Syllabi for a number of my courses are available by clicking on the course title. Examples of student work from my courses at Georgia Tech are available here and here. I’ve written about my multimodal pedagogy and the use of poetry in the composition classroom here, here, and here.
Spring 2018: students viewing "Meadow" (1997) by Alex Katz at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta
Fall 2017: students engaging in a collaborative exercise based on Joe Brainard's "I Remember"
Spring 2017: students in Skype conversation with poet Anselm Berrigan
Scholarship & Research
My scholarship explores the interdisciplinary poetics of post-WWII innovative American poetries with a particular focus on the "second generation" New York School poets, 1960-present.
I am currently conducting research in the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library in Emory University's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. My research has been supported by a Short-Term Fellowship at the Rose Library in the summer of 2016. My past archival work includes research at Stanford University and the University of California at San Diego.
Recent scholarship and critical work:
ESSAY: "'Fuck work': The Reciprocity of Labor and Pleasure in Joe Brainard's Writing," forthcoming in The Aesthetics of Joe Brainard edited by Yasmine Shamma (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming)
ESSAY: "'The Pollock Streets': Ted Berrigan's Art Writing" (Part 1 and Part 2) at Fanzine
Current Book Project
I'm currently writing a critical book on the poetry of Ted Berrigan.
My interest in Berrigan can be traced back to my undergraduate thesis on Allen Ginsberg and the intersections of Cold War-era politics and poetics.
In 2014, I began researching Berrigan's out-of-print novel Clear the Range, a cut-up, transformed Western that stands out in Berrigan's oeuvre not only as his only published work of extended prose but as an unmapped formal accompaniment to his seminal work The Sonnets. Clear the Range is currently in the process of being republished with the guidance of the Estate of Ted Berrigan.
An excerpt from Clear the Range:
“Ten years ago Cole Younger first came into the mountains. Ten years ago, The Sleeper could eat venison and sell beets. There’s nothing more pleasant than that. He was getting rich. Yes, he was getting rich. He was rich. Then Cole Younger came along and told The Sleeper that there wasn’t any room for any cows in the hills. The Sleeper laughed. So one day Cole Younger said to The Sleeper: “Clear the Range.”
The Sleeper laughed some more. Next day Cole Younger passed away.
We all expected that The Sleeper would kill himself. But he didn’t. No, his mind seemed to ‘cease fire.’ For ten years it has always been two months since then. And in the meantime the hills are covered with night. When you look for things, they seem hollow and you can see through them. But when the hills come up, they are red.
No harm in that.
You wonder, however, why? Well, I have heard that it is because strangers come to a strange country and they have passed their bounds.
“Yes,” said The Sleeper, “I remember that hazy something. I didn’t. I went on. Now I am here."
“Yes, how do you do?” said Cole Younger.
“No, that is not what I mean,” said The Sleeper. “It isn’t the dying man that runs from his dope.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Cole Younger.
“Perhaps you will see, before long,” said The Sleeper. “Tell me about this town. How old?”
“Old.” said Cole Younger.
“It is very old,” said The Sleeper.
“Well,” said Cole Younger, “it is this way. There is only one town. That is why they built it.”
“Are you sure?” said The Sleeper.
“There is only one way to be sure,” said Cole Younger.
“Well?” said The Sleeper, anxious to draw out more information.
“Get moving.” said Cole Younger. “When you get there, you’ll find a big wall. In the big wall, is a small door with a round top. Beside the small door with the round top in the big wall is a wire bell. When you pull the wire, you will ring the bell.”
“Ah so,” said The Sleeper.
“Then,” said Cole Younger, “Open the door. If the door is not opened at once, it never will be. Then you will never get inside. But if it is opened at once, go in, and someday you will know why. You go inside and you never come out.”
“What do you mean?” said The Sleeper.
“Senor,” said Cole Younger, “you are my friend. I have told you more than words.”
Ted Berrigan in Amsterdam, 1978
portrait of Berrigan by Joe Brainard, circa 1964
Joe Brainard's cover of The Sonnets (C Press, 1964)
cover of Clear the Range with collage by Berrigan (Adventures in Poetry & Couch House South, 1977)
Sturm with poets Anne Waldman and Carrie Lorig at opening of exhibit "The Dream Machine: The Beat Generation & the Counterculture, 1940-1975" at Emory University
Crystal Setis a blog that traces and collects my research, archival work, and critical interests in innovative American poetries.
The "Crystal Set" series is a personal catalog that documents rare and out-of-print texts from the mimeograph era to the present. Work from the series has been featured at Locus Solus and Poetry Foundation.
