Eviction Notice, by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the fourth post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification. You can find her earlier posts here.


Until 2013, I had never written or read a performance piece. I had read poetry frequently at the peace vigils of Brandywine Peace Community, a local Philadelphia area antiwar group. In fact, Bob Smith — the leader of the group — looked on me as sort of his “go to” poet. Once, at a Hiroshima event, he asked me to read “your Sadako poem”. (For Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who died of leukemia from the after effects of the Bomb). It happened that at the time he asked I didn’t HAVE a Sadako poem. But by the time of the rally, I DID.

But I had never done a performance piece. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy brushed my area lightly but did not greatly affect it. Still, it was a wake up call for me to start thinking about the environment more. I started to use cloth grocery bags, and hang my clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer and a few other small changes. I also started to imagine how Mother Earth would feel if she were to talk to her children (that’s us). What would a mother say? When I wrote this poem, it was as if I were invoking Mother Earth: as if she were dictating the poem to me!  A very intense experience.

When I was asked to read a poem at a peace event after that, I decided to perform “Eviction Notice,” and included props such as the Pepsi bottle and other trash.

I enjoyed doing this. It was more like acting, and more fun than just reading a poem.

Since then, my poetry has been more intuitive: more from the heart as I try to listen to what my spirit wants to say.

At the time I wrote this, I had Mother Earth telling the kids that unless they cleaned up their act, they were out of there. But I changed it in this revised version to say their time was up. I guess I feel a little more uneasy now about climate change. But I still hope we can wake up and listen to her words before it is too late!

 

Eviction Notice
by Laurie Pollack (as Mother Earth)

 

Kids,
Are you listening?
I don’t think you are!
Because you never clean your rooms:
I was walking in my forest yesterday and do you know
What I found? This Pepsi can!
And here’s what I found in my ocean the other day:
A filthy, yucky plastic bag!
Not only that.
You left the heat on full blast the other day
And when I got home the icebergs were all melted.
You crowd the whole house
with your STUFF. Your Junk.
And my other kids have nowhere to go.
My sea turtles! My birds! My bears! My wolves!
The water is all dirty. It stinks.
And you don’t clean it up.
You live here rent free.
Eating my food.
Drinking my water.
Breathing my air.
Not doing your chores.
Not getting a job.

I have had it with you kids!
You are old enough to know better.
Grow up!
I am MAD.
And don’t assume you can get away with it.
I’m not Mama. I’m not Mommy anymore.
I’m MOTHER EARTH.
And when I get mad I can throw
A tsunami, an earthquake, or a hurricane.
And I will.

I have warned you before.
But you didn’t listen.
So now it’s time and
You have to get out of my planet
And find another place to live
Because remember that I brought you into the world
And I can take you out of it!
No more apple pie, kids!

Signed,
MOTHER

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“Wordless” by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the third post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification. You can find her earlier posts here.


Terrorist attacks in the US and abroad. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Shootings of Black men by police. Shooting of police officers.

Angry words by Donald Trump. Condemnations of immigrants.

The words and acts go.on and on.

As I get older I get more and more drawn to quiet and solitude and silence… I feel more and more, a desire to go BEYOND words. Beyond their limits.

And I wonder:

Why can’t we shut up and just quietly look into each other’s’ eyes, and see the Light there?

I felt drawn to write this poem about the events going on and also felt moved to invoke the elements of nature: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. The power of words. But also the limit of it. What happens, where do we go when we are wordless? Maybe inside ourselves but maybe to each other?

I was also inspired by the title of the TLA Conference: Power of Words.

We all matter. Infinitely. Each human life is sacred.

 

Wordless

by Laurie Pollack

 

Words
I always thought
Always believed
Words have power

Campfire warmth
Sun melting snow
Sparks blowing high
Glowing coals
Flickering  candle
Forest fire
Nuclear blast
Words are Fire

Stream running over rocks
Ocean wave breaking
April rain misting down
Arctic glacier
Blizzard
Flood
Tsunami
Words are Water

Garden Seeds planted
Trees shedding leaves
Deep dark cave
Sandy beach
Geode crystal
Desert cliff
Landslide
Quake
Volcano
Words are Earth

Baby’s first breath
Evening breeze
Clouds in the sky
Hurricane
Tornado
Words are Air

No. It can’t be true. Words lose their power.

