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Thurston Moore returns Colorado to teach summer writing course at Naropa University

Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore has been teaching summer writing courses at Naropa University since 2011. (Courtesy of Vera Marmelo)
Sonic Youth co-founder has been an instructor in Colorado since 2011

Thurston Moore is a busy guy: He’s a musician, a writer, editor.

And also a professor.

Since 2011, the Sonic Youth co-founder has been coming to Colorado to teach a summer writing program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder.

This week, Moore and his wife, Eva – also an editor and involved in filmmaking, music, art curation, and co-founder with Thurston of Ecstatic Peace Library – are wrapping up their course “Take Me To Your Poets,” a class that focuses “on the Kerouac School’s 50th anniversary by deep diving into the archives of the school’s library of ephemera; its recordings, documents, and publications researching a timeline journey through the enlightened exchanges offered by its founders Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman,” according to a news release.

Naropa was established in 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. It’s a Buddhist-inspired, private, nonprofit liberal arts school, which “is rooted in contemplative education, a teaching and learning approach that integrates Eastern wisdom studies and the arts with traditional Western scholarship. Naropa was the birthplace of the modern mindfulness movement,” its website says.

For more information

Thurston Moore: www.thurstonmoore.com

Naropa University: www.naropa.edu

Moore’s memoir, “Sonic Life: A Memoir,” is available at Maria’s Bookshop: https://tinyurl.com/yc3us2tt.

Ecstatic Peace Library: www.ecstaticpeace.net.

Moore’s path to teaching in Colorado began before he joined the faculty in 2011. In fact, he began his relationship with the school not as an instructor, but as a musician, having been asked by the school to play the Fox Theater as a benefit for the digitization of the school’s archives.

“I first came to do that benefit – it was me and Jello Biafra. I was aware of the school through the years, for sure,” he said. “I toured around the campus and saw the archive, and really gleaned how special it was. It was an accredited university that had master classes in peace, which is something that even at that time, I was thinking, this is so radical, but it’s radical in a beautiful way. And so I just really fell in love with it, and Anne (Walden) asked me to come and be one of the instructors during the 2011 summer writing program.”

Moore had originally met Walden back east years before, he said, adding that their worlds in the arts intertwined.

“I met her in New York City, and I knew about Anne Walden since I had lived there in the mid-’70s, her whole scene around St Mark’s Poetry Project. But I was also very preoccupied with my own Sonic Youth world. And there was a little interconnection with our worlds, downtown New York,” he said. “I always had this idea that I was going to move New York and be a writer and be a poet. And I never even got to the front door of the project, because I was busy with going to CBGBs. But those poets would go to CBGBs, too. So I would see Allen Ginsberg on stage at CBGB he would commandeer the stage with Peter Orlovsky and play like he would do, like electric Buddhist chants between Blondie and Television, unannounced.”

Moore said that while those experiences were cool at the time, it wasn’t until the 1990s that he really became engaged in the world of poetry when his interest in postwar poetry, poetry and the ephemera of it grew – intellectually and literally.

“I was collecting and archiving all these stapled mimeo anthologies and stand-alone poetry books that were independently produced, and really teaching myself what that history was. Anne and the school were really significant to that,” he said. “I moved from New York City to Northampton, Massachusetts, for about 10 years, and a friend of mine and myself were hosting poetry readings up there, and we had Anne Waldman come up at one point. I had only met her once. I met her in the living room of Patti Smith’s house ... I immediately beelined over to her, and I started talking to her about poetry.”

Waldman ultimately invited Moore to teach at Naropa, where, he said, each year’s curriculum is defined by a “fairly esoteric” theme, within which each instructor can create their syllabus.

“I’m always interested in having a class that deals with the honoring of certain characters and personalities have defined the school,” he said. “One year, I did a class where I just taught the recordings of Allen Ginsberg, his recording history. One year, I did the same thing with William Burroughs. And then one year, I talked about the underground rock scene of punk rock at its advent, with Patti Smith and ... Television and Richard Hale, specifically, what their connection to with the poetry universe was. This year, doing the class in tandem with my wife, Eva Moore, the class is all about the actual archives of the school, and trying to show the students the majesty of that, and how broad it is, because it’s not just poetry, but it’s music and dance and all kinds of other esoteric arts that have come to school, like archery and different philosophical tenets.”

For Moore, Colorado isn’t just a nice place to spend the summer: It can be considered among the heavy hitters of poetry.

“Colorado is really lucky to have a space like this,” he said. “It’s amazing that Boulder has become one of the most central spots of poetry in the world, but it makes sense. I mean, the energy here, with the mountains ... it’s usually all about the seaboard cities of San Francisco and New York that are the cultural flashpoints of literature, but Boulder is as active and important as New York. A lot of that had to do with Naropa coming here in the ’70s, but even before that there was a history of great poetry work happening in the city.”

Along with Moore’s teaching, he also wrote a memoir about his time with Sonic Youth, “Sonic Life: A Memoir,” which was released in October (and is available at Maria’s Bookshop), and his new album, “Flow Critical Lucidity,” will come out Sept. 20.


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