The blog takes its name from a comment by Jack Spicer in his lecture, "Dictation and 'A Textbook of Poetry'" on June 13, 1965: "And I would think that we probably will always be crystal sets, at best." Spicer's "crystal set" is the poet as radio, a technology of the voice that links to another world, and also the poem itself, a magical arrangement. Since first reading Spicer's Vancouver lectures, I've adopted "crystal set" as a way to describe those wayward, necessary texts that constitute one's aesthetic and historical devotions. The spirit of the blog adapts Spicer's casual yet idiosyncratic idiom, re-reading wayward texts, charting archival research, and collecting the imperfect.
Portfolio of Student Work: Spring 2018
ENGL 1102: Poetry, Painting, Film, and Music in New York City, 1960-Present
This course will utilize poetry, painting, film, and music from New York-based writers and artists to explore the multimodal languages of American art practices. By activating the etymological root between the words experiment and experience—“experiri,” meaning “to try or to test”—this course will try and test various creative and critical approaches to the arts to gain both an experiential and historical understanding of aesthetic innovation in the global cultural center of New York over the last half century.
Utilizing our WOVEN curriculum, students will engage with visual and nonverbal design through trips to Atlanta's High Museum of Art and Arts@Tech events, create data visualization projects to track developing trends across genres and mediums, and experiment in hands-on creative practices with era-specific technologies to produce their own original cultural artifacts. Artists such as Eileen Myles, Andy Warhol, Amiri Baraka, The Velvet Underground, Ana Mendieta, Jay-Z, and Alex Katz will populate the syllabus.
Note: All student work used with permission with authorship noted when permitted.
These collaborative posters explore unique connections between Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets and Eileen Myles's Chelsea Girls, books in two different genres, published 30 years apart, that act as touchstone texts of the New York School aesthetic. Using geocritical analysis to map urban space across generational lineages and graphic models to visualize nonlinear formal techniques and the complex relationships between time, repetition, and order, students examined how visual representations of aesthetic concepts offer fresh perspectives on literary analysis. By working to visualize their theses, students found that literature includes data that can be transformed into compelling cultural critiques. This student work meaningfully contributes to scholarship on both Berrigan's and Myles's work, showing how research-based mediums such as posters, typically associated with STEM-related fields, can present students with the opportunity to become co-creators in our discipline.
In groups students created 8-10 minute podcasts that investigate the aesthetic, cultural, political, and/or historical importance of a single piece of visual art created by a New York-based or New York-associated visual artist. Using the podcast "The Lonely Palette" as a template, these educational, entertaining documentary conversations act as audio snapshots of an artist and their work. The primary goal of this artifact was to develop a competent, functional aesthetic vocabulary in order to describe visual art in an oral medium. Students used their experiences visiting the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to consider the relationships between viewer, curator, artist, and the art object itself. This rhetorical awareness of the aesthetics of making and looking, and how art affects public and personal space simultaneously, allowed students to produce insightful podcasts in which, as first-year engineers and computer scientists, they become art historians.
This artifact allowed students to pick a New York-based artist and create an original research project investigating a particular facet, concept, or theme in the artist's work in the medium and genre of the student's choosing. A series of research support documents, including a research proposal, outline, and progress report, aided in the artifact's completion. Each artifact was accompanied by a 1000-word Research Statement that articulated the project's purpose, research findings and analysis, and contribution to the field of study. The final photograph in the gallery to the left shows students showcasing their research at an informal conference-style event at the end of the semester.
Portfolio of Student Work: Summer 2018
ENGL 1102: The Poetics of Sustainability: Environment and Immigration
Utilizing our WOVEN curriculum, this course will explore the intersections of the environment and immigration as urgent social, political, and ecological issues through the lens of poetry. By reading across a global lineage of poets, including writers and artists from Pakistan, Chile, Sweden, Korea, Brazil, Cuba, and the across the United States, students will learn about historical and contemporary environmental and immigration issues in order to create multimodal artifacts that engage with what we will refer to as a “poetics of sustainability.” One of the course’s primary questions will be: How do these writers and artists allow us to articulate a more equitable future for communities facing challenges related to ecology and immigration? Additionally, where and how do ecology and immigration issues overlap as we consider rhetorical strategies for articulating our questions, ideas, and solutions related to identity, nationality, nature, and culture?
