Fire is Not the Enemy of Poets

As expected, we just barely survived another two-week multiple-events-every-day Beyond Academia Free Skool Summer Poetry Camp in Nederland. WHEW! Starting with a 600 acre forest fire two miles downwind, eleven volunteer instructors put together workshops and lectures for 40 ‘students’, most of whom enjoyed three or more of the offerings, and some staying for the entire Camp. “Inhabiting Poetry” was the theme this year, and we went deep into discussions on syntax, psychology of poetics, and knowing yr audience. The return of our Founding Poets, the upgrade of committed students to instructors, and adding new instructors to our line-up all occurred with great success. About 50% of the student body were new arrivals to BAFS, coming from as far as Nola and Mississippi and Sweden and Denvoid.

There is absolutely no way that BAFS Summer Camp could succeed without the heroic unsung efforts of the all-volunteer Love Shovel Ranch crew working behind the scenes every day to organize and cook meals, keep the toilet working, find whatever you need, make sure there’s weed, interface with the inevitable police presence, and clean up the messes campers leave behind while overwhelmed with new information from class. Also expected is the “As The Shovel Turns” type of drama, which we got a little of, as boundaries are tested, relationships formed, and Kali eventually comes knocking, all flame & bone. But the other side of that coin is the fruition of dreams, and when we seek the unique we sometimes find it. Our interface with the post-Beats became stronger. Students are showing signs in their work that the classes make a difference. And of course, all bets are off when a tuba comes to the Shovel during the improvisational punk band…

BAFS Summer Camp is a working Temporary Autonomous Zone (which doesn’t work so well for non-Sovereigns) where folk must take responsibility for themselves in an environment with few rules. The Camp is a test, of endurance, of intellectual programming, of social skills. There is no individual backup, Mommie ain’t coming to save ya here, the challenges are yours alone. Often this is the first time that some folk have ever been put in such a situation (you can choose not to do yr dishes at home, but not here), and it is our hope that the TAZ environment encourages people to upgrade to Hero status and stay there. To some extent it is true that the Poetry is a front for creating a TAZ, a social experiment, a mirror to check yr own programming in. That is the point. Poets are some of the last Magickal Beasts left in the world, it is imperative that they have the skills to overthrow the Left Brain Tyranny. As a race we are woefully short on everyday heroic role models, and to reverse the decay of humanity we sorely need them. A witty remark in the checkout line may be all it takes to change the dynamic of some family’s dinner from drab to beautiful. That’s our job, poets, “Do More for Free”. Now get to work.

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