Saturated Selfies: Intentional & Intense Photography and Writing with Angie River

1916582_10208096803279557_8139095001714800862_nAngie River is teaching a new online class for the TLA Network, “Saturated Selfies: Intentional and Intense Photography and Writing,” April 13 – May 10. This four-week class that you can do from anywhere in the world on your own time (want to write at 2 a.m. in your pj’s? you can!) is a wonderful vehicle for exploring identity in image and words as well as a new view on selfies as its own emerging art form. As Angie writes, “In photography, the term ‘saturation’ is used to describe the intensity of colors. This course will investigate our intense, colorful, and amazing life through a combination of photography (specifically, selfies) and writing.”
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Over a year ago, you taught a very beloved classes on selfies, combining writing and photography, so we invited you to develop a new way to continue that dialogue between self, image and words. What led you to bring the concept of saturation into this exploration to help people better understand our lives and stories?
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Angie River: When invited to do another selfie class, I began pondering photography terminology and the ways that various terms relate not to just images but also to writing and to life. The term ‘saturation’ came to mind, which in photography has to do with the definition between and intensity of colors. This term really struck me though, as our lives can be beautifully ‘saturated’ too, where we have soaked up so much into them that we are ready to overflow. My desire for this class is to use selfies and writing to explore just how much beauty we have in our lives, and in our selves.
CMG: We live in a culture, as you describe in your class description, where selfies are rampant but also seen as “silly at best and at worst narcissistic.” Why do you work with the selfie as the core of this class, and how can we use selfies to go beyond silly or narcissistic?

12631307_10208270067931065_6323963300978360194_nAR: I use the selfie because I feel it is a tool to help us better know and understand ourselves, as well as to present to the world a narrative that we have created. Many would agree that it is often easier to process emotions or thoughts or events once they are written down and ‘out of your head’ on the paper. I believe the same can be said for selfies; when we take photos of ourselves and our lives and then look at them, it helps us to see from a new perspective. Just as a poem or a blog post can be used to process something and share it with the world, a selfie can too. I think selfies are often viewed as silly or narcissistic because we’re taking pictures of ourselves, sharing them on the Internet often, and getting joy out of the ‘likes’ and comments we get! However, there is a lot to be said about the way that selfies help us to write our own stories and present ourselves the way we wish others to see us, which is especially powerful for marginalized populations.

CMG: You combine writing and photography in this class. What can that combination do to give us greater perspective, freedom, and vision?

AR: I believe it is powerful anytime we combine more than one art form! The reason I choose both of these forms of creativity though is that they interact so nicely together, one visual and one word-based. I personally enjoy using writing to reflect on visual works. This allows both ourselves as creators, and whatever audience may see the pieces, to have a visual piece (which may be abstract, or at first glance just look like any other ‘selfie’) further explained and explored in the writing. I think of the Japanese Haiga, which combines a haiku with a piece of visual art; the two are supposed to work together to communicate a message that is greater than if either the poem or the artwork was standing alone. It is my hope that the combination of selfies with writing will do the same in this class.

CMG: Tell us about your own evolution as a transformative language artist, and how you’ve explored many aspects of the self through writing, film, movement, dance, performance, and stories (and other arts).
AR: My own journey as a transformative language artist is ever changing and growing! selfI started out as a poet and working with incarcerated youth to write about their feelings. I am still very much a poet, thoroughly enjoying writing as a means to explore and process the world both external and internal. However, I’m also discovering so many more ways that I really love to experience creativity and transformative language arts. I am a performer, and have been using both burlesque and performance art (including video) as a means to challenge societal norms and ask questions of the audience. One of my favorite things to do in shows is a combination of performance and poetry, in which I have audience members answer a question or respond to a prompt in writing, and I then create a performance poem out of their answers. Now, in the past year or so, I’ve been also using the selfie as a form of transformative language arts. In addition to these TLAN classes, I’m also documenting my journey as a disabled person though the healthcare system using selfies and Instagram (you can look for my disability-related photos by searching for #sickfemmeglam). One of the things I love about transformative language arts is how versatile it is. I simply love all the new things I’m discovering!
CMG: I love hearing about all that you’re discovering too, and how you keep turning your treasures into treasures for us too. Thank you so much for offering this class as well as the other superb classes you offered on selfies and writing through chronic illness.
AR: I really look forward to this class! I appreciate the Transformative Language Arts Network allowing me this opportunity to explore selfies again, in a new way. I can’t wait to meet all those going on this newest journey with me, and to see and read about all your saturated lives!
Angie River is a writer, educator, activist, and performance artist, as well as a lover of selfies! She has taught writing workshops and done performances in various states across the country, and is published in “Tidepools Literary Magazine,” “Reading for Hunger Relief,” The Body is Not an Apology webpage, and the upcoming anthology “Queering Sexual Violence,” as well as having her own blog (https://nittygrittynakedness.wordpress.com/) and zines. Angie fully believes in the power of art to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change.  All photos in this interview are Angie’s selfies.
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Watch “Hush in the Room,” Regi Carpenter’s Tedx Talk

