"...not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough
night." —Jack Kerouac
Taking Our Seat: Naropa at the AWP Conference
One of the phrases that floats around Naropa is: “Take your seat.” This refers to
owning one’s space, embracing one’s position. It speaks of power and purpose. Last
week, April 8 through 12, Naropa “took its seat” at the Association of Writers and
Writing Programs conference in Denver.
For those not familiar, the AWP is an annual event, held in a major city, attended
by as many as eight thousand writers, readers, publishers, editors, students and educators.
When Naropa first attended two years ago, the conference was held in New York City.
Administrative Director Amy Catanzano and I represented Naropa there and, learning
that the 2010 event would be held in Denver, began making plans. The following year,
Amy represented us in Chicago, along with Summer Writing Program Director Lisa Birman.
With the Denver conference a year away, the plans intensified. Amy, Lisa and I were
able to convince essential Naropa constituencies (Academic Affairs, Admissions and
Marketing & Communications) that this would be a tremendous opportunity for the Kerouac
School. We received their unqualified support and Naropa signed on as one of the AWP’s
Throughout the conference, Naropa hosted or participated in nineteen events, both
on and off site. Maureen Owen, fellow editor of this publication, sat on a panel which focused on the lineage of the Kerouac School. Lisa Birman hosted
a panel on Naropa’s Summer Writing Program. The Kerouac School presented readings
both in the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday, the first full day of the conference,
and outside of it at the Mercury Café, on the final (Saturday) night. Friday night’s
reading in the Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom, with Kerouac School founder Anne
Waldman and Gary Snyder, a poet firmly embedded in the Naropa lineage, was characterized
by activist/writer Joe Richey as the most heavily attended poetry reading in the history
of Colorado. Our publications, both not enough night and Bombay Gin, were presented by staff and students at an exhibit/table in the hall among hundreds
of other substantial presses. For Naropa, the conference could not have gone better.
On Friday afternoon, poet/photographer (and Naropa alum) Jack Greene and I took a
stroll around downtown Denver. That city to me has always been ground-zero for the
Beats, even more so than New York or San Francisco. The road in On the Road leads to Denver, the streets that spawned Neal Cassady. It’s no coincidence that
the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics was founded in such close proximity.
And that day, on those bustling streets, with Colorado’s golden-domed capitol gleaming
in the background, Neal and Jack and Allen were right there with us as the Kerouac
School took its seat.