Please say this didn’t happen
Please say he isn’t gone
Please say she isn’t dead
No you can’t bring him back with words
No you can’t bring her back with promises
With statements about how sorry you are.
All I have is silence anymore
And still I want to look
Into your eyes
And see the Light in them.
Can we walk on in silence and carry
Their memories on the
Air, Fire, Earth and Water?
Human life is Spirit

“The Poetry of English” by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the second post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification.

The Poetry of English

By Laurie Pollack


I am a very verbal person. Have always been. Have been writing poems since age 7, when I started writing little rhymes with my poor handwriting.

Words are who I am. Meaning is, too. I am constantly trying to figure out what things mean, both analytically and intuitively.

I have a constant internal mental dialog going on, as well as a mental soundtrack.

Thus, I am constantly flooded with words.

I also have had since I was young a very strong need to understand and be understood. I would feel frustrated when this did not occur. Recently I started to let go of this. To realize that one person really cannot understand another. Because each of us is different.

As I let go of the obsessive need to communicate, I started to look at language. Not what it means, but what it sounds like. And to realize there is a sort of poetry in language sounds.

I first experienced this when I lived in Israel for a year in 1982 at age 23. Although for part of that time I was enrolled in a 6 month Hebrew work-study program, still most of the time what people said in Hebrew was unintelligible to me other than a few scattered words. I felt as if I were behind a wall, a wall of not understanding. At times this was extremely frustrating. I wanted to connect but could not. At least not in the usual way.

But because I could not understand what was being said I found I listened more carefully to the feeling behind the conversation and looked more carefully at expressions and gestures.

I also found that I could hear a sort of melody in the language itself. But it was hard to explain this to others so I didn’t try.

Lately I started listening in the same way to my own language: English. Put up the wall of misunderstanding of meaning, deliberately. And was amazed at what I found.

All my life I had heard that English was a harsh, guttural Germanic tongue that is not “pretty”. This may be true, but I found to my amazement that when I tried, I could imagine a sort of poetry in the way the words sounded.

If you are a native English speaker, try this. Everyone’s reaction will be different. You will hear English different from what I hear.

It is hard to do this when you understand the words. So make a deliberate attempt to NOT understand.

Listen to the sound of an English sentence. It can be an interesting experiment in mindfulness and attention. In going beyond the habitual.

How does it sound? Are there visual pictures or images? Colors? Does it have a certain feel to it?

What does your English look like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like?

What is its poetry?

Try any sentence. How about this one?

“English is a harsh, guttural, ugly language”.

To me, the above sentence looks like a purple tree blowing around in a hurricane, with the leaves being torn roughly off. Smells like the earth of a newly dug up garden. Feels like sandpaper being rubbed against a block of wood. Sounds like rocks falling down a cliff.

If you really want a powerful experience: try looking, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling a sentence from Shakespeare, or the King James Bible, or Walt Whitman. Or better yet: your own poetry.

Contemplate a single English word.

Consider the word “HAT”.

To me it sounds like the wind blowing.

“Water”.

Feels like a tidal wave sucked out to sea then crashing back to smash whatever is on shore.

“Dance”

Looks like a tornado in the distance.

“Blue”

Tastes to me like a butterfly flapping its wings.

NO, English is not pretty.

To me, English is the power of a cold waterfall full of icy shards.

English is the energy of a crackling bonfire.

English is the strength of a room full of dancers celebrating a wedding.

It is the warmth of the sun on the pavement, on a hot July day

English is not beautiful. Is not pretty. Is not delicate. Is not spun glass.

English is not a chocolate mousse. It is a crockery of unfired earthen pottery filled with split pea soup fragrant and filling.

Look, listen, touch, taste and smell your English. And dance!

Laurie Pollack: To my Ten Year Old Self

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the first post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification.

As part of my daily journaling practice, I write something (maybe a poem or a brief piece of “flash fiction”) in response to a prompt from a book of writing prompts. I choose each day’s prompt randomly. One day the prompt was, “Write a letter to your 10 year old self.”
I have always had a sensitivity to harsh words. As a child I could not handle this, and the adults around me were mystified and could not handle ME. As an adult I have learned to use this awareness to honor the power of words to heal and help and to weigh my words very carefully. It has turned me into a poet.
Dear Laurie ten years old

Dear Laurie ten years old,
I know you feel sad

Because you get in trouble a lot
And sit in the principal’s office.