Storyteller Regi Carpenter speaking at TEDxChemungRiver 2015 in Corning, New York talks about what she’s learned through work with sick and dying children and the power of our stories. Watch her Tedx Talk here.

Check out Regi’s upcoming class for the TLA Network — Living Out Loud: Healing Through Storytelling and Writing — here. This online class allows you to explore writing, storytelling and healing on your own time in a support community. Scroll down for a recent interview with Regi to learn more.

Living Out Loud: An Interview with Regi Carpenter

964428_472055702879249_308558429_oRegi Carpenter is soon to teach an online class for the TLA Network called “Living Out Loud: Healing Through Writing and Storytelling.” The class will take participants on a journey through writing and storytelling toward greater gifts in finding and keeping our true voices. Here’s a short interview Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg did with Regi about the class:

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (CMG): What catalyzed you to design this online class? 

Regi Carpenter (RC)IMG_0946: I taught another online class for TLAN last year and absolutely loved it. IN fact, several of the people from that class have become friends and co-collaborators. So when the opportunity to do another class came around, I was eager to do it. This time I want to create a class that allows people to hear, speak and listen to the power of their inner voice and their speaking voice. As a storyteller I know how powerful the spoken word can be. I want to help other artists discover their power  when they give they give voice to their creativity.

CMG: What can participants expect in this class?

We can all expect to grow, to share, to experiment, to take risks and to learn how to witness other people’s creativity in a fun, stimulating and supportive environment.We can also expect to learn how to listen to and voice our creative works out loud.

CMG: How did you learn more about finding the courage to live out loud, and what does living out loud look like in your life?

RC: This is a good question. Although I have been a performer since my twenties I think I used performing as a way of shielding myself from true intimacy and sharing. I used it as a way to be LOUD!!! Over the last decade I have been focusing on removing the affectations of performing in order to truly share myself with my listeners or readers. I am most interested in being present, being aware and available to my creativity and to the creativity of others. Now the Living Out Loud means being willing to share and speak who I am and what I yearn and long for and celebrate out loud rather than hiding behind a piece of paper, a costume or a mask.

CMG: What do you see as the connection between personal courage and callings, and how we interface (or could interface) with our communities, justice, and larger social change?

RC: I believe living according to one’s convictions is a powerful and liberating place to experience life. When we have the courage to truly be ourselves and serve others through our work we can change our lives and the lives of others. I believe it also allows us to connect with others who are unlike ourselves and see compassionately into their lives and experiences. In this way, we set aside socially constructed barriers and create authentic communities and friendships and families that serve all rather than some.

CMG: How does someone find and keep the courage to live out loud?

RC: I am reminded of Dr. Seuss’ book “Horton Hears a Who.” Cindy Lou Who shouts out, “I am here. I am here. I am here. I am here,” and ” A person’s a person no matter how small.”We get the courage to be ourselves one step, one word, one sentence, one choice, one moment at a time. Living out loud isn’t a faucet that suddenly spouts water powerful. It begins as a trickle that grow into a stream and finally a steady river with a course and a power all its own. We get courage by being ourselves and sharing that self with others no matter how weird, funny or painful that may be.

Regi Carpenter is an internationally known spoken word artist, author and educator. She has been performing her stories of small town life in northern New York for over twenty years. A featured teller at many festivals throughout the United States she conducts workshops and classes fro people of all ages who want to learn to write and tell stories from their own lives. Her book, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood will be published by Familius Publishing in Sept. 2016. Regi also teaches storytelling at Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY.

 

Taina Asili Pens a Black Lives Matter Anthem

meTaina Asili, a long-time Transformative Language Artist and activist singer-songwriter, just wrote and recorded a powerful anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Featured in the online news source mic.com, Taina shares a video of her song “Freedom.” She writes from experience, as the article states:

As the daughter and sister of two formerly incarcerated Afro-Puerto Rican men, musician Taina Asili has also been an activist involved in the prisoner justice movement for years. In attempt to proliferate the messages of equality and justice, Asili recently released a powerful new song and accompanying music video, “Freedom,” which features Black Lives Matter and prisoner justice activists in an attempt to invigorate and support their work.

