Notes on Territory

The title of this year’s spring symposium at Naropa was Territory ?, and these are my notes and thoughts on the presentations. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the panel and missed the reading. I will have to find each of the poets’ works to read in print, if I am to inflect the critical presentation with their poetic expressions.

The purpose of the symposium was to investigate writing on territory and borders, and as Bhanu Kapil said in her introduction, especially the feeling in the body just before crossing. Kapil noted the absence of voices, such as poets from the southwest who could speak directly to urgent immigration issues. There are so many voices missing. Heavy duty for those poets on the mic.

Talking about territories or nations (or even communities, in the sense of something that one can belong or not belong to) limits possibility, and Sueyeun Juliette Lee says it also gives substance. Nations and races are confabulations, fictions we perpetuate through our participation. She was talking about Korea, which […]

Ain’t I authentic?

On Saturday I attended The Shape of the I, a conference sponsored by ELN, Colorado University’s journal of literary studies. I missed out on the Friday panels, but fortunately Timothy Morton recorded some of the discussion. In fact, the impetus for my attending the conference was to meet Professor Morton, shake his hand, and thank him for his pedagogy; I’ve been listening to his recorded lectures (via iTunesU) for a couple of years.

I enjoy panels and discussions such as these but always feel anxious and out of place at academic events. Actually, I feel anxious at all events (and non-events), but talk of literature and art is delectable and motivates me to confront my social anxiety. So despite my nervousness, I went. Even a small moment of bravery generates serendipity; another teacher of mine, Bhanu Kapil, happened to sit next to me in the afternoon. Instantly, I felt at home, as if I were back in a class at Paramita or an impromptu conference on the sidewalk outside Sycamore; even a brief moment […]

New Year’s Resolution

In a 2007 Stronach Memorial Lecture, Peter Sacks explores the trope of the dolphin in poetry from Homeric to modern poets. An evocative and empowering image, the dolphin continually shows up in poetry as a surprise and as a mystic escort. As 2010 ends, I find the dolphin a fitting image of the soul in transit.

In past years I have made New Year resolutions, and they are often effective. I set specific goals using strategies I’ve learned as a professional: specific, attainable, timely goals whose outcomes can be measured. But this year I’m interested in what Sacks calls the dolphin’s turn, a metaphor for a process to realize outcomes that can’t be measured.

In the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo, a dolphin intervenes with merchants on route to a trade city. The dolphin forces the sailors to turn their ship and sail to another coast, an unknown coast, and another life. Sacks draws a connection between the dolphin’s transformative veering ? and the transport system of poetry ?. As the dolphin leaps between two […]

The Notebook

Recently I discovered one of my teachers from Naropa Boulder has started to blog: Bhanu Kapil blog is very close to being in her class at the Jack Kerouac School, except as a web page, it’s even more a School of Disembodied Poetics. In one recent post she quoted Rilke:

“Ask yourself, must I write?; and if you cannot answer yes, then maybe you should not write. Maybe you’re not a writer.”

So I’ve been asking myself that question: Must I write? At this very moment, must I write? It reminds me of a Shambhala teaching on the primoridal dot:

There’s always the primordial dot: that spark of goodness that exists even before you think. We are worthy of that. Everybody possesses that unconditioned possibility of […]

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. Manuel De Landa. Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books, 1997. 333 pages.

This book came recommended to me by Bhanu Kapil after I shared with her my response to Architecture from the Outside. Since we both had some scientific training, I think she understood the rigor and clarity I was expecting from an academic text.

De Landa sets out to write a history book that actively counters traditional linear views of history. But he states several times that no system (non-linear or otherwise) is inherently better than any other. All types of systems have potential flaws and potential value. In the conclusion he warns,

To simply increase heterogeneity without articulating this diversity into a meshwork not only results in further conflict and friction, […]

SWP Week 1 Opening Panel

The opening panel of the Boulder Naropa SWP was called What’s Beneath Your Feet? – Almanacs of Place ?. While the focus of the week is on environmentalism, one of the panelists, Mark Nowak talked mostly about workers’ rights. He made the statement, It is important to talk about the workers that are beneath our feet. ?

During the Q&A I got up and asked about the ways the environmental movement and how it uses language based out of ownership and privilege. I believe it is essential for us to talk about workers if the environmental movement is to be more than a tool for maintaining the status quo of oppression. How do our language and values about the environment change depending on whether we own pieces of the environment and are citizens with full rights in the land on which we live, or whether we are workers and do not […]

Josie: Extended Play

The Boulder Naropa SWP starts tomorrow and I’m pretty certain I’m not going to make my goal of finishing Josie by then. But that’s okay with me. It was an arbitrary deadline anyway.

And I have been writing these last few days and that always makes me feel good. I’ll continue working on it (just a few thousand more words left) but I have a lot of other projects I need to focus on that do not have arbitrary time constraints.

As a student at the Boulder Naropa SWP I have a paper due tomorrow. The assignment for the first week was given by Donald Preziosi:

June 17th, 2007 | Category: Nothing Achieving | Comments are closed

Naropa Departmental Meeting

At a W&P Department meeting the faculty talked about the courses they will each be teaching next semester. Although I’ll be working on my manuscript and so won’t be taking any of those courses, I went to the meeting to hear what they had to say and maybe get some ideas for the course proposal I’m writing to teach an introduction to creative writing in the Spring.

It was a little disconcerting to see all the faculty sitting together and only one of them was not white. And there are no black or latino teachers?!? Major red flag.

But I wish they had started this last year. The faculty were able to talk about their courses and answer questions. Keith Abbott is going to be teaching the course I took with him last spring on American classism and writing […]

Four Writers

Last night, I parked on the wrong side of CU’s campus and was 15 minutes late to the 4×4 Reading. I missed Virginia Bellis. But I got to hear Sloan Fiffer, Alex Stein, and Laura Van Etten from CSU.

Sloan was introduced by Bhanu Kapil and some of what she read was writing she had worked on in class last semester. I appreciated seeing the growth of those pieces. Even though she introduced them as fragments, I could see how they were beginning to cohere.

Alex Stein shared some rather humorous and thoughtful pieces based on interviews and overheard conversation. The overheard conversations reminded me of the weekly exercises for Bobbie Louise Hawkins’ class. Each week we are to bring in pieces of overheard dialogue to share with the class. Bobbie says that listening and transcribing real-life dialogue improves […]

working on a ranch in colorado

That’s what I’m doing now. It’s also what my great-great-grandfather did when he was young man (during the earlier part of the 20th century). The work is not easy but it’s outside and that’s nice. And it’s fun to say. I’ve been mending fences and digging ditches. Last week I helped clear a dozen or so trees from a plot of land for a new house. Hard, hard work.

But if I can make enough money now, I won’t have to work during the winter break and I can write the rest of my novel. I’ve come to the conclusion that what I need to work on is Act II. I have a vague idea what it will concern but I’m not sure how to tell.

This class I’m taking with Keith Abbott promises to be very helpful in […]