Because the other kids call you names.
Because when they do it feels
like you were hit in the gut
Hard
and it hurts bad
and the only way to get rid of
the pain is to hit them back.

Dear Laurie ten years old
I know you are feeling alone

Because your parents do not “get”
the fact that words can hurt
and tell you to “just ignore it”

Because your mother tells you that once when
she got teased it didn’t bother her
but that she just hit them with
an umbrella and they stopped
but that you should not do that

Because the teachers tell you
you just need to control yourself
and if you ignore it they will stop and
it will be happy ever after and the kids will all be your friends

Dear Laurie ten years old
I know you are feeling angry

Because the pediatrician tells your parents
that words should not hurt like that
and that you are too sensitive
and maybe in a girl it is a sign of
Attention Deficit Disorder and he
gives you a prescription

Because tells you it is a “smart pill” to make your “motor go slower” and the kids’ words
will stop hurting

Because you thought you were smart already and you like to read authors like James Michener and Isaac Asimov and you have written poems since you were seven

Because you think your “motor” runs just fine

Because the medicine does not help
but just gives you nightmares
and makes you scared to fall asleep
and makes you want to pull out your hair all the time
and the words still hurt.

Dear Laurie ten years old

I  am writing to tell you that words DO hurt
and you have a right to feel hurt
And that one day you will be in a place and
time where you are safe
and there may be words that hurt
but you will be strong
enough to find ways to deal with the pain
other than hitting back

Because you will come to know
that words have power
not only to hurt
but to heal
to change
to manifest
to transform
to love
to heal the world
and you will use words to work for a gentler world

And when you do you will call
yourself three words
That will heal you:

Activist
Teacher
Poet

20150626_203509Laurie Pollack by day works with computers weaving code using the words of the programming language Visual Basic.Net, but this is not where her heart lives. Her heart lives in writing poetry and creating art with painting and SoulCollage (R) (an intuitive collage art practice). 
She gives occasional local workshops in SoulCollage (R) and hosts several free Facebook events yearly challenging people explore their creativity in writing and the arts. In the latest, “April Fools! Break the Rules!”, participants were challenged to list 10 rules they follow in doing their art or writing then create a piece breaking at least 3 of them. She is thinking of expanding this idea into a longer online class.
She has self-published one book, PeaceWalk, in 2006 and is working on another. “The Box”, a poem set in Sime-Gen, the universe created by science fiction author Jacqueline Lichtenberg, was included in 2015 in an anthology of fan writings, “Fear and Courage: Fourteen Writers Explore Sime-Gen”.
Laurie likes to read her poems at events like desert peace walks and anti-war vigils, enjoys gardening, and shares a rowhouse near Philadelphia with Mary: her legal spouse of 2 years and life partner since 1995, and two cats, Maggie and Lucy, who rule and demand regular “tributes” of Fancy Feast. 

Joanna Tebbs Young: Changing the World with Words in Her Life and Teaching

12039647_10205649886620629_4834052489016945884_n Joanna Tebbs Young is a Writer and Transformative Writing Facilitator and Coach. She holds a Masters degree in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College and is a certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy. Joanna writes weekly columns for two local newspapers and offers workshops at her writing center in Rutland, VT. Her blog and coaching information can be found at http://wisdomwithinink.com. Here’s some of her words, in response to questions Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg asked her, about her upcoming online class, “Changing the World with Words: Transformative Language Arts Foundations,” starting Oct. 26. Take the class to learn more about TLA and/or to also start your path in the TLA Foundations Certification.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (CMG): How did you discover TLA?

Joanna Tebbs Young (JTY): I began writing a diary at twelve when my family moved to America from England. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it most definitely helped smooth the transition into a new culture and era of my life. After college I discovered Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Morning Pages became an addiction that allowed me to navigate the new experiences of adulthood—work, roommates, boyfriends—while keeping my creative dreams of being a writer and artist alive.