She wrote the song in response to the Black Lives Matters movement after being inspired by Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. “Freedom” builds on the musical legacy left to her from her parents, and was filmed in her home community of Albany, New York, an important stop on the Underground Railroad. It also features Michael Reyes.

See the video here:

Taina graduated from Goddard College with a MA in Transformation Language Arts. A longtime touring artist with her band, Y La Banda Rebelde, Taina is “carrying on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing past and present struggles into one soulful and defiant voice” (from TainaAsili.com). Learn more about her tips for activists keeping healthy and engaged in this post, and more about Taina’s study and work while at Goddard here. Taina has been a featured performer at several of the TLA Network’s Power of Words conferences over the years, bringing big crowds to their feet and onto the dance floor. Learn more about Taina, listen to her music, and watch her videos here.

“Music Allowed Me to Be Myself”: Interview with Kelley Hunt

Kelley Hunt OM6_edited_2[8]Kelley Hunt is a rhythm and blues singer who has six critically-acclaimed CDs to her credit, including the recent award-winning The Beautiful Bones. Her previous CDs include Gravity Loves You, Mercy, New Shade of Blue, Kelley Hunt, and Inspiration. She regularly tours the U.S. and Canada with her band, performing at blues and jazz festivals, on television and radio shows, in movies, and at concerts in a variety of venues, including currently on the Blues Cruise. She has been featured many times on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion” as well as at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. She also regularly leads workshops on blues piano, songwriting, and singing, and she collaborates regularly with other writers and artists, including Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, with whom she offers Brave Voice writing and singing workshops and performances.. She also composes for film and various projects. The TLA Network is thrilled that Kelley will be teaching an online class, “Soulful Songwriting: How to Begin, Collaborate, and Finish Your Song” Feb. 14 – Mar. 13. Here is an interview excerpted from The Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Have you always known that you needed to make music?

Kelley Hunt: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that. My first memories of myself as a child involved music, either hearing my mother or my father, or hearing music in the house when I was just a tiny little kid. I never questioned it and the people in my family never questioned it.

CMG: More than anyone I know, you play in many genres at once. What gives?

KH: I think a common thread runs through all of them that has to do with my development as a person. It also has to do with what I was exposed to as a child and what I chose to surround myself with that gave me comfort when I was growing up. So instead of trying to put some kind of censor on myself and think, I’ll just do this style or that, a few years ago, I made a conscious decision to not be conscious of the style and simply let happen what was going to happen, knowing it was going to be unique to me, and also fully understanding it would be incorporate a lot of things. And that’s when my music and creativity opened up, when I took the fences off from the different styles and quit separating them.

CMG: One of the styles that you do, gospel, speaks to a spiritual center and yet I hear that in so many of your songs. Is singing and writing songs part of your own spiritual practice?

Kelley with Mavis Staples

Kelley with Mavis Staples

KH: Yes, I think it’s the major part. It’s also a reflection of things that fed me as a young child and as a young woman. My grandma sang gospel and spiritual music, my mother and father, and especially my mother sang in church so when I was very, very young, like two, I had a memory of watching my mother be the entire choir in the little church I was in. It wasn’t so much about saving souls but about the music she was doing, and the style was gospel. As a little kid, I thought that’s what you do, it’s the no bullshit approach, it’s celebratory because she absolutely exposed herself, tears coming down her face, smiling and very unguarded in her music. I found that endearing.

CMG: Who wouldn’t? Where else did you learn about music and community?

KH: I also saw my mother in different settings sing different styles of music, and I would observe the people that were observing her, and see how moved they were, and seeing what she put out that moved them somehow that wasn’t about the music but what she did. Even as a young child, I realized how moving that was for other people, like a direct line to somebody’s soul.

CMG: Kelley, you grew up in Emporia, Kansas which is what we might call a medium-sized town in a small town state.

KH: I think it was 18,000 people when I grew up there.10177906_867454999967647_2102425794278092792_n

CMG: What was the role of music in both community and identity when you were growing up?