This summer course was taught in conjunction with the inaugural iGniTe First-Year Summer Launch Program’s “Sustainability” academic track and supported by a course development grant from Georgia Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative. The final photo in the gallery to the left shows my students and I volunteering with Concrete Jungle at Doghead Farm, an urban growing space in Southwest Atlanta that donates foraged and grown fruits and vegetables to those in need.
Note: All student work used with permission with authorship noted when permitted.
Students worked in groups to create experimental indexes for Inger Christensen’s alphabet that track the sequence’s references to science, metaphysics, time, the human, and the nonhuman. While an index in a book is traditionally a list of items, such as topics or names, treated in a printed work that gives for each item the page number where it may be found, these experimental indexes record the ephemeral, overlapping, and not-so-obvious topics that serve as the thematic and critical background for Christensen’s poetic sequence. As students read and re-read the poem with their attention trained to inventory specific themes and concepts, the process of reading subtly shifted and transformed, and students reflected these changes in the reading process in a collaborative note accompanying their finished indexes.
What is the rhetoric of loss, dislocation, transformation? This multiple-week, slowly evolving project allowed students to explore how they articulate, experience, and communicate loss and its meanings. First, students abandoned a collection of writings during a volunteer field trip at Doghead Farm in Southwest Atlanta and also abandoned a personal object on campus. After these experiences of letting go, students wrote about and accumulated experiences and narratives in a series of six (6) notebook entires that responded to questions and prompts related to various readings and course experiences. These entries accumulate into a personal, associative narrative of the semester that investigate relationships to place, history, and identity. This artifact’s process will revolve around our readings of Raul Zurita’s Song For His Disappeared Love and Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene as well as our student visits to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. The final artifacts are presented as Tumblr blogs.
For this group research project, students created educational posters that present how issues related to “a poetics of sustainability,” via issues and topics related to the environment and immigration, are presented and critiqued in Kith by Divya Victor alongside either Schizophrene by Bhanu Kapil or Song For His Disappeared Love by Raul Zurita. Each member of the group contributed to recorded testimonial-style video that responds to a set of questions about their experiences, challenges, and reflections on the issues we discussed during the semester and how some of those issues are presented in their poster projects. These testimonials played alongside their posters during in-class presentations.
ENGL 1102: “We Are Young": Teens, DIY, and the Avant-Garde
Whether you’re singing along to “Teenage Lobotomy” by The Ramones or “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, experimentation and rebellion remain the trademarks of youth culture. From The Breakfast Club to the teen leaders of the #NeverAgain movement, media continually reproduces our collective belief that adolescents, the young, the coming-of-age, are the heroes and antiheroes sanctioned to make and remake their images and beliefs in the passionate, excessive, and defiant role of the teenager. At the same time, 20th century art has given us the avant-garde artist as the emblem of disobedience and aesthetic revolution. From the Futurists to the punks, art has been a DIY experiment in destroying the old to create the new.
This course will utilize poetry, literature, painting, film, and music to explore the intersections of youth, art, and do-it-yourself cultures. Focusing on the multimodal aesthetic of the New York School of artists while reading from earlier modernist texts through to recent iterations of teen life, students will develop historical, aesthetic, and experiential relationships to what it means to be young and make art. Utilizing our WOVEN curriculum, students will read experimental coming-of-age narratives, investigate the construction of adolescence as an identity, and make their own critical and creative artifacts that analyze and reimagine the rhetorics of youth culture.
Note: All student work used with permission with authorship noted when permitted.
Students read and discussed Joe Brainard’s I Remember as a portrait of mid-20th century American male adolescence and young adulthood, a portrait of queer male sexuality and pop culture, and a portrait of becoming an artist in multiple mediums. After writing and revising their own formal experiments in personal-poetic writing in the style of I Remember, students created original DIY zines that sample from their “I Remember” portraits. These zines are modeled on class readings about the history of zine culture and distributed to their peers. In groups, students shared their “I Remember”’s and zines to develop a 6-8 minute story-telling podcast segment that gathers their shared, differing, and overlapping themes of recent adolescence and culture. Building off the individual creative production of the “I Remember” zines, these podcasts act as group portraits of what it means to be a teenager in the 21st century.
In groups, students produced visual posters that highlight original and unique correspondences between Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls and Jim Carroll’s The Basketbal Diaries. Rather than a traditional book review translated into a poster presentation, this visual artifact investigates these related yet divergent texts through a specific thesis, utilizing textual evidence, secondary critical sources, and your accumulated knowledge of the New York School of Poets aesthetic. For example, students might generate literary maps of the texts, explore the role of repetition and variation, investigate the texts as social documents of their times, construct aesthetic lineages for each text, explore the role and presence of related mediums such as music, painting, or film on the texts, research the texts’ histories of critical reception, investigate the books through the lens of gender and sexuality, conceptual a unique data visualization of the texts, or any other critical approach you can image. Keep in mind that any approach to the poster’s thesis should tie in with our main course themes: youth, DIY-culture, and experimental art. Students showed posters during an informal full class presentation day.
