Inspiration & Location: A Talk with Caitlin Buck (Boulder Weekly 4/2/2015)


Inspiration & Location: A Talk with Caitlin Buck 
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly 4/2/2015

The fascinating acrylic-on-wood paintings of Caitlin Buck, a Boulder native who graduated from Naropa University in 2012, will see their three-month appearance on the walls of The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse end later this month. Buck, 28, lately focuses on realistically rendering human faces while simultaneously striving for the creative, poignant and playful. The animated, curly-haired young artist – wearing her trademark nose ring and a white t-shirt with a screen-printed deer – sat down on The Laughing Goat’s front porch recently for a conversation with Boulder Weekly.

Adam Perry: I remember seeing some of your acrylic portraits in the student lounge at Naropa when I was there for an event years ago. How has your work changed since graduating?

Caitlin Buck: It’s always sort of been acrylic, the paintings anyway. Those portraits of Naropa students were the result of an independent study I did with Robert Spellman, who is amazing. He’s an old coyote of Naropa; he teaches The Contemplative Artist. He’s a huge influence; I hear his voice in my head just about every day, and I’m grateful for it. That independent study, we set out to loosen up my work, so I called it “Portraits In Space.” I was working on realistically portraying people I knew and still letting [the paintings] be spacious and ethereal and not outlined.

AP: You’re from Boulder? Meeting someone who was born and raised here seems pretty rare.

CB: It was good that I lived for a couple years in South Carolina when I graduated from high school, just to step outside the bubble. Once I felt really secure in my passion for art and desire to study art, Naropa was the best thing that ever happened to me. The more I looked into Naropa, it was unreal; it was, like, “This is like Hogwarts.”

AP: When did you get into painting?

CB: Probably when I was about 16 or 17.

AP: Did you get into painting through your parents?

CB: Not really, but my mom was always really supportive of anything creative and has influenced me a lot. We used to play drawing games when I was little; she would draw these squiggly shapes and I would turn it into something. I actually think back on that and am more and more grateful for it. It’s played a huge role in my creative inspiration.

AP: How did you transition from the student portraits I saw in 2011 to these paintings on wood?

CB: For a while I was painting portraits on patterned fabric, floral patterns. I really like painting on a surface that already has something going on, that already has a vibrational feel to it. It’s like it gives me room to surrender a little bit, because I have faith that the things already happening on the surface have something to say, something to offer. So when I started painting on wood, I was getting sort of tired of the fabric, those patterns. They already have colors and the wood is more neutral, yet it has something amazing going on. Sometimes I’ll even have a hard time painting on the wood, because I’ll look at it and say, “It’s already so beautiful. How can I do anything to this?” But eventually we work it out, the wood and I, and I end up being very minimal.

AP: Where do you get the wood?

CB: I go to Home Depot or wherever I can find wood that’s nice. I’d like to use more sustainably harvested wood, but that’s really difficult to find. But I’ll go and be looking at pieces of wood [for painting] while other people are, like, trying to make shelves.

AP: Where did such a distinct face come from, the face in most of these paintings?

CB: I heard [a Laughing Goat customer] say, “So is that what the artist looks like?” That’s a reasonable question. I was shifting from the fabric to the wood and there was a lot going on in me, a lot changing. I started working on the wood and letting that dance of receiving and telling happen, letting the accidents happen, letting these faces emerge on the wood. The first few just had these big noses. It was a remedy for feeling that everything being perfect was not something I want to represent.

AP: When you finished school at Naropa, what were your aspirations?

CB: Painting, as a practice, will always be there. I’ll never stop. It’s a deep biological necessity. How that’s gonna grow into a form of service, I’m still figuring out, but I know I want to teach. I want to teach contemplative art, and I know that’s a rare topic to study. I’ve tried to find anywhere else in the world [besides Naropa] that even uses those terms and I can’t. It’s looking at art as this practice between receiving and telling. It involves showing up, making a move and listening and responding. That is similar to life itself, so I feel like the practice of painting is therapy. It’s deeply fulfilling, but it also teaches one how to be human. I would love to be able to share that.

