Sonya Renee Taylor is an Internationally acclaimed performance poet, actress, educator and activist who’s been seen on HBO, CNN, BET, MTV, and the Oxygen Network. She has performed on stages from New Zealand to Scotland to New York, and is currently residing in Baltimore, MD. She is the creator of The Body Is Not An Apology Movement
by Karen Silsby
I highly recommend this class (TFSATFE) with Angie Rivers, our instructor! While moving through the weekly assignments, I had a profound opening up of my inner awareness. This came about as we explored The Four Elements with our five senses open, using poetry as a vehicle to absorb the meaning behind the assignments. Our readings and expeditions out into nature helped my classmates and I define what the different Elements of Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth meant to us as human beings and as a part of nature. As well, she created a supportive community amongst the class participants to aid our processes of self-exploration.
For me, one of the biggest take-aways from this class was keeping up the practice of what Angie calls, “small noticings” of nature, relating to these things from our five senses. What I noticed over the six weeks of classwork was that I came to a deeper sense of mindfulness and compassion. Whenever I practice this exercise now, some weeks after finishing the class, I land in the same place of quiet, mindful understanding and peace.
Let me go back and explain a bit more about the class as a means of self-exploration.
An easy example, one that we tried yet anyone can do, incorporated a Wabi Sabi approach when exploring the Earth Element. That meant we were to look at what we perceived as the “uglier” parts of the Earth, and see the “singular beauty” in small things. So I went outside and weeded, raking through the dirt and mud, observed the earthworms grinding through the leaves, all the while hearing the sounds of jays shreaking about my head. I could taste the bitter leftover coffee in my saliva; and smelled the verdant long grass as I raked its twisted, gnarly heads. In the 90-degree heat, the sweat rolled warm, down my chest in incessant drops. My awareness was heightened to see the world in a more vivid and heartfelt way, even through the difficulties and challenges of weeding my garden in the heat!
Further, this sense of wonder and engagement was broadened by our use of poetry. Angie had us try out a variety of poetic forms, like Haiku and Renga. I found that the poetry weaved into my weekly writings and “noticings” in a rather interesting way. My inner writer became looser and more watchful of deeper truths. I noticed the shift from being in a reporting mode to one of, something that I can only describe as, more spiritually connected to myself and the world and others around me. As each week progressed, I felt more at peace writing poetry that was grounded in my sensory experiences.
At the end of class, we were charged with deciding how we wanted to continue our journey with the Five Senses and the Four Elements. I chose to go out into nature once a week to continue my small noticings and be more quiet and mindful. Some weeks, I write down these noticings in detail and formulate a poem. I’d like to leave you with an excerpt of one backyard sensory noticing that allowed me to touch on my up and down health after cancer and a resultant, changed life path. This led to a free form poem, as follows:
Sometimes I think I’ve had enough ickiness
And am ready to go,
Tired of the fight to stay on top of things.
Yet, that is a transitory point of view.
Life is precious
And all experiences are a
Part of the memory box
Which becomes so full by age 67.
Believing in myself to anchor me,
Believing in something more vibrant than me
That roots me,
Believing that life is a journey of many lessons,
Brings me to that ever-present light from a singular star, pointing the way.
I breathe in the verdancy of hope.
I shine the light of sun upon my living skin.
I touch the earth’s heart with my toes.
I listen to the song of the bells chiming free.
I taste the inner peace of life within me.
And my senses are one with The Elements.
Editor’s note: This is Karen’s first blog in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.
On Sunday night, PBS will begin airing a ten-part, 18-hour series called The Vietnam War. I’m looking forward to watching it, and I’m dreading watching it.
For those of us old enough to have lived through that time, memories of the war are still painfully raw. As a country, we still argue about its lessons. In fact, there is so much controversy, we haven’t done a very good job of telling its history to younger generations.
Perhaps this television series will help correct that. No doubt, creating the documentary was a daunting task. How do you provide a window into so many conflicting perspectives? How do you bring to life so many different experiences?
PBS and the filmmakers wisely decided to open up the dialogue. They are soliciting and publishing personal narratives about the Vietnam experience from anyone with a story to tell (go to http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/vietnam-stories/ to join in). The stories have one thing in common: their diversity, in both the tellers and their experiences. There are stories of soldiers, of children who lost their fathers, of protestors, of conscientious objectors, stories of sorrow, of triumph, of loss, of courage, and more.
I’m sure the 18-hours of documentary will be instructive and often riveting. But these personal stories on the website bring an added dimension and deeper understanding of the effect the war had on us as a people. Together—the artfully crafted film by professionals and the informal heartfelt outpourings of self-appointed witnesses—paint a complicated and more complete portrait of a cataclysmic event.
TLA Blog (TLA) What inspired you to teach this class?
Sparks is a bi-monthly free tele-conference for all things TLA! Moderated by Kelly DuMar & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, this tele-conference is a great opportunity for anyone to learn more about TLA practitioners and their work in the TLA community.
When and Where:
Wednesday, September 6th
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM (CDT)
Online via Zoom video conference
(Kelly will arrive on the video conference at 6:45 p.m. CENTRAL so you can connect early & work out any glitches! You will receive links and numbers in your email after RSVPing.)
This month’s featured guest is Gregg Levoy.
Gregg is the author of Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion (Penguin), and Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life (Random House)—rated among the “Top 20 Career Publications” by the Workforce Information Group. He is also the former “behavioral specialist” at USA Today and a regular blogger for Psychology Today.
As a speaker, he has presented at the Smithsonian Institution, Environmental Protection Agency, Microsoft, National Conference on Positive Aging, American Counseling Association, National Career Development Association, and many others, and been a frequent guest of the media, including ABC-TV, CNN, NPR and PBS.
