supporting communities of poets (and vice versa).


Stacy Szymaszek is a poet and arts administrator/organizer. She was born in Milwaukee, WI where in 1999 she started working for Woodland Pattern Book Center. She founded and edited GAM, a free magazine featuring the work of poets living in the upper midwest. In 2005, she moved to NYC to work for The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, where she has been its director since 2007. Szymaszek's most recent books are hart island, and Journal of Ugly Sites and Other Journals, which won the Ottoline Prize from Fence Books. Her book A Year From Today is forthcoming in 2017. In addition to being a regular instructor for the Summer Writing Program, she serves as a mentor for Queer Art Mentorship in NYC. 

Kyle Schlesinger, Hot Printing
Kyle SchlesingerDutch designer and printmaker Hendrik Werkman (1882 - 1945) is best known for his innovative printing techniques and avant-garde typography. As publisher of De Blauwe Schuit, a series of underground booklets produced by Jewish dissident poets and writers during the Nazi occupation of Holland, Werkman was arrested and imprisoned by German secret police in 1945 and executed without trial three days before the country's liberation. In this letterpress workshop, studetns will be introduced to the printing technique Werkman calls "hot printing" and create an original project that puts revolutionary poetic practices into dialogue with contemporary cultural politics.

Kyle Schlesinger is an American poet, book artist, cultural critic, and professor. He is the author of a dozen books of poetry and criticism. His scholarly writing focuses on the relationships between aesthetics, poetics, and typography.

Robert SpellmanDHARMA ARTS
Robert Spellman, a student of Naropa University’s founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, has practiced and taught Buddhist meditation and art for forty years. He has worked as a painter, graphic designer, illustrator, piano re-builder, and musician. His work is exhibited nationally and internationally, and appears in numerous publications. He has been on Naropa’s faculty since 1993 in the Visual Arts, MFA Theater, and graduate Religious Studies programs. 



SPECIAL GUEST: Amy Catanzano
SPECIAL LECTURE: Margaret Randall on Only the Road / Solo el Camino: Eight Decades of Cuban Poetry
MFA LECTURE: Mairead Case