KH: Well, I’d say, interestingly enough, it had a very strong role in the school system that I was in. There was a lot of singing, dancing, music from other cultures that was brought in (like part of learning Spanish), but I had exceptional teachers in junior high and especially in high school in singing. I was bored a lot – there wasn’t a whole lot going on in my world or anyone else’s – so I tended to get involved in singing in school choir, church choir, rocket adult choir. And in my home, it was music all the time, mom singing, my parents’ friends coming over and playing music – they all played music. My older sister sang and wrote songs, my brother was singing in a choir in junior high, and there were records and radio always. I woke up in the morning and my mom would be downstairs with the radio going on, playing the hits of the day, and when I came home from school, she always had music playing in the house. It was something for me to do with my time, a way for me to be unique. In a lot of ways I didn’t fit in — I wasn’t the blue eyed, blond hair Kansas girl. But when, although I was really shy about it for a long time, the cat was out of the bag, and I played in a talent show with a guitar and singing, I realized I was only one doing this. Music allowed me to be myself.

CMG: It seems like music also allowed you to convey where you come from, such as in songs like “Rose’s,” which is about the corner grocery store in your town, and “Queen of the 88s,” famously about the woman who taught you to boogie-woogie. You’ve used your songwriting to keep some of that life going on.

KH: I hadn’t thought about that, but because it’s so meaningful to me and helped me make some choices in my life and helped form who I am. There’s something very dear and limiting about growing up in a small town. My choice was to leave that town, but I think I’ve written about the things that meant the most to me in one form or another.

CMG: I’ve also noticed that a lot of your songs celebrate the essence of being alive. What’s happening between you and the page and piano when you write?

KH: I lose my sense of time when I’m writing. I get very energized, I get really focused and excited, and three hours can go by and it feels like ten minutes. There are days when ten minutes go by and feels like three hours but more often than not, I’m very energized by it. Sometimes I have to work on songs a long time, and sometimes I finish them quickly, and sometimes I go back to them a year later. But when I really feel like a song in done, and I have some investment in that song, often I immediately take it to a performance setting just to see how it flies. When I take (a song) to an audience, I have a preliminary experience of taking it to a band and fleshing out arrangement, which can be real exciting or put a big damper on the song if it isn’t working. My intention is when 154475_150872431625911_150871691625985_242996_6281305_nI’m writing to write something well, and if not, let it go.

CMG: One thing that I find particularly unique about your process is that you write songs with so many people. You collaborate constantly. Why?

KH: I didn’t do that for most of my adult life. I only recently started co-writing in the last four years, three years. I used to be very adverse to it; in fact I turned down an incredible songwriter – I turned him down for seven years, the head of the gospel songwriting division at Universal. When I really took a hard look at why I was turning down these opportunities, I realized it was about fear, fear about being unequal, fear of sounding silly. I was just afraid. I wasn’t ready so it was good I didn’t do it until I was ready. I was scared to death and now when I do it (co-writing), I realize it’s not going to work with everybody, but I’m going to grow form the experience in one way or another.

CMG: One other thing I wanted to ask is how you sustain yourself when keeping yourself employed full-time as a performer, and keeping a whole band employed and being on the road so much under so much pressure with all those guys.

KH: That’s been a real process for me over the years, always surrounded by men in my work with occasional women writers or performers. I have to really work at it. I need time by myself to be quiet, I try to eat healthy food, I drink an ocean of water, and I do a lot of reading that is positive, uplifting, interesting. We call our tour bus the book mobile because I always show up with five to six books, books that inspire me, that feed my emotional/spiritual female self. I feel like I have to work keeping my attention and thought process in a healthy place. It’s easy to get discouraged when physically fatigued, easy to go to that bitter place of “why am I not wealthy and debt free when working as hard as many people?” It’s a conscious focus to take care of myself, also keep in touch with women friends and family…and find pockets of time alone.

CMG: It takes a lot of courage to do what you do, to live the dream without any holding back

KH: (laughter) Well, I think there’s some courage involved, there’s strong will involved, there’s some audacity involved, and there’s just some insanity involved. There’s a big price, or has been, almost as if I’m driven to it and have to do it. It’s a blessing and curse but more often it’s a blessing, it’s my choice, but then again, I can’t see doing anything else.

CMG: I’ve found your concerts to be deep exchanges, soul to soul. What’s happening for you when you perform that you can give so much, so vibrantly to the audience?

KH: I feel as though I’m in my element, it’s my joy, it’s what energizes me, and if I’m lucky – and although this doesn’t happen all the time – my day has been spent preparing for that burst of energy. I’ve been quiet, I’ve been restful in whatever ways I can on the road. Sometimes I’m out there when I’m sick, sometimes when I’ve just had an upsetting incident when I walking out, but generally what happens is that once I’ve began the process of playing and performing, it lifts me up. It has a lot to do with the audience. I feel very part of the audience – I don’t feel separate from them – and we’re all participating in this event. I just feel like I’m in my element. I know how to prepare, to be present and do that job. That’s what I’m here for.