AP: Who has influenced you other than your Naropa teachers?

CB: Visionary art has affected me a lot. It really was my first teacher. When I went to Naropa some of the teachers were tired of so many art students coming in, like, “Oh my God, Alex Grey!” They’re really tactful about it, but they’d say, “Yes, and look at this other weird art.” It took me to the other side so I could draw from different sides of the spectrum. I’ve started to become more into art that is the human face, the human form realistic and also surreal. I want it to be real enough that it is lifelike and there is a creature and an entity looking back at you, yet maybe also it’s dreamlike. Most of them are making eye contact with the viewer.

AP: You can’t hide from them.

CB: Yeah, and sometimes I owe them things. Sometimes they’re really disappointed in me. Sometimes they’re so in love with me and we’re best friends. One seriously tormented me, like, “What are you going to do with me? You brought me into existence; what now?” It’s confrontational.

AP: Do you feel like you’ve found a good art community in Boulder?

CB: Yeah, but I’m a little bit unsatisfied with a lot of things about the art world in general that I think I’m gonna find anywhere.. I think it’s really unfortunate the way that art exists in society, that it’s either at a coffee shop or a gallery.  I’d honestly rather have my work in a coffee shop than in a gallery, because a gallery is cold and stale, and people go just to look at the art. This is more inviting.

AP: What does success as an artist mean to you?

CB: It’s not a financial success. I think that’s the conventional perspective of success. It’s more having a really positive effect on the world, or just a small group of people—anybody.

Boulder Flood Update #2

This used to be the Boulder Creek path near Broadway. Now it’s just Boulder Creek.

Took a break from work and biked around with Sean and Mike this afternoon surveying the flood damage around Boulder. To say it’s severe is an understatement. But most of the building damage I saw (including to the lower level of our office building) seems mild compared to what could’ve happened last night if the 30-foot surge of water from Four Mile Canyon had not died down before it hit the city. Still, there are a lot of people – and places – that clearly will need help in the area for a long while.

This used to be the Boulder Creek path behind Naropa University. Now it’s just Boulder Creek.

Pearl Street surprisingly seems unfazed by the severe flooding that occurred last night, although I did see some photos of Lolita Market’s unfortunate situation last night, but the walking paths of the city might not be back to normal for a very, very long time. My best wishes go out to everyone who was displaced last night and/or is dealing with damage to a home or business. Let’s hope the next batch of storms, predicted for tonight, either don’t come or aren’t much to speak of.


Hello, Bali! Naropa Student Collaborates with Balinese Artists On Book

Hello, Bali!
Naropa student collaborates with young Balinese artists on book
By Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly, 3/10/2011

Flying to Bali this past September for a semester of for-credit study abroad, 24-year-old Naropa University student Jacqueline Tardie had no idea what to expect. A senior with dual majors in art and religion, Tardie didn’t know the Bahasa Indonesia language or what she’d be working on for her final required independent-study project. She also didn’t know the bathroom situation would be so different from what she’s used to in America.

“I had never thought, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be doing squat toilets’ and ‘Oh, you’re gonna be showering with a trough of water and a bucket for four months,’” Tardie says. “That was the biggest shock. It was extremely challenging. But it’s a very forgiving culture.”

After two months in Bali, Tardie heard about the Seniwati Gallery — a school and gallery for female artists ages 6 to 16 — and almost immediately knew she’d found her project.

“I looked back at my journal from the first week I was there and realized I had written about working with kids and books and art,” she says. “I didn’t really think about it that much, and then it happened. I heard about this gallery in Ubud and I went and met the women who worked there. They held these art classes for young girls, and I was like, ‘This is perfect. I want to work here.’” Fluent in Bahasa Indonesia by the end of her stay in Bali, Tardie decided to make a beautiful full-color 30-page collection of art and stories — called Seniwati Sanggar Muda, all the work of the young women at the Seniwati Gallery — and sell it to make money to help the school keep going. She was able to raise enough money to have the book printed, and all of the proceeds are going back to the school. Book sales will help at least 300 girls afford to study at the Seniwati Gallery.

