A Weekend with The Jack Kerouac School

Saturday night I went to a Writing & Poetics Faculty reading. Reed Bye, Bhanu Kapil, and Jack Collom read. Wild stuff. Afterwards I was kind of left slack-jawed and wide-eyed. Not necessarily an unpleasant feeling.
Reed Bye read some of his poems. Listening to them was like watching clouds float by, there was shape but only occasionally would a form sort of magically appear. Aha! I see a giraffe! There’s cowboy riding a turtle!
I was looking forward to hearing Bhanu Kapil because she is a prose writer (this is definately a poets school). She read the Foreward and Afterward from a piece about a hitchhiker, which really struck a chord with me because my story Field Mouse is also about a hitchhiker. There were alot of similarities, except that her story did not include a mouse and her hitchhiker was a young woman and an immigrant.
Jack Collom was funny, really funny. Mash potatoes, gravy, ornithological splitters and lumpers, splitters and lumpers of all kinds, strange equations in an esoteric short hand, side notes that didn’t go anywhere, and pictures of bananas. That about sums it up. I hear he’s done some provocative work with spam.
Sunday was an all department meeting. Finally I got to see all (or most of) the faculty in one place. The primary issue was a student petition given to faculty last semester with very specific demands like:
? specific, written feedback on all assignments
? recruitment of new writers to the school as writers-in-residents, visiting scholars, and weekend workshops
? more emphasis on how to get published
? more rigorous academic requirements
The first bullet item of the petition concerned the department chairperson, which the The Jack Kerouac School does not have. Instead, the school is run by a faculty committee that meets bi-weekly. For many this is an unpopular arrangement.
For myself, I think it is unorthodox but that could be a good thing. For several years I worked at the University of Kentucky as part of a self-directed work team. I found that the decentralized model can be very effective in the academic environment.
Like the faculty reading, after the all-department meeting I was kind of left slack-jawed and wide-eyed, but again not unpleasant. It was so much like family, an eccentric family but not totally dysfuntional. There are definate growing pains here and real challenges.
There is also so much potential. More and more I am impressed with Naropa. Something really unique and important is happening here.

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