CMG: If you were talking to yourself 20 years ago, what advice would you share?

KH: I’d say, listen to your intuition more. I’d say, don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy your gifts and spread them around.

CMG: And one more question – especially considering the very political songs you’ve been writing of late – what’s the role of music and social change for you?

KH: A lot has to do with personal growth. When you’re aware of what’s happening, and it becomes important to you, and you’re ready to say something about it in public, then it’s time to do that. Many times – in all of our history in music and politics – music has played an important role. When commentary needed to be had, it could be out in the song and out in the world, like in the work of Woody Guthrie. A lot of my songs tell a story, but it’s not necessarily a conscious decision to say, “here’s a political song,” yet because of something that’s been on my mind, it comes out in my work. It can take a bit of courage to do that out in the world – it won’t always be well-received. A good song doesn’t necessarily need to beat you over the head, but a good political song will last forever.

“Your Memoir as Monologue” and the Creative Life with Kelly DuMar

kelly_new_head-copy-225x300Kelly DuMar – who is teaching the online class “Your Memoir as Monologue” starting Jan. 4 —  is a poet, playwright and expressive arts workshop facilitator who loves leading new and experienced writers through dynamic writing exercises and meaningful sharing that leave you feeling engaged, intrigued and surprised by the depth of your experience. Her 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 also author of a non-fiction book, Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, and a chapbook, All These Cures. Kelly has been a leader of new play development in the Boston area for over a decade, and she founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 10th year.  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 TLA Council, and she facilitates Let’s Talk TLA, a bi-monthly teleconference where she interviews a notable TLA practitioner. Here’s a brief interview she did with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (CMG): What inspired you to put together this class?

Kelly DuMar (KD): Ten years ago, I founded a play festival for women playwrights. Not just experienced playwrights, but also inviting women who might never have written anything for the stage before. Since then, Our Voices has grown from an evening of staged readings of Boston area women playwrights to a day-long workshop which has supported nearly a hundred women playwrights to develop plays with actors and directors. Every year, I wake up the day after producing Our Voices and think – it can’t get better than this one. Every year, as they’re saying goodnight, the playwrights tell me I must be super exhausted, but I’m not tired. I’m so filled with energy after this jam-packed twelve-hour day. I didn’t spend energy, I created it. Producing Our Voices lets me spend my day listening to women show and tell their unique stories as creatively as they can in a safe, supportive environment. 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.”

CMG: How would this class potentially benefit students?

KD: We need to re-learn how to be playful as adults. In my training as a creative arts counselor, I discovered the healing power of imagination. I saw how the joy and power of dramatic play could help people heal, grow and change.  The dynamic skills I learned and practiced as a psychotherapist have helped me grow as a creative writer and I use them to help writers of all kinds. My workshops involve unique, playful, surprising ways to evoke storytelling. I believe workshop experiences should be safe places for self-expression where feedback is non-judgmental and encouraging.

Kelly at the Power of Words conference while Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, ronda Miller, Teri Grunthaner, and Seema Reza look on

Kelly at the Power of Words conference while Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, ronda Miller, Teri Grunthaner, and Seema Reza look on.

It’s empowering to believe we’re creative. I grew up thinking I wasn’t creative and wishing I was. It was only when I took risks to get out of my comfort zone that I opened the door to a creative life. So many people think they aren’t creative, but everyone is. Creative energy gets blocked for a lot of reasons. It can be unblocked pretty easily in a playful, fail-safe environment.

The healing power of writing is real and accessible. People are so amazingly resilient! Writing is a natural way to find out how resilient you are – and sharing what you write inspires other people to feel hopeful and resilient.

We need support to grow as writers. A creative life is risky business, and every writer needs a support system to thrive. I wrote my first short play when I was forty years old without any guidance. I soon found a playwriting group in Boston, Playwrights’ Platform. I was afraid to open my mouth for the first few meetings, but Playwrights’ Platform soon hurled me into writing, critiquing, directing and producing plays and theatre festivals. Our small first steps can have a big impact.

Collaboration is rewarding, and writing for the stage requires it. Writing can be lonely. Writing for the stage gets us away from our desk, into a theatre, and into a collaborative 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. So much more gratifying than slogging alone through a three hundred page novel.”