Tardie printed 1,000 copies of the book (buy the book at or by contacting Tardie at and brought 400 copies back to Boulder. The young artists’ vibrant works in oil pastel and colored pencil depict wildly vivid mountains, flowers, gods and goddesses, birds and smiling children. The accompanying stories and descriptions, written by the girls and translated by Tardie, melt the heart and — like the book’s wonderful paintings and drawings — make one marvel at the talent of these Balinese artists.

Surprisingly, it cost Tardie about the same amount of money to spend an inspiring semester in Bali as it would’ve for her to remain at Naropa, the school from which she’ll be graduating in May. And the natural juxtaposition of art and spirituality in Balinese culture was a perfect fit for her interests.

“It was my intent to study art and religion,” Tardie says, “but when I asked these girls to draw something I wanted it to be a free expression of what was important to them, for them to tell their story as artists and young women in Bali. I just wanted it to come out, and in that you have explanations of religious ceremonies.

“I think that art is often expressed on such a deep subconscious level, and religious or spiritual experiences happen on that same level.”

The head of the household where Tardie was staying in Bali — Ibu Surini, a woman in her early 60s — was killed in a motorbike accident near the end of Tardie’s semester abroad, and the funeral turned out to be one of the most moving events the student-artist has experienced.

“We brought her ashes to the sea, and it was the most beautiful thing to be there,” she says. “The ocean has always been a very cleansing place for me, and thinking of how beautiful it was for her to be returned to the ocean is so powerful. Also, experiencing death there is so incredibly different. There’s room for mourning, but it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s not scary. It’s really wonderful to be returned to that cycle of life. That was the most amazing thing — I was happy for her. I loved her and I was sad she wasn’t here anymore, but there was no fear because I knew she was well. There was a sadness, for sure, but she’s not gone.”

In the past 70 years, Bali has struggled to free itself from Dutch and Japanese rule, not to mention the “puppet master” president Suharto, but with creative institutions such as the Seniwati Gallery — and the help of passionate outsiders such as Tardie — the “Glorious Bali Island” of almost 4 million people is now revealing its singular beauty to the world.

As 12-year-old Ni Putu Atik Purdhana writes in Senawati Sanggar Muda, “The Balinese are proud to see their own culture become famous. I am also proud.”

For more information and to buy Seniwati Sanggar Muda, contact Jacqueline Tardie at jacquelinelate or visit

Fotographs of Bones: Poetry On Sale

Like just about everything in this country, my latest book, Fotographs of Bones, is on sale right now. For just $3.85.

Working 9-to-5 in an office and spending most of my free time caring for my 14-month-old daughter, poetry hadn’t been on my mind recently…until the publisher of Fotographs of Bones told me yesterday that the book was on sale at Google Books. That news brought me back to April of 2009, when a gathering of friends and local poetry enthusiasts came together to celebrate my book and each other at Saxy’s Cafe in Boulder. It was such an honor to hear a half-dozen of my favorite Colorado poets reading my work aloud, especially Irene Joyce. That night, she and I were the only ones on Earth who knew we were due to have a baby eight months later. Enjoy this clip of Irene reading my poem “Fire and Faith” at the aforementioned Fotographs of Bones release party:

Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”: Anne Waldman Speaks

Patti Smith’s Magical Journey

by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly, 1/27/2011

Today, Patti Smith—widely considered the godmother of punk—is a Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres in France, and an acclaimed author whose fascinating new book, Just Kids, is a recent National Book Award winner and has been atop the New York Times best seller list for paperbacks since last fall. In July of 1967, however, Smith was just another starving 20-year-old hippie sleeping on a stoop in Brooklyn.