After I had my first child, I left the workforce but quickly got restless. I designed and taught a journaling workshop, not knowing anyone else in the world did such a thing. While researching for the workshop I discovered the Center for Journal Therapy. After I was certified as a “Journal to the Self” instructor and I began running workshops, someone told me about Goddard’s TLA program. I had waited fifteen years after my BA to finally find the Masters degree I just knew had been designed for me! Through my degree work I not only learned more of the “Whys” behind the benefits of expressive writing, I found my own voice through the personally healing journey of writing a memoir.

CMG: Tell us some about how you make a living as a Transformative Language Artist?

JTY: My husband and I renovated a small carriage house in our backyard into a workshop space. I call it The Writers’ Room at Allen House. I run a weekly writing workshop called “Voice Quest” which has been meeting for three years. I also run workshops for local organizations, such as a tween’s class at an art center and various summer camps, writing-for-wellbeing presentations for teachers and college students, a stress-relief program at the hospital, “The Yoga of Journaling” workshop at wellness centers, writing for goal-setting at business networking events, and “writing practice” workshops at writing conferences. A college-level course on expressive writing is in the works. I am also a columnist for the county newspaper, using my words to hopefully affect positive change in my town.

CMG: This class focuses on “all things TLA.” What can people expect to get out of participating in this class?

JTY: This class is an overview of the “whats” and “hows” of TLA—what TLA is (and isn’t) and how it can be useful in the world. Using essays from The Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader, websites, videos, poems, and writing prompts and discussion questions, you will be introduced to the history, the different fields, theories and practices of TLA. You will also explore the personal growth, community-building, and social change aspects of TLA. In the last three weeks you will look at the various ways TLA can be utilized, how you might consider making a living as a TLA practitioner, and Joannaheadshotsmall2-275x300finally some concrete ways you might put your dreams and plans into action.

CMG: What do you love most about teaching “Changing the World with Words?”

JTY: is fascinating to see the different writing styles and responses to the various prompts from people with diverse backgrounds; some write prose, some poetry, some are naturally humorous, others are sentimental, some are academic, others are more heart-centered. It’s also great to see the students open up to each other, most obviously tentative at first to be sharing their writing and thoughts with strangers in a computer. But as the weeks go on, most become freer in their writing and sharing. And everyone is always so supportive of each other, giving positive feedback and relating what resonated with them. I also enjoy reading of all the different TLA experiences and plans, the different populations people work with and creative ideas they come up with for TLA work.

Everything You Wanted to Know About TLA Certification

certificationby Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

We’ve just announced the new certification in TLA (http://tlanetwork.org/certification), and already there’s ample interest and some great questions. To help answer questions, I’m interviewing myself, trying to address all I’ve been asked and all I can imagine. Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments.

Me: Caryn, so good of you to meet with me.

Caryn: Anytime. You know I’m always close by.

Me: That’s so reassuring. So let me kick off this interview by asking why now when it comes to the TLA Certification.

Caryn: For many years, we’ve been talking about a TLA certification. For over six years, we worked at Goddard College to develop this option in MA in TLA concentration for people with vast experience in the field. Because of new Department of Education regulations regarding new certification restrictions when it comes to educational funding, we realized the college certification program wasn’t feasible at this time. In further conversations, some of us at the college and in the TLA Network realized that the not-for-profit TLA Network was a much better home for the certification. We developed this certification to give people a rounded introduction to all things TLA. “Why now?” has to do with several factors: the launch of the certification coincided with the Power of Words 2014 conference because that was a good way to talk about face-to-face with those who were interested. We also just signed a partnership agreement between the college and the TLA Network, and that agreement grants people who complete the certification a scholarship of $1,000 for any Goddard program (spread over two semesters).

Me: Who is this certification for?

Caryn: I’ve been in touch with people who want to study more about TLA, put it into practice in their lives, but for whom getting a graduate degree doesn’t fit right now. I’ve worked with several students at Goddard who already had doctorates, and ended up coming for a semester to immerse themselves in TLA. There are also people who want to do the Goddard program, but the timing isn’t right. Finally, there are some who want to infuse their professions and livelihoods with TLA — from pastoral counselors to teachers to psychologists to activists to artists. This certification speaks to various ways to develop TLA, including active participation in TLA activities in your community and over distances, investigation and study on how TLA is practiced and could be practiced, and ways to enhance your individual practice of TLA, whether that’s storytelling or writing or collaborative community projects. This certification helps people incorporate TLA as an art, study, practice, form of advocacy and celebration in their lives.

