Naropa University

How to speak the archive

A cross-pollination with Eleni Sikelianos

Several rows of banker boxes and legal sized boxes set out in rows
Archival processing of a backlog. Photographed by Jaime Groetsema.

We invited all of the panelists from the June 11, 2012 “Archival Poetics and the War on Memory” event at Naropa to respond or expand on their contributions to the panel, as well as to respond to the Naropa archives and their poetic practice. Here are Eleni Sikelianos’s comments.

Jaime Groetsema/Amanda Rybin Koob: How has working with the Naropa Archive changed/influenced your understanding of archives/archival theory/archival practice? 

Archival poetics pt. 3

Building an archive with Eleni Sikelianos: memory, vision, body

Empty shelves, tables, and metal cabinets surrounding a storage space.
Photo of archives storage by Amanda Rybin Koob.

Rybin Koob: Eleni Sikelianos, poet and teacher, follows Steve Dickison’s reflection on archives and naming during the 2012 Naropa Summer Writing Program panel Archival Poetics and the War on Memory:

01:03:02: I want to underline Anne’s call here, to go and listen to the archives here. Amazing, amazing things, available just a few feet away.

Archival poetics at Naropa, part 2

Baraka at the American Poetry Archives

People surround Amiri Baraka who speaks at a table in front of an open window.
Unattributed photo from the Naropa Archives. Photographed in the archive by Jaime Groetsema.

Steve Dickison, writer, teacher, and Director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State, manages a large collection of audio recordings dating back to 1954. He begins his contribution to the 2012 Naropa Summer Writing Program panel “Archival Poetics and the War on Memory” by discussing the difficulty of cataloging recordings so listeners don’t have to just “wade in unknowingly.” 

Just in case it could last

Archival poetics at Naropa

Columns of copymaster cassette tapes from the Naropa Archives in a drawer
Copymaster cassette tapes in the Naropa audio archives, photographed by Amanda Rybin Koob.

It would be a worthy metaproject to attempt to trace instances of this concept of “archives” in the JKS SWP audio and video archive — patterns, evolutions, and contradictions — but here, we look just briefly at one potent recording, the 2012 JKS SWP opening panel “Archival Poetics and the War on Memory” (this panel takes its name from Steven Taylor’s June 2007 essay “Remember the Future: Archival Poetics and the War on Memory” published in Beats at Naropa (Coffee House Press, 2009).

Recording (Naropa’s archive): Archival Poetics and the War on Memory
Date: June 11, 2012
Featured panelists: Anne Waldman, Stacy Szymaszek, E. Tracy Grinnell, Steve Dickison, Eleni Sikelianos, and Steven Taylor

'Post-pleistocene relic world'

Alternative communities and writing, part 2

Book opened to copyright pages. Include title, authors, and publisher details.
Photograph by Jaime Groetsema. Courtesy of Naropa University Archives.

Is it necessary to think about community from an ecological point of view? If so, would our depicted world community be more populated with trees than our current ecological moment?

Naropa archive recording title: Alternative Communities and Writing 
Date of recording: June 09, 2003
Panelists: Anne Waldman (Chair), Eleni Sikelianos, Peter Warshall, Ed Sanders, Marcella Durand, Robin Blaser.

Interlude: Rereading the beginning

Featuring Anne Waldman

Black and white image of a woman and man holding a large quilt.
Ethel Sampson’s historical quilt from 1937.

Are archives necessarily institutional? Is an archive simply a collection of things representing something? Does it matter if the collection of things is metaphorical, commercial, or virtual? Must the materials of the archive represent an event and must they include a nod to the longevity of narrative and the pursuit of preservation? Is an archive still an archive if it is inaccessible? (I’ve written more specifically about archives and language over at Reconfigurations.)

Jaime Groetsema: Whenever I think about archives or the material culture that could possibly constitute them, I try to define what an archive is.  

'Here I am out in the woods …'

Alternative communities and writing, part 1

Collage of text and image. Text includes printed biographies of faculty.
Collage of program material for Summer Writing Program, courtesy of Naropa University. Photograph © Jaime Groetsema.

The Summer Writing Program came out of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (JKS) at Naropa University. JKS was officially established in 1974 along with what has been called the Visiting Poetic Academy, the Summer Institute, amongst other conventions, and now the Summer Writing Program (SWP). 

Naropa Archive Recording Title: Alternative Communities and Writing                                          Date of Recording: June 9, 2003            &nbs

'Cross Worlds'

On 'Transcultural Poetics: An Anthology'

Naropa University’s program in poetics has gained near legendary status. The annual summer sessions bring in poets from around the world to teach week long seminars, give readings, and participate in panel discussions. Founded in 1974 in honor of Jack Kerouac by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, it has long since eclipsed its early beginnings when it was generally taken quasi-seriously as a place for the devoted to study with surviving elders of the Beat generation, et al., while pursuing meditative practice (i.e., “disembodied poetics”) with varying levels of serious intent among participants.

Recasting poetry

'The long biography of a poem'

Kaia Sand

In Distant Reading, Peter Middleton describes reading a poem as though it has a “long biography.” This approach involves “mining what is available of the aggregative textual archive that composes the textual memory of the poem, its showing in magazines, performance, anthologies, its construal in reviews and commentaries and other treatments” (23).

Consider the long life of Claude McKay’s "If We Must Die."

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