Born in Chicago in 1946 and raised in unremarkable slices of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Smith—wearing an old grey raincoat and carrying a copy of Rimbaud’s Illuminations—had taken a one-way bus from Philadelphia to New York with about $30 in her pocket and no promise of a job or a place to live. One year later, Smith and her new companion in art and love, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe—who she’d met that first day in Brooklyn—fled their New York apartment in the wake of a brutal murder outside their door.

Mapplethorpe’s gums were abscessing and he was showing signs of gonorrhea. The talented but penniless couple checked into a crummy motel on 8th Avenue in Manhattan called the Allerton, the kind of place where—as Smith writes in Just Kids—“half-naked guys [tried] to find a vein in limbs infested with sores” and the pillows were covered in lice. Mapplethorpe and Smith made love just to draw sweat from Robert’s shivering body, and at dawn a toothless junkie—who Smith calls a “morphine angel”—helped the art-obsessed couple flee the Allerton without paying the bill. Portfolios in hand, the artists’ next stop was the Chelsea Hotel, where hotel manager Stanley Bard had a history of giving rooms based on the artistic brilliance of his typically cash-strapped tenants.

Soon Mapplethorpe and Smith were inhabiting Room 1017, the smallest in a now-legendary building that then featured residents including Harry Smith, William Burroughs and Johnny Winter, not to mention constant visits by big-time pop stars such as Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen. The rest, as they say, is history.

Just Kids, beyond its chief role as perhaps the definitive book about young lovers inspiring each other while struggling just to survive, confirms the wisdom in the age-old axiom, “Who you know gets you there; what you do keeps you there.”

“There,” in Smith’s case, was among the most iconic poets, musicians and painters in 20th century America. In New York, she befriended icons like Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsberg and many others, wanting nothing more than connection but slowly becoming a bona fide star herself.

Smith wrote record reviews in Creem Magazine in order to sell the free records for food money—the unfortunate routine of many music critics even today—and wrote intensely passionate poetry energized by Bob Dylan, Rimbaud, William Blake and the darkly sexual mosaics Mapplethorpe was creating. She dined and partied with New York’s elite artists and finally, encouraged by friends who had urged her to read her poems aloud (to considerable success), finally put her words to music in front of an audience on February 10, 1971 at St. Mark’s Church on the Lower East Side.

Lenny Kaye added guitar accompaniment and young poet Anne Waldman—just a few years before co-founding the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder—provided a stirring introduction. Horses, Smith’s game-changing debut album—and #44 on Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time—with its opening line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins / but not mine,” was not released until 1975. But February 10, 1971 at St. Mark’s Church represented the proverbial “shot heard ‘round the world” for not only punk, and not only women in hard rock music, but also arguably the first earnest juxtaposition of poetry and pop, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan be damned.

Looking back almost exactly 40 years later, Waldman—still a Naropa stalwart—calls Smith’s musical debut at St. Mark’s Church “a signature blast from a raw talent who even then conveyed both a penetrating orality and palpable vulnerability.”

Waldman, who remembers Smith that night as “being modest and a little nervous, but confident too,” is co-hosting an anniversary benefit of Smith’s legendary 1971 performance next month at St. Mark’s Church. She calls Just Kids “a magical journey, somewhat like a tale by the French novelist Honore de Balzac in scope. The classic story of the young artists coming to the big city to seek their fame and fortune.”

“It’s beautifully written,” Waldman tells Boulder Weekly, “deeply moving, honest and visionary. And it’s a wonderful source of belletristic history including portraits of some of our counter-cultural greats: Ginsberg, Burroughs, Harry Smith—who all have a history, by the way, at Naropa University.”

Before checking into the Chelsea Hotel that night in the summer of 1968, Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe had nothing but passion, talent and grit—and in Mapplethorpe’s case, a venereal disease. Both became internationally renowned artists due to their visionary creativity and unstoppable drive in the early ’70s. Mapplethorpe passed away in 1989 due to complications related to AIDS, but his photographs—such as the iconic cover of Horses—are gaining more admiration by the day. In 2006, a Mapplethorpe print of Andy Warhol sold for $640,000. And without his substantial inspiration, Smith may well have remained another hippie on the streets of New York.