Me: You mentioned the Goddard program, and so I wonder how the certification compares to the Goddard program?

Caryn: The certification provides participants with a thorough orientation to TLA, some avenues for developing a TLA practice and connecting with others involved in TLA, and encouragement to be part of the TLA community, help grow that community, and further define and develop TLA in the world. The Goddard program is a much more intensive immersion into TLA because its core is master’s level degree criteria focused on theoretical groundwork in TLA at large and intensively in a specific focus; a deep development in the individual art of TLA, such as writing a memoir or putting together a collaborative performance; and an in-depth community practicum, such as facilitating a series of storytelling workshops, teaching yourself filmmaking for change, or doing some other project that helps people interface with their communities. We’ve designed the certification to be both freestanding as an educational journey, and/or complementary with the Goddard MA-TLA as a first step or a way to develop a plan for right livelihood after graduation.

Me: How is this certification different or the same as other certifications?

Some certification in related fields are much more intensive and focus on a specific approach, such as the certification in poetry therapy offered by the National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy, which I did and found very helpful. That certification takes people at least two years, and is more involved in terms of the hours and costs. Some certifications are shorter when it comes to the length of time, such as the Amherst Writers and Artists week-long intensives. Yet both the certifications I just named advocate and train people for a specific approach in working with certain populations, a model for how to do workshops. The TLA certification is far less expensive than many programs out there, and it’s also open-ended as to people’s approach (although people who complete our certification may go onto other learning opportunities and vice-versa). That’s because we’re TLA: we bring together people involved in storytelling for social change, writing for healing and growth, spiritual adventuring through theater, and much more so that we can make and keep community across using words aloud or on the page for change. In the “Changing the World With Words: TLA Foundations” course, we offer people exposure to multiple approaches, encouraging people to learn about what fits their calling, community, and focus, and then to educate themselves on specific models for workshops, consulting, coaching and more. The certification incorporates involvement in the TLA community through attending conference and/or participating in classes, and participating in various projects, such as One City One Prompt, or Chrysalis: The Journal for TLA. So overall, this certification is based on coursework and reflection, and but also on action learning through doing TLA.

Me: Is this the only certification in TLA that will be offered?

Caryn: This is a first step, and as a community focused on growing our hearts and minds individually and collectively, we’ll be tweaking and enhancing the certification components as we go. I can imagine a more advanced certification option in the future, either through Goddard or the TLA Network.

Me: How much would this certification cost the average person?

Caryn: We’ve worked to make the certification affordable for people from many backgrounds. The application fee is only $40, membership in the TLA Network is $35/year, online classes are approximately $35/week, and the conference ranges from $160 for super early bird registration to over $200 for regular registration, plus room and board, and for some, travel. The certification overall would cost $500-$1,000 (depending on conference attendance, travel, classes taken, etc.). People can spread out what they do and when they do it over two years. While this might seem like a big number, it’s significantly less than some other similar certifications (although those certifications can be extremely valuable and do have different focuses).

Me: Who makes decisions about who gets in and who completes the certification successfully?

Caryn: We have a small committee reviewing applications for certification right now, and this committee will be reviewing completed certification evaluations and reports by participants at the end of their certification road trip. I believe it’s important that decisions are not based on any one person’s read, but from the collective wisdom of people with experience in the TLA world. As time goes on, we will surely reach out to people who completed the certification to serve on this committee.

Me: How would people get started?

Caryn: The first step is to click on and fill out the application (http://TLAnetwork.org/certification) and pay the $40 application fee. Within several weeks, we’ll be back in touch. Once you’re accepted, you can sign up for classes, join the network if you’re not yet a member, and take other steps. It’s advisable to start with the “Changing the World with Words: TLA Foundations” class to help you map out your focus. Within a few months of starting, we will be in touch to ask you to fill out your certification plan (what options you’ll be pursuing), and we’ll be available to meet briefly on the phone to help you talk through those options.

More information at http://TLANetwork.org/certification and the upcoming online class, Changing the World With Words: TLA Foundations.