Petition to Keep Elizabeth Robinson at Naropa University
As of January 22, 2010, the administration of Naropa University has decided not to renew Elizabeth Robinson's teaching contract. This decision has provoked dismay and confusion in the sentiment of the student body. It would do the Kerouac School and the University a disservice to lose such a wonderful resource and champion of the arts.
A poet, teacher, and small press publisher, Elizabeth Robinson is both admired and respected by current students, alumni, faculty, and staff. She is an active, established writer whose invaluable contributions to the writing community are myriad and undeniable.
Elizabeth Robinson is the author of nine books of poetry and continues to regularly publish creative work, book reviews, and literary essays. She has received multiple awards, grants and fellowships for her work including the Fence Modern Poets Prize, the National Poetry Series, three Gertrude Stein awards for innovative poetry, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a grant from the Fund for Poetry. In 2008, she was awarded a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.
Robinson not only produces work that is significant, but she is generous in her support and promotion of lesser-known artists. She is a co-editor of Instance Press and EtherDome Chapbooks. Her accomplishments extend beyond the written word and into an active participation in the larger writing community. She has been invited to present scholarly work at such reputable institutions as the University of California at Berkley and Georgetown University, to speak at multiple Associated Writing Programs Conferences, and has taught courses at the University of Iowa's prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Having someone with her caliber and credentials on staff distinguishes Naropa University among the many MFA programs throughout the world.
Elizabeth Robinson's artistic philosophy, in part, states as follows:
“I understand the writing of poetry as processual and exploratory, not as a means of landing upon ultimate discovery. In a sense, I find that writing poetry, like the practice of any art, maximizes a sense of suspension during which my/our usual conclusions are held at bay and I/we can enter a different mode of attentiveness. Lately I have been experimenting with writing as less an act of utterance than of listening. My sustaining preoccupations have been with spirituality, ethics, and the formation and operation of community. Trying to attend to these closely enables me to participate in the problems and opportunities afforded by a wrestling with spiritual or ethical issues, and with the day to day vexations and pleasures of living in the world with other humans and sharing language with them.”
It is clear in both work and in act that Robinson not only upholds but embodies the core ethical values and mission of Naropa University: “to recognize the inherent goodness and wisdom in each human being...to educate the whole person, cultivating academic excellence and contemplative insight in order to infuse knowledge with wisdom...to nurture in its students a lifelong joy in learning, a critical intellect, the sense of purpose that accompanies compassionate service to the world, and the openness and equanimity that arise from authentic insight and self-understanding.” Her dismissal would be a regrettable step away from the pursuit of these goals.
Recognizing the terrible loss faced by the University in the dismissal of Elizabeth Robinson, we, the undersigned, urgently request that the administration of Naropa University reverse its decision and establish a core faculty position for her in the Writing and Poetics Department.