Instead, Smith has released ten albums and over a dozen books of poetry, and paved the way for female rockers such as Exene Cervenka, PJ Harvey, Ani DiFranco, Kathleen Hanna, Karen O and countless others.

“Patti remains relevant because she has a bead on this crazy war-mongering culture and a wisdom eye and voice that is expansive, imaginative and generous—and true,” Waldman concludes. “And she keeps Blake and Rimbaud alive in her psyche. She’s tracked and metabolized the desires and aspirations of several generations of seekers through her poetry and performance, and now this memoir.”

Wild Streaks: Sam Jablon’s “Face It”


Wild Streaks: Sam Jablon’s Face It
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly

Other than his perpetually paint-stained clothes, Binghamton, N.Y., native Sam Jablon cut a deceptively ordinary figure during his four years (2005-2009) at Naropa University, where he graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in writing, meditation and visual art. A quiet and friendly long-haired young man with obvious talent and a penchant for keeping mostly subdued—but focused—in class, Jablon candidly expressed himself in art, poetry and conversation. On and off campus, he subtly connected with established artists and writers who gave him wisdom and opportunities. Now, living and working in Brooklyn, the 24-year-old Jablon is using a lot of what he learned in Boulder to keep moving forward in his life and career as an artist.

“Brooklyn is a whole different world,” Jablon said in a phone conversation from Binghamton just after Christmas. “When I started out at Naropa it was really warm and welcoming and it was easy to set up a life and make friends and meet people. Brooklyn is hard and cold and there’s 100,000 people trying to do the exact same thing that you’re doing. It’s really competitive. It’s expensive. It’s also amazing, though.”

Face It, Jablon’s latest exhibition of works on wood and paper, features vibrantly colored oil and oil pastel paintings produced in the past year. As in many of his Boulder-era paintings, undecipherable or covered-up poems and darkly cartoonish heads—either sans faces or with seemingly vacuous features—consistently appear throughout Face It, which will line the walls of Naropa’s Nalanda campus from Friday, Jan. 14 until March 1. The vacant heads often seem simply amusing at first glance, but the exhibition is really about looking at life through a fearless lens, according to Jablon.

“In my current work, sometimes faces are kind of obscured and lost in all the colors, but they’re always part of the painting,” the artist explains. “[Face It] is about facing reality, facing whatever’s in front of you. If there’s a theme to the show, that’s it: going right into whatever’s in front of you and not shying away or backing away because of fear or because you don’t want to look at it.”

Moving from Boulder to Brooklyn was a jarring experience for Jablon, although invitations to study and create art have already taken him from Vermont to Berlin to Greece, and—in a few months—China.

“New York’s hard, but I love it,” he says, “It’s the complete opposite of Boulder and Naropa, and witnessing a more urban life has definitely changed my work. Plus there’s so many different kinds of artists and so many different kinds of art that, for me, it’s really opened my mind to the possibilities of what you can do. I find it really inspiring, and it’s a great place to be in your 20s.”

After meeting several prestigious East Coast artists and poets, such as the eccentric spoken-word artist Bob Holman, through Naropa’s legendary Summer Writing Program, Jablon was able to instantly connect with the New York scene when he arrived. He’s been working with Holman and others in Manhattan and helping design sets for the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, and recently he even curated a Bowery Poetry Club exhibition for emerging artists. Jablon says getting involved is much easier than most young people think.

“I’m finding that people are really friendly. If you want to talk to some famous artist and you just see them out—because they’re all over the place—and you just go up and talk them, they’ll probably give you a minute or two. And I find that if you’re willing to step up to the plate and play, even if you fail, New York will play with you.”