CMG: How has doing this practice helped you develop your art of words, and a better sense of how to live meaningfully?

KD: 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.

CMG: What do you love most about this work?

KD: The invitation to enchantment. The theatre, darkened, the stage lit. Whether I’m in the audience or behind the scenes, I’m involved and transported by possibility. The theatrical question explored, What if. . . is my invitation to change others and be change myself, through storytelling.

CMG: How did you find your way into your TLA passions?

Kelly at THEATRE EXPO 2015KD: As a psychodramatist and playback theatre artist, playwright and poet, I naturally gravitate to making connections with other writer/artists/helpers. Psychodrama is the most powerful method I’ve encountered of helping people use imagination to grow. I grew up writing and wanting to be a writer, but chose to pursue graduate school as a “helper” instead. Soon, my training in psychodrama gave me access to my imagination, and it was only then, I feel, that I really began writing what I call my truth and beauty.

Find out more about Your Memoir as Monologue: How to Create Dynamic Dramatic Monologues About Healing and Transformation for Performance at http://tlanetwork.org. Special holiday discount if registered by 1/1/16.

The Five Senses and the Four Elements: Connecting with the Body and Nature Through Poetry with Angie River

10999971_10207183679692038_1273670405101342328_nAngie River is a writer, educator, activist, and performance artist who is teaching a dynamic online class for the TLA Network, “The Five Senses and the Four Elements: Connecting with the Body and Nature Through Poetry.” She has taught writing workshops and done performances in various states across the country, and is published in “Tidepools Literary Magazine,” “Reading for Hunger Relief,” The Body is Not an Apology webpage, and the upcoming anthology “Queering Sexual Violence,” as well as having her own blog (https://nittygrittynakedness.wordpress.com/) and zines. Angie fully believes in the power of writing to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Special discount for registering for the class by the end of the year!

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: What inspired you to put together this class?

1796496_10207655113717594_91051899620670155_nAngie River: I have always enjoyed the experience of writing in and about nature. In my undergraduate work, I took a class from a wonderful professor, Bruce Goebel, who talked about incorporating “small noticings” into our poetry, and as a foundation for our writing. Being able to see the world through these small noticings has impacted how I experience the world. More recently, in doing reading and work around mental and emotional well-being, I learned a very helpful grounding technique in which you notice, using each of your senses, something in your environment. Reflecting on these things I was moved to put together this class, in which participants will practice “small noticings” using each of their senses, in various realms of nature, and then incorporate those into their writing

CMG: This sounds like a splendid way to help students open up their writing to greater vitality. How else do you see this class speaking to people’s lives?

AR: Not only will this class help students enhance their writing, but I think that it will also enable them to practice being present in the world in the small moments. This can be a vital practice when living in a fast-paced and often overwhelming world. Personally, I have found the practice of slowing down and intentionally noticing the details around me to reduce my anxiety and help me ground myself. I hope that students will experience something similar through their practices in this class.

CMG: Tell us more about how this practice has helped you and can help others develop their art of words, and a better sense of how to live meaningfully.

AR: The act of slowing dow11990506_10207375504847547_952140599183553748_nn, using all of my senses, and paying attention to the various elements of nature and the world around me has helped me to be more detailed in my writing. It has also allowed me to connect more to myself and better understand the way I move through this world, which translates to me being able to write more grounded and personal poetry and narratives.

CMG: What do you love most about the practice of writing?

AR: There are two main things I love about writing: the ability to transform often jumbled thoughts into meaningful art, and the ways in which writing connects me to others. 

CMG: How did you find your way into your TLA passions?

AR: I didn’t know it was TLA at the 11025859_10205844721218913_2721645719349275530_otime, but I’ve been writing since the 4th grade. For me, writing has always been an outlet where I could express the ways I felt and the things I thought. For me, as a very shy child and teen, this was essential. Without writing I don’t know how I would have managed my difficult times. The same holds true today; I write to heal, to process events in my life, to connect with my self and others, and to further experience the world around me. My love for writing transformed into a love also for performance poetry, which then transformed into a love for performance in general. My Transformative Language Arts practices have done just that – transformed me! Because of the huge impact writing, poetry, and performance have had on my life, I try to share these passions with others as much as possible.

Learn more about Angie’s online class here.

