Footnotes for Bhanu Kapil’s 2021 Commencement Address

This poem was written for Naropa University’s Graduation Ceremony, May 2021. I started out with this undergraduate cohort, four years ago, and am still marvelling at their brilliance. They were my inspiration for this poem.  Thank you, students of Diversity Seminar, Interdisciplinary

Studies, and Shrine, Ritual, and Installation. I am thinking also of the many graduate and undergraduate students I had the honor to think and dream alongside, in the context of a training in creative writing.  I learned so much from that experience.  “What do you burn to say?” asked Gina Adams, when she visited our class one day.  We answered her question with our bodies.

I quoted a line from a poem, The Cure of Folly, by Alejandra Pizarnik (translated by Cecilia Rossi.)

The full names of the people I quoted are Rudo Chigudu, Maria Estela Barco Huerta, Desmond D’Sa, Matt Kolan and Sayra Pinto Bhansali (faculty, Thousand Currents Academy for Solidarity as Practice in March 2021).  Matt Kolan, Sayra Pinto Bhansali and I also co-teach a seminar, Transdisciplinary Leadership, at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School, as part of a doctoral process that centers leadership, creativity, and transdisciplinary time. I am learning so much from these brilliant people about solidarity in action, in ways that are not dissimilar to the depth of knowing and feeling in one of my favorite committees at Naropa, Diversity Committee.  Yes, Naropa trained me to study the near-ground and the far-ground of a subject matter, and not just what was in front of my face.  Of course, in ways I did not expect, it taught me that too.

Junior is Junior Burke, my colleague for twenty years at Naropa University, first in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and then in other spaces. I am listening to his latest album, “Nothin’ But,” as I write these footnotes on a foggy morning in Cambridge, England, on the grounds of Churchill College. On the last day of classes, I walked with Junior, and our friend, Lisa Birman, around the perimeter of the Arapahoe campus, having stopped at Sprouts to buy a bunch of red roses. Outside every classroom or space where something had happened, in all the senses of that word — what happened? — I set down a rose. When ou’re leaving a place, call your soul out of the place that you were. Bless the doorstep.  Make your offering, right there. It’s a traditional gesture, not an experimental one.  Helps to have a witness.  Helps to do this with a friend.