In Boulder, Jablon worked as an assistant to the Argentinean artist Ana Maria Hernando, whom he says taught him “how to function as an artist,” and he’s excited about seeing her this week. The exhilarating ranges of orange and pink in Colorado’s dynamic sunsets are also still a huge influence on Jablon’s paintings, which often juxtapose the whimsy of Picasso and a more psychedelic, drip-heavy version of Mark Rothko’s bold lines. But perhaps the most consistent influence on Jablon’s work has been Jean-Michel Basquiat. The late New York neo-expressionist painter’s marriage of unruly graffiti, high art and urban symbology has served as an inspiration for Jablon’s work since the young artist heard of Basquiat as a teenager.

“He’s someone I’ve always understood,” Jablon says. “I’ve always understood what the work is about and it’s always spoken to me. Every time I look at his work I find something new. So I feel we share a lot of similarities, but his work’s much more angry than mine. There’s a violence to it that I don’t feel like my work has. There was a complexity to his work that I would like to be able to use without copying Basquiat. I don’t want to just be a copy of Basquiat, but he’s one of the first artists I looked at and really went, ‘Wow.’”

Jablon’s most recent works, including the giant 72” x 48” “Who Knows 2moro,” reveal his respect for Basquiat by merging wild streaks of color and intense faces with brutal depictions of city life. For “Who Knows 2moro,” Jablon even incorporated found objects—such as a bottle cap found on the street during a nasty brawl in his neighborhood, a subway ticket and pieces of flyers for Face It—into the painting.

Not surprisingly, however, Susan Jablon—a renowned Binghamton-based mosaic artist—continues to be her son’s biggest inspiration. Sam and his mother (who first taught him how to paint at age 2) often collaborate on public art projects and also mosaics for Hell’s Kitchen as well as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. But it’s the younger Jablon’s art-intense childhood that resonates so strongly to this day.

“My mom’s awesome,” he says. “She showed me that art is fun, and that’s still where I go when I’m painting. I grew up in this massive studio just throwing paint at the walls, and that really shaped how I still see painting. I have a much better control of color now, what colors I want and how I want them to fall, but the influence I have from being a young child painting, I think I’m still going for the same thing.”

Jen Marie Davis: “Sometime Soon Ago”

Filling the Gaps of Experience
Former Boulderite’s New Book of Poetry Focuses on Life’s “White Noise”
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly

There must be something in the mountain air. More and more young writers are coming to Boulder from far-flung American locales, unlearning who they thought they were as artists and people, and then (usually) moving on, spreading the cool, creative calm of Colorado elsewhere.

Naropa University graduate Jen Marie Davis, author of the beautiful new hand-stitched collection Sometime Soon Ago (Shadow Mountain Press, Golden), is a great example. Davis, an Ohio native, initially thought of herself as primarily a prose writer—and then primarily a self-chronicling poet-essayist when she first began dabbling in poetry. Davis’ time in Boulder, she says, taught her to slow down and not only appreciate but also chronicle what she calls life’s “white noise”: ordinary details we tend to overlook as unimportant but actually come to define our experience over time.

These days, Davis lives in Santa Fe, where she works as a book artist, co-edits Fact-Simile Press and engages in fairly complex poetic exercises that bloom out of the intense passion and focus she affords her craft. Sometime Soon Ago, however, presents both Davis’ debut solo effort and a time when she was just getting acquainted with her voice as a poet.

In brief moments such as “After Taos,” which we’ll include in full below, Davis deftly and pleasingly opens the reader’s imagination vis a vis place, time and subject. Instead of pointing us toward a concrete setting with a fixed meaning, Davis succeeds at conveying a feeling, and a range of possibilities.

After Taos

What separated
the morning from
noon was not the stretch;

instead, proximity:

the well-placed promenade
and song between drags
of riverbed.

The short, succinct and unlocked poems of Sometime Soon Ago include references to New York cafes, dance classes, ornithology and the day-to-day struggle to keep a relationship vibrant. These passing flashes of a seemingly normal life stimulate the imaginations of patient, curious readers and suggest fluid and tantalizing implications that grow with each reading.

