"Be a crazy, dumb saint of the mind...," proclaims Daniel Landes, standing in a third-floor attic space in south Denver that feels nice, warm and present.
At first glance, this class may look like your average creative-writing workshop, with pens sprinkled across two tables in the center of the room, alongside desk lamps and composition notebooks. But Lit on Lit is a new kind of creative-writing class, one that puts something different on those tables: a bowl of cannabis and rolling papers to help spark creativity.
This is the first writing class in the country that invites attendees to smoke legal cannabis during the brainstorming session and the prompts.
Founding editor Landes is one quarter of the minds behind the Suspect Press, a monthly literary zine. Editor-in-chief Josiah Hesse is also leading the writing workshop, as is managing editor Amanda Eike Koehler. While marijuana may have been kept in the shadows for the majority of literature's history, this class is illuminating the effect cannabis can have on creativity. The Suspect Press crew decided to pair this particular writing adventure with a sativa from L'Eagle, the namesake L'Eagle Eagle. While L'Eagle is an official sponsor of the class, students are encouraged to BYOC — bring your own cannabis — to comply with local laws.
"Accept loss forever," Landes continues, reading aloud from Jack Kerouac's Essentials for Spontaneous Prose, easing the way for unsure writers. The class began with pizza and wine from Landes's City, O' City, as well as a welcome from Heidi Keyes, who made the space available in the spot used for weekly Puff, Pass and Paint classes. Lit on Lit fits right in.
The first writing prompt of the evening is a "Beautiful Corpse" exercise, in which each author is invited to write a line or two, then pass the paper; the result is a story penned by the whole table, a story that progresses through interesting, hilarious, dark and sometimes uncomfortable places. Writing while high, surrounded by strangers, takes you out of your comfort zone — and that's the mission of this class.
The writers put down their smartphones and laptops for an evening and pick up a pen instead.
And there are plenty of professional writers in the room: representatives from the New York Times, Men's Journal and more. Suspect Press's Hesse writes for The Guardian and expresses a desire to write for fun as opposed to writing solely for work, when the writing is more focused with a mission and end goal. Keyes's space is no stranger to publicity; thanks to her cannabis-themed art classes, she's caught the attention of prestigious press outlets from across the country.
But even the pros get into the spirit of this class, getting introspective as the prompts require. For the second prompt, the class is given a few choices from the three hosts: "My time with a river" comes from Landes; Eike Koehler offers a stunning Anaïs Nin poem as well as an escapist/exploration image; and last but not least, Hesse shares a photo of a woman with an intense stare, holding a lobster.
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"I know how to get stoned already," says a gentleman who lost his dog that day. His poem hits with an intensity that almost brings his fellow students to tears. After the day he'd had, it wasn't easy for him to come, he adds, but he felt it would be therapeutic: "That's the reason I'm here."
Lit on Lit will be hosting these cannabis-inspired literature classes every Tuesday this month. There are spots still available for the March 14 class; sign up for one here.