In pairs, students produced a multimodal research essay that investigates redefinitions and/or critiques of coming-of-age narratives by exploring Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart next to one other cultural source, such as poetry, a novel, film, music, or comic. Including multimodal elements, this 7-8 page research essay (including text and images) acts as a critical comparative look at two recent iterations of teenage culture and coming-of-age narratives both in how they compare and contrast to one another and in terms of what these cultural documents say about teen culture, the history of representations of adolescence, the differences in representation between modes and genres, and what is important about examining these two sources together in light of the questions posed by their theses. Students published thier essays on Issuu.
My book of poetry, How We Light, was published in 2013 and reissued in 2018 by Big Lucks Books. I have also published a number of chapbooks, including Beautiful Out, A Basic Guide, What a Tremendous Time We're Having!, I Feel Yes, and the audio set Flowers and Money, as well as the collaborative chapbooks I Was Not Even Born, with Wendy Xu, and Nancy and the Dutch and Labor Day, with Carrie Lorig.
My manuscript-in-progress, Another Mona Bone Jakon, about family, music, gender, and pop culture, is forthcoming.
"Poem after poem of Nick Sturm’s is the embodiment of pure benevolence and joy. Filled with virtuosic surprises at every turn, this, my friends, is the poetry of the future." - Noelle Kocot
"Nick Sturm proclaims in the first poem of his collection, “I’m going to keep laughing until something gores me,” and proceeds to startle every page with his scaldingly funny, delightfully reckless linguistic breakdancing. How We Light is also a deeply moving book, a litany of heartbreaking assertions of what it means to be alive and mortal and surrounded and lonely and joyous and melancholy, at the same time, all the time. Sturm’s “basic guides” to autobiography, history, growing up, friendship, emergency, success, decision making, science, and truth will teach you more about how to be human than any self-help book. The instructions are that there are no instructions: “The pamphlet contains no information / regarding how little a bed can be or what / you are doing with those teacups.” Full of emotion and tenderness (and a kind of controlled anarchy), this is a book that will make the blood rush back into your brain." - Michael Dumanis
"The enthusiasm for Nick Sturm's "I Feel Yes" made me want to attempt a quasi-epic poem. My publishers should consider themselves warned." - Daniel Handler, editor of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 in SFWeekly
"Nick Sturm’s full-length poetry collection How We Light is an interesting foray into the mechanics of grief. At its heart, the majority of the poems concern a failed love affair. They ask questions of how and why we communicate even when that communication fails. While there are other minor themes replete throughout the volume, none of them surmount the near constant repetition of mouths, lips, faces, throats, and voices united in their inability to do what they were designed for. Referenced in almost every poem, they point to what becomes fetishism over loss, a sort of leitmotif for giving grief language." - Hannah Rodabaugh, review in Pank Magazine
"In Nick Sturm’s latest collection of poetry, How We Light, we awake in a field, strange with knowing. Or maybe we “climb into the machine and spend / two days thinking about lemonade”. This is not your standard conversation. We are not here to sit down feebly and speak in a quiet monotone. There is something much more vibrant at work here, something more avian and endless yes. Because of this, we are indoctrinated into Sturm’s unusual world almost immediately." - Dillon Welch, review in Heavy Feather Review
"Reading I FEEL YES is a small sadness in one way, in that its unabashed revelry makes apparent to me the myriad of little wrecks, tiny collapsings that have worked their way into me and people I love over the ensuing near-decade, how easy it was to get far removed from that precious internal space, because the ecstasy of it can seem distant. But it’s also an incredible joy, a lightning storm of wonderful news, in that one route back is so easily, poignantly available: a poem written and physically given to you by a friend." - Layne Ransom, review of chapbook I Feel Yes at Vouched Books.
View the BOOK TRAILER for How We Light, filmed and edited by Dave Carulli.
I edit TECHStyle, an online forum for multimodal pedagogy and research by the Brittain Fellows at Georgia Tech. With Aaron Colton and Kent Linthicum, the TECHStyle Committee functions as an editorial collective to publish and promote the writing, teaching, and research of current and former Brittain Fellows.