How Davis plays with tense, shape and sly pronouns—the word “she” is painted all over the proverbial walls of this book—nixed my preconceptions about poetry and meaning as I read Sometime Soon Ago last week on an airplane from New Mexico to Maine. In a brief recent chat, the poet herself told Boulder Weekly the profound elusiveness I discovered in her poems was no accident.

Boulder Weekly: It was surprising, after repeatedly hearing you read your more complex and abstract work in Boulder a few years ago—which I assumed was your older work—to read these charming Frank O’hara-esque koans

Jen Marie Davis: These were actually the very first poems I’d ever seriously written. I had been interested in the compression of time and memory and had written about it in longer [prose] forms. The synchroneity of form and content is very important to me; it seemed wrong to write about compression in a long form—I wanted to successfully communicate an idea or multiple ideas in as few simple lines as possible. At this time, I hadn’t read much poetry, either; certainly not Frank O’Hara—I’m glad to say that I have since. So I was moving from prose—to be more specific literary journalism/creative nonfiction—to these poems, which actually began as the seeds of essays. So, instead of developing these “seeds” into essays, I decided to see if the ideas or themes translated simply in just a few lines. Eventually, with more reading, writing and understanding poetry and language, I was able to move from these to what you referred to as my previous work.

BW: How did your time in Boulder affect you as a person and as a writer?

JMD: Before I moved to Boulder, I had the mindset that unless I was working—writing, reading, researching—I was not being productive as a writer. My time in Boulder slowed me down; I learned contemplative practices and mindful behavior. Noticing what I noticed and why I noticed became just as if not more productive for me as “working” and began to inform my writing. The poems in this chapbook all reflect what I would call short “non-moments”—the kind of things that regularly happen to a person or the thoughts that may cross a person’s mind that tend to go unnoticed. The “white noise” of life. Being in Boulder taught me how to be present and listen to and engage with the “white noise.”

BW: This writing seems much different from what outsiders generally consider the stereotypically free form and messy poetry Naropa writers produce. How did you transcend that style

JMD: I’m not really sure what “stereotypical Naropa poetry” is. During the time I spent at Naropa, I encountered such a variety of aesthetics. I remember one poetry class in which no one was writing in a similar manner, everyone had different concerns, but everyone responded respectfully yet critically despite the differences. That’s actually one of the reasons I really love Naropa and is one of the most important skills that I learned there—how to read and respond to a variety of work. If my work is different from typically Naropa poetry, I would owe it to a background in magazine journalism/creative nonfiction. I read a lot of MFK Fisher, John McPhee, Annie Dillard, Anne Carson and philosophy. [Before coming to Boulder] I had never read On the Road, any Ginsberg, really no Beats at all.

BW: One of the most striking moments in Sometime Soon Ago is an opening lines that reads, “She interrupts life to write it down.” Is the overwhelming urge to write ever a curse?

JMD: The curse of forgetting what I wanted to write down always outweighs the curse of writing.

BW: Who is she?

JMD: “She” is an eye, a lens and a position. After taking a lot of workshops in the personal essay and reading a lot of “I”s, I became bored with close personal experience, which led me to become interested in the gap that exists between a writer and third-person narration. Can I write essays in a third-person narration? What shift in perspective happens with the change of position?

BW: How did this project come about?

JMD: [Shadow Mountain Press publisher] Travis Cebula was familiar with my work and asked if I would submit a manuscript. I’ve wrote most of these poems two and half years ago and knew that Travis had read and enjoyed them, so I thought that they would be a good fit. I’m very pleased with the book—Marie Larson, a very talented poet and artist, designed the cover, which I think resonates very well with the contents. My biggest concern when I make a book through my press [Fact-Simile] is that the form resonates with the work. With Marie’s cover, the artisan paper and hand-stitched construction of the book, I think Travis achieved that aim.