The Milky Way Woman, and Poetry to Navigate Love and Suicide: Ronda Miller

11225999_10204626047072760_6405884939243296052_nNovember of 2010 found me touring the state of Kansas with our then poet laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and several other poets from around the state. The objective was to save the arts, especially poetry, in Kansas, and to take poetry to all corners of the state. I’d written a poem about my Mother’s suicide a couple of years previously. That in and of itself was huge as she died when I was three and at 55 I was finally able to begin talking about her.

Our group of poets had been given an extremely warm welcome throughout the small communities in which we read. Garden City was especially welcoming. Poets often outnumbered their audience, so we were surprised to find ourselves reading at a lovely old theater that had numerous seats filled with enthusiast audience members. I was nervous since I was a relative newbie and could count the readings I had done previously on one hand.

10622328_10202616472794659_1329351779_nIt wasn’t until that night in Garden City that I realized I would read the poem I had written about my Mother’s suicide, “The Milky Way Woman.” As I stood on the theater stage, I remembered that it was National Suicide Prevention Day, so I explained to the audience that I expect a lot from my coaching clients. The majority of them have lost someone to homicide. I give them challenges and expect them to talk about hard topics and emotions.

I began to read my poem out loud for the first time. A most unusual thing happened as I spoke the words. My voice became louder, more powerful, and I stood taller, felt lighter. Several people came up to me following my reading to give me a hug and to share a personal story of their own losses. Words: they take us across the state of Kansas, perhaps across the Universe. The following is the poem I read that evening.

The Milky Way Woman

Ronda's mother

Ronda’s mother

When I was three
and you sent me out
to play in the snow
while you put a bullet
through your heart,
I did not cry.
I curled into a ball
and closed my eyes.
That night when Daddy
came and said,
“Look up into the sky,
you’ll see your mommy’s
face in the stars,”
I did not look.
I did not want to see
your face so far away
and so small.
But now I’m grown,
with children of my own,
I want to stand on the edge
of the Milky Way with you
hand in hand,
When The Milky Way Woman
gives the command,
you and I will make
that leap together.
Wait for me.

Ronda Miller is a life coach who specializes in coaching those who have lost someone to homicide. Her body of work includes two books of poetry, Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books in 2015) a poetry CD, “View from Smoky Hill: It’s Kansas!” and a documentary, “The 150th Reride of The Pony Express.”  Her novel, Girl Who Lives in a Glass Bowl, and memoir, Gun Memories of The Stone Eyed Cold Girl, should be released in 2016. She is district 2 President of Kansas Authors Club, previous KAC state poetry contest manager, 2011 – 2015, and state VP of KAC as of 2015.

We’re Having Powerful Conversations – Will you Join us on Let’s Talk TLA?

Were you at our Power of Words Conference this year? Our annual conference brings us into deep conversation and exploration once a year. If you made it or missed it, Let’s Talk TLA is one way of staying connected by creating powerful conversations all year round. Whether it’s in person or over the phone, as members of TLAN, when we do meet, we instantly have a powerful conversation. Why? Because we belong to an artistic community grounded in words.

Call in on Wed., Oct. 28, 8-9 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. CST/ 6 p.m. MST/ 5 p.m. PST. Let’s Talk TLA! Free Phone Conference Q&A and Poetry Open Mic with Kelly DuMar and her special guest, Callid Keefe-Perry, educator, minister, advocate for the arts, TLAN Council Chair, and POW 2016 Keynoter. Let’s Talk TLA is free and open to the public, and you can join from your by phone by calling 1-857-232-0155, code #885077.

We love language and the expressive power of the written word.

We love singing, speaking, and writing to help and heal, ourselves, and others.

We Can Learn From Each Other All Year Long

As individual artists and healers, we have unique ideas and experiences to share about how we use words to change ourselves and the world. And Let’s Talk TLA is our bi-monthly, long distance way to connect and discover the fascinating, life-changing ways that other TLA artists are applying this passion for words in their own communities. Let’s Talk TLA Blog October 2015

Our October Let’s Talk TLA conversation will feature Callid Keefe-Perry, someone essential to TLAN for many years, who was unable to attend Power of Words conference this year. Callid is our TLAN Chair and 2016 Keynote speaker, an educator, minister, and advocate for the arts who is based in Boston, MA. As my interview guest for Let’s Talk TLA free teleconference on October 28, this is your chance to have a powerful conversation with him – wherever you live. Callid’s focus during the call will be on his passion and concern for the state of arts in our educational system. The title for his talk is: The Imagination in Public Education: Learning Ourselves into Boredom.