A former adjunct professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, and former columnist and reporter for USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer, he has written for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Omni, Psychology Today, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, and many others.
Format of the Gathering
- Kelly and Caryn will interview Gregg for 30 minutes
- We’ll then have 10-15 minutes to ask Gregg questions and discuss TLA, your own practice, goals, or vision.
- We’ll devote the next 15 or so minutes to the open mic poetry readings.
- You don’t need to be a member of TLAN to participate!
with Kelly DuMar
Kelly DuMar is teaching the six-week online class “Your Memoir as Monologue” starting September 6, 2017. She’s a poet, playwright and expressive arts workshop facilitator who has been a leader of new play development in the Boston area for over fifteen years. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 11th year.
What inspired you to teach this class?
I love monologues. Listening to them, helping others write them, and writing them myself. First person narratives are gripping invitations to audiences, particularly when they present a dramatic journey, and moments of survival of someone – a person, a character – who has enlisted my compassion and concern.
Don’t you love the invitation to enchantment? The theatre, darkened, the stage lit.
Whether I’m in the audience or the playwright, I’m involved and transported by possibility. The theatrical question, What if. . . is an invitation to be enlightened, and changed through storytelling.
I love helping writers tell powerful stories on the stage – particularly those whose voices
and stories have been unheard, silenced, trivialized or marginalized. Eleven years ago, I founded a play festival, Our Voices, for new and experienced women playwrights to have a uniquely supportive place to develop their stories for the stage. Our Voices is an all day play lab that has supported nearly 150 women playwrights to develop plays with actors and directors. I love how one participant last year describes her experience in Our Voices, because she nails why writing monologues based on life experience can be so validating:
“Writing is my solace and joy, coming to me in bursts of laughter or darkness. I have stories to tell yet, at times, I shrink from sharing, doubting my own voice. Through more workshops and conversation, I hope to strengthen that confidence in my point of view and reinvigorate the process to write the things I don’t yet dare to consider.”
How is writing for the page different from writing for the stage?
Collaboration with other artists is illuminating, joyful, and challenging – and writing for the stage requires it. Sitting day to day at one’s desk can be lonely. But writing for the stage invites us into a theatre – a rehearsal, into a relationship with actors, directors, and audiences. Here’s what an Our Voices participant shared about writing for the stage:
“One of the things I love most about writing plays is the possibility of witnessing one’s words and dramatic vision come alive on stage.”
Writing monologues for the stage makes the healing power of writing visible, visceral and accessible – not just for the playwright, but the audience as well. People are so amazingly resilient! Writing monologues for the stage is a natural way to find out how resilient you are – and sharing what you write inspires other people to feel hopeful and resilient.
What are some of your favorite dramatic monologues?
My favorite is definitely Emily Webb’s “Goodbye,” monologue in Thornton Wilder’s classic play, Our Town. What moves me in a dramatic monologue is when a character goes on a compelling emotional journey and takes me with her – she begins in one place and ends in another – she’s more awakened, and so am I. Watch these Youtube videos of two different performances of the Emily Webb role – the first is from a movie:
Here’s the same monologue in a recording of a stage performance:
What can students in this class expect?
We need spaces where we can give ourselves permission to un-silence our deepest truths and most authentic self. In Memoir as Monologue, I facilitate a safe, supportive, healing environment for writers to tap into their deep feelings and beliefs and find the courage and skill to share them for personal growth and craft them for performance. Participants can expect to express ordinary and extraordinary life experiences, and feelings and construct powerful, dramatic stories with universal appeal.
Kelly DuMar, M.Ed., C.P., is a poet, playwright and expressive arts workshop facilitator who has been a leader of new play development in the Boston area for over fifteen years. Kelly founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 11th year, and she teaches playwriting at the International Women’s Writing Guild. Kelly’s award-winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by Brooklyn,Heuer, Youth Plays, and Smith & Kraus Audition Anthologies. She’s author of a non-fiction book, Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, and two poetry and prose chapbooks, All These Cures and Tree of the Apple. She’s a certified psychodramatist and a playback theatre artist. Kelly is honored to serve on the board of The International Women’s Writing Guild and the TLAN Council, and she moderates SPARKS: a bi-monthly teleconference where she interviews a notable TLA practitioner and leads an open mic. You can learn more at kellydumar.com
Praise for Kelly’s Monologue & Playwriting Workshops
“Memoir as Monologue taught me the power of my own story. Kelly’s guidance on creating effective drama, her concrete feedback on improving my work, the nurturing environment she created for participants and the excellent resources she brought to the table opened a whole new world for me. This was one of the most effective online classes I’ve taken.”
“Kelly provided excellent resources, offered valuable, timely feedback, sought our feedback as the course progressed and created a nurturing atmosphere. The opportunity to both write and hone monologues and then hear our work performed by a professional actress exceeded my expectations of the class. I learned the freedom monologues offer in contrast to writing.”
“[I learned] better ways to approach monologue than the ways I’d been trying; liked that I cracked open a tough nut of a story in a new way, identifying the core problem Narrator needed to solve (which was different from the problem she was trying to solve).”
“Thank you so much for guiding us all into a most wondrous experience . . . and your attentive intelligence in keeping us on track and focused as each shared and bared depths.”
“Your class was awesome, inspiring and so very insightful. What gifts you bring and give. Thank you!”
“Your memoir-to-monologue class has inspired a whole new project. Thank you. And thanks to my classmates. I learned so much from each of you.”
“Thank you for creating such a collaborative atmosphere of mutual support.”