Junior Burke

jrburke@naropa.edu | 303-245-4820

Associate Professor
Core Faculty


BA in Interdisciplinary Studies - Core Faculty


MFA, Naropa University
BFA, University of Illinois

Born Thomas Burke Bishop, Jr. in Illinois, Burke grew up there and in Georgia and California. In the 1990s, while under contract as a songwriter in Nashville and teaching at Tennessee State University, his prose began to achieve notice, receiving an award in the essay category from New Millennium Writing, one of six writers cited nationally. He is author of the novel Something Gorgeous (Farfalla, McMillan & Parrish), which appeared in 2005.[1] This work of speculative fiction explored the historical background of the era that spawned The Great Gatsby, and was lauded for its invention by the UK's Historical Novels Review. In 2013, in a slightly revised version, it became available as an e/book.

In 1999, Burke was invited to Naropa University to teach in the Summer Writing Program and, for Naropa, designed and implemented a low residency MFA degree in Creative Writing. In 2004, he founded and for ten years served as Executive Editor of the e/zine not enough night,[2] which included interviews he conducted with Joyce Johnson, Ed Sanders and Gary Snyder. After three years of directing Naropa’s low/res program, he was tapped to be chair of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics founded by poets Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg and served from January 2006 to June 2010. Widely regarded as a Beat scholar, Burke served as a source for such publications as Le Monde and The London Observer, when they presented features on the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's "On the Road". In the Spring of 2006, along with vocalist Ethelyn Friend, he produced Naropa's "Embodied Poetics", now an annual event, in which MFA writers provide texts to MFA performers to be presented in innovative indoor and outdoor settings. In 2007, along with writer Lisa Birman, he founded The Poets Party, a conceptual non-organization that urges artists of all kinds to engage politically; endorsing freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and separation of church and state.

Burke was one of the chief organizers of the first-of-its-kind "Poetic Film Symposium" held in Boulder in June 2011. A collaboration between Naropa and the University of Colorado, the event was largely funded by a Mellon Grant presented to Tom Gunning of the University of Chicago. Besides showing classic works of experimental film, it also premiered a number of new films, as well as presentations from eminent film scholars such as Gunning and Daniel Kane, author of "We Saw the Light: Conversations Between New American Cinema and Poetry." Burke's account of the event, "Notice What You Notice" appeared in Bomb Magazine. In 2014, he designed and introduced a BA minor in Film & Media Studies at Naropa. 

Other notable projects & publications:

  • "Life As We Know It" Director of performance by Bobbie Louis Hawkins, Joe's Pub, New York, 2002;
  • "American Reel" co-writer with Scott Fivelson of feature film starring David Carradine, Mariel Hemingway and Michael Maloney, 2003;
  • "Someone Else's Dream" song cycle performed by Ethelyn Friend with piano and string quartet at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004;
  • "While You Were Gone" compact disc of original songs, produced by Jim Tullio, named by New York's Bowery Poetry Club as one of the best CDs of 2007;
  • "Train Leaving Dallas" song co-written with Billy McKay, recorded by Crystal Sands, 2008;
  • "East of Midnight" Producer of compact disc by Vicki Lewis, 2010;
  • "Nothing Rhymes With Orange" Performance Monologue, text published in the journal, Pinstripe Fedora, 2010;
  • "White Men Landing" performed by Janet Feder on "Songs With Words" disc, selected by Sony Music for international promotion, 2011;
  • "Luminous" co-written with Gary Grundei, featured song in "The Siddhartha Project", Naropa Performing Arts Center, directed by Wendell Beavers, 2012;
  • "Off to the Races" original song recorded for Hal Wilner's workshop, "Harry's House Volume One", 2012;
  • "What the Devil Loves" song co-written with Fred Koller, recorded by English blues/rock trio Hundred Seventy Split, 2014;
  • "Bardo Corridor" performance of Anne Waldman's poem-set-to-music, "Harry's House Volume Two", 2014;
  • "Aaron" prose excerpt, "Litscapes: Collected U.S. Writings, 2015".