Following the death of Larry Fagin, news reaches us this morning of the death of another of the great Naropa poet-teachers, Jack Collom. When Allen and Anne Waldman set up the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in 1974 in Boulder, Colorado, Colorado already had one distinctive inventive joyful maverick poet at hand, Jack Collom. He was swiftly engaged in the experiment and soon (not soon enough, as we recall) became an integral part of the faculty. This page (from the Naropa University Archive) provides links to countless instances of Jack’s participation. We might, arbitrarily, single out this (Fagin and Collom, reading together in 1977), Jack and Anselm Hollo in 1985, Jack and Bobbie-Louise Hawkins in 1988...
Here’s Jack on a Panel on Collaboration, from 1988:
“Steven Taylor and Marni Grant have worked wondorous music and dance to word pieces of mine and I’ve sometimes read to guitar accompaniment, but mainly collaboration to me has meant words/words, the quality of change jumping from one head to another. Especially in working with Reed Bye, it’s sometimes been as deliberate a concentration as any lone poem. I began making notes on how the practice of collaboration is educational, yesterday, how it encourages the senses of surreal leaps, tone-changes, all kinds of energy releases, how it influences us to intensify focus on small units of language, how it models an endless, irrational but natural dynamic focus… dynamic forest, sorry! – (there’s a collaboration with something!) – how it leads us to establish a language, rather than “making a point”, how it makes us playful (i.e. modest, i.e ego-transcendent) in the absence of the work’s entire burden, how it teaches us to dance with other people (varities of leading and following), how it’s a fun way to talk with someone, how it’s an infinite field of possible ways catalyzes formal inventiveness. And then I got together with my daughter, put “How To Make A Collaboration” as title on a piece of paper and we made up this:
“HOW TO MAKE A COLLABORATION” (We traded off word-by-word here) – First I go above ground. Scenic by-products expose parts of their technical coverings producing ripples and what else is operated on notoriously by melting original farm-hands, who discover themselves automatically. Next month, I get to arange more.This promises nothing but Swiss exactitude, television secrets, and half-eaten directions. Dry waves pound on my poor little eye. Juggy limits 15 m.p.h. causing brand names. Then I carefully activate atmosphere with you. But many starlings rain contradictorily to generations unborn and not yet lit. Doritos chip it up. Bun mothers seem to stare into space where reality doesn’t really bubble but just enough of hazel tint exists to sparkle not. Literal splurges sometimes become effective at turning corners, yet when they have too much sense everything switches off. Constant joy aint divisible by business standards, especially when the whole sky falls into bunny patches. Lacy weather rolls through tunnels and doesn’t powder up my boxing paper. Ironing parabolic marble habits, I finish up by noon but alas, nothing wipes me better clean than all those squiggles in micro-history, click”.
Jack was also a prime figure in the genre of eco-lit (eco-poetics). Here’s a long paper he delivered on the subject at Naropa in 1992, and again, here, and, more recently, here..
Here is his poem “Ecology” (from his most substantial – and remarkable – collection, Red Car Goes By- Selected Poems 1955-2000). Author of well-over two dozen books (!) , most recently, a collaboration, (naturally!), with Elizabeth Robinson -“Dot’s Diner” (“We get a seat in a booth. All the waitresses know Jack. None of them know me. As a matter of fact, all the cooks know Jack too. We sit. We gossip. We talk about poetry”)
Happy trails, dear Jack, we loved you. We’re sure gonna miss you.
[Jack Collom – from the back cover of Dots Diner (2017)]