History of the Summer Writing Program
The Summer Writing Program (SWP) at Naropa University is a four-week-long convocation of students, poets, scholars, fiction writers, translators, performance artists, Buddhist teachers, musicians, printers, editors and others working in small press publishing. In dialogue with renowned practitioners, students engage in the composition of poetry, prose fiction, cross-genre work, inter-arts, translation and writing for performance. Participants work in daily contact with some of the most accomplished and notoriously provocative writers of our time, meeting individually and in small groups so that both beginning and experienced writers find equal challenge in the program. The tradition emphasized is the “Outrider” lineage – a heritage of powerful scholarship and counter-poetics operating outside the normative academic mainstream.
The program provides three distinct forums: writing workshops directed by guest and resident faculty; lectures, readings, panels, and colloquia; and conferences in which students discuss their writings and ideas one-on-one with a faculty member. The traditional roles of “teacher” and “student” break down as communication and learning flows between writer and writer.
The SWP is the birthplace of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded in 1974 by the late Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, with input from Diane di Prima. Naropa, as an educational zone, champions the building and strengthening of community, and The Kerouac School is known and celebrated for its ongoing sense of comradeship among writers, teachers, and students. The SWP serves as an interactive meeting ground where prospective students, current students, alumni, and local artists share ideas and take more visible roles in supporting the literary arts in our local community. Naropa alumni continue to contribute to the cultural landscape of the Boulder/Denver area, running various reading series and performance venues.
The SWP has always been aligned with more experimental open forms and practices of avant-garde postmodernist writing. We examine movements in creative writing practice that have revolutionized “the word,” bringing it closer to the human body and human voice. As the performance of a text includes the construction of elegant non-corporate books and broadsides, we also offer letterpress-printing classes each week.
Open to any interested participant, the SWP serves each year as a third semester for the Kerouac School’s accredited MFA degrees, complementing course work with an intensive summer learning experience. Students taking the program for credit are encouraged and expected to explore the range of offerings beyond their academic semester concentrations. The program is designed to give students a sense of where they might begin to locate their own work and interests within the literary world by exposing them to a broad range of contemporary writing and relevant topics. Eight weeks (often two full four-week SWPs) are required for both residential and low-residency MFA program students.
For more history, visit the Naropa University History page.
Summer Writing Program Media
Since its founding in 1974 by poets Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which includes the Department of Writing and Poetics and the Summer Writing Program, has recorded approximately six thousand hours of audiotapes documenting classes, performances, workshops and seminars conducted at Naropa University by many of the leading figures of the U.S. literary avant-garde.
The collection represents several generations of artists who have contributed to aesthetic and cultural change in the postmodern era.
Naropa University Archive Project staff have currently digitized over fifteen hundred hours of audio recordings from activities at the Kerouac School. Access to over five hundred hours of the collection is available online, via the generous support of the Internet Archive.