If you have not yet had a chance to join us, the format of our teleconference is that I will interview Callid for 20 minutes about his practice of TLA and his concern for the arts in public education. Listeners on the call will then have about 15 minutes to ask questions of Callid & discuss TLA, your own practice, goals, or vision. There’s more.

A Writing Life Can Be Lonely – At TLAN, It Doesn’t Have to Be

Another essential element of Let’s Talk TLA is to create an opportunity for those of us who are writing poetry to share our work with each other in an impromptu poetry open mic. Whether you’re reading your poetry aloud for the first time, or you’re a seasoned reader, this is a chance to share your writing in the supportive presence of appreciative listeners. It’s a remarkably fun and moving experience. As one recent participated said:

Great phone call last night. Thanks for providing this to us. . .

I really enjoyed hearing the interview with Laura and the lovely poetry after.

Learned a lot, as well. Thanks again to all involved.

So, On Oct. 28, at 8 p.m. Eastern, bring your questions for Callid about how he uses Transformative Language Arts to advocate for arts in education, and an original poem for the open mic. I look forward to the powerful conversation we’ll create with each other!

If You Can’t Make the Call – You Can Listen to the Podcast!

We’re recording our calls to make them available all year long to members. So, in case you missed our last call with storyteller and coach Laura Packer about Creating Your Sustainable Story: How to Pursue Meaningful, Creative Work as a Business. Click here to listen in!

About Callid Keefe-Perry: Callid is a husband, father, and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers working toward his PhD in Theological Studies at Boston University’s School of Theology. His work focuses on the intersection of imagination, spirituality, and creative practice in education. He is the author of Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer and one of the founding members of the journal, THEOPOETICS. He currently serves as the Chairperson of the Board for the Transformative Language Arts Network and he is one of the co-hosts of the progressive Christian podcast, Homebrewed Christianity.  You can learn more about him on his website, http://callidkeefeperry.com

Let’s Talk TLA Blog October 2015-1About Kelly DuMar: Kelly is the membership chair of TLAN and a poet, playwright, and creative writing workshop facilitator from the Boston area. Her award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. She’s author of a non-fiction book, Before You Forget – The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, her poems are published in many literary magazines, and her award-winning poetry chapbook, “All These Cures,” was published by Lit House Press in 2014. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 10th year. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist and a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and psychodrama, a board member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, and a member of Playback North America, You can learn more about her at http://www.kellydumar.com

Imagine Yourself a Place of Unsurpassed Beauty: The Power of Words Conference on the Coast of Maine

img_13241-cropped-belownav-cropped-photoDeb Hensley and Martin Swinger, the dynamic duo co-chairing the Power of Words conference, Aug. 12-14 at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, share this invitation to our 13th annual conference. Read on, and register by Nov. 15 to catch the super early bird rate. Find out more and register here.

Imagine yourself a place. Imagine a chair on a wide porch next to a beach where you bask in the afternoon sun. Imagine a morning walk through a grove of sunlit trees. Imagine joining brilliant vocal improvisation sessions under a bright moon, filling yourself with poetry, storytelling around a campfire and choosing from 25 workshops on the transformative 3058162_origpower of the written, spoken and sung word.

Imagine a loving community of people, healthy, delicious food, good coffee, lots of music, time for reflection and an after dinner frolic in the surf. Imagine Ferry Beach on the coast of Maine at the Power of Words Conference, August 12-14, 2016.

I don’t know which excites me more, this fabulous conference we’re putting together or the amazing place where we are holding it. With world renowned Vocal Improv Artist and Activist, Rhiannon, Award 8117810_origwinning Poet and Author Seema Reza, Afrilacian Storyteller Lyn Ford and Quaker Minister, author and educator Callid Keefe-Perry as our keynoters, this conference promises to embody spontaneity, humor, comfort and joy. And what could be more a more gorgeous location to gather singers, poets, authors, activists, and a host of other transformative language artists than a coastal paradise only 20 minutes from the Portland International Jetport?

Ferry Beach is a retreat community with 900 feet of beachfront in Saco, Maine offering respite away from the everyday world. It is a collection of meeting spaces, wide porches, an art and pottery studio, an outdoor chapel, a performance space, many gathering places and a wonderful dining hall.2459481_orig

It is a place of unsurpassed beauty where you will experience the joy of community, challenge assumptions, celebrate, reimagine, and commit your own language artistry to nothing less than global transformation. It is a place for renewal and rejuvenation where a small but mighty group of all ages and races, for one glorious weekend in August of 2016, will lovingly and boldly explore the Power of Words. I’ll be there! You?

See more about Ferry Beach right here.