by Kelly DuMar
Have you ever wondered – or tried to explain to others – what a Transformative Language Artist is – or does? Our recent phone conference to explore this question with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, TLAN founder, began, last Thursday evening, as dusk quietly fell outside the open windows of my home near Boston. It was 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on a lovely summer evening. Soon, voices from other time zones and homes around the US joined the call – some TLA members, some new to TLA. Once we gathered, I invited everyone to imagine we were entering this garden together for our discussion and poetry open mic.
Caryn shared her inspiration and vision for founding the Transformative Language Arts MA degree on social and individual transformation through the spoken, written and sung word at Goddard College, and later, (with other key contributors), the non-profit Transformative Language Arts Association, to sponsor the Annual Power of Words Conference and more.
Caryn described her faith in the hopeful, transformative power of telling stories – in written, spoken, and sung words. She shared her core belief that telling our stories, encouraging others to tell stories and being a non-judgmental witness for each other’s stories, is the heart and soul of what it means to be a Transformative Language Arts Practitioner.
After the interview – and before our impromptu poetry reading – one participant’s comment about her writing resonated powerfully as a core TLA idea:
I wrote myself back to life from being broken. . .
No, I wrote myself into being.
Three people had signed up to read at our poetry open mic, and one cancelled before the call. So I invited anyone on the call to share a poem, and many did, including:
Annette Billings read “Laundry,” “Brava,” and “What You Allow Lingers.”
Trinka Polite read “Caught off Guard,” and “I’m Prepared.”
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg read “Rain.”
Christine Isherwood read “I Place My Faith.”
Kelly DuMar read “Mrs. Bean’s Snow.”
Hearing everyone’s poem read after Caryn’s powerful description of TLA was deeply moving. Annette Billings generously agreed to let me reprint her poem, “Laundry,” so you can have a taste of the poetry we shared with each other in the comfortable quiet of a summer evening in the garden.
I hang my soul’s garments outside to dry.
in the yard on a line in front of God and all
nosey neighbors, total strangers
who drive by slowly to gawk.
Deeply stained articles of my life flapping in the wind,
irregular edges, scars soaking up rays,
sewn-on patches and unmended tears
obvious to the naked eye.
I put them out there on purpose,
pin them all on the line in defiance,
string them up with premeditation,
let them fly like flags!
This I do in hopes some splintered spirit
will happen by and see how my soul’s garments
look uncannily like their own –
ones they are ashamed to show.
They will comprehend, such as they are,
my clothes are clean and worthy of fresh air and light.
May it release them, embolden them,
dare them to free their own soul’s apparel
from dark, dank places
and commit them to warm sun and crisp winds,
to drape them, in triumph, beside mine.
© Annette Hope Billings, 2013
[Reprinted by permission from the author from her collection of poetry published this past February, A Net Full of Hope.]
After our Let’s Talk TLA garden visit, I drifted off to sleep with beautiful poems and poets’ voices ringing in my ears. Strangely, a conference call, with the marvelous cadence of authentic, disembodied voices, is a natural space for deep sharing, and deep listening.
If you missed the call, we plan to hold another one in late August, with a new interview subject (TBA) and another poetry open mic. We hope you can join us then!
Here is a link to our TLAN website where you can learn more about online classes, The Power of Words Conference in September, submissions to Chrysalis, our professional journal, and membership (only $35!). Also, if you haven’t already, please like our public Facebook Page to stay in touch and share your news. https://www.facebook.com/TLANetwork
Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from the Boston area who is currently Membership Chair of TLAN. Her website is http://kellydumar.com